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Perched Water Table

Understanding the perched water table really helped give me a better understanding of what it means to take care of plants.

Most containers will form a perched water table at the bottom, but they also occur when there is a sudden change in soil consistency, such as from clay to sand, or soil to gravel.

A layer of gravel in your container creates a higher perched water table that is more in the root zone of your plants, with adverse effects on plant growth and root formation. The gravel raises the perched water table in the bottoms of pots. Gravity can't quite pull all of the water from the bottom of the soil so it stays wetter than the rest of the pot and anaerobic.

The gravel takes up some space at the bottom of the pot so the transition zone is higher up in the pot where the soil and gravel meet, and potentially closer to the roots.

As you can see the perched water table occurs because of the bottom of the container, not because of the ground. As long as it's deep enough for your roots, you should be fine! And some species do prefer wetter soil too.

The reason that it is called the perched water table is due to soil retention.

I've literally never seen proper container soil sold anywhere, you need to make it yourself. Tapla Soil Retention is what forever changed how I go about preparing the soil for my pots. How? Now I make proper soil.

5-1-1 Mix

I idealy I try and mix my soil like this (based on Al's recip from Garden Web):

  1. 5 parts pine bark fines, dust – 3/8 (size is important)
  2. 1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
  3. 1-2 parts perlite (coarse, if you can get it)
  4. garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
  5. controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)

Small Mixture

  1. 3 gallons pine bark
  2. 1/2 gallon peat
  3. 1/2 gallon perlite
  4. 4 tbsp lime (or gypsum in some cases)
  5. 1/4 cup CRF (if preferred)

Any peat based potting media should be replaced yearly, 5-1-1 every two years or so, but the gritty mix will last for ages without losing pore space. All my potted perennials are grown in gritty mix now.

~XO

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It’s in the Ending

I've always thought of it as really campy, but the ending of Soylent Green sort of made me smile when I was a kid. I learned later that the novel didn't even have cannibalisim in it, yet as a kid, I don't know, there was just something about it that made it good. Though the whole movie was for better or worse good.

On the off chance that I would find that again I tried to find some movies that were similar. My search efforts returned these results:

  1. Local Hero (1983)
  2. Miracle Mile (1988)
  3. Millennium (1989)
  4. Dark City (1998)
  5. Knowing (2009)
  6. Take Shelter (2011)

You could watch the trailers on YouTube, but for the older picks you would be wise in knowing that old trailers are crap. They pretty much just show the whole movie in condensed form and ruin everything, including the ending.

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I Miss Crichton

We don't have anybody like Michael Crichton anymore. People will tell you to try Brown (Dan) if you say that too loudly, but it is true.

Sure you can read Brown, but only if you consider dumbed-down pseudo-science and poorly researched historical conspiracies presented as fact 'the exact same', then maybe.

I suppose Dan Brown is Michael Crichton for the masses; he draws normally uninterested readers in with socially controversial topics and makes them feel like they have some ridiculous new insight into them. Dan Brown writes basically the exact same kind of books Michael Crichton does.

The big difference is that with Dan Brown books he throws in cliffhangers at the end of every chapter.

I have yet to find any other author that matches Michael Crichton's dedication to proper research for a novel nor one that understands the topics he writes about as well as he did.

Read some of his older books (Terminal Man, Congo) and nothing in them seems all the extraordinary because today all of that technology is commonplace. Apply that to his newer books (Prey, Jurassic Park, etc. even aspects of Timeline) and consider that he might able to give a very real view of the future and problems we might want to contemplate before it's too late.

If we're able to produce enough anti-matter to blow up the Vatican (or do anything useful), measure the weight of someone's soul, or even create a practical rifle that can compress/heat snow/sand into ice/glass bullets in the next 40 years, I'll come back here for my public shaming.

As far as I know, there's currently no replacement for Michael Crichton.

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Elementary My Dear Watson

The fact that he could admire The Woman, and appreciate her cunning was something I felt humanized him. Sherlock Holmes knew he wasn't the best, yet, he was not a particularly humble individual, yet he was smart enough to know that he had flaws and here were people better than he was out there.

I think the value he placed on others that he deemed worthy made him the both likable and great.

And it is because of this I felt that the BBC version of Sherlock was one of the more faithful adaptions of that brilliant detective. But there is a bit of a balance problem that I have with it. I feel that Irene Adler was both over and under represented as herself in that series.

I felt that the show cheapened her. She showed up way more than necessary, for no purpose whatsoever.

The Woman beat Sherlock based solely on wit. It had none of that sexual undertone that was built into the show that I found particularly insulting.

She didn't seduce him.

She beat him.

The end.

And Doyle was smart enough to write a character that didn't win by luck, she beat him with guile. However she wasn't interested in seeing if she could lose. So she never came back.

I read the complete adventures of Sherlock Holmes when I was in 6th grade, and Irene Adler shaped how I view women, then and now. It's interesting to me how adaptations of Irene Norton, né Adler, a woman who loved her new husband so much that she would never use the incriminating photograph she possessed because it would harm them both, depict her as this criminal in love with Sherlock Holmes.

Aside from that gripe it is a good show. Though if I am to pick nits, I might as well be thorough.

I hate how he is perceived as bumbling- and I'd say it's because of the Nigel Bruce characterization, except that Agatha Christie apparently at least in part based her Captain Hastings character on Watson and he was an absolute bumbling idiot.

One of my least favorite characters ever.

Watson was a normal guy working with the tools he had and generally going an awesome job. Watson added a lot to the stories.

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Autism Linkages To Vitamin D

Vitamin D

We should all know how important it is, but … an alarming number of people that I have spoken with do not realize how important it is for our health and well being.

It is likely that many of the diseases that we consider to be diseases of the developed world are due at least in part to decreasing vitamin D. These diseases include heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes. And it turns out that the levels of vitamin D that you need to prevent those illnesses is much higher than the level you need to prevent rickets, which is why in the vitamin D community we think that there is a widespread vitamin D deficiency, even though we really don't see rickets very often.

In the US, there are several diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes that are much more prevalent in black people than in other ethnic groups. This could very well be due to lower levels of vitamin D, because darker skinned people need to spend much more time in the sun to generate adequate vitamin D.

They're doing some research at the university of Minnesota on autism linkages to vitamin D linked to the Somali population in Minneapolis.

Apparently there isn't even a word for this condition in the Somali language but it has been appearing in the Somali community there at an alarming rate. While it does sound plausible that a rise in autism coincides with a decrease in vitamin D, what with the advent of indoor entertainment, but of course we all know correlation != causation.

I think the Somali population could prove to be a very interesting control group.

I'd be interested in more study with maternal vitamin D status as a risk factor for autism in children as well. There is some thought that autism might be due to maternal antibodies attacking the fetus, causing problems during brain development.

As you can see vitamin D does a whole lot more than prevent rickets, though. Vitamin D regulates a whole bunch of stuff including blood pressure (it inhibits the Renin enzyme which regulates the body's mean arterial blood pressure), the immune system, hormonal activity (including insulin), and many other important biological processes.

A lot of people just think spending time in the sun is enough, but like most things it is more complicated than that.

In other words more exposure to solar radiation.

It turns out solar radiation correlates with skin tone at a strength of about 60-70%. There is another explaining factor that is also very important.

Vitamin D in your food.

One control group that was studied for vitamin D levels … Inuits. They live very far north, yet they have darker skin than many Europeans.

Why?

It's because the Inuit diet is very high in fish which have substantial amounts of Vitamin D, while most white Europeans and Americans are often Vitamin D deficient due to our diets. Hence we have lighter skin despite having more solar radiation.

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Lathe of Heaven

Lathe of Heaven is a very cerebral book and an equally rewarding film. It has a non existent budget, being filmed for WNET in 1979, but it hides it well. It's a great idea and there are some pretty great twists and turns. This is a movie that I can't believe hasn't been remade with a massive budget.

But this version is very well written and just omits expensive scenes as best as possible. the budget is not a distraction at all, and it's a great story.

The Lathe of Heaven is a 1980 film adaptation of the 1971 science fiction novel The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was produced in 1979 as part of New York City public television station WNET's Experimental TV Lab project, and directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. Le Guin, by her own account, was involved in the casting, script planning, re-writing, and filming of the production.
The film stars Bruce Davison as protagonist George Orr, Kevin Conway as Dr. William Haber, and Margaret Avery as lawyer Heather LeLache.

It is the story of a young man who has the ability to change the future when he dreams. His doctor, Haber begins to use Orr's "effective dreams" to first create a prestigious, well-funded institute run by himself, then to attempt to solve various social problems.

These solutions unravel quickly: Haber suggests that Orr dream of a solution to overpopulation. This results in a plague which wipes out three-fourths of the human population. The end to all conflict on Earth, which results in an alien invasion uniting mankind, and an end to racism. This has the effect of a world where everyone's skin becomes a uniform shade of gray.

It is immensely satisfying and Ursula K. Le Guin is rarely a disappointment.

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New to Koontz

I know that Dean Koontz is popular, and I have seen his books in the bookstore, yet I never had the desire to pick one up. "It isn't my genre" I would say and walk past them. For some reason that changed earlier in the year. The reason for the transition was "The Silent Corner" and "The Whispering Room" the first two books in the Jane Hawk series and from there the Odd Thomas series. The first two "Odd Thomas" books were really good. And what I have noticed is that the Odd Thomas series is very different from his other books.

After that I picked up "Phantoms" which was great. And I was creeped out all the way through the book. The idea to use fungus/gigantic organism under the earth as the monster was an interesting idea. While it was good all of the way through I figured it out about half way in, still it's a nightmarish page turner.

I stayed up all night reading it, though I doubt that I could have slept afterwards. It's apparently one of Koontz's least favorite books of his, go figure. I think he didn't like it because, despite it's success, it un-intentionally placed him in the horror genre, when he is actually more of a mystery/sci-fi writer.

Something that I have noticed about a couple of the other books.

Unfortunately, writing endings seems to be his weakness.

I feel like he writes the beginning, then the end, and fills in the blanks later. Though I have been told that Velocity is one of his tightest books with a great ending and some Koontz fans have recommend because it "truly keeps you on the edge of your seat." As well as being "a masterfully written suspense novel." So it is on my list. Koontz really works in nice biblical references into his books and stories so I am happy about that.

I think he's better at character when he lets himself write longer books or series. A lot of times it's like the plot drives him faster than his potential for good dialog. That being said, the guy comes up with great ideas and paces his stories well.

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That’s Odd Thomas

I really love the Odd Thomas series and after finishing the last book I haven’t been able to pick up another book. I am really interested in all the other characters that Odd encounters along the way. His powers and the responsibility that goes with them are immense but he just takes it in stride and acts as if saving lives is the most mundane thing in the world. When I got to that twist ending in the first book it was like getting punched in the face. I still remember putting the book down and just thinking on it. And realizing the foreshadowing leading up to it. I’m normally not caught off guard with twist endings, that one definitely got me. If you want to get the most out of it the only hint that I will say is pay attention to all the little aspects of the book because they call back to them through out the series. If you do that the ending is beautiful. The atmosphere and characters that Koontz brings to life have just always enthralled me since picking up the Jane Hawk books. You could try and read them out of order; the books in the Odd Thomas series stand alone well, but if you want to really carry the overall tone the books carry with them I’d start at the beginning. There is a sense of foreboding that builds through the series and Odd does go through a series of realizations that build upon each other. In a very real sense the entire idea that Stormy (Odd’s true love from book one) put forth about life being a boot camp plays kind of a big underlying role in the underlying themes of the series. Skipping around may lose some of that effect.

The Movie

As a big fan of the books I was skeptical before watching the movie. I was not disappointed. I thought it was a fantastic movie, and I think I’ve watched it 4 times already. I think this is a new and interesting take on the genre. This is something of a love story combined supernatural thriller. The best part about movies like this is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They do inject a bit of humor. Anton Yelchin plays a clairvoyant short order cook. But not clairvoyant in the palm reading, Taro card sense. He has a gift for communicating with the murdered victims that allows him to help solve their case. At the same time, he is in no sense a detective. He likes the quiet life of a short order cook. But dark forces have other ideas. There is no way I can describe it in a way that would give you a good sense of the movie. If you like independent films, you will like this. If you are remotely into the horror genre, you will like this. If you like good suspense and mystery, you will like this. However, if you are entrenched in Hollywood Blockbuster fair, then you will still like the movie, just not as well. I think I would easily rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
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Michael Connely’s Bosch

I am brushing up on my Bosch after watching the show of the same name by novelist Michael Connelly who was a crime reporter in LA, which makes his work seems very authentic. There is nothing world changing but there are many stories and many reoccurring characters, and you can see them grow and change though their lives because the stories take place over many years of their lives. The early ones are the best (Black Ice, Black Echo, The Concrete Blond). Definitely read them chronologically. The later ones are good too, but the first 3 or 4 Bosch books are my favorite. It’s said in introductory journalism classes that the best writing is that which doesn’t call attention to itself, and that’s the case here. Connelly isn’t flashy prose-wise, but his characters are three-dimensional, his pacing is impeccable and has that infectious thing where you end up reading far later into the night than you initially intended, and his plots (and associated plot twists) are legitimately surprising and intriguing. Bosch is not a warm character, though he cares in his own way. Rather he is cold, abrupt, judgmental and the ultimate pessimist. Harry Bosch sees Los Angeles the same way that his namesake Hieronymus Bosch saw The Garden of Earthly Delights – a human stew of crime and degradation. And it is role, his identity, to find and bring to justice the worst of worst, the ones who commit murder. All victims matter. Equally. Either everyone matters or no one matters, that is the conclusion he came to after the police failed to investigate the murder of Bosch’s mother because she was only a prostitute. A cop show is a cop show. There’s only so much that can be done to vary things up, but its’ an above average cop shop. Yet, the show seems to be working hard to stay true to the books. Connelly wrote the character so as to age ‘in real time’ – as a consequence the Harry in the first books is a good twenty years younger than the Harry in the more recent ones. As such, the way the character reacts to certain events / situations will change, as he himself changes. They’re not ground breaking – Connelly is no Dashiell Hammett, nor is Bosch a Sam Spade for modern times. That said, they’re perfectly enjoyable, fast, reads. As it is the series is fun for light reading, yet they still have compelling narratives. Fans of the books going to the show, they’ve made Harry more likable – though I found him hard to get over at first when I started reading the books. ~XO
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Horror Movie Binge

I have been on a horror movie binge for a while now, mostly since I sprained my ankle and have been resting it. Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you that part. But now you know. I have also been putting a list together as I go. I love Netflix, it is easy to enjoy a movie and then go back and see what you liked and didn’t. I have been watching two or three a night when I get home from work. So far my list contains:
  1. The Woman in Black
  2. The Orphanage
  3. Grave Encounters
  4. 1408
  5. Paranormal Activity 3
  6. Insidious 1, 2 and 3
  7. The Conjuring
  8. Dead Silence
  9. Sinister
I was told I should try Lake Mungo (2008), but it left me cold. Out of all of the movies I have watched recently it was the one that made my least favorite list. The reason that I tried it was purely off of the positive comments I’ve seen about it and was unfortunately disappointed with it. I liked the documentary feel to it, and I did think it worked well in eliciting empathy for the family. It was un-engaging and the ending was just sort of there.