Tree of Gold

Filed under:General — eric @ 4:10 am

In 1997, the centuries-old only known giant golden spruce near Port Clements, British Columbia was cut down in the dead of night by Grant Hadwin. This action, labeled eco-terrorism, was his attempt to call attention to the mis-management of British Columbia’s timber resources. Days before his court appearance, he disappeared. The New Yorker tells the story. Found via Robot Wisdom.

Letter from the Grave

Filed under:General — eric @ 4:03 am

Robert Flores is the man who shot two nursing professors, a student, and himself at the University of Arizona last week. One of his last acts before the shootings was to mail a 23 page letter trying to explain himself to a local newspaper. That letter has been scanned in and posted in its entirety by the Arizona Star. (Note: the server is very slow and you are likely to get “timeout” errors at some or all of the pages. Just hit relaod until it comes through.) Compare that with a letter written by Cheryl McGaffic, one of his victims.


College. Huh! What is it good for?

Filed under:General — eric @ 5:42 am

Each year in the US, nearly two and a half million high school seniors enroll in college. Nearly one million do not. They are overwhelmingly poor, rural, and white. The Washington Post has profiled one such young man.

I’m not doing what I studied in college. Most of the people I know are not doing what they studied in college. This could lead one to say that college is a waste of time, leaving attendees tens of thousands of dollars in debt and fighting for the same entry level jobs as everyone else.

Poppycock, I say. College is about more than what’s learned in classes. If one takes advantage of the opportunities to be found at college (many attendees don’t — this is part of the problem), one will leave a much richer person.

Not financially, of course, though if you look for the right school, the right non-loan financial aid, and the right part-time jobs, there’s no need to run up a huge debt. I’m very proud that I put myself through school (with the help of a guardian angel). It wasn’t easy, but I did well for myself, emerging with a very manageable debt.

I also emerged with a deeper appreciation for life around me. I could have travelled the world, but in college the world came to me. Music, religion, language, arts, politics, food, sports. I learned European folk dance. I learned how to play cricket. I learned how to lead and represent 1200 people. I explored dangerous mines in the middle of the night. I learned how to ride a block of ice down a steep hill. I learned how to love. And so much more. Things that I never might have done had I not gone to college. And learning all those things, not part of the curriculum but definitely part of college, make me a better person than I was 13 years ago.

So if you’re a high school upperclassman, debating on whether college is right for you, I say it is. Go. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, you can find a way to go. You may have to work harder than your roommate, who’s parents pick up the bill, but it’s worth it. And most importantly, take advantage of every opportunity you can while you’re there, instead of only sitting in the dorm or frat house drinking (though you should do some of that, too). Even in the tiny college towns, the opportunities are there — poetry readings, free concerts, foreign student pot lucks, one off afternoon lectures on oddball topics. Find them and go.


One year later

Filed under:General — eric @ 1:26 am

The lovely wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary yesterday, mostly by trying to convince the cats to accept the new puppy. A good time was had by all, except for the cats.


RIP Sen. Wellstone

Filed under:General — eric @ 3:56 am

Progressive Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in plane crash today. Not only does this crash silence one of the best Senators we had (he was fighting a very tight re-election campaign), it also temporarily places the control of the Senate in to Governor Jesse Ventura’s hands.


Every vegetable farm needs greenhouses

Filed under:General — eric @ 1:50 am

This last weekend, I cashed in the money I received for directing the play in Commerce for two greenhouses for the farm. They’re much like these, but 14 feet wide and 48 feet long. In them, we’ll be able to start all of our vegetable seedlings and extend the growing season considerably. I’m excited to get them, and am looking forward to building them in the upcoming weeks. I never thought I’d be able to afford them so soon, but a local nursery makes their own and sells the pieces to other area growers for little more than cost. So they were a fraction of what I’d thought they’d cost us.

In other farm news, we scoped out the local small animal livestock auction the other night. I’d hoped to see what the goats looked like, but there weren’t any of those. Instead, there were many, many birds (with a few fighting cocks in there) and rabbits. We ended up buying a couple guinea fowl, possibly a boy and a girl. They are very pretty and yet somehow among the ugliest birds I’ve ever seen. And loud. They’re very good at eating ticks and (supossedly) fire ants. They make loud screeches at anything they don’t know (though with the memory span of a goldfish, that’s most everything). We really got them to help us battle to large Cooper’s Hawks that have set up home on our land. They’ve already gotten at least one chicken, and we’re trying to persuade them to go eat elsewhere. I’m hoping they’re just passing through on the migratory trail.

Also, a puppy may be arriving soon.


Audible.com is a-ok

Filed under:General — eric @ 11:52 am

I’m not one to usually do plugs for commercial sites here, but when I find one that’s worth while, I ought to share it. So let me push Audible.com out at you. These guys have thousands of audio-books for the downloading. Once you’ve got them, you can listen on your computer, on a wide range of MP3 players, your palm or pocket computers, and even your CD player. The cost can add up if you buy a book at a time, but I’ve been on the Audible Listener plan for a while, which lets me select a book a month (no matter the price) and a subscription to a periodical. ( I choose a subscription to This American Life each month. Even though I could listen for free from their website, Audible lets me listen in my car whenever I want to.)

The books I’ve selected range from a $90 18-hour history of Rome to Ray Bradbury reading the complete Martian Chronicles (complete with unscripted commentary between each part of the book!) to popular social history books from James Burke and similar writers. A travelogue through southern Appalachia, Fast Food Nation, How the Irish Saved Civilization. I had guessed that most audio-books were edited versions of the printed original, but I’ve found that most all of them are unabridged.

So, it’s been a great bargain for me. $12.95 a month to learn and be entertained while I drive. If you decide it’s a good deal for you, too, tell ‘em ewagoner sent you.


Daleks in public service

Filed under:General — eric @ 12:48 pm

Exterminate! Exterminate (your high heating bills)!

New Wallace & Gromit

Filed under:General — eric @ 12:25 pm

I mentioned a while back that Nick Park was producing ten new Wallace and Gromit shorts (each only a minute long), and that they’d be available on the web. Well, the first one’s here!


I get my life back

Filed under:General — eric @ 1:45 am

Now that the events of the last two weeks are over, I get my life back. Starting tomorrow, that is, because right now I’m dead to the world. I deluded myself into thinking that I could come into work today, energized by the conference. It turns out that creatively, I’m energized and ready to do good things but my body is exhausted and demanding some down time. So, that’s what it’ll get.

As a reward for making it through and for having everything turn out to be a smashing success, I went out and bought Stronghold, the first computer game that I have bought in three years. My coworker Paul has been raving about this game for months (Speaking of Paul, today he got a big box of honestly named toilet paper.), and at first glance it appears he’s been right.

Everything was a smashing success, by the way. The play was wildly well received (even to the point of having to pause for thunderous applause in the middle of a scene. I’d not ever had that happen before. The training conference was a lot of work, but our customers seem genuinely happy and excited about our products. As customer support manager, that makes my job a lot less stressful.

So, maybe starting on Monday, this place will turn back into the regularly updated chatty kind of place it used to be. Maybe.


Paris, TExas

Filed under:General — eric @ 2:39 am

Thank you, Sam Shepard! Thank you!

I think it’s time for me to watch this one again. It did wonders the first time around.


Another Opening Night

Filed under:General — eric @ 2:10 am

So, I guess I’ve neglected to mention that I’ve been working three jobs during the last six weeks. It’s kept me a bit busy lately, and this last week is pushing things to my max.

Of course you know about my main job. It’s “Annual User’s Meeting” time again, so I’m busy preparing for that. Next week, I’ll be teaching four classes and giving two presentations. Also, demonstrating software which is only now being written. Consequently, little time at work to write here, much less find interesting sites to comment on later.

And then there’s the farm. The summer crops are fading away (though the “Indian Summer” harvest is just a week or two away),and the fall crops are coming in. Chris planted three hundred brassica plants that I bought last week and never found time to plant. They’re mostly broccoli, with a few savoy cabbage, cauliflower, and collards thrown in. The greens are coming in well, and the root crops are starting to form their roots. Meanwhile, we finally (only seven or so months later than I’d hoped) got the chicken pasture fenced off and the barn livable. The pasture is a mix of rye grass, clover, turnips, and the native pasture grasses and weeds, and the chickens love it. So we’re combining the twenty older chickens with the fifty younger ones, ten each day. By the end of the week, all of them will be roaming the pasture by day and sleeping in the barn by night, just as we planned oh-so-long ago. We’ve got capacity for twenty five more or so, but we’ll probably wait until early spring to get them.

And the third job? Directing Larry Shue’s The Foreigner for the Cold Sassy Players in Commerce, Georgia. I just realized that I never updated the spot in the side bar on this page specially designed for announcing what my current theater project is, and here it is opening night already. It’s been quite the process getting this show ready. For several reasons, we had less time to rehearse than customary, and many actors had difficulty with lines up until the very end. As often happens, though, it’s all worked out and last night’s dress rehearsal should be a sign of a great run ahead.

Commerce is about a half-hour from Athens, where I work in the day, and then about a half-hour from home. So my days lately have consisted of waking up early (usually a half-hour later than I really wanted), going to work, going to rehearsal, and then getting home at eleven at night or so, where some amount of farm work needs attention. Throw in designing a set for Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues, including building a set of trick bunk-beds in our shop, and all my waking hours were accounted for, and then some. So I’ve not been able to write about such things as making spur-of-the-moment tamales from leftover roast lamb and freshly milled stone-ground corn meal in a cabin in the North Carolina Mountains (yes, lamb is great in tamales and yes, you can use good corn meal in place of limed masa meal). Or about seeing the river higher than it’s been all year after receiving over a foot of rain in one week. Or about one of our cats losing her fight against feline leukemia. All the things that this space is supposed to capture to help me remember them some time from now.

I’ll try not to get so carried away with work in the future. I must remember I’m not in college anymore. On the plus side, the pay from directing will pay for two 12×48 foot greenhouses so we can start our own seeds and extend the growing season as well as covering most of the tuition for a months-long series of classes on herbalism Chris is taking from a world-renouned herbalist. So that’s something.

To make this entry even longer, here’s my director’s notes from The Foreigner’s program:

The Foreigner is one of two comedy gems written by Larry Shue before he was tragically lost in a commuter plane crash in 1985 at the age of 39. Both explore mistaken and assumed identities. The other, The Nerd, revolves around possibly the world’s worst house-guest with each scene more outrageously funny than the last. I think this script is even better, though it does land a little close to home.

The setting is a fishing lodge in southwest Georgia, not too far from Roosevelt’s “Little White House.” The time is about 25 years ago, just before Atlanta became the fastest growing settlement in human history. Two British nationals arrive for a few days, one on a military training exercise and the other, painfully shy and more than a little dull, trying to get away from it all. While doing so, he somehow manages to become someone else entirely — delighting a few locals and angering a few others. That anger ignites a series of events leading to a serious (yet hysterical) test of character.

It can be quite fun to become someone else for a while. Doing so The Foreigner’s way could get a bit stressful. Luckily, there is community theater. These people performing for you tonight have chosen to become someone else for a few hours a night for the last seven weeks. Other people, too, have become temporary carpenters, painters, electricians, sound engineers, seamstresses, and salesmen to make this show happen. Their names are here in the program, and they are likely people you know. When you see them around in their normal guises of students, teachers, laborers, office workers, farmers, engineers, clerks — truly community members all — be sure to thank them for their part in turning this theater into a fishing lodge in Tilghem County, Georgia. They all have been wonderful to work and have fun with. Another show will be happening soon, so if the idea of becoming someone else for a while appeals to you, please come by!