I am, I am, I am superman

Filed under:General — eric @ 10:10 am

So we were out and about yesterday evening, and one place we went into had a large cut-out of a flying Superman suspended from the ceiling. Vivian looked up, pointed, and said, “Daddy!”. What more could I possibly ask for on Father’s Day?


The final product

Filed under:RailsDay, Ruby On Rails — eric @ 10:07 am

I put my RailsDay entry at weather.ericwagoner.com. It’s exactly as it stood after 24 hours, typos and bugs and all.


Pencils Down!

Filed under:RailsDay, Ruby On Rails — eric @ 11:03 pm

I finished with four minutes to spare. Here’s a shot of the front page of the app. It turned out pretty nice for 24 hours… though I’ve seen screenshots of some of the competition and wowsers!

22 Hours Gone

Filed under:RailsDay, Ruby On Rails — eric @ 8:46 pm

I’ve now got a complete application. I could be adding bells and whistles, but with only two hours to go, it’s time to clean everything up, do some final testing, write some simple instructions to the judges, and let it go.

20 Hours and Still Going

Filed under:RailsDay, Ruby On Rails — eric @ 7:13 pm

Four hours to go! Here’s another screenshot. On a whim I tried a “Rock Star (diet) Energy Drink”. It’s like condensed cool-aid with a few Flinstones vitamin pills crushed in. Yum yum!

RailsDay Progress

Filed under:RailsDay, Ruby On Rails — eric @ 2:19 pm

After 15hrs (including a four hour nap and some quality Vivian time), I’ve got the makings of a nice little app. Here’s a screenshot of the work so far.


RailsRay 2006

Filed under:RailsDay, Ruby On Rails — eric @ 6:53 pm

I’m comfortable enough with Ruby on Rails now to participate in RailsDay 2006, a 24-hour challenge to build a web application from start to finish. There’re lots of cool prizes, the best of all possible judges, and no small number of participants. It all starts at 12 midnight tonight (Eastern), and we’ll have the next 24 hours exactly to build something cool.

Myself, I’m building a weather tracking application (shhh… keep it under your hat!). We’ll see how it goes. This page will show my activity in real-time, if you happen to wander by here on Saturday.

In other news, the #1 magazine for market farmers (Growing for Market) has for its current cover story a lengthy article about my latest public project — FarmNotebook. So far the reception has been quite positive. It was a great article (since they let me write it) that makes a strong case for using my website.


You Can Sleep When You are Dead

Filed under:General — eric @ 9:49 am

I’ve long maintained that sleep’s a crutch, and I’m glad to see that the fine folks at Folger’s agree with me.


Clap your hands! (But I feel so lonely…)

Filed under:General — eric @ 3:55 pm

How can I keep me from moving?
Now I need a change of scenery
Just listen to me I won’t pretend to
Understand the movement of the wind
Or the waves out in the ocean or how
Like the hours I change softly slowly
Plainly blindly oh me oh my!

– Clap Your Hands Say Yeah “Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth

The debut album from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has been getting a lot of listening to from me. (Want to see?)

Besides being just a really good album full of really good music, it also makes me think of Randy. I can’t say why, exactly. Maybe it’s the blend of David Byrne and Robyn Hitchcock that CYHSY’s lead singer brings to the music. I’ve been thinking of Randy a lot lately. A new wife, a new son, new rooms in the home — I wish I could be there to witness them. Someday, maybe.



Now I know my ABCs…

Filed under:General — eric @ 8:44 pm

Most children begin recognizing some letters between the ages of 2 and 3 and can identify most letters between 4 and 5. This means that you can start teaching your child the alphabet when he’s around 2 — but don’t expect full mastery for some time

I think I had my mind blown tonight. Vivian, not quite 21 months old, read to me. All by herself.

Of course it was only one letter at a time, but still. She hardly has a vocabulary of twenty words, so reading sentences is still a bit beyond her reach. And she’s known her letters for some time. A couple months ago she began going over to her pile of letters and pull out the correct one when we asked, and recently she began saying their names herself. But I had no idea she’d put together that those black squiggly things in her beloved books were actually composed of individual letters.

We popped by a local diner on the way home from the farmer’s market today, just the two of us. I gave her a menu to keep her occupied while I figured out what I wanted. I’d not even got through the egg section when I hear her saying, “Aitch. You. Dee! Dee!” I sat my menu down and gave her my attention. She moved her finger from letter to letter, in order (I have no idea where she figured the left-to-right thing out), reciting as she went. “… Oh. You. Essssss. Eeeee!”

I waived the waitress off as Vivian opened her menu. She pointed at the omlette picture. “Numm numm!” Then she started right back into the words. Starting at the top left. “Bee. Arrrr. Eeee! Ay. Kay. Effff. Ay. Esssssss tee!” And on she went. And not just the headlines, and not even just the words. She moved her finger over a tiny ® — “Arrrr!”

I thought for sure we had at least a couple years before we had to think about home schooling or other options. I guess not…


“Surprise” — Paul Simon’s Back

Filed under:General — eric @ 3:25 pm

If you leap awake in the mirror of a bad dream, and for a fraction of a second you can’t remember where you are, just open your window and follow your memory upstream. To the meadow in the mountain where we counted every falling star.

I believe the light that shines on you will shine on you forever (forever). And though I can’t guarantee there’s nothing scary hiding under your bed, I’m gonna stand guard like a postcard of a golden retriever. And never leave ’til I leave you with a sweet dream in your head.

I’m gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow. Gonna paint a sign so you’ll always know. As long as one and one is two.

There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you.

Trust your intuition. It’s just like goin’ fishin’. You cast your line and hope you get a bite.

But you don’t need to waste your time worrying about the marketplace, try to help the human race. Struggling to survive its harshest night.

I’m gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow. Gonna paint a sign so you’ll always know. As long as one and one is two.

There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you.

I’m gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow. Gonna paint a sign so you’ll always know. As long as one and one is two.

There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you.

– Track Eleven, “Father and Daughter

Paul Simon has returned with a new album, a collaboration with Brian Eno, titled “Surprise“. I like what I’ve heard so far, but then the only album of his I didn’t care for (and don’t own) was the soundtrack to his Broadway musical from a few years back.

He’s taken the unusual step (for mainstream artists) of streaming the album on his website — several songs in their entirety and samples of the others.


Coming out of Hibernation

Filed under:General — eric @ 1:38 pm

The groundhog might have come out on February 2, but I decided to just go ahead and wait until the equinox. I probably should have stayed in my den a little longer — it’s as cold and rainy today as it’s been all winter.

Just the same, it’s time I woke up. I know I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and no time like the present.

I’ve been working on a project that is actually useful for many of you stumbling upon this. I quietly realeased it to the public a week ago, and there will be much louder releases to follow. So what is it?

It’s FarmNotebook. Don’t let the name fool you — even if your “farm” is just a tiny bed in the yard, you’ll get some use out of this. Here’s what you can do with it, in short:

You’ll be able to organize all of your seed and plant suppliers and the specific varieties you grow. You can record and schedule plantings, starts, transplants, and harvests. While you’re doing all this, a public page is built for you so your customers (even if they’re only your family or friends) can see what you’re growing and harvesting, along with photos of your produce, varietal histories, recipes, and other information you have shared.

Here’s what a public page can look like, based on what I’ve actually grown at my place.

You can create an account, for free, in moments. I’m charging folks $25 for a year’s access, if they use it longer than a month. Odds are, if you’re reading this, you’re a friend of mine, so let me know if you create an account and I’ll mark it as paid.

As I said, it’s designed for market and CSA farms, but it scales down nicely for backyard gardeners. The growers I’ve shown it to have been very excited, and there will be a feature article on it in Growing For Market, the premier magazine/newsletter for the folks I wrote this for.

I wrote it in the new language I mentioned a while back, Ruby on Rails. I remain as excited, if not more so, about it as I was then. It’s opened up all sorts of doors for me. I had a whole list of “wouldn’t it be nice if…” web projects, and now every one of them is feasible. That means I won’t have to look far to keep myself busy, and I’ll be able to work for myself even more.


Filed under:General — eric @ 8:20 pm

The hell with all you Cheney critics. I will continue to stand behind the VP.


Up and About

Filed under:Camera Phone — eric's phone @ 9:00 pm

Somebody up and decided she’d had enough of this crawling business.



Egads! What’s been going on?

Filed under:General — eric @ 5:13 pm

So where have I been? Well, besides watching Vivian grow up before my amazed eyes, I’ve been cloistered these last few months, coming out only to go to work, sell vegetables on Thursdays, and get groceries.

Why, you ask? Well, here’s the deal. It all comes down to money. As it turns out, the machine that goes “ping” really is the most expensive machine at the hospital, and when Vivian was born, she got three or four all to herself and Chris had a couple hooked up to her as well. And we were in the ranks of the uninsured. All the fine folks knew that, and cut us all the breaks they could, so the final bill only came to about forty-five thousand dollars. So… how to pay for it all?

Maybe you’ve heard — hospitals have gotten very aggressive of late collecting debts. They can and regularly do garnish wages and seize houses to make sure they get theirs. The payment plan they offered made me laugh and laugh: “one quarter now, one quarter next month, one quarter the month after that, and then the final quarter the month after that”. So, here’s what I did. I sat down with some nice folks in their billing department and explained that I’d love to pay my fair share, but there was no way I could under their terms. If they pushed, I’d gladly declare bankruptcy to protect my house. But, if I found a way, what would they take if I paid in cash? Six weeks of negotiations later, and they agreed to wipe out a full half the bill if we paid cash. Many (though not all) of the individual doctors involved agreed to the same deal. So… where to come up with a bit over $20K?

Credit Cards. Yup, big fat cash advances from all of the banks that would issue us credit cards. Given the interest rates being offered last fall, we came away in pretty good shape. $20K in debt gone, the risk to our home and paycheck largely gone, but still a mountain of debt. (And why credit cards? Mostly because it was a: fast, and b: unsecured debt, shielding our property)

Even with half the debt gone, that was only a temporary solution. We worked like mad to bring our income up to match the payments, but when the introductory rates expired, we were only treading water. And, with the changes in how monthly payments are calculated coming up, there wasn’t any way we could have continued, even paying only the minimums. And on top of that, the changes in bankruptcy law would have left us stuck for a long, long time.

We came right to the very edge of declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy before the deadline, but we found a last-second way to finance the debt in a way that would allow us to pay our fair share of the machine that goes “ping”, but it’d still be a lot of hard work.

So that brings me to what I’ve been up to. Trying to make money. You all know that I’ve got a great job that pays decently (and now, after witnessing my drama, even offers health insurance) but not great, so I’ve got to look elsewhere for income. The farm has turned a profit for the last few years, but that’s not a great return on my labor. But there’s a lot of demand for quality web development, and that I can do.

So I did what anyone in my shoes would do. I learned a new language.

I’ve gotten to be pretty good at PHP, a computer language used behind the scenes for many web applications. Most everything you’ve seen me involved with has been done in PHP. It’s really a great language, but writing web applications in it is just too darned slow. It just takes a lot of time to design, code, test, and deploy, and I wanted something stronger, faster, better. Enter… Ruby on Rails.

I won’t get into details, but suffice it to say that now that I’ve learned it, it’s just the best thing ever. I can write great integrated dynamic web applications in a fraction — maybe even a tenth — the time it used to take me. Getting comfortable with it took a while, mostly because it’s new and not entirely the easiest to set a web server up to use it, but now that I have it’s like the gates have been opened. I’ve got several projects in development now and one nearly done. I work a lot and sleep little, but I see a way out, and I can get there from here.

And that’s what I’ve been up to.

Take a look at my first project. It’s a full website for the Broad River Watershed Association, a non-profit land trust for the river I live on. The BRWA is an all-volunteer member-driven community organization, and the website will serve as a public front and the organization’s office, where they can keep track of the membership roster, plan events, create newsletters, and so on.

And the best part (for me) is that to a great extent, all all-volunteer member-driven community organizations have the same needs, so I can repackage what I’ve done and market it to other groups in need. I’ll show you other projects I’m working on as they get closer to completion, but should you not hear from me in a while, you’ll know what I’m doing.


One story of many

Filed under:General — eric @ 4:10 pm

Charmaine Neville is the daughter of Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers. The family has been a fixture of the New Orleans music scene for many, many years. She was one of the tens of thousands of people stuck in the city when the storm hit, and she led a group of elderly and inform people out. Her story is well worth hearing.

A video of her recounting her tale is here.

If you’d prefer to read a rough transcript, here you go:

“I was in my house when everything first started. … When the hurricane came, it blew all the left side of my house off, and the water was coming in my house in torrents. I had my neighbor, an elderly man, and myself, in the house with our dogs and cats, and we were trying to stay out of the water. But the water was coming in too fast. So we ended up having to leave the house. We left the house and we went up on the roof of a school. I took a crowbar and I burst the door on the roof of the school to help people on the roof. Later on we found a flat boat, and we went around the neighborhood in a flat boat getting people out of their houses and bringing them to the school. We found all the food that we could and we cooked and we fed people. But then, things started getting really bad. By the second day, the people that were there, that we were feeding and everything, we had no more food and no water. We had nothing, and other people were coming in our neighborhood. We were watching the helicopters going across the bridge and airlift other people out, but they would hover over us and tell us “Hi!” and that would be all. They wouldn’t drop us any food or any water, or nothing. Alligators were eating people. They had all kinds of stuff in the water. They had babies floating in the water. We had to walk over hundreds of bodies of dead people. People that we tried to save from the hospices, from the hospitals and from the old-folks homes. I tried to get the police to help us, but I realized, we rescued a lot of police officers in the flat boat from the 5th district police station. The guy who was in the boat, he rescued a lot of them and brought them to different places so they could be saved. We understood that the police couldn’t help us, but we couldn’t understand why the National Guard and them couldn’t help us, because we kept seeing them but they never would stop and help us. Finally it got to be too much, I just took all of the people that I could. I had two old women in wheelchairs with no legs, that I rowed them from down there in that nightmare to the French Quarters, and I went back and got more people. There were groups of us, there were about 24 of us, and we kept going back and forth and rescuing whoever we could get and bringing them to the French Quarters ’cause we heard that there was phones in the French Quarters, and that there wasn’t any water. And they were right, there was phones but we couldn’t get through. I found some police officers. I told them that a lot of us women had been raped down there by guys [unintelligible] the neighborhood where we were, that were helping us to save people. But other men, and they came and they started raping women [unintelligible] and they started killing, and I don’t know who these people were. I’m not gonna tell you I know, because I don’t. But what I want people to understand is that, if we hadn’t been left down there like the animals that they were treating us like, all of those things wouldn’t have happened. People are trying to say that we stayed in that city because we wanted to be rioting and we wanted to do this and, we didn’t have resources to get out, we had no way to leave. When they gave the evacuation order, if we coulda left, we would have left. There are still thousands and thousands of people trapped in their homes in the downtown area. When we finally did get to, in the 9th ward, and not just in my neighborhood, but in other neighborhoods in the 9th wards, there are a lot of people still trapped down there… old people, young people, babies, pregnant women. I mean, nobody’s helping them. And I want people to realize that we did not stay in the city so we could steal and loot and commit crimes. A lot of those young men lost their minds because the helicopters would fly over us and they wouldn’t stop. WE would do SOS on the flashlights, we’d do everything, and it came to a point. It really did come to a point, where these young men were so frustrated that they did start shooting. They weren’t trying to hit the helicopters, they figured maybe they weren’t seeing. Maybe if they hear this gunfire they will stop then. But that didn’t help us. Nothing like that helped us. Finally, I got to Canal St. with all of my people I had saved from back then. I, I don’t want them arresting nobody else. I broke the window in an RTA bus. I never learned how to drive a bus in my life. I got in that bus. I loaded all of those people in wheelchairs and in everything else into that bus, and we drove and we drove and we drove and millions of people was trying to get me to help them to get on the bus. But… [sobs]”


Why didn’t they leave?

Filed under:General — eric @ 9:33 pm

I’ve heard, from the president to the FEMA director down to the talking heads on FoxNews, subtle and not-so-subtle blame being placed on those who “chose not to leave” along the Gulf Coast, particularly those in the poor sections of New Orleans.

It’s true that some of those who remained behind chose for varying reasons to do so. But for many of those that stayed, it was no choice. The evacuation plans relied on the evacuees having their own transportation out in a city where over 40% of the population didn’t own a car (N.O. bus service was shut down within hours of the evacuation order). Once again, those in power and those who speak for them show that they have no idea what it’s like to be poor.

These people do.

  • Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
  • Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.
  • Being poor means your money is eaten away by fees: for money orders, for cashing a paycheck.
  • Being poor is hearing your daughter tell you twenty years later that she finally realized that ‘Mommy already ate, sweetie’ was a lie.
  • Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.


The Panic of Aught Five

Filed under:General — eric @ 8:03 pm

Herd mentality and panic buying took over Athens today, as everyone in town tried to fill every gas tank they had at the same time. Gas prices were up ten cents overnight, but by five pm they were up another ninety — those stations that still had gas were happy to sell it at $3.39 a gallon. As I was driving home, the local radio news station was doing a special broadcast on the panic, and a county spokesman actually had to get on the air and implore the public to stop calling 911 to ask where the cheap gas was. (!!!)

Apparently it happened in Atlanta too, where the governor waived environmental restrictions and enacted price gouging laws One well-publicized station was selling gas at well over $5 a gallon at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, it’s Dawn of the Dead over in NOLA. All that’s standing before the complete breakdown of civilization are some well-prepared (and well-armed) nerds at an internet data center.


Happy Birthday, Vivian!

Filed under:Camera Phone — eric's phone @ 3:30 pm

There was much eating of cake and playing with presents.



Devil’s in the house of the risin’ sun…

Filed under:General — eric @ 6:59 pm

Thirty-Nine Questions for Charlie Daniels Upon Hearing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” for the First Time in 25 Years

11. And who was judging that contest?
12. Was it an honor-system kind of thing?
13. With the Devil?
14. Honor system with the Devil. How did Johnny get sucked into that one?

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