Sunday, April 23, 2006


I went to one of LA's composting education sessions on Saturday in Griffith Park. The main reason I went was because following the 1/2 hour session, they sell compost bins at discount prices. I have been wanting to get 1 or 2 extra compost bins because my current method of adding to the top and taking from the bottom was just unworkable. First of all, it takes forever to make the compost - over a year! Second, it is hard to separate the finished compost from the material that isn't done decaying. With more than one bin, I can add to a pile until it fills up, then transfer the whole pile to an empty bin, freeing up the 1st one for new material. Then I can take care of the 2nd bin by mixing it regularly and keeping it the right moisture level. This way, the entire 2nd bin will turn into good compost all at the same time. I should be able to get a full batch of compost this way every 4 to 6 months.

I ended up buying 2 BIO-STACK bins at $45 each. The regular price is supposed to be $90. The bin is layered in 3 sections, which makes it easy to turn the pile. I just have to take off one layer at a time, restacking them next to the original pile. As I stack the layers to form the second bin, I scoop material out of the first one into the second one. To get my new bin started, I took all the unfinished compost from my original Rubbermaid bin. I used a strainer made of a 1/4 inch mesh to separate it from the finished compost. The finished compost ended up filling 2 Avon boxes which is just in time for spring planting.

Today I went to the nursery and picked up some new seedlings: soybeans, roma tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and a marigold plant. I also planted some onions and cucumbers from some seeds I already had. I added the potent mixture of fresh compost, peat moss, and vermiculite, which was suggested in Square Foot Gardening, so I'm expecting some good crops this year.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Zunafish Trading

A friend recently told me about the web site Zunafish which makes it easy to trade old books, CD's and other forms of media with other people. I signed up and listed a few old computer books and then entered a few books that I wanted. About 15 minutes later, I got an email saying that someone wanted to trade with me. They were willing to send me their copy of Learning the vi Editor for my copy of Enterprise Javabeans. To complete the transaction, I had to pay Zunafish a $1 commission and now I just have to ship my book to the person I'm trading with. The whole thing is kind of neat. I have been trying to sell that EJB book on Amazon for years. I have so many old books laying around that I'd love to get rid of so when I get some more time, I'm going to enter them into Zunafish.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Thank You for Smoking

We saw the movie Thank You for Smoking last night at the Bridge. I thought it was a good movie - one that feels refreshingly out of the ordinary. The movie was described as a satire about the tobacco industry and I was wondering before I went whether or not the movie would carry an anti-smoking or pro-smoking message. Now having seen it, my opinion is that the message was definitely anti-smoking. However, my wife didn't think it leaned one way or the other. If you've seen the movie, please comment on what you thought.

The weakest part of the movie for me was Katie Holmes cast as Heather Holloway, a blood-sucking reporter that sleeps with the main character in order to squeeze secret information out of him. Her character was described by some other characters as extremely attractive and with "big tits". I felt that Katie Holmes was too young and Dawson's Creekish, and although she is attractive, she didn't match the "big tits" description.

Katie (Dawson's Creek) is cursed with the same problem as Neve Campbell (Party of Five) and Jennifer Aniston (Friends). All of them were great in the TV show that made them famous, but in movies they don't have the ability to act well enough to make you see past their former TV show characters.

One final thought on Thank You for Smoking: As I was leaving the theater I realized that there wasn't a single scene in the movie where a person was smoking. My wife said that she read somewhere that it was intentional. I thought that was interesting.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Green at The Palmer Room

I checked out the open mic night called Green this evening at The Palmer Room in Palms. It was hosted by Ratpack Slim, DJ Jedi, and Joshua Silverstein. They do it every Monday apparently. I had seen the Palmer Room advertised in some LA jazz newspapers before, but this is the first time I've made it out there. It is a pretty nice room not too far from where I live with a laid back vibe, no cover charge, and good food.

A lot of the same poets I saw at Highways were in the audience tonight. Usually open mic nights are filled with performers that have no talent, but Green seems to be the exception. Tonight's Green show along with the recent shows at Highways has given me a feel for the LA poetry scene and I am happy that I know about it now. I plan to go back to The Palmer Room again, hopefully bringing new people next time. I also hope to go there for some jazz too. I need to figure out when someone good is playing there next.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ratpack Slim Bests the Rest

Saturday night I went back to the poetry festival at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. The first act was Ratpack Slim, a poet that performed with Joshua Silverstein, an amazingly talented beat boxer. It was the first time I had heard of these guys. I was really impressed. I wish they had more time to perform, because none of the acts that followed were as enjoyable. Slim announced that he and Joshua host an open mike night called Green every Monday in Culver City. I am definitely going to check it out. I have always been impressed by really good beat boxers and Joshua was awesome.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Ocean View Farms Turns 30

One of the largest community gardens in Los Angeles, Ocean View Farms (OVF), celebrated its 30th anniversary today with a gala that included tours of the garden, a potluck lunch, and speeches by councilman Bill Rosendahl and others.

These gardens are in Mar Vista just east of Centinela Ave at Rose Ave. Each garden plot has a view of the Santa Monica Bay on a clear day. For only $30 something dollars a year, anyone can rent a garden plot. Members get access to compost and steer manure. It is perfect for people who like to garden, but live in apartments without yards.

Even though I live in a house with a big yard and can have my own private garden at home, I still think it would be fun to join OVF and be part of the gardening community. I think it would be a nice thing to share with friends. It would be a place to meet on the weekends and spend some time outside. The only problem is that I don't have any friends that like to garden. Someday if I ever make any friends that live nearby and like to garden, I will propose that we sign up for a plot at OVF together.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Slam Poetry Night

This weekend is the 2nd Annual Poetry and Performance festival at the Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. Last night I went to the opening event which was a Slam Poetry contest. About 8 slam poets did their thing and 5 members of the audience acted as judges, giving them a score from 1 to 10. After a few rounds, the scores were totaled and the poet with the highest score won the chance to perform in next year's festival for a whole evening. It was the first slam poetry event I've ever attended and it was a lot of fun. I think I will go back for the 3rd night when some of LA's finest slam poets like Shihan are expected to perform.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lava Lamp Build Indicators

At work, we have been putting together a continuous integration environment for all of our software projects. Using Cruise Control, we compile, run JUnit tests, and generate reports like JavaDoc and code coverage, for each of the projects. The build is kicked off every time any file in any of the projects changes. The result has been that an email is sent out to each developer every time a build occurs to indicate whether or not the build was successful. If the a build fails, then we try to find out why, and fix the problem as soon as possible.

Inspired by this Pragmatic Automation web page, and to raise awareness of the importance of keeping the builds successful, and also just to add a little fun into our jobs, we have tied the success of the builds to the operation of some lava lamps. We have a red lava lamp that turns on whenever any project fails to build. When all the builds are passing, the green lava lamp turns on.

This little system was built with about $50 worth of X10 components and two $9.99 lava lamps that we got from Aahs on Wilshire Blvd. Next, we are looking into buying an electric marquee that would scroll the name of any developer who breaks the build.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

UCLA So Close

We went to Pauly Pavillion to watch the NCAA championship game between UCLA and Florida last night. It was being broadcasted from Indianapolis, Indiana. They setup movie theater size screens on all four sides of Pauly. Before the game, the crowd, which was in the thousands, was totally energized, screaming in response to any mention of UCLA on the pre-game show. It was exactly the reason I went to watch the game there - to be part of the energy and to witness the party afterward if UCLA were to win.

After the first minute of the game as UCLA started to lose the lead for good, the crowd mellowed out. It was a bummer to have gathered with so many excited Bruins only to watch UCLA get beat hard. The guy who announces at the home games was there, serving as an emcee. The band and a few cheerleaders were also there.

I remember well the night UCLA won in 1995. I watched the game with a bunch of friends in Ackerman Grand Ball Room. After the win, the crowd of students poured out of Ackerman and made their way into Westwood. Near the fraternities, people were pouring beer all over each other in the middle of the street. In the heart of Westwood, people were climbing traffic lights and movie theaters and on Broxton, some people even tipped over a Kiss-FM van. Eventually the cops came with rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. It was an exciting night. I was really hoping to relive that night again, but it didn't work out. Well, hopefully this year was the start of a long run of successful seasons for UCLA. Go Bruins!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Querterlife World Premier

Last night, we went to see the Sight Unseen Theater Group's first play of the 2006 season Quarterlife at the Pico Playhouse. I found out about it in the regular emails I receive from Goldstar Events that let me know about and offer discounts for all kinds of events occurring in LA.

Querterlife features 4 20-something actors Em Dreiling, Clark Freeman, Tamlin Hall, and Bitsie Tulloch. It takes place in a cabin where one couple and their friend reconnect with a neighbor that they knew from their teenage years. You never know what you're going to get when you go to see these small productions. We've seen some pretty awful shows in the past, but Quarterlife was pretty good. The acting was better than the actual story in my opinion. I think each of the actors is talented enough to be successful in Hollywood. I thought Bitsie was the best, as she did many subtle things with her voice, eyes, hands, and body to make her character seem real. I also enjoyed the quirkiness that Tamlin put into his character, which added a sense of humor to the play. The only problem I had with the play was that it didn't feel like it really went anywhere in the 2nd half and towards the end, I felt like the conversations between Bitsie and her boyfriend Clark were too long and boring.

Maybe in 8 years this cast and crew should reunite and make OneThirdLife.