Dragon Fruit, Cotton District Arts Festival

Well, this week on a trip to Jackson, MS, I ate at Mr. Chen’s and it was amazing. I had Kung Pao Chicken and it was very tasty. I’ll eat something more authentic next time, but I was hungry and not in the mood to experiment.

Eli always likes to try weird fruit, so because Mr. Chen’s also doubles as an Asian Grocery Store, I was able to pick up what looked like the weirdest fruit I’d ever seen – dragon fruit. Here it is after Ann cut it in half:

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It comes from a cactus, apparently, and tastes like a cross between kiwi and pear. That’s the theoretical flavor, but this one was kind of tasteless; maybe flying from wherever and being refrigerated zapped all the flavor. But Eli was able to have a really novel experience for a low cost. And it is very pretty, I’ll admit.

Today we went to the Cotton District Arts Festival. It’s a lot like the Clayton Arts Festival in St. Louis except instead of fine art, it is mostly jewelry, crafts, etc. The food is great. I should’ve taken a picture of the shish-ke-bob I had. Wow.

Here’s James and Eli posing in front of the crowd:

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I don’t know why I felt so curmudgeonly at this thing, but leading three children through a crowd is always a little trying. At the ice cream stand, a dude tried to convince me that the 1hp John Deere motor turning the ice cream maker beater was running on water. Uncharacteristically, I argued with him. I said “I can smell the gasoline.” And then he said something about how it’s running on the hydgrogen from the water. “Oh” I said, “like Brown’s Gas” and he said “no, not gas, water.” Sheesh. Anyway, when we got to the front of the line he asked the man who owned the booth and the guy confirmed it is a gas powered engine. Of course. Look, I’m the biggest conspiracy theorist there is, but I don’t buy the “detroit is hiding all the efficient technologies from us” conspiracy theory mainly because of the laws of physics. Yes, you can run an engine on Brown’s gas, but it would take electricity for the electrolysis to get the hydrogen out of the water. Of course, I apologized to the guy for being so contrary. I think it just hit a sore spot – all my life I’ve wished for some kind of cool alternative fuel / engine situation and they always turn out to be hokum when I look into them.

Oh, last weekend we went to the zoo in Hattiesburg with my parents. It was a lot of fun. Here’s a great pig that Eli was able to pet:

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I hope you guys are having a good week. I’m tuckered, man. What a long week.

Pretty Saturday

It was a beautiful day, weather-wise, today. Blue sky, slight breeze, temperature a little chilly, but very sunny. I mowed the yard, cleaned out the previous owner’s potting table area, cleaned out the storage shed slightly, and began treating the pool to get it ready for swimming. I went pretty early this morning to Wal-Mart and it was interesting to see who was there at that hour. A physicist/computer scientist I know was also looking at pool chemicals, and there were a lot of people looking pretty pleased with themselves for beating the last-minute easter crowd that would inevitably descend on the stores once they rolled out of bed.

I was hoping to find a post-hole digger, but all the ones I saw were either too expensive or too cheaply made. I think I’ll just borrow one. Ann’s mom brought a neat birdhouse that was her father’s and we’re looking for a good place to plant it, but I’ll need a post-hole digger. I did buy a gigantic 8 foot tall shepherd’s crook to hang the new bird feeder in front of our kitchen-area window. Today, no birds came at all. A cardinal threatened to hit the feeder but stayed away. I’m sure they’ll find it eventually.

My second-oldest son is home from boarding school so we went to the music store to get him some guitar strings. They had some cool Squire basses that were tempting. The bass I use for recording is really hard to play in tune – the neck was warped and the local luthier pulled a small miracle by putting just the right gauge strings on it and tightening up the neck as much as possible. So what you’ve been hearing on my 25 songs last year was that bass. Anyway, I didn’t get a new bass, but it was cool to see what good basses they have these days for such a low price. My second youngest also came along and the three of us went to the local co-op and looked at horseshoes, saddles, blueberry bushes, fig trees, etc. It’s hilarious that this store has big posters with celebrity spokesmen of which I’ve never heard. I mean, I couldn’t even guess if they were country stars, sports stars, rodeo stars, etc. It was like a parallel world. The fruit tree guy was amazing – very knowledgeable. I really want to plant blueberry bushes but decided to not get any today because the beds are just not prepared yet and I have a lot of other work to do. There is a time to tear up and a time to plant, and I’m still kind of in the tearing-up phase of getting this yard under control.

One thing I did today was to remove the old diving-board base. The previous owners had a diving board that broke so they filed the base with soil and planted flowers in it. I dug out the flowers and put them in pots, then got all the soil out. There were six rusty bolts/nuts holding it to the concrete. I sprayed PB Blaster (penetrating oil) on the bolts and then used a long bar with my socket wrench to undo all the bolts. The board came out pretty cleanly.

Last week I removed a forsythia bush that was about 8 feet in diameter. You probably have seen this kind of plant even if you don’t know it by name – it makes pretty yellow flowers that line the branches. It was crazy and right at the corner of our yard which is the corner of two busy streets in Starkville. I was worried that I would be cutting down some of the neighbors’ favorite bush (I’ve never seen a forsythia this big) but at the same time it was just too big and too woody to be as pretty as even much smaller forsythias. This is the heartbreak of moving into a yard that someone else lovingly tended and yet let get overgrown. I used my chainsaw to cut through this thing like hot butter. I was really worried my neighbor would be upset. But then today she told Ann to tell me “thanks” – how she can safely turn out onto North Montgomery now and see oncoming cars. It’s a good outcome.

Alright, gotta run hear Eli tell me his plan to make our yard a new country with its own laws. I’m sure our Democrat mayor would have something to say about that. Have a great Easter tomorrow, dear readers.

Worship as Response

You might be interested to read an article I’ve written for the Theopolis website: Worship as Response: Liturgical Logic, Part 1.

I’m trying to write a series of articles about liturgy that will be useful for laypeople, pastors, etc. Let me know what you think; I would appreciate your comments. My goal is to be useful, so let me know if you have any burning liturgical questions that might be good for a future article.

It was an honor to be asked to contribute, but it was also a lot of pressure since the other articles at Theopolis are all so good. Definitely check out all the other authors there.

Have a wonderful Easter week, friends.

Gamma Knife

Recently the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) in Mississippi fired Dr. Jones, the president of Ole Miss, for alleged mismanagement of Ole Miss’s Medical School (University Medical Center). One of the allegations was that UMC purchased a “gamma knife” that sat unboxed or unused or something. So, this being the Internet age (and why do we capitalize Internet anyhow?) and the YouTube age, some Mississippi bar singer (Moon Pie Curtis) decided to bless us with this gem of a song: “Dr. Jones is Gonna Cut You With His Gamma Knife.”

And, incidentally, “Gamma Knife” is a heck of a name for a garage band or a Japanese post-punk lo-fi three-piece thing.

One quick update – I’m 2/5ths of the way through remixing the songs that will be on my first EP. I’ll let you know when it is available – should be on Spotify, iTunes, etc. And you can rest assured, there are no songs about Dr. Jones and the Gamma Knife.

Happy Palm Sunday, dear readers.

Smartwatch Interfaces

The inputs that work for a phone, a tablet, or a Mac don’t work as well on a smaller screen. Most of the companies who have done smartwatches haven’t thought that through, so they’re still using pinch-to-zoom and other gestures that we created for the iPhone.

Tim Cook, Interview in Financial Times

Chainsaw

Man, I don’t know why I waited until now to buy a chainsaw. Our yard has a bunch of trees that need to be removed or trimmed, so I bought a 14 inch “Worx” electric chainsaw at WalMart the other day. It was under fifty bucks and had a three year warranty, so I figured it was worth the gamble. I put in the chain oil and plugged it in and the first weekend I took down a huge pear tree that extended from a 24″ trunk out to two 12″ branches – one of which was dying, hollow, etc. Then cut that all up and put the limbs on the street. Then I tackled a long, spindly holly that had seen better days. I essentially took down a full sized tree and medium sized tree and the chainsaw worked great. No fuss with the engine either. The (cheap, stock) chain was duller at this point so I got a higher-quality chain this week and changed it out. During the snowstorm this week, the two junipers that stand to either side of our front door like large bonsai trees were covered in a lot of heavy snow. Unfortunately one of the trained branches broke from the weight of the snow, so I had to kind of clean that up today. I really hope that we can save that tree – there is a split that I think will make the rest of it a lot weaker. Very sad because this tree was obviously trained with a lot of love over the years by the previous homeowners. But the chainsaw performed admirably, and it was nice to have a new blade for this kind of surgical stuff. Then, I cut down another strange holly “tree” that was crowding a gigantic wisteria vine. I also cut down a few other dead or nearly-dead smaller trees in the yard. It’s 10:30 and I’m enjoying the obligatory, celebratory brew before I start grouting the tub surround I finished tiling last week. I’ll try to put up some pictures of all this stuff at some point. You can follow me on instragram – see the left side of this blog for my feed – and I tend to post photos there once in a while.

I hope you’re having a productive Saturday, dear readers.

Wakefield

This was a helpful interview with Andrew Wakefield, the allegedly discredited gastroenterologist from England who took seriously the issue of vaccine safety:

I know you’ve heard, in the press, that he is wrong, but if you haven’t looked into this yourself, then you’re probably working with a caricature both of him and of his findings.

Snow Afternoon

Well, it’s not quite a show *day* but it is pretty cool to get a snow afternoon. They closed Mississippi State University at 2:00, which means that 20,000+ students and a huge number of staff and faculty now have a snow afternoon. Then the elementary and high schools in town all let out as well. Of course, there’s no snow yet, but the radar looks pretty promising (or threatening depending upon your tolerance for snow.)

I wonder how they closed schools early in the old days… Word of mouth? I guess enough people listened to the same radio or television stations so that the word spread pretty quickly. Or maybe everyone just planned a little better than they do now. Nowadays, no one agrees to meet at location X at time Y. They say “let’s have lunch tomorrow” and then 15 minutes before noon they begin to correlate their respective intentions, hankerings, etc. via SMS.

Well, I’m going to go suck the marrow out of this snow afternoon. Adios, dear reader.

Kindle Problems

Here’s a copy of the chat transcript you requested:

Initial Question: Hi – my kindle is showing an ad for “fifty shades of grey” on the screen when it sleeps. Dude, this is not what I want people / my kids / my dogs to see on the screen of my kindle. Please help me get some other kind of advertising.

07:26 PM PST Sunder(Amazon): Hello, my name is Sunder. I’m here to help you today.
07:26 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: Hey Sunder – cool name!
07:27 PM PST Sunder(Amazon): Thank you, Jonathan. Is this the only ad which appears on your Kindle in Sleep mode?
07:27 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: Yes – it’s full screen
and there are small banner ads for it at the bottom of my home screen
07:28 PM PST Sunder(Amazon): Once unlock the screen and lock it again to check if any other ad displays or not.
07:28 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: Woo hoo – now it has something more appropriate
07:29 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: thank you so much
07:29 PM PST Sunder(Amazon): You’re welcome, Jonathan. Do you have any other questions for me?
07:29 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: will this ad come back?
07:30 PM PST Sunder(Amazon): There might be 4-5 ads which appear on Kindle, so when you see the same ad, just unlock and lock the screen. It will change.
07:30 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: ok – thanks so much – it came back twice today so I thought maybe it would stay there forever. Have a great evening!
Or morning!
07:31 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: I’m going to drink a beer now and watch some Amazon Prime. Have a great week.
07:31 PM PST Sunder(Amazon): Ads will change on daily basis, so same ad will not repeat for 2-3 days. Have a great week :)
07:31 PM PST Jonathan H Barlow: Bye