Not quite the walled garden

On the lighter side...

I'm trying to grow stuff.  This is probably a bad idea, but whatever.

See, my apartment has a balcony that faces south and I'm on the top floor of a 3-story building.  Since I'm in the northern hemisphere, this means it gets a lot of sunlight - so much so that it actually heats up my living room a fair bit, even with the overhang.  Which is also there, so that while in the winter I get a lot of sun, in the summer, I get sun in the morning and the evening but not at high noon (because the overhang shields most of the patio).

This, combined with the moderate weather of southern California, makes the balcony pretty much the ideal place to grow stuff.  At least in theory.

The first step was to get a covering for the balcony floor, since it's just concrete and that's both ugly and hot.  This was done with fake green grass - cheap stuff, but it works pretty well.  Once I did that, I thought, "hrm, it'd be nice to have some planters or such..."; the rest, as they say, is history.

At this point, I have four 24" planters, 5 10" pots, 1 12" pot, and a couple of 12"x3 level "strawberry pots".  Yeah, never give an OCD person a new toy to play with.

In actual plants, I have 4 scotch bonnet peppers and a rosemary bush.  The SBs are doing awesome, as far as I can tell: there's new growth and such.  The rosemary is looking a little unhappy, but that may be me over-watering it, so I'm going to change some stuff when I get home.  The rest of the pots and planters and such were planted with seeds: cayenne and thai chili peppers, some mini bell peppers, some garlic that does really well in the area, and a broad assortment of herbs.  I'm also trying to get some tomato seedlings to start in the second bedroom-cum-greenhouse (it's the hottest room anyway, so it works).

So far, none of the seeds have sprouted, but that's pretty typical for most of them.  The exception is the basil - that should have started showing by now (it's been about 4-5 days).  I'll give it until the weekend, probably, and then maybe try starting some seedlings indoors first (depending on how the tomatoes do, though I may have screwed those up by letting them dry out).  I've got extra seeds for everything but the SBs (which are fine) and the rosemary, so I can start over entirely if needed.

However, since I know me, I also got self-watering pots and planters and, for the ones that aren't, an automated watering system (which is what I have to adjust for the rosemary; I need to move the spout and probably reduce the frequency).  ADHD gardening at its finest.

We'll see how this all works out.  Assuming I get some signs of greenery here in the next week, I'll take snaps and post 'em.

Just a gimmick

"Suppose I were an extraterrestrial," the man said quietly.  "Suppose I were several million years ahead of this planet.  What one question would you ask me?"

"Why is there so much violence and hatred among us?" Benny asked at once.

"It's always that way on primitive planets," the man said.  "The early stages of evolution are never pretty."

"Do planets grow up?" Benny asked.

"Some of them," the man said simply.


"Through suffering enough, they learn wisdom."

Benny turned and looked at his odd companion.  He *is* an actor, he thought.  "Through suffering," he repeated.  "There's no other way?"

"Not in the primitive stages," the man said.  "Primitives are too self-centered to ask the important questions, until suffering forces them to ask."

Benny felt the grief pass through him again, and leave.  He grinned.  "You play this game very well."

"Anybody can do it," the man said.  "It's a gimmick, to get outside your usual mind-set.  You can do it too.  Just try for a minute - you be the advanced intelligence, and I'll be the primitive Terran.  Okay?"

"Sure," Benny said, enjoying this.

"Why me?" The stranger's tone was intense.  "Why have I been singled out for so much injustice and pain?"

"There is no known answer to that," Benny said at once.  "Some say it's just chance - hazard - statistics.  Some say there is a Plan, and that you were chosen to learn an important lesson.  Nobody knows, really.  The important thing is to ask the next question."

"And what is the next question?"

Benny felt as if this was easy.  "The next question is, What do I do about it?  How ever many minutes or hours or years or decades I have left, what do I do to make sense out of it all?"

"Hey, that's good," the stranger said.  "You play Higher Intelligence very well."

"It's just a gimmick," Benny said...
That passage is from The Universe Next Door by Robert Anton Wilson.  It's one of my favorite books, and while the novel as a whole is pretty chaotic, this passage is one of the most coherent, simple, straight-forward expressions of an idea I like that I've ever read.

I have no empathy - or, at least, so little that it might as well be none.  I don't qualify for Antisocial Personality Disorder solely on the basis that I'm not violent (I dislike violence and destruction in general).  I think a big part of it is that I don't feel like a member of the same species as everyone else, so that no one ever feels like "one of us" to me.  Everyone's a stranger.  I can stand in a room full of close friends and family and still feel completely isolated and alone.

Now, don't get me wrong - I fake empathy well enough that most people just think I'm a little distant/weird.  Jokes about Vulcans and robots and "typical IT personality" surround me, but they're "just jokes" to most people.  The truth is, I'm actually a fairly good student of human psychology and extremely adept at both manipulation and faking.

And, yet, I don't do it (most of the time; I admit to slipping once in a while).  I don't take advantage of people or abuse others' emotional states.  In fact, I'm often the person who is more concerned that others aren't being mistreated or feeling left out or abused: I'm better at seeing it, because I know how I would do it if I wanted to.

Sometimes, having no empathy is an advantage.  My step-father hurt himself pretty badly last week, and I spent the first 24 hours after trying to keep my mother from going into emotional meltdown.  Her statement, once he started improving and she started being less frantic, was, "You're my rock."  Yep, that's me - the rock, the stone, the one who isn't moved.  She meant it as a compliment, as most people do, implying some kind of virtue on my part for sacrificing my own emotional needs to be supportive of others.  Except, I had none, so there was nothing to sacrifice.

What it is, really, is what the passage at the start of this post asks: even if there's suffering in this world, even if there's tragedy or personal struggle, the question we should ask is, "What am I going to do about it?"  I decided I dislike such things, aesthetically, so I do what I can to stop them: to help those who need help, to be the rock for those who need a rock, or even to just give a single moment of hope to someone who otherwise might not have it.  It's what I mean when I say, "I can't save the world, but if I can save one person, I can help teach the world to save itself."

Think about that this week while you lament the cowardice of the bombing of Boston or shake your head in disbelief at the explosion in Texas.  Instead of asking why - why they would do such a thing, why regulators let such a dangerous place be surrounded by families - ask what you, yourself, are going to do about it: a $5 gift to a charity, donating blood at the local hospital, a different vote on the next ballot, whatever it may be.  It doesn't have to be much - there may not be much you can do - but a few hundred million people doing a little is a whole lot better than seven billion doing nothing.

And think about what the advanced intelligence would say to the primitive Terran.  What harm can it do?  It's just a gimmick.


I'm just going to dump this here, because that's what this is for, right?

So, the last couple of days, I've been thinking over an idea.  It's a small, stupid thing, but 1) I think it's patentable and 2) it's the kind of small, stupid thing that could either be a waste of the filing fee or make millions.  I've been spinning it my head (literally, in some cases; yay for mental 3d rendering engines) and will probably, in the next few days or week or so, actually make a model of it that could be sent to a prototyping house or something (I'm pretty good with CAD programs).

The problem?  While I think it'd be a good idea to bounce the idea off of a few other people, the mere thought of bringing up even the fact that I have an idea that could be monetized, much less the specifics of it, around most of my friends makes me cringe.

I hang around a lot of people who stylize themselves as "creative types" - writers, actors, movie folk, even graphic designers or system architects.  People who are used to being the ones who create ideas and leverage them.  It's great - there are all these people I know who always have fascinating perspectives or new insights.

I'm not thought of that way.  I'm the support person - the adapter, the improver, the guy who fixes things or makes them work better.  People come up with an idea, then come to me to ask my advice on how to make it more practical or more realistic or more fiscally sound.  Throughout all of this, it's their idea - I'm just helping out.

The few times I've come up with things on my own and mentioned them, they've been... well, co-opted is a good phrase.  Suddenly my idea becomes "our idea" or even their idea (especially if they decide, unilaterally, that some facet of what I've described isn't perfect and, therefore, by changing it they own most or all of the idea).  This isn't me being paranoid - I've had one friend take over at least two ideas for stories, and another latched on to a marketing concept I mused on randomly one day and actively try to make it work (without acknowledging it being my idea at all).  Others seem to just assume that whatever I'm saying must be some extension of something they've come up with and, thus, is theirs to do what they like with (I've been told that at least once point-blank by someone I no longer speak to).

I have to say, writing that makes me more than a little uncomfortable: I've gotten so used to being the support person that even saying, "No! Mine!" about something I legitimately came up with on my own feels selfish or egocentric.  But, that's the way it always seems to be: no matter what happens, control of the idea is taken away from me.  Maybe it's meant as a compliment (that they think it's good enough that they want to work on it with me), or maybe they don't realize they're doing it.  The discomfort/selfish feeling is compounded by the fact that, legitimately, I'm in a better financial position than most of my friends (for a variety of reasons) so that, by wanting to maintain ownership, I'm selfishly denying them a share of profits or whatever (assuming there are any).

It's extremely frustrating.  It's one of those moments that makes you wonder - makes me wonder - if, in fact, I have the "right" friends.  I think I do, for the most part; they're great people in a lot of ways, and they certainly put up with many of my eccentricities.  It's just that, on this issue, I feel both trapped and almost guilty for feeling trapped (and then annoyance beats out guilt, because I always think of guilt as a useless emotion).

Anyway, that's a distraction for the moment: I've got an idea, and no one I feel comfortable talking to about it.  And that's pretty sad.  There are far worse things going on in the world, so this is definitely a #firstworldproblems moment, but still.