good seeds and bad seeds
Wednesday, September 18 2013
There was something unexpected happening with an AJAX-based business simulation game I'd been working on, so I had to be at my computer at 9:30 AM this morning to see what happened when the game was played by a lecture hall full of college students. The professor had tried to describe what she had been seeing, but her description hadn't been helpful; she'd failed to pick out any legible words in the strange "data dumps" she'd been seeing. But the moment I saw those dumps, I immediately zeroed in on "Can't connect to MySQL server on '10.1.4.20'." It turned out that the problem was a database connectivity issue; evidently there was too much traffic going between the web server and the database server. This was a consequence of the complexity of my code, which was now consulting the database for rendering directions when displaying tables of information. Some of those database calls happened for every row and perhaps every column in what could be a large table, which was sometimes being displayed on 20 or more computers nearly simultaneously, with updates every three or four seconds. As bad as all of that might sound, modern servers can handle enormous amounts of traffic without difficulty; I hadn't expected any of those connections to be refused. But clearly there was a problem. I thought about what to do about it while taking the dogs on a relatively short walk in the forest.
Once I returned home, I implemented a file-system-based caching system that stored the results of certain frequent database calls as serialized data in a text file. I also made the system store the HTML of one of those rendered data tables, allowing it to be compiled once and displayed many times (instead of compiling it from scratch for every AJAX update). These measures took very little time to implement and only amounted to about 30 lines of code total, but, once fully debugged, they had a dramatic effect on the responsiveness of the game. Occasions like this really make me enjoy doing this sort of work.
Gretchen would be returning today, and I always like to at least clean up the kitchen before she gets home. There were so many dishes in the sink that I decided to take them out in the yard and wash them using water from the woodshed rain barrel, a form of dishwashing I usually only do during an extended power outage. The advantage to using the yard is that one can be more systematic about the process of rinsing, soaping, and re-rinsing. Because the lawn is essentially endless, I can lay out the dishes in various stages of cleanliness and process every stage in bulk. When I was dishes in the sink, I tend to wash each dish completely before moving on to the next one, a technique cursed by the inefficiency of my having to wash all the soap off my hands with every dish.
Late summer and early autumn are the harvest season, and while I normally get excited about tomatoes this time of year, our tomato patches have been a bit of a disappointment this season. The tomatoes have tended to rot on the vine before becoming completely ripe, particularly the massive Upstate Oxheart Tomatoes, which we tried growing this year for the first time.
I don't normally get experimental with seeds that grow on weed species, but this year on a whim I tried eating two different weed seeds and wasn't disappointed in either case. The first that I tried was jewelweed seeds. Normally monster jewelweeds grow densely all around the greenhouse, but this year most of them were eaten back by Richard the Deer. The few that survived were protected by the stone retaining wall and deck near the entrance to the greenhouse upstairs. Jewelweed is an unusual plant, because when the seed pod gets ripe, it becomes sensitive to being brushed or squeezed and will explode dramatically to release its seeds. Most kinds of jewelweed seem to produce pods containing four or five seeds that are each only about half the size of a peppercorn. The ones near the greenhouse tend to produce pods with only one or two seeds, but each of those are the size of two peppercorns, and they also turn dark brown when they're ripe. (I suspect the jewelweeds near the greenhouse are actually native to the banks of the Esopus, since that is where I got much of the topsoil when I was doing the greenhouse landscaping.) As for flavor, the jewelweed seeds taste almost exactly like tiny chunks of walnut. This is completely unexpected; the flavor of the juice from a jewelweed stem or leaf is chemically cloying and bitter; and I'd half-expected the seed to have some of that flavor as well. But they don't. Once I'd eaten one of the plump brown seeds, I kept looking for and and trying my best to capture more.
The other weed seed discovery is Velvetleaf, a tall weed that I've been letting grow amongst the Brassicas in the garden. Gretchen thinks it's ugly and useless, but it produces numerous radial pods full of heart-shaped peppercorn-sized brown seeds. They're best when they're not quite ripe and not so hard. To me, they taste a little like sunflower seeds, and, like jewelweed seeds, are somewhat addictive.
The two kinds of jewelweed.
This evening I needed to resupply my depleted stocks of cheap beer, so I drove with the dogs down into Old Hurley and got a sixer of Mountain Brew Ice at the Stewart's. While down in Old Hurley, I went to the banks of the Esopus near the taxidermy shop (across Wynkoop from the Hurley Mountain Inn) to get two buckets of topsoil. Last year I'd had topsoil delivered, but it had disappointed me; it was too sandy and plants didn't seem to like growing in it. So I've decided to put a layer of good old Hurley topsoil on top of the crappy stuff. Unfortunately, somewhat had put up a chain blocking access to my preferred mining site, meaning I had to carry the soil a longer distance. As I did so, I became aware of a reason I probably shouldn't try to mine topsoil at this time of year. Some species of plant was producing thousands of small burs, each about half the size of a peppercorn, and, since the weather was cool and I was wearing sweatpants and socks, I soon had hundreds of them attached to me.
Meanwhile Ramona had found the completely lower jaw of a semi-decomposed deer. I let her bring it into the car, and it smelled so terrible that I had to keep the windows down. I nevertheless let her bring it into the house, where it stunk up the entire upstairs. Ramona got bored with it long before Gretchen returned, by which time I'd thrown it out into the yard.
Despite the seemingly-apocalyptic quantity of burs clinging to my clothes, I managed to completely clear my sweatpants in a surprisingly short amount of time. Something about burs focuses my attention like few other things and I just know I'll have to remove every one of the fuckers unless I want to live with the potential for small unexpected miseries.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next