Will Carrots Grow in a Flower Box Planter?

The cheapest plastic planter boxes available from my local home and garden store, circa 2015. Obviously I never bothered weeding.

Will carrots, a taproot vegetable, grow well in a flower box planter? That’s the question I asked myself back in April, when our planting season started.

Tonight is our first potential frost of the season, so after months of waiting, it’s time to find the answer.

My process was as follows.

First, I located two unused planter boxes in my shed. The boxes measure six inches deep if I’m being generous.

Next, I filled the planter boxes with the finest leftover potting soil, also found in my shed.

After then lovingly scattering a handful of old carrot seeds to the wind over the loose soil, I gave the whole setup a good watering, then settled in for six months of salutary neglect.

Today I carefully dug out all the carrots in one box. The other box I gave to the kids, whose retrieval strategy was more “give it a good yank.”

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Are Smartphone Cameras Good for Astrophotography?

The Moon and Mars, around 2020-10-03T02:00Z

As Betteridge’s Law of Headlines suggests, the answer is no. But this was excuse enough for me to lug my old telescope into the yard for a gander at the Moon and Mars.

The Moon appears nearly full — just one day past the Harvest Moon.

Mars is just a few days from its closest approach to Earth, and about a week and a half away from opposition (so Space.com tells me), so it’s looking pretty bright itself.

During my viewing, a few hours before optimum for the East Coast, Mars appeared to be about three lunar diameters from the Moon, which would be somewhere around a degree and a half. That’s wider than the field of my widest eyepiece, hence the hop from one to the other in the video.

The telescope is a Celestron 4.5″ Newtonian that I’ve had since I was a kid. It’s been gathering dust for a very long time, and is a tad out of collimation. Video was shot by hand-holding my Moto G to a 25mm 1.25″ plössl eyepiece.

And no, I didn’t expect much, other than to enjoy a cool evening and view two of my favorite objects. Yes, I went down to a 5mm eyepiece to check out the detail along the lunar limb.

Mars showed its distinct color, but I never got sharp enough focus to see any detail. The best view was with my naked eyeball, past the limbs of the apple tree in my front yard, watching the Moon and Mars rise together.

Someday I hope to visit them both.


Internet and its Uses

Back in the days of the ’90s, when the economy was booming and two-digit years were a thing, I remember it was a time of optimism. The Cold War was over. The world was building an International Space Station.

And the World Wide Web was blossoming.

This created enormous opportunities. Now, we could get our news whenever we wanted it: not just from the morning paper and the evening news broadcast. Email and chat rooms connected ordinary people (not just the tech literate) around the world. Information that once required hours of research in a library was now available at our fingertips.

Surely (we thought back then), this new Information Age would lead to a golden age of enlightenment and learning, where the light of science and knowledge would forever be a beacon to a human race as it transitioned into something far grander than ever before!

Last night, I sat with friends as we watched Tik Tok videos of people eating dandelions.

What the heck happened?

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Eight Years of Raspberry Pi

This morning I was digging through some drawers trying to find something when I came across this dusty old first-generation Raspberry Pi B.

Raspberry Pi B. Dusty like a bottle of fine wine, but not as pleasant to drink.

If you’re not familiar with Raspberry Pi, it’s a single-board computer priced at around $35, originally designed for educational use.

Over the years I’ve used these boards in quite a few projects. Seeing this old one made me think about how far Raspberry Pi has come in the past eight years.

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What are StackExchange’s Pronouns?

The phrase “dumpster fire” gets bandied about a lot, but such is the current state of the venerable StackExchange network. In the past two months, the leadership team has clashed with the longstanding community:

Now, new CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar fiddles as Meta StackExchange burns down over the latest controversy: the abrupt and unexplained termination of a community moderator. This action has led to the resignation of close to 80 other moderators, and caused some to question whether the corporate leadership is listening to the SE community.

What’s the latest casus belli?

Third-person pronouns.

I’ve never heard of such a brutal and shocking injustice that I cared so little about!

Zapp Brannigan, Futurama
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Mounting my Google Drive on Ubuntu 19.04

…is supposed to work right out of the box. Just open the Gnome settings app, choose “Online Accounts”, and add your Google account. You’ll have to enter your credentials, and make sure that “Use For…Files” is turned on.

Then open Nautilus file manager, look at the locations panel on the left, et voilà, you should see a “<your.google.account>@gmail.com” drive ready to be mounted.

And I did… except when I tried to mount it, I got a timeout error.

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Stop Snoring?

I wish I could.

I’m a snorer. I snore. I snore loudly and nightly. Like my father before me, and his father before him. I snore so loudly that I get complaints. From my wife, my kids, roommates, house guests…

Maybe there’s a seismology team at the university scratching their heads over those low-magnitude earthquakes they detect every night.

But y’know, there’s an app for everything nowadays, so why not try one?

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Summer Ventures ’99

It was the end of June, in a long-gone year when we were yet naïve enough to use two-digit years, though Y2k loomed large on the horizon, and cameras still required film.

I was a high school student. It was summer. I set foot on the campus of Appalachian State University, in the heart of Boone, NC. I was enrolled in Summer Ventures. And I had no idea what to expect.

It was the Summer of ’99.

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Project: Dremel-carved Clock

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a hands-on project, but I had an 8″ x 10″ x 1/2″ block of basswood, and one of those DIY clock movements from the craft store.

So due to my fondness for Star Trek, I thought I’d take my Dremel and carve out a TOS Enterprise clock. (The results are not pretty.)

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Struct Unions in .NET

Suppose that you have an array of bytes that you need to convert into a fixed-size struct. This might happen, for example, if you’re parsing a data stream from a hardware device.

In C, it’s easy enough to do this with pointers. Or you could create a struct union between a byte array and your fixed-size struct.

If you’re using VB.NET, your options appear more limited. You can get an IntPtr to the array, and use Marshal to create an instance of the struct. But if you try to create a union between a byte array and a struct, the runtime throws a TypeLoadException.

TypeLoadException: “Could not load type […] from assembly […] because it contains an object field at offset 0 that is incorrectly aligned or overlapped by a non-object field.”

But… here’s a weird trick (not VB.NET specific) that a coworker ran across, which we experimented with, and which I do not endorse.

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