Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Adventures in Botany Part 2

A few weeks ago I did a post chronicling my attempt to make rainbow roses for Valentines day. It didn’t go quite the way it was supposed to, so me, being the problem solver I am, decided to figure out what went wrong. Sure I could probably Google it, but where’s the fun in that?

I bought another dozen white roses now that the price was a much more reasonable $10 (amazing what a difference a week makes…). Using the same Hard Rock Café shot glasses, I divided the roses into three groups: Indoors near a window, Inside the garage (with little natural light) and outside. Since I had extra roses, I did an additional experiment to see if there was a difference between tap water and filtered water, and I threw plant food in a third, just because.

Color Experiment:

I used a razor and did two separate roses for each room. One with a single dye (Blue) and another split in two, with two dyes (Orange and Green). I decided to use the same colors for each room, which turned out to produce some surprising results.

24 Hours:

24 Hours
According to the You Tube Video, you’re supposed to see some results in a few hours and nearly full colored petals after 24 hours.

The window flowers showed some  slight coloration, but I noticed the leaves seemed to be getting more color than the flowers. I pruned the leaves to see if it made a difference.

The garage flowers also had color, but the flowers were already losing petals.

The outdoor flowers had similar coloring, but looked a bit healthier.

48 Hours:

48 Hours
The 2-color indoor flowers showed significant improvement, and only had a single stray petal. The single blue color, however, seemed to be rapidly killing the flower. It looked horrible and petals were all over the place.

Inside the garage was a similar story, however both of the flowers had petal loss.

Outside had the best results; at least for the two tone. The colors were the best of the three, but I think the direct sunlight dried out the petals a bit. The single blue, looked much worse, however. At some point, the flower fell over, but it shared the same dramatic petal loss.

Different Waters (Side experiment):

Top is filtered. Middle is plant food.
Bottom is tap water.
Since I had a few extra roses, I did a side experiment with different types of water. For some reason, the roses I’ve been purchasing lately haven’t held up as long as the ones I bought 4-5 months ago. It may be because of the time of year, but I wanted to eliminate water from the equation.

I created three separate waters: Tap water, Filtered Water, and Filtered water plus plant food.

Nothing majorly dramatic occurred as a result of this experiment. The tap water rose didn’t seem to open up as much as the filtered water, but the filtered water’s petals were beginning to wilt. Unsurprisingly, the one with the food looked the best, but not by a very wide margin.

I decided that there was little to gain by continuing this experiment another day. I grabbed the best of the bunch (i.e. the ones still living) and consolidated them into a vase.

The Outdoor flowers seemed to do the best, followed by the indoor flowers. The garage ones had similar color saturation, but the lack of sunlight seems to have sped the demise of the roses. The only issue I noticed was the outdoor ones seemed to be noticeably drier than the indoor and garage ones. Temperature was a non-factor for the most part because the weather outside was very similar to the temp inside.

This was the GOOD blue dye flower
The biggest surprise was the blue food coloring. I dunno what’s in it, but it seems to be toxic to roses. All of the blue roses suffered major petal loss, though interestingly, the garage one suffered the least. Possibly because they drank less because it was cooler/less light in there.

I’d like to have one more stab at this before calling it completely busted. Somehow the people on the internet got it to work. I’m wondering if it’s just not a good batch of roses, or if they’re too “old” by the time I get them. Maybe I can try and find some before they start blooming.

For now, however, it looks like I’m going to have to order them if I want to surprise my girlfriend with rainbow roses next Valentine’s day.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Routine (Life's Autopilot)

I dislike planning. Not that I don’t think it’s a good idea to plan, I just think life is much better left to spontaneity and randomness. I’m one of those that would NOT want to know how and when I die. Sure, that sounds great to some. You can figure out how much time you have left to do things, but in the end, you’re going to waste time worrying about trying to fit everything in and wind up losing out on other things in the process. Despite my desire to be a come as you go, free spirit, I am a creature of habit and a slave to routine. Without it, I become a lazy pile of goo.

While this post is supposed to focus on routine, I had a bit more regarding planning. Many moons ago, my Mother won a free trip to Disneyworld for up to 10 friends and family. This was an awesome, all-expense paid opportunity of a life-time. We researched the hell out of the place and had a strict schedule, down to the minute, on when and where we would be so we could have maximum enjoyment. While we still had the time of our lives, it was tarnished by a draconian schedule we tried so hard to  maintain. We saw a lot, but barely had time to enjoy anything.

I don’t go into things blind, but I value education and research far more than having everything planned out. As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans". For vacations, I’ll research the hell out the place and maybe make a list of “must sees”, but other than things requiring a set time (shows, etc), it’s far better to play things by ear. Same with finances. I once planned out a to-the-penny a yearly budget. Not only did it go out the window with a multitude of unbudgeted expenses, it was rather depressing knowing exactly how my money would be spent for the next year. I now have a spreadsheet that tracks my bills, and that’s about it. My budget consists of “things I have to pay each month” and “other” . Not that I’m the pillar of financial stability, but I’m considerably less stressed and happier.

Routine, however, isn’t planning. It’s kind of life’s autopilot. Once dinner’s cooked, my normal routine is over and nothing productive will be accomplished until morning . Routine is what keeps my diet (when I do diet) and exercising in check. It gets me through the day and frees up my mind to worry about more important things, like what my next blog subject is going to be and why they speak English in Star Wars even though it’s a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

I can recall more than a few times I arrived at work and realized I forgot to shave. In every instance, something disrupted my morning routine, and the shaving part was somehow neglected. Unlike deodorant and contact lenses, stubble isn’t very noticeable until you look in the mirror (with said contact lenses…) or stroke your chin mischievously. If I don’t run during my normal running time, I am far less likely to do it later, even though I still need/want to. If I don’t go to work on trash day, I’ll forget to put out the trashc
an. If I have to work through lunch, those Words With Friends opponents will just have to wait until tomorrow’s lunch.

Me in December
This blog is the perfect example of how when my routine gets disrupted, things fall off my radar. I was pumping out blogs on a regular basis, at least one a week, when the Holidays hit. In the Air Force, during the two weeks around Christmas/New Years (hell, pretty much the entire month of December) things grind to a halt. This allows many Units to have low manning days and give a little extra time off. During these couple weeks, my daily routine was interrupted and I wound up letting my writing fall to the wayside. Following those two weeks, I had a weeklong seminar (no, I did not have all of those two weeks off, but it was very slow and the Internet required constant testing to ensure it was still working properly) and then a 3 week technical training class which pretty much wiped out the month of January.

What does this time away from my desk have to do with my blog? Well, I usually work on blog drafts early in the morning while I wait for Tuesday meetings (I know, I write my blog at work… shocker!), then fine tune it at home on my laptop and publish it with a far less temperamental Internet than the heavily throttled/blocked one at work. In the last 6 weeks my routine was interrupted, and thus, I had trouble hunkering down and getting this blog written.

I guess getting things done is as simple as beginning a new routine, or adding things to that routine. It usually takes about a week or two to get something added to my daily/weekly routine. This is not to say that my life is planned. It’s not. There is a huge difference between routine and planning. Planning says this is going to be accomplished at this time, in this way. Routine is what I usually do, but not exactly how I’m going to do it. I may make/eat dinner every night, but what I make, how long it takes to make it or if I’m going out instead varies depending on a multitude of things.

This post has turned into more of a patented Aaron ramble (Just ask my Girlfriend about my ramblings…) which in itself might be routine for me anyway. The point is the importance of routines getting you through life. Without it, I’d show up to work unshaved and without pants far more than normal.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Adventures in Valentine's Day Botany

This Valentines day I tried a little experiment. When I first met my Girlfriend, she texted me a picture of “rainbow roses”. I was fascinated by them. How did they genetically modify these roses so each petal was a different color? It turns out it wasn’t genetic engineering, but food coloring.

Still, I wanted to get a dozen of these for Valentine’s day. They were a little pricy, but I wasn’t too put off by the cost, I was more concerned about the horror stories of people ordering flowers to be delivered and they don’t quite turn out the way the pictures do. Hell, I know people that have received entirely wrong flowers.

So the original plan was to order the flowers a couple days early and hand deliver them on Valentine’s day. I mentioned my plan to my 13 year old daughter and she informed me that you can make them yourself. A quick Google search confirmed this. I decided we’ll go ahead and make them ourselves. Not so much to save money, but I subscribe to the school of thought to where thoughtful/handmade gifts trump store bought ones.

I snuck home early from work a few days before Valentine’s and purchased a dozen white roses (which were mysteriously $7 higher than the week before). My daughter was eager to help, so we watched a You Tube video and went to work.

The trick to rainbow roses is the flowers still “drink” water. If you put food coloring in the water, it’ll make its way up to the flower, and theoretically change the color. So with rainbow roses, you have to get more than one color on each flower.

We cut the rose stems into quarters, which made them very thin and easy to break. Some of the guides do it in sixths, and I can’t imagine doing that.

I tried to find some narrow glasses to put the food coloring/water in, but all I have are pub glasses, which are pretty thick. While pondering the mysteries of life, I remembered my Hard Rock Café shot glass collection, which turned out to be the perfect solution.

Meghan mixed the colors while I finished the flowers. I used a kitchen knife because I couldn’t find our exacto knife. I separated them into bunches of 6 and hid them on my garage workbench. Just in time too, because my girlfriend came home a few minutes later.

You’re supposed to see the colors start changing after a few hours, but I let them sit overnight. I checked them in the morning, but other than a little coloring around the edges, nothing much changed. I figured maybe they needed more sunlight, so I had my son open the garage door at lunchtime, but when I came home, they didn’t change significantly..

Thinking that maybe the stems were sliced too thin, I trimmed them down and split them in two (this time with a razor blade) and tried just two colors. I left them overnight, and found nothing changed (again). Since this was Valentine’s day, I had little choice but to try one last ditch effort to get some color in these things. I placed them individually in only one color and placed them by the window. Since I’m me, and God tends to laugh at my futile attempts at anything plant related, the morning was cloudy, with no sign of sunlight (or meatballs).

Out of time, I gathered them up, and hand delivered them to my Valentine at her work, and took her out to lunch. The flowers didn’t turn out all that special, but at least they had an entertaining story behind them.

(Since I’m pretty stubborn and obsessive about fixing things, I intend on doing more color experiments until I get this right… but, after roses return to their pre-Valentine prices…)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jinx (you owe me a soda)

Jinx you owe me a soda.

I’m not the most superstitious of people. I don’t care if I break a mirror, step on loads of cracks, and I sure as hell ain’t staying the basement so the Broncos will win. There is one thing that scares me into submission. One thing that keeps me up at night. One thing that I must comply with or the universe gets angry… Jinxes

 There are many definitions of a jinx. The kind I’m referring to are the ones that launch into effect when you say or reveal something that is going well, but not quite set in stone yet. Kind of like when you watch a football game and the announcer says “The kicker hasn’t missed a field goal all year” and then the kicker promptly misses the field goal.

I’m hesitant to announce things in life before they are a done deal because of this jinx fear. Far too many times I’ve been so excited about something prematurely, announced it to friends and family, only to see it vanish into nothingness.

One thing I’m particularly sensitive about is potential relationships. I usually don’t like announcing that I’m seeing anyone until I’m “sure sure” that it’s going somewhere. Usually when I mention publicly that I’m going out with someone, that’s when things suddenly dry up. That’s why with my Girlfriend, I waited and waited before publicly declaring anything (though most knew something was going on anyway).

Bowling is yet another example. In the past few years of my bowling league (actually, we were a drinking team with a bowling problem) we were forbidden to “call it” before the pins fell. The reason was every time we prematurely celebrated a strike or spare, the magic of the Jinx suddenly turned a single pin to lead, and defiantly stood tall among all the other flying pins.

I mentioned football. Nowhere else is the power of the Jinx so evident. Last year the Denver Broncos were burned badly by the Baltimore Ravens on a freak 70 yard touchdown with 30 seconds left. I feel this was a direct result of me calling the game and texting to my New England friend how they’d meet them next week. This jinx is so powerful, I actually delayed finishing this very blog because I didn’t want to jinx the Broncos again this year.

But, you’re thinking; ‘they lost the Superbowl this year, but I hadn’t published this blog yet’. True, but I resurrected a far uglier Jinx that led to their downfall; over decoration! In 1996, the 13-3 Denver Broncos prepared to host the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs. They were near certain to crush the 2nd year expansion team. I pulled out all the stops and decorated my house, windows, etc with every orange a blue thing I could muster. The Broncos were subsequently upset by those Jaguars. This year, I was so caught up in the Broncos’ first SuperBowl appearance in 15 years, I disregarded the jinx. My house was dressed up head to toe. I hosted a Superbowl party and featured orange and blue candy, Orange Crush and Coors Light. I oozed confidence that my Broncos would crush the Seahawks. It wasn’t even close, and it was all my fault.

The only condolence I have is following that 1996 loss to the Jaguars, Denver won back to back Superbowls. Maybe fate (the only thing powerful enough to defeat a jinx) will step in and bring them two more victories. Only time will tell, because I sure as heck ain’t jinxing it by saying it will.