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Fried biscuits?

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I have one bit of advice on making high-fat, high-carb, homemade fried biscuits: Don’t.

But seriously, in spite of their rusticness, there is something exotic about them, reminiscent of Indian breads.

No Fracking in Stokes: our new video

As regular readers know, I’ve been involved for the last two years with No Fracking in Stokes, a grassroots group fighting fracking in Stokes County and in North Carolina.

Our group has released a new video, filmed here in Stokes County (except for the shots of actual fracking in the Marcellus shale area of Pennsylvania). The actor is a retired schoolteacher, and the farm where this was shot is just a few miles from the abbey.

That’s the abbey’s garden in one of the photos near the end of the video, and the chicken perched in the Jeep window is an abbey chicken, Fiona.

The original music is by Rex McGee, a Stokes County musician.

Abbey moonset, April 16, 6:33 a.m.

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What’s blooming at the abbey

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Deciduous magnolia

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Young cabbages

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Bush cherries

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I’m trying to identify this

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It’s so sad when the daffodils fade.

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Apple blossom

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Grape vine

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New growth on an arbor vitae tree

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The day lily bank won’t bloom until May.

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Young maple leaves

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Hosta

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Violets

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Rose foliage

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Blackberry foliage

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More young maple leaves

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Carolina jasmine

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Baby chickens!

Printin’ Office Eatery

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Fried oysters with salad and hushpuppies

One of the nicest new businesses to come on line in Stokes County lately is the Printin’ Office Eatery. It’s in Danbury, facing the main drag.

Part of the brilliance of the Printin’ Office is that the menu appeals to two sets of people — the locals, whose business of course is necessary if a restaurant is to succeed; and visitors, with somewhat more urban tastes, traveling through on their way to Hanging Rock State Park. They also have pizza, which is a good lick, because northern Stokes County is pretty much a pizza desert. The restaurant’s sign is a little hard to see, though, so look carefully to your right as you drive north through Danbury, just before you pass the old courthouse.

One of the beautiful things about a place like Stokes County (and one of the reasons I’m here) is that we don’t have the suburbanization and population density required to support fast food places. There are fast food places in King, far to the south, and a couple in Walnut Cove, but that’s it. Eateries out in the sticks are always small and locally owned.

The place gets its name from its location. The Danbury Reporter, a long-dead newspaper, used to be published in the printin’ office there.

I’m reproducing the menu here to share the local flavor.

P.S. They have free WIFI. Northern Stokes County is very poorly wired, but there is fiber under some of the main roads, including through Danbury, at least as far as the library and the county government center.

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Noah: a short review

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I commend director Darren Aronofsky (who co-wrote the screenplay) for seeing the cinematic potential of the story of Noah and the ark. I mean, who’d have thunk it, since the Noah story is such a short and minor feature of the book of Genesis. But all the ingredients are there for a blockbuster, in particular apocalypse and evil and the potential for great spectacle. I was eager to see it because it’s a new addition to the apocalyptic genre, so I went on opening weekend and saw it in Imax (recommended).

Normally I would not rush out to see a bible story, but “Noah” is pissing off so many religious fanatics that I figured Aronofsky must have done a pretty good job with the theology. Glenn Beck called the film “pro-animal” and “anti-human.” And apparently Fox News has been buzzing about how “unbiblical” the film is. Excellent.

“Noah,” in addition to being a highly entertaining movie, is an eloquent takedown of the dominionist school of religious weirdos, which includes a lot of evangelicals. These are the people whose political power (with corporate backing) is keeping us in the age of fossil fuel and blocking environmental progress and conservation. These religious types seem to be getting the message that their slash-and-burn religious views make them a lot like the wicked people who had to be destroyed by flood. Save the animals but destroy all the war-loving people in order to save the earth? That spooks them, because they believe that it’s the environmentalists, the tree-huggers, and the save-the-animals people who are of the devil. Recycling and solar energy threaten their rights and their way of life. Cheap gas forever! Down with Noah and the tree-huggers and endangered species! Oops.

The theme is the same, really, as the theme of my novel Fugue in Ursa Major: what if the only way to fix this planet’s problems is to have an apocalypse and start over from scratch with a little more respect for nature?

2014 garden, off and running

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The long-range forecast calls for normal-ish temperatures and above-normal precipitation, so Ken planted the early garden today.

Spring has sprung.

I hope.

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What’s blooming in this nasty weather

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Spring is late. And who knows if it’s here for good. Last year, the Carolina jasmine bloomed all winter. This year, it’s still dormant. The grass and clover keep trying to make a start, but a cold snap always seems to shut it down again.

But a couple of things are blooming — the old-faithful daffodils, and the peach trees. As for the dandelion greens, they’ll go into a salad.

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Into the woods, chickens

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Yesterday the chickens were allowed into their new woods pasture for the first time. It also was the first time they’ve been in the orchard area since last fall. They’re being moved out of the garden to make way for planting. Today the first cabbages and onions will go in the ground.

Macintosh memory management

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This is a nerd post. Sorry, non-nerds…

I have been using Macintoshes since the 1980s. The Macintosh operating system has gone through many changes in that time, and it’s one of the best computer operating systems in existence. Though my favorite all-time operating system was Solaris, the version of Unix produced by Sun Microsystems. A few months ago, Apple released version 10.9 of the Mac OS X operating system, also known as Mavericks. I like Mavericks (not least because it was free).

If you turn your computer on and off every day, memory management is of little concern to you. However, if you leave your computer running all the time, as I do, and especially if you have an older computer without the abundance of memory in newer computers, then memory management matters.

One of the wonderful things about the Macintosh OS X operating system is that it is extremely stable. A Mac can be left running for months without needing a reboot. I’ve seen Solaris computers run for more than a year without needing a reboot. But stability is one thing, and memory management is another.

The issue is probably a new concept for non-nerds: memory leaks. Applications frequently contain memory leaks. Memory leaks are generally caused by lazy programming. Programs request memory from the operating system for temporary use, and with many programming languages it is the responsibility of the programmer to release this memory when it is no longer needed. That often fails to happen. Memory leaks pile on top of memory leaks, and soon your computer starts to get low on RAM. When this happens on a Macintosh, you may see the spinning beach ball icon while the operating system comes up with the requested memory. When the computer’s physical memory (or RAM) is exhausted, the computer will resort to “swap” memory — using disk space (which is much slower than RAM) to temporarily store the contents of RAM to disk, then paging the contents back and forth from disk to RAM as needed by the running program. This ability to swap is a sophisticated function of good operating systems that has been around since at least the 1990s. It’s better than simply running out of RAM (which is what used to happen). But swapping is slow. You may have to wait, which is what the spinning beach ball is all about.

Apple’s OS X Mavericks made some significant changes in memory management. The concept is that unused RAM is wasted. So OS X uses almost all of the computer’s RAM all of the time. This can be misleading, because the computer may appear to be more memory-starved than it really is.

But here’s the problem. Applications leak memory, and that’s not the operating system’s fault. When an application leaks memory, the memory can be recovered only by stopping and restarting the application. Here’s a for-example.

For security reasons, to prevent tracking by snoopers like Facebook and Google, I always have two browsers running. In one browser (Safari), I run Facebook and Google applications such as Google analytics. In Safari, that’s ALL I do. It doesn’t matter if Facebook and Google track me, because I don’t go anywhere else in that browser. I do all my real browsing in Chrome, using multiple tabs in an Incognito window, which does not save cookies.

As Chrome and Safari continue to run, often for days, they leak memory. This may or may not be a problem caused by the browser itself. Most web pages these days use some sort of god-awful programming language such as Javascript, so the filthy rotten programming on the web pages hogs memory, then leaks it. So, if you leave a browser running for a long time, your computer’s memory gets leaked, or wasted, and the computer’s operating system must jump through hoops and bend over backwards to keep shoveling RAM to the browser. Facebook’s programming is a horrible memory leaker. I often leave Facebook running, but I close the Facebook page and reopen it occasionally to release the memory it’s wasting. (The people at Facebook are lousy programmers.)

So what’s the bottom line for Mac users, especially for you non-nerds? First, upgrade to Mavericks if you haven’t already. Second, if you see a spinning beach ball, consider quitting from open applications and restarting the applications you need. It’s not really necessary to reboot the computer.

For nerds, you can monitor your computer’s memory usage with Activity Monitor. It is possible to “clean” a Mac’s memory and force all the garbage out of RAM. You probably don’t want to, though, because in doing so you’ll also defeat some of the clever methods Mac OS X uses to optimize the use of available physical RAM. But if you know what you’re doing, a little app named Memory Clean will do this for you, while also continuously displaying in the menu bar the amount of free RAM available. You also can clear the Mac’s memory in a terminal window by typing “sudo purge.” The purge command, which comes with the Mac, will do the same thing. In Activity Monitor, watch the “memory pressure” window. If it’s anything but all green, consider taking action to get it back in the green by closing applications and reopening them as needed.

My iMac is now six years old. One of these years I’ll replace it. But for now I have to live with 4 gigabytes of RAM, which is the maximum my older iMac can take.

And if you see a spinning beach ball, it’s not your Mac’s fault. It’s just that your Mac is trying heroically to deal with the crimes of lousy programmers.