All posts by Jeff

European Nightcrawlers in new Bin

I set up another bin for the pure Euros. Some lettuce was thrown in the bottom and filled with shredded office paper. A hole was dug in one corner. In that corner I tipped in the “breeding pen” of Euros.

I did verify that there were at least three live Euros in the tub.

While I’m sure environmental conditions for the Euros is not optimal, I am hoping that the pocket I’ve created allows them to live comfortably and spread out as they are able to improve conditions improve.

Eisenia hortensis – Breeding Pen – Day 1


The pen seems to have a sharp odour to it, though it looks like it is a nice slurry for the worms.

Five obvious Euros (Eisenia hortensis) were captured from the mixed bin. Each was given a bath and wiped clean with my finger. Further my hands were wiped clear to ensure no cocoons were present. These Five worms were transferred into the new breeding pen, which was topped up with dry shredded paper.

I will (mostly) leave them be for the next week.

Worm Breeding Pen

I currently have two worm bins with two very different populations: pure Red Wigglers; and a mixture of European Night-crawlers and Red Wigglers.


While I have been pleased with the health of the Red bin, their size is not what I had hoped for when it comes to fishing. This prompted me to purchase a pack of worms from the local fishing store (European Night-crawlers) for a fishing trip. When I was done fishing, I realized that this was the species I really wanted: I prepared a bin and threw the last 12 worms into the bin.

12 worms in a bin isn’t a lot, and it was taking a long time for them to get the environment up to speed. Therefore I took a handful of castings from the Red bin and placed it in the Euro bin. This had a very positive effect on the environment; within a week, material was starting to break-down very quickly. Since that time, I have seen that the Euros seem to be thriving with many young worms found throughout the bin.

I do believe that adding the Red bedding to the Euro bin, saved the Euros.

Worm Breeding Pen

This leads to my current problem: I am not 100% sure which species the juveniles are. I’m sure there were Red Eggs in the material I placed in the new bin, and given Reds reproduce more quickly than Euros, I am concerned that the Reds will out compete the Euros. I’m sure they won’t drive Euros totally to nothing, but I suspect they will make up a large proportion of the bio-mass (2/3rds? based on reproductive rates).

Now that my Euro population is self-sustaining, I am looking to create a pure-bred Euro bin. To start this bin, I have decided to create a “breeding pen”; a smaller container that will allow a small number of worms to find one another and mate.

I set up a large margarine tub with holes. I have filled it with shredded paper for bedding; half a cucumber (partially rotten) was added for food stuff. The paper was sprinkled with water from a plant watering can until saturated. This will be allowed to sit until next week to allow it develop a healthy bacterial culture.

When it comes time to separate the worms, I will need to ensure there are no Red Wigglers accidentally introduced. To avoid introducing Reds to the new bin, it will be necessary to “wash” the introduced Euros prior to introducing them to the sanitized bin.

Once they have successfully processed the smaller breeding pen, the entire bin can be placed in a new larger compartment. This will allow them to create a pocket of healthy environment. If there are losses due to the stress of the washing, it will be minimized to a single batch, and the process can be repeated using worms from the mixed bin.


  • Breeding Pen
  • Bathing Jar
  • Clean water. Allow it to have set for a week to allow any chemicals to evaporate.


  1. Fill the “bath” with clean water
  2. Take 5 mature Euros from the mixed bin
  3. Wash each worm in a bath of water
    • Process each worm individually.
    • Be quick about this, we don’t want to drown them
  4. Place the worm in the breeing pen immediately after their bath

Once the breeding pen is fully processed, dump it into the final pure-bred bin.

Never Trust Your Memories

I just had the most fascinating experience of falling down the stairs today.

Ice storms have ripped through my city, and as I stepped out the front door to have a smoke, my feet shot out from under me and down the stairs I went. While no bones cracked, they certainly creaked, and I have spent the rest of the day sleeping and healing up, leaving me with a lot of time to think about my experience.

I remember it vividly:

  1. Opened the door, noticed ice.
  2. Felt the deck and confirmed it was slippery
  3. Brought my second foot out and onto the deck.
  4. As soon as my second foot met my first, the momentum of my feet just carried them down the steps.
  5. I watched my feet go down the steps
  6. I reached out for something to grab onto (nothing but air)
  7. I felt my back meet the last step (with a thud, something other than air)
  8. I watched my heels dig two ruts into the sod at the bottom of the stairs.
  9. I remember not being able to breath, and getting up in the hopes it would allow me to breath easier (it didn’t)
  10. The wife opening the door and peering out to see what the sound was. (I distinctly remember waving her back inside, as I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs to yell to her)

Very scary, very stretched out, and very vivid; but also not real.

Note steps 6 and 10, they contradict one another. I remember stepping out, and reaching for something to hold onto; I even have scrapes on my hands where they finally slammed into the decking; but if the door had been open (it opens outward), and I had been standing in the doorway, I would have had something to hold onto. Also, I was totally cognisant of The Wife opening the door, and me panicking that she would get injured coming out to find me. She knows she had to open the door, also she would have heard more clearly if the door had been opened.

I must have closed the door before slipping.

I must have closed the door, but I distinctly remember not closing it.

The Wife and I have discussed false memories in the past, and this experience serves to remind me that we cannot trust even our own experiences and memories. It reminds me that we must always test, verify, and approach life with a healthy dose of scepticism, because the easiest person to fool is yourself.

It also reminds me to salt the steps prior to an ice storm, and to keep an adequate supply of Ibuprofen in the house.


Apex Predators

It’s funny how science fiction universes so often treat humans as a boring, default everyman species, or even the weakest and dumbest.

I want to see a sci-fi universe where we’re actually considered one of the more hideous and terrifying species.

How do we know our saliva and skin oils wouldn’t be ultra-corrosive to most other sapient races? What if we actually have the strongest vocal chords and can paralyse or kill the inhabitants of other worlds just by screaming at them? What if most sentient life in the universe turns out to be vegetable-line and lives in fear of us rare “animal” races who can move so quickly and chew shit up with our teeth?

Like that old story “they’re made of meat”, only we’re scarier.

More seriously, humans do have a number of advantages even among Terrestrial life. Our endurance, shock resistance, and ability to recover from injury is absurdly high compared to almost any other animal. We often use the phrase “healthy as a horse” to connote heartiness – but compared to a human a horse is as fragile as spun glass. There’s mounting evidence that our primitive ancestors would hunt large prey simply by following it at a walking pace, without sleep or rest, until it died of exhaustion; it’s called pursuit predation. Basically, we’re the Terminator.

(The only other animal that can sort of keep up with us? Dogs. That’s why we use them for hunting. And even then, it’s only “sort of”.)

Now extrapolate that to a galaxy in which most sapient life did *not* evolve from hyper-specialised pursuit predators:

  • Our strength and speed is nothing to write home about, but we don’t need to overpower or outrun you. We just need to outlast you – and by any other species’ standards, we just plain don’t get tired.
  • Where a simple broken leg will cause most species to go into schock and die, we can recover from virtually any injury that’s not immediately fatal. Even traumatic dismemberment isn’t necessarily a career-ending injury for a human.
  • We heal from injuries with extreme rapidity, recovering in weeks from wounds that would take others months or years to heal. The results aren’t pretty – humans have hyperactive scar tissue, amount our other survival-oriented traits – but they’re highly functional.
  • Speaking of scarring, look at our medical science. We developed surgery centuries before developing even themost rudimentary anesthetics or life support. In extermis, humans have been known to perform surgery *on themselves* – and survive. Thanks to our exterme heartiness, we regard as routine medical procedures what most other species would regard as inventive forms of murder. We even perform radical surgery on ourselves for purely cosmetic reasons.
  • and by god, we will eat anything

In essence, we’d be Space Orcs.

It’s one ting to face down a cheetah, which will slam into you at 60 mph and break your neck.

It’s another thing to run very quickly to get away from a thing, only to have it just kind of

show up

to have it be intelligent enough to figure out where you are going to be, just by the fur and feather you’ve left behind, your footprints and piss and shit, and then you think you’ve lost it,y ou bed down for the night, and

there it is


so you split! but it keeps following you, always in the corner of your eye, until you just can’t go on, until you just can’t go on any more, and give up, and


We are scary motherfuckers


The more things change

… and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
— Isaiah 2:3-4

The War That Will End War
— HG Wells (1914)

This war, like the next war, is a war to end war
— David Lloyd George

Caution: The Modern IT Workplace

Over the years, I have worked for good companies and bad, and one thing I have become suspicious of is companies that try to sellhappy work environment. Let’s take Khan Academy for example:

* Flexible schedules and required time off to ensure you are well-rested

Time off needs to be scheduled? I generally think that “time-on” is what is scheduled and my own hours are just that. I have never been a clock-watcher, generally my wife is dragging me from my work, but when a company indicates that it has to schedule time-off for employees so they are “well-rested”, that indicates to me that they were burning staff out. Having to set official guidelines is a sign that something is wrong. This should go without saying, why do they feel the need to say it.

* Delicious catered lunches daily

When a company feeds you it is because they expect you to never leave the office. They are supplying food, because at some point they are going to -forbid- strongly discourage you from leaving the office.

* Fun team events and board game nights!

So I’m expected to be in the office at night, after hours, rather than home with my wife and children. Now the truth about that “required time off” comes to light. Board game nights are something you do with your family… oh, wait… how very “The Firm”


Careers – Khan Academy [PDF]



Exeter Riddle 25

Years ago I tried to teach myself Old English. I came across this translation I did of a riddle from Exeter.

I have since found better translations, offering far clearer clues, and basically making me look bad. Oh well…

I am widely found, by worthy men,
And brought from grove, mountain, dale, and glen.
By day I’m carried upon airy feather,
And wrought by skill under roofed shelter.
Later, I am both warriour and goon
Whom men, young and old, wrestles down.
Shortly after I am found,
a man is trapped in struggling round;
His back will have to seek the field,
who lacks the wisdom when to yield.
Strength of speech, strength be stole,
hands, feet, spirit lose control.
What on earth could I be,
that binds battered, foolish men, when first light seen?

— Exeter, Riddle 25, Translation: Jeff Cave 2007

Scroll down for the answer:

























The answer is “mead”.

False Specter of Racism

Which States Sent the Most Racist Tweets After the Election

The article concludes that the Southern States are the most racist. However, if you actually look at the map, you will notice that the distribution seems pretty even. There are a lot of dark green spots on the along the Canadian border, a lot darker than say… Texas.

The clearest evidence that the author is trying to raise a false specter comes from this comment:

Southern states have the highest proportion of African-Americans in the country. A good number of the Tweets containing the keywords came from them, and were sent in solidarity rather than with racist intentions.

So the author states that there is a benign explanation, only to follow it up with this:

Choose your own explanation! Each one is super-depressing

How is a benign explanation that does away with the racism “super depressing”? That explanation is surely what we would hope happened, and not have to worry about racism.

Then we come across this statement that explains everything:

And again: Minnesota, Oregon, what the hell, guys?

Ahh… the author acknowledges that the Northern states have as much racism, but also that he doesn’t want it to be true. It fits with the authors prejudices that the South is full of racists and therefore any evidence to support that will be highlighted, any evidence to the contrary (even when its his own) will be downplayed, and any evidence that doesn’t fit his nice little world-view (like Minnesota and North Dakota) will be treated as outliers.

My guess: the author wants there to be racism to justify his own sense of self-righteousness.

Choose your own explanation for this authors motives, everyone I’ve come up with is super depressing.


Check Your Charity

Media outlets have managed to politicise another disaster.

Recently, Mitt Romney has come under fire for encouraging people to donate food to relief efforts in Sandy stricken regions. Unfortunately, several media outlets have pointed out that The Red Cross no longer accepts donations of tangible goods.

As I don’t deal with the logistics of getting aid to those in devistated areas, I don’t have a complete understanding of why they no longer do. From the Red Cross website:

Local purchases of food and clothing are more culturally appropriate and effective.1

While relief work is among the most important work there is, in my mind. I am not a large scale relief administrator, I have decided to donate my time to local relief efforts instead. So when I read that statement by the Red Cross, I kind of accepted it… Then I come across this:

“No one left behind”… Really apparently the residents of Coney Island and Staten Island don’t count in the presidents assessment. FEMA just like all other big government services has FAILED these residents. Who is helping out??? Individuals, charities, faith based groups, philanthropic groups have been there. Forget what the media is telling you send food. Send what you can, do what you can do.2

As a volunteer firefighter, this statement rings very true to me: do what you can! This got me thinking about the Red Cross’ stance a little more; I am not convinced as to how effective local purchases are. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe that local purchases are actually an impossibility, and the whole statement is designed deceive by playing to current cultural trends.

Marketing Speak

The statement is very carefully crafted to use words that will control people’s emotions. “Local purchases”, and “culturally appropriate” bring up images of respecting the rights of “noble savages”; while “local purchases” combined with “effective” generate images of buying food from local farmers who have been hard hit and need the help too. Everyone goes home feeling good about how “responsible” the Red Cross is being, nobody digs deeper.

When organizations use a lot of language designed to divert attention, it is important to ask what they are diverting attention from.

Effective or Impossible?

Disasters such as Sandy destroy resources that people have built or stored. People had a roof over their head, food in the pantry, and blankets on the bed; now the roof has fallen in destroying the blankets and taking the pantry with it. When this happens to an individual, aid can be given by their local community: family and friends can offer them a place to stay until they get back on their feet. Unfortunately, in this case, the neighbors, friends, and family are all in the same position, everybody has had the goods destroyed.

So if the point to outside aid is that the resources locally have been destroyed, where does the Red Cross plan on getting these local resources. The whole point to requiring Red Cross aid is that there are insufficient local resources. On the flip side, if the resources are available locally, what need is there for the Red Cross. If local charities have access to resources, then neighbors can help neighbors, and the Red Cross is not necessary.

Since it is not possible for the Red Cross to be getting these resources locally, the real question becomes where are they getting the resources from.

Follow the Money

While I was looking up the Red Cross’ stance on their FAQ, I noticed their promotional advertisement at the top of the screen. It has a young lady, obviously staying in an emergency shelter, huddling in a blanket.

One of the primary resources that every disaster needs are blankets. Blankets not only offer warmth to people, they offer a critical psychological comfort that people need. I remember as a child folding up a “gently used” blanket to be donated to victims of some disaster or another. I remember feeling good, that someone in need was going to get some comfort from the blanket that had brought me so much comfort.

Look closely at the blanket she is wearing; it could not have been a locally acquired resource; it is covered in “American Red Cross” logos. This blanket was obviously transported in from another location, why could the blanket I wanted to donate not be transported in its place.

It is obvious to me that this was a bulk purchase of blankets, specially ordered by the Red Cross, months or years, in advance. They have plastered their logo all over it, to identify their resources (and maybe get a little marketing in while their at it). They likely got a contract to purchase thousands of them, thereby getting them at a reduced cost. They likely conform to a specifications tailored to the anticipated types of disasters, climate, and transport requirements. But unless the Red Cross was able to predict the disaster years in advance, they were not purchased locally!

So why lie about it? I just gave three very valid reasons for asking for money instead of blankets, that would all be valid explanations as to it being responsible use of resources. Instead of coming up with very reasonable explanations, they flat out lied about it. Why?

Maybe this is part of the reason

According to United Press International, Gail McGovern took over as CEO of the American Red Cross in 2008 at an annual salary of $500,0003

Not the biggest paycheck I’ve seen for CEOs, but certainly not a modest one. What I suspect more, is that the contracts go to friends, and companies that managers are heavily invested in.

Take Action

I like the Red Cross, I like to think they are a private organization that does a necessary job. I like to think that the request for cash is about efficiency (e.g. bulk purchases, technical specifications), but I don’t know why they are being so deceptive about it.

In the end, what is really needed is for individuals to take action. What is needed is for you to take action. Do what you can. Maybe that means sending cash to the Red Cross; maybe that means sending food, blankets, and tools; maybe that means getting in a truck and driving out, maybe that means staying out of the way of people actually trying to help.


This discussion doesn’t even include the complete failure that Food Stamps are under these conditions. No, I don’t think there are any technical solutions to this problem, only trucks full of food.


  1. Red Cross FAQ 

  2. G+: Michael Weaver 

  3., Urban Legends: Salaries of Charities