Michael Cox

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since Jun 09, 2013
Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Recent posts by Michael Cox

I'm surprised that this thread hasn't had a proper discussion of using the bones as a fertiliser. They are an excellent source of the "P" in NPK fertilisers (phosporous).

All that is needed is a way to break up the bone structure so that they can be spread on the soil, or added to compost. And making bone meal would not need bones of any particularly good quality, such as those that could be used for carving.
3 hours ago

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
Imagine if we planted those! imagine if we left such a legacy for our great great great great etc. grandchildren!

But how do you do something that requires people who haven't even been born yet to agree to it, to agree never to cut them down, to take care of the ecosystem enough that it's not all for nothing...?



The whole principle of this grates at me. What right do we have to impose our views on subsequent generations? Even when those views are essentially benign? Look back 100 years. How happy would you be if you were forced to abide by decisions your great-great-grandparents made? How could they possibly be relevant to our world and society now, which has changed so much in the past 20 year alone? They couldn't have foreseen climate change as a problem, and they certainly wouldn't have foreseen the accelerating rise of renewable energy in response to it. They couldn't have possibly foreseen the technological revolution, and all the implications that would have on jobs, life, society etc...

So what are we being similarly blind to when we try to make binding decisions for future generations 100s of years from now? What burdens are we inadvertently passing on to them?

Now, I'm not a defeatist - in fact I'm very optimistic about the future of the world and the environment - but I firmly believe that we should focus on the the now. Both the people living now, and the land we have now - and let our successors take charge of the continuing management. Does that mean there will be mis-steps? Trees cut down that we would prefer to remain etc... ? Food forest systems grubbed up to build houses? Of course it does. However the overwhelming trend of the past 50 years has been positive.

By all means plant your tree. By all means try and encourage others to support your endeavour. But leave my children, and my children's children the freedom to make their own decision.

As someone who has had to deal with a property purchase tied up in restrictive covenants, I would never impose such binding conditions on the future inheritors of my work. (Binding conditions - a property own 80 years ago by Methodists, that came with the covenant that no alcohol was to be stored or consumed on the premises. Methodists were long gone, but their restrictions still tied up the building).
5 hours ago
Yep, and it has been done. Both intentionally and unintentionally. However they can be hard to get hold of as the companies frequently have deposits on the spools to return them. Might be different where you are, of course. Also, the spools are designed to be a thin and light as possible, while still being sound enough for the job of holding wire etc... You would likely find that they were not adequately insulating for the task, and would be hard to waterproof as well, being made of thin slats.
6 hours ago
I'm glad this got bumped. I've never known how to sharpen a serrated blade and that looks simple and good.
2 days ago
And for my last of these...

ANKI

Yes, it deserves the huge text

https://apps.ankiweb.net/

Anki is a free flashcard app/programme with efficient memory algorithms built in (the iphone version is not free). This has fundamentally transformed the way that I learn.

"The single biggest change that Anki brings about is that it means memory is no longer a haphazard event, to be left to chance. Rather, it guarantees I will remember something, with minimal effort. That is, Anki makes memory a choice."



It is based on statistically verified learning algorithms that use spaced repetition to trigger memory retrieval and reinforcement just before you are about to forget.

Learn a new fact in any context (a book, a conversation, and piece of vocab, a course of study)
  • Create one (or multiple) flashcards in the app
  • Review your decks of flashcards daily
  • New cards get shown to you at 10 minute spacings
  • When you get it right they get shown the following day
  • When you get it right again it will show you 3 days later
  • and if you get it right gain it might show you in 10 days


  • If you get it wrong you go back to the start, cementing the strength of the memories that you are least secure on, without wasting time and effort on the ones that you are confident of.


  • How I personally use it

    Names and Faces - each school year I have to learn approximately 200 new names of pupils and staff all in one go. I used to be crap at it. Christmas would come round and I would know 3/4 of my pupils names... but one or two I would likely never get. Now I create a new deck of flashcards with photos of the pupils and over the first week I learn the cards and then regularly review them. By 2 weeks I confidently know 90%. By a month I confidently know 100%. And the effort is really minimal - 5 minutes a day, maximum.

    Courses of Study
    As I learn through a course of study (or just reading a text on a new topic) I create a set of cards after each chapter - terminology, concepts, facts etc...

    Visual IDs
    Ever wandered round your garden an wanted to know what the names of the plants are? Snap a photo on your phone to create a card. Add the name (ask a friend, read a book, look it up online). Then review. Within a week you will know it.

    Foreign Vocab
    Anki is awesome for this. Each time you come across a new word just make a card - one side shows the english and one shows the french (or german/spanish etc...)


    Now, why does this belong in a productivity/habits thread?
    Creating and then reviewing flashcards is a perfect daily habit - takes just a few moments to review 20 cards on your phone
    It takes the element of chance out of studying - you KNOW that when the exam comes around those facts and details and terms will be in your head
    It reduces the time and effort of study and learning, by adjusting the pattern of the work

    2 days ago
    I ran out of time earlier, so this is being split over 2 posts!

    The second big thing for my personal productivity was discovering The Pomodoro Technique.

    The principal is incredibly simple.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work with 100% focus and at maximum intensity on a single task for 25 minutes. Then take a 5 minute break.
  • Repeat.


  • Actually doing this was, for me at least, totally mind-boggling. When I use this technique I consistently get as much work done in a 25 minute stint as I used to do in an hour of casual "work". I find this hard to maintain over the long haul, but when I face a time when I have a huge burden of school work to deal with (report writing, exam marking etc...) then this is my default. I still dislike reports, but previously I used to DREAD doing them. Doing all my classes would take about 8 hours and stretch into my evenings and weekends. Now I do them in half the time, and frequently they are better than before, because I have more energy while doing them.

    The Pomodoro technique is hard is you are someone who is prone to being distracted. You are essentially using it to teach yourself to not flit from one thought to the next, but to hone you "concentration muscles". One thing that can help is to keep a tally on a scrap of paper. Each time you find your thoughts slip off track make a mark on the paper then switch back to task. At the beginning of using this I consistently found I had 15 to 20 tally marks over a 25 minute period! No wonder it was hard to make progress on anything. Now I find my thoughts slip off track maybe 2 or 3 times in a pomodoro and I quickly get back on track again.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

    The creator and his proponents encourage a low-tech approach, using a mechanical timer, paper, and pencil. The physical act of winding the timer confirms the user's determination to start the task; ticking externalises desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli.




    https://doc.lagout.org/programmation/Pragmatic%20Programmers/Pomodoro%20Technique%20Illustrated.pdf
    This one is a proper book on the subject. Well worth reading so that you get the most out of the method.
    2 days ago
    I find that I go in cycles of productivity. Sometimes they are related to external circumstances (having two children, a longer commute cutting my time, etc...) but more often I find that I get much less productive when - for what ever reasons - my personal systems fall down. But over the years I have also worked out what kind of systems help to keep me on track.

    Habit Tracking Apps
    I have used these in the past and like them. Inspired by this thread I have downloaded a fresh one and got set up again. My experience of these apps is that they work really well for "simple" habits. Things that you really should do, that only take a few minutes, but are frequently forgotten. They work less well for a habit that is actually a longer complicated task.

    Some examples that work well for me
    "Brush your teeth in the morning"
    "Make the bed when you get up"
    "Load the dishwasher before bed"
    "mark one set of books"
    "use my anki flashcards" (more on this later)

    Things that work less well, because they are not really "habits"
    "Go to the gym" - this involved packing the gym bag, making sure that my wife is able to have the kids, checking that the gym is open and not being used for a class, driving etc... This is actually a whole series of tasks none of which is really a habit in and of itself.

    All my reading, and own practising of this, suggest that habits are much easier to form if you bolt them on to other regular tasks. The existing regular activity acts as a trigger.

    Let's say I want to remember to tidy the kitchen and put the dishwasher on. When specifically am I going to do this?

    When I ... come downstairs from putting the boys to bed... I will ... check the rooms for dishes and load the dishwasher
    When I ... get out of the shower in the morning ... I will ... brush my teeth
    When I ... get out of bed in the morning ... I will ... make the bed and put dirty clothes in the basket
    When I ... walk from the car to school ... I will ... review my anki flashcards on my phone
    When I ... get ready to leave work ... I will ... clear my desk

    Clearly identifying the trigger event is as important as defining the habit you want to build.

    All of these habits by themselves are tiny, but cumulatively they make a huge difference.
    2 days ago
    Here in the UK biogas digesters are becoming increasingly common. They are the perfect solution to this problem, converting a toxic waste stream into multiple high value products - safe compost, gas for sale, and improved local environment. Farmers are given substantial incentives to install these systems I believe, and they can be lucrative.
    6 days ago
    Hi folks,

    The last few days I have ended up messing around with fence posts. Our "soil" is nice and loamy, but about 8 inches down you hit chalk subsoil.  I need to put some sturdy posts in for some fencing and some plant supports. Previously the posts we have put in have been set in concrete, but this time I am trying my hand at setting them in earth without the concrete. I have a heavy steel digging bar with pretty good blade like end. It can smash the chalk up pretty easily, and but through most of the flints.  The subsoil is pretty much soil packed chalk down for a few hundred meters.

    Anyway,  my question:

    How wide should I be digging the holes? My instinct tells me that I should be digging narrow holes as tight to the post as possible. The trouble is when I come to pack the dirt back in I can't ram it very effectively because there is not really adequate space for the bar. Elsewhere, I have read conflicting comments that suggest I should be digging a hole 3 times the diameter of the post. This seems very counter intuitive as it would surely just weaken the soil structure and make the post less stable?
    1 week ago
    I'm going to disagree with the comment above. The pesticides that end up in wax are not water soluble in the first place (if they were the would not dissolve in wax).

    Some studies have shown that pesticides can collect in wax, but the levels are low compared to other sources we are commonly exposed to. The exception is from managed hives where miticides are used and the wax comes into direct contact with the pesticides. Thus you are more likely to have higher pesticide contamination in your managed (treated)  hives than in wax from wild colonies.
    1 week ago