The Encyclopedia Hydroponica

Your Hydroponics Compendium

Twitter and the Encyclopedia 21 August, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 11:53 pm
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Well as much as I try to avoid social networking sites (I’ve just never been into them) I joined Twitter today.  It wasn’t really my idea – I know some guys who talked me into it.  Who knows, maybe it’ll bring me a little more traffic here, eh?

On the upside, Avocado99 actually poked through the Encyclopedia and found some bad links I somehow missed, so I was able to get those fixed.  I should probably double-check all the pages myself just to be sure but I’m still pretty stressed about work and, since my job involves sitting in front of the computer, right now I need to shut everything down and find something else to do for awhile to decompress.

I should probably clean up around here.  Maybe I even will…

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What They Don’t Tell You About Self-Employment 20 August, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 12:51 am
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Is that you never get a day off.  Not really.  Sure, you might not get any work done in a given day but you sure as hell aren’t actually “off work”.  No, your brain is still on the job and, in all likelihood, you only took the day off to catch up on housework or some other mundane (and not particularly relaxing) task.

That’s where I’ve been recently, except worse than usual.

See, usually I can find an hour or so to do something purely fun, like play a video game or watch some TV.  But with all the dental work and recovery from the dental work, I’ve pretty much been unable to do anything but work just to keep up.  If I were self-employed in the “own my own business with employees” sense I could just crack the whip over their heads a bit more vigorously to make up the difference.  But since I’m my own (and only) employee, I have to just flog myself and that takes all the fun out of being the boss, if I may say so.

Now I’ve got 5 manuals to read and two more books on order that I need to completely absorb and master because, of course, I’m my own advertising department and surprisingly that’s not exactly what I went to school for.

So if the blogging’s been a bit light of late, you can see why, right?  I used up all my “vacation” time being miserable for a few days a week thanks to the dentist and managing to get just enough work done when I wasn’t doped up, asleep, or incoherent to keep things from circling the drain.  Minor little trivia like “actually doing dishes”, “basic housework”, or “changing the oil” have fallen by the wayside over the last, what… 10 weeks?

A lot of my recent blogging was done flat on my back during some of my less coherent moments (and for that I apologize), but I’m really starting to turn the corner in this whole ordeal and I’ve even begun to feel vaguely human again.  Which of course means that all the crap I put off is suddenly harder and harder to excuse putting off any longer.  As much as I hate to act like an adult, it’s time to start doing so.  On the other hand, I still plan to have ice cream for supper, so maturity can eat my shorts.  (And, frankly, I may be feeling better but that doesn’t mean I have a chance in hell of actually eating a steak that hasn’t been converted into a milkshake, so I’m gonna eat whatever I can regardless of how good it is for me.  I’m losing weight, so ice cream isn’t a problem.)

So what am I getting at besides an apparently shameless bid for sympathy?  (No seriously, no sympathy please.  The wife has that covered, recovered, and then covered yet again just for good measure.  I’m full up on sympathy.)  Just wanted to let you know that if it seems like it’s taking me a long time to get back to speed on blogging it’s not because I’m malingering.

I’m trying to catch up after all this malingering.  And blogging doesn’t pay the bills or make my house look like it’s fit for human habitation.  But it would be very cool if it did.

I do have a lot of stuff to update you on, and it’s probably going to end up being a strangely cool picture montage of my hydroponic garden over the last month or so – I’ve been taking pictures just haven’t gotten around to resizing them from “godawfully huge” to “I can actually pull that through a normal Internet connection before Hillary gets elected to a third Presidential term”.

Two parting things:

First, I may bellyache from time to time about all the crap that goes into being self-employed.  But I really do enjoy it and would rather do this than any time-clock job.  True, the pay isn’t fantastic, I have no paid sick leave or vacation time, and I find myself working 50, 60 hours a week to bill for 40, but I can show up for work unshaven, naked, and drunk if I like and no one cares.  (Kidding about the drunk part.  Usually.)

Actually, someone does care.  My wife will tell me to shave and make an unpublishable remark about my attire, but I don’t get fired, and that’s my point.

Second, I’ve got a really, really cool secret project in the works.  I don’t know yet if it will go through, but if it does it’s going to be incredibly awesome.  As least it’ll be incredibly awesome to me, I can’t speak for you.  Stay tuned, I should hear back from the other people involved soon.

All I’ll say is this:  If what I hope will happen actually happens, my UPS guy is going to hate me.  Perhaps enough to vandalize my house.  And it will totally be worth it.

 

Best Customer Support Ever 15 August, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 10:34 pm
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I know, my comments about Foosh Energy Mints, Buzz Bites Energy Chews, and their maker Vroom Foods tends to border at near rabid-fanboi levels. As such my opinions might be seen to be suspect. But I have proof!

I recently posted about how Buzz Bites had played a positive role in my recovery from all the dental work I’ve been having done. I’ve also mentioned in passing that Sarah Person is the unbelievably awesome… well… person that I’ve been dealing with at Vroom Foods. (I’m guessing she’s a customer service representative of some kind, but she doesn’t sign her emails with a lot of title mumbo-jumbo so I don’t know for sure.)

What I didn’t say (because I didn’t know) is that she actually reads my blog! Imagine my surprise and glee when I get the mail today and discover a big padded envelope from Vroom Foods containing one tin each of the chocolate and mint chocolate Buzz Bites, a sticker accurately proclaiming “I Love Buzz Bites”, and the post-it note I scanned and linked at the right.

Seriously, how cool is that? When was the last time you saw any company exhibit that kind of simple kindness and humanity? Heck, simply not being cold and inhuman is a rarity anymore.

Sarah, you made my whole day with that. Thank you.

And I think that ought to put to rest any doubts when I say that Sarah Person and Vroom Foods are nothing short of awesome.

As for the mints and chews, I can only say you’ve got to try them for yourselves. They really are a top-notch product in a sea of energy foods that are all too often sadly lacking in taste, potency, or both. Vroom Foods’ attitude that “nothing is too good for the consumer” really shows in both the quality of their products and the quality of their service.

 

I’m Feeling Better. 13 August, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 5:47 pm
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I decided to keep the Monty Python theme going for another post.

Anyway, it’s been a week since my last unpleasant dental visit though I’m sure to have a bunch more follow-ups over the next few weeks to make sure everything is settling in properly.  I’m still not quite up to solid foods, but I’m working my way through progressively less-soft foods.  I wouldn’t say I’m feeling “good”, but I’m feeling pretty close to it.

Which brings me to something I want to share even though it sounds a bit corny.   I swear I’m not paid to say this.  Buzz Bites helped my recovery.

I know, I know, my electronic telepathy tells me you’re scoffing inwardly and giving your computer screen an incredulously suspicious look.  It’s true.  As I’ve said I’m a caffeine fiend.  I’m not chugging down Redline or anything, but my average daily intake is several times the national average.  So when my body doesn’t get it’s go-juice I’m not a happy camper.

And right after you’ve had someone climb in up to the elbows and start some hard-core reconstruction inside your mouth is not a great time to start pouring hot coffee or acidic soda down your gullet.  Trust me, neither of those works out too well.  (In hindsight I probably could’ve done some iced coffee, but just much prefer it hot.)  A nice strong mint isn’t exactly a brilliant plan either, since “sparkly” and “traumatized gum tissue” is a match made more than a little south of heaven (part of the same reason that carbonated soda isn’t any fun).

But those Buzz Bites still work.

The first day I didn’t have anything, but I was popping Vicodin every 4 hours like clockwork and thus spent most the day napping through the conga drum solo caffeine-abstinence was playing on the back of my skull.

By the end of day 2 I was annoyingly awake for this, and finally deduced that not all the pain was related to having more than a dozen teeth molested.  (I don’t know why that is.  It always seems to take hours of caffeine deprivation for me to figure out that the withdrawal symptoms are precisely that.  You’d think I’d have learned by now.)  At this point I was still in the kind of mood that required psyching myself up to eat hearty foods like “pudding” and “applesauce”, so actually chewing a Buzz Bite wasn’t really an option.  But I cut one into fourths, jammed them one at a time to the roof of my mouth, and just let them dissolve.  Caffeine massaged my aching brain and for awhile there was peace in the world.

The next day I jammed a whole one up there and licked it to death.

Soon I was back to drinking coffee, but forced to let it cool enough it wouldn’t set off my highly temperature-sensitive mouth, which let me tell you, is no picnic either.  According to my time-keeping there’s a precisely 30-second window between “too hot for injured mouth” and “disgustingly room temperature”.  Regrettably some coffee was ingested on both sides of this window.

I’m back to my normal caffeine intake again, even if most of what I’m eating is being liberally treated with a food processor.

But those Buzz Bites really saved my backside.  It’s hard enough to keep a positive mindset when it feels like you’ve had your face repeated bashed with a 2×4 and you’re relearning skills like “not drooling on oneself”, but when you try to do all that within the greater fog of caffeine withdrawal it’s downright depressing.

Of course all that could theoretically be eliminated by just not using caffeine to the degree I do, but who’d want to live like that?

I used to drink (a lot), smoke (a whole lot), and drink too much soft drink.

I quit smoking, don’t drink (as much), so I’ll be damned if I’ve gotta give up the only vice I have left.  (I don’t count drinking because a couple beers a week is, frankly, actually good for you.  It’s a tough job, but I take my medicine anyway.)

So yeah, Buzz Bites helped my recovery.  And I’m not paid to say that.  Though Vroom Foods is always welcome to send excess stock my way, should they need to make more room in their warehouse.

 

I Don’t Want to Go on The Cart… 11 August, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 8:07 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It’s been awhile since I posted, I know, but I’m not dead yet.

Last Tuesday I had the “big” dental procedure to fix my teeth and I’ve been busy just getting by since then.  The last few days have been better, but by no means close to normal.  I’ve been able to get out in the garden, and keep my indoor projects going (though the indoor tomatoes are looking a bit poorly).  I do have some updates to post but those will have to wait.  You should see the DWC… the lettuce is prehistoric.

But that’s pretty much the extent of this post:  to let you know what’s going on.  I’m still here and I’ll be back in full force when I can, but I’m just not quite there yet.  As a free lancer I don’t get paid sick days or vacations, so what little productive energy I can muster beyond basic garden care is going into keeping the bills paid.

So stay tuned, I’m not gone, just healing.

 

Buzz Bites – The Perfect Chocolate? 3 August, 2008

Filed under: Blog — E.H. @ 6:37 am
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To be perfectly honest I’m not much of “Chocolate Person”. By this I mean that at any given moment any given day, if you offer me a piece of chocolate I’m likely to decline. I don’t dislike chocolate, it’s just not something I tend to reach for.

Unless it’s wrapped around some peanut butter. (The makers of peanut butter cups take note: I can be bought.)

The point is that there’s a lot of stuff I like better than chocolate and I just don’t have that craving for it I see in many of my fellow people.

So when I saw the reviews at Red-Icculus and Max’s Weblog about Buzz Bites (which I knew were made by Vroom Foods, makers of my beloved Foosh Mints that I reviewed HERE) I sent an email to the super-cool Sarah Person mostly because of my interest in all things caffeinated rather than my interest in a chocolate version of Foosh. (By the way, her last name is Person, I’m not calling her a “Sarah Person” in some strange manner of designating that she is, in fact, a person.) Interestingly this is not unlike my motivation for trying Foosh Mints in the first place. My logic was that with that much caffeine in them (100mg) I didn’t really care what it tasted like.

In true Vroom Foods fashion, they’ve exceeded my every expectation. Buzz Bites are tasty! No, let me rephrase. Buzz Bites are tasty! I’ll put it this way: This is a chocolate chew that I wouldn’t turn down even if it were decaffeinated.

Let us go back to the beginning.

As I mentioned in my Foosh Mints review, I’d had a fantastic experience dealing with a minor packaging problem on my last order of Foosh Mints. Sarah Person had contacted me personally (no automated letters) and assured me that she’d see to it everything was fixed in a hurry. I couldn’t even imagine where to begin if I wanted to criticize the customer service I got: it was simply above and beyond what I could reasonably expect (kind of like their products, actually). So it seemed simple enough to me to send her another humble e-mail asking if perhaps I could have a sample of Buzz Bites to review on my blog.

Again, very promptly, I get a personable and friendly response from her saying that of course she’d be happy to send a sample to me. Five hours later I get an automated notification from USPS saying Vroom Foods has shipped something to me. Two days later I get a package that I greedily tear open…

And simply kind of stare at for a moment in disbelief.

I didn’t simply get a sample. I got samples. SIX TINS. Three of each flavor for a wonderful total of 18 Buzz Bites in Chocolate and 18 in Mint Chocolate. What’s more I got swag. A whole bunch of stickers and a big glossy fact sheet. Granted, it’s not like I’m going to frame this or anything, and as much as wanted to I just couldn’t bring myself to plaster the stickers on my laptop (it’s just so perfect and glossy), but it’s still way up there on the cool factor. My favorite is the smallest one, which says “SERIOUSLY CAFFEINATED“.

The energy boost is, according to my seat-of-the-pants-o-meter, indistinguishable from the boost of a Foosh Mint. You get a nice smooth flood up the back of the brain, that kind of clean uplifting energy a good balance of caffeine, ginseng, taurine, and B-vitamins gives. Definitely not the donkey-kick to the brain stem that a half-dozen (or more) shots of espresso provides (been there, done that, still do). It comes on assertively without being jittery, and leaves unobtrusively without a crash. They’ve got as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but this is a bit deceptive because everything works together to provide a stronger, smoother boost than a simple cup of Joe will provide.

“But how do they taste?!?” you ask with more than a mild degree of annoyance in your voice at having read this far to have read only vague praises and long-winded sentences presuming to know how what you’re saying in your head.

They’re delicious. They’re a bit sticky (I’ve yet to unwrap one without leaving little bits stuck to the wrapper, but I take the effort to lick those bits off – I don’t waste any of it) but it’s not a messy kind of sticky, at least not at room temperature. I imagine they might stick to your fingers a bit if you left them in the car on a hot day or something, but I think I’ll skip that phase of testing for my review. They’re also nicely chewy, much like a caramel.

The “chocolaty-ness” of them is kind of complicated. It’s very robust and rich, but in more of a Tootsie-Roll way than a pretentious connoisseur chocolate kind of way. It’s a “fun” chocolate flavor rather than a luxurious one – kind of appeals to your childhood that way. Red-Icculus and stoatmax mentioned the taurine flavor in their reviews. How exactly one goes about sampling taurine specifically for flavor I’m not certain, but there is definitely a element in the flavor profile that is distinctly un-chocolate. Red referred to this as a “funky taurine chemical taste” but I’d have to agree more with stoatmax who said it was “not unpleasant, just.. earthy”. My wife and I both felt that the extra flavor (taurine, presumably) was actually complimentary to the chocolate flavor.

The Mint Chocolate Buzz Bites have a distinctly minty addition, strongly reminiscent of a chocolate after-dinner mint or those little mints the swanky hotels leave on your pillow. So far I have failed miserably to pick a favorite between the two flavors, but luckily Sarah sent me so many that I have ample testing material. For Science!

The Verdict: I think I’m still more of a Foosh Man than a Buzz Bite Man. The 12 mints to a tin for the same price as 6 chocolates to a tin is just hard to beat, and I’ll probably always prefer mints to chocolates anyway. But if you like caffeine and chocolate, you owe it to yourself to try Buzz Bites. I don’t tend to seek out chocolate and this is something I really enjoy without even taking the energy boost into account. Every other energy mint/candy I’ve tried has clearly sacrificed some taste for the boost and somehow Vroom Foods has put out two top-notch products that sacrifice absolutely nothing.

So whether you’re the discerning caff-fiend like myself, or simply looking for the occasional pick-me-up that doesn’t taste like high-octane, I highly recommend Buzz Bites (or Foosh Mints, for that matter).

Oh, and Sarah Person is awesome. She deserves a raise. (And you can quote me on that if you think it’ll help.)