A Tree Grows in Richmond

Yesterday, the City of Richmond held an Earth Day celebration down at the old Piano Factory on 1st st. There were a bunch of booths about varying conservation-related topics. It really could have been called “Liberal Day.” There was lots of great information, some neat demonstrations (such as the one by Safari Steve from Silly Safari Station, who was both silly and entertaining) and giveaways.

We received a flying-disc (“F***bee”) made entirely from recycled plastic, two fluorescent bulbs (60W equivalent and 75W equivalent), an assortment of reading material about sustainable living, hiking in Richmond, and my personal favorite: a free flowering Dogwood from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Dogwoods happen to be my favorite tree. They look absolutely beautiful in the springtime. The one we got, I have no idea how old it is, but it’s about 2.5 feet (almost 1m) tall. It seems pretty healthy. The arbor day people gave us a little brochure on tree-planting, which was very useful considering I’ve never done it before. If you’re interested, here’s the digest version on how to do it:

  1. Remove any packaging from your sapling and let it soak in a bucket of water for 3 to 6 hours. This helps to loosen up the root structure. No need to agitate it or anything, just let it soak.
  2. When ready to plant, find a location that has both good soil and room for the tree to grow. The particular location I picked was 10 feet from the property-line fence and 10 feet from our garage. Dogwoods aren’t particularly big trees so I thought this would be ample room.
  3. When you’ve sited your plant location, mark a radius of 1.5′ out from that point, and turn all the soil. The tree needs to be able to not compete with grass and other weeds. I completely removed the sod and threw it in our compost heap.
  4. Determine how deep the sapling was planted previously – If you look at the trunk, there’s probably a visible line of discoloration. That was my guess as to the depth. It looked reasonable.
  5. Dig the hole deep enough in the center so that the tree can be COMFORTABLY (i.e. “not crammed”) into that hole. Mine was about 1.5 feet down, and 1 foot in diameter. The roots should have ample room in both width AND depth. (Note: You don’t need to dig out the whole area where you turned the soil — just enough for the tree can fit comfortably)
  6. Hold the sapling in mid-air so that the bottom of the root structure touches the bottom of the hole, and use your other hand to gently pull some of the excavated soil back into that hole. You want the sapling to stand up as straight as possible. You also may want to use work gloves, unless you really like getting dirt under your fingernails. Once you get enough soil in the hole that the tree can stand up on its own (a few inches deep should be enough), you can let go of the tree.
  7. Fill in the rest of the hole as best as you can with whatever soil you have available, then water it immediately. I used the remaining water in the buket where I soaked the sapling.
  8. OPTIONAL: apply mulch to the area where you turned the soil. Don’t let the mulch actually touch the tree (I’m not sure why, but that’s what the brochure said), but apply it generously. This will both prevent competing plants, help the tree retain moisture, and a number of other things. I used some compost from our compost heap.
  9. If you have a dry weather period, you should water the tree regularly. This is only necessary during its first year. After that it should do well on its own.

The Arbor Day Foundation is currently giving away 10 trees of your choice if you join the ADF. There’s a $10 donation to join, but considering that you’re getting 10 tree saplings out of it, I’d say that’s a good idea! We would do it if we had somewhere to plant them all, but sadly our yard isn’t big enough. :(

Social Insecurity? (no, not about retirement)

This morning, I woke up at about 7:30am, a little later than usual. Did the usual morning routine. As I walked into the kitchen, though, I noticed that the sound of construction work seemed a little bit louder than it should be. Glancing over at the backdoor, I found that it was half-way open!

At first, I thought that it may have been Frank-the-ass-cat. Sometimes, if the door isn’t completely shut tight, and he wants out, he’ll paw at the underside of the door until he pulls it open. He’s quite innovative. But as I went to shut the door, I noticed the dead-bolt was extended. Jutting-out. As-in: “with the dead-bolt in the position it was in, the door cannot be opened or closed.”

This got my brain crunching a bit: “If the deadbolt was extended, the simplest explanation is that someone opened the door and then extended the deadbolt.” but I knew it wasn’t Melissa or myself. There were a number of other possibilities, all equally unlikely, including sleepwalking, gnomes, and our pets having telekinesis. What I settled on was “The door wasn’t completely closed and the deadbolt wasn’t completely extended, and Frank-the-ass-cat pulled the door open. When he did, the deadbolt slipped the rest of the way out.” I’m still not totally settled on that though. Before I left for work this morning, I went down into the basement and looked all around to check for signs of intruders (or intruders themselves)

Tonight, while laying in bed with my wife and infant son, I saw the back-porch light click on. This wasn’t TOTALLY unheard of — it’s motion activated, and a bit sensitive. But what would trigger it? The back door was closed and locked, and the back screen-door is spring-loaded to close by itself. The simple explanation is that something/someone was on the back porch (it’s completely barren except for some garden tools). What else could there be though? Did the wind blow through the screen-door and cause one of the curtains to move? Were there very large moths? I didn’t open the door and look, but I did listen. No reason to let whatever is out there into our house.

I suppose the paranoia is mostly rooted in the wave of recent crimes we’ve had that are uncharacteristic to this community. Within the past month we’ve had two bank robberies (a couple guys from Dayton robbed two local banks in the same week), our very close friend Joe Augustin was assaulted, robbed, and left nearly dead in plain sight downtown (the assailants are currently released on bond, trial in October), there’s someone being charged with attempted murder for shooting at a car that was passing by (he’s released on bond), a Kentucky man was found trying to lure an 8-year old boy into his van, and the police found human remains down in southwest Wayne county (middle-aged male, tattoo on one arm, unidentified otherwise).

What is going on around here? Is there some cosmological event that is make people more aggressive/desperate than usual? All of these things happening makes me a bit uncomfortable to be living in this town! It also makes me want to invest in ADT home security or something. It’s really unsettling to realize how vulnerable you are. We shouldn’t have to fear walking the streets at night, and we shouldn’t have to think about people toting guns around.

I’m open to suggestions about this — What can we do as a community?

Help Combat Domaineering

The latest craze among the money-mongers and their ilk is Domaineering. Domaineering is the business of buying up many domains with specific names (such as “cellphones.com” or “eatingdisorders.com”), relying on the fact that 15% (or more!) of browsers use “Direct Navigation” (typing a search term or web address in directly) in order to get to their destination.

Imagine two people, both wanting to find information about a Nokia cellphone
Person A goes to Google and types “cellphones” and gets a list of sites.
Person B just types “cellphones” into the URL bar, and the browser automatically tries appending “.net”, “.com”, etc. until it gets a successful hit.

These domains that the domaineers purchase are used as revenue generators by having paid advertisements on them. When you go to one of these sites and click on one of their links, they get paid a stipend EVERY TIME someone clicks, anywhere from a few pennies to a few dollars!

But why is this bad?
The bottom line here is that by supporting these individuals, you’re supporting their business practice. But what’s so bad about it? They’re just entrepreneurs, right?
Sort of. There can only ever be one “cellphones.com” or “eatingdisorders.com”, which means that in order for anyone else to acquire that domain, they have to pay the current owner (if it’s already registered) a very large sum of money to get the owner to part with it. But the current owner isn’t contributing anything worthwhile to the internet at large by having these sites!

Imagine that you lived in a town where there were a bunch of businesses of all kinds: Mom and pop stores, corporate stores, chain stores, franchises, etc. Normally, when we want to locate a particular business to meet a particular need, we look in the yellow pages (google), ask friends we may have (email), or just go browsing around.

But in this fictitious town, there are people all over the streets, wearing large signs that hawk certain product lines or items. If you approach them and ask about their Nike sneakers, they’ll point you over to one of several shoe stores nearby. When you walk into the store, the store immediately pays the person on the street for the reference.

Sounds helpful, right?

Now imagine that the streets are becoming more and more crowded with people pointing other people around, because everyone wants to get a piece of this action. And the sidewalk tiles (domain names) that people are standing on is coveted — if you want to stand there, even if it’s just to stand in the shade or to stand around and talk to your friends, you have to pay them a lot of money to leave.

Are you starting to see why this is a problem?

What’s worse is that more and more people are jumping on this bandwagon, which means that more and more people are putting up useless sites with ONLY ADVERTISING LINKS!!! The CEO of MySpace has started talking about integrating more “Web 2.0″ content (social networking, aggregate news services, etc.) into these domaineering projects, which means that the wolf is just donning a different outfit. Those sites will appear useful at first, but then you’ll realize that all the sites are all sharing the same news items, the same social networking tools, etc.

I may sound like I’m being apocalyptic, but it’s already happening! Some individuals make millions of dollars a year, own HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of domain names, and contribute useful content to NONE of them. (unless you count advertisements as useful)

So what can I do?
» Use search engines. Don’t type stuff directly into the URL bar unless you are typing a URL. (i.e. type “nokia.com” not “cellphones” into your URL bar)
» If you get to one of those “ad-only” pages, don’t click on the ads. I rarely click on ads at all because they always like to popup new windows.
» Don’t participate. As much as the lure of money may attract you, the ethics of this industry are very questionable. (These people are in the same boat as Spammers and Telemarketers in my book)
» Don’t buy domains from Domainers. If you’re registering a domain, do it through a proper registrar, don’t do a domain transfer.

If you’re feeling more devious, here are some other things you could consider doing to disrupt the model a bit more (This is more for the geeky-types):
Write a script that sends a deluge of clicks through a particular ad click. “But Wait!”, you may ask “Didn’t you just say to not click on these links, because it was supporting them?”. Yes indeed I did. However many advertising Pay-per-click services get really mad when people try to drum up extra cash by falsely generating clicks. So why not help them along their way to frauding? Send 10,000 or so clicks to each ad on a given page, and do that for many different pages. As far as I know, there isn’t a law saying you aren’t allowed to click a whole bunch of times. Since you don’t directly work for the person getting paid, you aren’t really acting in conflict of interest, but I really doubt the ad people will feel comfortable paying out all that much.

Bottom line: Stop Domaineering and Cyber-Squatting


Ok, I’m quite aware that I haven’t written anything in a hot minute. Perhaps you might even say a hot hour, or hot fortnight.

But I’ve been busy.

The most recent and obvious change is this site. Because of a number of elements including peer pressure, my desire to be cool, and my meticulous organizational obsession, I have finally registered a domain. All your base are belong to http://www.amhill.net

But within that domain are a bunch of fun things! Or at least, the fun things will be there soon. Hopefully not another hot fortnight away.

http://www.amhill.net – the main digs. I haven’t decided specifically what I’m doing with this yet, but it will probably be simultaneously a directory of all the other subsections of the site as well as an online resume / professional front.

http://blog.amhill.net – what you’re reading. Finally an appropriate subdomain! If you are currently linking to my blog at http://electric.dreamhost.com then please update your links to this address instead.

http://mixtapes.amhill.net – Some may think this quite funny, but this section will be devoted entirely to the process of digitizing my mixtape collection from back when I was a rebellious party-kid going to “all night teen dance parties.” I’ve got a few mp3s up already. I’d really like it to be more than just a download dump though — perhaps something with a bit more interactive zest to it. I haven’t decided yet.

http://archives.amhill.net – old versions of my site. I still keep them, even though every time I revamp my site, the old sites break more and more. Oh well.

http://sullivan.amhill.net – The site devoted to my son, Sullivan Raymond Hill (If you’re saying “wtf? you’re a dad now?” then continue reading below). This site is primarily for my family, whom all live at least 600 miles away, to keep up to tabs with the development of our newborn. Pictures, videos, updates, etc. I don’t think it’s going to be a blog, but it will probably at least have an online journal or something.

Ok, so the next change is that Melissa and I finally had our baby! Sullivan Raymond Hill was born on 4/11/2007 at 10:33am and weighed 9lbs 2oz at 22″ long. Big baby! He is both ridiculously adorable and frustrating at the same time, particularly at night when he gets his bouts of insomnia. Melissa and I have begun taking shifts. We’re hoping we don’t go completely crazy by the time he’s old enough to exploit it.

Some things haven’t changed. I still work for IU East, I’m still a student, and still married to my darling wife Melissa.