Thursday, March 31, 2011

Saving my planted too early plants with an improvised cold frame

As a person who actually calculated the last frost dates (90 percentile) for Wilmington from the available data you would think I would know better. The above graph is the temperatures near my house for the past several days. Blue is below freezing, the dips to 25F were especially concerning to me and my poor plants. I knew ahead of time that temperatures would dip below freezing, but I now had lettuce, Brussels sprouts and strawberries newly planted and I wasn't sure they would be able to handle it.

I just started with just bottles with the tops or bottoms cut off to cover the plants I could and a black plastic bag for the row of lettuce.

Bottomless seltzer bottles just fit over the Brussels sprouts.

Topless jugs, a bottomless milk jug and a bucket serve to cover the new strawberry plants.

For the lettuce plants I improvised a cold frame from a plastic bag, duct tape and six dry wire hangers saved from the dry cleaning.

Linus helped me lay out a piece of black plastic a little longer than the row of lettuce. I just used a heavy duty 55 gallon garbage bag that I slit up both ends to make a double long piece of plastic.

Leftover hangers from the dry cleaning will provide a high enough support in the middle to be taller than these very short plants. I started by bending the tops of the hangers flat so that I could duct tape them to the plastic in the middle. I made sure that I had enough plastic on either side so that when I invert it and cover the plants, I can put some wood on the plastic to seal the end and keep it from blowing away.

I used four hangers, two on each end that will also be the sides and two dividing the middle space to provide support along the length. After I taped in the four hangers, I took two more hangers, unwound them and bent then into straight pieces and then duct taped them to the middle of the plastic to provide support to the spine of the cold frame.

Starting at the hanger on the end, I then taped the bottom of the hanger to the plastic to form the side of the cold frame, be sure that you have enough plastic at the end to cover the side and have a flap that you can put a piece of wood on to keep the cold frame in place when it is completed. Finally the frame is becoming more three-dimensional. Do the same to the hanger at the other end.

Next tape the sides of the wire hanger to the plastic for the two hangers in the middle. This will now make the cold frame into an upside down diagonal structure. Do this with both hangers.

I made sure that the hangers were taped well and that the straightened spine hanger wire was also taped well. Above is the completed cold frame, before it was inverted onto the plants.

The cold frame in place. I did use two sticks in the ground between the end hangers and the middle ones in order to give the spine extra support. Gently make sure the sticks line up with the duct taped spine so they don't poke through. The plastic overlapped at the edges gives a spot to put some wood down to seal the frame against the ground to keep some heat in and freezing temperatures out or at least moderated. They also keep it from blowing away.

Here is an angled shot to show the three dimensional structure a little more prominently.

I would estimate that I spent almost nothing but my less than an hour of time on this, since the ingredients were left over from other projects or free with other things.

So far my plants have survived the 4 or so days of deep freeze so the frame and the bottles seem to be working. I was finally able to begin the retirement of the device since last night's temperatures stayed above freezing, and what we have for the next few days is rain not freezing or frost.

For a detailed plan of the above project with measurements and a list of materials ... you will need to forget that you aren't watching This Old House or the New Yankee Workshop.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Honest Hypocrite in Lego Spaceship Letters

Andertoons has completed his quest to make a LEGO spaceship for every letter of the alphabet. I have taken advatange of his typography to put "The Honest Hypocrite" in LEGO spaceship type. (click the picture for larger)

I have combined two of my favorite things, LEGO and this blog. Enjoy.

March Madness Simulations

My March Madness NCAA basketball playoff simulation this year followed the schema of the Playoff Fantasy Football simulations.

I used the Sagarin ratings to get information on the teams' expected performance.

The difference between the ratings for two teams is the expected spread and I used the normal distribution with a standard deviation of 8.83 points to get the probability of a team beating another team.

I then simulate the whole tournament as many times as I like using a random number generator and the probability generated above to pick the winner of each matchup.

To make my picks I then compared a particular set of picks to the simulations, typically 1000, to determine the points for that set of picks.

Recall that in the bracket pool in which I participate not only are the rounds weighted 1,2,4,8,16,32 for rounds 1 through 6, but you multiply those points by the seed of the winning team. If Utah State makes it to the final four, for that round you get 8 points times its 12 seed or 96 points.

I compared several selections to each other to try to find the one that had the most points in competition with other selections in my simulations.

Top seed advances wins - 6% of simulations
Top Sagarin points advances wins - 23% of simulations
Top Pomeroy rating advances wins - 25% of simulations
Secret winning picks wins - 47% of simulations

Thus I was at least able to find a set of picks that outperformed Sagarin and Pomeroy in my simulations. I suspect it has something to do with the seed rating. The results reflect the expected outcomes before the start of the tournament but after the play-in games.

A chart (click for larger) showing the expected outcome of a given seed helps explain why lower seeds might yield more potential points than higher seeds. using the simulated results, the top plot shows the expected round that a team will advance to. Round 6 is the championship. The middle plot shows the expected points for a given seed assuming a standard point scheme of 1,2,4,8,16, and 32 points for winning a round. The bottom plot is the one of interest here, it includes the seed rating in the points.

Upper plot: First seeds are expected to do well advancing to the elite eight on average. Next seeds two through four generally make it to the sweet sixteen. Seeds from about 5 through twelve generally make it one round, and that uncertainty is where the fun comes in.

Middle plot: The standard point assignments don't change the expected value of a team much.

Bottom plot: Including the seeds in the expected points really shows how three and four seeds can be worth much more than a one seed. Even more interestingly, the correct 10 through 13th seed can be worth more points than a five through 9 seed, because they do about as well in the tournament, but have more points due to the seed multiplier. That is what makes the seed multiplier a fun bracket pool game.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

M - O - O - N that spells Moon

M - O - O - N that spells Moon license plate in Delaware.

Two points for the movie or book reference.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Captains of the Axiom from WALL-E

Captain Reardon 2105-2248 143 years
Captain Fee 2248-2379 131 years
Captain Thompson 2380-2520 140 years
Captain Brace 2521-2645 125 years
Captain O'Brien 2646-2774 128 years
Captain B. McCrea 2775-

The events of WALL-E occur 700 years after the Axiom leaves Earth in 2105. The captains are very long lived, perhaps due to the microgravity, which appears to have offset any decrease in longevity due to obesity.

If these are the beginning and ending dates of the reigns as captain, as the non-overlapping dates imply, then the captains live very long indeed. Captain McCrea has been captain 30 years by the time of the events depicted.

UPDATE: though I copied this from the film that we have been watching over and over again with Linus, it turns out there is a FAQ with this information.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hard drive prices from $1million/GB to pennies/GB in 30 years

The ever increasing pace of progress has made once incredibly expensive things available to the masses for pennies. No where has this been more evident than in the computing industry where each year more computing power becomes available for the same price as the year before. Computing equipment is one product in a deflationary spiral, and that's good.

One example of this decrease in price is in the price per GB of hard drive storage. Some have grabbed this data and then just picked some milestones. I think it is better represented in a graph.

Hard drive storage has gone from $1million/GB to pennies/GB in 30 years. That's seven orders of magnitude in 30 years.

I also took the data and put it into a spreadsheet which you can access at Google Docs so that you can make your own charts without copying and pasting from the original data which is not in tabular format.

(via BoingBoing, via, via the data is at this link)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

VANGOH license plate in Delaware

Van driver and art afficianado.  The owner of this VANGOH license plate has it all.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Grammar mechanic at work.

This sign at Branmar plaza needed some fixing.

I had some black electrical tape in the car so I fixed it.

There I fixed that for you.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I don't know his name but his face sure rings a bell...face blindness tests

A tweet or two and the requisite post on BoingBoing about Oliver Sax and his prosopagnosia—or "face blindness" pointed me to the testing site to see if I was good at recognizing faces or not. I think I am pretty good at recognizing people, it is the names that I have a hard time with.

The test confirmed by suspicion. I am pretty good at recognizing faces. For the unfamiliar faces test the results are below:

With a 93% vs. an average of 80% or an even lower 65% which might indicate someone has some face blindness. The test faces were creepy and generic. I guess that is on purpose to remove other cues.

For the famous faces test, the results are below:

I got 97% correct, vs. an average of 85% or even 50% indicating some face recognition difficulties.

I don't know his name but his face sure rings a bell...