Adventures in Mushrooms: Growth and Stagnation

A week ago, I posted some pictures showing the first sign of actual mushrooms growing in any of my mushroom tubs.

As this is  my first time doing this, I’m not quite sure what I should be expecting. Still an experiment, so this is the documentation.

Here’s a picture from last week’s post:

Ees so leetle!

The other places I’ve heard about growing mushrooms in coffee grounds, one suggested 5 gallon buckets, another place did them in 2 gallon containers. I’m doing them in 1 gallon ice cream tubs, I don’t know if size affects results.

Considering last week’s pictures as “Day 1″ (of actual mushrooms), here’s Day 2:

Mushrooms, day 2

In just a day, they went significantly past the top of the tub. Cool!

Day 3:

Mushrooms, day 3

I think the growth has slowed, at this point, and it’s not just the light: they have gotten a little darker.

Day 4:

Mushrooms, day 4

Not really a whole lot different. I don’t remember what days I gave them water, I tended to go by if I could still see water if I tilted the tub. And sometimes it depended on whether I had much space for outside time, during the day.

Day 7, yesterday:

Mushrooms, day 7

Here, it seems that maybe they’ve even gone a bit darker, but haven’t grown very much at all. Even the smaller ones don’t seem to have tried very hard to get to the size of the bigger ones.

Not knowing what to expect, of course, one wonders what will happen. One did rather hope that the tub would become full of mushrooms.

The mushrooms here seem to have grown in the part where there are gaps in the crust. You can see through the tub here, but not so much from the top of the picture, that I dug in to the tub with a trowel, to break up the crust away from the mushrooms.

In real life, these cuts are visible from the top, brown gaps between white islands. Today (didn’t get a picture), I saw the white fungus already start creeping in to those brown gaps.

Hope I get more mushrooms.

I pretty much drowned the tub with water, today.

I do wonder how big these mushrooms are suppose to grow. I had it in my head that they were probably supposed to grow bigger than that.

One of the other tubs in particular, is now starting to get a white surface.

I hope to one day know what I’m doing.

Review: Centauri Dawn

Deep back in the mists of time (or “1999”, as it is sometimes referred to), I got into the PC game Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. This was my main introduction to games along the lines of Civilization, and in some respects it still stands above other games in the franchise. (I have yet to try Civ V and Beyond Earth.) I’ve also spent time playing the SMAC mod for Civ IV, Planetfall.

I think the main reason for this is that the world and the characters got fleshed out rather a lot more than in other games in the franchise (or even the genre, to be honest). Civ rather relies on your knowledge of the leaders that you play as (Queen Elizabeth I, Bismarck, Genghis Khan and so on), and of various Wonders (You built the Pyramids!). In SMAC, you have to learn the personalities of the leaders, and what each technology, facility, and Secret Project means to the world.

The world was fleshed out further in a series of stories written by Michael Ely, who worked on the game, casting the faction leaders and directing the Secret Project movies (one of which is above).

The first story was released in episodic form on the official website, in the build-up to the release of the game (behind the times, I finished reading it last week). Interestingly, one of the major characters had a different name through most of the story, before it was corrected towards the end. Journey To Centauri (and the free buildup-to-the expansion story Centauri: Arrival) can be found at

The novels themselves can be tricky to track down: I got lucky and found the first two books second-hand for less than $5 each.

The third book is much harder to track down, when it’s on Thriftbooks it tends to be over $50 (for a paperback?), and even second-hand on Amazon, sometimes it’s over $50, most of the time it’s over $30. I picked it up when it was $13.62 (plus the shipping), which comparatively is a bargain, but I must confess I’m not fond of paying that much for a new book, so I have a slight twitch about that.

So as a kind of celebration of starting reading Book 3, I thought I’d post my thoughts about Book 1 (which may end up being shorter than all the buildup to it).

Centauri Dawn coverCentauri Dawn, by Michael Ely

Overall, I enjoyed the story. It was nice having the world fleshed out somewhat – in the game, we do hear from characters other than the faction leaders, but in the book we meet quite a few other inhabitants of the human settlements (mainly Peacekeeper and Spartan, as the book focuses on those two – the other factions come in later books).

There was also satisfaction in recognising nods to research discoveries, base facilities and so on from the game. It was interesting that though the Spartans are a focus of the book, and the game makes a passing reference to an early attack on the Spartans by mindworms, that that event also gets only a passing reference in hindsight in the book.

Also a source of interest is significant things that weren’t in the game. Alpha Centauri was before the Civ games (that I know of, at least) where each nation gets unique buildings and units, and so AC doesn’t have that kind of differentiation, either. It does in other ways, but not that way. So Santiago’s elite soldiers, the Myrmidons, are quite significant in the book, but not in the game. Were the game that little bit more recent, one suspects that would be different.

My favourite insider reference is towards the end of the book, and it’s good enough that I don’t want to spoil you of anything, where a certain thing happens, and I got “I recognise that setting!” Not a technology, unit type, base enhancement, secret project or anything like that, just one of the setup options from when you set up the game. And it gives extra flexibility for the other novels in the series.

I had fun. Thumbs up on this one. I thought it was a good story in its own right, you don’t have to have played the game to follow it. Though as a fan of the game, if you like playing computer games, I think it’s one worth checking out.


Today, Deacon Dan became Father Dan.

This has been a milestone in several roads. Now-Father Dan’s, of course. Father Russell’s, now handing off this area to Father Dan, after looking after us from a distance that wasn’t very practical. And K-Town’s,  the Orthodox community building up from being very small, to crowding out someone’s living room, to crowding out an entire basement used for services, to getting a church building, and getting it ready over the last few weeks.

It’s been interesting – my role has mainly been with the choir, and I feel like a bit of an imposter there – I can generally tell when I haven’t got the right note, but not necessarily when I’m in the wrong octave, and I don’t think I’m very quick at correcting myself. Still, I’m told I’m improving, and things seemed to go well for both services. Even with the few things that changed on the fly.

It was cool that our community at Transfiguration could help with K-town’s preparations and participate in this event. Two in particular helped with the building work, one made the iconostasis and was doing other work. Last week the iconostasis was mostly done (but without the icons), and there was a bit of a setback when he had to go for an emergency appendectomy. It was good to see him well this week, and the place certainly looked finished.

Transfiguration certainly feels networked, somewhat connected to quite a few of the other Orthodox churches in the state. Bishop Maxim brought some things for K-town which connected them more with Serbia, who administratively we’re under. Old and new, connected.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from His Grace, but I think I was surprised at how much I liked him. I lucked onto his table last night after Vespers. I was going to sit on another table nearby, somehow we got talking before I sat down, and he liked Youngest (who I was holding at the time). After a couple of minutes, I asked if I could join him at the table, on one of the empty seats opposite, he seemed to like that. Soon I was surrounded by other clergy who were present, and I really felt like an imposter – not even a catechumen yet, and lucked onto the clergy table. Not that I’m entirely unused to being around clergy (more used to those of a different tradition, though) There was a spare water on the table, which he gave to Youngest, and a little later there was a spare beer on the table, which he gave to me. And clinked, with a “Cheers!”

I grew up in a tradition that has bishops, but without the same sort of liturgical role, and without the same sort of ceremony and stuff that goes on. When he arrived on the Saturday night, all the kids were given flowers to give to him. I let Middlest run up to him to give hers early, a few kids got there quickly (I’m pretty sure they got waved over), the rest waited in line. By the time he got to where I was holding Youngest, he was starting to express concern about being able to hold them all. He managed, but I liked what he said to Youngest (who is 2). I was just telling him to hand the flower over, and His Grace said “it’s all right, you can keep that one.” Youngest seemed to appreciate it, too.

This morning, at the beginning of the service was the blessing of the new church building, which was very interesting. Then the rest of the service, with the ordination as part of it.

I actually missed most of the ordination part, having to take Middlest to the bathroom, but got back in time for the last “He is worthy!”.

I’ve been to an ordination ceremony in my former tradition, though I don’t think I was really old enough to fully appreciate it. There was a long speech, which I was surprised and pleased to learn was boring all the adults, too. Lots of people got ordained at the same time, there, and not in the same place that they would be serving.

Though that system does have its advantages, there’s something special about an ordination happening within the context of the community that the new priest will be serving. Geographically rooted, and the enthusiasm of the congregation for their new priest can be an indication of whether the guy’s right for the job.

It’s been a good couple of days*, and seeing how some of these things work, has been very encouraging. Encouraging and moving, and those more than I expected.

what's the collective noun for clergy?
Photo credit and copyright my wife.

*corrected, originally accidentally left out an “o” – “It’s been a god couple of days” – guess it’s been that, too.

A joke and a video

It’s been a long day, so I’ll just share a joke that I amused Oldest with the other day:

Why is an apricot called an apricot?

Answer after this entirely unrelated video:

Because it doesn’t have a tail. If it had a tail, it would be a “monkeyricot”.

And yes, I was lying about the unrelatedness of the video.

Have a pleasant evening, everybody!


It might sound odd, but we’ve gotten quite fond of our regular UPS man. Over the year we get quite a few things through UPS (often from Amazon), so we see him fairly often.  In my last job he came by fairly regularly as well.

He’s the kind of guy with always a smile on his face, and very pleased to see you – and he’s kept it up long enough that you know he’s actually that way. And one rather realises that oneself is not really that way so much at all…

On Tuesday we found out that today was going to be his last day, he’s retiring ( it may be cliche, but he really doesn’t look retirement age – well, god for him!)

We schemed how to get him something baked for his last day. Well, not me so much, others are more the baking sort. My mother-in-law made some cookies and a really nice note.

She ordered something from Amazon with Prime shipping late Tuesday.

Wednesday was Prime Day, and I had my eye on the deals from when I got up to when it finished. I ended up only getting two things, though I almost got a third.

The first thing I got was a CD for Oldest for Christmas (Christmas shopping has officially started, folks!). Ordinarily I do no-rush shipping for the extra credit, but there wasn’t the option.

Fine, then. I’m not going to do the Standard shipping, I’ll get the Prime 2-day shipping. For a Christmas present. In July.

The other thing I got was a controversial version of a film I’ve been meaning to see for a long time: Metropolis. The Giorgio Moroder version. I’ll let you know how that goes, after I get round to watching it. That one did let me do No-Rush Shipping, and instead of the usual $1 credit, it gave me $3, which gave me just enough for an $8.99 digital album I’d been saving up the credit for.

My mother-in-law’s package arrived… FedEx. Mine arrived  a bit later, UPS.

And the right driver, even. So we got to give him his cookies, and wish him well in his retirement.

Funny how things work out, sometimes. Could have been a “best-laid plans” sort of thing.

Dark Skies – the TV series

Science fiction has played a fairly large role in my life. I got into Star Trek when Next Generation started, some shows I watched as a kid before that, I remember that Return Of The Jedi was shown regularly on Christmas Eve for several years. And of course, many shows and movies since then.

The X-Files came out in 1993, and I watched a bunch from the first 2 or 3 seasons. Some of the concepts were pretty interesting (the one that’s stuck in my mind from its first airing in England is Soft Light).

I heard more than remember, that The X-Files was a bit flip-floppy on the subject of aliens.  “Yes, they exist!” “No, it was a hoax in that previous episode!”

Dark Skies came onto TV in 1996, kind of marketed as “like The X-Files”, or “for people who like The X-Files”, or something like that. But while some of the marketing may have given the impression of  a cheap ripoff of The X-Files, Dark Skies had a very different premise.

There wasn’t the “monster of the week” stuff. There wasn’t the “are aliens real?” question: that is answered very early on: yes they are real. No wavering on that point.

Another big difference in concept, is that Dark Skies is a period drama. It starts very early in the Sixties. I believe each season was supposed to be about a decade, then turn real-time when it hit the present-day.

The producers had really done their homework into UFOlogy: significant events, people, accounts, associated phenomena like Men In Black (who were in the first version of the pilot, but the studio insisted on their clothes being changed to gray because of a forthcoming Will smith/Tommy Lee Jones movie), Majestic 12, and so on.

The producers also knew ways to make their setting seem real. In organisations, people who work there often have shorthands and acronyms for things, and we see that sort of thing in the show.

The historic setting and the detailed research gave the producers two timelines, one of historic events and the other of UFO sightings and events, and the stories could come out of where both lined up. Plus, of course, references to events outside the setting of the show (Roswell, for one), and to other things going on at the same time, whether related to aliens or to the story (Project Blue Book as one example, the official US Government investigation into the flying saucer/UFO phenomenon).

John Loengard is the main character, and as a good entry point into the story he starts off as a complete outsider, and finds his way into being an insider. In this great clip from the pilot episode, he’s still adjusting from his ’60s Man On The Street self:

As the show goes on, we find John and Kim (his girlfriend) walk very wiggly paths as to their relationship with Majestic, their uncovering of the aliens’ agenda, and significant ’60s people and events.

There’s an episode that veers dangerously close to being a clip show, but in a twist that I really appreciate, some of the flashbacks aren’t what really happened!

The cast is great, in particular I’d like to call out Eric Close as John, Megan Ward as Kim Sayers, Jeri Ryan as Juliet Stewart (from her explosive entrance mid-season, a few months before she showed up on Voyager), J.T. Walsh brings a lot of gravity with his portrayal of Frank Bach, Conor O’Farrell as Phil Albano and Tim Kelleher as Jim Steele.

The soundtrack works well, too, with the use of period music.

The show’s title sequence won an Emmy, and is really cool. It’s interesting to note that the first regular episode after the pilot, has a slightly different theme to the rest of the season: “History is a lie”, which got changed to “History as we know it is a lie”. (actually, the differences between the pilot episodes are interesting as well: a lot was reshot. And the original pilot music was done by Mark Snow, who did The X-Files, strengthening the comparison, and the second pilot was done by Michael Hoenig, who did the rest of the series).

It’s a big “What If” story: UFOs were regularly in the news in the ’40s and ’50s, and even afterwards. What if there really is something to that, what if those in power (even if in power behind-the-scenes) knew about it, and what if the public never got told? How could the truth then completely change our understanding of events?

Much as I like the show, it does have its flaws. Like, sometimes it seems like episodes wrapped up a little too neatly. Then you wonder: is it from the show being a product of the ’90s, before things started getting messier, or is some of it from the influence of the optimism of the ’60s, which the show tried to bring across even more than the paranoia of the ’60s (which is still present).

Also, there’s something about the episode Ancient Future: the Native American/alien tie-in perhaps may not have been cliche at the time, but seems to be very much so now, and the pastor who has a crisis of faith, only to end up with a strong faith in… nothing specific… doesn’t really work. But then, I did like things about that episode, such as the projected future.

I still like this show, even now, almost 19 years later.

For a show about conspiracy theories, some of the history of the show itself gives conspiracy-minded people lots to have fun with.

NBC gave the show the biggest publicity campaign it had ever given a show – and then moved the show all over the schedule, and pre-empted it for sports and other events, so even those who wanted to see it had a hard time finding it (unless you watched it on Channel Four in the UK, like I did).

The pilot was released on VHS. This had a purple case. The first two regular episodes (Moving Targets/Mercury Rising) were also released on VHS, I only ever saw it in the larger rental-style box (I used to have quite a collection of ex-rental videos…). The next two episodes were also allegedly released on VHS. I’ve seen a picture of the case (green, IIRC), but I never saw it in a store, and never saw it in a catalogue (a friend ran a  store, and had a big catalogue of VHS tapes that could be ordered – DS volumes 1 and 2 were listed, but not vol 3).No more were released.

When DVDs became popular, consumers were asking for a DVD of the show. The producers went to the studio and said “We know music clearances can be a pain, we can change the music if you like.” The studio replied and said “No, we don’t think that will be a problem.” Next thing we knew, the studio decided not to release the show on DVD, because of “music licensing costs”. Eventually, the producers managed to get the show released on DVD by Shout! Factory, with all the original music intact.

I’d like to see the show revisited now, with the episodes less stand-alone and clean, more of that messy vibe that’s been running through shows like Babylon 5 season 4, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica/Caprica, Stargate Universe. Have a clear idea of where you’re going, but more threads that spread out over more than one episode. And we want to find out who else is Hive!

Today, the Dark Skies Facebook page has had a run of posts, including one that starts:

“DARK SKIES — the classic NBC cult-hit — could be rebooted!

Sony TV is finally talking to the creators about bringing back the series”.

I really hope so. I’ve been looking forward to finding out what happens – and given the way things were going for humanity by the end of the ’60s, what happened to set the Hive back in the meantime. And find out what else is wrong about what we know.

Check out their Facebook page, and the clips on their YouTube playlist. Give them some support, hopefully you’ll be hooked, too!

Review: Puzzle Quest – Challenge Of The Warlords

I like puzzle games. I’ve sunk a lot of time into Tetris, Columns, Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and more recently things like Angry Birds and Cut The Rope.

I’m still waiting on some of those straight lines from Tetris.

Some of these games require more strategy than others, and some require different kinds of thinking.

Oh, the Portal games, too – definitely puzzle games,but miles away from Tetris.

I picked up Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords at a yard sale last summer. It has a story, but each part of the story, in addition to a bunch of random encounters, all require you to “battle” – you vs the computer at a puzzle game.

You have to line up 3 or more of a colour in a row, at which point those blocks disappear, the blocks above fall down, and new random blocks fill the screen from the top.

There are 4 main colours: yellow (air), blue (water), red (fire) and green (earth). You can learn spells along the way (I was playing as Druid, I don’t know if any other character classes get different uses for these colours), and the spells cost certain amounts of those colours that you have accumulated during the round. There is also money, which you use to buy items or upgrade skills, purple stars which go towards levelling you up, and skulls, which deplete health (yours if they’re destroyed on your opponent’s turn, and vice versa).

There are some variants on the game: when you’re trying to learn a new spell, you have to destroy a certain amount of anvils that show up during the round (getting them to show up, and getting them to a position in which you can destroy them, is more down to luck than skill).

Also, you can capture monsters: in that case, you’re presented with a not-full board, and have to figure out how to remove every single block from the board. I think that was my favourite variant.

Even with those variants, which you don’t really encounter that often, and with the story, the game got so samey that I kind of gave up halfway through.

Recently I picked it up again, and finished it.

I found overall that while puzzling can be addictive, that same puzzle over and over got a bit boring. I’m not feeling a pressing need to go through the game again with other character classes.

It just felt like it needed not just variants on the puzzle game, but some different puzzle games at appropriate intervals (maybe for different types of monsters – undead do this, animals do that, that sort of thing) to keep the game interesting.

Adventures in Mushrooms: First Sprouts

I have been attempting to grow mushrooms in coffee grounds, in 1-gallon ice cream tubs.

The ones in this tub are Oyster mushrooms. A neighbour gave me a bit of her spawn. If I kept the right lid with the tub, the label says this is the second Oyster tub I started. I started them in different places before moving them all to the shelf I built, so maybe this got a bit of an advantage.

The whole tub

This tub looks a bit like an alien landscape, doesn’t it? Or possibly like it’s covered in marshmallow or meringue. It’s been looking like this for a while. I took a big scoop out of this one a couple of weeks ago, to get the next tub started. That white crust was only around the outside, and round the edge there it’s very thin, and I filled the hole in with more coffee grounds and stirred the tub a bit. It didn’t take long to look just like this again.

That tub I mentioned that I started a couple of weeks ago, I decided was finished today – you can see that hiding in the top-right of this picture.

I brought that tub and a new tub out, and grabbed this tub to start the empty one – and I was surprised to see that the mushrooms had started to sprout. I used some of the just-finished tub to start the new one (enough mycelium seemed to have spread to do that).

One thing I’ve noticed – when I water the mushrooms, the water that stays on the surface soon turns red. I’m not sure if that’s down to the coffee or the fungus. Then when there’s less water left on the surface, it’s more a yellow colour. And when the top is drier, there doesn’t seem to be red or yellow residue left on the top.


Ees so leetle!

You see a little bit of the yellow here. And look at the mushrooms, they’re so little!


Alien landscape mushrooms

And this shot of the other bunch looks more like an alien landscape.

The lid says I started this one on the 11th of May (the first one I was ultra-specific and said “early May”). It’s the 14th of July, so that’s just over 2 months for them to start sprouting.

This experiment seems to be working out. I’m feeling rather encouraged.

Review: Space Casey 1 and 2

Casey is a con artist and a swindler. Soon, through every fault of her own, gets into the middle of Much Larger Events, introducing the rest of the galaxy to Earth. Which isn’t too happy at being represented by her…

Space Casey and Space Casey Season 2 are books by Christiana Ellis, and I found both in audiobook/audio drama format on Podiobooks.


Love that site.

I like these books. They play nicely with the concept thatyou can’t necessarily trust what Casey says, it’s funny, well-written, and the voice cast do great. I don’t want to say too much, it’s one of those stories (well, two of those stories) that are good enough that you don’t want to tell anyone what happens, you just want others to experience it for themselves.

Season 2 gave me a bit of nostalgia for Day Of The Tentacle

I like the blurb for the first book, it does a good job of letting you know the kind of thing you’ll be in for, and thus whether you’ll like it or not:

“Some heroines will steal your heart. This one will steal your wallet. In the future, mankind has expanded to fill the solar system, but when a snarky con-woman steals the wrong spaceship, she finds herself stranded in a distant galaxy. She is humanity’s first emissary to a galactic civilization, and all she wants to do is go home. Preferably, without being arrested.”

Space Casey and Space Casey Season 2 on Podiobooks.

I do like her catchphrase, though: “Son of a bitch, there goes Plan A.”

Sunday Adventures

So we went up to K-Town last Sunday and today (it’s still today for another hour and two minutes in the next time zone), preparing for Deacon Dan’s ordination to the Priesthood next week.

The new songs we have to learn, are really coming along. Or rather, the songs were already there, our learning of them is coming along.

I’m a bit… nervous isn’t the right word. I’m rather used to the Priest-less versions of Vespers and our Sunday service (Typika), and particularly with Vespers, it seem like we get a bit thrown for a loop when the Priest-y parts get thrown in, when one visits us. Spending time with K-Town, the stuff we are familiar with already, there’s some getting used to a different tempo.

Vespers with a Priest – one we’ve not done the Vespers service with before – is going to be different (hopefully we’ll do ok), but a Sunday service with rather a lot of priests plus a Bishop is rather outside the realm of experience for (I think) most of us – all of our group, and probably a lot of K-Town’s, too.

And there’s a few “If you see him do this, then do this” sort of instructions, which elicits a sort of “please please please let this go well” sort of reaction…

I’m looking forward to the service. I’m not sure I’m entirely confident about it, but fortunately the Bishop, visiting clergy and other guests, aren’t there to be critical.

For a lot of the rest of the day today, I’ve been working on a text-only version of the Sunday service. Version 1 is basically a copied version of what we do, and there were points I had some variations to work with (what a version of the service I’d typed up before said, as opposed to the version we use, and where the version we use has the same thing in a couple of places and there are slight variations).

Need to get this and the Vespers version I did the other week, checked over by a few people, get permission for artwork and so on, before I can put them on the Transfiguration site, but so far so good :)

One new song which I’m enjoying, is apparently also used as part of the wedding service. It’s called “Rejoice, O Isaiah”, and I haven’t immediately found the music in my brief Internet search. But I found the words on Orthodox Wiki (that wedding service link at the beginning of this paragraph), which if they’re different to what we’re singing are close enough (I did find some more varied ones):

Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin is with child,
And shall bear a son Emmanuel,
Both God and Man,
And Orient is His Name,
Whom magnifying, we call the Virgin blessed.