Commenting on Posts

I really enjoy hearing from my readers and that includes readers of this blog. The reason I like writing so much is that I enjoy helping others and interacting with people to find out what needs they might have. You have a number of ways in which to interact with this blog:

  • Use the Like feature to tell me you like a particular post and would like to see more on the same topic.
  • Create a public comment that tells me how you feel about a particular post or whether you have questions about it.
  • Send me a personal e-mail that I’ll answer as soon as is possible.

Of course, I also want my blog to be a place where people feel comfortable. That’s why I moderate your comments and why comments are only allowed for a month after a post. Spammers also frequent my blog and are always looking for interesting ways to get their content posted as a seemingly innocent remark (many are anything but). Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a comment will be accepted or not, so I’ve decided to post the rules so you know:

  • The comment must actually apply to one of my books, to the site in general, or to the post in specific.
  • You must use your name, not a business name or some other moniker.
  • A comment must be rated G, which means no swearing or untoward language.
  • There are no URLs or links allowed in a comment—I’ll remove any that I find.
  • A comment may not advertise anything.

I’ll continue moderating the blog posts to ensure everyone can feel comfortable here and use this blog the purpose it has always been intended to serve—a place to exchange thoughts and ideas, and as a means for supporting my books. As always, I do want to hear from you, but I also need to keep the spam under control. Thank you for your continued interest :).

 

Subscribing to My New WordPress Blog

During the moving process from my previous blog software to WordPress, I lost all of the comments that people had offered in the past, along with all of the blog subscriptions. What this means is that anyone who subscribed earlier is no longer receiving the posts automatically to their inbox. Unfortunately, I can’t perform the task of recreating those subscriptions—you have to be the one to do it. With this in mind, follow these simple steps.

  1. Locate the Meta heading on the blog page.
  2. Click Entries RSS. You should see the RSS feature of your e-mail reader open. As an alternative, you could see a feed summary in your browser. In either case, you should see something new that tells you about the subscription process.
  3. Subscribe to the blog using your feed software. When working with an e-mail reader, this usually means answering Yes to a dialog box that opens asking whether you want to subscribe to the feed. When working with a browser, it usually means clicking a Subscribe to this Feed button. In both cases, the application creates a new entry for this site that will automatically update as I add content, so you receive the feeds automatically.

I don’t have access to every kind of application software out there, but I may be able to answer some specific questions about subscribing to the blog. Please let me know about any questions you have at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. It’s really important to me that you have a great experience with my blog, so never be shy about asking questions :).

 

Up and Running!

Well, my new blog site is up and running finally! There are many things I’ll be discussing over the next several months. Before we go too far though, I’d like you to tell me your thoughts about the new software. Let me know your questions and concerns. I’ll be covering the method for subscribing to the blog tomorrow. Remember that all the old comments and subscriptions are gone—they simply didn’t make it from the old blog software. Please let me know what you think at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

What to Check When You Review My New Blog Setup

A number of people have written to ask specifically what to check when they look at the new blog setup. Here are the issues I’m most concerned about now as I get the configuration done:

 

  • Does the blog size well when you use your device? I’m especially concerned about how the blog looks in smartphones and tablets, but it has to look great on a PC too.
  • Is the text easy to read?
  • Does the blog size well when you make the text smaller or larger to meet your specific viewing needs?
  • Are the features working well? For example, when you perform a search or click on a tag to view related articles, are you seeing what you expected?
  • Do the colors work well for you? I’m especially interested in hearing about the highlighting on features like the calendar.
  • Are you seeing anything you didn’t think you’d see?


I’m also interested in your opinion about the new software. How does it improve on the experience you had with the old software? What do you miss about the old software? Does the blog seem to work faster or slower? Anything you can tell me about the content, appearance, or performance of the new software would be helpful. This the best time for me to make required tweaks. Please be sure to contact me with your concerns at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Blog Questions

A number of people have written with questions about the blog update. A lot of these questions will be answered later. Please keep the questions coming because they help me ensure that the new blog will meet your needs.

The one pressing question is about things people have noticed are missing. There are two items that won’t move to the new blog: subscriptions and comments. The comments are pretty much gone unless people want to make them all over again. However, the subscriptions will be easy enough to make again. I’ll post instructions for you after the blog is completely changed over. Please don’t create a new subscription until after I post instructions for you.

I’m adding the tags back in as I move the posts. That’s one of the reasons that the move is taking so long. The tags have to be added by hand (as do the graphics). As of today I’ve moved 293 posts, so there are only 376 more to go !

Thank you again for your patience. This move really shouldn’t have been so hard, but that’s how things go sometimes.


UPDATE 6/24

There are other problems that you’ll notice with the posts that I’ve moved. The most noticeable is that the source code in my posts isn’t moving correctly. Actually, it appears pretty much unusable. The information is there, but you’re going to have to look hard to use it. I’m looking into WordPress compatible source code add-ins to make the source code look nicer. If someone has experience in this area, please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. I’d prefer to see an example of the add-in output if you have one to provide.

Another issue has been tables. I think that all of the tables are currently usable, but please let me know if you spot something that doesn’t look quite right and I’ll do my best to fix it.

Blog is Moving!

Hi Everyone,

Never in my life did I imagine that moving my blog to the new software would take so long or come with so many hurdles. However, the time has come to make the move. Please be patient over the next few days as I continue to move posts from one location to the other. Eventually, you’ll find the new software running on the current blog URL and will be able to access it just as you always have. In the meantime, if you truly can’t wait to play with the new software, you can check it out at: http://blog.johnmuellerbooks.com/.

So yes, to answer all your queries, I am aware that the old blog is going away because it’s finding a new home . Please hold your questions for now. The new site setup requires tweaking, but the information you find on it is content complete. After the move, I’ll be uploading posts asking for your input on the new setup. For now, please do test the new software with your cellphone, tablet, and PC. It should run well on any device you choose. The new software is also more accessible and should be considerably easier to read.

Thank you again for all your support. This blog wouldn’t exist without you!

John

The Glorious Benefits of Growing Your Own Herbs

You go to the store and pick up a jar of sage or a box of mint tea. In both cases, you’re buying an herb. The only problem is that you have no idea of how fresh that herb is or whether it’s actually pure. For that matter, you have no idea of how that herb was handled or whether it has pesticides applied. In fact, except for what the label tells you, you can’t even be completely sure that you’re getting the right kind of herb. A lot of people will tell you that the main reason to grow your own herbs is to avoid all the problems. They’re correct, of course. Nothing beats fresh herbs for taste, potency, and purity. However, this is only a small part of the story and if you grown your own herbs for just these reasons, you’re missing out on a much bigger picture.

Packaging is part of the problem when you buy an herb at the store. Sage makes a wonderful addition to tea, but the form it takes at the store makes it impossible to use in that manner. Mint makes a wonderful spice for pork, but you won’t be able to easily use it that way unless you’re willing to break a teabag apart to do it. When you grow your own herbs, you know that you’re getting just the best parts and you can prepare them precisely as you need them for whatever purpose you have in mind. The post entitled Drying Herbs tells you everything you need to know to prepare the herbs for use in whatever way you want.

Another problem with herbs you get from the store is cost. Some herbs are horribly expensive, which makes people avoid something that could make them healthier. The herbs provide some health benefits, but the main health benefit is that you can use herbs in place of salt and sugar to make food taste significantly better with fewer side effects. When you grow your own herbs you obtain a product that has higher potency because it’s always going to be fresher and it costs you almost nothing to grow.

The best reason to grown your own herbs are the varieties you can’t get in the store. This year I’m growing common thyme (the product you get in the store), along with both lemon thyme and lime thyme. Neither alternative variety is available in stores, yet each has a unique characteristic taste. The difference is subtle, but noticeable. I personally prefer using lime thyme when baking chicken because it brings out the flavor of chicken better. Of course, unless you grow your own lime thyme, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

An herb with a huge number of varieties is mint. My herb garden currently has the common mints: peppermint and spearmint. In addition, it has chocolate, lime, orange, and even grapefruit mint. There are many other varieties, many of which I probably don’t even know about. Every kind of mint has a unique taste, yet when you go to the store you have to settle for one or two of them. Only when you grow your own mint can you experience the broad range of possibilities that this plan has to offer.

The best part about herbs is that they take little space to grow and many of them are quite forgiving of growing conditions. All you really need is a window and a pot. If your window doesn’t have a shelf, you can always grow the herb in a hanging basket. There are a lot of ways to grow herbs with in your own home, on a patio, or just about any other place you can think of. I actually knew one person who had a pot of herbs in her car. I’m not entirely sure how well that worked, but she always had the pot there and the plant always looked healthy. Let me know your thoughts about growing your own herbs at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Contemplating a Future with Robots

Robots will eventually become a part of our society. In fact, in many ways they already are. It may not seem like a very auspicious start, but products from iRobot like the Roomba are already making their way into many homes. The Roomba will clean your floors for you without ever complaining. It started with a vacuum system, but now I notice you can get a Roomba for mopping too. The point is that robots will very likely continue to enter homes to perform less skilled work.

Then again, there is a pressing need for certain kinds of skilled help. Japan is hoping that Softbank’s Pepper will help address a continuing problem of finding someone to help the elderly. In fact, finding people to act as caregivers to the elderly is going to become a problem in many areas of the world where the birth rate is decreasing and the average age is increasing.

For me, robots have always been an answer to the pressing needs of those with special needs. I’ve always seen computer technology as a means of leveling the playing field for everyone. A properly configured computer can make it possible for someone to earn a living and live independently, but simply having a computer or a computer with a robotic arm isn’t enough for everyone. Autonomous robots that can call for help when needed will make it possible for people with greater needs to remain independent and well cared for by an entity that will never get frustrated or lose patience with them. When a human caregiver is needed, they can simply take over the robot and help the patient from a remote location until help can arrive.

As with any scientific endeavor, there are those who are impatient to see something more substantial arrive. Some are even asking why robots haven’t become better integrated into society yet. The days of I Robot and The Bicentennial Man are a long way off yet (even with Robin Williams’ brilliant presentation). The fact is that interaction with an environment is far more complex than we ever thought (making it easier to appreciate just how much the human body can do, even when less than perfect). However, robots are making progress in other areas. For example, one robot recently repaired another, which is an exciting advancement.

I think it’s good that adoption of robot technology is going slowly. There are many social and political issues that must be addressed before robots can become part of society. People need to understand that robots aren’t a threat and there need to be laws in place to address the use of robots in society. More importantly, we need the wisdom required to use robot technology efficiently and safely.

There is no doubt that robots will continue to become part of society and that they’ll play a greater role performing menial tasks and in helping people become more independent in their later years. The potential for robots to truly help society is great, but there are equally terrifying outcomes if we simply rush the technology to market without proper safeguards. What is your take on robots? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Time to Check for Tent Caterpillars

A lot of the documentation I read about tent caterpillars online says that they’re relatively harmless, which is true when they appear on certain kinds of trees. However, when it comes to fruit trees, tent caterpillars can become a horrible problem. In fact, tent caterpillars nearly killed our plum trees (which are still recovering three years later).

The problem is one of tree growth. A lot of trees get a secondary growth of leaves. When the tent caterpillars do their job during the mid-spring to late-spring months, they damage the first growth of leaves. The trees can recover with the secondary growth. However, many fruit trees get just one set of leaves for the entire summer, so when the tent caterpillars damage them, the tree is stripped for the summer and can’t store enough energy for the winter months.

Tent caterpillars also tend to strip fruit trees, partly because they’re smaller than some of the other trees that are affected by them. In fact, that’s what happened to our plum trees. The foliage was stripped before we knew what was happening and the trees simply didn’t recover. After viewing other trees the tent caterpillars have attacked, it becomes obvious that they really are just a pest at times.

Part of the solution is to inspect the trees carefully during pruning. Unfortunately, even a close inspection won’t reveal all the tent caterpillar clusters and some hatch. During the spring months I take regular tours of the orchard to look for the tent caterpillar nests, especially during the early morning when the night moisture reveals the nests with greater ease. (The inspections are also good exercise and are quite pleasant, so it’s not really work in the traditional sense of the word.) I hand pick the caterpillars and ensure I crush them. Removing them from the trees simply invites them to come back later.

The trees that seem most affected by tent caterpillars are plums and apples. Cherries are also affected, but the tent caterpillars haven’t acquired a taste for the Mesabi cherries for whatever reason (the yellow-bellied sapsuckers tend to avoid them as well). Untouched are the pears, which don’t seem to attract nearly as many pests at other trees on our property do.

A proactive approach to dealing with tent caterpillars is essential if you want to maintain tree vitality. Make sure you take that walk each day to mellow out, improve your health, and keep your trees healthy. Let me know your thoughts about tent caterpillars at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Practical Wearable Technology

I keep looking for useful, practical, wearable technology and Google Glass isn’t it. In fact, most of the wearable technology I read about hasn’t impressed me even a little. The problem is that most of this technology has no practical value. At best, it distracts people who are already so distracted that they do things like walk right into fountains while texting. As far as I’m concerned, these people don’t need even a small distraction, much less a major distraction like that provided by Google Glass.

However, Google is working on a practical, useful, wearable technology that apparently isn’t generating much press at all—a smart contact lens for diabetes patients. The new lens monitors a patient’s glucose levels continuously through tears. Instead of having to take readings several times a day (and still missing potential high or low readings), the lens would make it practical to monitor blood sugar continuously. There are technologies currently available that do monitor blood sugar constantly, but they’re inconvenient, restrictive, and uncomfortable. This technology promises to make it possible to monitor blood sugar without disturbing the patient’s daily routine. In fact, with the right configuration, a diabetes sufferer would live pretty much a normal life except for the need to take medications as needed to control blood sugar.

There are other health-related wearable technologies on the horizon. For example, there is Samsung’s Simband that monitors heart rate, blood pressure, and a number of other readings. A device of this sort could make it possible for people with serious health problems to get out of their homes and lead lives that are closer to normal.

Unfortunately, all of these wearable technologies are still in the planning, research, and development phases. Until practical devices appear on the scene, I’ll continue to view wearable technology as yet another disruptive toy with the potential to cause real harm to the wearer. Let me know your thoughts about wearable technology at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.