Category Archives: How to


If I am walking home after dark, and the shadow in the trees is a man who jumps out at me, I will at first startle, then smile and say, “Oh, you surprised me! Hello, my name is Gayle Randolph. I don’t think we’ve met. Are you going this way too?”

If when I walk by that parked truck, and a man lunges out from the dark shadow underneath to grab me by the leg, it will be too late, because I suspected he was there and I walked just far enough away. I’ll pretend I didn’t notice him, so he’ll be embarrassed and stay there.

If the man at the bus stop comes out of the shelter and tried to sell me drugs, I’ll looked at him blankly as if I’m already stoned, so I can get away with just walking by.

When I walk in the quiet woods, and suddenly a crow caws, and I see a quick movement in a tree of a cougar just pouncing, I will scream in an aggressive way, put my fingers out like claws, grab a stick, and  will fight that cougar, even if it bites and scratches me.

If a dog gallops toward me across a lawn, and the electric fence is off, or it is so wild that it does not care, I will yell, “Go home!”

If I go into the convenience store to buy milk, and this time there is a man with a gun who points it at Jeff the clerk and me, and screams for cash, I will calmly say to Jeff, “Give him the cash, Jeff. It will not make him happy. Thief, you are very sad inside. If you want some help, call or leave a note. You need something better than what money can buy.”

If I get a ride with someone, and they turn out to be a rapist, I would throw up all over the car seat, and if possible, pee my pants, as soon as possible before he drove out of town. It would be embarrassing, but also gross enough for him to dump me out of the car.

If I came home and there was an intruder hiding inside who appeared when I was not by a door, I would act like I was expecting a relative of my husband’s and say, “Oh, you’re early–you must be Dan. I’ll show you where your room is. My husband will be home in about ten minutes. I’ll make you a sandwich.”

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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in How to



How not to be tracked

I just completed several completely untrackable searches and movements about town. I slipped by Google, Microsoft, Asian hackers, global mobile device corporation IT departments, data mining specialists, even Homeland Security and CSIS. And I’m willing to share my techniques with you. In layperson language, easy to understand and with step by step instructions that even tech-challenged information users can follow.

The enormous divide in levels of privacy between inputting queries to the web and my method is startling. You know it is, from watching “Mission Impossible” and all the newer films about what can be quickly discovered about anyone who uses the internet, cell phones, credit cards, GPS equipped vehicles and other devices, membership cards, and even digital home electric meters. Think about that…with the meters, for example, someone can remotely tell when you’re home using your appliances, and when the house is likely empty with the lights dimmed. Vehicle and mobile device GPS is good for ascertaining your location on the move, credit cards or store membership cards good for tracking location plus purchase habits and linked characteristics, such as whether you have children and their approximate ages, special dietary needs in the household, pregnancies, sexual activity, physical or mental illness, reading and viewing habits, and occasional or frequent incontinence.

With Microsoft supplying laptops and Google supplying Chromebooks to schools and developing a plethora of student-friendly apps, classrooms are also a trove of trackable data. When linked with lunchroom records, attendance and activity logging and eye movement trackers, it’s only a matter of time before the corpsy corps that run that part of the Cloud will be able not only to test kids keyable knowledge, but predict test results ahead of time. As well as determine every market-relevant trend coursing through school kid culture.

Those of you who see all these changes with giddy acceptance, as the “smell of progress” (what our great grandparents called the stench of the pulp mills and factories of that era), can stop reading now. The rest is only for those interested in restoring some portion of their private lives and narrowing the circle of society that is able to watch over their comings and goings.

When I share my techniques, they’ll be surprisingly familiar to you, but you may see them in a whole new light, as I did–as beacons of freedom, places of safety in a hostile world, havens from the rat race, miraculous privileges conferred instead of just your right, your natural right. These practices may be known to you, but they are in danger of being lost to this generation. So this is in a sense an opportunity to re-skill.

First there’s the travel aspect. Whether you choose to walk, ride your unregistered bicycle, or pay cash fare to ride the bus, you will be minimally tracked in each case, dependent on the number of security cameras along your route.

Second, it is sometimes possible to purchase goods at stores or markets and pay with cash, avoiding giving one’s phone number, membership card, or zip code. No one but the merchant need know, and they have too much to do to remember anyway. Trading and bartering is even better, as even your bank need not know you are making an exchange.

Last, it is possible to obtain information and cultural content without being tracked in several ways. The most secure source of information is your own mind. Your mental repository of experiences, memorized facts, figures, music, skills, and methodologies may be out of practice, but the human mind is a powerful tool and can be reconditioned. Even more powerful is the resource of contemporary community knowledge which we may access through sharing information with other live human beings using the medium of spoken or unspoken language. Further non-trackable information and other types of searches are possible with the use of books, radio, an other free broadcasting, while those media continue to exist.

Perhaps, like me, you already joined FaceBook or some other social media site and listed your birth date, educational, employment, residence and travel history, your list of family members, friends and associates, all your likes, and personal photos, for the benefit of the Facebook advertising department, and are now receiving startlingly relevant advertising popups. Even if you later removed your information, it’s no doubt been collected and is being stored by someone for some purpose or other. Well, it can’t be helped. But this is the first day of the rest of your life, and the whole world is still open to you. Enjoy it, and may we never know anything about it unless you want us to.


Posted by on November 25, 2014 in How to, Ideas, Media


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The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon, with Erica Reinheimer

The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon, with Erica Reinheimer

As described in my gardening blog, this spring my husband and I built some nice, tidy raised beds and put up a greenhouse (see post here). I supplemented the clay with sandy soil for better drainage and amended with partially composted horse manure/sawdust from the local riding arena, and figured that with the addition of the right compost and some rotation, the beds would be good for the duration. The garden grew great into the summer, then my dad gave me a copy of Steve Solomon’s Gardening When it Counts (2006). I learned that I had set up an unnecessarily water-hungry system that would give me more individual vegetables but of less health and quality for the same biomass than if I had everything more spaced out, and that I needed way more land since seasons of fallow were essential for soil regeneration. I also got advice on growing better seedlings, creating high quality compost (doesn’t just happen) without adding excess CO2 to the air, mixing a complete fertilizer, “fertigating” with fish emulsion, and opening up the clay soil with gypsum. So there was hope for the next five years or so, when our neighbor’s cedar trees (planted while we were overseas, without consulting with us about impacts) would shade our garden so much that vegetables would be out for us anyway. More reason to move out into the county.

Back at home I ran into JW, co-owner of our local urban farm/nursery/local produce market and former next door neighbor. Told him what I was reading. Of course JW knew Solomon’s work, being an eager, lifelong student of farming knowledge, but he asked if I’d read his latest, The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food (2013). Said the author had learned a whole lot more and had discounted some of his earlier teachings. He grabbed a copy  off a display and put it in my hands–“Here, read this one.” Wanted me to take it free. I protested, said I’d buy one when I was finished the other, but he insisted and so I thanked him, let him get back to the field, and paid for my fruit and potting mix. Not the first time JW has refused to accept payment over the years of our friendship.

Solomon wrote about what he’d learned about the way soil mineral content affects health, based on old studies of dental health and old military draft medical records  (when people still ate from their regionally grown foods). He linked this with the way minerals become available to plants and are depleted over time, affecting produce quality. Areas where rainfall (or irrigation) is highest experience the most leaching of minerals, and land continuously farmed further loses minerals, noticeably affecting plant health (and dependence on agriproducts). Farmland constantly sends plant and animal products and the waste materials (humanure and urine) of those that consume them off the land, never to return, and nothing, not even all the composted materials left over, can replenish the minerals in them–even the compost is depleted, because it’s grown on the same land. So farming and gardening is not a closed system. Today I read the proud statement of a local organic CSA that their farm was nourished completely by on-farm materials, and I have a mind to warn them of the error of their ways so they won’t run into trouble in the long term (how long depends on the mineral reserves of that particular land).

The historic response to this mineral depletion was to move west and start again in newly cleared land. The modern response is to go for overall productivity in terms of sellable biomass by using fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and industrial scale machinery, and add whatever minerals keep the land producing. Food grows, but with ever decreasing resistence to disease and pests, ever decreasing nutrient values, and sometimes, in the case of organic farming, harmful buildup of certain elements in the manure and compost added. It’s not about organic versus non-organic products, Solomon explains, because many organic farms and gardens fail to remineralize their soil too, and so consumers get low nutrient food. As in high carb combined with, low protein, vitamins and minerals.

Hence the need to bring in minerals from sources downstream in the form of sea products, seaweed, and slow release mineral deposits that include trace minerals only lately recognized as essential to plant and human health. And hence the hope that humans can come to their senses about composting their own manure, urine and bodies instead of wasting all those accumulated minerals.

On the home gardening scale, this means mixing up a custom fertilizer with all essential plant nutrients, including trace minerals and enough nitrate nitrogen (originally derived from atmospheric nitrogen gas) to drive rapid plant growth. Compost is also important for opening up the soil, feeding plant flora and fauna that create good soil tilth, and moisture retention in sandy soils. But it’s not the be-all and end-all that gardeners have been led to believe. There’s even such a thing in some regions as too much compost, as I found out by ignoring Steve Solomon’s warnings that it could harbor seedling-eating pests.

I just mixed up Solomon’s latest version of Cascadian Complete Organic Fertilizer (COF), and yesterday I fed my broccoli seedlings with a dose of fish emulsion. They grew over a half inch overnight–that’s about 20%, at their size! I expect that once the COF is taken up by my other crops, I’ll see improvements in flavor, disease resistance, and nutritional value. I told my dentist today that this checkup would be the baseline and that he should see improvement. Hard to believe, but a person can grow leaf lettuce that’s 20% protein!


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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Beautiful Earth, How to, Writers & Books


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Urine, You’re on!

So cynical, perfectionist, always looking for what’s wrong with the way I and most other middle class folks live. The things we use, technologies on which we depend, kilometers we drive (or miles, for that minority backwards folk called the USA and UK–oops, I did it again), the expectations of the good life, ignoring for the most part people who can’t reach it no matter how hard they work.Except we have compassion if they live very, very far away. Such as in Africa. We give money to them thanks to Bono. Not to group all of “Africa” as if it’s homogeneous, full of Africans and mysterious hot diseases. There is also South Africa, which has white people (and took a long time to recover, too!). And Egypt–no way, is that a part of Africa?

Always I harp on problems. Isn’t it time to offer solutions? Yes, I like solutions, don’t you? Except you’re not going to like this, and neither do I. From what I can tell, we’ll be able to make huge strides toward solving the energy and water crises (to start somewhere) by all becoming anal. For example, every morning I get up, rinse my mouth guard, and take a pee. How can I make that a better process, I ask myself? Maybe I rinse the guard with rainwater and dump that in my watering can, and maybe instead of using a flush toilet I pee into sawdust (from the local wood shop, delivered for a tip by children pulling wagons), flip the handle and it drops down into the compost pile below, like one of those hatches in an airplane toilet except without the sucking sound. It’s nitrogen-rich, you see. But I mustn’t be taking antibiotics or eating anything with heavy metals in it. Someone once told me that was the reason we can’t use human waste as fertilizer, so we’d better make sure.

That’s the first five minutes. You see, there are so many little events in life where we can make a difference. But there are certain barriers to each one. The composting and reuse of urine as fertilizer, for example, has a psychological barrier in that most people think it’s gross, I mean grosser than it is necessary (the other gross things we do, we see as necessary, so they don’t bother us as long as they don’t show up in movies or books). But I’m sure we’ll change our minds eventually, when natural gas-derived and mined fertilizers become too expensive, so why not just switch over now based on practical logic, matter over mind? Do we really need to jet activists and government officials around to conferences, debate environmental bills, create educational campaigns, wait for the big plumbing corporations to retool so they can get in on the updates (“Wal-Mart sells pee pots for less”), before we do the right thing?

I for one don’t care if it’s gross–not any more, since I’ve been living with this idea and have got used to it. It’s way less gross than all the diapers I’ve had to deal with and than picking up dog poop, anyway. I’d be proud to work on setting up a waterless pee pot in my bathroom (though I’d want it outside in the summer). But I’m intimidated by my children and husband’s probable reaction, to tell you the truth. Shall I do it anyway, put my sawdust where my fertilizer is, and just update you on how it goes down at my house? I feel bold. I’ll do it. Back in a week. If you want to join me, here’s my plan (any refinements you can offer are welcome):


  1. Nail together or adapt a simple bench with hole, strongly constructed and nicely refinished with marine shellac (I have my tools out already from another project). Covered in front, open in back. Room for extra stores of sawdust. Stir stick?
  2. Install toilet seat on top. I’ll use the one from the not-yet hauled toilet in the back storage area. WIth a prop for seat-lifters.
  3. Put sawdust in bucket or tray below.

I’ll have to experiment with the right amount of sawdust and the dimensions of the apparatus to minimize splashing, of course, and for now I’ll do all the dumping and refilling.

Wish me luck!

Week 1 update


Posted by on December 11, 2013 in How to


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Today’s writing prompt: Take the title of someone else’s post, change a key word or two, and write a post to fit your new title.

This could probably be a serious and enriching writing activity, but it’s also a way of goofing around with the titles of posts you should probably read for your professional development or personal scholarship, but you don’t feel like it.

Original post title:

  • 3 Simple Ways to Start Using Smart Phones in the Classroom

Alternative titles:

  • 3 Simple Ways to Stop Using Smart Phones in the Classroom
  • 3 Complicated Ways to Start Using Smart Phones in the Classroom
  • 3 Simple Ways to Start Using Smart Moves in the Classroom
  • 3 Simple Ways to Start Using Smart Phones in the Bathroom
  • 3 Simple Ways to Start Using Imaginary Phones in the Classroom

Original post title:

  • A Survival Guide to Teaching with Technology

Alternative titles:

  • A Survival Guide to Teaching with Paint
  • A Survival Guide to Battling with Technology
  • A Survival Guide to Teaching without Technology
  • A Surrealist’s Guide to Teaching with Technology

Try it yourself–even the title-twisting itself can be fun, a humor break in your busy day online.

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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in How to, Ideas, Writing


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A new kind of personal training program

A new kind of personal training program

To keep fit and maintain my energy, I run a few miles as many days as I can. I was never much of a runner, never pushed myself to the point of the second wind, the rush of endorphins others report as being so addictive. But I’ve been inspired by others to push a bit harder, and I love the sense of growth that comes, as well as the satisfaction of consistency. In the summer I try to swim several times a week, and have discovered some fast twitch muscles I didn’t know I had. Makes me hope I might enjoy training for a triathlon in the next year or so, even though I’ve never enjoyed races (I prefer contests of strength and skill).

This last month I had to save my physical energy for a big floor refinishing project, and that, grueling a physical as it turned out to be, also brought additional strength and a sense of accomplishment. I hope that strength and endurance will transfer to swimming and running as I return to those forms of training. As, I am sure, and more properly so, the running and swimming gave me strength for useful labor.

But perhaps it’s time for some work in an area in which my habits have been slack, my motivation weak and easily quashed, and my metaphorical abs not supportive. This time, it won’t be mainly for myself. Yes, I mean, I am going into a training routine in homemaking.

The floor is done, the furnishings mostly back in place, and I am determined now, first of all, to prepare decent and regular meals. Not to say cook, since some of the best meals don’t require it. I’m starting with supper. We can coast at the other meals a while longer and have (whole grain) cereal, fruit, yoghurt and instant oatmeal for breakfast, and leftovers or self-prep sandwiches for lunch. Plus three of my children enjoy making waffles or pancakes occasionally, so we’re good there. A sit-down supper, on the other hand, we need, in order to to improve our protein and vegetable intake as well as reconnect and enjoy each other’s company. And review mealtime etiquette, I’ve already noticed. When possible, I’ll even try to make (or delegate) dessert. At least once a week, I’ll bake bread or something similar like I used to. All that requires planning, at least when the garden slows down and I have to rely on groceries more.

Second, I am determined to work harder to train and engage everyone in sharing household duties and responsibilities. On the fly at first, catching people at leaving dishes around, eating in their rooms, failing to put things away, leaving work for others. Nabbing helpers for meal prep, cleanup, fetch and carry, laundry and other necessary tasks.Then, back to attempting to organize specific responsibilities and keep everyone accountable. I will do my best to be encouraging but firm, appealing to the best in each family member.I regret to say that I was a poor household helper when I was young, but I think my parents should have taken me in hand on that account. I mightn’t have become such a housekeeping slacker and taken less time to adjust to my new life as a housewife. I hope I can do my children (and their future housemates) a service by this training and preparation.

Third, and here’s where I’ll need all the inspirational literature and motivational RSS feeds I can get, I will try to keep the house clean and orderly, even if others don’t care or aren’t willing or able to pitch in. Which is occasionally the case, you may be surprised to know. I have found that my mood and creativity are negatively impacted when things are in disarray. Since it looks like I will have the most time this season, and because I care about order and beauty, I’ll have to take responsibility for those in the main. In some ways I’m looking forward to that, as it means a few sewing, painting and furniture refinishing projects. At least projects, unlike general housecleaning, stay done. And part of this work will involve selling or giving away stuff we don’t need any more, which is liberating.

Finally, I will try to be more of a “yes” mom whenever I can. Mom, can we go shopping? Mom, will you help me make this? Mom, will you look over my essay? Can I play a computer game? Can we do something special? I’ll even try to surprise the children and my husband more often with something they enjoy or appreciate–a treat, a special time, an outing, a gift.

You see, it’s new year’s resolution time for me, which, I just realized, is appropriate. The Jewish new year is coming up (Sept 5-6, sunset to sunset). I’m not Jewish, but I do think fall is a better time for the new year to begin. I’ve always felt a new energy then. So l’Shanah Tovah, Good Year, to you.


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How to wash plastic bags

How to wash plastic bags

I’ve washed used plastic bags for years, but I’m finally coming out publicly with it. Here’s how to do it without creating a greasy mess and getting bags dry in and out before they start to stink:

  1. Set some nice taper candles in holders near your sink on a surface that can take drips. They’ll look nice when you aren’t using them for…you’ll see what later.
  2. Don’t put plastic bags in dish water, or they’ll attract dirty grease and be hard to get clean. Putting the bags in water will also get them unnecessarily wet on their clean-enough outsides. Just set them by the sink until you’re ready to wash them.
  3. Turn your bag inside out on one hand, poking out the corners with fingers.
  4. Use a soapy cloth or soap-filled wand (my favorite method) and wipe all over, then rinse.
  5. Set each bag over a candle to dry for a few hours, turn right side out, and dry again of that side got wet. They away they go into your drawer or recycling bin!
I think these look prettier than bag drying racks.

I think these look prettier than bag drying racks.

Zip bags are especially easy to wash–I reuse them over and over, and have never had a problem with germs. I’ve recently begun washing all plastic bag food packaging for recycling. I have a spot for them in my recycling nook.

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Posted by on April 29, 2013 in How to