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October 31, 2010

Knitting vs. Zombies

Filed under: Humor,Misc — Tags: , , — Meagan @ 2:00 am

This is a guest post from my wife Meagan, I hope to have her start contributing articles from time to time on some of the awesome meals we make and also on some of the projects she works on.  Enjoy!

I am a member of the Harry Potter Knitting/Crocheting House Cup (HPKCHC) group on Ravelry, an online knitting and crocheting community. As part of HPKCHC, you are Sorted into a House (I’m in Gryffindor) where you are challenged to complete various class assignments to gain points for your House. Classes might include Herbology, Charms, Flying, Arithmancy, Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, etc.

One of the most fun parts of this group is that it really challenges to push yourself and your knitting abilities, and also that you can fit nearly any project into any class with a little creativity and of course, a hefty amount of BS. 😉

One class this month was Defense Against the Dark Arts, or DADA. The assignment for that class was “Craft an object that somehow wards off a haunting by the undead.” Of all the many undead candidates, I choose the most obvious threat to everyday life: Zombies.

Here is my completed assignment:

In preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse, I decided to make use of a little-known fact about Zombies: spirals confuse them and make them dizzy! Therefore I decided to make this scarf since its spiraling ringlets are both zombie-repelling and fashionable:

Here is a picture showing me brandishing my scarf at zombies, which will make them very dizzy and confuse them long enough for me to make a hasty escape.

Thanks for reading my guest entry and may your Hallowe’en be both cavity-free and Zombie-free!

October 27, 2010

Sprint Mobile Wallet now released!

Filed under: Programming — Tags: — Marcus @ 10:01 pm

I normally don’t mention specific projects I am on at work as I never want to accidentally let information slip that was not ready to be publicly released, but I wanted to do a quick post on this one, seeing that it is hitting all the major tech news sources a small post of mine shouldn’t matter.

I work on the mobile phone development team at work, and for about the last month I have been working on a project with Sprint to develop a “Wallet” that can be used to make purchases through your cell phone.  If you are familiar with the iPhone in phone purchases its the same basic thing.  Mobile users can setup payment types like credit card or an Amazon account, etc and then when they want to buy something from their phone they only have to enter a pin to complete the transaction.

Yesterday evening the CEO of Sprint announced the wallet I helped develop during his keynote speech at the Sprint Developers Conference.  It is really cool to see a project that I had a hand in get announced so publicly.  As a programmer it is very common to have years of work running on something that nobody has ever heard of or really cares about.  People for the most part have no idea how many thousands of hours of programming go into almost every component of their daily lives.

I have gotten the privilege several times to have products I have worked on get pretty wide attention, the difference on this release is that I am one of the lead developers for the product, and will have a large roll in continuing to work with Sprint to develop ongoing features for a product they will end up building in as a core component of there mobile phones.

If you want to see a couple articles I turned up with a quick search on Google news you can read the following:



October 25, 2010

Picture of the week (Wild Aster and Goldenrod)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week — Tags: , , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

During a recent trip back home I got to take a couple hours to go back to the cabin at my parents farm and spend some time walking around on the paths through the fields. It was about as perfect of a time as I could dream of, it was cool enough to wear a flannel shirt, the majority of the leaves had already turned, basically a perfect fall day.

I forgot my regular camera, but I got some really nice pictures of some asters with my iPhone. I hope you enjoy this picture and make time to get outside yourself. This is one of my favorite times of the year to be outside.

October 21, 2010

My pointy eared camping buddy

Filed under: Dogs,Outdoors — Tags: , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

So the last couple times I have gone camping down at my parents farm Madison has come along, I think I may have started a bad thing!  Our puppies never get to be off leash outdoors, its been a hard fast rule for as long as we have had dogs.  However back at the farm we have decided to let them have time off leash as long as someone is keeping an eye on them, back there you are a quite a long ways from the road or any other real hazard to them.

So how do the dogs react to their new found freedom?  They never stop running, Madison can run for three days straight, I swear I can see her grinning from ear to ear back there.  Then when its time for bed she settled right down in the tent and was good up until about 5am (Which is about when I normally get up anyways).  I hope you enjoy the couple short clips and a lighter article today!

October 18, 2010

Picture of the week (Fall maple leaves)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week — Marcus @ 2:00 am

This picture basically took its self, I spent the better part of the weekend at my mother-in-laws.  The whole time we were there I kept commenting on how awesome the one maple in her yard was, I made sure to go out and get a few pictures before we headed out.

If you haven’t made it out to see the fall colors, make sure to take some time to do so, in our area they leaves are just about done, don’t miss it!  You will be missing the leaves when we have mud and gray until almost January when the whole world turns white with snow.

October 14, 2010

Made acorn flour for the first time

Filed under: Food — Tags: , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

Ever since I found out acorns are actually edible and not poisonous like I had heard in the past I have wanted to try my hand at it. Over the past week I have gotten that chance. If you have ever cracked open an acorn and tasted it, you would immediately spit it back out because it is extremely bitter, I am sure this bitterness is why most people think that acorns are at worst poisonous and at best inedible.

The bitterness in acorns comes from Tannins that are in the acorns, tannin is a water soluble chemical that is used to tan leather (the process of tanning leather got its name from the Tannins used). Since tannin is water soluble, by simply boiling the water you can leech out the bitterness turning the acorn into a usable form.

For the most part, the methods I used to make my flour were very similar to how it would have been done in the past all the way back to the Indians and before. It will also give you a whole new appreciation to being about to just stop by the nearest supermarket and pickup a bag of flour. It was really hard work making this from scratch.

In going through this process I don’t see how it was a worthwhile process from a survival standpoint, I can’t imagine that you could get more energy out of the foods made with acorn flour than the energy put into making it. However as I have told a couple of people, if you think of it more as something to do to pass the time rather than a project that needs finished then it makes more sense.

Two of the hardest processes that are part of making acorn flour are cracking the acorns and then grinding them with a mortar and pestle. Both of those took quite awhile and a fair amount of energy, but are things that could have been done while chatting around a campfire in ancient times, or if you are doing it at home, you could easily do it while watching TV or something similar.

However, even with all the hours it took to produce a small amount of actual acorn flour, I expect you will find me anxiously awaiting the acorns to fall next year so I can try my hand at it again. I guess you can’t really expect all your wild edibles to be as easy as eating Lambs Quarters right from your backyard.

If you are interested in more of the process of turning the acorns into flour (along with many more pictures) please check out the page I made on making acorn flour. I also added a recipe in the food section of the site for the acorn bread I made.

October 11, 2010

Picture of the week (Salamander)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:00 am

While I was helping to setup for my friends Paul & Jess’ wedding I happened across this little guy, could help but to stop and take a couple pictures of him just sitting there sunning himself. Not much else to say about the picture except, enjoy, and don’t skip out on a chance to just lay around in the sun if given the chance as this little salamander is so aptly demonstrating.

October 8, 2010

Wild edibles talk

Filed under: Food,Outdoors — Tags: , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

Hopefully late is better than never for this post…

A couple months ago I was asked to give a presentation to the local kayak club on the Survivalism stuff that I do.  After some thought I decided to do it and picked wild edibles as the subject of the presentation.

I was not sure how well it would go since I have never done a presentation like that before and I knew that any time I took doing the presentation was time taken out of everyone’s time on the water paddling.  With that in mind, I tried to keep my presentation short and engaging, I brought plenty of examples and samples to try.

I couldn’t be happier with how the presentation went, everyone seemed very interested and asked plenty of questions, many people tried some of the edible greens I passed around (Lambs quarters) and everyone tried some of the Sumac tea I made.  Afterwords quite a few people told me how much they enjoyed the presentation and I also heard from the club president that she had gotten many positive comments.

I made up a single page handout that had 4 different wild edibles many people can find in their yard or around their house, if you would like to see a copy of the handout I made you can click the image below to download it (You need Adobe Reader to view it).

Based off from how that went, I would be open to do some more presentations like that, and I let them know I would be more than happy to present again if they wanted me to.

October 5, 2010

Ich, my fish are still dying!

Filed under: Aquaponics — Tags: , , , , , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

Nothing puts a damper on the excitement of a new upgrade in the Aquaponics quite like coming home to a dead fish, then another, then another, etc.  It was depressing watching my last batch of fish die off, then to find out I am losing about 2 a day still, it really makes you question if its worth trying to raise fish.  But alas, I am not giving up!  Time to learn from my mistakes yet again and move forward a more educated aquaculture’ist.

So while working through my current fish problems here are the things I thought were causing them to die (In the order I thought of them)

  1. PH – The PH of the water in my system is about 8.0, this is the highest the PH can safely be from my understanding for my plants and the goldfish
  2. Water Issues – I use city water in my system, I have long been worried about the possibility of the city adding Chloramine to the water we get, many cities use Chloramine instead of Chlorine, and without putting in another chemical to neutralize it it will build up in my system until it eventually kills off my fish.
  3. Media Issues – My grow beds use rock that I get from Lowes to grow the plants in, it is possible for the rock to have chemicals or metals that would dissolve in the water that could endanger the fish, it is a bit of a remote chance, but one I have worried about before.
  4. Weak Fish – I know that the fish from the pet stores are not the greatest quality, especially the feeder fish I buy, I thought maybe some of them were on the verge of dying anyways, however with the amount I lost, that didn’t seem plausible.
  5. PH – I circled back to PH being the culprit, I thought that maybe my old batch of fish had gotten used to it, but that it was too much difference from what the pet store had and shocked the fish to badly.

In the end, Meagan commented on the fact that one of the fish had all but lost its tail and wasn’t swimming very good, I dismissed that as it being sick and the other fish attacking it and didn’t think much about it for a few days.  Then all of a sudden it hit me, I had made a rookie mistake, Meagan had been dead on, we were dealing with a common fish disease called Fin Rot (http://www.fishdeals.com/fish_diseases/fin_rot/), I started looking at the fish and couldn’t believe I had missed that, also within a couple hours of studying the fish swimming around and some research I also realized some of the fish had another disease called Ich (http://www.fishdeals.com/fish_diseases/ich/).

It was pretty obvious once I realized I was dealing with these two diseases what was going on, also, since I had only had the fish for about a week I was certain they had brought these illnesses from the pet store.  So now that I had my answer on what was happening, now it was time to come up with a game plan on how to fix it.  In a normal aquarium they have medication that you can add in for each of these that will solve the issue pretty quickly, but in an Aquaponic system its a little bit more complicated because anything I add to the system will eventually be absorbed by the plants and eaten by us, so the result of this is that you really cannot put medicine into the Aquaponic system.  The general fix-all in an Aquaponic system is to add salt, most diseases can be fought off with the addition of salt, I immediately salted the system.

Once I salted the system, the fish that had not been affected now had a way to fight off the illness, however the ones that were already sick still were dying off.  I started building what is called a “Quarantine Tank”, basically a tank that is separate from my main system where I can have a higher salt concentrations (plants can’t tolerate as high of a salt content as the fish can) and can also add in any medication I want without having to worry about it making it into the plants we will be eating.  However, before I could get the tank ready I lost the rest of the fish that were exhibiting the symptoms of Ich and Tail Rot, so the quarantine tank was a bit of a moot point for this round of fish.

At this point I still have 9 out of the 24 feeder goldfish and I have the two fancy goldfish I started with.  I also now understand much more the reasoning behind always quarantining any new fish that come in.  I have read so many times that you should always quarantine any new fish, I didn’t do that because I didn’t have any fish in my system as it was, so I wasn’t worried about the new ones infecting the existing ones.  However I failed to realize that by adding them directly to my system I was introducing diseases to my main system that I now have to work to eliminate, and I also was very limited in my options on how to cure the fish once they started getting sick.

In the end, I have now learned how to recognize Ich and Tail rot, I also now have a quarantine tank mostly setup (I will be finishing it over the next couple weeks), I purchased a Refractometer to test salt levels in my tank and I setup a rain barrel to solve the water issues I thought I might be having (I will be publishing an article about my rainwater collection system soon).

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