KD8ITX My Life, My Hobbies – All about Polyphasic sleep, Aquaponics, Ham Radio, Technology and more.

March 17, 2011

Made a snow popsicle

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

As I was bringing in another snowdrift down to the basement for my Aquaponics (Winter water collection system/), I had this idea, more of piece of inspired genius really.  The snow looked so good, so white, and so refreshing, as I was munching on a bit of it, I though, man this would be good with some maple syrup on it!

I was right, it was good.  We used to go to a festival every year out by Warren, PA and they had the best shaved ice I have ever had anywhere, I am not a fan of snow cones for the most part, but those were always so good.  This snow Popsicle was ever bit as good, and I would dare say it was a bit better just because it didn’t have fake flavors in it, the ingredient list consisted of #1 Snow, #2 Real Maple Syrup, #3 A spoon to attach it to.  Once I made the snowball around the spoon, I just drizzled some syrup around it, and it got sucked right into the snowball.  When I ate it, it had maple syrup taste throughout the entire ball.

I know this isn’t a totally original idea, probably been done for millenniums, I just hadn’t really thought about it until today, and its unfortunate too, because I am betting this was our last real snowfall of the year.  However, you can bet one of the first things I do next year when the snow starts falling will be to make another snow Popsicle.

Oh, and by the way, if you couldn’t tell, the dogs really REALLY thought my snow Popsicle looked delicious, if you look close at Ella (The pup on my shoulder), you will see her tongue is already out and in licking position!

March 10, 2011

Book review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Filed under: Misc — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:00 am

The omnivores dilemma is a very thought provoking book, it doesn’t contain any sensationalized yelling about how everything (and everybody) is wrong. The author doesn’t even really try and sway you to his beliefs about what we should and should not eat, he does not promote a specific diet over another, he lets his research and pure facts speak for him (There are 19 pages of just his sources for his facts).

I think the best way to into what the book is about is to present a paragraph from the back of the book:

Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? … The Omnivore’s Dilemma is changing the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

I personally don’t understand the diet fads that come about every year, one year you find out you are not supposed to eat lots of meat, the next year you find out breads are going to kill us all. All told Americans spend about $250 billion per year in diet related health costs. However (and this is my opinion), diets are simple, I don’t care how scientific or complicated or simple a diet is, it comes down to one simple equation calories consumed vs calories expended. If you consume more calories than you expend, you are going to gain weight, if you consume less, you will lose weight. The next factor to consider is your health, out of the calories you consume, how many of them are healthy? Don’t reach for the diet book you carry with you to see what is healthy. Just answer a simple question, would I recognize this food in its natural environment, or, can I pronounce the ingredients? If you can say yes to both, its probably a healthy food (and thus a non or barely processed food).

So then, if the answer as to what is healthy for us is such a simple question, why then is that not what we are eating? Marketing, because of the current growth rate of the US population, if people continue to eat exactly as they have in the past, then any companies providing food should expect about 2% growth per year, and for most business plans that is unacceptable.

An example from the book of a company trying to beat the growth curb was General Mills. General Mills started out as a simple grain mill, they quickly found out there was no real money to be made in raw materials like whole wheat flour since anyone could make that, so they turned to making enriched flour, and bleached flour, etc. In time they also found that market was to close to the raw materials to make any real money, so they turned instead to making more and more processed materials and cereals. General Mills found that dealing in raw or barely processed foods was a losers game from a marketing standpoint.

It is because of this that processed foods are marketed so heavily towards us as consumers, it is hard to differentiate between two companies selling lettuce (other than the quality of the lettuce), but when something is highly processed and sold in a box, they can market their idea’s and pretty design over the actual nutritional value of the food.

In the Omnivore’s Dilemma, the author follows four meals that represent the four main ways food gets to our table and he explains the health, financial, and political components that are associated at all the levels from the farmers growing the corn used to make high fructose corn syrup and ethanol, to the feedlots mass growing sickly cattle, to the small organic farm that can barely keep in business, not because they can’t compete in the market, but because they don’t fit the government models for business that were legislated by politicians being influenced by large industrial corporations.

In high school when we used to have to give book reports, one of the components of a book report was we had to tell who we would recommend the book to, so as not to break what must be good form in a book report/review.

I would recommend this book to anyone who eats food.

January 24, 2011

KD8ITX blog 1 year old today!

Filed under: Misc — Marcus @ 2:00 am

In some ways it seems like I have been writing for the blog here for years, but in other ways its hard to believe its already been a year of having the site up and going.  When I read over what I did this last year, sometimes I wonder if somehow I have split personalities that can each be working at the same time to get things done, as I really don’t see how I did everything I did this last year.  My first real blog post here, I made mention that I didn’t really have time to start up a site, but that I was going to anyways, I know I wasn’t sitting around bored before this site, but somehow I was able to carve out the time needed to run this over the last year.

I am very happy with the growth of my blog, the first few months of it being up I showed about 250 people per month that were visiting, however I would guess at least half that traffic was me working on the site.  I ended the year with over 1300 people to the site in December.

Having this blog has really pushed me to keep getting out and doing things that I can get blog articles out of, it also pushes me to work on my photography skills and to keep taking pictures in hope of finding things to put up for my picture of the week posts each Monday.  Something that may not be that apparent to the readers of this blog is how much time it takes to maintain it, most blogs are just people rehashing news from other places or people giving their opinions on things, etc.  On the site here, I try very hard to only publish original content, if I write an article about how to make Sumac tea, then that means I did the research and went out and actually made it, took pictures, and then wrote up an article.  Most articles take me between 1-3 hours to write after I have done whatever activity it was that I wanted to write about.

However, don’t take that as me complaining about how much time I spend on the blog here, it is quite the opposite.  I really enjoy getting to do and try different things, and without having something constantly pushing me, I am sure I would not have gotten around to doing as much as I did this last year.

In looking back over the last year, I thought I would share some of my favorite articles I have published:

  • Primitive camping in the Allegany – I love sharing information about wilderness survival, and my minimalist trip out the the Allegany National Forest is exactly the type of thing I would like to do more of and share on the blog here.  Even though I was sick and trying to outrun the rain, I got so many great pictures and some experience you can’t get out of a book.
  • Kayaking exploring geocaching nice way to start the day – Besides the fact I love getting out on my kayak, I love this article because of all the pictures I took on my own using my camera on a timer and a tripod.  I have come to find out that I love doing photography, and I love getting myself into pictures in the middle of nowhere using the tripod I always carry with me.
  • Homeade sumac tea – I have more work in this article and my article about making acorn flour than anything else on the site.  This is an example of where I did quite a bit of research and actually made a couple batches to get things right before publishing my article.  I hope to publish many more in depth articles on topics that I don’t find covered well on the internet already.

Though this last year was busy, I am willing to bet this next year will be even more busy.  I have a few goals for this year that should yield some nice content for the site.  Anyone that knows me well will know that I don’t do new years resolutions, these are not new years resolutions, most of them I have already been doing the background work on the last few months, but I intend to get them going in 2011:

  • I am intending to run the Cleveland marathon, depending on how it goes and my available time, I may also try and run a second marathon in the fall.  It is my intention to run the marathon in 4 hours even or just under.  Official training for it started the second week of January, but I have been running steady since the beginning of October getting into shape for it.
  • I am hoping to buy a new, much nicer camera this spring.  I have been getting good pictures with my current camera (a $100 Kodac EasyShare C160), but I have really gone to the limits of this camera, and I am hoping to continue refining my photography, I have also been thinking about trying to enter some of my photo’s into some local art shows.  I am hoping to get an Olympus DSLR digital camera, it is not really the professional line (as I can’t afford them), but it should really give me a lot more capabilities.
  • I would like to expand my Aquaponic system, I have a new, much larger system planned to put in my office, the biggest reason I haven’t done it yet is that it is going to be quite expensive, but I am hoping to build it a chunk at a time over this next year.
  • I have started a new meetup.com group for getting local people together to go to the different parks in the area and teach wild edibles and wilderness survival.  This will most likely be one of the bigger things I get going this year and I am really looking forward to it.  I will be posting more details about this group in the near future.
  • I really want to focus more this year on getting out into the woods and practicing my different survival skills, I am hoping the meetup.com group I started will really push me to expand and refine my skills

So here is to the next year, I look forward to what my summary of 2011 will look like, the only thing that is for sure is that it probably won’t go the way I have planned it, but from past experience, it will turn out better!

December 19, 2010

Bonus Post: TimeScapes Video

Filed under: Misc — Marcus @ 11:06 am

I saw this video the other day on one of my travels through the web, I was going to email it to a couple people I thought might like it, but decided to post it here since it was so good (And the people that I was going to email it to are regular readers here anyways!).

The person that put this video together is truly skilled, I would love to learn the techniques they used to create the video!

Also a note, you might want to try watching this video in fullscreen, you can click the button that looks like 4 arrows pointing out (to the left of where it says “vimeo”).

TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

November 25, 2010

Going almost barefoot (Using Vibram Fivefingers)

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

I keep coming across references online to people who are starting to run barefoot or nearly so, normally this would hardly register on my radar, but one of the blogs I read from time to time did a really good article on starting to run using Vibram Fivefingers (http://zenhabits.net/barefoot-running/).  After reading the article at ZenHabits I started doing some more research on these to see if it was mostly just hype, or if there could be something to running barefoot.

One of the most consistent benefits people mention when they talk about barefoot running is that it will strengthen the muscles in your foot and calf, which in turn should help with your overall posture which will lead to less back problems, etc.  Great!  One of my main goals for this last year was to strengthen my core muscles and work on getting my back more healthy since I have had back issues since I was a teenager.

The more I read about the Vibram Fivefingers, the more I wanted to give them a try, I was a bit worried that they were mostly just hype and that I would end up just wasting $100 on shoes I wouldn’t ever want to wear, but I decided to give them a try.  I found a local store about half an hour from here that sells them so I decided to go down and at least try a pair on and get sized for them (the sizes are more precise than normal shoes). I don’t know that I would say it was love at first sight, but after trying them on and walking around with them, I decided to go ahead and get them, about $100 later I walked out the store with a new pair of Vibram Fivefingers TrekSport.

From my research I knew that I should expect about 2 weeks of my feet hurting pretty bad since they would be adjusting to doing more work than they were used to.  I had hoped that somehow I would get to be spared the pain from adjusting, but I wasn’t.  The two main things that hurt for the first couple weeks were:

  1. My little toe ached in the bone at the joint, my little toe has always curled just a bit under the next one, and the Vibram Fivefingers forced it to be separate.
  2. The balls of my feet and toes ached a bit because they were not used to flexing so much, in normal shoes your toes don’t flex as much when you walk as they will in the Vibram Fivefingers.

My little toe aching was the worst, the second I would put my shoe on it hurt pretty bad, but I mostly tried to ignore it and know that it was probably temporary (thought it felt like it would never end).  However just like everyone said, by the end of the second week I was mostly adjusted to the new shoes.  I made a point of wearing them everywhere I went so that my feet would adjust quickly, I also wanted to see how they did on different surfaces.

I have now been wearing the Vibram Fivefingers for about 2 months, I wear them to work everyday, I have worn them running, hiking, kayaking, and wading in the water.  It is hard to describe how connected you feel to the ground beneath you.  My balance and sure-footed-ness (Made up word, just go with it!) are much better than they have ever been.  The first time I used them to walk in the Chagrin River it was incredible, I have always been very unsure of my step in the water as totally barefoot, I am a wimp, and with regular shoes or sandals I slip off rocks, stub my toes on boulders, etc.  However the first time I walked into the river with my Vibram Fivefingers I felt as sure footed as I am on land.

I took a fairly long hike out through the woods a few weeks ago in them, and once again, it was incredible how much contact I had with the ground I was hiking over.  The only issue I had while traversing through the woods (no trails, just hiking) was I kept getting ferns stuck between my toes, I wasn’t expecting that one!  After a couple months of wearing these almost exclusively I would have a hard time going back to regular shoes, I actually just got my second pair of Vibrams (A pair of red KSO’s) so that I can use one pair for running and one pair for work.

** This is part 1 of a 3 part series I am going to write about my experience with the Vibram Fivefingers, you can look for an article on running in them and a FAQ article over the next few weeks.

November 11, 2010

Fixed my furnace (Quatro TrueBlue 90)

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

If you are coming here because you have this same furnace and can’t find a part for it, please leave a comment on this article with the part you are looking for, I found most of them online and can send you links to where I found them, I was looking mostly at the sensors and electronic parts and almost all of them are standard Honeywell parts.

So we got a bit of a surprise when we turned our furnace on this year, it came on a couple times, then one morning it seemed kind of cold, I checked the thermostat and it was about 64 degrees in the house and the furnace should have kicked on at 68 degrees, not good!

So I go through some basic troubleshooting, turned the furnace off and on, checked the breaker, made sure the AC could come on etc.  I ended up noticing the controller for the furnace was blinking an error code, time to call the furnace repair place I guess.  Of course this breaks quite the streak for us, this was the first time we have had to have a repair person to our house to fix something since we bought it 5 years ago, everything that has broken so far I have been able to fix.

So a couple days later the repair man shows up and as luck would have it, the furnace was working just fine that day, he seemed to think it was a clogged up filter causing it, I shrugged my shoulders and said I would replace it.  Two days later, furnace stops working again, called the repair place out and luckily this time it wasn’t working when they got here, I wasn’t at the house so I don’t know what they did, but it was working when they left.  They told Meagan that if it still wasn’t working we would probably have to replace the controller.

So guess what, couple more days and it stops working yet again, gah!  I call the repair place one more time and they tell me they will research the prices and call back that afternoon.  In the mean time I had been looking on the internet to try and figure some of it out myself, I didn’t want to mess with it too much because I have no experience with gas products and didn’t want to blow the house up or something.  In my research I came to find out the company that made my furnace has been out of business for several years and that nobody carries parts anymore for this furnace.

A couple days later the repair place calls me to tell me none of their suppliers have even heard of this name brand and that they probably can’t get parts for it, they ask me if I can find out who installed the furnace so that they can try a different way of tracking it down, of course I have no idea who installed it and no way of finding out.  So now I am at a bit of an impasse, as per the repair place it is looking more and more like I am going to have to get a brand new furnace because of a $200 part they can’t find.

Anyone that knows me very well will know what came next, the furnace is essentially done for, nothing for me to break at the point, so I started tearing it apart and researching everything I could find, in about a half an hour I found our that #1 all the controls on my furnace are made by a company by the name of honeywell and they are still in business (and a pretty standard brand) and #2 this particular part (the controller) was used in another brand of furnace that they still make, so I could get the part.

A few minutes more of research and I found one used on eBay, I was able to buy it for $35.  A few days later the new part came in and it took me about 45 minutes to switch them out, I flicked the switch and the furnace roared to life!  I was excited, I didn’t have to pay any more money to the repair place, and I wouldn’t have to “somehow” come up with $2,000 or more to replace a mostly working furnace.

Of course, as is probably becoming apparent by now, it wasn’t actually fixed yet, worked for a couple days, then the same error code blinking again.  I was annoyed, but I had spent enough time researching that I was pretty confident that I could fix it, I had cross referenced and been able to find almost every control part on the furnace, so it was just down to determining which part was bad.

I took a ton of high resolution pictures to send to my good friend Paul (He works in maintenance for a local grocery chain in PA and NY) and I would trust his opinion way more than the “trained” guys they sent out.  He told me how to check the different sensors, I checked them once while the furnace was working then I just had to wait till it stopped working test again and compare the results.

While going through the pictures again I found that one of the air lines to test air pressure was half full of water, I drained that, turned the furnace back on and it worked, twice when the furnace wasn’t working I found that that line was full of water and draining it would immediately “fix” the furnace.

Great we know the cause, now to find the solution, there had to be a reason for the water to back up into there.  So this last weekend Paul was out for a visit and we spent some time looking at it and found the drain lines were totally and completely plugged up, he could barely blow through them!  I spent some time with a dowel and hot water getting everything cleaned out, and that seems to have fixed it.

There is a real takeaway from this story, had I just blindly followed what the “experts” that came out to my house had told me, I would currently be at least $2,000 further in debt.  However, instead I took the time to try and work out the issue and in the end I spent about $125 to fix it (Of course looking back I could have fixed it with a 50 cent dowel!).  I know I am most likely better than average at troubleshooting than the average Joe, but for two thousand dollars, I think most people should be willing to spend some time trying to work out the problem.

The writer of one of the financial blogs I read every day (Get Rich Slowly) has a quote that is so true “Nobody cares more about your money than you do”.  I for one am glad to have my furnace working now, and if it breaks again, you can bet I will take a stab at troubleshooting it before calling in another “expert”.

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!

August 13, 2010

Wild edibles talk on Monday

Filed under: Misc — Tags: — Marcus @ 8:30 am

I wanted to put up a quick post to let people know that I will be giving a talk for the Chagrin River Canoe & Kayak Club on Monday at 7pm. If you are interested in hearing it please let me know and feel free to join us, after the meeting the group will be going out for their regular paddle.

My presentation will be on identifying some very common wild edibles and their uses in the Ohio region. I am going to try to bring at least a couple kinds of wild edibles for people to try.

The address for the Livery is: 201 Erie Road, Eastlake OH, 44095.

July 4, 2010

I’m Back!

Filed under: Misc — Tags: , , , , , , — Marcus @ 5:31 am

So, it has been a very long time since my last post, and no, I haven’t forgotten about my blog.  The last month has been a bit crazy around here; this is just a few of the highlights from the last month:

  • Meagan was in the hospital for a couple days do to being extremely anemic, this was a pretty scary time, and she has been very busy going back and forth to doctors over the last month since she got out of the hospital to try and fix the issue she had so she doesn’t end up back in the hospital again.
  • We paid off the last of our credit card debt!  We have been working to pay off some old debt for some time now and we just mailed in the final payment on our credit cards.  From now on its all cash (or debit card) for us.  Actually we have not used credit cards for a couple years now; we have just been working to pay them all off.
  • I am still running, and I have broken my running record several times, my current best time for running 3 miles is 25:31.  My ultimate goal is 24:00 which will be 8 minute miles, it feels like I will never get there, but at the same time, I have been shaving off some pretty substantial time lately.
  • We have planted tomatoes in our back yard, we are quite late getting them planted, but we are most years and it doesn’t seem to matter much.  We are very much looking forward to having some fresh home grown tomatoes.
  • I have been reading the book “Getting Things Done” and working to integrate the ideas in the book into my every day life.  Basically the book is written for “Knowledge Workers” that is someone that spends their day doing mental work and not really physical work.  The book focuses on how to organize your tasks and projects at work as well as at home.  I have been putting some of the recommendations into practice and they seem to be very helpful so far.
  • I participated in the Ham Radio field day competition, I spent the weekend back at my parents farm making contacts along with KC2TOO, we had a great time, the weather turned out great, and I can’t wait for the next competition.
  • I have started building a robot, I am calling it an “autonomous dog toy”.  I will be posting more about it soon on the blog here.

So that is a quick snapshot of the last month.  It’s been crazy busy, but I am hoping to get back to my regular posting schedule this month, I really enjoy writing for the blog and watching the traffic grow to the site here.  I have a bunch of fun articles planned that I just need to put the finishing touches on before I can publish them here.

May 26, 2010

Indians VS White Sox Game

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

Monday I had the opportunity to go to an Indian’s game with a bunch of people from work, initially I turned down the offer as I am not much in the way of a sports fan.  I have played baseball and basketball and enjoyed playing them, but watching other people get paid massive amounts of money to play has just never done anything for me.

However I was very glad I took them up on the offer this time around.  It turned out we had tickets to sit in the owners box (The suite that you can’t even buy tickets for!), we were right behind home plate and had the best seats in the stadium.

I ended up getting to the stadium about 45 minutes before anyone else because my coworkers told me when they were heading down, but they forgot to mention they were going to a local bar before the game.  However that just meant that I got to hang around the suite by myself for awhile, oh and I got to chat with the president of the Indians for about 20 minutes which was a lot of fun.

The weather could not have been better, so all around an enjoyable evening.  The only thing that would have been better is if the Indian’s would have won.  But unless you are there for a championship game or something, winning or losing doesn’t matter as much as having an enjoyable evening out and about.

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