Archive for think about it

Review: Spirulina & Chlorella Superfoods

After  contemplating for a long time, I finally decided to buy some bulk spirulina and chlorella.  They are superfoods.  My understanding of a superfood is a food that is dense in nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, but in general it is a loosely used term gaining steam in marketing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw Superfood Cheetos.

Spirulina and chlorella also contain a near uniform distribution of carbohydrate, fat, and protein, which I thought was pretty neat.  They are both very small algae (less than 10 microns).  This means it’s a powder, much like flour, but it isn’t modified like ground flour.  Due to the low amount of processing necessary and the quick reproduction cycle, these foods are very sustainable.  If you feel inclined, a simple search will allow you to find more benefits reported about these algae.  However . . .

I don’t recommend these superfoods, based on my experience.


This algae is a cyanobacteria.  The science of cyanobacteria is very neat.  However, in my experience bacterias smell very similar to feces.  Call me Protestant, but I am not excited about acquiring that taste.


Chlorella is a phylum (plant), and it smells like grass.  Acquiring the taste of grass seemed much more reasonable, for the benefits of the superfoods.  However, like others, I slowly developed a chemical sensitivity to chlorella.  What this means is that in two weeks the effect of it started as a headache progressed into satiation then a stomach ache and finally full on food poisoning.

Future Plans

I’m sticking with Michael Pollan’s advice: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.


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The Upside Down Airplane Flight

As with most nerds that are connected to the internet, I read xkcd regularly. Ever since this comic posted, I’ve had a nagging sense to figure out the answer.

After reading Stick and Rudder, I figured it out.  Basically, once you turn the plane upside down you need to hold the yoke forward (like a dive*) to overcome both the weight of the plane as well as the (negative) lift of the wing.

*Actually, to dive in a plane you need throttle back.  Holding the yoke down will actually make you temporarily dive then you will speed up and come to a level flight, if you hold the yoke constantly forward.

I’ve always had a natural interest in flight.  If you have too and you like theoretical mechanics, I recommend reading the book.  There are a lot of things that go against common sense in flight.

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Life Without a Television

I’m now living for the first time without a television*.  I’ve always been anti-television, for myself personally.  The main reason is that I don’t have the attention span and interest for it.

*Technically, there is a television that we use for watching DVDs, but there isn’t any reception — cable or even an antenna for local broadcasts.

However, I’ve always had roommates that like television.  So while most of the time I live without the television, I have also watched it on rare occurrences (like once or twice a month) when I am brain dead or feel like watching a sports game.

I’m noticing that not having the comfort of television is a significant difference.  There’s less background noise (both audio and visual) that either needs to remain silent or requires an increased amount of conversation. It also requires finding new mind-numbing idleness or totally eliminating them.

Another alternative is to find more outside the house events, and possibly spend “the cable bill” on alternative entertainment.

I wrote this after reading Seth Godin’s post today.

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Worm Harvesting Optimization

I get one of those “the most fun things in life are free” type of euphoric buzzes whenever I’m working in or talking about my worm farm: “I GOT WORMS!”

For a brief background, I built a container to house red wiggler worms.  The worms eat my table scraps and turn it into soil.  Here’s my post on building the structure.

The concept that these worms are turning waste (which half of it is rotting or covered in mold by the time it gets to the worm bin) into lush soil, completely free of smells other than “morning fresh dirt” is simply amazing to me.

To note, the worm bin can take on a nasty, pungent rotting smell from time to time.  This is simply user error, as the eco-system is out of a nitrogen / carbon balance.  To fix this odor, add torn up pieces of newspaper, unbleached cardboard, leaves, mulch, or my personal favorite saw dust from the filter at the Home Depot saw.

The concept of worm farming is that you put food into one bin until it is full then let the worms compost the material.  Once the material is composted, you start another bin stacked on top of the full bin and allow the worms to transfer through holes in the bins.

This gets a lot of the worms out of the soil you want to harvest, but there are still quite a few in the soil.  So, you have to be a sadistic jay-hole and introduce the worms to something they hate: the sun.  The instructions I’ve seen so far recommend making cones of the harvest and iteratively pull from the top of the cones, like in the picture below.

Being the impatient and lazy efficient person that I am, I noticed that the worms were in the shaded, cooler spots of the cones.  So then, I rearranged my piles into awesome non-linear hockey stick looking formations.

Not the best picture, but you can see I built the mounds just out of the shade range from each other.  This still works the same way: pull one inch going across the top.  Then, iteratively repeat as the worms will keep moving downward.  When you reach the bottom of the wall, build another until efforts are futile and/or you are satisfied with the harvesting.

Also to note, the harvested soil is fertilizer for your plants.  And if anyone local wants worms, I can donate some to you.  I can give you a handful and the worms will propagate into an equilibrium population for your container in a relatively short time.

I’m also kind of curious if you could harvest this soil using the other thing worms hate, which is standing water.

For what it’s worth, it’s crazy, to me, after spending years thinking about chemical extractions and separations in terms of abstract concepts like solubility and entropy by adding a living aspect to it, namely the extraction of the worms from their soil via sun.

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Financial Independence Model

I’m interested in financial independence, as I think it is very responsible thing to do, as well as the most sustainable way to live life.  I remember first learning this from Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  A lot of people do not like that book.  I think the major reason is that the thought of passively making income is so overwhelming that one’s “fight” reaction takes over.  It’s just my guess, though.

Essentially, passive income is earnings where your efforts are not actively needed.  It is much easier to define active income: a job (where time and skill and traded for $bling).  In financial terms, passive income is generally investment capital traded for $bling.  Examples of passive income are dividends, apartment rent (if you own an apartment complex), and the part of the pyramid scheme where you profit from others’ efforts.

Passive income can also be viewed as potential.  As ERE’s post describes, the 25 and 33 scalars, applied to one’s annual budget, are commonly used for estimating this potential.

  • If you need your money to last 30 years and you invest it 100% in index funds and you withdraw your annual expenses every year, you need 25 times as much money in index funds as your annual expenses (including taxes).
  • If you need your money to last 60 years instead and follow the same procedure, you need 33 times as much money.

(If I remember correctly) this concept of potential is defined in Work Less, Live More.  The book, as well as firecalc, describe how those numbers take into account risk, so that one will be financially independent.

The time to generate these amounts are below,

in general terms, and

in a more applied form.

Applying the equation above in terms of the percentage of your pay that you save, you’ll come up with a pretty graph.  I have two versions, out of respect for the scale.  The first is in a scale for Joe American.  The second is for the whacky nut job ladies that plan to leave millions of dollars to their cats.

It’s interesting to see that saving extremely, in terms of one’s earnings, provides a nearly inversely proportional relationship in time for retirement.  These are not revolutionary ideas.  I just like visualizing numbers.

It’s interesting to note that spending less, as opposed to making more, has a greater impact to achieving financial independence, faster.  This is logical, if you look back to the equation.  The accumulation denominator is a function of earning and spending, yet the state of the system in the numerator is a function of spending scaled by a factor of 25.

Work Less, Live More

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In a continuous effort to prepare for the Economic Collapse*, I am now another step closer to independence with my ham radio technician license.  Ham radio — or amateur radio — lost popularity with the internet.  Before the internet, ham radio was THE way to communicate with others around the world, while situated in different locations.

Bee tee dubs, QSY is an archaic radio code that means change frequencies to.  Currently, the first level of amateur radio, technician class, is in the FM band.  The title of this post implies that I am ready to destroy all that is the internet and move to FM communication (which is a joke, Dude).

My interest to get a ham license rooted in volunteering at two recent trail running races.  The actual activity didn’t seem that interesting, but understanding the formalities of radio-speak intrigued me.

Once I looked at the test, I noticed there is a fair amount of applied theory in amateur radio.  I started taking practice tests, while searching for the concepts behind the questions.  That naturally led me to a tutorial site.  Within a few hours of learning the concepts, I felt confident in passing the test.  I am not good at memorizing; however, if you are good at memorizing you can just learn all of the 150 possible test questions which are published on the internet.

That may seem a slam on memorizing, but I acknowledge that a few nature lovers out there may solely want to communicate while in remote locations.  I hear you clucking, big chicken.  Daz cool!

But, for optimal retention, I suggest:

There are two levels beyond my current n00b status of technician.  I’m interested in going bigger, to learn about the theory.

*The Economic Collapse is part of a conspiracy theory that I acknowledge: not necessarily that I hope for or believe in, but something that I can visualize.  In my own words, we are becoming a society based on increasingly abstract concepts that started in currency and moved into credit as well as digital banking.  For a more concrete starting point, check out The Earth Plus Five.

Yes, all of this is nice, but it does not include my favorite experience in this process, more ice making.  The one test fee of $15 covers both the Technician and General (one step beyond Technician) tests.  When I first came into the room, I sat down in the closest-to-the-back-of-the-room seat that I could find.

Soon after, some Dude came in the room telling me that I was in his seat.  Seeing how “I got into a fight at the ham radio test” didn’t seem like an awesome idea,  I moved seats to the next closest which awkwardly looked right at Dude.  Dude finished his test before me.  And after passing his test, Dude elected to take the General (one step beyond Technician) test.  While Dude started taking his next test and the examiners graded my test, I opted to pile a plate with the recently laid out baked goods to eat.

As I returned to my seat, the Dude looked up at me in a state of confusion.  I responded to his look by saying, “Why would I take a test that I know I am going to fail when I can eat this instead?”  Zing.  I felt like I was living the scene in the barber shop in Police Academy.

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Bike Commuting Boxers

When I first started bike commuting to work, I would dress every morning as a “Spandex Sally.”  When people look like freaks, there’s usually logic behind it.  As it is so with the Spandex Sally look.  Bicycling specific tights have a chamois pad in it.  The chamois (or “shammy”) is roughly the difference of sleeping on a wood floor or sleeping on a mattress.  Shammies are super comfy.  The downside to the tights are that 1) you look like a freak and 2) formunda cheese manufacturing.

Time’s progressed, and now I usually wear my underwear for the day and a pair of Arc Teryx shorts.  The shorts are lightweight.  The fabric, of the shorts, is highly bomb-resistant.  My boxers, on the other hand, are not:

Sometimes for short errands, I wear pants.  For this reason, I now look for pants with gusseted crotches:

It’s also fun to say gusseted crotches.

When I told others about my idea of repairing my underwear, one reoccurring statement I heard was “Why don’t you just buy new underwear?  It’s not like underwear is expensive!”  I like to think I’m the Bill Bowerman of bicycling underwear.  Even though there are products similar to a gusseted crotch boxer on the market, it’s not quite what I want.

I see it as reducing my consumption as well as preventing future failures.  Buying new underwear will just fail in the same spot.  I borrowed dre’s sewing machine and ripped up the failed jeans.

So far I have about 3 miles on “Version 1.”

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