Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day Log: 06-12-09

Aside: Just in case you are confused, I have always found it more useful to right the date from smallest to largest: DD-MM-YY, as is common outside the US. So, if you find it confusing, don't be alarmed. It's me, not you.

Today was in many ways an ordinary Sunday. Nothing incredibly special happened. I woke up late around 7am, and stayed in bed reading until around 9:30. I stayed home for a while and cleaned up until around 10:30 am when Jenni and I tried to go to use free breakfast coupons at Chick-fila. We had to stop by the Green House to pick up the coupons, and on the way, remembered that we would unfortunately have to dine in some other manner this lovely Sunday morning since Chick-fila is run by devout Mormons who take Sunday as a Holy Day. Instead, we went to Target, where we were already planning to go to buy Jenni some face cleanser that she needed. While there, we shopped in their food aisle, which we had previously found stocked with tasty food at below average prices. As yet, the only food item that I have seen there that is above average is milk, which I only noticed because I bought some today for about $0.50 more than anywhere else. On our way out of the store, we also stopped by the jewelry kiosk, where I looked at a replacement watch for my current paint speckled, dented, and stained wrist watch. I purchased a new one by TIMEX that is part of an Iron Man Triathlon series, allowing me to efficiently time any running, biking, or swimming. These features will also come in handy in many other training applications, and my only regret at this point was not looking into one that also had a pedometer. Besides that, and the need to read the whole instructions manual before being able to program the thing (which now seems intuitive), I have no regrets. I was also able to sneak it a cheap purchase for Jenni, as she saw a fashionable but cheap wrist watch that I was able to sneak into our bag and purchase without her noticing. As much as I might have enjoyed the thought of saving it as a secret gift until Christmas, I gave in to my impatience, and gave her the watch in the car. She was happily surprised.

We returned to the house in the early afternoon, and after a lazy late breakfast, I put Jenni back to bed for a short time while I continued to read. Early this year, or late last year, I introduced Jenni to the old Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. We quickly read through the first book, and after a few month respite, we read through the second. They are not incredibly deep books, and can be wildly, and unbelievably fantastic at parts (fairly frequently). However, besides being wholly unbelievable, they are incredibly entertaining, and, as any good novel should, strings the reader along with teasers, and well placed commercial interruptions. We recently (2 days ago) began the 3rd of the book series, and are together about halfway finished. My mother was interested in the Tarzan series when I was younger, and tracked down and bought several old editions. While in middle school, I got my hands on a few of them, and read the first 12 or 13. As it turns out, there are 24 books, of which I believe not all were written by Burroughs. With the new technology available to us today, I was able to buy all 24 books in digital format from Amazon for $5, which I read through a 'kindle' application on my iTouch.

At 2:15, Jenni showered and prepared to leave for a church band rehearsal. On her way out the door, she found out that the music was going to be changed at the last minute because the drummer was going to be unavailable, and, not feeling well herself, she bowed out and came back to the house. After a quick run to the store where she picked up a few missing ingredients, Jenni and Daniela made us Power House sandwiches for a late lunch around 3:30. While they prepared the food, I cleaned around the kitchen and prepared a fire in the basement. After lunch, we all made our way to the basement, where Bill was finishing a movie. Around 5:30, I convinced them to begin watching the 2nd season of Alias, the DVDs for which we had just purchased yesterday. After beginning the show, I made my way upstairs to begin catching up on the Sunday scheduled activities that I hadn't accomplished yet this week - including this blog. However, as I have just been summoned to return to the TV show down stairs, and to rekindle the fire, I will have to try to continue this again later.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Running List of Crazy Business Ideas #1

- Underground houses/cities
- Elevated rail mass transit with single cars, instead of large capacity cars.

- Remote order only fast food, where you can't order at the place, you just pick up.
- Community Gardens (coop), where a plot of land in a neighborhood (or series of roofs) are used as a publicly managed garden for the use of the community in fresh foods.
- Machine operated restaurant, where the only people involved in your food preparation and delivery are the people fixing the machines. This is possible now. We just don't want to get rid of the low-skill/pay jobs yet.

- Free online library, where all the public domain information is readily searchable and downloadable.
- Super low cost public education, through online video lectures. The initial cost would be tremendous, but once off the ground, it would quickly replace the role of "lecturer" that teachers perform, and allow for an increase in the quality of public education, while decreasing the cost dramatically (in the area of millions of dollars a year). The biggest hurdle - teacher unions.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Mouse Cage and the Birth of Subterraopolis

Sometime in 6th or 7th grade, I decided that mice were the perfect pets and was convinced that I was ready to start keeping and breading them at home. Unfortunately for me, I decided to ask my mother whether I could ($1 each for feeder mice) before I made the purchase. This is about the time I learned the phrase, "It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission". Too bad for my pet mice, I learned the lesson after I asked. She was not thrilled with the idea, as rodents are notoriously smelly creatures, and she has an incredibly sensitive olfactory system. My dreams as the Pied Piper were not meant to be.

However, being young and inexperienced, I thought that if I could solve the smell problem, I would be able to change the "no mice" policy. So, I started designing a simple mouse cage (1'x2'x3') that would be "odor-free". To do this, I had to do something about the source of the smell, the mouse leavings. My first step in this was to designed the cage as a source separator - one that separated the mouse droppings from the mouse drippings. I decided to try to use the simplest possible method - strictly using static mechanical means. This part was very simple, and basically involved 2 layers of mesh wire, one as the floor of the cage with holes large enough to pass the droppings, and the second underneath that was small enough to catch the droppings while allowing the urine to pass to a 3rd layer. The 3rd layer was slanted to on corner of the cage where it would exit the cage into a "sealed urine collection tank".

It was at this stage in the process that I had to approach the smell problem. As mice smell goes, the urine is the worst part. What I needed to get the smell down to a low enough level was some sort of flushing mechanism that would clean and clear the 3rd urine catch of the cage regularly enough to regulate the odor. The flushing system was to be self sustaining for a certain interval (one week was the goal), at the end of which the collection tank would be filled (and need emptying) and the flushing device would need to be refilled. I had a lot of options for flushing that worked. I was, however, not satisfied with this system. I thought that there might be a way to dehydrate the urine in the collection tank, recycling the evaporated water to be used to clean the urine catch. While designing this, I ran into a road block. It seemed possible, but I was too young and ill-equipped to find a solution that I would be able to design and build with my limited tools and resources. So, the project was eventually scrapped, in large part to the fact that even if I had decided on a flushing device for my "odor-less" tank, my mom thought mice were just creepy. Who knew?

In the process however, my design took on several different shapes, as I liked to draw scale blueprints, and made several versions as the ideas continued to develop. One day, while looking at one of the latest blue prints I saw something other than a mouse cage. Somehow, in some obscure way, the drawing - with its multiple levels, and its circulating fresh and waste water systems - reminded me of a city. More specifically, and underground city. I don't know why or how, but it did...

I blame television. Or perhaps all the crazy sci-fi and fastasy-adventure movies that came out in the late 70s and 80s (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the Dark Crystal, etc.). Either way, out of this failed mouse experiment was born a passion for designing an underground city, which has evolved and taken on many shapes in the last... 10 years. I have never named any of my designs or ideas, but the name Subterraopolis seems to sum them all up quite nicely. And so it shall be named.