Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birkenstock Resoling


 Article has been moved to my blog at OhYongHao.com
 After about a month of research, despair, haggling and luck I finally am able to wear my Birkenstock's again.

Quick Rundown

You can refer to this blogpost here which has pictures and is where I got all my knowledge.  I'll simplify the steps here for those that are impatient and add my comments of things that I ran into later.

  1. Gather Materials
  2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Prepare soling material - Cut out a rough shape
  4. Clean your sandals (Optional)
  5. Place sandals in oven for 10 minutes
  6. Take sandals out and remove the sole - HOT
  7. Use an abrasive to roughen sole and sandal
  8. Add cement
  9. Let dry
  10. Put sandals back together
  11. Cure
  12. Cut off extra material

1. Gather Materials

This was probably the hardest part.  For those of you that don't like rants then you can skip down to the list of materials, but this really just infuriated me over the close shop mentality.  I don't know of any "Cobbler License" out there, and I guess most of the "Cobbler Suppliers" don't either, so they came up with a different practice, only selling to licensed medical professionals.  Nearly every store website I went to that carried Birkenstock soles fell into one of two categories.  Either they were A) closed or B) only sold to podiatrists or diabetic specialists ( I assume due to the lack of circulation in their feet a lot of diabetic specialist also second as cobblers or have cobbler friends that need to make specially designed shoes for their patients).
There were a couple of other sites, but you had to open a credit account and have a business license in order to order from them, that made it a bit more difficult than I was willing to do.  It pretty much seems like you have to already be a cobbler to purchase cobbler supplies.
Another option was purchasing from a cobbler.  One in my area wanted about $35 just for a pair of soles, or $65 to put them on for me.  I did find one website after about a week of searching, but he was hesitant to sell the remaining of his Birkenstock sheet (less than or equal to one sheet), but offered to sell his Vibrem sole sheet for $75.It was a stroke of luck that the next day I ran into a Canadian website and was able to purchase a single sheet (although the sales representative was a little surprised when I only ordered one).  There was a second site in the UK that would have been about the same price.

Here's the list of material:
  • 2 Soles - My EVA sheet is about 3'x2', but you only need enough to cover your sandals
  • Utility knife - Something that's sharp and at least 10mm long, preferably longer for cutting the soles initially if you get a sheet instead of pre-cut soles.
  • Butter knife - used to help separate the sole from the rest of the sandal.
  • Bardge Cement - Some people recommend finding the yellow can, I've only had experience with the 2 oz blue tube.
  • A Dremel - Hopefully by the time I publish this I've used one.  If you're reading this then obviously I have not.
  • 1 piece of sandpaper - Used to roughen the sole and to help remove some of the old glue
  • 1 crayon - Anything to be able to mark the outline of the sandal on the sole sheet so you know where to cut. 
  • 1 Plastic spoon - Used to apply the glue
  • 4 Rubber Bands - The more the merrier, make sure they fit the width of your sandal and the stronger the better.
  • Aluminum Foil - I used this under the sandals while I baked them in the oven to catch any dirt that might fall.
  • Toothbrush - Use an old one or a new one, that's up to you, but I don't recommend using it the next day to brush your teeth.
  • Ovenmit - 200F might sound low for an oven, but it's hot on your hands.
That should do it, if you bothered to read my rant you might find the soles are the hardest piece to come by, everything else was relatively easy to obtain.

2. Preheat Oven to 200F

You might want to take some considerations for your oven and the food that you'll cook in it later.  I opted to place a sheet of aluminum foil under my sandals to catch any dirt.  Also, after removing my soles I also used the self-clean feature to burn everything else that might have been left and turned on the stove fan and opened a couple of windows.  There wasn't very much smell the next day.

3. Prepare Soling Material

While the oven is heating you can begin other preparations as time permits.  You'll need a place to cut, either a utility bench or a cutting board will due.
First you'll want to place the sandals on the material, being the scrooge that I am I tested out various patterns that would yield the most soles and opted for the L and R facing opposite directions next to each other.  I estimated I could make about 10 pairs, or 20 soles, this way.  Try to outline a little larger than the actual sandal, it's easier to cut away extra material than it is to glue more on.
The material can be a little tough, but I found that with a utility knife making a shallow sketch and following it over and over works out nicely and is easier to control.  There is a grain to the material, so I recommend making the first cut along the grain and then you can bend the loose material down while doing multiple cuts against the grain, this will make it easier to hand the second edge.

4. Clean Your Sandals

This step isn't absolutely necessary but I believe it is beneficial.  One thing I tried to do was soak the rest of the sandal to help protect it from any heat damage done by the oven.  It may have been a good idea to add lotion to the leather beforehand, but having not done so I can't say that the results would have been any better.  I did notice that after baking my leather is darker next to my unbaked sandal.

5. Place Sandals in Oven for 10 Minutes

You can go ahead and place your sandals in the oven and set a timer.  I placed a sheet of aluminum foil directly underneath mine to prevent any dirt from falling down.  It would also be a good idea to turn on the stove's overhead fan and to open a couple of windows nearby unless you love the smell of burnt rubber.  This rubber is going to shrink, and that's how you know it's working.
During this time you might want to prepare your workstation for the next step.  You'll want to be able to work quick once your sandals are out so you don't have to bake them twice.  You'll need your butter knife or whatever you've decided to help with prying the sole off.  It's going to come off easily, and the knife may not be necessary, but it's better to have something at hand than to run and get it while racing against the cooling clock.  I'd also recommend having the utility knife at hand which you can use to "cut" the strands of adhesive while prying the sole off.

6. Take Sandals Out and Remove the Soles - HOT

Now the time has come to see if we really are crazy like my wife kept asserting.  Although we're used to running our ovens at 350F and higher 200F is nearly hot enough to boil water, and definitely hot enough to give your skin a burning sensation.  Before you remove them from the oven you should have already prepared your workspace and have all tools that are needed nearby, namely the butter knife or other flat edge to help in prying the sole from the rest of the sandal.
Remember that your sandal is delicate and you don't want to ruin the base between the cork and the sole, you should have noticed that the sole has shrunk while in the oven, time is of the essence, you want to work fast, but don't be hasty.  Slowly peel back the sole and you can use the butter knife to encourage it a little bit by placing it near where the sole is now separating from the sandal.  If you're taking too long it may get harder towards the heel.  If peeling from heel to toe it may get harder towards the toe.

7. Use an Abrasive to Roughen Sole and Sandal

This step may or may not be needed, if someone could leave a comment arguing either way I'll incorporate it into any edits I do to this page.  For me, my experience was not really having a good thing to roughen either the sandal nor the sole, whatever I did try using didn't seem to do anything.  You can probably just skip this step

8. Add Cement

You should have already prepped your soling material by cutting it into roughly the shape of your sandal or at least in a large enough rectangle that you can comfortably place the sandal on and not be lacking in material.
I applied the cement by first doing a zig-zag pattern from the toe to the heel and then using a plastic spoon to smooth out the cement.  Make sure that you get every inch of your sandal, especially the outer edge.
Once the sandal has been done you can now apply the same to the soling material.  Do a zig-zag pattern and spread with the spoon, make sure that it extends past where you think your sandal will be to ensure that your entire sandal will adhere together.
DO NOT put the sandal and soling material together right away!

9. Let Dry

Follow the directions on the box or bottle for how long you should wait before pressing the two pieces together.  Mine was around 15-20 minutes.  I set a timer and started reading a book.

10. Put the Sandals Together

After having waited the appropriate amount of time I then went about putting the two pieces together.  This must be done with great care because once you have let the cement dry slightly it becomes extremely adhesive and once in touch with itself it will be nearly impossible to let go, this is the primary reason for using a piece of soling material that has not been precisely cut, therefore allowing you a little wiggle room if you happen to be slightly crooked.
For me I started with the corner, if you can call it that, where the straight outside edge curves to form the toe area by eyeing the straight edge and slowly put them together.  I'd like to emphasize again that this is extremely adhesive and you don't really get a second try.

11. Cure

After this is all said and done you now have a successfully put a new sole on your old sandal.  But don't start celebrating yet by wearing them around, you still need to allow the adhesive to cure for the next couple of hours, preferably all not.  It is a good idea to use some sort of weight to keep the sole and sandal together from toe to heel.  For me I used the leaves of my table although I feel that it wasn't quite adequate enough at distributing the weight.

12. Cut Off Extra Material

Now that the adhesive has cured the sandal should be fit for wear outside the house, but wait!  One final step, we have to cut off any extra material that is left.  I used a utility knife for this.  For the most part I just cut off in large chunks with straight lines.  There was some fine work to be done with the heel and toe, also I could have gotten closer on the sides if I had some sort of sanding tool like a dremel.  I haven't actually done this yet, I've been content enough with just having cut off any protruding areas with the utility knife.

Partial Sole Replacement

After this I realized that the bit I cut off from the heel was actually about the same amount I needed if I were to attempt a partial sole replacement on my left sandal.  This was a similar process but instead of baking in the oven which would ruin the entire sole, I used the stovetop to apply direct and more localized heat after having scored the sole first.  A spoon or some other wedge is extremely handy here.  Once the portion of the sole you do not want is removed follow steps 7 through 12 just like for a full sole replacement.

Conclusion

A single sheet seems to have enough material to do at least 18 full sole replacements with about 18 heel replacements.  Seeing how this took me about 4 months to wear through one side while doing what I would consider a light amount of walking this should last me around 3-6 years.  But since learning partial sole replacement techniques I may be able to extend that out much further.
It's up to each person to decide whether to enlist the service of a cobbler or not.  For me I felt that the price wasn't worth it, seeing how a half sole replacements is $10, so for the one and a half soles I did it would have been $30 a probably a bit more professional looking than mine.  The Birkenstock is probably one of the easiest to resole though, and if you have the extra time and can find some soling material I feel that it was well worth it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Voted For Gary Johnson

For the past six years I have really been out of politics, never really involved before.  I was living in a different country at the time, and although I got my absentee ballot and voted, I never really took the time to care about everything that I was voting for.
Somehow this year was different.  I started off by watching the Republican Primary debates online.  It was during these debates that I first heard Ron Paul speak.  The more I heard him speak, the more I thought about the issues he mentioned, the more I realized that I too wanted personal liberty, freedom from oppressive taxes, a great desire for a non-intervention foreign policy.

President

Although Gary Johnson didn't do as well as we had hopped I still don't regret voting for him.  Voting for Gary Johnson gives me the right to say "I didn't vote for that" when Obama continues his fight against civil liberties, or sends more troops overseas to be maimed or slaughtered, or when he sends FBI agents to raid marijuana facilities in Washington or Colorado.
As I have learned more of what "Republicans" stand for I have found that I am not even close.  How can I associate with those that believe that pro-choice is the same as pro-abortion.  For those of you who think that please read this very well written article: How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life” Movement. What about gay marriage?  Should we not be free to choose?  They aren't going to force me to be gay.  How about marijuana, education, or a non-interventionist philosophy to foreign policy?  When I first heard Gary Johnson speak I was a little weary of him, but I found out that all the things that I believed to be true he did too.  I think we are all libertarian at heart.

I-502

Going along this trend for liberty I also voted for Washington's Marijuana legalization initiative I-502.  Even though chances are that I probably won't be one using marijuana, it at least gives me the choice if I want to self prescribe anti-depression or pain medication.  Why should I have to seek Western Medicine for all my ailments?  Does not even the Bible declare all herbs fit for man?  But let us not derive all our knowledge from holy books that are held true by some, what does science tell us?  We'll know within the next decade as UW and WSU begin to receive funds from I-502 specifically for this purpose.
What was strange about the Washington marijuana initiative was that a lot of the opponents were from the pro-pot movement.  A lot said it was too restrictive, especially with the DUI portion of the law.  What I feel is that it is a step in the right direction, and once now it is legalized we can work on correcting the law, but at least mere possession will no longer be a crime, use neither as long as you don't drive.  In the decade to come we will see this leash loosened.

R-74

This, above all others, has been a hot topic of debate.  Referendum 74 is concerning same-sex marriage.  Although personally myself I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman I am not going to force others to follow my own beliefs.  The availability of marriage has not deterred those that have same-sex attraction from seeking out to be, in every way legally possible, a spouse to someone the love.  If you happen to believe that this is immoral try to think of the atrocities that have happened to fight against homosexuality.  Alan Turing, key principle in World War II in deciphering the Germans encryption, committed suicide rather than be chemically castrated.  With this so-called defence of marriage, have us, heterosexuals, really done so much to deserve the sole title of marriage?  How much divorce is there?  How many abusive relationships are there?  How many choose not even to get married?
Despite my personal beliefs in marriage I have an even firmer belief in liberty.  I believe that the force of law has no power to bestow morality upon a people, but that morality comes from a far different place than law.  Even our scientists agree on this and declare that morality is far more intuitive than we may believe.
I could no longer support this kind of discrimination, who am I to force my beliefs on others.  Is it not much more of a testament of love or devotion to choose rather than to be forced?  Therefore I voted Yes on R-74.

Conclusion

Hopefully some of those who read this may have their conciousness raised and begin to understand what the fight is really about.  It is about control, self control vs government control.  It is about the freedom to choose for ourselves this day who we will serve.  In each measure I looked at I thought of which one gives me my own choice and which one forces my choice on others and that is how I voted. May we all go forward on this road towards liberty, which has been slowly evolving throughout the ages as those rare individuals are willing to put forth these ideas and to encourage others to choose for themselves.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kindle Paperwhite Unboxing

Article can now be found at OhYongHao.com
This is going to be sort of my second unboxing (although during my first unboxing of my new XDs I didn't take any pictures, but I'll leave it up to you to decide if it counts or not).  I was not originally going to be purchasing a Kindle Paperwhite so soon, but unfortunately about a week after the announcement by Amazon of the Kindle Paperwhite coming out my Kindle Keyboard was stolen.  I had had it for just over a year.
To be honest, I think that the name is hard to pronounce and doesn't quite roll off the tongue.  The first time I saw it was in a Google News link and I thought it was an article that was criticle of the Kindle and calling it a Paper "weight".  Since then I have to catch myself everytime I want to say Kindle Paperwhite because I almost always try to say paper weight.

The Cover

Due to supply and demand I got my Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover first around October 3rd.  It was exciting to see about what size the Kindle would really be.  One disappointment is that although it is a "leather" cover, it appears to be a thin layer of leather on the outside with denim on the front inside and a plastic mold where the Kindle sits.
The only identifying marks on the outside cover is the magnet on the right side which is silver in color and has the Kindle logo engraved.  Whereas the inside cover has a large font Kindle stuck on it that resembles a sticker.
I'll talk a bit more about the cover after we've unboxed the Kindle Paperwhite.

The Kindle

After nearly a month of waiting my Kindle Paperwhite arrived by UPS.  It was in a slick thin box with the Amazon Frustration Free Packaging.  I tore it open at first opportunity, then remembered I wanted to take pictures for this blog.
As noted on the Amazon website this Kindle does not come with a wall adapter (also known as a wall-wart).  That being said, it does come with a USB cable.  The standard extra long Amazon USB cable.  Still having the one from my previous Kindle before it was stolen, I probably won't be using this one until I find a place where I need to be charging something that I don't already have a cable, but it's not quite as dramatic as I thought when I first read that it didn't come with the adapter.  For those that were worried, you'll still be able to charge it with any other USB adapter or computer that has a free USB port.
My first impression was the bevel was bigger than I was expecting, which I consider to be a good thing.  Some other bloggers had mentioned that the bevel was much thinner and some of them had trouble holding it, especially since now touching the screen is forbidden unless you want to turn a page or access the menu.
The Kindle, I find now, is thin enough to fit inside my coat pocket, either on the outside hand pockets, or on the inside pocket of my leather jacket.  With the hand pocket it still sticks out slightly, so at best it can be put there quickly to get out of the rain, but I find that I enjoy storing it in my interior pocket, something that my previous Kindle could never do due to the size.  This is also including the leather cover that I mentioned above.
The cover fits snug, your Kindle Paperwhite will just snap into place and it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.  With the conspicuous magnet on the right side you also don't accidentally try opening your Kindle the wrong way and damage it because of the electrical connections for your light.  A really nice feature is how the cover works similarly to the iPad cover where closing the cover turns off the device.

Special Offers  

I got the device with Special Offers and the one downside to this is that there is an extra swipe that needs to be done to open your device.  A friend of mine paid the extra $20 to not have Special Offers and with his device you barely catch a glimpse of his screen saver before you are brought back to the last page he was reading.  This is done, I believe, so that people actually see the ads, because otherwise you would only catch a small glimpse before they disappear.  That being said, I don't really find the ads to be very distracting.  Although it should be noted that the ad also appears on the homepage on the bottom, making the covers slightly smaller than if you did not have Special Offers.
Most of the offers I have gotten are 30% off some item, or 80% off a featured book.  I haven't used any yet, they seem to come just after I bought the item they are advertising.  For example, I had just bought two pairs of jeans from Kohls when I got the 30% off denim advertisement   I also got a 30% off Kindle Accessories, which having already bought the leather cover, was completely useless.

Screen Protector

I was never the geeky guy with glasses taped together and a pocket protector to fit, but I have found that I enjoy having that added protection that screen protectors bring on all my electronic devices.  I particularly recommend the BoxWave Kindle ClearTouch Anti-Glare Screen Protector.
Application is pretty straight forward, just don't mess it up the first time.  The screen protector feels natural, there will be a few bubbles for the first few days but should work themselves out.  One important note is to try to work in a dust free environment because any specs of dust that you get underneath it will be stuck there for life.  You can attempt to reapply, but, ahem, from my experience that usually just ends up in more dust.

First Boot

I got to admit, I was in the middle of an awesome quadrilogy and was looking forward to diving right in.  Turning on the Kindle for the first time brought me to a tutorial on how to use the Kindle with no clear way of forgoing the tutorial.  I was stuck and had to do all the page taps before I could begin enjoying my book.  It felt like it took a little longer than I would have liked.  There also doesn't seem to be a way to restart the tutorial, but there is the Kindle's User Guide which you could read through later, or Google.
After starting you'll have to connect to a WiFi Hotspot in order to connect to the cloud and begin to get your books loaded.  I found that navigation in the book was really simplified, just a couple taps of the screen and I was able to find my place in the book that I had left off at with my friends Kindle.  In order for the reading progress to work I found that you have to switch it to one of three choices:
  1. Location in book
  2. Time left in chapter
  3. Time left in book
By far I find that "Time left in chapter" is the best option.  If you tap at the top of the screen and have the menu available you can see all three at the bottom of the screen anyways, and the one I want to know most often is how much is left in this chapter.  It doesn't take long for it to start working.  I wish that these options were able to be checked on or off and rotate through them, although I would still find the location one not very useful unless you were trying to match up exactly with a reading partner.  What I find is, for the most part, we just sync up on chapters anyways.

Share

Quite honestly I haven't used this feature yet, not from lack of trying, but mostly from its inability to queue shares until I have WiFi access again.  To me this is a great oversight that Amazon really dropped the ball on.  I take my Kindle everywhere with me, whether it be the grocery store, beach, work, or hiking up a mountain.  My daily commute to work gives me about 1-2 hours of reading time.  I have thought about syncing it with my Android Hotspot, but that still doesn't work with hiking/camping or other places where I don't have reception.  I think it would be nice to write the share and then have it queued up until I make my next connection.  I've found myself actually wanting to use it a couple of times, especially since I usually have some friends reading the same book.

After the First Week

Now that the novelty of the Kindle Paperwhite has worn off I still find myself in love with my new Kindle.  Because of its convenience of fitting in my coats interior pocket I pretty much never find myself without it.  Opening up with the new cover means I can be reading within seconds, and when I need to put it away it shuts off as soon as I close the cover which means I'm not going to accidentally turn the page.
I have to admit, when I first heard that they got rid of the page turn buttons I was upset, I thought it was the dumbest thing they could have done.  Audio jack, never really used it, but the page turn buttons I had grown accustomed to.  Most of the time I find that I hold the Kindle in my left hand and had found a very comfortable position that allowed me to turn the page with an almost unnoticeable twitch of my hand.  After having used the Kindle Paperwhite for the last week I find that I do miss the ability to gently turn the page with my left hand, if Amazon would add a Left Hand Mode for their screen tap area that would probably make up for it, or possibly make the turn back section only take up the top half of the left side and leave the bottom half for turning forward.  The only other complaint is once in a while I accidentally activate the menu by tapping too high, usually with my right hand.
Overall it is a really well made product, I haven't had any complaints from my wife about the glow while I'm reading with the lights off.  A different review had mentioned they like to read with the light on 100% the entire time, I find that I enjoy it more either having it off or on up to about level 6 for night time reading.  To me the full brightness makes it seem too much like an LCD screen that I hated reading before I got my Kindle, it just feels like too much light being directed towards my eyes.

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts, I would recommend this to anybody who loves e-readers, or to anybody who was hesitant to switch from dead tree books.  This is one purchase which will bring a lot of enjoyment to your life.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gun Review: My XDS 45

Your first gun purchase is always memorable, there is the excitement building up to that perfect gun that you have dreamed of.  You've spent countless hours going through forums, threads, google searches, asking friends and daydreaming about how it will be.  You've convinced yourself that this is the perfect gun for you, it's exactly what you want and need.  At least, that's how I've come about this.  Truth be told, I purchased a revolver a couple weeks before because I needed something for easy hiking and concealment, and that purchase had it's own feelings, but nothing quite like this.  A brand new gun, only been fired once in the factory.

Unboxing

My excitement quickly faded as I realized that there are a few quirks with it to start with, almost border line regretting the purchase, but then I have to remind myself, that a brand new gun has springs that haven't been warn in, it doesn't have the grooves worn in on the slider, or part of the extractor wore off and extra lube replacing those worn out spaces.

The first thing I noticed was that it was hard to pull the slide back and lock it.  After locking the action open, it was hard to rack the slide again, it takes quite a bit of effort to get the slide back a little bit further and push the slide lock down to release the slide.

Another piece was the magazine, the bullets are hard to get in, and even harder to pull out.  That appears to be influencing the slide, when I try to load the first round in the chamber, and it also effects the extractor.

Trip to the Range

I got a chance to finally take it to the range.  I had been carrying my friends XD-45 Compact for the last few months and had shot my fair share of rounds through it.  My dad found a great deal at Bi-Mart for a 250 round box, I decided I was going to shoot 100 rounds through it this time.

After struggling to get both magazines with 5 rounds each I pushed the first magazine into the XDs with a click.  Pulling back the slide to release it now I was ready to take aim at my target and fire.  Immediately I noticed the red fiber optic on the front site that allowed me to zero in, I drew a deep breath, let it out slowly as I steadied my arms, and moved my index finger to the trigger.  As I reached about half a breath I held my breath and began to pull back on the trigger while slowly exhaling.

It didn't got off the first time, with no need to rush I removed my finger from the trigger, relaxed my arms, and started the process over again.  I wanted this first shot to be perfect.  It took till the third round, each time squeezing the trigger ever so slightly more, then BANG!, it went off and the recoil was what caught me by surprise, and the empty shell flew back and caught my dad by surprise.  He could feel the reverberation from next to me and described it as a canon going off.

First Impression

Right away I noticed that the recoil was enough to cause my right and left hand to separate.  I tried a few more shots and finally got the recoil under control.  I knew going into it that a lot of people say that a short barrel causes more recoil, and they were right, especially with how light this gun is.

One great surprise was how easy it was to aim and be accurate, I was having groupings similar to my friends XD-45 Compact.  It gave me a lot of confidence and I felt comfortable switching immediately to this for my concealed carry sidearm.  It could fit loosely into my friends Crossbread Holster that was made for his XD-45 Compact, I already had one being shipped on the way.

My dad tried to shoot it and didn't make it through one magazine before giving up.  It left imprints on his hand from the grip.  He is Type-I diabetic and approaching 60, so perhaps that has to do with the circulation in his hands not being as good.

Getting in the car with the XDs is noticeably better, I no longer notice that there is a gun behind me at four o'clock.  After receiving my new holster it became part of me, I don't even notice that I'm carrying.  There is less of an imprint on my leather seats also.  Overall I really like this gun, and any immediate regret or disappointment I felt when I first picked it up disappeared after taking it to the range.

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts on this are that if you are a smaller guy who's used to shooting a larger caliber then this is very worthwhile.  I haven't had a chance to try the sub-compact XD-9mm, and I think that one may be a great CCW, especially if you are a little concerned with there only be 5+1 rounds. (I have started carrying +1 because with only 5 rounds I think the +1 is worth it.  When I carried my friends XD-45 with 10 rounds I never bothered with the +1.)  I haven't gotten one yet, but there are now 7 round magazines for the XDs.  It would probably be worth it to have a couple of those even if they are only used for range practice.  I would have to try them out with ease of concealment before I switch to that.  Overall a great gun.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Square Foot Garden

Square foot gardening was a great experiment this year.  I had read about it before and really wanted to get into it.  Luckily one of my friends also wanted to and having a friend support you really helps to get things done.  It was already late in the year for starting a garden (mid June), but we decided that if we don't do it now we may just procrastinate until this time next year.

Materials

We set out with the latest edition of Square Foot Gardening in our hands and got our material together.  My friend already had two plots set up in 4x8 patterns instead of the standard 4x4, so that helped simplify some of our needs.  We just needed the following

  • Wood (2 6x2x8)
  • Wood Screws
  • Weed cloth
  • Soil
  • String
  • Net
  • Electrical Conduit
  • Seeds
Except for the Net and Electrical Conduit, which I bought later, we worked out the math for our plots for the amount of soil and split the cost based on him using one of his 4x8 plots and my newly constructed 4x4 plot.  The funnest part was probably buying the seeds.  You start to have dreams of all the vegetables that you are going to eat, and calculating out how long it will be before you begin to have your first harvest.

There were some items that we also had to purchase on top of all this which included gloves, garden shovel, and a 5 gallon bucket which we used for watering our garden.

Construction

Mixing the soil was probably one of the hardest parts.  We laid a tarp in the bed of my dads pickup and slowly added one bag and a time and used a shovel and a rake to turn it over until we felt there was an even mix.  The manure was the worst to mix in because it likes to clump and not break a part so much.

Even with our superior math skills and following the design laid out in the book my 4x4 plot ended up being something more like 4'1"x3'8" or something along that line, not exactly as large as I was hoping for.  Previously I had taken a bit of the landscaping in back and flattened out one portion and raised another in hopes that next year the raised portion may be used for another garden.

After laying down my squarish box and applying the weed cloth to it we filled it with the soil that we had just mixed.  I think we should have left another wheel barrel full or an extra 5 gallon bucket that we could have used to replace the soil after our first dousing of it with water, it compacted about an inch or so which left us with a little less depth for our carrots than we wanted.

Planting

Now with our accumulative knowledge and arm chair warriorness we split to attend to our personal plots.  I came out with a grid network and a solid plan to allow for a full summer and constant supply of lettuce and carrots along with some of my wife's Chinese plants.

Being naturally smarter than all other information I read, I reasoned that places where it said four meant I could add a fifth right in the center.  Also that I could add more cucumber plants and peas than was recommended.

After about two weeks and little showing of anything coming up I faithfully planted my next set of Iceberg Head lettuce and continued to water.

Results

We had some pretty good results, my wife had a lot of her plants come up well, our carrots were producing sky high green stems, and with the help of a little coaxing, our cucumbers and peas were growing up to around four feet in height. 

As it turns out iceberg is great to buy in the store, but didn't seem to do that well growing in our garden, we had much more success with leaf lettuce, especially after I informed my wife we should prune the leafs, not pick the whole plant.  Our carrots were a mix of nice fat lengthy ones and skinny white roots. Not sure what caused some to grow and others not so much.  I was a little disappointed in the ball carrots that really didn't seem to be worth it to grow.

What we learned

One of our biggest caveats was location, our garden happens to be in between our house on the west and the neighbors on the east.  My friend and I both had some banana pepper plants, and while his flourished and had more than he could eat, ours produced minimal results at best.

Another problem I saw was when we tried to use the garden hose for watering.  Despite its name it is not very suitable for this task.  Our soil is fairly loose and the pressure from the hose caused a lot of it to be pushed away and blown out of our square garden.  Later we switched to using a 5 gallon bucket and an old salsa tub to lightly dispense the water.  This gave us much greater control as to which plants got more water, plus it didn't disturb the seeds or push the soil out of the box.

Conclusion

Start early and you can enjoy your vegetables much longer.  I believe it was still worthwhile even as late in the season as we started.  I kept telling everyone that this year was just an experiment, I just wanted to see what would happen.  All in all it cost me about $100 and we got quite a bit of food out of it, although not quite a return on investment.  The great thing is this soil can still be used next year along with the box, netting and electrical conduit, greatly reducing our cost, and because we used the one hole one seed method we still have plenty of seed stored up for next year.  I fully expect to make a good return on investment next year, and may possibly think of expanding our plot to two plots after moving them to an area with more sun.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Other 'R's In Recycling

We hear big pushes for recycling, it's always, recycle, recycle, recycle.  In most Asian countries you can see recycling bins next to every trash can, some recycle all types together, others separate them up.  You'll even see them at McDonalds and Subway.  Recycling is good, right? Well, you can find Penn and Teller's video on YouTube where they debunk recycling, but that's not really what this blog post is about.

The Three R's

We've probably all have heard this at one time or another, but how many of us remember these three?  How many of us that remember them, actually try to put them into action.  The Three R's are to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  In today's world of over sized soda's and triple cheeseburgers the first R seems to just fall by the wayside.  We like our disposable everything that we have nowadays, from razors to electronics.  It used to be that when the toaster broke down, you fixed it, now it's go to WalMart and buy a new one.  There was the time when we would pick up the fan and move it to another room, now we just buy another one to go with it.
    The only thing some of us seem to have improved on is recycling stuff.  We know newspaper and cardboard go in the recycling, and we feel good about doing our part to protect the environment.  But the truth be told, without the first two R's, the third one isn't really doing us a lot of good, and as Penn and Teller have pointed out, most of that ends up in a landfill anyway, we're recycle so much we don't know what to do with it all.

Reduce

It seems like the people who thought up this triplet put in a lot of consideration over the order of these three R's, with reduce being the first R seeming most suitable and appropriate.  If we reduce what we need to use, we then won't need to use as many resources to begin with, therefore creating less waste, and because we reduced what we were using we also don't have as much to recycle.
    Reducing can sometimes be the hardest one at times to do.  We spend so much time focusing on recycling, nobodies really taught us how to reduce what we use.  I'm struggling with this as I type it up.  I can only really think of a couple examples of reducing, particularly as it has to do with water and electricity, but in this day of electronic everything, most of us just sort of accept the electric bill as something that we can't control.  Nothing motivates us more than our pocket books, and fads.  The latest thing out right now are High Efficiency washers, which use much less water per load than conventional.
    Another example is similar to what we were taught in middle school about turning off the faucet while we aren't using it, like while we are brushing our teeth.  Some people do that also while showering. Water is a valuable natural resource, and it does tax the land and environment the more we have to use.
    One of the hardest I find is car pooling.  I would love to start car pooling, but it seems as if I can't ever find someone with the same hours and lives near me.  If everybody car pooled, we could cut traffic in half, and reduce our dependency on oil, foreign and domestic.
    If anybody else can think of examples of reducing, please leave them in the comments.

Reuse

Now here is where the conspiracy theories start coming into play, I'll let down a couple of my ideas that I have thought about over the years and we'll see what the readers think about them.  Back in the day of the revolutionary and civil wars, or going further back to even the Vikings, we see armies with beards or moustaches of all shapes and sizes.  But with the advent of toxic gases and chemical warfare coming to play during the world wars and up into the Vietnam war, there was a necessity for gas masks to be worn and to be flush against the face, which a beard would not allow.  A company called Gillette came up with a disposable razor that would allow soldiers to not worry and spend so much time shaving, and was cheap also.
    Fast forward a few more decades and slowly everything has become disposable.  Step in WalMart and other big box discounters and we find that people can live the life of luxury for much less than it used to cost.  The real cost behind though is quality.   Do you have an old dresser that your grandfather made?  Perhaps a hutch that has been passed down through the past hundred years?  Now think of anything recent that you have bought that you might pass on to your children?  Not thinking of anything, drawing a blank.  Exactly.  Things are made cheap, break easily, and manufacturers like this. If you made a bookshelf that could last 100 years, they would run out of business.  Gillette likes to sell you $15 of blades every month for the rest of your life, WalMart likes selling you a $10 camp chair this year, and next year, and the year after.  Sometimes it seems like we are so into getting a "deal" on something that we just forget about quality and think of the now and not the next year, decade or century.
    When I lived in Taiwan, there isn't much in the way of second hand stores.  Why is this?  People there use things to the point of not being able to use them any more.  Moreover they will repurpose it and use it until there is no  way to repurpose it again.  This is the ultimate form of reuse that is able to save the environment.  If we can't reduce the things that we use (e.g. drinking water) we can reuse what we do use (porcelain cups vs paper cups).  I even knew someone who's parents would take a shower and save the water to dump in the back of the toilet.  Same with the handwashed laundry water.  Reduce, and reuse what you can't reduce.

Recycle

At this point we finally arrive at where we need to recycle.  I'm not going to spend much time on this topic.  We have cut out any thing that isn't necessary, and reused what we do have.  Now there are the scraps left over afterwards.  There may be little distinction sometimes between recycling and reusing, but perhaps we could use the standard of recycling being something that you give to a recycle company.  We'll leave compost to the reader to decide if that is recycling or reusing.  With the above being done correctly we can reduce the amount of recycling that we have, meaning that less of the so-called recycling ends up in the dump.

Conclusion

By living the first two R's the third will come more naturally.  We will find out that a larger investment in finer, high quality items, may actually mean quite a bit  of savings down the road.  When your neighbour has bought their fourth set of lawn chairs in six years, you'll still be on your first.  You may have paid twice as much up front, but now you have more cash to spend on the other items you would like to enjoy.  Live frugal, spend wisely, and enjoy life.  Enjoying doesn't have to be wasteful, splurging on everything and not caring about the excess.  You'll find that it's much more cost effective to first reduce, then reuse before you recycle.
    If you like this article, share it with someone else and come back each week for more.  Feel free to leave suggestions for future topics in the comments or email me at blog@ohyonghao.com

Monday, July 2, 2012

Homemade Yogurt

Article has been moved to my blog at OhYongHao.com
This started while I was in Taiwan, one of the members in our ward had started making yogurt at home and that got me interested in trying to make it myself.  Of course I went to Google and started looking up all the do's and don'ts of yogurt making.  On June 20th, 2012 I received my first yogurt maker from Amazon.com, the Eurocuisine Yogert Maker Model No. YM80.  What I like about this model is that it comes with glass jars instead of plastic.  I don't know about you but I've had plenty of water that's come from heated plastic bottles that have sat in my car for 4-8 hours and just think that I wouldn't want to make my yogurt with plastic jars.

Unboxing

Here goes my first attempt at an unboxing... Okay, I forgot to take out the camera and take pictures.  I'll have to attempt this next time I have something cool coming.

My First Attempt

I recommend reading this blog on homemade yogurt, and her companion blog on how to reuse the same culture time and time again.
  As usual, I like to read through the manual before I start using things, so I read through the small booklet that came with the yogurt maker so that I could make sure I understood how to use one correctly.  There were small points in it that I would most likely have messed up on if I had not read through it.  I'll list a few of them here that I had not read in other places.

  1. Don't put the lids on the jars while they are in the yogurt maker.  You put the lids on them before you put them in the fridge.  Also, when removing the yogurt maker lid, be careful not to drip condensation into the yogurt.
  2. How to use the hour reminder. (It turns out this hour reminder is really just a notch on the lid that points to the hour of the day that you should take it off the heating pad.  In other words, it's a piece of plastic pointing at a number on the side and does absolutely nothing.  No beep, no alarm, no fireworks, nada.)
  3. Don't move the yogurt maker once you have started warming the jars, leave them be for the next 7-12 hours.
    Now, there was one point that disagrees with the blogs that I shared earlier, and I think is just another way of companies trying to not be obsolete after selling you something, and that is it mentioned to not reuse the culture that you used to start it with more than once.  Here's my untried advice about that.  If you are going to make more within three days, feel free to keep using it indefinitely, if it's going to be longer, freeze it first as soon as it is out of the incubator, and follow the steps in the blog I shared, namely to let it get up to room temperature before mixing it with the milk.  Doing this you should be able to always make yogurt from milk without having to repurchase starter.  This also significantly lowers the cost of making yogurt.

The Costs - Is It Worth It?

    This really is the question, at least for me.  I'm not a total health nut, and I don't believe that everything that comes out of a factory is bad for you, but for me it's about three things:

  1. Being self sufficient - I like to be able to do things myself and at least know how to do it.  Perhaps down the road I will decide it's not worth the trouble, who knows.
  2. Quality - Making it myself I can control the quality, and quantity, that I make.  I can have nice fresh fruits or preserved jams, eat it plain, extra thick, a little thin, however I want it, but I can know that it is of a good quality, nothing extra added in it, no added sugar.  Sugar is one of the things that comes out of a factory that I believe is bad for you, even if it is hard to avoid.
  3. Costs - I could work around the quality by buying brands I trust and getting plain yogurt.  Being self sufficient is nice when you have the time, but who has enough time to be self sufficient and make money?  Really, this is one of the things that it comes down to, how troublesome it is, and how much it costs in both time, cleanup, and raw materials.

    At the time of this writing I bought a gallon of milk for $x.xx, and a quart of Dannon yogurt (why does nobody sell the small 6 or 8oz size in plain) for $2.38 from Walmart (I despise going to this store and always have a bad experience whenever I go, but that's a rant for another day and my preferred grocer did not carry Dannon).  The yogurt maker was $34.75 from Amazon (with free two day shipping thanks to Prime).  A Tillamook flavored yogurt goes for $0.48/6oz container.  I'm going to ignore the difference in costs for me to make flavored yogurt for now, but I'll also do the math with the plain quart container I got.
    So far, this is what we know:

  • Gallon of milk - $2.49
  • Dannon 1 quart yogurt - $2.38
  • Yogurt Maker - $34.75
  • Tillamook Flavored Yogurt 6oz - $0.48

When making yogurt we will have exactly the same amount of yogurt as we do milk.  There are 128 ounces in a gallon of milk.  Therefore we should be able to make 128/6 containers of yogurt, or 21.33 6oz containers.
    To purchase the same amount from the store in flavored yogurt we would have to spend
            21.33 * $0.48 = $10.23.
    That doesn't sound too bad, one yogurt a day and you can eat it for three weeks.  Now what does that equate to in our costs?
    I'll first run the costs without the initial investment, then later I'll figure out how much yogurt I'll need to make to payback my investment.  What we have is, milk + yogurt (forget the negligible electricity costs, we live in Washington State, home of hydroelectricity).
            $2.49 + $2.38 = $4.87
    Wow, when we were thinking that about $13/mo for yogurt isn't bad, look at this!  We are saving $5.36 per gallon of yogurt, and I didn't even calculate that we would still eat the rest of the Dannon container, another 32oz, or 5 containers worth.  Adding that in the previous costs is more like this:
            (128+32)/6*$0.48=$12.80
    That's more nearly triple the costs now!  Maybe I should get into the yogurt making business.  Now, to be fair, I'll do a few more calculations.  One is to use the Dannon plain yogurt for the cost basis.  This is a bit easier because we know that there are 4 quarts in a gallon, therefore we need five containers (remember the extra container for a starter that we'll still eat).
            $2.38 * 5 = $11.90
    A modest savings over the flavored variety, but when compared to homemade, it's hands down cheaper to just make it yourself.  But wait, what about the next batch in which we don't use any Dannon? you ask. Well, it'll be on a parabolic curve, because we have to include the costs of saving one 6oz container as a starter for our next gallon (this could possibly be less, but I haven't had time to experiment with how much starter to actually use).
    Let's first calculate the cost per 6oz container, to have a more meaningful measurement.  We know that there are 160oz in our concoction, that equals out to
            $4.87 / 160oz * 6oz = $0.18 per 6oz container.
    Now we'll calculate out our new costs, keeping the same formula milk + yogurt:
            $2.49 + $0.18 = $2.67
    This time we only added a 6oz container, which will be the same 6oz that we take for the next batch, so we don't add that in here and just calculate out the 128oz.
            $2.67 / 128oz * 6oz = $0.125 per 6oz container
    Now this is what I'm talking about, under a quarter for a nice thing of yogurt.  Now our third batch will finally be where we are no longer acquiring the costs of our starter.
            $2.49 / 128oz * 6oz = $0.117 per 6oz container
    This time I left on the extra cents to show that it does get a little bit cheaper, but it doesn't really show out that well.  The final part is to figure out how much yogurt we must consume to have made back our initial investment.  This should be:
            Investment + 1st batch + 2nd batch + 3rd Batch * x < Dannon * 4 * (x + 2)+ 1 Dannon
            $34.75 + $4.87 + $2.67 + $2.49 * x < $2.38 + $2.38 * 4 * (x + 2)
            $42.29 + $2.49 * x < $2.38 + $9.52 * x + $19.04
            $42.29 - $21.42  < $9.52 * x - $2.49 * x
            $20.87 < $7.03 * x
            2.97 < x
    Therefore by our thrid batch we will have made enough yogurt to have earned our investment in savings. If you have a large family that enjoy's yogurt, this can be huge.  At a standard rate of consumption of 1 gallon per month, it would take 3 months to earn your ROI.  After that it's just more money in the bank.
    Sorry about being a little long winded about the costs.  This obviously doesn't account for accidently eating your starter, gas to the store to buy milk, adding sugar, honey, or fruits or anything else to the yogurt.  I'll leave it as an exercise for yourself to figure out the cost savings using Tillamook flavored yogurt vs making your own yogurt and adding fruit.

The Results

    Many words could be used to describe this concoction.  It was fabulous, smelled just like yogurt, tastes just like yogurt, eats just like yogurt.  By golly, I think I made yogurt.  I've tried it with maple syrup, cherries, and strawberries so far and it's just delectable.  My wife tried it with oranges, also good, although she really likes it with the maple syrup.
    In conclusion, I believe this contraption is a worthy investment, it makes making yogurt easy and not time consuming.  It took about 10 minutes prep time (perhaps a little longer, but we ate dinner while we boiled the water to sterilize the jars), then it just sat for 9 hours while we slept.  My recommendation is if you like eating yogurt all the time, just make it yourself, you're doing yourself and your pocketbook a favor.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

As over 2 million other people have done, I've watched Dr. Lustig's video Sugar: The Bitter Truth.  I found it very interesting and insightful, along with inspiring.  I have watched it twice over, and each time I watch it I have a new found desire to quit eating sugar.  Having said that, you should have inferred that my first attempt was unsuccessful at quitting sugar.  Like probably the majority (if not the super majority) of people who have watched his lecture, I have failed to kick the habit.  The more I reflect upon days in which my sugar consumption is low, the more I realize that I am like a drug addict, seeking every possible spot in the house that might possibly have a single morsel of this white powdery substance.  My point overall is I would like to seriously take the steps towards quitting.

My Philosophy on Dieting

I have spent a lot of time studying about various diets and trying out different ideas I've had.  I've never really been one for fad diets because of my very basic core philosophy on dieting that still hasn't changed.  That is that dieting is about changing your lifelong eating and drinking habits, not about weight loss.  Because of this I have kept from trying or reading much about diets that promise huge results in a short amount of time.  All those types of diets lead to is a false sense of victory over the ever expanding waist line that is temporary at best.
    One of the most influential works on dieting that I have read is "The Hackers Diet" by John Walker.  It opened my eyes and helped me to see that exercise wasn't going to get me thin.  The 20 oz. bottle of Pibb Xtra sitting at my desk has enough calories for me to run for half an hour, and with my busy schedule I couldn't open enough time to burn off the calories needed to lose any meaningful amount of weight.
    I find his book to be more or less correct, but the only thing that should be corrected, in accordance with Dr. Lustig's findings, is that calories from fructose counts far more towards fat creation and weight gain than calories from any other source.

My New Philosophy on Dieting

After having watched Dr. Lustig's video I had to change some of my philosophy on dieting.  I still stick with the number one rule, that dieting is about changing your lifelong eating and drinking habits, not about weight loss, but I had to get rid of the idea that all calories are the same.  I still agree with a lot of what John Walker says in his book, and it still makes sense that a half hour of running equals to one bottle of coke.  If we get rid of the coke for water we'll save 1750 calories each week and lose about half a pound.  But as I look into cutting calories, which is still needed, I am looking into cutting more sugar calories.
    I'll take the glass of milk without the cookie, or some cheese and wheat crackers instead of that ice cream.  While doing this I also have to be careful about the amount of salt that is in things also, as this also leads to increase in blood volume, and therefore blood pressure and hypertension.

The Hard Part - Getting Others to Go Along With You

As anyone who has tried to work against the grain, or go against traditional ideas, or tried to stop smoking, the hardest part may be getting others to hop on the bandwagon.  We all know that eating Big Macs twice a week and having Pizza Friday consist of half a pizza per person isn't the healthiest way to live, and then washing this all down with super double or triple gulp sodas isn't doing yourself any favors, but let's face it, we enjoy eating.  It makes us feel good.
    The hard times comes especially around holiday's and celebrations.  You're going to have Thanksgiving dinner, so a little overeating is okay, have a slice of pie, or two or three.  Maybe it's not a holiday, perhaps a birthday, or a friend invites you out to eat.  To make it easier you should at least notify your friends and family and ask for their support.  Showing them that you are serious and enthusiastic can also help them to support you in doing this.  But I find the biggest thing that helps is to be truly converted to the new lifestyle.  Remember my basic core philosophy, diet is more about a change of eating and drinking habit, if you aren't converted to the diet, a change of lifestyle, then you won't have long term success.

Conclusion

Sugar is a poison, simple as that.  Once it's in our body it can do the same harm as long term alcohol abuse.  The government isn't going to do anything about it anytime soon, and ultimately we are responsible for our own health.  The supply will change naturally with the demand, so if more people start demanding low fructose (including sucrose) alternatives, the market will naturally shift, but we need advocates in our communities to spread the message, and this video.
    If you are going to succeed at a diet, you must be converted to it and willing to make a lifelong change of your eating habits.  This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the things that you eat, but to not over indulge yourself.  Remember, an exception to the rule, is just that, an exception.  It does not replace or become the rule.  When you "cheat" don't use that as an excuse to cheat for the rest of the day, or the rest of the week, get right back on the diet.  Try to change whatever it was that caused the exception and remember to enjoy life.

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor, dietition or any kind of certified professional in giving health advice.  As with any changes to exercise and diet, please consult your physician.

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Post!

    As many hackers and slackers, programmers and engineers, project managers and middle managers have done many a time over, I am starting a new blog yet again.  Blogging has been something that I have been interested in doing for a long time.  I have tried many times to create my own website, use other sites like Geocities (who remembers Cape Canaveral there?) or even MySpace (didn't last long) or nowadays using Facebook.  There are so many distractions thrown at us everyday that sometimes I wonder how people even find the time to blog.
    With a recent change of work I've found that I have a little bit more time on my hands and have decided to start this process all over again.  I've learned some things from past experiences with blogging and I think that I have a few things figured out.

  1. Publish Once a Week
    To start with, I'm only going to publish one article a week.  This may change in the future, but let me get the hang of it to start with.  I want to spend time and make sure that my articles are interesting and that people are going to enjoy these articles and be coming back for more.
  2. Routine
    This pretty much goes along with #1, but I want it to be a routine, and by a routine I mean I want it to be published on the same day of week every week.  This way people have expectations, I don't waste anyone's time by having them come back each day and see if there is anything new that has been published.
  3. Gimmick vs. Style
    In all of this I hope to eventually find my own style, but I'm not good with having gimmicks.  Sure I'd like to have something that screams out that I'm different than every other blog out there, but gimmicks seem to take too much time and lead to a lower quality of work because I'm restrained to stay within that form.
  4. Lists
    As you can tell I don't mind making lists, but I'm not going to go out of my way to make a list each time I blog.  Lists should be short and enjoyable and make sense in the context, I won't just make a list to have a list.
    There it is, my years of accumulated knowledge brought down to a list of 4 items.

What to Expect

    This is a little hard to answer but I'll give it my best shot.  On this blog it's going to be sort of an anything goes.  Since my interests are largely focused on computers you can expect quite a few articles here concerning technology.  Another hobby that I have is to read fantasy/science fiction novels.  Generally I read epic novels, ones that consists of trilogies or more, not really sure when the last time I read a book that wasn't part of some trilogy or series.  I also like to do things myself, so you can also expect articles here and there about various projects that I'm doing.  One that I may put up in the coming weeks is a white box for photographing merchandise for sale on line (my wife runs a modest export business shipping small items back to Taiwan).
    Other than computers and technology I'm also somewhat into politics.  Some may say that I have Ron Paulian Politics.  I believe in small government, more freedom, less taxes and a sound dollar.  I've found it hard to get into local politics just because of my own time restraints and lack of knowledge in the area, but I support the efforts of many to go back to our roots.
    Pistols, rifles, shotguns are also some things which I may discuss here.  I am pro-gun and believe that you should be to.  Having lived out of country for 6 years in a country that doesn't allow guns, I don't believe that you are really any safer without them.  Murder, rape, assault all still plague the news stations every night, the only different is that people go to more barbaric means to accomplish the same end.
    Last of all you may expect some religious discussion on here.  I am a Latter-day Saint, commonly known as Mormon.  I joined the LDS church in 2003 after having traveled 23 of the 50 states in search of something, soul finding you might say.  Expect once in a while to have some insights that I feel like sharing.