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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Fascinating World of Blimps

  Blimps are airships. Airships are defined as a powered, steerable aircraft that is inflated with a gas that is lighter than air. A dirigible is same as an airship. Rigid airships, semi-rigid airships and blimps are all dirigibles. They are inflated with helium which, in the US at least, is only available from certain natural gas wells in Oklahoma and Texas.

    Today, blimps are best known as advertising vehicles — Goodyear began using blimps to advertise their brand in 1925 — but blimps have also played an important role in the armed forces of many countries; the U.S. Navy’s lighter-than-air program made extensive use of blimps, primarily in anti-submarine and reconnaissance roles, from the 1920s through the 1950s.
     The Hindenburg was a rigid airship that maintained its shape by means of a metal framework. It had a framework surrounding one or more individual gas cells and maintained its shape by virtue of the framework and not from the pressure of its lifting gas. A zeppelin is a rigid airship manufactured by a particular company, the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin of Germany (the “Zeppelin Airship Construction Company”), founded by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. He was considered the father of the rigid airship but not all rigid airships are “zeppelins,” just as not all photocopiers are “Xerox” machines. The term zeppelin is often associated with the German airships that conducted bombing raids during World War I, but while most of these ships were built by the Zeppelin Company the German military also used rigid airships of very different design built by the Schutte-Lanz and Parseval companies, so not all German WWI airships were zeppelins. Zeppelins still fly today and the new Goodyear airship is a NOT a blimp but a zeppelin, built by a descendant of the same company that built Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg.
     A semi-rigid airship, like a blimp, maintains its shape from internal gas pressure, but it has a partial rigid frame, usually in the form of a keel, which supports and distributes loads and provides structural integrity during maneuvering.
     Additional Information:

Monday, March 2, 2015

All About...

Be sure and check out the "All About" series in the column on the right and learn all about...
the Hatfield and McCoy feud
 the Battle of Gettysburg
Airplane propellers
Steam locomotives
Tour Navy ships
Rock collecting
the Moon


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow Forecasts

Be careful of forecasts that show snow forecasts more than 5 days out. There are "could happen" and "might happen" forecasts. There are often more than one possible forecast based on conditions when showing a "could happen" scenario...But "Could happen" scenarios are not a healthy way of looking at the weather. "Mostly likely" scenarios are safer and work better in the long run. Trust the meteorologist not the computer. A local weatherman, Scott Sabol, posted an excellent article on snow forecasting on his Blog. Worth reading if you are a weather watcher! This February is ranked 2nd coldest in Cleveland, Ohio since 1875.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Speaking of Eating Chinchillas...

Would you eat this?
    I added an edit to the post on chinchillas when I read that they are good eating...at least I think the recipes are legit. 
I am a fan of Andrew Zmmern's tv show, Bizarre Foods and he eats all kinds of weird stuff so I don't see why you couldn't eat chinchillas.

     I am also a fan of Swamp People and they eat alligators all the time. The Food Network says, "You'll want to try it after seeing all the recipes and tricks for cooking with alligator." I don't know about that, but I've seen it for sale at the local meat market we frequent but have never had the guts to try it. There's a place in California that has all kinds of exotic meat for sale, including alligator: Buy Wild Game Meats.

Alligator Stew
    I am told that if it isn't cooked right it's very greasy and doesn't taste good. Of course it tastes like chicken but supposedly has the texture of steak.

     When I was a kid we used to eat rabbits, squirrels and pheasants my dad shot while he was working on the railroad. I saw a big snapping turtle butchered once and that was enough for me...it was a real turn off...disgusting.  Just the thought of eating reptiles turns me off as does eating any wild game. Here's a recipe for something called "Alligator Piquant."
    I don't like calamari either. Funny thing...we were at a wedding reception in Chicago one time and there was a big bowl of fried onion rings on the table and they were delicious. At least I thought they were onion rings, but they weren't; they were...calamari. OK, so it tasted good, but the thought of eating it still turns me off. Same with eating chinchillas and alligators. But that's just me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Raising Chinchillas for Fun and Profit

     One of the first TV infomercials that I remember was back in the 1950's; it was for chinchilla ranching. You could buy a couple of chinchillas, cages, etc. and raise them in your garage and when you got a herd or whatever you call a bunch of them, you could start selling them to be made into fur coats. 
     I thought chinchilla ranching was dead, but it's not. Chinchillas are squirrel-like rodents native to the South American Andes.
     The international trade in chinchilla fur goes back to the 16th century. Their fur is popular due to its extremely soft feel, and even color. Chinchillas are also often used in researching the auditory system because their range of hearing is close to that of a human and their inner ear is easy to access. They have also been used in the study of many other diseases in humans, especially gastrointestinal diseases.
     The wild population of chinchillas had been hunted almost to extinction when, in 1923, eleven of them were brought to the United States, where they were bred successfully by specialized breeders. These eleven were the ancestors of almost all American chinchillas. In 1943, there were an estimated 20,000 chinchillas in the United States; by 1962, there were 750,000. 
     Chinchillas are small and it takes about 150 of them to make a coat. Because chinchillas and the fur coats made from them are so expensive, people got the idea that breeding chinchillas could be extremely profitable. In the US from about 1953-1955 there was a breeding craze that lead to all kinds of scams.
$400 in the mid-50's is about $3,500 today

     The problem was that chinchillas are not easy to breed. They are high altitude animals and cannot survive summers in the United States unless their environment is consistently air conditioned. Chinchillas lack the ability to sweat; therefore, if temperatures get above 25°C (80°F), they could get overheated and suffer from heat stroke. Chinchillas dissipate heat by routing blood to their large ears. Plus, they are also subject to a variety of other problems.
     In addition to being susceptible to various infectious diseases, they have a very sensitive gastrointestinal tract that can be easily disrupted resulting in disorders like constipation and diarrhea. In this respect, they are worse than an old man. A recommended diet for chinchillas is usually a mixed-food diet including wheat bran, oats, barley, millet, linseed, dietary calcium, salt, fennel, powdered milk, and hay to go with leaves and herbs.
     Chinchillas must have access to a dust bath which the animal will use to care for its fur and massage itself and care must be taken to ensure that the dust has no dangerous chemicals. Chinchillas clean their fur by taking dust baths, in which they roll around in special dust made of fine pumice. In the wild, the dust is formed from fine, ground volcanic rocks. The dust gets into their fur and absorbs oil and dirt. These baths are needed a few times a week. Chinchillas do not bathe in water because the dense fur prevents air-drying, retaining moisture close to the skin, which can cause fungus growth or fur rot. A wet chinchilla must be dried immediately with towels and a no-heat hair dryer.
     Their teeth need to be worn down, as they grow continuously and can prevent them from eating if they become overgrown. Chinchillas in captivity are prone to problems with their molars if they are not fed an appropriate diet and given access to appropriate chewing tools. Problems with their molars are often misdiagnosed and improperly treated. Also, dental problems can be hereditary.
     Chinchillas require extensive exercise so special cages are required. They are active animals and occasionally suffer bone fractures and minor injuries which must receive proper treatment. Fractures are a major problem because chinchillas sit on their hind legs and eat with their front paws, so many injuries may affect their ability to eat.
     Let's talk about mental health. Chinchillas are easily distressed and when they are unhappy they may have physical symptoms. Care should be taken not to disturb them, and lots of things disturb them. They don't respond well to sudden changes in their diet and during their breeding season care must be taken not to disturb them in any way. 
     All of these issues probably weren't discussed in the informercials and ads of the 1950's, hence the scams.  Imagine parting with the equivalent of $3,500 or more for a couple of chinchillas with the expectation that you were going to make a tidy profit only to have them croak for any number of reasons mentioned above.   

A Collection of Chinchilla Ranching Ads from the '50s
More Chinchilla Information 
Breeding Chinchillas for Profit
Chinchilla History
RDZC Chinchilla Ranch

EDIT:  Supposedly you can eat the little critters: Chinchilla Stew   Alternate recipe

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Free Drafting Programs

     Before I retired I worked in the engineering department for a manufacturing company doing design, estimating and drafting. My new laptop does not have AutoCAD installed on it, but having it would be very handy for various projects. I have AutoCAD on an old desktop, but it having it on my laptop would be better; unfortunately that's not possible.
     After some research I found a site which reviewed the top 5 best free drafting programs HERE
     I tried downloading the free Student Version of AutoCAD, but for some reason the Autodesk site would not allow it. In fact, I wasn't even able to create an account.  So, I downloaded a couple of other drafting programs to try them out and my preference is for the program DraftSight because it reminded me of AutoCAD...sort of like the way Open Office reminds one of Microsoft's Word & Excel.
     DraftSight is ideal for individual use. There are no fees or limitation on usage. The only requirement is that you need to activate the program with a valid e-mail address. DraftSight is a basic 2D drafting package that looks and feels very much like AutoCAD. It has all the drafting tools you'll need for generating professional looking plans and it uses the .DWG format as its file type, the same as Autodesk products, so you can open and share AutoCAD files. I have an AutoCAD drawing of our house on the old desktop and it loaded perfectly and I was able to work with it as I would on AutoCAD. You can download DraftSight HERE.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Free Stuff on Craigslist

Google Craigslist (YOUR HOME TOWN) to see what people are giving away for FREE! 

Here are some samples from my hometown:
  • Free stove for scrap. On treelawn. (Some people go around on trash day and pick up items like this which they then sell for scrap.)
  • Nineteen years of National Geographic Magazines (1983-2001). All in slip cases.
  • Televisions and computer monitors for scrap. (These can be sold to some scrap dealers)
  • Imitation Christmas tree
  • Wooden pallets
  • Fridge works just fine, but it's in our basement so it needs at least 2 strong people to move it.
  • Loveseat free to whoever wants it. Missing back pillows and covers for the seat cushions. (There is a picture of it posted, but there is a huge dog asleep on it.)
  • Doing some remodeling work in my house. Tore out the walls and have a pile of lath boards that would be perfect for firewood or kindling. All for FREE. Bring a truck, some gloves and some friends.
  • 3 dressers, two shelves, TV stand, oval table and 3 rolling chairs, coffee table, twin bed frame. Needs picked up asap. Must bring help to load
There are several scrap metal dealers in my hometown and they buy stuff like: gold and silver, junk cars, copper and brass, lead and steel, motor blocks, electric motors, aluminum cans, aluminum siding, wire & radiators, sheet iron, aluminum wheels, insulated wire, etc. Pricing varies, but examples of prices paid are: aliminum cans $0.50/lb, copper $1.75/lb, miscellaneous steel $0.07/lb and junk cars $0.08/lb. Car batteries $4.50 each.
     So, if you are looking for something in particular or maybe even want to make a few extra dollars to help pay for a new laptop or trip to Disney World, Craigslist can be a valuable resource.  For more information you can check out the following sites: ReCraigslist: this fellow is selling courses that supposedly teach you how to make money in the scrap-selling business, but the interesting thing is he lists the prices many items typically go for. Popular Mechanics magazine article on making money selling scrap. Earth911 article, Basics of Recycling Scrap Metal for Money.