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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.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Competitive Eating - Heart Pounding Entertainment

    Yes, there really is such a thing and there really are professional eaters. Major League Eating is the world body that oversees all professional eating contests. The organization, which developed competitive eating and includes the sport's governing body, the International Federation of Competitive Eating, helps sponsors to develop, publicize and execute world-class eating events in all varieties of food disciplines. MLE-sanctioned eating contests provide dramatic audience entertainment and offer an unparalleled platform for media exposure. MLE conducts approximately 80 events annually and has produced hours of programming for SpikeTV, ESPN, Fox, and Bio.
     Competitive eating, or speed eating, is a sport (?) in which participants compete against each other to consume large quantities of food in a short time period. Contests are typically eight to 10 minutes long, and usually less than 15 minutes in length, with the person consuming the most food being declared the winner. Competitive eating is most popular in the United States, Canada, and Japan, where organized professional eating contests often offer prizes, including cash.
     Traditionally, eating contests, often involving pies, were events at county fairs. The recent surge in the popularity of competitive eating is due in large part to the development of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, an annual holiday tradition that has been held on July 4 virtually every year since the 1970s at Coney Island. In 2001, Takeru Kobayashi transformed the competition and the world of competitive eating by downing 50 hot dogs. Kobayashi was dethroned by Joey Chesnut in 2008 when they tied at 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes and Chestnut won in an eat-off which involved being the first to eat 5 hot dogs in overtime. Chestnut holds the world record of 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Kobayashi holds six Guinness Records, for eating hot dogs, meatballs, Twinkies, hamburgers, pizza.
     Other eating contests sponsored are by various businesses and can involve a challenge to eat large or extraordinarily spicy food items, including giant steaks, hamburgers and curries in a set amount of time. Those who finish the item are often rewarded by not having to pay for the item, or with a t-shirt and the addition of their name and/or photo on a wall of challenge victors.
     The type of food used in contests varies greatly, with each contest typically only using one type of food (e.g. a hot dog eating contest). Foods used in professional eating contests include hamburgers, hot dogs, pies, pancakes, chicken wings, asparagus, pizza, ribs, whole turkeys, among many other types of food.
     Competitive eating contests often adhere to an 8, 10, 12 or 15 minute time limit. They may employ a series of judges, whose role is to enforce the contest rules and warn eaters about infractions. Judges will also be called upon to count or weigh each competitor's food and certify the results of the contest prior to the winner being announced.
     Many eaters will attempt to put as much food in their mouths as possible during the final seconds of a contest, a practice known by professionals as "chipmunking." If chipmunking is allowed in a contest, eaters are given a reasonable amount of time to swallow the food or risk a deduction from their final totals. In many contests, except those adhering to "picnic style rules" eaters are allowed to dunk foods in water or other liquids in order to soften the food and make it easier to chew and swallow. Dunking typically takes place with foods involving a bun or other doughy parts. Professional contests often enforce a limit on the amount of time competitors are allowed to dunk food. 
     All-Pro Eating is the home of World Championship Competitive Eating and is the sport's only home of picnic style rules.  They provide "heart pounding entertainment."
     Competitors are expected to maintain a relatively clean eating surface throughout the contest. Excess debris after the contest may result in a deduction from the eater's final totals.
    If, at any point during or immediately after the contest, a competitor pukes any food, they will be disqualified. Vomiting includes obvious signs as well as any small amounts of food that may fall from the mouth deemed by judges to have come from the stomach. Small amounts of food already in the mouth prior to swallowing are excluded from this rule.
     Many professional competitive eaters undergo rigorous personal training in order to increase their stomach capacity and eating speed with various foods. Stomach elasticity is usually considered the key to eating success, and competitors commonly train by drinking large amounts of water over a short time to stretch out the stomach. Others combine the consumption of water with large quantities of low calorie foods such as vegetables or salads. Some eaters chew large amounts of gum in order to build jaw strength.
     Like all sports, physical danger is always present. One criticism of competitive eating is the message the gluttonous "sport" sends as obesity levels rise among Americans and the example it sets for youth.
     The main argument against competitive eating can cause weight gain, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure, common ailment among the pros. Damage to the digestive system was the subject of a 2007 study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The study observed professional eater Tim Janus, who ate 36 hot dogs in 10 minutes before doctors intervened. It was concluded that through training, Janus' stomach failed to have normal muscle contractions called peristalsis, a function which transfers food from the stomach down the digestive tract. Stomach paralysis is a concern among those who routinely stretch their stomachs beyond capacity because it may lead to the stomach's inability to contract and lose its ability to empty itself. Side effects of gastroparesis include chronic indigestion, nausea and vomiting. It's not unheard of that from time to time eaters die on the job, so to speak...mostly from choking to death.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Taking Dietary Supplements With Heart, Blood Pressure, or Cholesterol Medicines

Visit the US Department of Health and Human Services for more information on this subject.

     Although dietary supplements are advertised as being beneficial or helpful, there is not much research about how they may harm your health when taken with cardiac medicines.
     Supplements could cause side effects that may not be listed on the label. Dietary supplements may also interfere with certain medicines or other supplements and this could make the medicine or supplement not work as well or could cause other side effects.
     If your doctor has suggested you take one of the following heart, blood vessel, blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood thinner medicines. These are called cardiovascular (CV) medicines.

Blood pressure medicines like ACE (angiotensin- converting enzyme) inhibitors, ARBs (angiotension II receptor blockers), beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics (sometimes called “water pills”)
Medicines that help make the pumping of your heart stronger, like Lanoxicaps® or Lanoxin®
Medicines that help control your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, like statins or fenofibrate
Blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin®)
Aspirin or other “antiplatelet” medicines like Plavix®, Brilinta®, or Pradaxa®
Medicines to treat or prevent chest pain from your heart, like nitrates such as Isordil®

If you are taking or thinking about taking one or more dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances that add to the vitamins and minerals you get from food) in addition to your CV medicine then be sure to check out the site.

Dietary supplements studied in the research include:
⦁ Niacin (vitamin B3)
⦁ Vitamin E
⦁ Vitamin K
⦁ Magnesium
⦁ Ginseng
⦁ Echinacea
⦁ Garlic supplements
⦁ Ginger supplements
⦁ Ginkgo biloba
⦁ Omega-3 fatty acids/fish oil
⦁ Coenzyme Q10
⦁ Hawthorn

Unexpected Hazards of Supplements - Washington Post Article

Matchstick Modeling as a Hobby

     Matchstick models are scale models made from matches. Regular matches are usually not used, however, but a special modeling type which do not have the combustible heads, and can be bought from art and craft shops. Though before the production of these, actual matches were used with heads trimmed off, or kept on to add colored detail.
     Originally, matchstick models were a pastime of prisoners (especially naval prisoners of war) during the 18th century. At the time, better funded modelers preferred to use more replicated parts for their models, like professionals today, and the poor couldn't afford to use up so many matches.
     The matches are cut by means of a sharp knife and fixed together using glue, often being held in place by paperboard "formers" until the glue is dry. While the smallest gaps can be filled with glue, larger ones can be filled with specially carved matches. While a number of hobbyists prefer to build their models from scratch, many kits are available, consisting of instructions, pre-cut card formers and sufficient modeling matches for the project. Checkout this story on a retired carpenter from Great Britain who has built famous buildings and used over a million matchsticks  to build versions of famous buildings around the world....

...or one of the models of this guy from Iowa.

In addition to kits you can also buy books and even license plate holders and T-shirts on matchstick modeling.  Many craft stores  sell everything you need to get started, too. Some links: Getting Started, Building ModelsHow to Create Matchstick Models, Matchstick Marvels and  Beginners Guide.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Japanese Puzzle Boxes

     The first Japanese Secret Puzzle Boxes were designed over 100 years ago in the late Edo     period by Jinbei Ishikawa (1790-1850). The puzzle box (also called a secret, or trick box) is a box that can only be opened through some obscure or complicated series of manipulations.
     Some puzzle boxes may require only a simple squeeze in the correct area, whereas others may require the subtle movement of several small parts, to open the box. If opened, a puzzle box can contain a good luck charm. These boxes can be very complex. They may consist of moves with a variety of twists to trick the person trying to open the box, but the trick is finding the correct series of movements that can range from two to over 1500 moves.
     In Japan they are known as “Himitsu-Bako." The Himitsu-Bako is an enclosed box, seemingly with no opening, and you cannot even tell which side is the top or bottom. Its mechanism is quite tricky and it impossible to open it unless you follow the exact step-by-step procedure, such as pushing or pulling a certain side at a time, designed specially for it.  To be opened, each box must be rotated, turned and moved in a specific way. The size of a Japanese puzzle box is measured with a traditional Japanese length measuring system called “SUN”. 1 sun = 1.22 inches = 3.09 centimetres = 30.9 millimeters

    These boxes first appeared 100 years ago when the principle of trick-mechanism was first developed and continuous improvements have been made to complete the Himitsu-Bako to perfection as they are found today. The Himitsu-Bako craftsmen produce their secret puzzle box virtually alone from start to finish. They pick the wood they will use and then allow it to dry for a period of time. Next, they cut and assemble wood pieces to form the puzzle box. Most of Japanese puzzle boxes are covered with Yosegi Zaiku marquetry. Yosegi-Zaiku is a mosaic style, where a skilled craftsman cuts different coloured woods in to various shapes, then glues them together to form geometrically patterned woodblocks.

For more information visit the following sites:  Puzzle Box World, Amazon, Cleverwood, and Serious Puzzles.

Monday, February 2, 2015


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     Launched in September 2000, Booksfree.com is the oldest online book rental service.  Oprah Magazine said Booksfree is the book version of Netflix. Originally launched as a paperback book rental service of bestselling paperback fiction books, Booksfree has expanded into children's books, nonfiction books, and audiobooks. Since 2000, Booksfree has grown its selection from 25,000 titles to over a quarter of a million titles.
     In 2010, Booksfree developed and launched a complementary book and audiobook swap service BooksfreeSwap. Their website and swap process has made it the online swap service of choice.
     In 2012, Booksfree developed and launched an online audiobook download and streaming service AudiobooksNow that offers an affordable alternative to purchasing, downloading, and streaming audiobooks online or through their free Android, Apple, Nook, and Kindle apps.
     Located just outside of Washington, D.C. in Northern Virginia, Booksfree is located near one of the country's largest book distribution warehouses (Ingram Book Group), and a USPS bulk mail center. Booksfree donates overstock titles to Walter Reed Medical Center and supports wounded warriors. Booksfree also donates books to various libraries.