Amping up my quest for improved household air quality – plants upstairs and down

Having spent time the other day replacing the house furnace and my own little box fan/filter with new and higher end filters, I got to considering: I am of the opinion that replacing those filters is ENTIRELY worth the money, but to some degree it bothers me that the old ones are just thrown away.

And it bothers me that I have to keep paying, as well, to be quite honest.

So I started doing a skill I have had for years (and honed to masterclass while one-armed healing from surgery): namely, searching Google for abstract ideas and project desires I have, and finding those unrelated searches coalescing into a real plan.

In this case, I eventually found out that NASA of all groups did a study on the possibilies offered to internal building air quality improvement by the use of certain plants.

As a science fiction nerd, this already was cool in my mind – the whole “spaceship with self contained oxygen garden” idea always fascinated me, and now I get to do it with my house!!

The plants I got include a peace lilly; a mother in law’s tongue; three small pots with rosemary seeded; a money plant; and a golden pothos vine – all combine their efforts to turn carbon dioxide into the freshest oxygen, but they will also better regulate the humidity of my bedroom; the rosemary will make the air smell pleasant AND give me some of the health benefits of rosemary oil AND allow me to brew fresh tea whenever I would like; the peace lilly and a few others actually EAT carbon monoxide and formaldehyde and other nastiness out of the air; and so all things considered, I should probably actually sleep better (both from the knowledge of cleaner air, but honestly from increased ease of breathing)!!!

Welcome to the jungle

Welcome to the jungle

All told, the desk’s transition to THAT much greenery will be temporary, as some of the plants need less sun and will be moved atop the dresser on the left.  Even still, given that I ordered areca palm seeds (which easily sprout up to shoulder height and then SPEW fresh oxygen), its not like I even have enough space in my bedroom for all the plants I’d like.

As with so much else in the house, I consider this another test run of something important to me for my eventual house of my own.

As time, I will perhaps post updates of how effective this seems to be (and given I have a housemate with two guinea pigs next door to my bedroom and the associated smells, I will QUICKLY be able to detect changes I should think).

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The final academic showdown: the last semester

Academics, nearly defeated

Reptilian possibilies for the future...

Reptilian possibilities for the near future…

So here we are, the final spring semester (or really, ANY semester) of my academic career.  I am almost as tired as the above leopard geckos, when it comes to school and its crap.

At least for the foreseeable future.  Perhaps one day, I will be dumb enough to go for a PhD of some sort and again give up my ability to enjoy myself and the people in my life due to asinine assignments and abnormal hours spent working.

Even still, the class lineup for this spring is as follows:

1) Southeast Asian Christianities – merely a requirement, the Non-Christian requirement, to be fulfilled here (not too many other options are offered, so a LOT of people take this course).  Taught by Chloe Starr, a scholar focused closely on that area, it will hopefully be interesting to examine issues of native Korean and Japanese religion, and how those tend to interplay with the rise of Christian presence in those lands over time.  Given it will be a strongly historical course, I am thinking it will be pretty good.

2) Introduction to Christian Ethics II – this is one of those courses where you surprisingly don’t have to take the first portion of the content first, or at all – this class will focus heavily on differing notions of social gospel; and more contemporary developments in Christian ethical thoughts.  Taught by Frederick Simmons, a very very very very intelligent man, the class will be a good closing experience for the slew of ethical this and ethical that I have taken over the years.  In a peculiar way, I have taken several courses at YDS with “ethics” in the title… but none of them, I have discovered, actually counted for the “ethics” requirement.  Discerning the difference between “ethics” and “ethics” apparently being some kind of master final exam of ethical prowess, I just took this class to satisfy the requirement.

3) MLK, Religion, and Civil Rights – taught by Clarence Hardy, this course ought to be a very interesting look at the Civil Rights movement; more on this as the course develops.

4) the Lutheran student colloquium, on the final topic of “random things the professor wants to teach” – I just enjoy spending time with some of my closest friends from and at YDS, in the Lutheran student contingent.  Not 100% clear on what will be taught, by former bishop of New England Margaret Payne, but it should at least be fun to sit in with friends.

Sadly, of course, I will have to do a damnable internship over this coming summer (with the associated 6 credit hour course, thankfully which takes place over 2 full days in May in New Haven in person, and then solely via Internet communications… so I will be free to escape New Haven VERY soon).

Games galore, sweet baby Jesus

So the job with managing the researchers for the French Resistance project has been lucrative enough to pay for car upgrades, cover some cost of living stuff… and thus left enough for more games to be added to the collection, including:

3 of the new games, gotten for 50% off and brand new in box (via BGG)

3 of the new games, gotten for 50% off and brand new in box (via BGG)

Android: Netrunner: a two player assymetrical card game, pitting the big evil megacorporation of the cyberpunk future versus the lone hacker, this game is surprisingly easy to play once you work through the odd language choices for many of the components of the game. And highly addictive. Highly.  I bought more of the expansions for it than I am comfortable admitting.
A Few Acres of Snow: a two player board game, the core mechanic of which is drawn from Dominion (namely, deck building during the game), this game involves the French and British battling for the American provinces during the French and Indian War.  Also addictive and awesome.
1989 Dawn of Freedom: a 2 player game which pits the Communist against the Democrat in Eastern Europe in the eponymous year, the game revolves around using your sides tools (communist uses repression and arrests; democrat uses intellectuals and protest marches) to try and sway the opinion of each sub area on the map to your side.  Interesting that the Communist player starts in control of the entire map, and gains points for maintaining as much control as possible over time, whereas the Democrat scores for gains.
Galactic Emperor: Quite honestly, not a game I was aware of… but the guy who sold me 1989 and Tzolk’in was willing to toss it in for 50% off the list price of $60 brand new in the box, so sure!  A quick paced and small board to battle for control of the galaxy (oddly enough, given the title)
Tzolk’in – The Mayan Calendar: this game has a series of plastic cogs built into the board upon which each player places worker tokens… and then the gears move and thus the “calendar” represents time moving them about.  Heard great things, got 50% off as well.
Ticket to Ride Marklin Edition: got this over Christmas, but its the quintessential railroading intro game for non-gamers, but the map is of Germany (and the trains are all Marklin model trains).
Bora Bora: a German game about settling and expanding in the Polynesian part of the world, the game balances economy building with propitiating the Gods, and seems to be really quite interesting to play with the full 4 players based on scarcity of space and resources.
The End of the Triumvirate: one of the few three player games out there, its Caesar vs Pompey vs Cassius, and its SO much fun, forcing players to watch both political and military gains of their rivals.
Glory to Rome: a card game with somewhat tongue-in-cheek art, the core mechanic is apparently around gaining and then profiting off the resale of materials to rebuild Rome after a fire, and involves all manner of delightful screwing with other players
Pandemic On The Brink expansion: another expansion purchased over break, it makes a tough game damned near impossible to win 😀

Making my own billiards table lighting, for $48 less

Billiards table, but not lit well enough :(

Billiards table, but not lit well enough 😦

The fact of the matter remains, the basement is not well-lit enough for my tastes.  I suppose, to be fair, my tastes are known to widely vary, as most of the time I prefer no light at all; but when gaming or working on a project, I want to see everything in great detail.

Exterior fixture, ready to be installed

Exterior fixture, ready to be installed

The basic idea was: buy light fixture, don’t break the bank, and install it.  Then, Home Despot decided to dislike offering decent deals on lights suitable for the unfinished ceiling in the basement (with exposed rafters, not much space existed to connect fixtures).  So their offerings were in the $60-$80 range, which is to say: way too goddamned expensive.  Not being especially interested in that, I looked in other aisles and found an exterior flood light fixture with third socket for a total of $14… bought a simple extension cord, rigged it up, and now have more light in the basement than I know what to do with!

The lights, lit

The lights, lit

As a matter of fact, I am so pleased with that on-demand light above the billiards table that I have decided to now use it as the gaming table; this also have the nice side effect of reducing time spent dissassembling or setting up the projector on the circular table, which IS a big deal, given my having infected my friend Kelli with an addiction to Battlestar Galactica!!

Fabricating LED stairwell lighting for the basement

Prepping the low cost LED fixtures for the stairs...

Prepping the low cost LED fixtures for the stairs…

The other aspect of basement lighting which needed some help was the stairs – painted dark brown by “choice” (namely, that is what the landlord had on hand for free), it is a hell of a contrast from the super bright projector on the white screen… so restroom breaks during screenings are precarious at times.  Being disinterested in spending lots of money on assembly or powering it, I came up with and fabricated 6 modules with 2 LEDs apiece, on every other stair.

One fixture working and in place

One fixture working and in place

At the time of this writing, between 1 and 3 of the modules work.  Looks like I have VERY selectively flaky soldered connections somewhere in the lines, and will have to go back through to sort  that out.  Even still, I happen to think it looks pretty awesome (and more importantly: provides enough light to see the stair edges without making the ambient light in the basement during a screening increase)!!

The exciting spring ahead: non-school related things galore 😀

As much as it pains me to say (and to be clear, it is actually my genuine pleasure to admit this), I am going to have to do as little as possible school-related this spring.  Spring break will be mostly spent daring to rent a trailer and move home to OH most of my belongings, to make my May escape quick and painless.  The weekends I won’t be board gaming or screening television and movies with friends, I will be restarting this past summer’s New England Camping Experiences (NECE), starting probably at the end of this month.  The big one will be most of a week in February to Acadia National Park in Maine, to be there at the point where the sun first (also?) rises on these United States.

Stay tuned, the blog should have lots of awesome photos this semester.

Finally, a sneak peak of the new glasses I have ordered and am awaiting

Finally, a sneak peak of the new glasses I have ordered and am awaiting

A blessed month at home – sending 2013 packing

The trip home

After prepping the car (packed full stem to stern, and also with the rooftop box filled, too), I drove half way home, to my friend John’s house in Rochester NY.  The huge predicted winter storm was nice to 1) scare EVERYONE else off the roads and 2) not actually occur on Saturday.

The entirety of the winter storm was to hit Route 90, my intended path

The entirety of the winter storm was to hit Route 90, my intended path

The roads within 20 miles of Rochester were really nasty, and all sorts of cars were spun out.  Thankfully I made it, and got to spend time with my old friend John, from board games and sub sammiches, to seeing his research lab whereat he does research for his PhD in neurology.  A great time, and also gave me the chance to rest before the remainder of the drive home on Sunday… which had extremely bad weather and dangerous roads for the remainder of NY and the entirety of PA.  Luckily, I got home safely and was thusly able to enjoy Christmas with my family:

Christmas dinner, another culinary masterpiece by my sister

Christmas dinner, another culinary masterpiece by my sister

Working while relaxing

Large chunks of each week spent at home have been used to work my job, managing all the other Research Assistants working to study individual events of the French Resistance during WWII.

The portable workstation set up in the family room at my parent's house

The portable workstation set up in the family room at my parent’s house

Without a doubt, the work gets boring… but it is often fascinating, to bear in mind the big picture (namely, that I am the first person in 60+ years to know or care about these instances).

My screens - one holds the note card image, the other the spreadsheet

My screens – one holds the note card image, the other the spreadsheet

The money has enabled me to start to pay down credit cards more quickly, and also to buy certain upgrade parts for my car!

The MFALCON is official; engine computer and fuel injector upgrades

So, the fact is, my car struggles up hills.  Several actions taken this Christmas vacation to remedy that include:

1) finally getting the MF4LCON vanity plates (she’ll hold together)

The delightful (horrifying?) nerd synergy between license plate and bumper magnet is QUITE powerful

The delightful (horrifying?) nerd synergy between license plate and bumper magnet is QUITE powerful

2) upgraded fuel injector nozzles, and having the fuel injectors refurbished and rebuilt, through kermaTDI (and a BIG thank you to Paul there for helping me out)

Injectors with Sprint 520 nozzles in place

Injectors with Sprint 520 nozzles in place

3) engine computer chip tuning, also from kermaTDI

(photo coming soon!)

4) headlights replaced; foglights in place

(photo coming soon!)

5) spring shoes for the car, with a GREAT deal on Hankook tires

The sexy Borbets

The sexy Borbets, freshly cleaned and polished

All of these facts were enabled by my good friend, the Wallet Destroyer, often called Tom.

Games galore

The biggest part of my vacation is (as it always seems to be) is spending quality time with my brother and old friends, over the course of a wide variety of board games.

From 7 Wonders

7 Wonders with Leaders - the gift that keeps on giving

7 Wonders with Leaders – the gift that keeps on giving

to Cosmic Encounter,

The Lunatic - an alien race which is allowed to send ships to help attackers (so that win or lose, the Lunatic wins!)

The Lunatic – an alien race which is allowed to send ships to help attackers (so that win or lose, the Lunatic wins!)

The fun didn’t seem likely to stop. I seriously played 14 hours of board games with my brother on New Years, with several friends.  Which. Was. AWESOME. Just another component of my getting the rest I so deeply need while at home.

All told, then, probably the best Christmas and New Years I have yet had in my life.  Productive in the important ways, quality time with friends and family.  What more could I ask for?

One possible answer is: a great Saturday spent hanging out with my old friend Jeff at his place in Pittsburgh, involving delicious foodstuffs and gaming.  A delightful ending to a much-needed, much-enjoyed Christmas vacation.

Safely back to the Winchester house

Safely back to the Winchester house