Been posting things of a bit more substance lately, I think. That is both good and bad. While more random folks are likely to find the information useful (haha!), folks that know me don’t get that general insight in to every little detail of my comings and goings. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know.

However, I suppose I could let folks know what has been going on.

Got here on the 20th, and was generally useless that day. I just hung out with the dogs and my family.

Come to think of it, that’s kinda how this entire break has been. That’s kinda the way I like it.

I have been playing Mario Galaxy and Guitar Hero III on my Wii occasionally (saving the bulk of the games for playing with friends up north), and have also been reading a fair bit. I had bought Bloodlines by Karen Traviss a few weeks back. I started in on the first two chapters. Third chapter in and I realized that the book was actually a part of a series; the Legacy of the Force set. So I went back to the store and bought Betrayal, the first book in the series by Aaron Allston. I am about a fifth of the way through Betrayal, and I can tell you this for sure: Aaron Allston is a much better writer. Traviss seems to write at a much lower level, and though the storyline is much more intriguing in her book, I don’t know if it will feel like the same series with her much simpler language.

I redid my resume. It was painful to do. Physically. I get these crushing migraines that make me want to tear my eyes out whenever a major front rolls through, and caffeine tends to alleviate the pain (very) temporarily. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fully remove the pain, so I am stuck being awake and sick. So to get through it, the resume had to be redone. Don’t know what made me do that to kill time til I could sleep again, but it needed to be done. Thanks to Evan and Mike for the great tips (as of this writing, I haven’t uploaded the revised version to the blog, should be up tomorrow though). I tried to get my cover letter written for one company today, but it came out unprofessional and I scrapped it.

Ruminated on aquarium matters. Twice. Not to mention I was actively studying plant species and DIY plans for CO2 and lighting equipment. Also, today I bought a nano (1-1.5 gallon) tank that will be my sub-project/fish nursery.

I argued with Wikipedia deletionists. I…I don’t know what to say. Other than “What a shame.”

I read through Flock feedback. Responded to a little bit of it earlier this week, but haven’t since.

Took my car in to Dan’s Auto Works in Liberty, MO. Dan is an awesome guy, and I think he would do wonderfully in the UP. Went in to have everything looked at, but namely the wheel bearings, ball joints, shocks/struts, and things of that nature. Was extremely pleased when he came back and said that my 1990 Toyota Celica ST (that makes it 18 years old now) was in great shape. Only thing he found wrong was that my front driverside tire was cupped. This explains the vibrations and the noise at high speed. I believe this was caused by poorly balanced and/or aligned tires, and not actually worn shocks, as they seen to be in good shape. The total cost for the entire inspection was $39! A far cry from the multiple hundreds of dollars I was expecting to pay to have things repaired. Though, in the fact that he found nothing wrong, this makes me second guess the diagnostics a little. My car runs fine about 95% of the time, but that other 5% is kinda disconcerting. So though the front left wheel bearing isn’t going out as was feared there was something wrong in that area. I’ll have the car inspected again in May. Tomorrow I will head to the tire shop and get new front tires, an alignment and rotation and have the current front right tire turned in to a full size spare.

Exercised a bit. Started drinking copious amounts of water to boost my metabolism starting three days ago. What a drastic difference three days makes.

Sleep cycle is still really off. I will go to bed upon the publishing of this post. Sunday I leave for Toomsuba, MS to visit my grandparents. Should be quite a trip there, as I am wholly untravelled on that route.

Missing Jill, but what else is new, eh? I think we both got each other pretty neat Christmas gifts this year. She got me a digital photo frame, and I got her a full tea set with kettle, mugs, sugar bowl, tea, teaball, and season three of The Office (which is actually a gift for both of us)

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Alright; really this should be lumped in with Stage 1 – Basic Layout, but I was tired, so I didn’t get around to mentioning this.

Substrate, the soil or gravel or sand at the bottom of the tank that you plant your plants in to, will determine a great amount on how your plants grow, and subsequently affect how the tank itself matures. There are plenty of types of substrate, but some are better than others…

Let’s start with the bad, shall we? The worst of the worst is sadly the most common. It is the gravel. Gravel is made up of rocks, and who knows what these rocks can be. There could be cuprous (that is, containing copper) rocks that can leach out and wreak havoc on your invertebrates (shrimp, lobster, crayfish, etc), or the stones could be limestone (as was my case once) and react with any carbonic acid formed from CO2 diffusion in to the water. There isn’t really any engineering that goes in to your run of the mill Walmart gravel, and they will contain little, if any, usable nutrients for the plants to use. Now, I’m not saying that if you are a beginner in aquariums that you cannot use gravel. There are benefits to using gravel as a beginner. For one, if you are using an undergravel filter then this is actually probably one of the better choices, seeing as deitrus (fish crap) can make its way through the cracks in the gravel and in to the filter. It’s also cheap. Well, there are its positive aspects for you. Cheap and fish crap passes through it.

One step up and we have nothing more than playground sand. Sand rarely contains nutrients as well (though it can) and your average tube/bag of sand you can pick up at a hardware store has the potential of carrying some funky insects/parasites/bacteria/diatoms (not sure about that, if diatoms can lay dormant in sand). However, sand is just as cheap as gravel. Not only that, but sand is much easier to plant in. A tiny plant with tiny roots is more likely to take hold in sand than with 100x larger particulate gravel. Not only that, but sand has much more area. What I mean by this is that the surface area is greater in 1oz of sand than 1oz of gravel. This allows more area for bacteria to dwell in, and this is important for a healthy aquarium. Bacteria are an important part of cycling an aquarium, which is one thing that most eager new fish keepers don’t know/care about and thus incur fish loss. Why do you need to cycle an aquarium?

  • Fish poop has ammonia in it. Ammonia can kill fish.
  • As ammonia builds up, ammonia-digesting bacteria thrive and grow. These turn the ammonia (NH3) in to nitrite (NO2). NitrIte.
  • Nitrite is also not good for fish or other fauna. As ammonia dwindles and nitrites soar, ammonia-digesting bacteria begin to reduce in number, giving way to nitrite-digesting bacteria. These newcomers change nitrIte (NO2) in to safe nitrAte (NO3).
  • After a while, all the hazardous ammonia and nitrite will be gone, leaving only safe, plant-beneficent nitrate. Without letting the aquarium cycle, all the fish would be dead or in pretty bad shape (less a miracle).

So why does this mean sand is better than gravel when it comes to cycling? To put it simply, there is going to be more bacteria in sand than gravel and thus cycling will go much quicker. Also, if you want to see a helpful diagram of the cycle, see here.

Back on topic now…substrates…

Coming up next we have kitty litter. Yup. Kitty litter. I don’t know how or why this works, but apparently kitty litter can be used as a substrate in an aquarium with no ill effects and have some outstanding results with the plants. However, common sense must prevail. Come kitty litter has chemicals in it for various reasons (clumping, antibacterial, odor, etc) and therefore only certain brands and varieties should be used. One such brand I have recently (see above link) heard of is SpecialKitty. Can’t say if these are truly better than ordinary sand with fertilizer tabs or not, but it’s an option.

Before we get to the good good stuff, I will briefly mention Soilmaster Select (SMS). The stuff works like the good stuff, but not quite as well (experiences differ) and is cheaper. It’s made for fields.

Finally, we get to the commercially made, purpose engineered substrates.  A quick look at a retailer’s site shows just a few of the many options. These substrates are sharp looking, relatively easy to plant in, contain good amounts of nutrients right out of the bag, and some even have beneficial bacteria already in contained liquid to boost cycling. A few brands have gained notoriety, and you will often hear of Aquasoil, Flourite, and EcoComplete. I prefer the EcoComplete, though it is a bit more expensive. I just like the black look it has. If I could find the Black Flourite I would go with that, but I highly doubt I will find it. The other problem I run in to is that if I go with Flourite, I would need to strain and rinse it a bit before tanking it; a step that, though not too hard, I prefer to skip. Rinsing is a bit tedious and time consuming, but it does lead to a clearer tank once the water is put in.

Then there’s the entire fertilizer/supplement dosing deal. That’s later…

Job Search

December 28, 2007

I have added my resume to the blog, and you can find it on the Resumes page or by going directly to the file.

I am currently looking for an entry level construction management position in the mid-Michigan area. If you or your company is searching for someone to utilize for such a job, feel free to contact me via the contact information contained in the resume. I will graduate May 3rd, 2008 and will be ready to work full time about a week after graduation, allowing for time to move in to an apartment.

I’ve come to that point in the night where instead of sleeping I start to read up on my hobbies. Last night, I was reading on how to record things using my Line 6 setup. Tonight, it is on aquatic plants.

Choosing plants is one of the more difficult aspects of an aquarium to me. I can raise fish perfectly fine, but my plants tend to burn rapidly. I have had luck with some Hornwort and Anachris, but those are essentially filler plants, used to get the tank going until everything starts to grow in. However, I am not going to be using hornwort anymore. When a plant begins to die, the leaves, which are very much like needles of a pine tree, fall and decompose rapidly. This can lead to ammonia spikes, and all sorts of nasties that can lead to a chain reaction of frustration.

There are several main types of plants you want to choose. To begin with, you have to choose a ground cover, like grass for your aquarium. Then you have your background plants; the plants that will be in the back of the tank. Foreground plants: plants that are in the front of the tank, typically shorter than the background plants. And then you have your mosses, which can be used on driftwood and rocks, or set up in vines or walls.

I’m going to keep my tank relatively simple. For my own records, and to let you all kinda see where I am going with my tank, I’ll break it down here.

Ground cover
Ground cover is one of the things I suck at the most (not to say I have any expertise in any type of plant). I just simply cannot get the dang plants to shoot off runners (the roots that spread horizontally to lead to more plants, resulting in a carpet of grass/plants). I was close with my native dwarf hairgrass last time I had it in there, but there were problems with the entire tank that ultimately led to the death of all living things in it (read: Walmart goldfish of death).

There are some really cool plants that can be used for ground cover. Glossostigma elatinoides is one. It isn’t too terribly hard to maintain, and can have a neat, almost clover field style look to it. However, easy to maintain does not mean easy to grow. There’s also hemianthus micranthemoides, or HM. I might go with HM. It isn’t that appealing to me though, which is a bit of a setback. I would much prefer its cousin, hemianthus callitrichoides. HC, unlike HM, is a pain to grow, and even more of a pain to plant.

Which leaves me with a plant that I have already hit on: Eleocharis acicularis or dwarf hairgrass. It doesn’t require a lot of CO2, but the light requirements are a bit above what I have. I do plan on getting up to about 4 watts per gallon, and this should definitely make these suckers thrive in my tank. I am worried a bit about algae in the grass, as it did tend to pop up in it last time I had the plant. The hairgrass can grow to be a bit taller than most cover plants, but trimming should keep it reasonable, and keep it spreading horizontally.

Background plants

I really like rotala. I don’t know why, I just do. So, rotala will be along the sides of the tank. Cabomba should hide the heater nicely. A couple of cryptocorynes to fill out the middle should pretty much finish that off.

Foreground plants
I’ll be going with some smaller crypts and and swords for these plants. I will also have some anachris as a fast growing nutrient sponge. I love that stuff!

Mosses
I eventually want to have some mosses but that’s gonna wait until I can get the rest of the tank growing.

There were going to be more specifics for the plants, but I got tired after ground cover, and wussed out. I know what I want, just didn’t want to find links to them.

Biggest barrier to my plan: actually finding the plants. I’ll be scouring the Midland fish shops for these, and buying any I can find the day before I head up to Houghton (probably leaving Midland the Saturday before class starts).

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Going in to a quick “week ahead” mode for a second.

  • Thursday-Saturday: Hang out with family. Saturday I will pack for Kiln, MS mission trip
  • Sunday: Driving to Toomsuba, MS to visit grandparents night before mission starts
  • Next Monday-Saturday: Work with Samaritan’s Purse to rebuild houses, or whatever they assign us
  • Saturday or Sunday: Drive back to Liberty
  • Following Wednesday: Drive to Midland
  • Thursday-Friday: Hang out with Jill
  • Saturday: Drive to Houghton
  • Sunday: Relax. Stay far away from cars for a while. Get to bed early so I can get to class at 8am the next morning.

Last point is important. It is 4:30am EST, which is about the time I have been going to bed lately. Going to force myself in to getting up earlier, and getting to bed around 1am EST for the rest of the week. Working with Samaritan’s Purse ensures that I will be waking at 6:30am EST or earlier each day. Obviously, something needs to change 🙂

(Title is a quote from Metalocalypse…go watch it!)

One of my gifts this year was a Line 6 TonePort. It is shiny and awesome. And also, the bundled software is less intuitive than Cubase for me. Not the actual Line 6 amp modeling software; that works flawlessly. Although it would have been nice if the configuration software would have updated straight to the latest version instead of updating through each individual incremental update. It’s the Live Lite software that I had problems with. To begin with, activation was a bit confusing. Seeing as I had a computer hooked up to the internet, it wasn’t that bad of a problem, but seriously, how do you begin to comprehend that?

Heading on to the tutorial looked promising. I got through the first few tasks easily, but then the tutorial started asking me to use functions and features that simply weren’t available. It would have been nice to take the prerecorded lead parts out of the monitor, but that part of the UI is either hidden extraordinarily well, or not present in the free version (which is odd, since it is a full featured version, just with a few limitations). I haven’t upgraded to Live Lite 6 yet, still using the bundled LL5.

Let me rephrase that: the bundled LL5 is still on my computer.

I moved to Audacity to get stuff done. This is not my final solution (I own Cubase somewhere, after all), but it sufficed to test out the hardware for the time being. I loaded up a few amp models, and a few of them sounded pretty good. Most of them, however, sounded like my guitar sounded last time I recorded with it. It’s a bit muddled and tinny, which is due in part to 2+ year old strings, Audacity and my pickup settings. Playing around with the settings on both my guitar and the amp modeling software got me a tone I started to like.

Then, recording was a bit of a pain. I can play to a clicktrack no problem, but for some reason it didn’t work for me tonight. I was off, and just didn’t sound natural at all. I can play around with slightly off timing, but it’s the natural sounding part that is the big problem.

The other main thing that frustrated me was the fact that to get true, realtime monitoring I have to run headphones to the TonePort. And they are 1/4″ jack phones, an adapter I forgot to bring. The fact that I have to monitor through the TonePort does not bother me at all (though I’ve read reviews that criticize the device for it, which shows a lack of DSP and routing knowledge. This is a necessity when you look at how the device and drivers work to minimize latency and maintain quality) but the fact that I forgot to bring my jack adapter does. Luckily for me, there is a Musician’s Friend outlet/warehouse very close by from what I’ve been told. My mom and I might head out there tomorrow and I will pick up an adapter, and maybe a few new accessories. I have ONE pick with me, and I am guarding it fiercely from loss.

Up next on the recording plate: Dishing out the main verse arpeggiation for Ashitaka. Not an easy one to be sure (it’s relatively fast, and I’m not good at sweeping arpeggios), but I think I can do it. I just have to get the verse done and I can copy it over twice. I will build from there with the other guitar parts, and might do a little lead work just for fun.

Need to really practice much more.

Christmas

December 25, 2007

Christmas came today, and now it’s almost over. This morning started off with a nice brunch that I helped prepare (I cooked the bacon, woohoo!) Food made included eggs, bacon, and pancakes. It was yummy. After food we did our traditional Christmas story reading out of the Bible and then opened presents.

List of Gifts Received:
1. Target Gift Card
2. Victoria Secret bed wear
3. 8 Simple Rules-Season 1 DVD & Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
4. Spiderman 3 DVD & Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? DVD Game
5. Sterling Silver Heart Toggle Chain Necklace

It was a great Christmas, I’m very blessed. I’m really happy every one enjoyed their gifts from me. That is what makes me the most happy. Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2007

I remember Christmas in the blistering cold
In a church on the upper west side
Babe, I stood their singing, I was holding your arm
You were holding my trust like a child

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