Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hack a Nerf Dart Gun- Shoot Faster and Longer Distances

I inadvertently learned how to hack my kids' NERF N-Strike Nite Finder Dart Guns this morning.

Of course, they had already broken most of their darts the first day they received the guns. My wife had tried to help them out by gluing back together the rubber suction cup part to the Nerf shaft part. But the glue ended up clogging the inside of the gun shaft where the air is forced out to shoot the dart.

After I put my younger son's gun back together, it suddenly shot darts out much faster and for a longer distance. I exclaimed to them, "I must have taken the safety out!" Of course, my older son said he wanted his safety taken out also.

I took his gun apart and figured out what had made the difference: one spring. This spring allowed a little forked piece to recoil back and create an airtight chamber after shooting, causing the gun's spring loaded shaft to slow down. Removing this spring allowed for a much faster and longer shot.
Here's what you do:
  1. Take all the screws out of the gun. There are 14 on the side and one on the bottom where you can insert batteries. Note: A little piece at the top of the gun will probably pop out. You can insert it when you put the gun back together.
  2. Remove one inside screw in the middle of the gun holding the orange shaft in place.
  3. Pop the the right-hand side part of the orange shaft out part way.
  4. Remove the right-hand part of the shaft, as shown in the picture on the right.
  5. Open the shaft and remove "the spring", as pictured above.
  6. Piece gun back together. Remember to replace the screw inside the gun that holds the orange shaft.
  7. Be sure to insert the two yellow dart holders and the orange beveled gun tip before you screw the gun halves together. You may also have to hold the orange spring puller on the back of the gun in place. I found that the spring holding it in place wanted to pop out.
  8. Please email me with any questions or make a comment.
  9. Enjoy!
Get a nerf gun just like this:
--> NERF N-Strike Nite Finder Dart Guns

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Keep the Cincinnati Neighborhood Gardens Program Funded in 2009 & 2010

Sign the Petition
Please Keep the Cincinnati Neighborhood Gardens Program Funded in 2009 & 2010

Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor David Crowley, and the Cincinnati City Council:

We, concerned residents of Cincinnati and Hamilton County respectfully request that you fully fund the Cincinnati Neighborhood Gardens Program for $40,000 in 2009 and for $40,000 in 2010. Cutting this program to $0 does not seem an acceptable solution to budget constrictions.

The Neighborhood Gardens Program has 4 currently stated goals:

* Assist low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in developing vacant lots into gardens

* Supplement these residents' food budgets with fresh produce
* Clean up and maintain Cincinnati neighborhoods
* Provide access to educational recreational opportunities

Listed are examples of the current Neighborhood Gardens Program benefits:

* 42 Community Gardens
* Over 600 Gardeners
* Provides outreach to over 2000 community residents
* Donated 1524 Pounds of Food in 2007
* Recorded 7,384 Volunteers Hours in 2007

We believe these goals and achievements are an excellent argument for the programs continued funding.

Additionally, the City of Cincinnati's own "Climate Protection Action Plan" calls for the expansion of the current community garden program on pg. 180 under Recommendation #3. This underlies the importance of Vice Mayor Crowley's recent proposal (Item: 200801277 ) that city controlled vacant lots be offered at nominal costs to residents who will agree to farm or garden the land and maintain it free of blight or nuisance conditions.

Cincinnati's "Climate Protection Action Plan" also sites the American Community Gardening Association, saying," community gardening improves peoples' quality of life by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education."

The budget states that part of the reason for the programs financial cuts are the City's desire to fund the Cincycare Pilot Program, which will serve 2,000 residents of Cincinnati. While we recognize the importance of health care for all and believe this a great goal for the City, we also believe that this goal can be met without cutting the Neighborhood Garden program.

Solutions to consider:

* Most simply, the budget of the Cincycare pilot program could be cut to $460,000 per year in 2009 and 2010. This represents only 8% of the total budget of this pilot program, while the cut to the Neighborhood Gardens program is 100%.
* Currently, the City Manager's Budget Message of 2009/2010 states on pg. 39 that TOTAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT is $4,898,000 in 2009". Page pg. 14 states that the Economic Development budget will show increased revenue from $0 in 2008 to $46,510 in 2009. This money could make up the difference in funding the Neighborhood Gardens program, considering the loss to the Economic Development budget would only be 0.9% of the Economic Development budget.
* The Strategic Program for Urban Redevelopment (SPUR) budget went from $0 to $500,000 in 2009 and $500,000 in 2010. Some of this money could be utilized to fund community gardens?

The benefits of community gardens programs are many and they are finding support more and more within communities around the country. Directly and indirectly, local and nutritious food helps contribute to solving many problems our city, county, state, and nation faces, including: the health care crisis, energy independence, climate change, food security, and economic stability.

We encourage you to fully fund Cincinnati's Neighborhood Gardens Program in 2009 and 2010.

Thank you,

Concerned Citizens of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Sign the Petition

Monday, September 22, 2008

Waking Up

The vein that pulses silently feeds the world an addictive electric charge; a lesson in desensitization by shock treatment. We hardly notice its effect until one moment, it's gone...

Wind is often the reason we must wake up to electricity's addictive qualities. The world even seems to slow down, as if our frantic pace really does stem from and addiction to electricity. And though we often talk of breaking our addiction to oil, we neglect our addiction to electricity at our own peril. I don't think we would care where our electricity came from, as long as it ran steadily and uninterrupted, as a good buzz must.

Though transportation, usually by gas guzzling car, is simply a kind of oil-burned-to-create-motion equation, it too relies on electricity to make its insane pace work. Without our electric lights, traffic lights, and lighted destinations the appeal of the car and its offerings loses its shine.

Instead, we walk around to talk to our neighbors. We sit out side of our house and bask in natural light. We feel relief that our pace slows down. Slows...down. We realize the lovely power of conversation.

Converse... converse with yourself, your spouse. Make an attempt to feel what it's like to live in control... control of your time, your movement, your thoughts. Get over the feeling of discomfort an electric free world brings and imagine a different world where you can tune into your life. You can sleep when it is dark, eat when you are hungry, talk when you feel like, work when it is necessary. You are not bound to the insanity of electricity.

You are free.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hegemony is Easier with Homogeneity- The Power of Slight Differences

The power of slight differences came to my mind yesterday. I was pondering the insanity of farmers losing the power to save seeds. This power is lost because the nature of any corporation, including Monsanto-the owner of destructive technologies like Round-Up and "terminator genes", is simply to make money. And money is often easier to make with hegemony. And hegemony is often easier with homogeneity.

Imagine for a second a dill seed. Tiny, seemingly innocuous, and incredibly powerful, as is the parent plant.

If I buy seeds from the store, they are mass produced for the entire country. There is a need for this seed to grow relatively well everywhere. Obviously, the power of slight differences is lost in this effort. I cannot buy a "Best grown in Cincinnati, OH" seed, let alone a "Best grown in Westwood" seed. But if I take that seed and plant it, and let it reseed it self year after year, that seed will adjust to the soil it is in. It will adjust to the microclimate it grows in. And I need not by dill seed anymore. In fact, bought seed would simply be an inferior product at this point.

Now imagine that that scenario of me letting my seed go to seed as illegal. Imagine that there was a corporation with a team of lawyers and millions of dollars to back them up hot on the trail of anyone trying to save seed. Imagine that charges were being brought against these people who were saving seed. Imagine that the power you have to make slight differences in seeds for the betterment of all was now wrong, illegal, and dangerous. You will have imagined just what Monsanto is doing. You will have imagined the distortion of reality that we are allowing corporations to wrought on the world. You will be seeing hegemony pursuing homogeneity to the extreme. Profit is rubbing out our world.

In fact, it is not much better in consumer electronics. We can relate a product like the iPod to the act of saving seeds. The only difference is that we probably should not have bought that consumer gadget in the first place. A new generation of iThis or iThat is put out just in time for any occasion of buying, which can simply be a new day. The power of technology should be to make our life better. I am positive that the iPod I own has not made my life better. It has taken something away from my life.
And it does not have the power to recreate itself in a new and improved version. The consumer must rely on a completely outside source, a corporation, to bring a new gadget gift to the masses every 6 months or so. And of course this gift costs just as much as the first iteration. Why do we allow this insanity?!?!

You may ask just what the iPod took from my life. Luckily, what it took, I can gain back by simply leaving my iPod on the shelf.

I have done the dished for many, many year now, in part because we do not own a dishwasher. One day, I was rather sick and doing the dishes, and gained a moment of enlightenment. I was enlightened to the fact that I was happy to simply be doing the dishes, and happy to know I would be back to good health soon. Simple, profound, without cost, and priceless.

Yet I had taken to the habit of wearing and iPod while doing the dishes. Instead of finding happiness in myself, I was losing myself to an artificial music experience. I have set my iPod aside for the time and may pick it up when it spontaneously evolves to the next generation.

So I say, leave us alone corporations! We can do well enough with our own seed, our own simple technologies, and our own time to let things be. This act of controlling our own seeds and technologies is enough to enlighten us all. Let things be and be happy in whatever you are doing. Find happiness especially in making slight differences for the betterment of the world.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Short Guide to Memorizing Music

1. Read the Music
  • Look at the key signature and time signature
  • Look for sections that repeat

2. Find patterns

  • Many phrases are often 4 bars
  • Can you find phrases that repeat?

3. Listen to the song, if possible

  • Read the music while you listen

4. Break the song into smaller parts(phrases)

  • Notice, you have not even played your instrument yet

5. Practice each phrase slowly and carefully

  • Striving towards perfect practice is good
  • Any mistakes made in the beginning will only have to be corrected later

6. Memorize each phrase

  • Use thoughtful, disciplined practice
  • Ask your self, "Where is this phrase going?"

7. Put the phrases all together

  • Do this one piece at a time
  • Sometimes it is helpful to move from the end back toward the beginning

8. Practice the song all together

  • Gradually increase the tempo

9. Pretend you are on stage and play your song

  • Where did you make mistakes?
  • Go back and work on these areas first

10. Perfect and play a real concert!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Beginning a Land-Based Non-Profit

Any group of people attempting to build support around a piece of land
has a distinct advantage because our land-base is what allows us to
live. People are excited about local community, local food, local
growers, local involvement in food production, good nutrition,
connecting with nature, etc.. All of these interests are connecting to
create stronger and healthier local communities.

If you are someone who is trying to convert or maintain some of your
community's land-base into a non-profit organization for means of
preservation, community-involvement, education, green space, etc., this
article is meant to give you suggestions along the way.

  1. Define your mission clearly, with involvement from all necessary parties, but with no more than is necessary.
    • No more than necessary hints to the fact that agreeing
      on a mission can be exciting, but also taxing if too many people are
      deciding. A better method is to create 2 or 3 different versions and
      bring those to a larger group for discussion and decision-making.
    • Make sure you mission statement resonates with a
      disinterested 3rd party. Can they clearly state back to you your
      mission without explanation from you?
    • Take
      time and look at the mission statement again in a few weeks? Can you
      live with it the next 10 years... 20 years... 50 years?
    • Will the mission statement being able to grow in meaning with the organization?
  2. Build support among the community.
    • This
      is obvious, but sometimes
      groups are missed because not all interested parties are identified.
      Think of every group that may be interested in what you are doing:
      • Local
        growers, local garden groups, local churches, local governments, local
        schools, national organizations, hospitals, retirement homes, parenting
        groups, politicians, historians, scout groups, neighbors, park
        districts, counties, state departments, business neighbors, UAW halls,
    • Building support most often means listening.
      Set forums for interested parties to simply share their thoughts. Make
      sure they know their input is valued and recognized in some way.
    • After listening, communicate as often as you must to continue to build support.
  3. Build a strong board.
    • Experience,
      diversity, and desire will all determine how successful and helpful
      your board is. Think carefully about including the likes of: members
      with board experience, a teacher, an historian, an accountant, a
      marketing person, a visionary, a naturalist, someone in agricultural,
      business leaders, etc.
      • You may not find all of these, but strive for a good mix of experience, diversity, and desire.
    • A
      strong board understands their role. Take time to define the board's
      role in the beginning so there is no confusion later. This helps not
      only the board, but also staff members.
  4. Take your time.
    • I have seen first hand that rushing in the beginning will adversely affects what comes 4-5 years down the road.
    • Take your time! The completion of initial planning may take 4 or 5 years.
  5. Set a time line of events that is realistic, yet provides for surprises.
    • Be proactive in determining what you want and when.
    • Actively
      seek the input of others who have walked a similar path. This will
      increase your chances of time estimates being accurate.
  6. Hire the best staff.
    • The best means, the best. If you need to wait for those people, then do so.
    • Do not hire the wrong people. Wait if you need to!
  7. Passion.
    • Passion is necessary at all steps along the way, as is practicality and
    • Though you may be mindful of everything, mistakes will
      still be made and can be exciting if you learn from them. Passion is accepting and growing with mistakes.
  8. Remember your goals.
    • What are you working for? Crystallizing your goals at all steps will help keep you focused and energized.
  9. Stay connected to the land you are working with.
    • Stop and breath; if you are not getting out and connecting, you will miss some of the most important information.
  10. Succeed!
    • Succeed because you must.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't Shake Life Off

Don't shake life off. There are moments in life when you see something, often in nature, that is inexplicably beautiful. Sometimes, though, your drive to work can give you peace, such as seeing the sunrise as I did today.
Actually, it's the 3rd consecutive day of the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen and it has given me such a sense of the wonder of life. But we tend to shake this feeling off and convince ourselves that this beauty in life is fleeting, when.... when in fact that beauty is the essence of life and is constant and comforting if you let it be.
We think that all the awful things we see, or think we see, are permanent, as opposed to the fleeting beauty we allow ourselves. We have things mixed up in our minds, in our hearts..."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Listening to a Tape

I did something I haven't done in years; I listened to a tape today, and that was really fun. I've forgotten how it's kind of nice to relinquish control of your listening experience... finding it cool to listen to a mixed tape someone put their love and time into for your listening enjoyment.

I remember making my own mix tapes and it was always something that you took your time to do and something you did for people who you really wanted to connect with. It took a lot of time and it wasn't a point click and burn kind of thing. It was taking the time to make sure that the tape was working right. Making sure you're on the right spot. Rewind, fast forward, getting just the right transition between songs...

Some of my closest friends in high school made me mixed tapes and there was something that we shared that I didn't share with other people because your choice of music is so defining. It seems a little different now, because everyone can check out everything at the click of a button, but even 10 years ago, you could share a tape and that was the only access to listen to someones eclectic tastes. It was like you found a tape and you found some person and her music you'd forgotten about and you really can't just get that at the click of a button.

It's less likely today that you or I might go to the record store and browse through the rack. I used to love to go to those used record places, view CDs and browse for an hour and poke at every mislabeled thing or ones without a label or one that were turned the wrong way and check out what that music was too cheap and hope it was something"good".

When I browsed those record stores it was always that sense of discovery that you were after. And that sense of discovery in the last few years has disappeared, when you can just search the internet. It's not a physical experience, it's a kind of a very disconnected experience, where if I put in the right search word I will get what I want and didn't have to work very hard for it. You and your friends aren't the ones putting their time into sharing music.

This ubiquitousness of music means that it is owned by everyone, which is good, but people like to have that sense of knowing something other people don't know or having that access that someone else doesn't have, which I think is now found by going to live concerts and saying, "Yeah, I've seen them live," and that live experience is becoming more profound for the very reason that you can't search and buy it on demand.

That live experience is what a lot of music people are talking about. And you can't replicate that on the Internet. You can't replicate that with a CD either. And so that's what bands are going to need to market and monetize, and to find their niches, with a their live show. And if you don't have a great live show, it might be hard to monetize your scene because once you post your music on the Internet, it's they're for everyone.

I believe then, that the experience of seeing the live show will define the music of the next generation, but probably ride right along side the experience of recorded music. They may well diverge in different way than we expected because of how drastically different listening expectations are now and will be in just a few years.