Electronics kick: Quiet computers and Arduino kits?

Photo: Edmund Tse, CC BY 2.0

Good old power wires for the CPU motherboard. These things always confuse me because they look so similar and could plug into the mobo pins easily. Thankfully, they are labeled. Photo: Edmund Tse, CC BY 2.0

Been busy lately looking into building computers and Ardunio kits. Yep, I’ve been on an electronics kick. The break from everything has been good and I thought I’d provide a little info here about what I’d learned.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

I bought some new speakers a while back for the living room. I considered an under $200 bookshelf project for the living room but choose a brand at a local store and ended up paying a lot more. That’s not to say cost = better. It’s just that they were expensive.

They sound good but I don’t have my digital music in the living room and I would like to add a small PC in there.

I don’t have a lot of room and know that small is the keyword here.

A home theater computer — i.e., HTPC — is the answer. They’ve been around a while, and from what I’ve read they are quiet and unobtrusive.

I’m sure you know that it seems like most computers are so loud with their fans whirling at a million miles a minute and not to mention hard disk drives.

So I’ve been reading. Reading a lot. One site is silentpcreview.com. I’ve also came across a couple other good ones.

On one of the sites, I read that a good alternative to loud fans is using good, quiet computer fans rated at lower RPMs. The voltage can be lowered to make them spin slower with a fan controller or a little wiring changes.

One bad thing I found is that 120mm or 140mm fans, which normally spin slower from the start, don’t normally fit in a small HTPC case, which sucks — unless you plunk down some serious coin or build your own case.

There are some really cool designs out there as well as DIY information about getting the quietest possible unit by using those quiet fans but also trying to minimize heat in a CPU. One way to do that is use high quality thermal paste.

There’s a lot of comparisons about thermal paste and its benefits on the Web.

It’s also good to pick a CPU that uses minimal wattage, which decreases heat, and choosing to use the onboard video can reduce the need for a graphics card and make it a little easier on the wallet because of other projects like an arduino kit.

Arduino’s an open source company and community that designs and makes micro-controller kits that allows you to build small computers and program it to do cool stuff. There’s a ton of examples on the Arduino site but a small computer fan controller is one that interested me.

I also saw a video about a guy who automated a chicken coop so he does not have to feed them or shut or open the door every day. It’s total automation and pretty cool.

This kind of sparked the imagination. Just using the “related videos” on YouTube, I ended up finding a lot of cool projects like the automated chicken coop.

Another one that I liked was about an oscilloscope. If you ever look at the prices of oscilloscopes, it’s expensive as all get out.

While I was looking at electronics bits, I came across a guide to buying a hobbyist oscilloscope and I also came across a couple YT videos. Here’s one of them.

It was like $60 bucks or so to build according to the uploader. Not shabby when cheap ones cost $500 bucks and high end ones cost 4 and 5 figure amounts.

Those Greedy, Caring Nurses

nursing ahemCapitalism works well in the work force, especially for those who choose careers that have an obvious demand like nurses and doctors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the median annual wage for registered nurses at $66,220 in May 2013. The job outlook at 19% is faster than the average growth rate for all occupational categories. For a profession that requires only an associate degree for entry-level positions, this is a highly-rewarding career.

How much a registered nurse makes is largely determined by education, experience, training, geographical location, and the industry where the job being is offered.

Entry-level RN positions, which require at least an associate’s degree in nursing, pay $45,630 per year or $21.94 per hour. These are positions constituting the lowest 10-percentile of registered nurses. Registered nurses in specialty areas earn a $70,590 annually. Those with much longer specialized training and higher education have corresponding salaries, too. According to Salary.com, neonatal nurses earn around $106,000 annually as of July 2014.

Geographical location definitely matters in terms of RN wages and salaries. California is the top-paying state where registered nurses earn an annual median of $96,980, or $46.62 per hour. Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania follow, in that order.

RNs’ wages and salaries also depend on the industry or job category where the position falls under. Here are some of the industries and job categories where a registered nurse finds a job and the corresponding pay:

1. Federal executive branch – RNs earn $38.07 per hour, or $79,190 annual mean wage, as members of federal agencies’ workforce. They work in the different departments responsible for disease control and prevention, healthcare administration, Medicare and Medicaid services, and rural health assistance.

2. Aerospace products and parts manufacturing – a little less than 200 RNs work in this industry and earn $35.67 per hour, or an annual mean wage of $74,200.

3. General medical and surgical hospitals – this is the industry where there is the highest concentration of RNs. It pays an annual mean wage of $70,590, or $33.94 per hour.

Flight nurses earn an annual median of $71,791. RNs in the Insurance and Benefit Funds industry earn as much as $78,600 a year. Even home-based jobs prove lucrative for RNs.

A medical writing job, for instance, provides an annual income of $69,000-$110,000, according to the American Medical Writers Association. Various jobs, both in the clinical and non-clinical settings, offer opportunities for RNs and a wide range of salary potentials.

Some Thoughts About Gender Equality in the Workplace

Equality in the workplace, or rather, the lack of equality in the job market is a topic which everyone must have faced more or less. Most commonly, we see inequality based on gender, ethnicity or class, even age and background; though the gender inequality is most universal.

Gender inequality in the workplace is generally bias against women, generally regarding power and the chain of command. Women are regarded as weak and not equal to their male counterparts, even when they are equally efficient and capable of handling responsibilities.

In any society, women are considered mainly as the homemaker, their main task being taking care of her home and bring up children. However educated women might be, or however career-oriented in her life, in many communities, her career is considered as a secondary goal or an option for her. Even in civilized and developed countries, the notion varies only a little.

Despite having a higher level of education and qualification, they are often given inferior job responsibilities in fear that they would not be able to do it properly.

Women often face problems regarding raise or promotions also. It is generally believed that since the responsibilities of maintaining a family does not solely depend on the woman, as it does on the man of the household in many cases, they do not require as much financial support as the male worker does.

Due to superstition in some cases, some people regard the intellectual of women to be inferior to a man in the same profession. People often regard female doctors, lawyers or engineers not to be as efficient as any man.

In jobs that center around hard labor, or using physical strength rather than the mind, women workers may be passed over repeatedly when the question of promotion or raise arise; especially in case of jobs like a police women or a fire fighter.

Pregnant women or women with small children are also thought to have low productivity in some cases. It is often a misconception that women who are expecting lose their mental balance at times and not perform well in their responsibilities. Mothers with small children are often distracted and tend to lose focus in their work.

In many workplace, women face problems regarding maternity leave. Maternity leave varies with each organization or country, but women often face problems with gaining a suitable length of leave according to their need. Women also have trouble reissuing command over her colleagues after coming back to work. Since she is a mother, some of her colleagues may consider her to be weaker and of a softer nature than before she left.

Women may also face various forms of sexual harassment at her workplace also, both in forms of mild flirtation or admiration and direct invitations. Though some of these advances from fellow male colleagues or supervisors may seem harmless, but they are never-the-less illegal and can be subjected to inquiry and punishment.

Such problems in the workplace could really distract a woman and make her lose concentration in her work. It lowers her productivity in work and becomes very hard to give one’s best to any job at hand. Continuous discrimination could be the source of mental unhappiness in a person. Inappropriate advances from male colleagues may result in distress in a woman’s personal or family life also.

Gender discrimination is punishable by law, and if any woman feels as if she is facing such disparity in her workplace, she may challenge the authorities in her organization to demand a fair inquiry. In other cases, if the female worker belongs to any union, she may seek their help in the matter.

Though gender disparity prevails in many cases, women are gradually being taken seriously in the workplace these days, as it should be.

Well Fed on Food and Money?

Money and gluttony go together like peanut butter and jelly, which is, in a round-about way, what I’m writing about today: FOOD.

I figured I’d review a book and trying convince you to purchase it.

The cookbook Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat may just be their saving grace. With more than a hundred recipes following the Paleolithic diet – composed primarily of meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds – this collection by Melissa Joulwan allows access to a wide array of healthy and easy to digest home-cooked meals.

Patterned after the eating habits of Stone Age humans, it is believed that these foods are those that are best suited to the body. The paleo diet avoids unnecessary calories and fat often found in grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar and alcohol, which are often believed to be among the causes of obesity and medical risks in present time.

Before anything, Joulwan opens the book by providing the readers with a walkthrough to paleo dieting. She even shares her personal experience adapting the lifestyle to aid everyone in preparing a paleo-ready kitchen and pantry, listing the necessary tools and food lists to serve as guides.

This book is also a good way to get acquainted with the basics of paleo dieting, as it gives a bird’s eye-view of its concepts and practices. The cookbook reflects the simple and straightforward logic of the paleo diet, as reflected in each of its pages.

Well Fed serves as a written testament that dieting does not always mean ruining eating habits, such as skipping meals or reducing food servings.

In fact, it encourages regular and speedy food preparation to sustain a person’s daily activities through healthier food options.

Unlike most diet programs, the paleo diet remains relaxed towards snacking in between meals. This cookbook even provides various options to choose from, should you feel your stomach growling for some food.

Joulwan’s cookbook is generous with the number of recipe options, ranging from sauces and seasonings, proteins, vegetables and salads, hot plates, and fruit mixes.

What’s notable here is that it also lists variations for preparing each meal, suggesting other food items that can be used as substitutes to the original meal components.

It leaves room for home cooks to improvise, especially if some food elements are not easily available. This further expands the reader’s selections in terms of meal planning and preparation, and provides an exciting play for the taste buds. Dieting does not always mean bland and lifeless food, and Well Fed effectively gets this message across.

A very kitchen-friendly feature of this book is The Weekly Cookup, which serves as a how-to in running a paleo diet kitchen like a restaurant.

The pantry is stocked with various protein and vegetable options on a per-week basis, which makes it exciting for home managers to play mix and match with various ingredients for exciting meal choices.

Using this method also improves meal planning skills and effectively shortens prep time, leaving more room for other activities. This is convenient particularly for people who are always on the go.

Cooking becomes less of a burdensome deed and more as a simple daily task, as the recipes are also very simple and easy to follow.

Following a diet plan does not always mean that you have to starve yourself in order to remain in good shape. You only need to choose healthy foods every time you feel the urge to eat.

Being equipped with numerous yet still healthy choices are probably one of the world’s best gifts to all health buffs, and it is embodied by this very friendly cookbook.

My Ideas about Running

It’s pretty easy with running to measure your progress. There’s lots of ways to tell if you are improving. You can tell if your distance increases or you cover more distance in less time.

I always like checking my progress. If I’m not getting anywhere, what I like to do is look at cues my body is telling me and try to improve them.

I’ve put together a list of stuff I like to do to improve my progress.

Eat before I run

I like to add some fuel to my body before I run. About 1 to 3 hours before I run, I like to eat a small amount of carbohydrates. This helps fuel me for longer runs.

Get strong

During the winter, I’m a little lazy when it comes to running. I’ll run when it’s above 20 degrees but I won’t run on a treadmill.

Instead, I do a core strengthening routine. I’ll do yoga and weight strengthening. The workouts target specific muscles I’m weak in. Getting stronger at your weak points will help improve your overall fitness level, making you less susceptible to injury.

Cross training

As mentioned, I won’t run below 20 degrees, but I will go out and ski below 20 degrees. I’m not sure why I have this arbitrary cut off line but skiing is great cross training.

Cross training allows me to keep my cardio but use other muscles. It keeps me from being a one-trick pony.

Improve your gait

You will need help from your podiatrist or physical therapist for this one. But, they can help you analysis your gait, which can help you with soreness and help reduce injury, making you more efficient.

Go easy, go hard: Increase slowly

Injuries often occur when people jump into a new activity without acclimating to that activity.

Running is no different. A good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage less than 10 percent each week.

The gradual change helps your body build tolerance to the new stress.

Get the right shoes

This may sound like a no brainer but it is important: Buy running shoes that fit your feet. Also, running shoes wear out faster than walking shoes because of the constant pounding while running. This means that you should replace them every 6 months or so.

Do a trail run with a group

Running solo is great but running with a group is better, but doing a trail run with a group is best, in my opinion.

You get out in the woods and get chatting with friends while running. Cool stuff.

Get a massage

Massages are great. They can help improve your flexibility, relax your muscle, and up the blood flow to the muscle.

Set goals

When you set training goals or racing goals, you are more likely to follow your program and be more successful. That’s no surprise because you have a vision of what you want and know how to achieve it.

Grab some grub after a run

Your body uses its glycogen stores during a long run and you want to replace them as soon as possible after running. It’s a good idea to eat a small amount of carbohydrate and protein after your run.

The carbs replace the glycogen and the protein helps with muscle repair.

Running is a great sport that can be taking up by just about anybody. It will take time for you to figure out what works best for you but you will learn from experience.

Why cooking is a good hobby for my health

Credit for photo: Rene Schwietzke, CC-BY-2.0

Credit for photo: Rene Schwietzke, CC-BY-2.0

Like any pleasurable thing that you want to keep on doing and have no plan of discontinuing in the future (sounds like addiction defined to me), I sometimes find a need to justify why I should continue cooking as a hobby.

There is a slight guilt to it, I guess, especially when my cooking takes on the shades of decadent tastefulness to sinful indulgence. I wake up heavy some mornings, with too much carb and protein eaten over dinner. Then I worry, too, when my kid starts preferring cheeses, and meats, and dairy. I can’t blame them, if you ask me!

Hence, I need to convince myself that cooking is not at fault here. Here are reasons why cooking shouldn’t be faulted over expanding waistlines, kids’ picky taste buds, and budget going overboard. Honestly, gourmet food ingredients don’t come cheap; and we haven’t even mentioned organic yet. But that’s quite another issue; so again, here are the reasons why I shouldn’t give up on cooking:

1. Even when it’s making an impact to the budget, cooking your own fare is definitely way much cheaper than buying already cooked or dining out.

2. With discipline, you can control the amount of salts and sodium, altogether eliminate offending additives, and substitute ingredients for healthier fare. Okay, underscore “with discipline.”

3. Cooking has a uniting effect to the family. It brings you closer to each other. Whoever said that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I think he was also talking about families. And that’s not just the core or immediate family; it also works for the extended family. They are easier gathered when they hear I’m cooking (sounds like there’s no modesty there).

4. Cooking is a sweet quieting time — until I start banging on pots and pans or scratch my best nonstick cookware.

I am a lone cook, much like Mom, I guess. I think my son would have to grope in the dark about cooking not unlike what I did years ago, because he can’t learn from me. I love to cook on my own, and he finds pleasure romping outdoors (Except when he chases the pets to the kitchen and around the kitchen island; of course, that’s when I yell).

5. Cooking opens other interests – gardening, for instance. We have also incorporated our love of food and (my) cooking with travelling. It is a great bonding time to visit places, try their food, second-guessing how they are prepared, and replicate them in my kitchen.

I can actually go on and on with the reasons; it will be endless. I will be more healthful and attentive to the calories, taper the fats and sugar, and be less indulgent in the choice of ingredients. But cooking isn’t something I am about to give up. Unless everyone agrees we all give up on eating, too.