Friday, December 31, 2010

Fate Gets A New Job

I don't talk much about work here for a couple major reasons. First, I'm not a big fan of writing 'blog-as-therapy' entries. Second, my old employer forbade work-related blogging. Big companies generally try to keep their outward facing image consistent. Individuals muck that up.

Now, I'm sure all 3 of our readers will likely have noticed something of a sharp decline in the amount of entries here. I like writing, and when I started this blog, I had high hopes the experiments Fin and I were doing in our daily lives (trash reduction, used vs. new, composting, soap) would make interesting reading. We continued the experiments but I never really wrote about them. And really, the experiments continued more from Fin's stick-to-it-ness than my efforts. For the past year or so, I've been fighting depression.

In early November, I stayed home sick a few days with the flu. Staying at home, I realized just how crappy "the job" making me feel. Of course, it doesn't help when you've heard so much news about lay-offs and friends having difficulty finding or keeping a job. The thought comes, shouldn't I be happy to just have a job? In my head, there's a whole essay that answers that question. The short version is that in life it's important to be happy with what you have, but also strive to do what you want. But then, where will you go?

"But where will you go?" is a bullshit question for fear based decision making. When asked by yourself or others, it tends to be more of an answer than a question. It's implied that there's not a better solution or way. You're at the top of the world already, any other direction will be a step down. Being successful means finding where you want to be, not asking a bullshit question to not make a move.

So, I sent my resume out to a select few companies that struck my interest. I interviewed, and managed to find something new. I'm not sure how long I'll be in this new spot, or happy there, or any other thing really. For the time being though, I'm happier than I was before. Part of that is finding something that better fits with my desired lifestyle and ideals. I've moved into a "Green Company" that will be helping me continue with the volunteer work I've been doing at local schools.

As advanced as society and tools have become, our lives have also become complicated. Health insurance, transportation, standard of living, job security, etc... etc... It almost seems to me, that as we moved away from the farms into industrialized civilization, that we introduced complexity just to make things in life seem more meaningful. As much as the tools of civilization make our lives easier, I also wonder if they simply enable us to lie to ourselves too.

Fate's 2010 Resolutions Recap

Recap of last years resolutions:
1. Reduce / Eliminate trash at the office
Success. I started bringing in dish towels instead of using paper towels. At the my new job, I'm throwing practically nothing away on a daily basis. :)

2. Go camping / outdoors more often
Mixed. Fin and I spent more time outdoors, but spent less time camping. We did a LOT more outside though, with the garden.

3. Pay off another debt
Success. I got rid of a particularly nasty cash advance that had been around my kneck for a while.

4. Perfect a soap recipe / be able to make commercial quality soap
Success. I won't say 'perfect a soap recipe', but we've been using my soap for the past year, with excellent results. Even the mistake batches have been good. Hoping to do another batch soon.

5. Return to martial arts
Fail. This never really worked from a time / money standpoint, and my old job was getting in the way as well.

6. Post more useful stuff more often
Fail. I've been really distracted for a while.

7. Grow and maintain a garden
SUCCESS. We had a great garden this past year.

8. Release some software / finish a project
Fail. I did make a lot of progress though...

9. Finish unpacking
EPIC FAIL. Yeah.... about those 5 new boxes of packed random crap...

10. Grow in maintenance / carpentry / plumbing / etc... skills
Continuing. I've got a lot to learn still...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dear Target,

Why is it that everyone must purchase the same mass produced crap for the holidays? I've seen the premade costumes, and it doesn't take much for homemade creations to trounce them. As a society, we should be encouraging creativity instead of bashing it.

After seeing this commercial:

I question if I'll be doing any Holiday shopping at your stores.

In short: shame on you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Anti-Environmentalism - Grocery Bags

Fin and I are fairly big about taking reusable trash bags to the grocery store whenever we shop. Green grocery bags are interesting to me for a few reasons. As far as "going green" goes, switching to reusable grocery bags is one of the easiest moves to make. More amazing to me is how telling people's reactions about trash and the checkout line can be.

Funny enough, grocery bags put me over the edge from thinking about the "anachronism" concept here, to actually living it. A few years ago, I lived in a small apartment within walking distance to a super market. When I say walking distance, I mean visitors to the complex sometimes used back spots of the market for parking. As uber-bachelor, I kept my kitchen with the required necessities: ketchup, mustard, alcohol, pickles, and random baking stuff years old carted from each move and woefully out of date. Moving next to a store let me stop by, pick-up dinner for the night, and simplify my epic fail meal planning.

This grandiose plan didn't come immediately, but after I got in my car, drove across the parking lot, loaded the car with groceries, and drove back across the same parking lot to unload. I think the thought was: "wow, this is lame-ass lazy for even me." So, I started walking. After making the journey a few times I decided a couple things. First, buying groceries that day, and cooking never frozen meat and (sorta) fresh fish is awesome. Second, plastic groceries bags suck. I noticed the store was selling reusable grocery bags ($0.99) and offering a $0.05 refund for using them. I have a few bags now which have paid for themselves several times over.

The thing that got me though, was my initial reaction to the thought of buying one: "I don't want people to group me with those environmentalists." Then, I just got mad. Somehow, someone had put into my head the idea that purchasing a 99 cent bag would lead me straight into being a Green Peace hippy blowing up SUVs. Isn't it funny how some ideas have a life of their own?

Over the past 2 years I've heard multiple people say, "I like the reusable but don't want to use one with Go Green written on it". That's not as bothersome as when I hear things that amount to "reusable grocery bags are communism". Point is, as reusable bags become more prolific, I hear multiple people saying the exact same things that went through my head when I made the switch.

At times, when I'm at the grocery line, I get reactions verging on offence when I give the cashier a reusable bag. Reusable bags long ago lost their novelty for me. Now, they're just part of my life. I keep them in my trunk, and try to remember to bring them when I go in the store. Most cashier's treat them as routine. And then, there are the special that do things like bag items into plastic sacks and then place those in the bag...

Cloth bags are convenience for me, not environmentalism. I don't go through grocery stores and snear at people not using them. I'm really beyond even thinking they're a big deal.

Still, they illustrate a larger issue, one that I'm trying to wrap my head around and plan to explore here. Of the two of us, Fin is more of an environmentalist. I simply enjoy exploring ideas and value free thinking. I understand the drive and desires of the environmentalist. I understand the not being an environmentalist. What I find concerning is the growing population of otherwise normal people actively anti-environmentalist.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

iPad - Revolutionary? Or Evolutionary?

No, it isn't a marketing graphic for the Apple iPad. It is the cover of a 1992 manual for the GO Pen Computer. Lately, there's been a lot of media hype over how Apple is changing the face of computing as we know it. The cover article in Time Magazine (Inside Steve's Pad) kinda took me over the edge. Et tu, Time? Not that I'm all that surprised, Time is definitely staffed by "unabashed Apple fans".

Really, I like the idea of Tablet computers, E-Readers, and so on. I wouldn't mind owning a Kindle, though I don't like the idea of not "owning" my books and the fact that the technology allows Amazon to remotely delete items I purchased . I refuse to purchase books like that. The idea of ownership of things is important to me. As much of a "liberal" as I may be, property is something that I greatly value. Which is why I don't plan on purchasing an iPad. I also won't begrudge those that do, after all, it looks like a very well done device. Still, Apple tightly controls what I can and can't do with it. That however, is not the point of this post.

The point is about those in the media insisting this device will "change computers". Apple is great at marketing their originality, but when it comes down to it, the reality is far different. Let's take a stroll down history.

1987 - NestorWriter handwriting system is introduced for IBM Compatible computers, it features a tablet and hand writing recognition software

1989 - GridPad tablet computer is the first ever Tablet computer to be released.

1992 - The GO tablet computer was released (pictured above), later followed by the GO based AT&T EO 440.

In the '93 and '94 time frame, there was a lot of interest in tablet based computing. Even Microsoft got on the scene with releases of Pen extensions for Windows. Fast forward to about 8 years ago, when Microsoft again attempted to bring back Tablet computing. Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc, wrote a rather significant essay on tablet computing as Microsoft made the push for the concept. (For reference, VisiCalc is one of the single historic and revolutionary apps in computing history.)

When these tablet computers came out, I remember having some rather extensive discussions about utilizing them for various teaching and academic purposes. Working at a community college, multiple people felt these could be extremely useful tools for presentations, paperwork reduction, etc... The word "revolutionary" was used then too. I wasn't as impressed as a then complete Micro$oft hater (as I'd spell it), and Free Software advocate. (Or, as I'd say now, a college student not yet jaded to the business place.)

Revolutionary annoyed me then too. Mostly because I'd had a lot of fun with the Apple Newton a few years before that.

(Photo Credit)

At the time, my thought was OMG Ev1l Micro$oft steals idea from Apple l33t engineers.

After working in the industry for a bit, talking to people beyond the shaded ivory towers of academia, and feeling a few hard knocks, I was a lot more receptive when tablet computers began making a new appearance.

Slightly before the Kindle was released, I visited a bookstore for my standard movie + fiction books run, and discovered an E-reader on display. Working in the industry on consumer devices, I get to see and hear a lot of opinions about technology from a creator's perspective. I knew seeing that device, there were more in the wind.

At certain points, evolution hits a tipping point were people can look at something and say "wow, that's it". Apple wasn't the first to launch a "tablet device". But, more importantly, the oncoming numerous Tablet devices we'll be seeing aren't cloning or ripping off Apple's invention. Like Apple, they're standing on the shoulders of a great many devices and ideas from the past.

All this to make a couple points. The iPad isn't going to bankrupt Amazon or kill the Nook. It's not going to change the way everyone uses computers overnight. What will it do? Move a cool technology that's finally ready for prime time into a more mainstream audience.

And that is why the iPad is awesome.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review: No Impact Man

Fin and I have been on a documentary kick here lately, so when our next movie choice came up, we decided on "No Impact Man". Fin was fairly excited to see it - "No Impact Man" is one of several environmentalist blogs she follows. As far as documentaries go, the film itself was fairly interesting and well put together.

Colin Beavan decides to put his views into action by making "no impact" on the environment for a year. He does this by removing various modern conveniences from his life (the biggest of which is apparently toilet paper), and attempts to reduce the amount of trash he outputs.

While I found the film interesting, I don't think it really had any point besides being something of a human interest film. Other documentaries do a far better job of explaining the effects of modern agriculture, pollution, or attempting to be "Green". However, seeing some of the normal arguments environmentalists might have with each other, or the general public, did provide some food for thought. The value of being an environmentalist is taken as a given at the start of the film. Lacking however, was any real advice on how to put ideas into action - most of the things highlighted in the film weren't things everyday people would find useful.

If documentaries are your thing or you've heard about "No Impact Man" otherwise, you might want to watch it. Unlike some other movies I've seen, it doesn't hit the level of "need to see" or even my giving a strong recommendation.

That said, while it is a documentary, be warned if you read further for spoilers.

Watching the documentary, I do have some very strong thoughts as to environmentalism and what an environmentalist lifestyle would be like. Now, I'd like to start by saying that the primary focus (for me) of writing here isn't exactly environmentalism. It's about focusing on the reality of the world around us. At one point in this movie, an older New York hippie highlights the hypocrisy of Mr. Beavan's lifestyle when his wife writes for Business Week. That one moment highlighted my main objections to the whole idea of his "No Impact".

Like it or not, the mere act of being alive has an impact. Nature isn't an all giving kind and nurturing place with fluffy bunnies and puppies that never grow up. The documentary never addressed it, but I found myself wondering throughout the movie if the "No Impact" show piece wasn't actually at times, causing WORSE impact for the environment. After removing electricity, "No Impact Man" continues to use gas service (lighting an oven with a match) and water service. He enjoys fruit cooled by ice from his neighbour's freezer. He keeps light at night using candles. Not having the thermostat turned to warm the apartment during the winter, means his apartment mates are subsiding his heat. These examples to me is where "No Impact Man" moved from environmental activist to performing a stunt.

Sadly, part of that stunt seems to be the message "going back in time is an improvement". The "how things were done in the past is better" idea proves just as fallacious as the "new is better" idea. When it comes down to it, so much of what we've discovered makes our lives easier and simpler. Our ability to modify the environment and live in luxury should come with a sense of responsibility.

About halfway through the film, it occurred to me that a lot of what I saw was only sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice. I don't think good things come when people sacrifice to assuage their guilt, it comes when people decide to take responsibility for their actions. The difference is subtle, but it is there.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sprouts and Walkways

Yesterday was a beautiful day and I got a couple outside projects finished up. I cut down and bundled some tree branches and my parents house for them and also finished the walkway at our house between the house and the garage:

I really should have taken a couple before pictures. It used to be mud and you could barely see the stepping stones. The mud turned out to be mud mixed with a bunch of rock that I dug out and found a tarp serving as a barrier. Those black edgers were there already. The only think I had to buy was new rock because I couldn't get the old rock to wash off, the mud was very much clay. It made a big difference and I like the way it turned out.

Here's a couple sprout pictures:

That would be Tomatillos and Early Girl tomatoes. The peppers are just barely starting to peek out, we should really be seeing those in a couple days.

My next project? Researching growing my own edible mushrooms. I'm curious how hard/cost effective it is. I know you can get kits for that, but that's about the extent of my knowledge. Also planning on looking into growing my own sprouts, bean and alfalfa. I know it can be done easily, just not sure how to get started. Research away! :p


Monday, March 22, 2010

Things grow when you plant them!

Tomatoes, 3 different kinds:

Tomotillos, purple and green:

Even though it just snowed like a foot, it kinda feels like spring to me today.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seeds are Small

"Duh" you say, "Yes, I know seeds are small"

Ok, ok, but, really, have you ever stopped to think about how small seeds really are compared to what they produce? An 80-100 foot elm tree from a seed the size of a peanut. An entire 8-12 foot tomato plant from a seed the size of less then half of a grain of rice that reproduces itself over and over and over and over in the fruits that you eat. Its just amazing to me is all.

I planted some seeds for the garden yesterday (planted 5 of these trays, although the picture only shows two):

4 different kinds of tomatoes (3 heirloom)
Hungarian wax peppers
5 color bell peppers
Sweet peppers

Seems there was some other stuff but I don't remember what it was right now. I planted them in 4 packs so we'll see what comes up. I'm a bit late on the planting I think but I guess any head start is better then none!

I have some flower seeds that I bought last year that I am going to try to plant today in flats and we'll see what happens there. I'm not sure if the seeds are even any good anymore, especially since I only paid $0.20 each for the packets.

Dad took the tiller carburetor to get overhauled and we should have that back some time next week. Hopefully we can get the garden all tilled up and start getting some things planted out there soon. For our zone it looks like the last frost date is typically April 15-30 so there are a lot of plants we can't get into the ground until after that, but we can start planting colder weather plants now like: lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, carrots....the list goes on.

Potatoes need to be going in the ground here soon as well. I am planning on trying the container method this year. Sort of. I'm actually going to be using fencing instead of a container, but it should work out ok. It might turn out a bit more like compost potatoes. Its basically the same thing though.

I am going to be setting up a bed on the south side of the house for some rhubarb, I will be getting that in the ground this week. There used to be rhubarb over there once upon a time so I think it will grow well. There isn't a lot of sun, but there is some, and it stays cool over there even in high summer so the rhubarb won't get burned out. I got 3 crowns this year, and next year should be able to split them into 3-4 so I should have plenty after a couple years....or even have rhubarb coming out of my ears!

I cut down a bunch of brush growing in the fence line (you can see it in the background of the picture) as well as trimmed up a couple of trees, plus we took down a tree last year, plus we had a whole shed full or, I've been burning.

A bunch.

There is so much brush to burn its absolutely ridiculous at this point. We're lucky in where we live we can have a burn pit, but we can't have bon fires with no pit. Believe me when I say we have enough brush to have one HELL of a bon fire. Its crazy. I'm trying to find somewhere to just rent a chipper and chip it all up and then we can use the resulting chipped wood for mulch in some of the parts of the yard that get muddier all year long. That would be nice. Not having any luck at this point, but I'm going to keep trying.

I also have been busy with the composting. We have an almost full composter going on right now and will have to get another one here soon so we can stop adding to the one we have and it can cook, then we can use it. I also set up the other composter we have for just kitty litter (and other misc "green" components to fill it out.) That one won't be able to be used on the garden for edible stuff but I will be able to use it elsewhere on the yard. I just hated throwing away the kitty litter since it *can* be composted so that's what we're going to be doing.

I'm excited about having a garden this year. I can't wait to start planting outside. Getting some seeds planted yesterday helped a bit but man, its been a hard, cold, miserable winter and I am so ready for spring and the smell of growing things in the air.

Oh, and did I mention warm weather?!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

All About Soap Part Two

Sometime toward the end of my college career, I made a sudden switch away from the standard bar soaps into the domain of "body wash". One of the common questions I get when discussing soap is if I can make a liquid soap. The answer is yes I can, but it wouldn't be body wash. Body wash is interesting to me, in that it's recently become more and more popular.
On the package, you'll find this ingredient list:

Water, SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Sulfate, FRAGRANCE, Sodium Lauryl Sarcosinate, Lauryl Alcohol, Decyl Glucoside, DMDM Hydantoin, Lauryl Glucoside, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Polyquaternium-10, FDC GREEN 3, Green 5, Red 33
Now, let's compare these ingredients to another 'liquid soap':
water, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium pareth-23, sulfate C-12-14-16, dimethyl amine oxide, SD alcohol, undeceth-9, propylene glycol, cyclohexandiamine, polyacetate, protease, fragrance, FD&C blue, no phosphate
Of note for us are the first two ingredients in this recipes: "sodium lauryl sulfate" (SLS). This is actually the common surfactant in just about any 'liquid soap' you find. It's also the primary active ingredient of (wait for it) dish washing detergent, our second soap here.

Interestingly enough, the primary reasons why people prefer "Body Wash" to soap are based less on how their skin feels, and more on the "shower experience". Making this even more interesting to me is that women are more likely to prefer body wash than men. Why is that interesting? Sorry guys, but women tend to care more about skin care than we do.

Despite what a few pages on the internet will tell you, SLS, is NOT going to turn you into a mutant cancerous growth while deforesting the world and killing puppies. SLS is known to be a skin irritant. It's also a strong part of the body wash pull. A major effect of using it as the primary ingredient is the extremely "sudsy" nature of a body wash. But still, SLS is not good for your skin. And so, the manufacturers of body wash usually add other concocted surfactants (the vast majority of the chemical names in the ingredient list). These others often are milder and known to be "more gentle" on the skin. Sometimes, manufacturers will even include moisturisers to help reduce the effects of the detergent.

From the aspect of this blog, body wash suffers from being environmentally unfriendly. Soap is distributed in easy to recycle paper, body wash is distributed in plastic. And then, in the case of the actual product, body wash often contains multiple chemicals which aren't nearly as biodegradable.

For a final note, I'd like to point to the one item that bothers me most about standard commercial soaps: "FRAGRANCE". I have no way of knowing the breakdown of oils or chemicals used. This is in stark contrast to the more premium or natural soap makers, where the full ingredients are listed.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

All About Soap

It constantly amazes me the number and amount of things we take for granted on a day to day basis. Personally, I like to think I'm rather smart. For all of my modern day "knowledge" if I was thrown in the wilderness, I likely wouldn't live past a season. Think for an instant about everything you use without thinking about it - electricity, microwave ovens, natural gas heating, internal combustion engines. Part of this blog was attempting to understand such things, and what better place than something people have taken for granted in our society for decades - soap.

Now, I haven't read the book "Fight Club", but I don't think it's without reason that a major component was soap. Given that (hopefully) everyone uses it on a regular basis, you'd think people in general would know where it came from. As I discovered on attempting to make soap for myself, you'd be wrong. People don't.

When I announced my intent to a few people to find out how soap was made, I ran into multiple misconceptions on a repeated basis. The biggest, and most substantial, also demonstrated the common level of knowledge -

"Lye soap, doesn't that suck?"

I believe this is the unholy combination of marketing and history. Home made soaps where often made by combining potash with animal fat. After burning a hardwood, water run through the ashes of the wood will pick up Potassium Hydroxide (POH). This water could then be added to animal fat to create a surfactant which we call "soap". A surfactant is simply a substance that lets oil and water mix.

Obtaining, and burning, hardwood, then leaching out the required compounds is something of an involved and time consuming task. So, I, like many others, took a short cut and purchased what I needed, in the form of "100% Lye".

Now, at some point the term "lye" stopped referring to "Potassium Hydroxide" and instead started referring to a very similar "Sodium Hydroxide". Sodium hydroxide however, can be manufactured from a simple chemical process involving water, electricity, and table salt. While lye is somewhat dangerous to deal with, it's been sold as years as drain cleaner, and is also used in other janitorial applications. Go figure Fin would know something about dealing with it before I even brought it home.

In fact, I quickly discovered "cold process soap making" is something of a popular hobby across the states. A multitude of websites, how to guides, and instructions are out there. Many of the "soapers" will say they make "old fashioned lye soap", and many will sell their soap online or at places like Whole Foods. For a nice premium you can find "organic vegan soap". Others will tell you about the many evils of store bought soaps, all the while advertising their own "all natural soap made with saponified oils".

One quality local vendor is Indigo Wild - manufacturers of "Zum Soap" that you'll find at a multitude of locations. At the store, you'll find it a lot more expensive than other soaps. Now, I think Zum soap is in general a high quality product, Fin and I have been using it a while now. We both have very sensitive skin, and Zum tends to work better than any other brand we've tried. Talking to a Whole Foods hippy about Indigo Wild products versus what you'd buy at the supermarket, would likely make Zum soap sound completely different than any of your discount soaps. While I might agree on quality, the same argument doesn't jump into "what the soap is".

Looking at your standard store purchased soaps (we'll ignore those anti-bacterial for now as well as body washes), you'd likely see the following ingredient list:


Allow me to simply all that for you: Saponified animal fat and vegetable fats, salt, and Tetrasodium edta

Now, the Vegan had one small point - if you're vegetarian and/or animal killing is high on your "do not" list, store bought soaps tend to have animal fat in them. More than likely, a part of your soap is coming from rendered animal fats. Also note, I didn't include any added glycerin in there - that's part of what you get saponifying fats.

The only real additive worth noting in the majority of non-premo-organic soaps is Tetrasodium EDTA. Now, there is some valid concern over the chemical, it's effects, and it's safety. There are a couple different websites out there making it seem completely safe, and a cancer inducing death toxin. In general, it's purpose in soap is to make it less reactive. The vast majority of your "natural soaps", will not contain it.

After a weekend of effort, I managed to produce my own soap, comparable in quality to those of premium soap manufacturers. And while, Fin and I will be making soap for our own reasons, we could just as easily go the store and purchase a similar product without being confused by the "Natural" on the logo. Some of the natural soaps might be better quality, but some aren't anything more than repackaged bargain bin discount soap.

In summary, the assumptions we make on something we use on a daily basis can lead to surprising results when pulling back the covers and taking a look at how things really work.

As I continue making soap, I hope to post a bit about it here, what and how I did, how well it worked, and so on.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Fear Continues

On Friday, the science project of an 11 year old resulted in the evacuation of a middle school. A 2 liter bottle with "wires sticking out"? It must be a bomb! Hackaday (a nerd blog) has a great editorial on the misgivings of people seeing home made electronics.

Sadly, these responses don't seem limited to just electronics anymore. Any number of backyard projects insight an odd mix of fear and anger - line drying of clothes, making your own soap or laundry detergent, home construction projects / DIY jobs, backyard gardens, the list goes on.

At what point did we as a society decide that it must be purchased at the store to be acceptable?

Sad, so very sad.

Fate's 2010 Resolutions

While it's a bit late in January to post this, I still feel a need to continue my yearly ritual of posting the things I'm planning on accomplishing over the new year. This years resolutions are largely related to the purpose of this blog, so I'm going to post them here.

1. Reduce / Eliminate trash at the office
Together, Fin and I have reduced our monthly trash output (excepting the ongoing project of reducing our junk count) to roughly a single trash bag a month. However, at work, I'm still outputting a considerable amount of junk - mostly disposables associated with eating lunch. My new goal is to start using washable clothes, and silverware at work. It's way too easy to get caught into the trap of using that stuff when it's readily available, and everyone else at the office is.

2. Go camping / outdoors more often
Last year, Fin and I went on two trips where I was camping. This year, I hope to make regular weekends at a couple local lakes / camping grounds. By the end of the year, I'm hoping for a good 6 times this year out camping with Fin.

3. Pay off another debt
Last year, I set the goal of paying off some of my college debt. I succeeded, and am hoping again this year to nuke another portion of my college and post college stupidity.

4. Perfect a soap recipe / be able to make commercial quality soap
This will be a series of blog entries on its own, but I'm hoping to create some decent quality soap using cold process techniques. My first batch is currently cooking, and I'll have a blog entry about this and my reasons for it soon.

5. Return to martial arts
Fin's been encouraging me to do this, but the time and cost matrix hasn't been favorable to it actually happening. Martial arts did a lot of good things for my health and mental state, so I'd really like to get back at it.

6. Post more useful stuff more often
Part of the original goal of this blog was to post useful information, and post that on a regular basis. However, life's been in the way, and so, not much has happened in terms of useful content here. Now that things have calmed down a bit, some of that should start happening.

7. Grow and maintain a garden
Fin's downright excited about the idea of having a garden this year, and I'm looking forward to helping. Really, this is more of her resolution, but it's one that I'm also looking forward to helping with.

8. Release some software / finish a project
I've done so many hobby projects, but none of them have hit a point to call it done. The goal this year is to actually accomplish something in that. In either software, or writing, or art, I want to actually accomplish something this year.

9. Finish unpacking
This is really the same goal as last year. I want to be rid of the boxes of junk that have been trailing me around and growing for the past 3 to 4 years. At some point this year, I'd like to say, "hey look, I'm done unpacking".

10. Grow in maintenance / carpentry / plumbing / etc... skills
Now that I find myself in the role of "homeowner", I can't call the apartment management company anymore to come fix stuff. My parents were very much the type were doing things around the house meant calling the right professional. I'm hoping to break the trend a bit, and be more self sustaining. So far, no major injuries or limbs lost.