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Archive for January, 2011

My inventive husband, Max, has finished another brilliant project. This time, his ingenuity resulted in the creation of a steampunk inspired nightlight he calls the “Lightning Trap”.

The finished product

 

The "Lightning Trap" in operation

 

Theoretically, the device would be placed outside to collect and store lightning energy when struck. It is then converted and stored in power filters which transfer the energy to the delicately glowing bulb, housed within a chicken eggshell.

All components for this project, with the exception of the egg, batteries and LED lights, were created by my husband with painstaking precision. The the light and battery compartments were soldered together after the internal working components were fitted and tested. Since a ‘AA’ battery was insufficient in terms of power, Max decided to remedy the problem by creating a custom one out of button batteries encased in a container he made, himself.

Homemade battery in production

 

Homemade battery completed

 

Light compartment with attached battery compartment

 

And then there was light...And it was good!

 

The eggshell (of course drained and thoroughly cleaned) was cut at the base to provide an opening for the light to shine through.

Light testing with mounted shell

 

The pattern for the external circuit wiring was drawn and the position for the metal contacts were marked.

Mapping the position for the contacts and wire

 

The final result looks amazingly close to the blueprint!

 

Here's the blueprint

 

This entire project took about a month for Max to complete. Though I’m sharing this incredible piece to the best of my ability, I’m sure I’ve left out some details. Feel free to check out Max’s blog at: http://madmaxthesniper.livejournal.com/ He mainly posts in Russian, but Google has a cool translation feature that usually helps to narrow the language barrier. Usually. 😉

Please feel free to comment and/or share this post.

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A dream dawns from the city shadows

Most people think I’m putting them on when I tell them I’m a native New Yorker who grew up in the inner-city. They often say my personality doesn’t reflect the fact that I was raised in such a rough neighborhood. Nevertheless, I’ve learned firsthand that your geographical environment alone doesn’t determine your destiny, especially when you’ve been instilled with a moral compass and a solid educational foundation. That’s not to say my childhood was easy. On the contrary, it was tough being the kid with big dreams while surrounded by people whose ambitions were skewed or stolen. As a result, I was ridiculed for my lofty aspirations. 20/20 hindsight has allowed me to see that my success would remind my doubters of their failures, so naturally they preferred that I join them, not surpass them.

This has been a recurring situation that continues to follow me to this very day. The difference is that now I understand that in order to dream, you have to defy reality, even amongst misbelievers. If you succumb to the doubt around you—and sometimes within you—your dreams stand no chance of survival. The more I learned about this burdensome responsibility to preserve my ambitions, the stronger my will became to bear it. My recent lesson spanned three years with the development of my recent manuscript. I poured much of my soul into a project that means the world to me, yet I found that those around me were either unable or unwilling to understand. It was painful at first, but time has helped me to heal and grow. Not only that, I used my pain as a propellant to drive me closer to reaching my goals. As I put the finishing touches on a novel that has demanded much of my time, patience and energy, I move on to the next phase of my journey, hoping that I can use my dream to motivate others. All my blogs come from the heart, but this one comes from a personal place within it. I’m more comfortable with delving into topics outside of my private realm, but this time I feel I must give a broader picture of why I write and how it has saved me.

Some dreams die out when they don’t have the nourishment of support. Others are so powerful, that like the durable water bear, they remain dormant for vast periods of time, springing back to life when the conditions become favorable. This miraculous occurrence has taken place in my life. Like many people, I found myself adrift, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t due to lack of skills or interests.  Quite the contrary, I had several. I always thought my love of drawing would lead me to a life-long career as an artist. Along the way I struggled with many issues including family complications, identity and popularity—or lack thereof. I eventually found myself spiraling into depression. After several rough patches I began to dig myself out with a pen, using paper to help dry my tears and mend my bleeding heart. Creative writing helped set me on the path to finding my soul’s cadence again. One of the last pieces I wrote, just before my college years, was abandoned due to other obligations.

Consequently, I became too busy to write much else since I was focused on becoming a graphic designer. The market was tough, but I managed to secure two jobs in the field before ultimately realizing that it didn’t feed my soul like I hoped it would. Being the tenaciously stubborn woman that I am, I stuck with it and pushed through when times got tough.  Then I met an old acquaintance I hoped never to see again. Depression. I felt lost for a multitude of reasons; I had selected a vocation that just didn’t stoke the flame of my creative passion any longer. Additionally, I had poured so much of myself into making it work that when it didn’t, I felt like a failure. I put so many years building a bridge to my dream only to realize it wasn’t leading me anywhere I wanted to go.

The decision was tough, but I needed to make a significant change. Approaching the sacrificial slab of destiny, the choice became clear; I had to sacrifice the expectations of others in order to rediscover myself. Sometimes in order to be free, truly free, you have to let some people down and let some people go. The nakedness of it all was unnerving. I knew the life I had worn before didn’t fit me, yet I had squeezed into it and had gotten acclimated to the snug fit of routine.

I may have traded brush strokes for key strokes, but the pictures I paint are just as vivid. The important thing is that I’m expressing myself more freely than I ever have. Today, I have reached a milestone on my journey. After three years, I have completed my manuscript for my second novel and will soon begin the nerve-wracking process of query submission. It is my hope that the past three years I spent working on my novel will reach the eyes and touch the hearts of many. I also hope to carve a lasting legacy in the world that will remain long after I’ve moved on. To everyone who’s struggling to achieve your goal; know that although people may say you can’t make it, you’re the only one who can prove them right or wrong. Understand that there will be days on your journey when you’ll seek outside motivation that won’t be there. Know that you have the power within yourself to move forward and lift yourself up, even when you don’t think you have the strength.

P.S., the last thing I wrote before college ended up being the first book I published. I didn’t realize that until after it was printed.

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Recent events have spawned widespread debate regarding firearms. I understand both sides of the issue, but I know that even if we were to destroy every firearm in America and the world it wouldn’t make it any more peaceful. Yes, it might slow the efficiency of violent offenders, but they will only take up another weapon as a means to harm and destroy others. The heart of the problem lies not in the method of violent behavior, but the seeds of intent from which it originates. Weapons aren’t the source of hatred, merely the tools some people use to spread its message.

We’re living in a fast-paced culture in which patience, responsibly and tolerance are being choked out by the weeds of the contrary. Common decency, basic manners and respect have become passé in our modern civilization. The fact is, a gun doesn’t pull its own trigger. What does, is the finger driven by intent. I’m not bashing those opposed to firearms. In fact, I used to think that by eliminating guns, peace would prevail. I now understand that we have to do more than just remove the objects used in violent crime. People are innovative. They will always find new ways to enact their brand of violence whether with guns, knives, stones or their bare hands. The prison system is an ideal example of this fact. The brutal possibilities are endless, proving that the most dangerous weapon of all is human ingenuity and adaptability. It is the double-edged sword that if wielded irresponsibly will cut humanity to its knees. Additionally, society has become too lazy to analyze the root of the problem of our growing violence. Like many other things, we look to find the quick fix in hopes of a lasting resolution. We have disarmed our nation of human values and people are substituting it by picking up weapons, not only guns.

Now, some people may think I’m defending or condoning gun violence in this post. Far from it. I’m trying to defend what should be common sense. Peace doesn’t come naturally. It, like violence, is a learned pattern of behavior. If people aren’t properly educated about consequences, how can we expect them to become responsible members of society? Our society is suckling on the bosom of instant gratification, ignorance and the rewarding of bad behavior. We are now taught that it pays to be a spoiled brat who resorts to violence when you don’t get your way. What at one time was frowned upon now propels us to fame and fortune. It has become the ‘in’ thing to do, resorting to more extreme tactics in order to gain attention. The media pours out the slop du jour and we lap it up, even though we should know better.

And so continues the perpetual circle of immorality with very few people brave, powerful or popular enough to go against the turning wheel. The few who do often find themselves on the receiving end of caustic ridicule and violent insults just for having an opinion. I guess by writing this, I put myself in the line of fire, but I can no longer sit silently on the sidelines while watching the continued deterioration of humanity. If I did that, I would basically put my own morality in the crosshairs.

I know what it’s like to be an innocent bystander caught in a hail of gunfire and I understand how it can permanently alter one’s sense of personal safety. Therefore, this topic is one that I don’t take lightly at all. Without going into detail, I’ve found myself in the position of being a victim of crime on more than one occasion. Each time I was on my own and had to rely on myself to get myself out of the situation. I discovered at a very young age just how elusive justice can be. It’s terrifying to be alone in a confined space with a person intending to do you harm, with or without a gun. The helpless sensation is something that lingers, prompting one to wonder about their future safety. I aspire to be as peaceful as possible. I always reach for kindness above anger and vindictiveness. Yet, I understand that not everyone has peaceful intentions and that survival isn’t always a neat process. Sometimes, aggression is required to get it. People are so fearful of the weapon itself that they have fitted themselves with a mental Kevlar that’s deflecting their sensibility. We are being programmed to panic, not think. This is extremely dangerous, because the criminals are using this to their advantage. The topic of gun control is being used as a smokescreen to mask a deeper issue within our society. This has become a nation of finger-pointing and quick fixes. Whatever happened to consequences? There was a time when children were raised to respect, and aspire to become, nurses, doctors, teachers, fireman and policeman. Now, they are being raised to hate and that violence is the shortcut to gratification.

Yes, guns have the potential to harm and kill. The possibility increases when it’s in the hands of those with mental, emotional or morality issues. Then again, the same can be said for cars as well. Not everyone should be allowed to drive. As a New Yorker, I’ve seen many examples that support my theory. Not everyone possesses the patience and sense of responsibility needed to operate a vehicle. The same goes for firearms. Society is flooded with negative press regarding firearms, but they are shielded from cases where they have helped deter violent crimes while saving lives. Additionally, there’s a growing misconception that all gun owners have itchy trigger fingers and are aggressive people by nature. Thanks to the bad apples, many owners have unfairly been labeled under this stereotype. I personally know a few registered firearm owners and they are respectable law-abiding citizens just as normal as the next guy.

As for gun control, I don’t completely disagree with it. I believe there should be restrictions to prevent unstable, irresponsible people from being granted such an important privilege. Yet, I think it’s rather silly for people to believe that restrictions alone will solve the problem of gun violence. Generally, the perpetrators of gun violence, or any type of criminal act, behave in a manner to demonstrate that the laws don’t apply to them. The law-abiding citizen has no problem jumping through the legal hoops and red tape in order to attain and preserve their second amendment rights. But the criminals laugh as they avoid government barriers by obtaining their wares underground.

If people are so concerned about the uprising of violence, why not seek to restrict other things that can be used as weapons? Why focus solely on firearms? There are so many things available to those willing to harm others. At what point will society finally acknowledge that there’s a clear deterioration of moral values? People are becoming increasingly rude, impatient, intolerant and angry. Focusing only on the inanimate objects criminals use to commit their crimes is like putting a band-aid on a gangrenous limb.

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Even before the smoke had cleared I was stolen from another, my name changed by my captors. They used my body for their own benefit with no care or concern for my well-being. I was violated as a means to demonstrate their power. Each day I cried out as a new part of me died, but they didn’t understand my language. Either that, or they simply tuned me out. Even so, I wasn’t alone in my suffering. There were others even more helpless than I, being used and abused based solely on their outer appearance, as was my previous caregivers. I caught the red blood that seeped from their bruised midnight flesh as my own wounds bled black. Yes, those were heartrending times and we cried together in our helpless fear, anguish and anger. Just when we thought we’d break, change rode in on the back of time as swiftly as the comets in the sky above. I could feel it shower all over me, affecting all who touched me while cleansing the scars that will never completely heal.

Many decades had passed since then and though my age began to reveal itself in the cracks of my skin, my spirit never lost its vibrant color. Today, my name remains tattooed upon it. You are among the descendents of my captors and the reluctant inheritors of their legacy. I am proud to say that you evolved, abandoning many of their faulty ways. You had grown to embrace those they had wronged, including me. You declared your love for me. You vowed to stand beside me and guide me. In my honor, you vowed to live in accordance to a set of principles in which human values would be upheld after the decades of turmoil I witnessed firsthand. Yet, ignorance still lurks beneath the surface of many, creating violent lemmings that continue to plague me to this very day. Don’t you see? Your success is my success; your failure is my failure. I fear you have begun to relapse. Through your angry blindness and hatred, can you see me? How can you when you don’t see eye-to-eye with your brothers, sisters and neighbors? Open your eyes and witness the return of my deterioration. Do you see me? Do you remember my name? Do you remember what it means? Do you remember who I am? I am America!

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Yesterday, my husband came across a few brilliant finds, including an antique Masonic pictorial bible. He snapped it up right away and presented it to me as a gift. It is, by far, the most unique bible I’ve ever seen in person. I admire relics of the past, so I’m thrilled to be the proud owner of this piece. Thanks, honey!

Not only does it contain the Old and New Testaments, but also a biblical encyclopedia of sorts. It depicts, in remarkable detail, the lands in which people lived. It also illustrates the various animals that lived in each region.

Since this bible appears to be pretty rare, we haven’t been able to find many others online in order to gauge its precise year of production. However, we estimate it to be circa 1905-1910. The black embossed leather cover is in near-ideal condition for its age and the gilded-edged pages are well preserved. This weighty book measures 12.5″ x 9.5″ and is 4.5″ thick. That’s a lot of faith!

Front Cover

Inside Cover

Scripture Natural History - Botany

Photo Surveys

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Biographical Sketches

The Book of Joshua (Overview)



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Reading about this whole debate about the pending updated version of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, I couldn’t help but think of a quote coined by George Santayana; Those who do not learn from their past are doomed to repeat it.

I’m a person who can’t stand the word nigger. It, along with other derogative terms, has become a staple in the slang language of modern culture. We hear it all the time in the entertainment industry and on the street. It has become a trendy label for some and in the process, people have become desensitized by hearing the word out of its original context. Additionally, there’s a clear double standard as to who has the right to say the word, paving the way for a new wave of racism and social segregation. My standing is that in today’s world it should be socially inacceptable to use the word, that was meant to divide, in the pavement toward our future.

Yet, I find it somewhat backwards that rather than educate people on why this word should be retired, people are trying to erase it from history itself. I believe that Huckleberry Finn should not be altered in order to escape the harshness of our past. America wasn’t always beautiful for everyone. There was a time when the land of the free denied liberty to those who helped build it from the ground up. To deny how blacks were treated in the past is to deny how far we have come as a nation. Yes, history can be painful, but if we use it to education our future generations we can use it to not only avoid repeating the same mistakes, but to inspire greatness in our future leaders. Perhaps if more of today’s youth read about how the word nigger was used and that it was meant to oppress, maybe they would decide to call themselves something different.

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