Monday, September 16, 2013

Mr. Compost: How to make an in-kitchen compost turbocharger!

Mr. Compost is an appliance which heats and agitates food scraps collected in your kitchen. This accelerates decomposition before you put the compost outside (in a worm bin or compost pile) to finish breaking down.

My own goal was to build something that would break things down enough that once transferred to my worm bin, the compost won't draw flies. This will allow me to move the worms inside during the winter without an entourage of flying insects.

Agitation helps add oxygen to the mix and mechanically break things down while allowing moisture to escape, and high temperatures (we'll be shooting for 140F) are ideal for the voracious thermophilic bacteria which take over naturally when outdoor compost piles build up enough internal heat on their own. As a bonus, flies stay away from things at that temperature.

Doesn't this waste energy? It does use some electricity, but if you're a city dweller who can use this and a worm bin instead of curbside yard waste collection, then disposing of kitchen scraps this way saves energy! I'm still working on getting 1.21 gigawatts back out of it though....

Sound complicated? We're just replacing the computerized controller in another appliance that holds, heats, and agitates things: a bread maker!

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How Your Brain Perceives Time (And How to Use it to Your Advantage)

We might not be able to create more time when we need it most—like when a deadline is approaching—but we can use the understanding of how we perceive time to our advantage.

For example, author Joshua Foer thinks it might be possible to make it seem like we live longer by inserting more memories between two temporal points. It's not the fountain of youth, but it's an odd brain quirk that makes us feel like we've lived longer. How we perceive time can also affect our satisfaction with decisions, relationships with others, and levels of productivity.

Let's start with why it seems like we never have enough time to meet deadlines.

Think back to your student days—remember those all-nighters? Even if you were a top-notch scholar, you probably pulled at least one or two all-night cram sessions because of what appeared to be bad time management. (I speak from "fond" personal experience.)

Researchers Roger Buehler, Dale Griffin, and Michael Ross explore what's known as "The Planning Fallacy" in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. This study shows that subjects had a tendency to focus on optimistic scenarios when they planned, which caused problems when unforeseen circumstances arose. Perhaps one solution is to prime ourselves to be more pessimistic (or "realistic") as we're scoping out timelines. You might not need to plan for the worst case scenario, but you should definitely consider it.

Alternatively, both the study and the community blog Less Wrong suggest adopting a different perspective to time. Rather than looking at the unique features of your project in order to estimate how long it might take, look into the past and see how long it took others to complete a similar projects. That's an accurate indicator of how long it will take you to finish yours.

With that said, not every single task can be compared to a previous one. Professor of cognitive science Douglas Hofstadter humorously coined "Hofstadter's Law." A column in The Guardian explains it best: "Any task you're planning to complete will always take longer than expected—even when Hofstadter's Law is taken into account." It's an inevitable, cyclic property of our minds: no matter how we plan, tasks susceptible to Hofstadter's Law will always take longer than we plan—even if we attempt to account for this delay. So don't be too surprised if that project extends beyond the fallback time you set up.

A study from the University of Belgium showed that we imagine more details about an immediately approaching event than something farther in the future (and also recall more details about recent past events). Therefore, if we focus on the details of a future projection, we can make it feel much closer and more urgent.

A way to curb procrastination early on would be to take a few minutes and simply lay the groundwork for a project. This process naturally starts putting more details in your head, and you can get over the procrastination hump. In other words, just start somewhere. This is why self-development advisors like Tony Robbins suggest making goals extremely concrete and detailed—it emphasizes the urgency of the goal and makes the milestone feel less distant.

"Ask forgiveness, not permission" is a piece of traditional entrepreneurial advice. As bestselling author Tim Ferriss says, "Most people are fast to stop you before you get started, but hesitant to get in the way if you're moving." Experiments support this. This study from the University of Chicago shows that experiment participants were far more upset about bad things that were going to happen, rather than bad things that had already occured. This may be because of our perceived ability to change the future and inability to change the past, as well as our emotional dampening and rationalization of past events. The prospect of an unpleasant event happening in the future feels much worse than the actual event. Our emotions are naturally regulated and become less extreme as the past fades.

If you're planning to make a change, such as presenting a new initiative at work, and you want to minimize the problems and maximize the support, choose to make moves first and ask for "forgiveness" if something goes awry. In any case, taking a step forward in any direction is more conducive to your goals than doing nothing. Again, just start somewhere.

Another study from the University of Chicago observed that people place significantly higher value on the near future than on the near past. Experimenters observed that the emotional impact of a future event increases as it approaches, but once the event has occured, its emotional impact significantly decreases.

The study points out an implication that's significant for successful negotiation: pay later as a buyer, and charge earlier as a seller. This means that, theoretically, you'll be more likely to charge someone less if you, for example, send the bill to your client after you perform a service. Conversely, you'll be more likely to pay less if you negotiate after the service has been performed. Of course, if you're a service provider, you would want to charge upfront to maximize your profit. Don't let yourself succumb to a post-job negotiation (AKA a "lowball").

While we still don't have a DeLorean to hop into, knowing how time changes the way we perceive things can help us to plan and deal with unforeseen circumstances. Simple awareness of these heuristics can make a huge difference in coping, decision making, and understanding why we behave and react in certain ways.

Herbert Lui is exploring the intersection of art and entrepreneurship. He is a writer and specializes in content marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn. He is the author of a guide to building credibility online.

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Image via Kzenon (Shutterstock).

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Harry Potter House Points Necklace Set

For this Instructable, the only thing you'll need tools-wise is a pair of pliers.

Necklace Chain
Necklace Findings (namely loops to attach the pendant to the chain)
Earring Backs
Seed Beads (the color of which is whatever house you want to make)
Bead Landing - "Found Objects" - Glass Capsule (comes in a pack of two)

See the pictures for images of the parts. Note that if you cannot find the Glass Capsules, you can make them using a small glass tube and bead caps.

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mustard barbecue sauce

mustardbbqsauce.jpgMustard barbecue sauce is (in my opinion) the best kind to put on barbecue. I'm not the biggest fan of most red tomato/ketchup based sauces because they can be so sweet or faux-smoked. Mustard barbecue sauce has much more range! You can have it with a nice vinegar bite or super spicy, or you can tone it down with brown sugar until it's almost more like a honey mustard. 

I had my first taste of mustard barbecue sauce at Mark's Feed Store in Louisville, KY about ten years ago. I have been addicted since. I tried my best to create something a little similar to theirs but I might just need to order a bottle. :D

IMG_1392.JPG3/4 cup yellow mustard1/4 cup apple cider vinegar2-3 tablespoons brown sugar1/2 tablespoon paprika1 teaspoon worchestershire1/2 teaspoon black pepper1 teaspoon hot sauce1 tablespoon ketchuppinch of celery seedsSo this is what I went with! I originally left out the celery seeds, but after tasting the Mark's Original sauce against mine, I realized that was a big part of what it was missing. You could also use celery salt, I'm sure - it might even work better!

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Arduino Animatronic Eyes

After reviewing and scouring the internet like most hackers I decided what I wanted wasn't documented well. So I set out to not only do the project for myself but to also try and get some sort of documentation.

For this project you will need:

Electronics side:
1 - Arduino board
1 - Breadboard (anysize)
2 - Servo's I used Futaba S3003

Hardware side:
1 - Set of eyes (ebay, I specifically looked for realistic acrylic doll eyes that had the cornea bump in them). 
1 - Set of RC Car half shafts
8 - EZ connectors*
4 - Servo horns (All of mine came with my servos)
Connecting rod (various sizes and thicknesses)
1 - Sheet of Plexiglass/Acryilic Sheet (I used this as my base. Only because I had it on hand.)
1 - 12" length of Aluminum Angle Bracket 

Assorted Extras:
Aluminium Shims fabricated on the spot from bar aluminum
Cotter pins
Threaded Rod (or a bolt with head cut off)
2 Part Epoxy

Hack Saw
Propane Torch

*NOTE: The EZ connector hole sizes are determined by the thickness of your connecting rod. I was lucky enough to have an RC Hobby store down the road so I purchased what was on clearance  If you buy the wrong size you could always attempt to drill a bigger hole in the EZ connector but it may be more of a pain.

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