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Marco Banks

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since Jan 31, 2015
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We make our home in sunny So. Cal., where we've been able to transform our average suburban lot into a food forest with about 60 fruit and nut trees and dozens of veggies.  Our chickens add fertility and provide eggs and entertainment.  I teach, and so my backyard has become a classroom for my students who are deeply curious about growing their own food, yet have never had their hands in the soil.  All this is a natural expression and extension of my faith.  Life began in the garden.  It continues therein.
Los Angeles, CA
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Recent posts by Marco Banks

My son is doing his Ph.D. research in the area of artificial intelligence and 3D printing.  There are all kinds of breakthrough advances in scanning for 3D reproduction, and the technology to do this is becoming less and less expensive.  We are beginning to see the commercial application of this scanning technology in everything from video games to action figures.  In their lab, he's able to scan just about anything (as long as it's no bigger than 8 inches or so) and replicate a duplicate of it (albeit in plastic) on the 3D printer.

Perhaps there would be a local university where the engineering or physics majors might do you a favor and scan your ring, leaving you with a CAD file that is an exact representation.  Once you've got that, it's simple to print a plastic version of your ring.  From that, you might make a mold out of slip clay, and then melt (or burn) the 3D printed replica out of the mold to leave you with a mold to pour brass or some other softer metal.  

If you've ever seen people do lost-wax casting, it's not that hard to do.  Brass melts at a relatively low 1700 f.  Aluminum melts at 1200.  Either of those would be (relatively) easy to work with.

57 minutes ago
This thread is why I love  So much knowledge and experience.  Great points everyone.
4 hours ago
I'm a huge fan of Milwaukee's Fuel line.  Brushless is the way to go if you've got the money.  Milwaukee's Fuel batteries last much longer and offer much greater power.

As for essential tools, I'd list 5:

Impact Driver
Reciprocating Saw
Palm Sander
Circular Saw

Cordless circular saws used to be a stupid waste of money --- underpowered and basically useless after 30 cuts or so.  But Milwaukee's fuel batteries keep their circ saw cutting for over 100 cuts.  With a sharp blade it powers through thick stock like nothing.

I'll use my drill and impact driver for a couple of days before I need to recharge.  

And the reciprocating saw has become my go-to tool for tree trimming.  It's light enough that I can stand on a ladder and cut through limbs as thick as 6 or 8 inches.  

We just remodeled our kitchen this summer and I used all of those tools repeatedly, from demolition all the way through till fine finish work.  Its worth the money to buy good tools that will last for years and have the power you need to keep working all day.

20 hours ago
A couple of thoughts from my own experience:

1.  Light gauge strings.  The less pressure you need to press down upon the strings, the less it will hurt.

2.  It WILL hurt.  But you've got to build up the toughness of your finger tips.  Even if you think your finger tips are too sore to play today, do so anyway.  At least 20 minutes.  You'll find the pain goes away after a couple of weeks.

3.  A classical guitar is a nice way to learn, as the space between the strings is more forgiving for clumsy fingers.  The nylon strings are also more forgiving.

4.  Print out a chord chart or buy one.  They sell nice laminated charts with all the correct fingerings.  And . . .

5.  Learn to play the chords correctly from the start.  I incorrectly learned to play D with the wrong 3 fingers.  So then when I went to learn additional chords that commonly evolve from that D fingering (Dsus), I couldn't do it.  

6.  I found it helpful to play with someone who was more advanced -- "Teach me that lick.  How do you pick that?"  They'll teach you a couple new things every time you hang out.

7.  Start simple and enjoy simple before moving on to tougher stuff.  3 chord rock n roll is good stuff -- old classics.  Twist and Shout.

8.  Simple, part 2:  Learn one key well.  D is easy enough (D, G & A).  Add the relative minor chords—Em and F#m.  Boom - now you're rocking.  You'll quickly learn that you'll also need Bm and C# diminished.  Once you've got the key of D, then move on to the key of C (C, F, G).

9.  Focus on your left hand first (chords).  After you find that you can transition smoothly between chords and you don't have to stare at your fingers to get them to move to the correct strings and frets, then you can begin to teach yourself how to pick with your right hand.  

10.  Patience.  It'll take 2 years before you are confidently playing without thinking about where your fingers are at or about keeping an even rhythm.  
4 days ago
I think Jocelyn is my long-lost sister.  

I like people and I'm good with people.  I absorb groups well enough, and can even be the life of the party if that's needed.  But it drains me.  A lot of introverts don't even realize that their emotional battery has been drained until they find themselves hiding in another room and waiting till everyone goes home.

For our emotional well-being, I think we all need public spaces and private spaces.  Everyone is different, some needing more of one than the other.  

Perhaps one of the dimensions of the train station effect (TSE) is the lack of predictability to it all.  As an introvert, if I know that people are coming over once a week (every Friday night) for a predictable amount of time (from 6:00 till 10:00), I can prepare myself emotionally.  I'm all there and I'm a contributing member of the group.  But if it's 10:30 and people are not leaving, a wave of anxiety begins to build internally.  Why don't you people leave already!  Outside of my immediate family and a few close friends, most people fall outside my zone of "comfortable to hang out indefinitely" group.

So beyond the need for public space/private space is a need for some measure of predictable schedule.  Public time and private time.  The TSE exists in both spacial as well as a temporal forms.
It's cooled off enough that I started a bunch of new veggies in pots this morning.  I planted three different varieties of cabbage (two regular, and a red variety)—six pots of each.  Also Swiss Chard, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and head lettuce.  All total, about 35 pots of stuff.  Now I wait for it to sprout and my winter garden is underway.  Every two weeks, I'll plant some more.

We had an unusually hot fall, with temps in the 90's the past couple of weeks.  But last week cooled off and this week I'm starting the nursery back up.  They're even predicting some rain for next week (although we'll see if it actually happens).  We haven't had a drop of rain since early March.  Yup -- winter is upon us.

A "bad" winter is when we get less than 10 or 12 inches of rain.  I just hope we get 250 or so chill hours.  A good winter is 18 inches of rain, and 300+ chill hours, hopefully accumulated around Christmas or New Year.  When we get a wet year, it'll be in January with these long 2 to 3 day storms that sit over the Los Angeles basin and scrub the skies of smog.  Los Angeles is a giant concrete surface, with all the creeks and rivers turned into concrete channels many years ago.  But there is a movement afoot to tear out a lot of that hardscaping, to restore the rivers, and to capture as much of that rainwater as we can.  People freak out when it rains a half-inch ("How can we even drive in that stuff!") but I love it.  I channel as much of the water that falls on my house to go out to the orchard and soak the soil.  I'd like to find a way to catch the water that falls on the street in front of the house and pump it to the back yard where it will be stored in the soil.  Some day I'll dig some sort of sump and install a pump to capture that water before it flows into the storm drain and out to the ocean.

So let winter come!  Let it rain!  Let my little cabbages sprout and grow!  Let the oranges get ripe and the avocados keep getting fatter — it's winter!
6 days ago
Another video, probably more closely geared to what you might do with that old tank:

1 week ago
I see a smoker just waiting to be made.  Mmmmm . . . brisket.

1 week ago
If you had enough land, you could rotate crops:

Year 1: Sugar Beets

Year 2: Cash crop (corn/beans/grain) with a cover crop.

Do people no-till plant the beets?  That would be at least one-less turning of the soil.

As I understand it, sugar beets can't be harvested until the temperatures are in a certain lower range, and if it gets too hot, you can' harvest them at all.  Because they are harvested so late in the fall, it's difficult to think of planting a cover crop after they've been taken off the field because there wouldn't be enough time and warm days for the crop to germinate and grow.  But could you sew a cover crop between the beet rows once the beets have gotten big enough that the cover crop wouldn't compete for sunlight?
1 week ago
The challenge would be stability, as the expansion and contraction due to heat would be significant.  Would clay be stable enough if it wasn't kept absolutely pure and then fired in a kiln?  What you are suggesting is akin to a cob oven.  My concern is that if it cracks, you'd have a danger of a carbon monoxide leak.  Very dangerous.

But if it were professionally made and fired, like a kamado grill/Big Green Egg, it would be very stable and able to withstand the tremendous temperature extremes.  I'm waiting for the day when someone manufactures these professionally out of clay (again, glazed and fired like a Big Green Egg), with a tight gasket at the bottom that seals perfectly.
1 week ago