Archive for February, 2011

Rock and a hard place

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s a horribly weak link between the topic and the intent of this blog post – discussing the calcium and alkilinity levels in my aquarium. Shamefully weak, I know. Let’s move past that and into the subject.

My mushrooms (aka disc anemones) are not doing as good as I’d hoped. I’ve only had them a weak, but even so I’d hoped for more. Fearful of stress of pending death, I dropped another $60 on chemicals and test kits (most of it was the test kits). Admittedly, I should have had this stuff on hand initially if I planned on bringing corals into the mix.

So, upon testing the calcium levels in my aquarium they showed up at 400. I forget the units (shame one me). 400 – 500 is a good range to aim for, if coral growth is planned. So I’m good, but at the bottom of the range. I boosted it a little with a calcium supplement (made for aquariums, I didn’t just toss a couple of Tums into the tank). Hoping to gradually boost it up to around 450, and it’ll require frequent monitoring to replace it when the corals use it up.

Next up was the general hardness of the water. I hit again near the bottom of the acceptable range. So a similar treatment is ensuing to try and bring it up to a nice optimal middle range. I also picked up some Iodide. It’s allegedly good for corals and, I think, invertibrates (snails and such). The last Turbo snails I picked up seem to be having a hard time adjusting, so I’m hoping this might help them.

Other modifications included some minor rock rearrangement and moving a powerhead that was pushing some water over my mushrooms. ‘Shrooms prefer a low flow / current, so I’m doing everything I can to make that happen. My nitrates aren’t high, but they’re higher than I want them to be. Ammonia, Phosphates, and nitrates are great so it’s just a matter of finishing up the cycle and getting some good micro-algae (or is it macro, whatever) on my live rock. Things that take time and nothing else can really make that happen. Besides, that’s part of the fun of the hobby, working through it one step at a time.

Next week I’m planning on picking up four T5 high output lights, two normal and two actinic. With that lighting and the water changes I’ve been working on I can have virtually any coral I want. Exciting stuff around the corner.

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Book Sale

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Trying something new to drum up some increased interest. For the month of March…and I guess what remains of February, all my stuff at Smashwords will be 50% off if you use one of appropriate coupon codes below.

Voidhawk: QA36F
Voidhawk – The Elder Race: DV88L
Wanted: ZG78E
Dark Earth: YC82D
Human Nature: SS39K

And for anyone interested in doing an unbiased review (good, bad, or otherwise) please let me know. I’ll be happy to hook you up with a free copy (

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A different type of review

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I wrote this up this morning for a product I am a firm believer in. No, no kickbacks coming my way. It’s just something that plainly illustrates not only some common sense principles that we often look over, but also helps people new to the exercise and dieting lifestyle to cut through the hype and the crap. Sure it costs some money to buy it, but it’s also saved me ten times as much in helping me avoid buying worthless crap that doesn’t work. The success stories (mine and others) can be found here.

Will Brink’s Body Building Revealed are targeted at the more mainstream Body Building community. The concepts covered within are not complex nor advanced – they can be of benefit to anyone from a beginner to someone who has been lifting for years. I bought Body Building Revealed back when it was still called Muscle Building Nutrition, and have been a member of the forum and community for many years now. It helped me cut through the crap found online in so many places and saved me countless dollars in useless supplements and guides.

My story deviates from the typical one. I used the concepts found in Will’s books put muscle and strength on. I had already managed to lose over sixty pounds using exercise and diet control (concepts I found that Will had covered in the book, making me wish I had bought it nine months sooner). Over the course of a few years I built myself up both physically and educationally through the interaction on the Body Building Revealed forums and the key books themselves. I peaked at 230 pounds in 2009, where I competed in some powerlifting competitions in the state of Michigan and set records in the bench pressing and deadlifting competitions in the Son Light Power federation. At the end of 2009, while pushing myself too hard and too fast to be ready for another powerlifting meet early the next year, I suffered a severe injury – I separated my left pectoral from my humerus.

Between surgery and forced downtime, it was four months before I could visit a gym again. My doctor had insisted I not consider bench pressing again for at least another three months, and even then to never push for maximal effort lifting again. By this time I had come to identify and associate myself with being a powerlifter – to be told I could no longer do so was a major blow, yet I knew I had no one to blame except myself.

I turned back to the Body Building Revealed community, sharing my story and progress with them along the way. They were friends as much as people who shared a hobby. I put together my own personal therapy program using my own experience and the knowledge of the members and moderators, some of whom work in physical therapy or are practicing doctors. I did abide by the desire to not do any flat bench pressing until the seven months from my injury had passed, but I worked myself up slowly and carefully to try and recover as much as I could. In the process I had lost over fifteen pounds of muscle.

I’m two months into 2011 now, sixteen months after my injury. Following principles explained in Body Building Revealed I’ve built myself back up to 239 pounds. While my abs are not cut I can see the shadows of them without the aid of trick photography and photo editing so often found in before and after pictures posted on the Web. I just deadlifted 545 pounds earlier this week, getting back to within five pounds of my best competition lift, and likewise I have bench pressed 335 pounds. I still have a long ways to go to get my bench back – if ever, but I’m making progress and I feel confident that even if I don’t get there, Body Building Revealed has helped to give me the tools needed to guide my motivation in the right direction.

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Casualties of War

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

It was more a battle than a war really. The mighty pretty flame angel I introduced to my tank last week had some disagreements with the aquarium’s reigning champion – the powder blue tang (which my daughter has named, ‘Cinderella’). Things were more or less fine all week until this morning I get a call at work informing me that the flame angel’s corpse is being nibbled on.

So there goes another $60. Having a reef tank is not a cheap hobby. It’s enjoyable, but it does have its setbacks. If only somebody would make a computer game like this – Sim Reef or something – then I could save myself a lot of money!

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Underwater Adventures

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

More money spent on the aquarium today (around $120 I think, taking me up to a little over $1000). My water levels are great and the fish are doing good, so we figured why not? Added a flame angel, five more blue legged hermit crabs, two more Mexican turbo snails, and a rock loaded with green / brown mushrooms (aka disc anemonies).

I need better lighting and that is the next step. I’d hoped to find some today but the place I went didn’t have anything that would fit my tank. Looking at some dual T5 lighting setups. Another $160 into it, but it includes proper bulbs (normal and actinic) for fish and coral. Then we can look into some more corals – we’re interested in some toadstool leathers to start with, who knows what else. No more fish though (might need a few more invertebrates though, my clean up crew is sufficient for now).

I also rigged up the powerheads to provide an alternating water flow with some cheap timers. So far so good, plus it provides a decent change up to the flow. The tank looks good, I’m enjoying it even if it is slowly bleeding me dry. Can’t wait to get a bigger tank in a few years – say a 125 or larger gallon one!

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The Art of Apocalypse

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I know, the movie came out years ago now, but I finally got around to watching 2012. I’ve always meant to, but the stars and planets and whatnot never aligned. At least not until 2011. Bad inside joke – if you’ve seen the movie you might get it but even then I wager it’s not very funny. Well, I’m amused, but I’ve hit my head on a lot of things in my life.

So anyhow, why blog about a movie that came out years ago? Because I genuinely liked it. It’s not just John Cusack, who I really enjoy as an actor, or the rest of the cast (Woody Harrelson does yet another stand up job as a crazy guy). It’s not the far-fetched concept of the world being wiped out, which is a bet of a stretch even by sci-fi writer standards. It’s not the mostly well put together special effects. It turns out that I enjoyed it because I really liked the characters and how they interacted with each other. It was also the many poignant parts during the film where disaster was streaking and it reached out to touch me.

Now the only problem I’ve got is that I feel inspired by it. It’s given me half baked ideas of things I want to try and write about. The last time this happened it was Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith back in the early 90’s. I turned that into a book that was published last December (Human Nature (don’t mind the rather ghastly looking girl on the cover, the model must have done her own make up or something). Here’s to hoping whatever I decide to do with this gem doesn’t take me ten plus years to put out!

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Book Review: Sylvianna by Keryl Raist

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I write books, I lift weights and train others to do the same, I am working on my MBA, I’m getting back into keeping saltwater fish, and I like to spend as much time as I can with my wife and children as possible. Speaking of which, here’s a happy Valentine’s Day call out to my wife – love you honey! In spite of all of that and on top of a 50 hour a week day job I’m also more than willing to do what I can to offer up a helpful review or critique to fellow budding authors. This particular one is Keryl Raist. The book is called Sylvianna.

Sylvianna is Keryl Raist’s first book. As such, it is filled with problems found in many virgin offerings. If there is a backstory to the publishing process Keryl went through I do not think it involved a content editor.

By and large Sylvianna is grammatically beyond reproach. The book read smoothly and the characters were rich and filled with deep backgrounds. Each character also became more developed and interesting as the story progressed, mixing humor with joy, sorrow, and the rest of the range of human experience.

The main character is a strong female type that, while decidedly strong and able to take care of herself, remains a healthy touch of feminism and vulnerability. In short, she’s hard to resist. Her male counterparts, on the other hand, seem largely cut from the same cloth yet with differences both subtle and distinct. My only complaint about the majority of the men in the book are that they are disturbingly metro-sexual. That’s a pure personal preference based out of being old fashioned I suspect. Given the nature of the male lead I likewise found the sex scenes (which became excessive in my opinion) to border on the uncomfortable. The only male character I found largely appealing, the male lead’s brother, was seldom the center of attention.

I’d be remiss if I did not also mention the deep dive into a lot of religious and spiritual matters. I found it interesting at first, though my interest in the topic waned. This is no fault of the books nor of Keryl’s, it is my own lack of interest in the topic.

Sylvianna is nothing if not a well rounded book. On top of colorful characters and a rich background that is slowly unveiled throughout the course of the novel it also hit the other end of the range for this reviewer. The prologue was confusing and begs a separate story in and of itself to flesh it out. Indeed, explanation for it does not come for perhaps a hundred pages or more into the story itself, and even then it gets little more than a passing reference.

Speaking of several hundred pages, the book dragged on. It is unfair to offer a full review of it, and anybody reading this would do well to take that into consideration. The length caused me to lose interest repeatedly, and after several such attempts to take it up anew I decided I owed Keryl a review in a timely manner more than I owed it to myself to satisfy my waning interest in seeing how it actually ended.

With all that said I strongly believe that any future books written by Keryl Raist will be worth pursuing. I would not recommend this one to a friend or colleague, but I would recommend people keep an eye out for future work from her in the hopes that she overcomes the mistakes in this first one.

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