Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Above the skyline

4:13 AM Posted by Grant , No comments
Looking back over the last few years my life has been a series of hard won realisations about my direction in life, emotions, relationships and with the world as a whole.

Lets not be romantic about this journey of experience; it's a solitary existence, with lack of any emotional attachment to family or friends to get to this far was really dumb luck.

Reflecting on it recently I decided to frame as a war, the most personal of battles in which winning or losing ends with your actions.

My own war started long before I even realised, a civilian cowering within my bunker in a permanent state of shellshock away from the maelstrom surrounding me, detached and alone in a compartmentalised part of my mind where I convinced myself things were fine.

When war comes to you there are 2 options, either ignore it and pretend everything is fine or pick up your weapon. Option 1 allows you to hide in addictions of any form but like all bulwarks they will fail eventually.

When I could not deny it no longer I picked through the remains of a fallen soldier salvaging some persistence and nothing else of value, emerging from the bunker I could still not fully comprehend the scale or complexity of what was going on around me. A wrecked landscape carved out by enemies unseen and a civil war instigated by the many negative emotions I let run unchecked.

Outnumbered by seemingly endless combatants and with no allies in sight, fighting trench by trench I searched for allies I had once those emotions I had taken for granted in peacetime however all I found were bodies. I had let them down and now they were dead, I would have mourned for them but the tools for this process were lying in front of me...broken.

For the longest time each day was a battle without end, the nights spent ignoring the chaos if for a while, I had found a building on the outskirts of the battle where I could watch the chaos, only able to observe having lost the ability for reflection.

With my back to the wall I had no hope, empathy or happiness, just persistence to keep fighting against all odds. This small show was enough to slowly attract allies not destroyed but wounded or in hiding and willing to rally to my cause.

The first ally to appear was honesty, weary from days that seemed to blend together I wasn't even sure if I was hallucinating or not, a byproduct of it's cousin cynicism I realised I wasn't alone. He said one thing before joining "You're going to need to fight better than that to we in, you're either all in or we're all fucked so fight or die but make a decision."

With forces slowly gathered the war was no longer pointless, we were holding ground for the first time in what might of well have been forever but only just.

It was clear, if additional pylons allies had got me this far the only solution was to construct additional pylons plan a significant recruiting effort, it was not a plan or strategy but only out of desperation, the larger plan would have to wait.

While it seemed like an uphill battle I wasn't alone but then again life is cruel in the most sadistic and random ways, seeds planted long ago had grown, reaching from the shadows the ultimate puppet master plotted against me with decisions I thought were my own.

With it's plan at it's apex it executed simultaneous attacks on multiple fronts with near absolute lethality, it's gradual poisoning of my thoughts had created a fifth column which I used to destroy the allies I fought so hard to find and build.

My honesty become pure negativity, you could almost see cynicism cackling from behind the guise of honest assessment, my self-reflect utterly destroyed along with my compassion, stepping out of the shadow it was depression and I was powerless.

A plan masterfully designed to help me build an army only to come in and crush everything I had built to finally destroy the persistence that had always been a thorn in it's side.

Dazed and in shock as to extend of what had occurred and still under the thrall of it's poison I wandered the battlefield without direction finding everything I had fought for burnt to dust once again. Strategic locations had been overrun and there were no reinforcements to tell me it was going to be ok, I had always been alone but this was different, without emotions the silence was deafening.

Reeling from such an absolute defeat should have been enough to end this conflict for good, I struggled to find a reason to keep going with everything seemingly lost and it is in these the darkest of times that question of to fight or die becomes true in a quite literal sense.

There came a time during this crisis the moment of truth where all other factors are removed and the ultimate question was asked, it came on the wind and I thought beyond the grave "Fight or die?".

Someone once told me that if you end it all you never get to find out how it all turns out, this struck a chord with me and I think it was due to the fact it never preached 'it will get better' it appealed to my curiosity in the unknown.

I wasn't ready to die, I did want to see how it all turned out and so I would fight, not just  to survive this battle but to win the war.

Persistence my only weapon I waged a guerrilla war against an enemy that sometimes seemed all pervasive yet unable to be confronted directly, it was like attacking smoke and I sometimes wondered if my thoughts were it's or mine.

Logical analysis of the situation provided valuable insight into tactics and strategies, it wasn't a stand up fight but a covert war, one where the enemy employed deception and subterfuge to confuse and undermine a clever strategy but overconfident.

You have to admire the tactics the enemy employes and while these are unexpected in addition to the element of surprise I learn quickly and when I return fire it is with terrible vengeance and great speed, the tables were about to turn.

During the darkest days my logic had unwittingly worked for the enemy and having it return made me uneasy, I was willing to fight but I needed to know what I could trust.

Exposure to the light of inspection revealed valuable intelligence about movements and tactics, converted into plans and weapons they would basis for a massive counter-attack the lack of which the enemy would never expect after previous after a number of it's glowing after-action reports.

The insight into how the enemy operated, where it's resources were deployed and the very nature of the threat it was time to stand and fight, I was sick of retreating and fighting rearguard actions.

This realisation allowed me to rise above the skyline, the sounds of war, the shellshock, the despair faded away, I finally felt like the General I always should have been, alone as an individual but now whole with my emotions.

Surveying the battlefield it all seemed so unreal, how did I let this get so out of control and why did this even happen to begin with, these questions were dangerous for the enemy of depression is perspective and pondering these questions quickly formed into plans to open a second front in a deadly pincer move.

Floating down to the ground I now commanded an army, this enemy would not go quietly and it would take far more than a series of decisive battles but in the depths of what was hopeless my mind had been tested, without friends, without family just the duality of my mind and I had survived where others had not.

I gave the order to attack, I would not be denied my life.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Aquaponics - The reboot

9:19 AM Posted by Grant No comments

Introduction

I recently decided to start working on my aquaponics system again, this time I took some photos so people can see what it's all about and how it works, for me it provides the best way to kill plants AND fish in the most efficient way possible, whoever let me buy this system has a lot to answer for. Onwards to destruction and possibly eventual cultivation!

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the combination of Hydroponics and Aquaculture with the former being the practice of growing plants without a traditional soil medium and the later being the breeding of fish under control conditions.

A grow bed contains the growing medium as the substitute for soil (although a medium is not required in some systems) which is connected to a rearing tank where the fish live which is connected back to the growbed. This is what makes this a closed loop system with the nutrients generated by the fish fed to the plants which in turn filters the water.

On top of the obvious benefit of a symbiotic system that produces both fish and plants it also removes the need for chemical nutrients and can be built into many different configurations and scales for different scenarios.

A flood and drain system like the one I use, image stolen from Backyard Aquaponics.

Why Aquaponics?

There are a few reasons and all of them tick boxes that interest me, some more than others however it's a compelling proposition overall.

  • Numerous ecological benefits
This is probably the most important aspect, it localises food production almost eliminating transportation costs, removes the need for harsh chemical nutrients, requires very little amount of energy, the list goes on.

  • Automation
Automation is awesome but being able to tie automation to a biological system with monitoring or by controlling environmental factors is even better. Automatic fish feeders, automated watering and a list of other 0 touch aspects make the process less labour intensive and more productive.

  • Environment control

When you are not bound to locations with good soil quality locations can be chosen on other factors that are favourable to growing, this could mean growing in your backyard or inside under grow lights where even more control is available.

Controlling conditions enables the ability to customise the growing area to suit your plants produces high yields of superior quality and consistency.

  • Potential revenue

Taking the above into consideration if I manage to stop killing everything I may grow plants that are either of no interest to me personally (I use some plants like this as they're harder to kill) or that I have an excess of to sell. Extra money could be used to expand and refine the system, this is of course for epic ewin.

The tank

Since I haven't used the system for a few months I had to check what I needed, buy any parts/plants to get things up and running.

The fish tank after a little cleaning, still dirty but it won't be an issue.
The above is a 920L fish tank, it's fibreglass and I had it shipped from Queensland along with all my original components when I ordered the system, since I wanted to get my current system running perfectly first I didn't need to change anything here.

The top outlet is an overflow with the second a pipe that connects to a mechanical float that detects the water level and connects to a water source to ensure water level is topped up when required. At present it's not much to look at but that will change.

The ground is not exactly level, I had a number of rubber mats I wasn't using so I used these to level out the area and confirmed it was as good as it was going to get with a spirit level.

The tanks final location, this gives it early sun and most of the later day as well.

The grow bed

With the tank positioned the grow bed was mounted, this is one of the reasons it's a good idea to pick a level surface as when filled with a growing medium is is incredibly heavy and having it move would be a bad idea, not to mention that water accumulating in one end and not draining can rot plant roots.

Grow bed sitting on top of the tank.
On the left of the grow bed is the outlet which brings water up from the fish tank via the pump, the brown rocks are clay pebbles which the plants grow in, after taking this picture I added more pebbles I had stored to fill it near to the top.

The white tube(s)

Alright so the white tube sits against the bottom of the grow bed, within it is another pipe with this one slightly shorter and leading directly into the fish tank, another pipe called the bell siphon sits over the top of the inner pipe and contains holes down it's length.

How this works together is some sort of witchcraft however when the water gets above the level of the fixed inner pipe it starts draining into the fish tank, doing this removes the air between the shroud and the fixed pipe which causes suction thus draining the tanks water.

Once the tank is drained air enters the cell siphon ceasing the draining and allowing the grow bed to fill with water again, the process happens on average about every 12 minutes on my system however that may have potentially changed and you'll find out why soon.

Pump / piping

To pump the water into the grow bed a submerged pump is used, it's a pretty standard process, my system has a secondary tap which drains water back into the fish tank, this is useful if the rate at which water is filling the grow bed is too fast.

The reason this is a problem is if the water fills too fast the drain phase never ends as there is insufficient air entering the bell siphon to end the suction and restart the flooding phase. Adjusting this tap decreases the flow while not causing increased pressure by adjusting the main tap to the grow bed with the second tap closed.


Buy all the things!

I already knew I needed to buy some components, some of them due to faults like the above pump being dead and others due to lessons I learned in my previous experience, below is the shopping results.

Enough things to get the system up and running again.
  • Plants
I went with a variety of plants mostly at random although I did buy some lettuce seeds should I kill everything, lettuce grows year around and seeds pretty easily, too easily actually.

Strawberries, Capsicum, Tomato, Chive, Sage and Spinach are the final list, I didn't realise how many plants some punnetts came with so I had to bundle the chives and some of the capsicums with the latter probably a bad idea but I can relocate them if required.

The above plants grow in summer (Not sure about sage) and since there is still more than enough weeks before plants would mature decided I would go with these, can adjust when Spring comes around.
  • Rockwool growing dics
These are the small brown circle shapes next to the pump, not pictured are some very small pots, if required I can use these to germinate seeds assuming I kill everything else which is likely only a matter of time.
  • Canna clay pebbles
This is the sizer of the bag that pebbles come in, if you're ever buying these to fill a grow bed buy more than you need as you're likely under estimating, luckily one bag was enough to fill grow bed completely

One other thing you find out is that these pebbles are very dusty, as soon as they're in the grow bed and the system cycles expect lots of red dust, it's harmless enough however it will get everywhere and I usually water the pebbles to stop this.
  • Pump
Same brand as my old one but more powerful, this caused the grow bed not to drain due to the rate at which it was filling with water. Opening my return tap helped to reduce the flow and ensured it was flooding and draining.
  • Blue ball-things
These are air stones, they are attached to an air pump to keep the water aerated to keep the fishies happy. The stones that came with my old pump were far too light and sat on top of the water, once connected to my pump and tubing they will sit on the bottom of the tank.
  • Black tubing
Part of this tubing is to make sure my air stones can be placed on the bottom of the tank in addition to being able to put the pump on the ground. The other tubing I bought to replace the tubing you saw on my old pump, the reason for this was because it was too short and the pump never fat flush on the ground.

With the pump vibrating all the time it carved a scratch into the tank floor, thankfully the new pump is higher and made up for the difference required in length.
  • Shadecloth
This will cover the exposed area of the fish tank so the fish have full shade throughout summer, should help to keep the water fairly cool.

All planted

With everything connected and pebbles filling the grow bed I planted everything, although before this I had to wash all the dirt from the roots which is a very annoying and time consuming process.

All planted!

The finished system.






The inner tube is the bell siphon anmd the outside is the shroud.

New pump running.

Friday, August 1, 2014

AVCon - The early years

7:12 AM Posted by Grant 1 comment
With AVCon 2014 having ended a few weeks ago I wanted to make my first real blog post about something that has consumed the better part of the last 12 years of my life. This year marks a dramatic scaling back in my role in AVCon, something I have long since promised myself but never honestly delivered on.

First lets start a retrospective before we dive into my history of AVCon, over the years I have attempted to split my time into different hobbies outside of AVCon but with lackluster commitment to a work schedule AVCon always pushed everything else into the background.

Leaving AVCon has taken a lot of focus to identify what I wanted from my involvement, what I had achieved thus far and most importantly what I could stand to leave less than perfect. I'm not one to compromise easily so this was easier said than done but also meant I had finally arrived at a point of self-reflection where I could see what the last 12 years had cost me.

Where did it all go so horribly right

I guess the best place to start is how I got involved in anime, like many people I was first exposed watching Robotech and other anime on TV before school. Robotech is the only thing I can remember for which I would willingly set an alarm before midday for and it was the only joy in a day for I would otherwise be going to school for.

Having parents who were uninvolved my upbringing I was free to grab Akira from the Video Store when it was still a release, this was one of a number of points which further steered me towards more anime. In addition to getting the internet at a relatively young age I was free to do as I pleased, searching out in these early days I found manga.co.uk's web-chat and Internet Relay chat (IRC).

On IRC I found #animeheaven on EFNet which became my home for the next 5 or so years, this is where I met Jared who as a fellow Otaku also happened to life in my area. I met him offline as I did many people during these years and it was at this point I discovered my first anime club.

Anime Addicts of Adelaide (AAA) was an anime club precursor to AJAS (Adelaide Japanese Animation Society) hosted at a small family house in Adelaide's North Eastern suburbs, Jared knew it's found through their earlier meetings via the Bulletin Board System (BBS). I still remember the train ride to the meeting, only just in my early teenage years I met people who would go on to found AVCon.

This was the beginning of something that would be truly epic in scale for my life, that said a lot of details are lost to time and the rarity of digital camera's during this time.

Conventions and pizza

After a few AAA meetings I had lost contact with Neil, however through Jared I had heard of a new anime club by the name of AJAS (Adelaide Japanese Animation Society) at the university, I started to attend screenings but more than that this is how I found out about AVCon.

Before AJAS screenings would finish a number of people were leaving from the screening, already knowing Neil and seeing them leave I let curiosity get the better of me and decided to see where they were going, I ended up at Australia's Pizza house...at my first AVCon meeting.

The meeting were so much more laid back, a group of scarcely 8 people at times! Although I can't recall the meetings from this long ago I did manage to find a video of one recorded by AVCons first screenings Coordinator Nick however I have since handed over the majority of my old AVCon content to the current Elect and as such don't have a copy to host.

Fast forward to July 2002 it was time for my first convention, it was like the existing hobbies I had (Videogames and anime) and some I was about to discover (DDR, art and volunteering) and they were distilled into a form where all the meaningless things in between were gone.

To this day I don't remember why but as I was with a friend who had a camera I decided to interview cosplayers with a coke bottle, this is literally the first person I interviewed.

This is the first time I met Mitchell, he would go on to join the committee and end up just as trapped as I was.

It's Kimi who ended up AVCons Events Coordinator and cosplay host! I still remember her answer to question about her cosplay 'I'm never working with PVC again'

Drew (AKA the bloodthirsty businessman) in his role as a cat, he would go onto create AVCon sponsorship and exhibitors, that may have been his role in 2002, not sure.

What passed for a screening room, it was simpler times really, just put down some chairs and projector/screen.

The quiz night! Probably the most amount of people at AVCon 2002 that you would see in one place.

At the conclusion of AVCon 2002 I was hooked, it's from here things went from a completely passive role to the active role I have played over the last 12 years, although I'd love nothing more than to chronicle each year I don't remember enough to make for a good story so instead I'll give you the highlights.

Outsiders

Fresh from AVCon with an addiction to anime as strong as ever I had heard about a contention in Melbourne named Manifest, James I and travelled by train to check it out and the first time I had ever left South Australia.

With an 8 hour train ride ahead of us we left our seats to head to the dining car, it was here I again met Mitchell, Andrew and Emily who were also on their way to same convention. While I know there are only so many trains to Melbourne via the overland it still surprises me that I happened to meet someone I had happened to meet a month or so earlier at AVCon.

Staying in Melbourne was great, the chance to be away from everything familiar surrounded by more Japanese culture was like AVCon but with it's own distinct aspects that AVCon didn't have in the form of Japanese culture.

Once I was over the initial sensory overload of anime, cosplay and merchandise on the first day I found it was the people that I found the ongoing thing that drew me back, as you can tell things may have gotten out of hand...



The whirlpool

To be honest I was already a sucker, I just didn't know it yet but the next few years were another turning point towards full on dedication to the AVCon cause, that's how it gets you...little by little and before you know it you're vice-convenor.

In 2004 I took over gopher handling for which Mark had been responsible, a job that become known as Volunteer Coordinator when we formalised it in this year.

This is Mark, he's dutch. In the background you have David who I would letter get to know, behind Mark is Shane who came up with the idea for AVCon and finally Jared.

I'm not a so-called people person but I like to think I learned a huge amount on my feet before I even enter AVCon for another year developing schedules, organising volunteer meetings, making endless phone calls and finally speaking in front of a group of 60 or so people.

I'm not quite sure what spurred me into action but it was a push that snowballed into many years of work for AVCon that although not content was I still think had left a positive mark, this has also affected my professional life but that's another story in itself.

To make my own deadline I'm cutting it all short now, to be continued at a later time. There is so much content but it's both elusive from my memory and scattered around both time and Hard Disks (you thought I was going to say space didn't you). Reading over this I'm not really happy with the content as it seems far too boring to bother posting, especially considering some of the other content from AVCon people...but it's a start.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

It all starts with a post

7:08 AM Posted by Grant 1 comment
My name is Grant, most of you here think they know me...almost all of you are wrong. This is not your fault and it is why I hope to fix things between us...at the moment I know I'm talking to an empty theatre but even if thats the case it's still better than not talking at all.

Starting a blog has been over 5 years and possibly more in the making, seriously the amount of times I thought about something I wanted to record but never had the motivation, time or some other excuse could fill a blog entry in it's own right.

Have you ever thought about something that has caught your interest so completely to the point of obsession but couldn't express it directly to someone or did but found it was not as lasting as meaningful as you hoped it would be? I'm one of those people and it drives me crazy not to have somewhere to document, learn generally be open about what I think.

What am I going to be blog about? Here are some things I will definitely be writing about in future in detail, that said it could be anything really.


  • The nature of reality
  • Proof of existence
  • Quantum Physics
  • Depression / Anxiety
  • Metro Ethernet / VPLS access technologies
  • Emotional states
  • Workflow / processes
As much as I like to be open about all things I have learnt that there are boundaries, and as such I need to write down that I'm not going to discuss anything I'm told in confidence or that would compromise another person. That said on a case by case basis I might write about the subject in a way that anonymises the person/situation.

Now you know what's to come for the first time ever lets talk about me and take a snapshot of my life as it stands, maybe having this baseline will be a good idea going forward, who knows?

At present I'm 31, working full-time in a job that allows me to engage my insatiable desire to fix things that are broken and get exposed to technologies that are interesting above the boring xDSL ones, I'm single although not by choice, living a middle class lifestyle and slowly but surely trying to build good habits (Exercise, eating, organisation).

I have depression and social anxiety something I only found out more recently, have had trouble understanding emotions, relationships and until recently have been so completely oblivious to all of these things. There is a lot to talk about and while I'll get to it all in good time a short intermission to AVCon land for a retrospective.