Hiking

It’s never not hiking season, but with the world turning green in our area, our minds are very much on hiking and camping. Some times, people will camp while hiking. Other times, people will hike while camping. Then there is the hybrid option between these two styles.

At this stage, our family hikes while camping (or simply takes day hikes), but before we get into the distinctions, let’s define hiking. In the context of outdoor recreation, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hike as “to walk a long distance especially for pleasure or exercise.”

Looking at this definition, we would change the “or” to “and” as we don’t really think of it as a hike if it isn’t pleasurable. We would also add “outdoors” as walking around indoors is just walking in our opinion. We might drop the phrase “long distance” as it leaves so much room for ambiguity and we look for the opposite of that when we seek a definition. Thus, the Family Trivium definition of hike is “to walk outdoors for pleasure and exercise.”

Why
As to why we hike, the definition (Merriam-Webster’s or ours) says it all: for pleasure and/or exercise. What is so pleasurable about hiking? When hiking, you get to take in natural beauty, whether it be in the sky, landscape or wildlife. With the use of field guides, you can learn new things about plants, animals, and natural phenomena (i.e. weather, land forms, the night sky, etc.). The thing we like best is spending time as a family away from the noise of modern life – be sure to put those cell phones in airplane mode, or just shut them off.

How
While the how of hiking seems pretty straight forward – take a walk outdoors – there are some guidelines which we’ll be looking at in more detail in future posts. In the mean time, we hope you’ll find a few moments to spend outdoors, even if just a brief break on your patio or deck.

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Elderberry

For the last  two weeks ,or so, we’ve been dealing with a bit of a nasty cold bug in the Family Trivium household. It seems to have finally worked its way through all members as of yesterday – hence our brief hiatus over the last few days.

In our last couple of posts we talked about both influenza and the common cold, their causes, and how they spread. Today, we turn our attention to remedies. Specifically, we will look at black elderberry extract.

Mr. Family Trivium is not a big fan of medications. He even prides himself on, in middle age, never having been on a prescription for more than 10 days. Perhaps a few times per year, he eventually turns to over-the-counter medications to relieve inflammation, or other symptoms, but not before giving his body a chance to sort things out. He is a little more willing, after thoughtful consideration, to try a “natural remedy,” such as an herbal with low risk of side effects, like black elderberry extract.

According to WebMD, the berries of the elderberry plant, in the form of a syrup, can boosts immunity and be effective for treating symptoms of influenza when taken within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms. It has been found to be safe when taken for up to 12 weeks. It is unknown if it remains side effect free after being taken for longer periods of time, but even Mr. Family Trivium would have talked to a doctor by the time he had flu symptoms for 12 weeks.

Being that cold and flu symptoms can be similar, Mr. Family Trivium wasn’t sure what was making it’s way through the household when this illness first arrived, so he immediately started taking elderberry extract. For the first three days, the symptoms seemed to be kept at bay. This bug did eventually make its presence felt to the point where Mr. Family Trivium was kept away from work for a couple of days. On the other hand, he only missed two days where colleagues dealt with the illness for over a week. Perhaps there is something to the immunity boosting effect of elderberry extract?

Mrs. Family Trivium also used elderberry extract to suppress the symptoms when she thought she might be coming down with this virus. She also recovered relatively quickly. While neither of the two can definitively say that the herbal remedy definitely helped them recover more quickly, it certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt given the recovery times compared to others. We will likely keep some on hand for the next time that cold/flu symptoms rear their heads.

Influenza

In our last post, we discussed the common cold, which we think is the culprit for laying up Mr. Family Trivium for a couple of days last week. How can we be sure that it was just a cold and not, say, the flu?

What
Turnig again to the Mayo Clinic, we find the flu, more properly influenza, defined:

Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.

The Mayo Clinic notes that, at first, it may be difficult to distinguish the cold from the flu:

Initially, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. But colds usually develop slowly, whereas the flu tends to come on suddenly. And although a cold can be a nuisance, you usually feel much worse with the flu.

Among their symptoms, both include the following:

  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion
  • Possibly, a fever

The flu adds chills and sweats. The cold adds a runny nose, a sore throat, sneezing, and watery eyes.

Why
Why is it that with other viruses, you are immune once you’ve had them or have been vaccinated against them, but not with the flu? Why do you still get the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated against it?

The Mayo Clinic indicates, flu viruses are constantly evolving, with new strains appearing regularly. You’re body only builds up immunity to strains to which it has been exposed. The flu shot may not include the strains which end up spreading during the particular “flu season” which it is supposed to cover.

How
How does the flu virus spread? Much like the common cold – as reported by the Mayo Clinic, the flu spreads through the  air, in droplets, when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Others may directly inhale these droplets, or be exposed to the virus if they touch their eyes, nose, or mouth after touching a surface upon which virus carrying droplets have landed. I.e. door knobs, telephones, drinking fountain handles, keyboards, etc.

Based on a few facts, we are assuming that this illness, which as of yesterday still seems to be working its way through the Family Trivium household, is the common cold and not the flu.

  •  Only upper respiratory system seemed to be affected.
  • Symptoms include sneezing, but not chills and sweats.
  • The duration of the symptoms lasts between 24 and 48 hours.
  • Two of the members of our household who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, this illness have been getting annual flu vaccinations while Mr. Family Trivium has not. As mentioned above, there is the possibility that we could be exposed to a strain of the virus not included in flu vaccinations

As we mentioned, this bug is still working its way through our house, but we will try to avoid another hiatus.

Common Cold

In our last post, we covered hiatus, and how Family Trivium recently came to have one. One of the many factors that helped us to “decide” to take a hiatus was a the common cold.

What
The Mayo clinic gives a great definition:

The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract — your nose and throat. A common cold is usually harmless, although it may not feel that way at the time. If it’s not a runny nose, sore throat and cough, it’s the watery eyes, sneezing and congestion — or maybe all of the above. In fact, because any one of more than 100 viruses can cause a common cold, signs and symptoms tend to vary greatly.

Based on this definition, it seems that a couple members of our household dealt with this ailment, though Mr. Family Trvium was the most affected, adding slight body aches and a fairly wicked headache one morning. One of the younger Family Trivium members added only a headache, which they refused to report to the school nurse for fear of being sent home, thus missing a favorite class.

Why
As reported in the Mayo Clinic’s article on the topic, there are over a 100 different viruses that can cause the common cold. Being highly contagious, the rhinovirus is thought to be the most likely cause.

How
The spread of the cold virus is very easy as stated by the Mayo Clinic:

A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. But it also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, such as utensils, towels, toys or telephones. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure, you’re likely to catch a cold.

Given the sheer number of people at Mr. Family Trivium’s work with the symptoms described above, it seems like it was only a matter of time before he came down with the cold himself. Thoughtful hand washing and as much avoidance as possible of afflicted coworkers may have delayed it, but it’s hard to avoid family, especially one that spends so much time together cultivating knowledge.

Hiatus

Given our absence of late, this seemed like an appropriate topic. Illness, work deadlines, school deadlines, conferences (both work and school), and trips have kept the Family Trivium household learning, but away from the blog. New posts will be rolling out as we distill all of this information for public consumption.

What
Right now, we turn to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary for its definition of hiatus as “a period of time when something (such as an activity or program) is stopped.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary it found its first use in the 1560s as a “break or opening in a material object,” with the 1610s being when it was first used to describe a “gap or interruption in events, etc.” It comes from the Latin past participle stem of hiare “to gape, stand open,” I.e. yawn.

Why
Perhaps this last bit of information – yawn – would explain why Family Trivium took its brief hiatus. People yawn when they are tired. In dealing with the cold that has been going around our area, we more than yawned. Mr. Family Trivium, who typically calls in sick to work no more than one day per year, was in bed for two full days. Take a hiatus when you are simply to tired to do it.

How
With respect to how to take a hiatus – it’s easier than not taking a hiatus. Simply stop doing whatever it is that you were doing, but intend to continue to do in the future. In the future, we do intend to keep the interruptions to Family Trivium to minimum. Please check back often as we start getting the blog caught up on all of the great things that we’ve been learning in April.

Brazing

In our last two posts, we looked at soldering and welding. Today we look at the other well-known method for metal joining: brazing.

What is Brazing?
Returning again to wiseGEEK.com, this time their article What Is Brazing?, we find that, like the word “solder,” the word “braze” is both a noun and a verb. wiseGEEK describes the verb as “a process that joins two pieces of base metal when a melted metallic filler — the braze— flows across the joint and cools to form a solid bond.” In their description of the verb, we can see that noun form of braze is as a “metallic filler.”

What is the Difference?
As with soldering, we learned that the components to be joined stay intact while a filler is melted between them, whereas with welding, the components themselves are melted together as part of the process. As Chris Woodford, over at ExplainThatStuff.com, explains in his article on welding and soldering, brazing works more like an adhesive where the filler actually seeps into the surface of the components being joined. With soldering, the filler really only sits on the surface of the joined components. Woodford likens brazing to a hybrid between soldering and welding, with a primary goal of a structural joint, with conductance as a by-product.

With respect to the difference between the filler materials themselves, We turn to the Copper Development Association’s article explaining soldering and brazing. As we learned in our post on soldering, solder was tradtionaly composed primarily of lead, usually mixed with tin. Now, it is primarily composed of tin mixed with nickel, bismuth, antimony, silver and/or copper.

Braze is divided into two categories. One, BCuP, is primarily composed of copper and phosphorus, with up to 30% silver. The other, BAg, contains between 24% and 93% silver. Both types have a significantly higher melting point than solder. Materials with a melting point below 450ºC is considered to be solder, while materials above that mark are used in brazing.

Welding

In our last post, we talked about solder as it relates to the assembly of electronic components. For clarity, we wanted to examine some other techniques for joining metal components. In this post we look at welding.

According to the What Is Welding? article over at wiseGEEK.com, “Welding is the process of joining metals by melting the parts and then using a filler to form a joint.” By comparison, soldering involves the melting of the solder between two metal components to form an electrical connection rather than actually melting the components as with welding.

With welding, the components are, more or less, permanently joined with the goal of a structurally sound connection. With soldered joints, the solder can simply be melted and the two components separated before the the solder solidifies. Soldered joints are not intended to be structural. Rather, they are primarily used to provide reliable electrical conductivity.

In our next post, we’ll be looking at brazing before we move on to the whys and hows of the different metal joining techniques.

Solder

To get the at-home robotics project going, Mr. Family Trivium had to do something he hadn’t done for a few years. He had to solder some wires onto the motors. We’ll assume that you know what wires are and we recently talked about the motor, so today, we will examine solder.

What is Solder?
Solder is both a noun and a verb. Over in the SparkFun Electronics How-To Section, JoelEB has written an article explaining solder. As a noun, solder “refers to the alloy (a substance composed of two or more metals) that typically comes as a long, thin wire in spools or tubes.” As a verb, solder “means to join together two pieces of metal in what is called a solder joint.”

JoelEB also explains that there are two different types of solder used in the electronics hobby: leaded and lead-free. Traditionally, leaded solder has been preferred “on account of its superb ability to act as a joining agent.” However, with the known health risks of lead, lead-free solder has become the norm in electronic manufacturing and has become more popular among hobbyists.

For our project, Mr. Family Trivium used some leaded solder, left over from his numerous years of electronic geekery. Perhaps after this spool has been consumed, we will try working with lead-free solder in our future projects. We didn’t see any RoHS labels on our motors or our other components, or their packaging, so there is a reasonable possibility that they contain lead.

This is a reminder about the importance of recycling electronics when they have reached the end of their useful life. In our community, electronics recycling not only helps to preserve the environment. It also makes employment available to individuals that have otherwise had a difficult time finding it. While employed in e-recycling, these individuals are also learning skills that can help them to advance themselves in the future.