Extreme Geekery: Water, Water, Everywhere, How Much Is There To Drink?

Posted by TechyDad on May 22, 2015 under Extreme Geekery

water-dropRecently, I read an article stating that California – in an attempt to alleviate their water shortage – was instituting "toilet to tap" procedures.  That is to say that water flushed from people’s toilets would be treated and put back into the system for use as drinking water.  While the immediate reaction tends to be a big "Yuck!", this isn’t actually too bad.  Water from toilets, showers, and other sources of waste aren’t routed straight to the tap, of course.  First, it is treated, filtered, purified, and otherwise made totally safe for human consumption.

In fact, we’ve been engaging in a large version of "toilet to tap" for quite some time.  Waste water doesn’t simply vanish.  Waste products are consumed by bacteria and other organisms.  The water passes through soil and gravel, is evaporated and precipitated, and winds a long path back into our drinking supply.  This is simply taking a short cut using technology.

This led me to wonder, though.  Suppose we dumped all of the water we used into some secure container marked "Do Not Drink – EVER".  Instead, we provided every human being with new water to drink every day.  For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll ignore all other uses for water.  Only drinking is allowed.  No watering crops,  showering, or washing your car.  Just drink the water and dump it when our bodies are done with it.  We’re also going to assume that the human population remains constant.  No big spikes or drops in the number of humans on this planet.

First, some facts:  The world has 326 million cubic miles of water.  This equals 1.36 x 1021 liters.  There are 7.125 billion people on the Earth now.  The average human needs 75 to 150 ounces of water a day.  Obviously, each person would need a different amount of water depending on age, gender, the climate they lived in, etc., but let’s take the average of that daily water requirement and say that each human would need 97.5 ounces per day.  That’s 2.9 liters of water per person per day.

If you work out the math, this results in 65.8 billion days worth of water or 1.8 billion years.  That’s quite a lot of time until we run out of water.  Around 1.8 billion years ago, the first multi-cellular life was forming.  Even if humans somehow survived for the next nearly two billion years, I doubt we’d look the same as we do today.

There’s one little flaw in my math, though.  Of that 326 million cubic miles of water, only a small fraction can actually be drank.   Only 4% of the Earth’s water is fresh water.  Of that, 31% isn’t locked away in glaciers and icebergs.  Yes, we could desalinate sea water or melt icebergs, but that adds difficulty and expense.  So let’s just take the remaining fresh water and use up that before going after the rest.  That means we have 1.69 x 1019 liters.  That amount of water would last us 816 million days or 2.2 million years.  No, it’s not the billions of years before, but it spans a time from around the first use of stone tools to the present day.

Getting back (slightly) to real world situations, what if we didn’t simply limit water use to drinking.  Let’s let everyone bathe (thank goodness!), clean dishes, flush toilets, etc.  The average person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day.  If we assume 90 gallons (340.7 liters) of water per day then, using just the fresh water again, there would be enough water to last for just under 7 million days or 19,000 years.  This might still seem like forever – after all it is the difference between the era of cave paintings and the era of smartphones, but it’s a blink in the geologic sense.

NOTE: The "water drop" image above is by Keistutis and is available via OpenClipArt.org.

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Happy 8th Birthday, JSL!

Posted by TechyDad on May 14, 2015 under Birthday, JSL

JSL-bday-boyYesterday was JSL’s birthday. My little guy is growing up so quickly. He’s constantly surprising me and delighting me. He’s turning into quite the little geek. He loves superheroes and plays with his Imaginext superhero sets constantly, making up new battles for them to engage in. Every week, we need to see the latest episodes of superhero/geeky shows like Teen Titans Go, Flash, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Doctor Who.

He also loves Star Wars. We watched the first season of Star Wars: Rebels together and he loved every moment. When I showed him the trailer, he was both excited and disappointed. He was excited to get a glimpse of the new Star Wars movie, but disappointed that he had to wait until December to see it.

JSL’s love of all things geeky doesn’t just limit itself to pre-made heroes, though. He has created his own superhero (“Brickman”) complete with a backstory, drawings, and super-villains to fight. He loves art in all forms and is constantly wanting to create new works of art.

He is also a voracious reader. Over the past year, I’ve lost count of the number of books he’s torn through. He will complain loudly if we leave the house and he doesn’t have a book to read. Even if it is just a short car trip, he can’t be without reading material to pass the time.

Lest you think that JSL is stuck in the house all day, he also loves playing outside. Since learning to ride his bike last year, he’s been a big fan of going on bike rides up and down our block. Now that I’ve got a bike of my own and the warmer weather is there, I think we’re going to go on some father-son bike rides together.

In the past, I’ve referred to JSL as my picky eater. I’ve said that he would live on macaroni and cheese and pizza if we let him. However, recently, he’s been expanding his menu options. He’s tried many vegetables and declared his love for them. (Including some Brussels sprouts that I was sure he’d hate.) He’s still somewhat picky, but hopefully that is falling by the wayside.

JSL is a very kind, patient sort of child. He lives for holding the door open for people – even if the line of people coming through is way too long. Whenever he has a question, he will raise his hand – even if class is over and he can just ask it.


Happy birthday to my sweet and funny JSL. Here’s to many more geeky times spent together in the future.

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It’s Palindrome Week!

Posted by TechyDad on May 13, 2015 under Geeky Pursuits, Math

I’ve been a math geek for as long as I can remember.  When I was in school, I would devise complex mathematical equations and then solve them.  That was my idea of fun.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would hate math.

You might think that, as I got older, my math geekery died out.  It didn’t.  If anything, it grew as it found more areas of my life to work into.  I’ll read an article, blog post, or comment, and suddenly be overcome with the urge to solve a related problem.  That’s how many of my Extreme Geekery posts begin.  (I have another one on tap.)

My math geekery isn’t just limited to solving equations, though.  I also love certain kinds of numbers.  If I have a blog post with 495 words, I feel compelled to bring that total up to 500.  A few years back, on December 12th, 2012, I loved seeing the date turn to 12/12/12.  Few numbers fill me with delight, though, as palindromes.

In case you’ve forgotten the grade school lessons, palindromes are strings that read the same backwards as forwards.  For example, "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama" reads the same both ways.  You can have palindromes using numbers as well.  If you read 10,401 backwards, you get 10,401.

This week is a palindrome week.  It began with 5/10/15 (i.e. 51015), continued on with 5/11/15 (51115), then 5/12/15 (51215), etc.  Palindrome week will actually continue through to this coming Tuesday with 5/19/15 (51915).  It will end on the 20th since 5/20/15 isn’t a palindrome.

I was even happier when, on Palindrome Week, my car’s odometer read:


That’s palindrome mileage on palindrome week!

By the way, this post is 313 words long so this post itself is a palindrome.  I’m also posting it at 8:38 AM.  The math geek in me is very happy!

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Meeting Heroes and Villains At Free Comic Day

Posted by TechyDad on May 7, 2015 under Comics, Geeky Pursuits

On Saturday, the boys and I went to a comic book store for Free Comic Book Day.  Besides free comics, a big draw for my boys I seeing superheroes or other "geeky celebrities."  One year, the boys got their photo with Spider-Man, a Tusken Raider (from Star Wars), and a Stormtrooper.  Another year, they met the infamous Doctor Doom.  Last year, my boys got to meet Black Widow and the Joker.  A couple of days before Free Comic Book Day, I had read on the shop’s web page that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy were going to be there.  Needless to say, my boys were really excited.

We lined up waiting outside of Zombie Planet in Albany, NY.  It was a beautiful day and though there was a crowd, they were doing a great job managing it.  While waiting in line, we saw a dad leave with his daughter.  She was dressed as Robin complete with cape, mask, and tutu.  It’s always wonderful to see parents getting their kids interested in geeky pursuits from a young age.  (I would have taken a photo, but people seem to get weirded out when random strangers take photos of their kids.  Go figure.)

NHL did have a mini-melt down at one point.  Waiting in lines isn’t always easy for those on the spectrum.  Especially pre-teens on the spectrum who hate having their photo taken and whose dad loves taking photos of everything.  Luckily, I was able to keep my cool and try to help NHL keep his.  (All too often, my Autistic fixations and NHL’s will clash and the results aren’t pretty.)

As we approached the front of the line, out trotted the Penguin.  My boys loved seeing him, but unfortunately we couldn’t get a photo of him right then.  It was time to walk up the stairs and get some comic books.

There was a limit of four comics each and three of us, so we were able to choose twelve total.  (A thirteenth came from a stop by a local library which was having a Free Comic Book Day event also.)




As we were picking our comics, we didn’t see any sign of Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy, but we did spot Black Widow again.  It was great seeing her again.  This year, it probably meant more to them meeting her as my boys have now seen all of the Marvel movies and so really know just what a great superhero Black Widow is.  Even if she doesn’t have any super powers, she can hold her own against any foe.  Just when you think you’ve got the upper hand on her, she reveals that she let you think that so you’d drop your guard.  She’s sneaky, strong, and very smart.


We were done getting our comics so we headed back downstairs and were about to walk out when HE walked in.  Slade Wilson.  Now, my boys know him from the Teen Titans cartoon show.  Pre-Teen Titans Go!, that is, though JSL is a huge fan of that show now.  JSL was so excited to get a Slade WIlson Imaginext toy from his brother on Chanukah.  (He loves playing with those and will spend hours coming up with story lines and running his characters through various routines.)  We just HAD to get a photo with him – but decided to leave quickly afterwards as it looked like he was itching to draw that sword.


Outside, we approached the Penguin.  Despite his reputation as a dangerous criminal, the Penguin seemed like a great guy.  We was waddling around waving to cars and greeting the crowds who showed up to the store.  That umbrella could have been really handy to get some shade.  (I think my body is still in "winter cold" mode and doesn’t know how to handle the sudden influx of warmth.)


And, yes, JSL has an Imaginext Penguin figure also.

We were about to leave and yet we still hadn’t seen Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy, but then we spotted Ivy.  She was walking through the crowd asking questions for a podcast she was running.  She graciously stopped so I could get a photo of her with my boys.  (Shhh… Nobody tell JSL but he’s getting an Imaginext of Ivy for his birthday next week.)


It was a disappointment to not see Harley Quinn.  She’s been a favorite of mine ever since Batman: The Animated Series (Mistah Jay!), but we definitely can’t complain having seen such wonderful heroes and villains.

Did you go to your local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day?  If so, what was your favorite part of it?

Note:  I did a little Internet digging to see if I could credit who played all of these great characters, but turned up empty until I looked up Poison Ivy.  It looks like she’s Amanda from Undiesofwondy.com.  Thanks for helping to make our Free Comic Book Day memorable, Amanda, and hope that we didn’t interrupt your podcast too much!

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Foam Lightsaber Games For Star Wars Day (Or Any Day For That Matter)!

Posted by TechyDad on May 4, 2015 under Geeky Pursuits, Star Wars

lightsabersToday is Star Wars Day, also known as May The Fourth.  (May The Fourth as in May The Force Be With You.)  Unlike last year, we don’t have any particularly geeky activities planned.  It helped that May 4th landed on a Saturday last year.  Mondays don’t lend themselves to elaborate celebrations.

Still, we might battle using our foam lightsabers.  Here’s how to make foam lightsabers.  The parts only cost about $1 per saber and I can attest that they last.  After a year of some serious use (we get really into our lightsaber battles), they are frayed but definitely still usable.   Sure, foam might fly off when our sabers clash, but that just adds a bit more realism, right?

The boys and I have come up with a few lightsaber related games.  The first involves having two lightsabers per person.  You do battle and any hit on a person results in them dropping a saber.  Once they have all sabers down, a final strike kills them off.   Last player standing wins.  On Sunday, we came up with a variation.  There’s still the two lightsabers per person and dropping as you get hit.  However, we designated a spot as "out."  When a player was killed, they retrieved their sabers, went to the out zone, and waiting for someone to tag them in (by touching sabers with them).  Then they could return for battle.  Since it was just my boys and me, our loyalties wavered.  With a big enough group, though, you could have teams.  The last team to have member(s) still "alive" wins.

Another game we developed was lightsaber tag.  For this, each player is armed with a lightsaber.  One player is designated "it."  Perhaps, they get a special color of saber to show people who is "it."  The person who is "it" chases everyone else.  "It" tries to tag the other players with his lightsaber.  Instead of a simple tag-and-run, though, players can choose to stand and fight.  Of course, you can’t kill the "out" player and neither can they be killed.  But perhaps they can deflect blows that would have been tags and keep "it" at bay long enough until they can make their escape.

Then, there’s bubble slashing.  This is especially good for the younger players, but older players might enjoy it too.  First, get an automatic bubble blowing machine.  You can do this by blowing bubbles yourself, but the bubble machine can blow more bubbles on a more regular basis.  Have the players slash as many bubbles as they can.  You can call the bubbles incoming droid fighters or enemy blaster fire to give it a more Star Wars feel.  There is no scoring here.  Just the joy of destroying bubbles using foam lightsabers.

It’s amazing how much running around kids (and adults) can do with just some foam pool noodles and duct/electrical tape.  With the summer approaching and parents "looking forward" to the kids being out of school all day, having an activity where you could either sit on the sidelines having the kids tire themselves out without you getting exhausted or jump into the fray is essential.  If it’s a geeky, Star Wars related activity then that’s all the better!

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