S.T.E.M. Enhancement at Home with Kiwi Crate

A few months ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I came across an ad for Kiwi Crates.  I don’t remember the exact ad, but it was created well enough that I was intrigued.  I clicked to see what it was all about, and ended up ordering a crate.  The reviews I could find online were mixed, and most were over a year old, so I wanted to see what it was all about for myself.

kiwi crate review

Here’s the bottom line: if you want to have great projects that help your child think, explore science, technology, engineering, and math, and you don’t want to have to try to come up with all of the projects on your own.  Then these are for you.

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Tsu.co has Gone Dark… Why?

Tsu Logo

A couple of years ago a new social media hit the ground running.  Tsu.co was built entirely on the idea that the content creators should get paid for their creation.  Unlike Facebook, that reaps the benefits of your uploads, this company said they would give back 90% of the ad revenue they generated.

Now they have gone dark.  What happened?  Where did they go wrong?

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Its Success Has Three Factors

PokemonIn the past week or two we have heard a ton of news about the newest app sensation Pokemon Go.  It’s based off the card game Pokemon, and has people walking around like zombies trying to collect the characters in order to be the most popular.  I don’t really know how it actually works; I’ve never played the card game, video games, and have no desire to try the app.  So why the sudden resurgence in popularity for this game?  It panders to some very basic human emotional needs.

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Super Bowl XLIX

Image Credit: Vector Belly

Super Bowl 49, or for those who can’t convert Roman numerals to European numerals Super Bowl XLIX, is done and over, and one of the teams managed to pull ahead in the fourth quarter and win it all.  What was even more impressive, however, were the other things that happened during the game.  Here are my top 3 plays of the game, and the bottom 3 plays of the game. More »

When I can’t get out there and explore the wilderness, I like to bring the wilderness to me.  One of my part-time gigs is I have a business called Montana Natural Products.  While I primarily collect and sell driftwood to taxidermists and pet stores, I have recently been turning some of the pieces of wood into fun products.  While I have many ideas for other items, my specialty is quickly becoming juniper wood lamps.

 

In southern Montana and northern Wyoming are the Big Horn Mountains and the Pryor Mountains.  These mountains are riddled with juniper trees.  A member of the cedar family, these trees are amazing.  They grow in some of the harshest environments.  With little water falling throughout the year, and some bitterly cold winters that bring high winds, these trees are tough.  They find the smallest little nooks and cracks in which they can set their roots and grow in some gnarled and twisted formations.  Generally the trees live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years before succumbing to the elements (usually fire or erosion cause their demise).  The tree stays where it is drying out often for decades after it dies.  Since the wood is hard and naturally insect repellant, these trees do not rot.

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I love the outdoors.  There is nothing better than getting outside, enjoying fresh air, and exploring nature.  While I have the Beartooth Mountains here in my backyard, not all of my explorations take place here.  Sometimes, they are further away than many people might even expect.  You see, my friend Justin lives in El Paso, Texas.  Every year I go down to visit him; then we head off on a grand adventure.  Since there is not a whole lot to do in Texas near El Paso, we generally go into New Mexico and explore the mountains in that state.  This past Labor Day 2013, we headed into the Sierra Blanca range for a nice hike along the Three Rivers trail.

 

If you know anything about the area, you know that it is dry and hot.  It’s a desert after all.  So while the flatlands are miserable and living conditions are terrible (although as can be seen by the petroglyphs people have been making their home in the area for thousands of years), the mountains rise up and the climate rapidly changes.  Driving into the Three Rivers Valley you come out the desert.  The trailhead, where our campground was located, is at the foothills of the mountains.  Still hot, but the juniper trees are rising up.  Just a few miles away there is nothing but sage and yucca plants.  Where we spent the night there were plenty of 20 foot tall alligator junipers, as well as running water a mere quarter mile from where we pitched our tent.  After a night around the fire burning dead yucca stalks and fighting off tarantulas (ok there was only one and he only came out of his hole once; still gross) we turned in.  Rising early, we started our hike into the White Mountain Wilderness.

 

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sears sucks

The broken unit sits lifeless in my basement

A few years ago my wife and I decided it was time to upgrade the old energy wasting washer and dryer set.  They were hand-me-downs, and we both had good jobs, so we wanted to splurge on something nice.  Several weeks of reading the reviews and waiting for sales, we settled on a Kenmore Elite set from Sears.  They installed the machines, hauled away the old ones, and we were under the impression that for the next 20 years we would not have to worry about them.  We were wrong.  This is the tale of frustration with a major corporation.

4.5 years into the life of our machines, the washer suddenly stopped working.  It displayed an error code for a while, which some quick Google searching led me to determine the central control unit (CCU) had failed.  I went to Sears and talked to someone there, they looked up the part and I was shocked to see that it was over $200.  They then tried to sell me a new unit.  I was not happy with the response so rather than pitch a fit there in the store, I went onto Facebook and Twitter to pitch my fit.

Within a couple of hours after posting my dilemma, Sears responded and a customer service rep called me.  I explained what happened, and the rep said they would be able to send a service technician out to diagnose the problem.  I would have to pay for the service, but I would be reimbursed.  I scheduled the appointment and the next day the technician showed up.

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Brook troutThere are some places that just draw me back time and again.  Whether the draw is from memories I spawned as a child that I can relive, or the simple fact that the area is just beautiful, there are numerous of these places around Montana.  The Beartooth Mountains in general have that appeal, and one specific area that I just cannot get enough of is the West Rosebud Creek.

 

The creek flows out of the mountains and into the plains joining with East Rosebud creek and eventually dumping into the Stillwater River.  Some of my favorite memories in the mountains are from Mystic Lake in the West Rosebud valley.  But there are plenty of other areas along the creek that capture my heart.  West Rosebud Lake is an amazing spot for summer or winter recreation.  The campground at Emerald Lake is one of the first places I remember tent camping in Montana (it rained the whole weekend).  And the creek itself is home to some very large brook trout that are begging to be caught in the fall.

 

Of the trout varieties, the brook trout and the brown trout spawn in the fall.  This means they have schooled together and are often quite ravenous.  It also means that each fall I put on my waders and head to West Rosebud creek in order to pull a few of these big fish out during a morning or afternoon of fun filled fishing.

West Rosebud Valley

Shortly before the end of the road, the creek splits and goes through a little marshy area.  Here is where you can gear up, and head out.  Slipping into your waders and threading a worm onto your hook, the next trick is to just find the deeper areas of water with sandy bottoms.  A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help you look deep into the water and see the fish congregating.

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Every year we take a camping trip up the Boulder River Valley.  Along with a few other friends, we rent out the two tent campsites at Chippy Park and enjoy nature.  While the annual trip is normally in July, we had to push it back a month this year.

 

I worked a half day in the office on Friday, and raced home to finish packing (ok, to start packing).  After a frantic dash around the house making sure to get everything ready, and trying to keep Holden awake so he would nap in the car, we were ready to head out the door about 2 in the afternoon.  The drive to Big Timber was uneventful, as usual.  I did manage to forget some extra tent stakes and tie down cord, so a quick stop at the Fort was in order (how can you drive through Big Timber and not stop at the Fort?)  After grabbing supplies, we were back on the road, and 45 minutes later pulling into the campsite.

 

The worst part about camping at Chippy Park is that you can’t drive right up to the campsite.  So after around 57 trips to and from the car, all our gear was laid out and while Jessica took care of Holden, I set up the tent and got our portable cabin ready.

Ever since I was a teenager, I have loved camping and backpacking.  And I was all about going to extremes, which meant I would take bare minimal gear in order to be as light as possible.  However, car camping (something that I did a little of growing up, but not as much as I did backpacking) is a whole different game.  Throw a baby into the mix, and it is more of glamping than it is camping.  So a tent that is big enough for a queen sized air mattress as well as a pack’n’play is basically a necessity now.  While I do admit that it is nice to sleep on a 12 inch thick air mattress, it is a far cry from the 1 inch Thermarest that I am used to.

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The Crazy Mountains

Several weeks ago I went on a trip to Newlan Reservoir.  After that trip we decided to swing by Glaston Lake.  The lakes left something to be desired.  However, during that drive we had an amazing view of the Crazy Mountains.  It was then that we decided we wanted to take our first ever trip into the Crazies and see how they were.  I find it incredible that in all the years I have been exploring the great outdoors, I had not yet explored these amazing mountains.

Unfortunately, the summer gets filled up pretty quickly, and although I wanted to get right back out there and enjoy the mountains, I had to wait for a few weeks.  This gave me time to collaborate with my brother, who had been to the area before, and to develop a plan of when and where we would go.

Finally the time came to make our voyage.  We left Billings around noon and headed into Big Timber.  The drive there was nice and peaceful, and we arrived at Iron Star Pizza after the lunch crowd was gone.  In other words one group was just finishing up their food, and we soon had the restaurant to ourselves.  After leisurely enjoying a meat lover’s pizza and a beer, we made a quick stop at the IGA to pick up some supplies that we had forgotten.  Soon we were on the road north toward Big Timber Canyon Road.

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