Milk Substitutes Have One Major Flaw: Dunking

So here I am, dunking Oreo’s in my Cashew Milk and they just won’t get to that perfect hard-soggy mix no matter how long I keep it in the drink. Frustrated, I go to get a normal glass of milk to conduct a little test. As it turns out, Oreo’s sink in 2% milk after a minute and 45 seconds. In the cashew milk, I waited 30 minutes before losing my patience and eating the cookie. It wasn’t even soggy…


So what does this mean? Well, it could mean that processed milk is more watery than milk right from the cow and thus, perfect for dunking. Unfortunately, I don’t own a cow to test that theory. It could also mean that milk replacements are more dense than milk. I also don’t think Silk and other companies should make their drinks more watery. I like the creaminess of Almond/Cashew milk.


Surface Pro 3 N-Trig Pen Design Flaw

I love my Surface. I may have some issues with Windows 10 builds every now and then, but overall, I love it. There’s one thing I don’t love, however: The pen. Since August of 2014 (Now May of 2015), I have been through 3 Surface pens. I have two major gripes with the pens. Both of them are related to fidgeting. For those who don’t know what fidgeting is, it’s basically a way to keep your mind active during a class by unscrewing the components and screwing them back on.


First, the pen nibs, once fidgeted with, is basically useless. It causes the Surface to misinterpret how hard you’re pushing down the pen on the screen. Often, when I’m writing in Onenote, the pen will start writing before it even touches the screen. This causes an unbelievable amount of illegibility. The nibs wouldn’t be so much of a problem if I could just buy a set of 20 so I had them accessible for when they start wearing out/snapping in half. Instead, you have to contact Microsoft about it and they have to send you 3 at a time…


Second, the screw on cap is made of a brittle aluminum and starts to wear out after only a few dozen screws. Two of my pen screw caps got so bad that they can’t even hold the screw cap on and so I had to tape them until I received a replacement. To Microsoft’s credit, they replaced them for free but I sure hope the caps on the Surface Pro 4 are made of a more durable metal…


Ventotene: A Look Into Past, Present and Future Sustainability


The small Italian island of Ventotene, located midway between Rome and Naples off the coast of Formia, was first inhabited nearly 2000 years ago under the Roman Emperor, Augustus. Sadly, he would primarily use the island to exile his enemies, including his youngest daughter Gulia. Without motorized modern ferry transportation, the island was often completely cut off from the rest of Italy. Because of this autonomy, the island is a wonderful example of ancient Roman sustainable practices.

Roman engineers were far ahead of their time in terms of sustainability. As described by the Comune Di Ventotene, “Al tempo dei romani l’approvvigionamento idrico veniva costantemente garantito dalla presenza, nelle zone abitate, di serbatoi in cui veniva convogliata, mediante vasche di raccolta e canali di immissione, l’acqua piovana.” [English: In Roman times, the water supply was constantly assured by the presence of tanks that collected rainwater through a series of  tunnels/canals with various entrance points.] (Comune Di Ventotene). Because there was no natural source of freshwater on the island, the Romans built a series of underground cisterns (See Figure 1) that utilized the island’s downward sloping gradient to collect rainwater runoff. Similarly to the Romans, “In the Puuc – a seasonally dry region with no permanent natural water sources – two hydro-technological inventions designed to capture and store rainwater dominated water management: (1) large, open still-water reservoirs managed by neighborhood and city leadership and (2) small underground water cisterns” (Barthel 2013). Halfway around the world, the Romans built a system similar to that of the Mayans with no known contact. With enough freshwater, the Romans were able to turn their focus to building resilience, first by using their cistern system to supplement their food supply.

IMG_0110Figure 1: The entrance to the still-standing (now dried up) Roman cistern tunnels of Ventotene.

Not only did they collect enough rainwater to sustain their settlement, the Romans also used their system of cisterns to create a pseudo estuary for their fish farm so the captured fish could naturally reproduce. “I romani avevano osservato che il mare alla foce dei fiumi era più ricco di pesci e quindi avevano cercato di ricreare lo stesso habitat” [English: The Romans had observed that the sea at the mouth of the river was full of fish and so they tried to recreate the same habitat] (Fonti 2004). This allowed the Romans to enjoy a primary, reliable source of food, independent from the mainland. Finally, to build a greater degree of food security, the Romans cultivated the rest of the island for legumes, lentils and a variety of fruits and vegetables which are still cultivated on the island today. That said, the island has not always been successful at sustaining civilization. The fall of Rome left the island practically abandoned until the rise of the Bourbons of Naples who colonized the island primarily to imprison traitors 17th-18th centuries. Eventually, though, this new wave of settlement was able to sustain itself through to the present, largely due to the increase in global tourism.

Today, the island remains largely self-sustaining, with a few important exceptions. First, and possibly most importantly, modern engineers do not know how to get the Roman cisterns back up and running. Instead, the island has to import water from the mainland via tanker (See Figure 2). Not only is the present water system unsustainable due to the emissions generated from such an inefficient system of delivery, the water quality is hardly comparable to locally sourced natural rainwater. I have personally tested the water quality of the tap water on the island as compared to collected rainwater by using a TDS, or total dissolved solids, meter. Although the tap water showed an average of 300 PPM, marginally acceptable tap water, as per EPA standards, the rainwater showed about 60 PPM, the equivalent to carbon filtering and mountain springs (HM Digital). On top of the water quality being so poor, the delivery of freshwater is completely dependent on the weather. During my stays on the island, there would be entire days during the peak tourism months where the tanker is unable to navigate the waters. On one instance, the water level had gotten so low that the town had to issue a notice pleading for water conservation.


Figure 2: Ventotene’s freshwater tanker.

Another system that relies on a tanker delivery is the island’s power generators. Presently, the island has 4 diesel generators powered by Enel, a large European electricity provider. To reduce dependence on petroleum deliveries, the company is currently installing PV cells around the island. However, their main purpose is to supplement the diesel generators, not replace them, as well as to jump start the generators during blackouts (Fastelli, 2012).

As for the food security of the island, modern high speed ferries have allowed for the island to both import a large amount of food goods, as well as export some locally grown specialty foods. “While such high global connectivity between cities and remote food supplies can decrease cities’ vulnerability to food shortages and build resilience during medium-severe crises, sudden severances of supply lines – that for instance peak oil scenarios threatens to levy – pose major threats to urban food security.” (Barthel 2013). While the island is enjoying the food security provided by a connected globe, just as Barthel argues, the island is still vulnerable to severe storm weather, windy days and rough seas, which can still sever connections to the mainland, and the rest of the globe.

Ventotene, as its name suggests (vento=wind), is constantly bombarded by the wind. Because of this, the island is highly vulnerable to erosion (See Figure 3). Further, the island is constantly bombarded by waves, slowly weakening its structural integrity. There have been unfortunate instances where falling rocks have crushed visitors, leading to a rigorous public works project to halt, or to attempt to slow, erosion island wide.


Figure 3: The areas of the island that are venerable to eroding because of high winds, waves and weak material. The island is made of a somewhat unique material: tufa, which is a type of volcanic ash (Fonti 2004).

Farming is a fundamental part of the island’s success; without it, the island would have likely starved under times of severance from the mainland. “Ventotene ha infatti una lunga tradizione di sussistenza e di autonomia alimentare: fin dall’epoca romana e poi con la colonizzazione borbonica, l’agricoltura ha sempre rappresentato un’attività fondamentale per gli isolani, capace di provvedere al sostentamento di una comunità ben più numerosa di quella attuale” [English: Ventotene has a long tradition of subsistence and food autonomy: since Roman times and then with the colonization of Bourbon, agriculture has always been a fundamental activity for the islanders, who are able to provide for the maintenance of a community far greater than residents.] (Amo Ventotene). Thus, it is of great concern that the island is currently losing a great deal of farmland to “urban” sprawl (See Figure 4). Luckily, the island still has a considerable amount of arable land that is not currently farmland, but will hopefully become so. Another part of the island’s food systems success is the reliance on ecological farming practices. The island, short of the growing of lentils, does not grow monocultures. Instead, island farmers grow a pleasant mixture of fruit trees, grapes, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, string beans and other vegetables.


Figure 4: Small scale urban sprawl experienced by the island of Ventotene because of its recent tourism boom. Notice the loss of farmland associated with the town’s expansion. (Fonti 2004).

Finally, it is worth noting that the island’s architecture, designed long before the invention of cars, promotes walking. While there are a few roads wide enough for small cars, most of the island is pedestrian friendly. This is one of Ventotene’s central characteristics: visitors can walk from their hotel/villa to the store to the beach to the piazza and so on. However, because there are a few hotels far from the town center, as well as the need for shipments to the island, it is unlikely that the island will ever be completely car free.

Even though the need for cars seems to be a permanent fixture, the island has progressively self-imposed a zero emissions goal for itself. By working with the regional auto manufacturer, Piaggio, the municipality has already replaced its sanitation fleet, and all other municipal vehicles with electric vehicles (See Figure 5). The island is also testing an experimental fleet management system to optimize charging times for the vehicles based on location (Fabbri). In addition, a large PV (photovoltaic) charging station was built to charge the vehicles using the sun. This system is free for any resident to charge their own vehicles and some residents have already purchased their own electric vehicles to do just that. With persistently high petroleum prices in Europe, the Comune Di Ventotene should work to replace any and all petroleum machinery with electric substitutes. For example, they should invest in electric boats to replace their fleet of Guardia Costiera boats, as well as to incentivize fisherman and other residents to follow in their footsteps.

Screenshot (4)

Figure 5: The two of the island’s current electric vehicle fleet. (Scelte Sostenibili).

While the municipality should be praised for its sustainable progress, without replacing their four diesel generators with wind or PV systems, the island will never be able to reach its goal. With such sustained wind and constant sunlight, the island would be making not only a green choice, but an economic one. With ecotourism on the rise, the island should make changing their power source its number one priority.

Finally, the island’s inefficient fresh water supply system must be replaced with localized roof based rainwater collection, a revival of the Roman runoff based cisterns, or a desalination plant. It is not only for reasons of sustainability but for the sake of quality, the island should immediately look to invest in such a system.

Whether the Romans, Bourbons, or the Italian government rule over the small island of Ventotene, the island has consistently excelled at sustainable practices. Ventotene may end up becoming a model for sustainable Italian and European cities of antiquity based on its consistently progressive policies, initiatives and lifestyles.


Figure 6: A panorama of the island of Ventotene (taken by yours truly) from the nearby island of Santo Stefano. Click if you want to see a larger version! Thanks for reading!


  1. Barthel, Stephan. Urban Gardens, Agriculture, And Water Management: Sources Of Resilience For Long-Term Food Security In Cities. (2013). Ecological Economics.
  2. Fabbri, Gianluca. Sustainable Mobility Models For The Island Of Ventotene. (2010). POMOS – Pole for Sustainable Mobility.
  3. Fastelli, I. (2012). Energy Storage On Islands: A Sustainable Energy Future For Islands. Eurelectric Brussels.
  4. Fonti, Luciano.I Piani Di Assetto Delle Aree Marine Protette. Il Caso Delle Isole Di Ventotene E S. Stefano. (2004). XXV Conferenza Italiana Di Scienze Regionali.
  5. I Tre Cardini Del Progetto Per Un’isola Sostenibile. Scelte Sostenibili.
  6. Le Cisterne e L’Acquedotto. Comune Di Ventotene.
  7. Ventotene, Isola Di Contadini Slow In Rete Con Il Mediterraneo. (2013). Amo Ventotene.
  8. What Is TDS? Hm Digital.

The Sneetches Return

If you’ve walked the streets of Manhattan this Winter, you may have noticed an enormously popular fashion fad: Canada Goose Jackets. The $800 jackets tout a mixture of goose down and coyote fur that has some activists up in arms (If you want to read up on that, check out this link: Link). But beyond the cruelty of the jackets, and their incredible price, the jackets seem to have become a status symbol – much like that of Dr. Seuss’ Star-Bellied Sneetches.


The company, which has, since opening up a store in Manhattan, increased its revenues from $3 million in 2013 to an estimated $300 million by the end of the 2014-2015 winter season. (Link.) With a growth like that, I really hope there are enough coyotes in Canada to sustain their populations.


With such an increase in sales this year, and the growing status symbols that came with it, many who did not have hundreds in disposable income to spend on a single jacket may have opted for online counterfeits. However, do not fret, my true Star-Bellied Sneetches! There are ways to identify counterfeits: Link, Link.

Manhattan is a funny place.


What Baruch Is Doing Right


We all know that Baruch’s elevators can be infuriating, that Zicklin is constantly raising its standards and that getting to Baruch is sometimes a nightmare. But it seems like we tend to focus on the negatives of Baruch and neglect to mention the countless positives. After all, we did make it into the hardest CUNY; why not celebrate it?

With students coming from 160 countries, we all know that Baruch is one of the most diverse colleges in the world. But what about the diversity of knowledge provided by the multitude of well-versed and experienced professors that Baruch employs at a low cost to its students? About 95% of Baruch’s full time staff hold PhD’s (or other terminal degrees) in their fields. Several full time and adjunct professors have respected past careers in government, policy, economics, and finance. To name a short few, professor Robert Walsh was the city’s Commissioner of Small Business Services under Bloomberg. Professor Stephen DiBrienza was a city councilman for 16 years before coming to Baruch. Professor Sanders Korenman was the senior economist for labor, welfare, and education for President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. Even Governor Mario Cuomo taught at Baruch for a time. If we listed all the distinguished staff this college has seen, we would have to write an entire issue on them.

Professors, though they are an enormous piece of Baruch’s success, are not the only part of the school that makes it one of the top 10 public schools in the northeast. Baruch is located in a prime spot in Manhattan and its facilities are a unique architectural feat. Between just the Vertical Campus, 23rd Street building and the library, Baruch fits 1,414,000 square feet (A massive 32.5 acres in a rural setting) into a two block radius. The vertical campus received the highest award offered by the Institute of Architects and Baruch won best college library in the nation in 2003 from the Association of College and Research Libraries. The computing and technology center is also the largest computing center in all of New York City.

Most of Baruch’s classrooms also have built in projector systems equip with a variety of inputs. This enhances the quality of each professor’s lecture with slides, interactive clickers, photo examples, movie demonstrations and more.

Zicklin, as the largest collegiate school of business in the nation, built the Bert W. and Sandra Wasserman Trading Floor in 2000. As a real time market data center, students at Baruch have a real world advantage over schools without this kind of learning experience.

Baruch is also constantly improving its campus. With the addition of the 25th Street plaza, Baruch students have an outdoor place to study and hang out. Current projects include massive upgrades to the 23rd Street building that will replace its aging elevators and bring WiFi to the entire building. The library will also be updating its master plan to better fit the needs of Baruch’s students. Upgrades to the Vertical Campus include a modification to the facade to prevent falling ice during the winter, as well as a crane to clean its exterior. Baruch is constantly looking toward its future as one of CUNY’s senior colleges but this is only a glimpse of what Baruch offers. It’s your school; go explore it.


LG G Watch R: The Forgotten Smartwatch


Full circular display, sporty-classy design, and whatever other basic bit of info that’s been released make this watch a viable competitor to the Moto 360. If you’re reading this, you know that. Day after day, I check Reddit, Google and Twitter for updates on this watch’s release. Even after it was released in Korea, there was little press. I even went through and translated the watch’s name to Korean to make sure Google wasn’t missing results because of language. Nope. LG has completely failed on this one.

Instead of giving the watch to bloggers, product review sites, Youtube Vloggers, and etc to test and hype the watch’s release, the watch has gotten little if not no exposure has been since IFA in Germany over a month ago. LG hasn’t released definitive product release dates for other countries, price lists and any additional media on the watch. LG also has a dull, generic product page for the watch and it lacks a “notify me” feature.

Even Google has made little mention of the watch. As of when I’m writing this, the watch isn’t even on the Play Store as “Coming Soon” and the graphics make no mention of it. If you’re desperately trying to promote a new platform, you might want to advertise the upcoming devices to show the potential of your product line.

I know it might sound silly to rant about a watch’s release, but looking at the success of the Moto 360, even if they didn’t have a very successful launch, shows that if you create enough buzz about a device, people will want to buy it. The Moto 360 doesn’t have a full circular display, its battery life started out sub par, users have reported that it cracks, others reported dead pixels and so on. Yet, there is still a high demand for the watch because people want to know what it’s like to have that much power on their wrist. LG, in releasing their second generation wear device, should have known how to successfully launch a product. They shouldn’t need some random blogger like me telling me that…

PS: Anyone else tired of seeing the same stock image I used for this post?


How To Scan Slides With A DSLR And Save Hundreds

If you’re anything like my family, you have an incredible collection of slides that you just took down from the attic that probably looks a lot like this:

When’s the last time you opened up a box, put the projection screen up and sat there with the projector looking at your past? That’s right: Never.

It’s time you changed that. How, you ask? If you’ve found this post, you’ve probably already stumbled upon sites like or and thought you could afford it until, of course, you realize the pricing is per slide not box. Unwilling to disk out a few hundred or unwilling to ship your valuable photos across seas, you looked elsewhere.

You then stumbled onto Amazon and looked for slide copier extensions that look like they have somewhat positive reviews. Realizing that’s the slowest process humanely possible, you ventured off to some other DIY sites claiming they scan slides quickly using an old slide projector and a DSLR on the cheap like this one: or this:

That’s it! You’ve struck gold! But how are you actually going to do it? You’re not some well versed projector technician. Well, i’m going to attempt to help you scan thousands of crystal clear slides without breaking the bank (using these two sites as a baseline.)

To get started, you’re going to need a  DSLR (Or a nice digital camera), some macro filters, and an old slide projector. If you’re using a DSLR, you can also use a professional macro lens (If you can afford one) but they’re not exactly required for what we’re doing. So unless you plan on using these lenses for other purposes as well, it’s a complete waste of money considering you can get macro filters for under $20 on eBay: Here.

Now, Some will tell you that these filters are “inferior.” Because the are. In order to avoid focus issues and a black ring around the edge of your picture, you have to be zoomed in and straight in front of the picture. The good news? That’s EXACTLY what you need to scan slides. So unless you’re unhappy with these cheap filters, I wouldn’t recommend breaking the bank for a good macro lens just yet.

For the projector, you can either use your own vintage family projector (NOT recommended considering you have to break apart the projector to create your contraption) or you can simply buy one on eBay for cheap. I didn’t have the Kodak reels, so I had to buy a projector that supported RotoTrays. Just be aware of that – I originally bought the wrong type of projector out of stupidity and I’d hate to see someone make the same mistake!


I wish I could be more specific, but honestly, all you need to do is remove the lenses in front of the actual slide. Besides, every projector is a little different. Find any screws and unscrew them. Make sure there are no wires that you’re going to rip when opening the case. Once it’s exposed, do whatever it takes to get the lenses in front of the slide out. Each projector model varies, but feel free to comment with pictures if you need help! In the above photo, I show how my setup works. Notice how the slide has nothing in front of it altering the image. I do not use the projector lamp, as it’s much too hot and didn’t provide a white background. Instead, I used a cut of white photo paper and another small white lamp I had to illuminate the slide. Make sure it’s facing away from you – otherwise, it might create a lens flare on your camera. Essentially, all you’re creating is an automatic slide changer. Good luck and feel free to comment if you need any help!

I suppose it’s only fair that I share some of my favorite scans to prove that this concept works, and works well:


My personal Hell


I wake up in a serine wood.
I look around to find some form of civilization.
I see the crisp, falling leaves off the trees that reside beside the road.
I am in disbelief that this can possibly be hell
I find a lone, Victorian age house.
I walk up to the door.

An old woman answers.
When she sees me, she runs inside.
To get her gun.

I’m a goose.
And I’m in Canada.


A Visit to the Twilight Zone


Recently, I fell in love with a nonprofit lighthouse restoration group after learning about them in an article from ScoutingNY. Eager to help in some way, I made a mock site redesign using WordPress to show them the potential for their site and offered to continue the design and implement it into their domain for free if they liked it.

For anyone who wants to see their site VS the one I made for them, this is their site and this is the one I made. The pages generally correspond with each other. I know it’s not the best site, but, in my opinion, it is by far more professional and clearer to understand than their current site. I respect their decision to keep their current site, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there was something more than preference dictating their minds.

Here is their website compared to mine. Notice how I fit all but two pages into the size of their homepage. (Click to see the image in full)

Below is my bizarre correspondence with the group. I have removed the introductions and conclusions to give some degree of privacy. I mean not to hurt them, as I still wholly support their cause. However, I was genuinely upset by the replies I received, not because they declined my offer, but because of their increasingly harsh replies I received. The green text is my commentary on each correspondence. Enjoy… I guess?

The first email I sent gave background about who I was and what I offered. Nothing crazy, right?

Me: My name is ______ and I saw your website today after ScoutingNY posted an article about your island. I was immediately interested in helping you guys somehow, but as a college student, I didn’t have much to give. So I used my website design skills to make a mockup of a redesigned site for the lighthouse to promote users to visit. It’s not complete by any means, but it’s a start and I really hope you like it. I’m not asking for anything at all for doing this. I really do appreciate what you guys are doing for this piece of history. If you would like to make it the official site I’d be beyond thrilled. It can be exported and installed on your host and I can help you do that. If you like it, I’d gladly make more finishing touches! So without further ado,

The first reply was not harsh, but it was nonsensical.

Him: thanks spread the word please

After a week, I decided to reply again in hopes that I could make it more clear as to what I wanted to do for them.

Me: Now that the media buzz has died down a bit, I wanted to discuss my previous email. I fell in love with your nonprofit and wanted to do something for it. As a college student, I don’t have money to give but I have web design skills. I did my best to improve your current website ( by making a mock website ( that can be worked on and improved to your liking. If you like it, I am willing to work with you to move it to your current website domain.

The second reply was not harsh either, just a bummer to hear after completely redoing their website on my own. But that’s entirely my fault for making a website before getting the go ahead.

Him: Thanks but no thanks

Prepared to be done with this all, I wished them luck and went on with my life.

Me: That’s all I wanted to hear! Good luck with your nonprofit! It’s truly a great project

Until of course I got a reply suggesting that I pay them after they declined my offer when I (twice) clearly wrote that I was a college student who “didn’t have money to give but wanted to help.”

Him: make a donation, we don’t take salaries!

Deflated, I made it known that, short of declining, I hadn’t understood their replies.

Me: Im sorry sir, you’ve literally made no sense to me. Good day.

And the fun begins. I received one of the most rude and genuinely heartbreaking emails of my life, bashing my intellect and writing me off. The bold sentence was not bolded by me. I decided not to engage them, seeing that I was clearly an amusement for them. Perhaps they thought I was a scammer and they had the upper hand. Well. If that’s the case, they’re sure missing out…

Him: what word don’t you understand? we are and state and federal non profit dedicated to restoring the lighthouse! we volunteer to restore this historic structure. our website works fine. you have no idea whether or not our traffic and press has slowed down or sped up! how many times do you think we were in the press? once on some blog? “literally no sense” is a state of mind foreign to me thank God my 36 year old son doesn’t have problems with comprehension! good luck to you

In the end, what did I get from this? Nothing but a somewhat decent site for my portfolio and a lovely story to tell about some rather mean people.