• 05 Apr 2015 /  Parenting

    My daughter was recently pursuing a Girl Scout badge and the project she decided on was to learn how to make bubble tea at home. If you’re not familiar, bubble tea is basically iced tea with little pearls or “bubbles” in it. They can either be a tapioca pearl or a fruit flavored, juicy pearl. She chose the latter, they add a fun snap and burst of complementary flavor to the drink.

    We set out to find out how to make these pearls, which turned out to be a rather interesting chemical process and a popular item in “Molecular Gastronomy”. The process is referred to as “spherification” and involves a reaction between Sodium Alginate, which is a seaweed extract, and Calcium Chloride, which is commonly found as pickle juice. When these 2 solutions meet polymerization occurs at the interface between them. When drops of the Sodium Alginate solution are dropped into the Calcium Chloride bath, you get round(ish) pearls with a firm outer shell and a liquid center.

    We found many references that turned out to be pretty complex and varied, so we wanted to document our end result in a simple way. The main document we drew from is this one from molecularrecipes.com. The process illustrated here is “Basic Spherification” and is specifically tailored to flavorings with a watery consistency.

    You’ll need to gather a few ingredients and items:

    • Sodium Alginate
    • Calcium Chloride (both are available here)
    • Flavoring (we used KoolAid powder) and sugar if needed
    • A kitchen or other high precision scale (.1+ gram precision)
    • perforated spoon
    • A blender or immersion blender
    • An eye dropper or large syringe
    • Some bowls and measuring cups
    • Any sort of iced tea

    The first step is making the flavored liquid. You’ll need to mix your KoolAid, sugar, and water (we used half the directed water for more concentrated flavor) and then add enough Sodium Alginate to make a .5% solution. That is, for every 100g of flavored liquid, you’ll add .5g of Sodium Alginate. In our case we mixed one cup of the prepared KoolAid and 1.2g of Sodium Alginate. This needs to be mixed thoroughly so a blender comes in handy here. Transfer to a cup or bowl and let this sit in the fridge for an hour to dissipate the air bubbles.

    The next step is making the Calcium Chloride bath. This is much simpler as the Calcium Chloride is very happy to dissolve in the water. You need the same .5% solution, but will want more of the final solution. We used 4 cups of water and 4.8g of Calcium Chloride. Mix this up with a spoon or whisk until it’s dissolved. You’ll also want to have another bowl of plain water to rinse the bubbles and stop the polymerization.

    Finally, you’ll make the bubbles. Using your dropper, drip the flavored liquid into the Calcium Chloride bath. Be gentle and try to space them out. You’ll have to experiment with various pressures and heights to get the best spheres. You can also try different tools and methods to drip the liquid into the bath. You can even make worms! Let the bubbles sit in the bath for about a minute while gently stirring to keep them moving and to avoid flattening.

    After a minute, use the perforated spoon to move the bubbles to the water bath. After a rinse in the water, just drop them in your tea and enjoy!

    Here’s a closeup of the actual process:

    We hope this will help anyone who wants to try making their own. There are many more factors that are discussed in the Molecular Recipes link above, so if you want to try different liquids or processes, check that out. Good Luck!

  • 20 Dec 2010 /  Doom

    I noticed as I was perusing the feeds this morning that the film “Easy A” is now available on Netflix, and DVD in general: Netflix: Easy A. This film was released in theaters on 9/17 and to DVD on 12/21.

    Now, this is not a film that I’m particularly interested in, though it does seem to have reasonably good reviews. The reason it caught my eye is that I recalled seeing the same film on the schedule of our local discount theater. It is still showing there right now (well, at 7:10 tonight). I see a lot of movies at that theater. It’s $2, and not up-to-date, but for a lot of movies it’s just fine, and makes for an inexpensive night out.

    So, what has me troubled is that we now have the DVD release of a relatively well reviewed film being rushed so much that it’s going to squeeze out these discount theaters. There have always been straight to DVD releases, and DVD release schedules have been compressing,  but there has always been enough “first run” content with enough of a gap to keep the discount theaters stoked with content a few weeks behind the multiplex.

    Not sure if this is going to be the new normal or this is just an isolated case, but I hope things balance out in a way that preserves a place for the “cinema poco costoso” (blame Google translate if that’s horribly wrong)



  • 07 Dec 2010 /  Firearms

    Some really interesting training ammunition here from Ultimate Training Munitions. Initially, I didn’t understand the purpose of the “Silent Blank Round” since it generates no noise and no projectile, but, as Bob states, it’s perfect for dry-fire drills because it cycles the action for you. To dry-fire most guns, you must manually cycle the action after every pull of the trigger, which can create a training scar.

    Wonder if any of these will be available to us civilians?

    Cool Training Tech from UTM – Bob’s Gun Counter.


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  • 28 Oct 2010 /  Parenting, Things I Like

    Declan recently wrote a Halloween story for a local homeschooler group. They decided not to publish his story on their site because it referenced weapons (no restrictions were stated up front), so I’m publishing it here:

    by Declan Chase-Salerno, age 7

    A guy in black with another guy gave the man in black some dynamite in a bush, but he didn’t blow anything up with it yet, and then one of the good guys said, We have to take the man in black to the statue factory, (“His name isn’t important!”).  None of the other guys knew what that would do.  When you move, he disappears.  Then we stood still, and he shot wooden carts with weapons at us, and my mom grabbed on to me and jumped over all the carts.  And then we dodged the carts, which led us to our barn, and then we hid in there for a while.  And then we found the guys that gave the man in black some dynamite, and we asked if it was fake dynamite, and he said no, and we said why did you give him real dynamite, and the man in black hypnotized him to do it, because he owns a dynamite factory.  Then, he wanted to help us get the man in black, but we still couldn’t catch him, we didn’t have enough guys, And then we got our dog, Casey, to help us find him.  She barks a lot when she sees someone.  And then we found him, but he disappeared when we even moved a step.  So we went to upstairs in my house, and we got some guns to get him to surrender, but they still didn’t work.  He had a machine gun.  And then they got the police to help them, and the police got the sheriff’s department, the army, and that still wasn’t enough, until the army invented a new weapon, the disintegrator, but that still didn’t work, because his armor was stronger than anything.  Then we got him to a statue factory, but that didn’t stop him because he broke out of the steel case.  Because he was so strong, he broke out, and he also had fists made of pointy steel.  Then the army got the military that invented a new gun called the Hypnotizer but he had hypnotizing-proof glasses, that still didn’t stop him, so they had to set off the dynamite while he was still holding it, like in cartoons.  Until a good ghost came to help us and called all of his ghost friends, and they wanted to help, and the military called a weapons specialist, Agent G, and he invented a gadget that could read people’s minds and we could know his plan and stop it, and we would know where his base is.  And the ghosts called a ninja force, and they helped them, until they met the Super Penguin.  Which could peck people’s heads off.  But he had an indestructible helmet that the Super Penguin couldn’t peck.  Until they chased him to Canada and his armor fell off while he was running, all his armor, it turned out he was very skinny and weak, and they destroyed his base, and then they had a campfire and roasted weenies.
    The End.

    Quinny also wrote one, but hers was deemed OK:

    Last Night There Was 3 Girls And 2 Puppies Who Woke Up
    by Quinn Chase-Salerno, age 4

    Last night, three little girls woke up, and then the serious one said, “What happened?”  And then the three little puppies woke up, and one barked at someone, and then they saw a little spooky thing, then they turned into spies, then killed him, and then they all went in the dark and brought a flashlight and then the 3 little girls weren’t scared except the serious girl wasn’t scared, and the 2 little puppies weren’t scared either, then they saw something that was creeping slow and had a shell on top and it was a turtle.  And then they put their flashlight in their pocket then it was daytime then they weren’t scared again.  Then they went back home and saw a little black thing it was their brother.  And then there was a kitty that went back.  And the kitty wasn’t scared either.
    The End.

    Great stories Guys!


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  • 22 Oct 2010 /  Firearms

    Well, I’ve been meaning to write this AAR up, but one of the other participants beat me to it. He did a fine job, even including a couple of pictures of me, so I’ll just refer to his post:

    AAR~ MDTS CP 3&4 New Paltz Rod & Gun Club – Oct 16, 2010 – AR15.COM

    Excellent course that really pushed some new skills, I enjoyed learning the weapon retention techniques, and the one handed manipulation block was eye opening. I learned that a closed front cover garment makes it very difficult to do anything with only the support hand. The charging target block really introduced some stress, showing how skills degrade.

    I’ll echo the endorsement of Chris Fry and MDTS. His courses consistently deliver well thought out material that is constantly evolving and well tailored for the armed citizen. Thanks also to Joel for helping run a safe range, except for the part when he yelled at me for automatically doing a reload when my gun went dry during the qual. Sorry Joel, I’ve been indoctrinated by Chris (and others) already. Looking forward to hosting Chris in New Paltz again.


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