Archive for September, 2013

About a year and a half ago I posted about long term storage of rice using dry ice for purging oxygen in the container. I recently decided to open one of the containers and see how well this approach to storage had worked.

If you look at the photo in that post from last year you can see how the plastic water container had been slightly collapsed by the partial vacuum formed inside due to the absorbtion by the rice of some of the carbon dioxide sublimated by the dry ice. That same partial vacuum was still present when I pulled the container from my food bunker and there was a distinct whoosh of air entering the container when I cracked the seal. Conclusion – these containers form an air tight seal and have minimal gas permeability at least for period of 16 months.

A close look at the rice showed it looked as good as new and there was no infestation of any kind visible. That’s good because around here when we try to save rice for a long period it becomes infested within a few months with some kind of small bug that eats it and turns it to powder. The same thing has happened with things like spaghetti noodles. This doesn’t happen every time or with every product we purchase but it is frequent enough that some action must be taken to prevent the loss of the product. Although I am not sure, I believe the bugs come with the packaged product and don’t enter while in storage. I have read that it is common for there to be eggs or larvae in products like this.

Regardless of the vector and the product, it does appear that the dry ice method is effective for long term storage of rice in an air tight container with low gas permeability. I have another container of rice that was packaged at the same time as the first that I will keep in storage for another year at least and report on results then. I also plan to store additional rice as well as dried beans in the same manner.

I have not yet found a good container for storing products that aren’t the convenient shape of grains. TheĀ  five liter water bottles I am using for rice are inexpensive (as in free), good quality, and just the right size since we buy five kilogram bags of rice that fit entirely in the bottles with just a small air space at the top. One of those packages gets used in a couple of weeks under normal conditions in our household so the amount is just right. Noodle products like macaroni would also store nicely in the water bottles. But sphagetti and similarly shaped noodles don’t work. A container with a wide mouth would work but getting a reliable seal becomes more of an issue as the size of the seal becomes larger. That translates into expense. So it would seem I need a large number of modest sized containers with a mouth and body of the same size that have a high quality seal. That is not going to be cheap, and I haven’t found them yet anyway.

My final project for Stanford’s online course Statup Engineering is an itinerary planning web app. I call it Itinerated, a little play on words based on the concept of how the app let’s you enter itineraries and then other users rate it. You get “Your Itinerary Rated by the Crowd.”

The idea came from seeing how many times the same itinerary questions were asked on the travel forums I visit. Annoying as the repeat questions are, it’s easy to see why the same questions keep getting asked. It’s because there is rarely any useful feedback and often a lot of trolling and spamming. Since I frequent a couple of different forums I see the same exact question asked, presumably by the same person, across the different forums, which similar results. It seems to me that an app specifically for getting itinerary feedback would be useful. Hence, Itinerated.

The Stanford Startup Engineering course provided an excellent framework for developing and deploying a startup. We covered both technical and business aspects of the startup process that is being successfully used in Silicon Valley. On the technical side, I am using Nodejs+Express+MongoDB+Bootstrap for implementation. I am also using Jade for templating but I am thinking I might move to Angular for further development.

The Itinerated web app is still in rough prototype form. We put together something they call a “bitstarter” which is a Kickstarter-like funding page but asks for bitcoin. That’s what you see when you go to www.itinerated.com. You can try out the prototype of the app by clicking the “Try It!” link at the top. A fair amount of effort and some costs for servers is going to be needed to bring it to full production status.

In near term the class is holding a competition to see which startup can garner the most bitcoin and tweets. You can watch the leader board and check out some of the interesting startups here http://startupmooc.org/.