On the First Year of Waste Reduction: Systems and Recipes

We threaten the world with our love of consumption and a blindness to waste. Change has to occur on an individual level in parallel with larger-scale restructures. As always, there is a hypocrisy in complaining but not doing, and this holds true for both environmental and social criticism.

In late 2016, I was at a stage where I simply didn’t care about how much waste I was generating, or where that waste was going. As that year drew to a close, I became disgusted with just how much packaging, plastic bottles, bags and tins I was producing due to the choices I was making.

Over the next year, I would make changes and setup systems in terms of food, drink, hygiene, household and travel that would impact how much waste would be created.

It’s worth comparing rubbish from February 2017 (top) with January 2018 (bottom):

Every now and then I’ll watch a video by someone in the “low waste community”, where they have a 200 mL mason jar with their rubbish over five years. Although I am nowhere near that point, I certainly feel like I’ve made a solid dent in the amount of plastic and rubbish that I am choosing to create. 
The most productive thought that I have had when implementing these systems is not to change too much at once. Tackle one or two things every thirty days or so, and then see if these advancements can be incorporated into daily life with relative ease. 
Here are the changes that have worked for me since February 2017. 
My criteria for “worked”, when compared to more wasteful solutions, are:
• 80% or higher performance 
• Similar or lower cost
• Less or zero end-user waste
I haven’t bought any lunch at work, and significantly fewer dinners. Instead, I’ve been cooking meals using whole foods that have no packaging. Vegetables are bought from the markets, and everything else is bought from stores like Goodies and Grains and The Source. Coles and Woolworths have also had nuts, seeds, snacks etc in bulk without packaging at times. Lunches and dinners have been cooked in advanced, usually in lots of four to eight portions, and then frozen. 
Recipes are usually improvised, but a modular approach creates a variety of meals by rotating the carbohydrates, proteins and flavours. This process saved lots of money and reduced waste significantly. A protein-rich legume or bean was soaked overnight, then combined with brown or white rice. 
Cooked alongside various spices, chilli, onion, garlic or ginger, this makes for a wide variety of tasty, filling and easy-to-prepare meals that are nutritious, cheap and plant-based. Tastes good and works for me. The addition of vegetables such as spinach and tomatoes improves the taste and variety. Mushrooms are especially filling and work great in frozen meals. 

My pantry has also changed throughout the year. The current incarnation is setup for this style of cooking. Shopping is done with mesh and ziplock bags that have been reused successfully many times. Ziplock bags are washed often. Mesh bags require less washing. I usually carry five ziplock bags and five mesh bags with me, just in case. 
Cereals such as cacao-based clusters, bran flakes and oats have been perfectly nutritious and tasty – especially when combined with berries and nuts. 

Food preservation via dehydration and pickling has also worked surprisingly well. Apples, bananas, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilli, brown rice, white rice, various types of lentils, beans, chickpeas, boiler peas have all survived the de-and-re-hydration process. Pickling garlic, shallots, pickles, baby tomatoes using white vinegar and sugar has added a flavour to some dishes. 
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well hydrated meals work. 

Any paper or cardboard packaging is either burnt to ash and composted, or composted directly depending on composition and thickness. 
I’ve started drinking only loose leaf tea, and whole bean coffee. Both can be purchased without any plastic or aluminium packaging from bulk retailers. I’ve also given up on bottled water, using 600 mL plastic bottles at home and 1200 mL metal bottles at work. 

A keep cup made from recyclable rice bran is used for take away hot drinks. One my most used purchases I’ve made in recent months is a soda water ‘machine’; the CO2 bottles are returned for recycling, and I reckon I’ve made more than the 60L worth promised from one refill. 
I’ve also stopped drinking alcohol in 2018 (so far). This has been working for me, which is somewhat shocking considering my penchant for vodka. 
I’ve experimented with a number of recipes for hair wash, hair rinse, body wash, hand soap, shaving and beard oil, mouth wash, toothpaste and deodorant. I’ve been using these recipes for at least six months. All ingredients can be bought in bulk, refillable, and without waste. I usually shop at the Honey Shoppe and Soap Box
Hair wash: Combine 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup water, 10 drops tea tree oil 
Hair rinse: Combine 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup water, 10 drops lemongrass oil
Body wash: Combine 1 cup castile soap, 1 cup water, 10 drops lavender oil
Hand soap: Combine 1/2 cup castile soap, 1/2 cup water
Shaving and beard oil: Combine 15 mL jojoba oil, 10 drops cedarwood oil,  10 drops vanilla oil, 10 drops black pepper oil
Mouth wash: Combine 1/2 cup water, 3 tsp baking soda, 5 drops spearmint oil
Toothpaste: Combine 25mL water, 6 tsp baking soda, 10 drops peppermint oil
Deodorante: Double boil 1/2 cup unrefined shea butter until molten. Combine with 3 tsp arrowroot powder, 4 tsp baking soda, 15 drops bergamot oil, 15 drops lavender oil
I’ve switched from using multi-use plastic disposable shavers to a heavy duty, double edge chrome razor, along with swapping out shaving foam for shaving and beard oil. 
I’ve found shaving to be a much more enjoyable ritual with the chrome razor (a Merkur 34C). A single blade has lasted for eight months so far. Similarly, I’ve moved from plastic toothbrushes to wooden ones. Performance is similar, however the wood can be composted or recycled. 
I’ve been using either home made recipes or bulk, zero-waste products for household cleaning. 
Dishwashing detergent for light loads can be made by combining 500 mL water, 3 tsp citric acid and 3 tsp washing soda. Concentrated dishwashing detergent can be bought in bulk without waste (named “Encore”), whereby one cap will make up 1L of dishwashing detergent. 
Laundry detergent for light loads can be made by combining 1/4 cup washing soda and 20 drops eucalyptus oil. Concentrated laundry detergent can be bought in bulk without waste. 
I’ve developed an appreciation for hiking. To move through a beautiful landscape slowly and quietly is a rewarding experience. The lighter the pack, the better. 

Although I’ve driven by car to some camping locations, I have also made a concerted effort to catch public transport to sections of the Heysen trail, the Nukan Kungan trail, the Walk the Yorke trail – covering maybe 12 or so nights in total. I would like to do more of this in 2018. 
Hiking without food packaging waste is surprisingly easy and successful; dehydrated food works great, with or without a stove. Taste is retained, and especially with a stove that can simmer, texture is excellent and meals can be very filling. All ziplock bags were washed and reused. 

Challenges and Improvements
The majority of my waste now comes from cat-related purchases or electronics-related purchases. I would like to find alternative ways of approaching both. My energy use could also be lower; for example, I ran a 10% electricity deficit over summer. I would like to improve on this as a net energy credit throughout the year, quarter by quarter. 
My aims for 2018 are to improve recipes for hygiene and household, eliminate or at least reduce plastics, reduce water  / gas / electricity usage, go hiking more and actually get some gardening skills. 
Centimetre by centimetre, I’m trying. I know I can do better. But it’s a start. 

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Hot Toys QS012 1/4th scale Mark III 48.5cm (19 inches) tall Collectible Figure (Deluxe Version)


“The truth is…I am Iron Man”

In 2018, Marvel Studios marks its 10th anniversary of movie-making history, and it has been a decade since Hot Toys released the first sixth scale Iron Man Mark III collectible figure dedicated to passionate superhero fans. This realistic action figure showcases incredible details soon gained its popularity among collectors with its outstanding craftsmanship and stunning quality at the time.

To commemorate the 10-year anniversary milestone, Sideshow and Hot Toys are going to continue elevating collectibles to the next level and are excited to officially present a Deluxe Version 1/4th scale collectible figure of the iconic Iron Man Mark III from the first Iron Man film.

With an intricate design based on Tony Stark’s third suit of armor, Mark III was the first rendition of ingeniously engineered battle suit inspired by Tony’s Hotrod red and gold color scheme. This quarter scale collectible figure stands approximately 48.5cm (19 inches) tall, featuring a newly painted Tony Stark helmeted head sculpt, interchangeable helmeted head with LED light-up eyes, LED lights shine through various areas of armor, masterfully applied metallic red and gold colors on armor, articulated armor parts to reveal interior mechanical design or hidden weapons, and interchangeable battle damaged chest and shoulder armor!


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Hot Toys QS012 1/4th scale Mark III Collectible Figure (Deluxe Version) specially features: Authentic and detailed likeness of Iron Man Mark III in Iron Man | newly painted head with authentic likeness of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the movie, in newly developed helmet with removable mask | interchangeable helmeted head with LED light-up function (white light, battery operated) | Movie-accurate facial features with detailed beard, wrinkles and skin texture | Approximately 48.5 cm / 19 inches tall with over 40 points of articulations

Special features on armor: All-new specially applied metallic gold and red colored painting on armor with weathering effects | LED-lighted circle-shaped Arc Reactor on chest (white light, battery operated) | LED lights can shine through sides of ribs, shoulder, forearms, back of legs and upper back (blue light, battery operated) | pair of interchangeable battle damaged shoulder armor | interchangeable battle damaged chest armor | There (3) pairs of articulated rib armor to reveal interior mechanical design | pair of articulated forearm armor allowing extension to form shield or missile firing mode | pair of articulated countermeasure dispensers | pair of detachable bicep armor | pair of built-in shoulder missile launchers | Six (6) pieces of interchangeable hands including: pair of fists, pair of hands with articulated fingers and light-up repulsors (white light, battery operated), pair of repulsor-firing hands | Articulated flaps on legs | Fully deployable air flaps at back of the armor | Multi-layered waist armor with enhanced articulations allowing highly flexible movement

The Deluxe Version will exclusively include a surprisingly elaborated LED light-up figure base with design inspired by the Arc Reactor and the Iron Monger armor.

Accessory: specially designed Iron Monger arm and Arc Reactor-themed diorama figure stand with LED light up function, Mark III nameplate, and movie logo (battery operated)***

***Exclusive to Deluxe Version

Release date: Approximately Q2 – Q3, 2019

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Sideshow Collectibles 20-inch (508mm) DC Comics Harley Quinn Premium Format™ Figure


“That’s when everything went ka-blooey!”

No fooling! Sideshow is proud to present the Harley Quinn Premium Format™Figure, ready to paint Gotham red and black with her antics.

Harley Quinn measures 20” tall, leaping off a derelict funhouse base packed with gunpowder and crackling explosives. This resin figure has an entirely sculpted costume decked out with diamond patterns and frills, all in Harley’s signature red, black, and white style.

The Harley Quinn Premium Format Figure includes two interchangeable portraits so that you can display your favorite face of Gotham’s maid of mischief! Her pouting unmasked portrait features her classic white makeup, a thin domino mask, and blonde hair pulled back into pigtails. Her masked portrait features a gleeful grin framed by her iconic harlequin hood, white makeup, and domino mask.

A girl’s gotta accessorize! Harley Quinn is wearing a stolen Gotham PD utility belt complete with a nightstick, a pair of purple Joker cuffs, tatters from Robin’s cape, and a little green in her pocket courtesy of Poison Ivy. Harley is ready to crack a few jokes and a few skulls with her massive hammer, detailed with stylized portraits of her darling hyenas Bud and Lou.


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The Exclusive edition of the Harley Quinn Premium Format™ Figure includes a Bat-in-the-Box accessory, which can be displayed in proximity to the figure. It’s time to make the Bat go SPLAT!


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Forecasting Volatility

I study a ton of forecasting data.  Some of it I can easily understand and some has me in an utter state of confusion.  Right now we are in one of those times where the forecasting details may not be matching reality- both good and bad.  Some regions in North America are exceeding what was predicted and some are falling short.   So it’s been a tough one to get straight.  Somewhat following that theme, this week I found an interesting release from Dodge Data and Analytics that looked at commercial starts in 2017 vs. what happened in 2016.  The immediate surprise for me was the New York region- so amazingly hot for many in our world, was down again in 2017 vs. 2016 and way off of the 2015 results.  Also down in ’17 vs. ‘16 were Los Angeles, Dallas, DC, and Miami.  All of those markets have been booming.  Among the up in 2017 were San Francisco, Philadelphia, Orlando, Austin, and San Diego.  What does this mean?  Well starts usually do not affect our work until a year later or longer- so possibly could this be a signal of things to come in those markets or a reason why for some folks out there its been very inconsistent business wise.  The whole piece is worth the read….

–  And while we are looking at the forecasts… the month Architectural Billings Index continues to be incredible.  The January performance was the best January showing since 2007.  3 of the 4 regions looked at were very strong with the Northeast lagging behind.  I will admit when I see comparisons to 2007, I do start to sweat some, as it wasn’t too long after those amazing days in 2007 that the bottom fell out.  I am not saying it is happening here, but it surely gives me pause.

–  BEC is kicking off this coming weekend and it looks like more than 500 people will be there.  I am looking forward to catching up with friends, networking, and learning about what’s new, exciting, and hot in streets these days.  Obviously I’ll be reporting back here and posting on twitter.  If you are attending I look forward to seeing you!

–  The GANA-NGA merger is done and I was very impressed by the video message that NGA President and CEO Nicole Harris released recently.  It is a quick piece where she outlined her thoughts on the deal and I love the use of the video medium, it is a great way to continue to reach additional audiences. 
–  Two Amazon related items to end the week…. First I went into a “Whole Foods” for the first time in many many years.  When you have my body and eating habits that is not a place to frequent… in any case I was blown away at the amount of specialty foods available and the costs of them.  Now I know why a buddy of mine calls that place “Whole Paycheck”

Also the news surrounding the new Amazon HQ 2 continues with word that the new betting favorite is Dallas.  From the start I have been on Dallas and Atlanta as the choices, so we’ll see if that happens, but supposedly there was a major spike in housing searches in Dallas from people in Seattle… so that set the rumors on fire…


This is a very interesting article on “forgetting how toread” and quite frankly I fall in to that category.  It’s a struggle now…
For my marketing friends… the sponsorship drain from the Olympics.  I think we all go through the same thing in evaluating spends in our world as well.
I don’t have any idea what to make of this.. so I’ll just leave this link here.

Did you see and hear pop singer Fergie trying to sing the National Anthem at the NBA All Star game last week?  If not here it is….  And its rough.

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Sideshow Collectibles 21-inch (533.4mm) Captain America Premium Format™ Figure


“You go! I’ll shield you.”

On his command! Sideshow is proud to present the Captain America Premium Format™ Figure.

The Captain America Premium Format Figure measures 21” tall on top of a SHIELD Helicarrier platform, with a discarded Ultron Sentry arm littering the base beneath his red combat boots. Cap’s iconic shield is raised and battle-worn while he takes a stand against Ultron and his armies.

Captain America has a sculpted portrait inspired by his comic book appearance, wearing a blue helmet with slight battle damages. His white helmet wings and traditional ‘A’ are inset in the helmet’s sleek design as Captain America looks on with stern determination.

Captain America’s uniform has classic red, white, and blue details, with an upgraded aesthetic featuring tactical armor for the patriotic Avenger. This polyresin figure has an entirely sculpted costume detailed with intricate textures and piping to simulate a difference in materials. His chest bears a star symbol, and armor straps across his shoulders add a second star to the super soldier’s uniform. Black accents and a brown sculpted utility belt enhance the hero’s famous look.


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A robotic menace is no match for the strength of Captain America. The Exclusive edition of the Captain America Premium Format™ Figure includes an alternate right hand clutching an Ultron Sentry Head.


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Black Panther film inspires celebration of all things Africa with its avant-garde costumes inspired by real-life tribes

As Marvel’s latest film Black Panther continues to blow box-office predictions out of the water (see previous toy blog post “‘Black Panther’ Becomes Highest-Grossing MCU Film in First Week!” HERE), the film has also been instrumental in bringing African culture to the fore.

Starring Chadwick Boseman and a stellar cast that includes Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett, the superhero film is an Afrofuturistic vision – where science fiction and fantasy are infused with cultures of the African diaspora.

While the setting of Wakanda is a fictional country, it draws on plenty of real-life influences from African cultures around the continent, from the ritual scarring on Erik Killmonger’s ripped body, which originates from tribes in Ethiopia; to the Zulu headdresses predominantly worn in South Africa, seen on Queen Mother Ramonda.

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The attention to detail in creating the costumes was spearheaded by designer Ruth Carter, who has also outfitted prominent African-American figures on-screen, such as Malcolm X (1992) and Martin Luther King Jr in Selma (2014).

This time, she suits up heroes of a different sort, meshing traditional and hi-tech Afropunk influences, resulting in eye-catching and avantgarde costumes.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/celebrating-all-things-africa

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Iron Studios 1:10 Battle Diorama Series 10-inch (260mm) Black Panther Art Scale Statue


‘Black Panther’ Becomes Highest-Grossing MCU Film in First Week!

Disney-Marvel’s “Black Panther” continues its torrid pace, taking in $292 million in North America — the highest first-week haul for a Marvel Cinematic Universe title.

That’s $22 million more than “The Avengers” grossed in its first week in 2012. “Black Panther” earned $14.3 million on Thursday, or nearly $2 million more than “The Avengers.” It has also made $228 million internationally, led by the U.K. with $31.9 million, for a $520 million worldwide total as the must-see tentpole heads into its second weekend.

Sideshow and Iron Studios are proud to present the Black Panther Statue from the Art Scale 1:10 Battle Diorama Series. Based on original references from the hit film Black Panther, the polystone statue is hand-painted and features two interchangeable head options and Wakanda base.


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A Summary of the Google Zürich Algorithms & Optimization Workshop

Posted by Silvio Lattanzi, Research Scientist, Google Zürich and Vahab Mirrokni, Research Scientist, Google New York

Recently, we hosted a workshop on Algorithms and Optimization in our office in Zürich, with the goal of fostering collaboration between researchers from academia and Google by providing a forum to exchange ideas in machine learning theory and large-scale graph mining. As part of the topics discussed, we additionally highlighted our aim to build a group similar to the NYC algorithms research team in Google’s Zürich office.

Silvio Lattanzi presenting the work of the Graph Mining team

The workshop was structured in five sessions (see the full agenda here), each consisting of talks by attendees that touched the following research areas:

Overall, it was a great day with many excellent talks and with many opportunities for discussing interesting problems. All the presentations, including videos, can be found on our workshop website, here.

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PowerShell’s $OFS built-in Variable And What It Does

The other day, I was working on converting some C’# to PowerShell. 95% was trivial and almost muscle memory. Then I came to this block of C#

char[] chars = { ‘w’, ‘o’, ‘r’, ‘d’ };
string string1 = new string(chars);

The output is:


So I initially translated it as:

[char[]] $Chars =  (‘w’, ‘o’, ‘r’, ‘d’ )
[String $String1 = $Chars
Write-Host $String1

But that produced:

w o r d

The same characters but with spaces between which seemed illogical (at first!). I scratched my head, and did a bit of digging over at Spiceworks, where I was introduced to the $OFS PowerShell Variable. $OFS holds a string, known as the Output Field Separator.   PowerShell uses this character string to separate array elements when it coverts the array to the string, PowerShell has a default value of  ” ”, but you can change at the command line, in a script, or in your Profile. The issue here is that PowerShell is doing the array to string conversion and separates each character in the char array with the separator (“ “). You can read a bit more about this in an old blog post by Jeffrey Snover:

This gave rise to two solutions. The first is to let .NET do the conversion and the second was to leverage $OFS. Here  are two ways to do it: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/powershell/2006/07/15/psmdtagfaq-what-is-ofs/

# Leveraging $OFS
[char[]] $Chars =  (‘w’, ‘o’, ‘r’, ‘d’ )
$OFS = ”  # Set separator to null
[String] $String1 = $Chars
Write-Host $String1
# Or using .NET directly
[char[]] $chars =  (‘w’, ‘o’, ‘r’, ‘d’ )
$String2 = [System.String]::New($Chars)
Write-Host $string2

This is interesting, but there is a highly practical solution to an issue I’ve seen brought up in several PowerShell support places. The issue if how to construct a comma separated string of words. So if you had an array of several words such as (‘X423q420’, ‘JG75-01-27’,”PCNY”) you could easily concatenate them as follows:

$Array = (‘X423q420’, ‘JG75-01-27’,”PCNY”)
[string] $Array

Which produces:


You could also create the array from properties then force it to be separated by $OFS, like so:

$F = Get-ChildItem –Path X.XML
$OFS = ‘,’
$Sring3 = [string] ($F.Fullname, ($f.length/1kb).ToString(‘n3′))
Write-Host $String3

Which produces this:


You learn something nearly every day!

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