“Loot” by Jude Watson

I really enjoy heist movies, and con movies, and it definitely leaks over into which types of books I like to read. Whenever I see a good heist for kids book, I put it on my list.

Last week, I finished Loot by Jude Watson. I know her work from the 39 Clues series. Loot is a pretty good kid’s con/heist book. It isn’t my favorite one–that honor currently goes to The Great Greene Heist, but it’s pretty good.

The plot revolves around a boy who travels the world with his jewelry thief father. It opens as the boy’s father plummets to his death, with the boy watching, during a heist gone wrong. He gives the boy a few cryptic sentences, and the story begins!

It isn’t as dark as this makes it sound, but it’s not super light either.

“The Steerswoman” by Rosemary Kirstein

“The Steerswoman” by Rosemary Kirstein is great. It’s the first book in an ongoing series that is great.

The series follows Rowan, a “steerwoman”, in a vaguely medieval setting. Steerswomen wander the world, making maps, collecting knowledge, and figuring things out, until they get too old to travel–at which point they go back to the Archives and help organize and train.

A Steerswoman must answer honestly any question asked of her. However, anyone who lies or refuses to answer a question that a Steerswoman asks is placed under the “Steerswoman ban”, which means no Steerswoman will ever answer your questions again.

The Steerswomen are well-liked, and everyone considers them helpful and good, except for the wizards. All the wizards are under the ban, because they refuse to discuss how their magic works.

At the beginning of this novel, Rowan decides to investigate these flat purple and silver jewels that have started to show up. Before long, the wizards are hunting her down. WHY?! WHY?! YOU’LL HAVE TO READ IT TO FIND OUT.

Budgeting with a buffer

I’ve realized that having a buffer in my availability is more and more important. By having extra time in your schedule, extra willpower, extra cash, whatever, you enable higher quality in the things you *do* choose to do.

What this implies, is that an activity that is only a possible or good choice if it fills the entirety of your availability, isn’t actually a possible choice!

Whoa.

“Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey by Jasper Forde

“Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde is legitimately the weirdest novel I have ever read. A few chapters in, I discussed what I had already read with my wife, and I said, “I think this might be from the point of view of board game tokens.” (It’s not.)

It’s pretty easy to get spoilery about this. The society is repressive, and something bad happened in the distant past, and sentence by sentence, page by page, you, as a reader, realize a little more about who they are and how their world works. This isn’t a happy book, but it certainly was fun.

“The Library at Mount Char” by Scott Hawkins

Wow.

The Library at Mount Char

I read quite a bit–about 100 novels a year, now that I have a toddler. I read “The Library at Mount Char” a few weeks ago, and I keep thinking about it. It’s engrossing, and dark, and pretty disturbing. It’s definitely not for kids.

The main character is the adopted daughter of … a God, basically? He’s probably the third God, and he’s been God for something like 60,000 years. He “adopted” a handful of children during the Carter administration (kinda), and has been training them in a particular school–like medicine, or languages, or war. Time is weird, but a little before the start of the book, he goes missing. His now adult children come together–a little–to find out what happened.

I weaselworded that quite a bit, as the book is pretty twisty and turny. I wouldn’t say it’s confusing, but it isn’t completely straightforward.

Anyway, 5/5, even if it is a little darker than I usually read.

Bags and Purses

I enjoy a good bag and a good purse. I have no qualms about being a man who wears a purse, and I’ll usually correct you if you use some silly word like “man bag”, “man purse”, or even worse, “murse.” I’m not Adam West.

I currently use the Tom Bihn Ristretto as a purse.
Tom Bihn Ristretto

Tom Bihn Ristretto

I’ve been using the Ristretto since 2012, and I still really like it, 4 years later.

I use the Tom Bihn Brain Bag when I need waaay more space, or am traveling.

Brain Bag

I had tried a Tom Bihn Synapse 19, but it was just a smidgen too small for the work travel I was doing, where I needed two laptops and some equipment. The Brain Bag is big–really big–but it shrinks up better than you’d think if you don’t need it fully expanded.

The Synapse 25 wasn’t out when I bought my Brain Bag, but it’s probably the next bag I’ll try.

When I was in college, I had a Maxpedition Neatfreak and a Timbuk2 laptop backpack.

The Maxpedition Neatfreak was pretty durable, a good size (it’s bigger than it looks in this photo), and worked well, but I didn’t really like the look. It looks a little too military/prepper for me.

Maxpedition Neatfreak Bag

I’m not 100% sure which Timbuk2 laptop backpack I had, but it fit a 13″ laptop and a few thick EE textbooks just fine. It had a main pocket, and two side pockets. It lasted about five years before tearing apart.

(Photos taken from the respective product pages. Go buy the Tom Bihn ones. They’re awesome!)

3D Printed Ornaments

This year, I made 3D printed ornaments for our Christmas tree. shrink_IMG_9806

My son is 18 months old, and he loves to run around and touch pretty things.  We have some really pretty, old and fragile Christmas ornaments from Amanda’s side of the family, but I was too scared to put them on our tree this year.

I designed some tree ornaments in Fusion 360, and printed them out.  I found a cool trick where I was able to get the printed ornament to be a single layer thick, and have a hollow bottom.  This means you can use a traditional metal ornament cap, or print one.  The thin walls also means they are pretty when you put them over your Christmas lights.

I uploaded the files for the Teardrop Ornament to YouMagine.

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Esperanto Lives!

 

Saluton amikoj!

Jubilee Cookies and Frosted Green Stars!

Esperanto has two main symbols–the green five-pointed star, which is on the flag, and the Jubilee symbol, and at least one holiday.  Esperanto Day is December 15th, and this year, I designed and 3D printed a Jubilee cookie cutter!

Jubilee cookie and unfrosted stars

I hadn’t ever designed a cookie cutter with indents in the middle before, but they turned out pretty well!  Next year, I think I’ll get some cookie cutters made with a food-safe process, so I feel comfortable giving them to other people.

Jubilee cookies, ready to be baked.

This year for Esperanto Day, people are asking that Esperanto speakers post that #EsperantoLives!  (So I am!)

Evildea is a relatively famous Esperanto YouTuber, and he made an #EsperantoLives post today.  Watch it!

 

“Wait, wait,” you say.  “You can’t just show us cookies without giving us a poorly edited high-school style essay about Esperanto.”  Fine.  If you ask for it…


 

Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed language in the world.  It was initially created by L. L Zamenhof in the 1880s, and was released to the world through the first book “Unua Libro” on July 26th, 1887.  His goal was to create an easy-to-learn, politically neutral second language to help bring about peace and understanding between different people around the world.

I am skeptical it will bring about world peace, but it’s definitely an easy language to learn for native speakers of many different languages, and not a difficult one for most anyone.  Some studies have been done that showed that learning Esperanto before learning another language, like French, increased how well you learned French, at a greater rate than just studying French the whole time.

I started learning Esperanto about four months ago, through Duolingo, an online language learning tool.  It is a pretty good way to start to learn Esperanto.  I spent about an hour a day learning for the first few days, and now spend about twenty minutes a day.  I tweet sometimes about Esperanto things, or in Esperanto, at @adamo_esperanto.

Esperanto Jubilee Symbol
Jubilee!

Like I mentioned earlier, Esperanto has two main symbols–the green five-pointed star, which is on the flag, and the Jubilee symbol.  The Jubilee symbol, a Latin E and a Cyrilic Э smooshed together, was created at the 100th anniversary of Esperanto.  This was 1987, during the Cold War, and the two symbols that begin the word Esperanto in English and Russian were to represent the joining of the East and West.

Esperanto also has a holiday, Esperanto Day, on December 15th.  This was Zamenhof’s birthday.  (Coincidentally, it’s suitably close to the solstice and many other holidays.)  Many Esperanto speakers buy an extra book in Esperanto and get together with other Esperanto speakers.  I made cookies with a custom cookie cutter, above.

It puzzles me that some people react with anger and frustration when they find out I am learning Esperanto.  It’s certainly no less useful or entertaining than spending the equivalent time watching TV or dinking around on Facebook, but I have had people genuinely get angry with me for learning Esperanto.  Today, however, it is safe in most of the world to speak Esperanto, which hasn’t always been the case.  Many of the political regimes of the 20th century actively hunted down and killed Esperanto speakers.  Others simply marked Esperanto speakers as spies or political criminals.

Since the 1960s, there has been a couch-surfing program, Pasaporta Servo, for people who speak Esperanto. Many people alive today who grew up speaking Esperanto talk about how fun it was when someone from “Esperantoland” stayed for a night or two.

There are some native speakers who grew up speaking Esperanto, and some of them had children who grew up speaking Esperanto, and there are even a few cases of third generation native Esperanto speakers. (There aren’t any people I could find who grew up speaking exclusively Esperanto.)

There’s a good body of Esperanto literature.  William Auld, a pretty awesome poet, was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature for pieces in Esperanto.

Phew!  Feel free to ask me more about Esperanto or head over to Duolingo or lernu.net (they’re both free!) and join us!

Making a trade show demo in a week, for Seattle Sport Sciences

I do a lot of things.  Professionally, I spent the bulk of my work week with Digi Wireless Design Services.  It rebrands every year or two, as these things tend to do.  It was Etherios Wireless Design, and previously Spectrum Design Solutions.

As part of the rebrand, the marketing folks asked me if I’d talk about a project I did this last year that everyone was really happy with.  Usually I work in a team, but for this project, I was the only engineer.  I built an interactive wireless network with some Teensys and XBees and Neopixels, and got it show-ready in under a week end-to-end using an Othermill and some other rapid prototyping tools.  The customer really liked it, as did the rest of the Digi team.  This project with Seattle Sport Sciences even ended up in the Digi quarterly earnings report press release!

Anyway, I outlined a short video for them, and they wrote it up on a whiteboard, and tada!

I’m relatively pleased how this video turned out.  7 minutes, no scene cuts, and while I’m not perfectly fluent, I think I did a pretty good job.