The curse is over!

I know so many of you are waiting for a curse update. On July 30th, I decided to go back to drinking caffeine. 30 minutes after a large cold brew coffee, I got an email from a stranger who had found my wallet after it had been riding around on the bus for five days. This was the end of the curse.

Phew! (Coffee, I will never leave you again.)

Curses

You ever have a string of bad luck?

My entire July has been a series of unfortunate events. I’ve lost my wallet, twice. My wife misplaced her house keys. I had an expensive custom part start on fire on my desk. Some parts I overnighted from Amazon were packed wrong in the warehouse, and I got iPhone cases instead–and now the part I actually want are out of stock. We closed the garage door on our car, and it the garage door damage was bad enough we had to replace the garage door.

Hopefully it stays in July. I’m optimistic!

Small Guitar Hook

Small Guitar Hook with Loog Guitar

I bought a pretty nice three string guitar before the holidays this year. It’s made by a company called Loog. They were a Kickstarter, actually filled their orders, and are now a pretty cool business. (Also, folks, I am not affiliated with Loog beyond being a happy customer!)

I wanted to show my toddler, Henry, someone working hard to pick up a new skill (and I wanted to learn how to play the guitar!)

Henry fell in love with it, and we realized we needed to put the guitar out of his reach when we weren’t playing with it. The neck is pretty small, so I didn’t know if it would fit in traditional wall hooks.

I downloaded Fusion 360, spent a few hours learning and prototyping, and designed this small guitar hook. It works like a dream.

Small Guitar Hook

My main goal was to make a wall hook for my guitar that would keep all parts of the guitar from rubbing against the wall, while being strong enough for me to trust it. I didn’t want “explosive delamination” to send my guitar to the floor. I used a static load of 3 times the weight of my guitar hanging from the hook to test the strength, and it lasted more than a week without any visible deformation.

Stress Test

I took a few CAD classes in college, but all my 3D printing experience before this had been with OpenSCAD. This was my first project using Fusion 360. I wish it was open source, but it certainly got the job done.

The hook has been used daily for more than six months, with no visible signs of wear.

If you make one of these, please be cautious! Increase your infill, and do testing before you hang your wonderful guitar using this! The last thing I want to see is a person’s guitar in pieces because they downloaded my hook and it didn’t work for them.

I posted the files for the small guitar hook up at Thingiverse–go take a look!

Even Swaps

I first encountered the idea of “even swaps” a few years ago, in an operations research class I was taking for a graduate degree in systems engineering.

Even swaps is a systematic technique for thinking about complicated choices with multiple different tradeoffs.

Rather than write another summary of it, I’ll point to a pretty good write up (although it is a little wordy):

https://hbr.org/1998/03/even-swaps-a-rational-method-for-making-trade-offs

Weight Loss in 2015

This is what I looked like in February 2015.

Feb 14 2015

This is what I looked like in February 2016.
January 2, 2016

I lost 45 pounds over the year. At first, the primary thing I did was to stop ordering french fries at restaurants. I noticed that I often switched from choosing a healthier option to a less healthy option because the less healthy option came with fries–so I just stopped ordering them altogether. Within a month or two, this wasn’t something I wanted to really overindulge in so I didn’t have to completely abstain.

My wife signed us up for a CSA, which was a *lot* of vegetables, so all summer, my meals were almost entirely vegetable based.

I replaced my work lunches with protein bars, which are basically candy bars with extra protein marketed to men who want to get swole, but they do a pretty good job of tasting good while being filling.

I increased my physical activity, but I definitely avoided anything that qualifies as “working out”. I did a lot of walking, and would walk to go pick up lunch with my work buddies (without getting anything, of course.)

It’s been nice–I saw some people who I hadn’t seen in years at Maker Faire MSP a few weeks ago, and one person didn’t even recognize me until I talked, and he said, “Wow! You lost like… half a person!”

So, where does that leave us now? I’m not 100% satisfied with where I am right now, but I’m definitely more in a maintenance mode than last year. I have a goal for where I want to be by the end of this year, and I’m working hard to make it!

“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.