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.

“Preparing to Change”

EDIT:  Wooo!  They Might Be Giants retweeted this!

@tmbg retweeted a link to this post!

I was relistening to Glean by They Might Be Giants this weekend.  Like every TMBG album, it grows on you.  I was listening to “All the Lazy Boyfriends”, a track I had mostly skipped over before, and paid attention to the lyrics.  One part in particular grabbed me.

All the lazy boyfriends are preparing to change

They’re standing in the kitchen and preparing to change

All the lazy boyfriends are preparing to change

 

This American splendor spreads out before you

From basements to attics, garages to sheds

Who needs a vacation? Who needs a direction?

Who needs motivation when you live in your head?

While the song seems to be about lazy moochy boyfriends, They Might Be Giants are actually warning us about a common problem: over-preparing to change!

Lots of folks spent a bunch of time and money thinking about the perfect way to start.  Sometimes it’s warranted, but usually it isn’t.  You probably should spend a bunch of time thinking about expertise once you’re solidly an “actual beginner” stage, rather than “someone who thinks about it a lot.”

As Merlin has said, time and time again, there’s a tendency to research the best jogging shoes and buy a subscription to Runner’s World, when you should probably first going outside and jog regularly.

Living in your head is comfortable.  In your head, it looks just like a featured Pinterest project, but in the real world, you may find out it isn’t quite as easy.  In fact, the longer an idea lives in your head without touching the real world, the harder it is to manifest it, because the more you think about it, the grander and more wondrous it becomes.  That gap between desire and reality gets bigger and bigger, and it can become paralyzing.  Sure, it’s fun to think about things, but given the explicit choice, I would generally prefer to make something, rather than think about making it.

I still have this problem.  My short-duration personal anti-savior for this is a person I met at a hackerspace who regularly discusses a project he’ll get to Real Soon Now that he started thinking about in the early 1980s.

So, fellow meatbags, stop preparing to change and start changing, and stop living in your head so much!

Initial release of check_projects

I wrote a tool for checking project directories.  It checks for a variety of things.

Typical usage often looks like this:

check_projects -d /foo/bar/baz

which would check /foo/bar/baz for the following:

  • a non-empty file in /foo/bar/baz with a name that starts with README
  • a non-empty file in /foo/bar/baz with a name that starts with LICENSE
  • /foo/bar/baz being in a git repository
  • /foo/bar/baz’s git repository having an empty stash
  • /foo/bar/baz’s git repository having remotes
  • /foo/bar/baz’s git repository having no uncommitted changes
  • /foo/bar/baz’s git repository having no unpushed commits

I’m definitely open to other checks and other version control systems. Let me know if there’s something you’re interested in.

check_projects seems to work for me, but please do not assume it works perfectly. If you’re using it for something critical, take a look at the code or let me know.

It’s written in Python. You can download it or take a closer look at https://github.com/adamwolf/check_project.

Now that we’re done with the business-y intro, the human side.

Even though I’ve been seriously programming in Python since 2004 or so, this was the first project I’ve ever uploaded to PyPI.  (You can see it at https://pypi.python.org/pypi/check_project.) This is pretty cool–it means that you Python programmers can just pip install check_project!

Second, if you are pretty sure you know you need something like this, but you need help installing this, let me know.

Third, if you use this and like it at all, please let me know. In 2015, many programs are still written by human meatbags, and we appreciate knowing our work is used and is helping someone.

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

Pump Six and Other StoriesPaolo Bacigalupi; Night Shade Books 2008WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Pump Six and Other Stories is a short story collection. The stories have collectively won about a billion awards. Most of the stories take the crap parts of today, and magnify and extrapolate them. I thought every story in the collection was well done, but more than one of them bummed me out.

“Yellow Card Man” is a story from the “Windup Girl” universe.

The story from the title, “Pump Six” is in a similar vein to “The Locusts” by Niven and Barnes, which was previously the most haunting short piece I had ever read.

4/5

Toast by Charles Stross

Toast Toast: And Other Rusted FuturesCharles Stross; Cosmos Books (NJ) 2002WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Toast is a collection of older short stories by Charles Stross. When it got really hard to find, he released Toast for free as a Creative Commons thing.

I was pointed to Toast by Ron Hale-Evans, who mentioned that he preferred older Stross to his newer stuff. I see where he’s coming from, but I’m not necessarily sure if the axis is older/newer or shorter/longer. The older and shorter works are definitely harder to digest. When they unwrap in your brain few days after you’ve finished, it’s quite a delight. On the other hand, I think his newer work sells better. I was going to try to pick a favorite story, but that’s pretty hard. Big Brother Iron is set in the 1984 universe, and the main character is a sysadmins.

4/5.

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

The gone-away world The gone-away worldNick Harkaway; Alfred A. Knopf 2008WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway starts in the middle of the action–you’ve got a world that isn’t like ours, but it isn’t entirely clear on how it isn’t, and there’s a Very Important Pipeline that’s on fire. The narrator is part of an independent disaster recovery team, and they’re going to go put it out with huge bombs. End of chapter one.

The next 50% of the book are a linear retelling of the narrator’s life, until we catch back up with the first chapter. Heavy on the description, meandering diversions, and humor, it made me actually laugh out loud.

The bulk of the work is a coming-of-age story wrapped up in an action story, with major speculative fiction elements. I absolutely loved it. Without spoiling anything, there’s a few interesting insights on megacorporations and the people inside of them.

6/5 stars.