“Tactical Awareness” by Marcelo Rinesi

I recently read “Tactical Awareness” by Marcelo Rinesi.  It’s a free collection of a hundred SF short stories, each a hundred words long.  There are no common characters, or common settings.  There’s a few common themes–unintended consequences, maybe? or

Realistically, the closest thing they were like were 100 microepisodes of “Black Mirror”.  Some were so-so, many were good, and a few were really, really great.  Few were happy.

Highly recommended.

“Getting Things Done”

A decade or so ago, David Allen published a book called “Getting Things Done”. It’s a relatively short book, detailing how he organizes the projects and tasks in his life to enable “mind like water”, where he can relax and feel confident he’s doing what he should be doing at any moment. (This doesn’t just mean work.) It also describes project planning, and while it focuses on the nitty-gritty day-to-day task-by-task process, it discusses “bigger picture” planning a bit too.

It was a life-changer. The book, however, assumed you were a business professional, working in an office with a lot of paper.

In 2015, David Allen re-released the book. I just read it this past month. I’ve been living this life for a decade, and I can say the re-release is awesome. It doesn’t assume you’re a business professional. It isn’t nearly as paper-heavy as it was before (although I think he still talks too much about file folders for me…).

Anyway, if you haven’t read it, or tried before and it didn’t seem to talk to you, it might be time to pick up the re-release.

“The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness”

I read an interesting paper recently, called “Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness”. It’s by Steven Levitt, who you may know as the “Freakonomics” guy. I’m, uh, mixed, on the Freakonomics stuff in general.

Here’s the abstract:

Little is known about whether people make good choices when facing important decisions. This paper reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice. For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later. This correlation, however, need not reflect a causal impact. To assess causality, I use the outcome of a coin toss. Individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are much more likely to make a change and are happier six months later than those who were told by the coin to maintain the status quo. The results of this paper suggest that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices.

They actually made a website where people self-selected, asked a question, got a virtual coin flip and filled out a little survey. The survey asked them how happy they were, and they got a followup survey six months later. The ones who were told by the coin flip to “change” vs “maintain status quo” (and did it) reported being happier.


(I have the original paper saved in my Pocket, but I’m not sure why. When I go to the link in a browser, it shows a paywall.)

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.)


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):


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.