Online Personality Tests

I’ve never been a big fan of the online personality tests (e.g. “What kind of tractor/hairdo/sandwich are you?” but they are clearly a fad that won’t go away. And the other day I finally heard a compelling argument explaining why so many of them exist: many of those tests are created to build personality profiles about you and people like you. That stuff feeds into how advertisers target your demographic or even how politicians speak to you. Creepy, right?

There’s no free lunch. If you can’t figure out how a website is making money, you are probably the product.

Best of YouTube

Dude Perfect’s first “All Sports Golf Battle” video was one of their best. They play a hole of golf but the catch is that their golf bags are full of random balls and sticks from various sports. They can only use each type of equipment for one shot. Hilarity ensues. The second time around was just as funny as the first!

Jimmy DIresta is finally starting on his upstate NY dream shop. He hired Kyle from Rural Rennovators (@rrbuildings) to do the work and Kyle created a 15 episode video series about the build. It’s really neat to watch a professional frame and roof something this big in just a couple weeks. I’ll embed the first video below, but you can watch the whole playlist on YouTube.

With the new Star Wars movie coming out, lots of people have Star Wars fever. Nobody does it like Colin Furze though. He built a FULL SIZE tie fighter! If you like this, check out the video explaining how he built it.


2017 Year In Review

Since you’re reading this on my website, let’s start with the biggest change I’ve made on this site: I quit blogging every day. Around Memorial Day this year, I stopped forcing myself to get a post up every weekday. That ended a streak of nearly 4000 weekdays in a row with a blog post. It has felt a lot more freeing to only write when I have an idea for content instead of scrambling the night before to try and fill an empty spot in the calendar. And while this is a terrible model for driving traffic to a site, my main goal has always been a kind of “life journal” that might store some interesting nuggets in the decades. To that end, I tried to write some longer articles about memories from my childhood. Those felt like some of my better posts from the year: Childhood Christmas Gifts, Baseball Stories,  Parental Albums and Sleepwalking Stories.

The biggest change for all of us this year was the loss of Tyla’s mom to breast cancer. Nancy had been battling the cancer for years but it was pretty clear early in the year that we were crossing the point of no return and in the end, it went downhill very quickly. Those weeks and months were full of a wide range of emotions complicated still further by having a four year old in the mix. I found it really difficult to be supportive both to Tyla and Elijah at the same time. For example, many times I felt like the way I could help the most was to get Elijah out of the room/house and give him a normal day, but that meant I wasn’t there to help Tyla. But we all made it through, and because all of us believe that Jesus died for our sins, I know we’ll be reunited in heaven.

I said things declined rapidly. Just the weekend before she died, we were all camping at Cape Disappointment. It’s a beautiful park right along the ocean. I thought it was healthy for Tyla’s family to spend that time together, have time for long talks, and have one last outing with Nancy. Elijah had a lot of fun riding his bike around the campground and sleeping in the tent. Whenever we ask him what he wants to do for vacation next summer, he asks to do that trip again.

Our other summer vacations included Memorial Day weekend at Discovery Bay, a week in Indiana, and our long road trip to Fort Peck, MT. Spending 4 out of 6 days on the road with a four year old turned out about as perfectly as it could (aside from the crazy car trouble at 4am as we were trying to leave.) He did fantastic and now it has us thinking about some other road trips that we might take.Between the funeral and the Brandt family reunion, we got to spend a lot of time with Tyla’s extended family. I finally feel like I know most of the kind people who send us Christmas cards every year! It was nice for them all to meet Elijah too.

At the 2016 Christmas party, Logan mentioned that it was his “man mission” to climb to Camp Muir. The guy he was talking to said, “I’ll go with you!” In the blink of an eye, we had a crew of people ready to hike up there with him. I had been there back in 2010, but it was such a great hike that I knew I wanted to do it again. Half the fun of hiking Camp Muir is all the training hikes you need to do ahead of time! We hit a lot of great trails including: Little Mt. Si, Lime Kiln Trail, Mt. Pilchuck, Lake Melakwa, Mason Lake and Little Bandera Mountain. I had Elijah in my backpack for a lot of those hikes. Next year he’ll be too big and it will be time for him to hoof it himself.

Hiking Camp Muir with a group that big and vary different schedules means that you randomly pick a date on the calendar and pray for good weather. Thankfully, the weather was PERFECT. The smoke from the wildfires cleared out and we had blue skies and perfect temperatures. I beat my previous time by 40 minute (16%) so I was very happy about that. I didn’t feel nearly as tired the next day either so I’d say our hikes leading up to this one were chosen well. The only downside to the day was that Tim was planning to come with us but he got injured shortly before the hike. So that just means we’ll be doing it again. Tim, let us know when you’re ready and we’ll put it on the calendar!

I continued on with the woodworking hobby, and in the beginning of the year, I made my biggest tool investment yet: a beefy new Grizzly table saw. That continues to be solid purchase in my book and it gets a lot of use. Projects this year included a set of wooden blocks, a plant bench, a Washington bottle cap map, an anniversary photo printed on wood for my parents, piano book shelves, a couple Mother’s Day signs, the Instagram photo frame (my favorite project of the year!), magnetic coasters, laser cut decorations for Elijah’s birthday, a cutting board, a jewelry holder tree, two wood signs carved with a router, a storage closet makeover, a wood semi with two trailers, a marquetry butterfly, and a drum. I feel productive when I read that! Even with all those things checked off the list, my project idea list has grown so I better keep going.

See you in 2018!

Previous Year In Review Posts: 2003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016

Bongo Cajon

I remember Dad telling stories about how he wasn’t allowed to get a drum set when he was growing up. And then when I was growing up, I remember Mom and Rachel telling him to stop drumming his fingers on his desk downstairs because it made too much noise. This poor man deserves a drum!

Steve Ramsey posted a couple videos about making cajons. (Is the plural of that “cajones”?) I chose to make his bongo cajon version. It seemed like a simple project, but as usual, I was amazed at how many ways I found to screw it up. Woodworking really is about starting your project and then figuring out how to fix all the mistakes you make along the way.

It was fun to be able to pick pretty much any wood that I wanted for the main body of the drum. I walked around Crosscut Hardwoods for a while and ended up buying some sapele. That seemed like more fun to work with than the 1/2″ plywood that Steve used in his version. The top required 1/8th plywood and since I didn’t want to pay bunch of money for a full size fancy sheet from Crosscut, I got a really cheap piece from Home Depot instead. It doesn’t have quite the tone to it that I was hoping for, but I think it will still be a fun gift.

Merry Christmas Dad!

Laser Cutter Puzzle

The idea of making a custom puzzle has always intrigued me. I’m partially interested in the computer science problem of generating an random puzzle with an arbitrary size, and I’m also interested in the physical process of making it happen.

That computer science problem has been on my list for a long time, but finally I realized that I shouldn’t block the whole project on getting around to writing that code. It took a lot of searching, but I finally found a good, free online tool: Wolfie’s Puzzle Generator.

The next step was to pick a picture. A good picture has a lot of visual interest so you don’t have huge areas of “blue sky” pieces. I wanted to make this as a Christmas gift for Mom so I also wanted something that meant something to her. I settled on a picture of the Seattle waterfront that I’m pretty sure I took while they were out here visiting. I cropped it down to get rid of most of the boring blue sky.

I printed off a 16×20 version of that at Costco and then used 3M spray adhesive to attach it to a thick art board from the craft store. By the way, at 240dpi, this image was almost exactly 20″ wide with no scaling. The picture looks gorgeously sharp. It’s incredible how good modern digital cameras are!

Then it was off to the laser cutter. I spent a long time messing around with various tapes trying to find one that would help protect the surface from burning but also would peel off easily after being cut. I never succeeded. Maybe my adhesive wasn’t strong enough, but for some reason the tape would always pull off with the picture instead of leaving the picture stuck to the art board.

I settled on doing three light passes to slowly cut through with minimal burning. You can still see some burning around the cuts but the picture hides a lot of it. I wanted to make a 1000 piece puzzle but I only squeezed 260 in there due to the dimensions of the pictures and not wanting to make microscopic puzzle pieces. These were 0.75″ square so they were already pretty small.

I don’t expect this puzzle to hold up to a lot of beating but hopefully it will at least work once! If you want to see a video about this, David Picciuto has a making a laser cutter puzzle.