shaving cylinders

A close shave

I started shav­ing, way back in the day, with an elec­tric razor, then switched to dis­pos­ables in my mid twen­ties. Four years ago, I switched to a safety razor. (See: My per­sonal devo­lu­tion in shav­ing) It was the pop­u­lar hip­ster thing to do at the time. The razor was, maybe $40, but the blades were pen­nies.

shaving cylinders

Using shav­ing soap with a brush is far supe­rior to foam from a can. The razor itself? The shave wasn’t as good at first, but I thought I would get more skilled at it over time. I did get bet­ter, but not really enough to match the multi-blade dis­pos­able. Cheeks and neck, no prob­lem. Chin and under the nose, it either didn’t get close enough or would get too close (blood!).

A few weeks ago, I picked up a Quattro razor as an exper­i­ment — my razor of choice back when I used dis­pos­ables. I find that the mul­ti­ple flex­i­ble blades give a remark­ably close shave, even in the prob­lem areas. But because I shave only a cou­ple of times a week and because my scruff doesn’t grow long, but thick, it clogs like crazy.

schick_quattro_titanium

Based on this exper­i­ment, I think I have a new rou­tine: a first rough pass with the Merkur safety razor to get the major­ity of the scruff fol­lowed by a sec­ond detail pass with the Quattro. I like the old-timey and money-saving aspect of the safety razor, but I think I’ve finally learned that it just doesn’t *ahem* cut it for me as my one-and-only razor.

 

Posted in: Dear Diary

barbie_armor

3D Printed Medieval Barbie Armor

I don’t have kids, don’t want kids, but I do have a cer­tain fas­ci­na­tion with toys. It prob­a­bly stems back to the ’80s when the toy sup­ple­ment to the Sears cat­a­log arrived each year, con­ve­niently timed to show up a few months before Christmas. I would comb through every page of that thing — well, every page that was not for girls or babies — think­ing and dream­ing and mem­o­riz­ing all the specs. All the kids looked so happy play­ing with their new Transformers and the Star Wars fig­ures and vehi­cles. I wanted all of them. I ear­marked the pages con­tain­ing the taller-than-a-kid Space Warp mar­ble track, and espe­cially the Omnibot 2000. (Neither of which I ever received.) But my favorite toys were always related to build­ing and learn­ing.

As an adult I do not buy very many toys (and by exten­sion, gad­gets), but I always have to stop at the sci­ence museum gift shop. I keep up to date on the lat­est giz­mos. It is no coin­ci­dence that most stuff com­ing out of my 3D printer tends to be toys, trin­kets, puz­zles, and geo­met­ric odd­i­ties.

Certain toys jump out at me more than oth­ers. Since becom­ing aware of STE[A]M (Science, Technology, Engineering, [Art,] and Math), I now pay spe­cial atten­tion to toys that try to break girls out of the pink aisle at Toys-Я-Us. Last year that was Goldie Blox, which com­bines sto­ry­telling with engi­neer­ing. Just this week it is Faire Play: Barbie-Compatible 3D Printed Medieval Armor from an inter­net friend, Zheng3, on Kickstarter. I have men­tioned him a few other times on this blog. Notably, he devel­oped Seej, the 3D print­able table­top bat­tle game that reminds me of another favorite 80s game, Crossbows and Catapults. My own small con­tri­bu­tion to the game was a mod­u­lar penny cat­a­pult I designed two years ago.

Zheng3’s Kickstarter project is to design 3D print­able medieval armor for Barbie dolls. I see this as being a great tran­si­tion to help girls ease their doll play from “let’s go shop­ping,” “let’s cook din­ner,” or even “some day Prince Charming will come” to a much more active and kick-ass “let’s fight that nasty dragon and save the vil­lage.” In addi­tion to the straight-up cos­tume play, I would hope the 3D-printed aspect might be an extra inspi­ra­tion. Maybe the kids have direct access to a 3D printer — be it a parent’s, at a friend’s house, or the Cube printer at the local Office Depot — and see the armor being printed, hope­fully lead­ing to curios­ity into how the 3D printer works. Or maybe they’re inspired to see they can mod­ify toys in their own cus­tom ways, whether it is by invent­ing their own 3D mod­els or more low-tech, like mold­ing in Fimo clay.

barbie_armor barbie_athena

 

He’s already devel­oped and released The Athena Makeover Kit (pic­tured on the right), which includes spear, shield, and winged boots. The thing I find kind of inter­est­ing is how strangely mis­shapen and bloated the boots look. Go ahead — click through to the Thingiverse page and select the boot model thumb­nail image. Careful eyes will see that Barbie’s feet are pre-molded for high-heel shoes. The out­stretched foot is not very com­pat­i­ble with boots, so the boots had to adapt, had to become more bulky at the ankle.

So whether you have kids who play with Barbies or whether you just like the spirit of the project, I’d encour­age you to con­tribute a few dol­lars to his kick­starter: http://kck.st/Ol1Bid

Posted in: MakerBot

calca

Calca: the notepad calculator

For years, I’ve been search­ing for a good free-form sym­bolic cal­cu­la­tor pro­gram that works across mul­ti­ple desk­top oper­at­ing sys­tems. I think I’ve finally found one worth men­tion­ing. My goals:

  • Be able to enter expres­sions sim­i­lar to what I could do on a TI-85, back in the day, for exam­ple: 2^2+(2*10)
  • Be able to eas­ily edit and copy previously-entered expres­sions.
  • Input/output hex. I work in hex a lot. This includes expres­sions (0x48+0x16) as well as base con­ver­sion (0xC3 as decimal or 0b110101 as decimal) and bit­wise math (0xFC AND 0x7F).
  • Lightweight. Quick to load, quick to cal­cu­late. Get in, get out. Or leave it run­ning in the back­ground with­out eat­ing a ton of resources. I don’t need or want Mathematica or Maxima.
  • It needs to min­i­mally run on Windows and Mac. Ideally a Linux ver­sion would be avail­able, too. I write code on Linux (work) and Mac (home), but my office Windows box ends up being my doc­u­men­ta­tion ref­er­ence, scratch­pad, cal­cu­la­tor, and every­thing else non-coding because I typ­i­cally run my Linux IDE full-screen (bridged with Synergy, nat­u­rally).

I’d pre­vi­ously got­ten hooked on Soulver. It’s great on the Mac, but there are not Windows or Linux ports. There is an iOS port, but I can’t stand the data entry. SpeedCrunch is avail­able for all plat­forms, but like many Open Source pro­grams, the oper­a­tion and user inter­face is clunky.

A few months back, I found Calca, “the text edi­tor that loves math,” for Windows and Mac. It lit­er­ally is a text edi­tor. The trick is that it looks for “=” and inter­prets these as def­i­n­i­tion state­ments and it looks for “=>”, and treats these lines as prob­lems to solve. Everything from “=>” to the end of the line is rewrit­ten to become a read-only answer. For exam­ple:

calca

I don’t come close to using all the fea­tures in Calca: func­tions, unit/currency con­ver­sion, matrix math, deriv­a­tives, and so on. My needs are small, but with the pieces I do use, it per­forms extremely well.

A few things I don’t like about Calca:

  • There are no bit­wise shifts or inver­sions. I some­times run into cases where a 32-bit inte­ger is com­posed of sev­eral unaligned bit fields. For instance, bits 5..7 might be one field. It would be great to say: 0x1234 >> 5 & 0b111
  • I fre­quently get con­fused with base con­ver­sion syn­tax. Is it “as dec” or “in dec”? I fre­quently pick the wrong one.
  • Having to type “=>” at the end of each line is typo­graph­i­cally awk­ward. I appre­ci­ate Soulver hav­ing a sec­ond col­umn that auto-updates as you type.
  • It would be nice to have a “pre­vi­ous answer” sym­bol. The TI cal­cu­la­tors auto­mat­i­cally insert an “Ans” vari­able (a place­holder for the pre­vi­ous line’s answer) if you start a new line with an oper­a­tor instead of an operand.

For me, it was worth buy­ing both a Windows and Mac license. I use it all the time.

Posted in: Software Work

ppheatmap

Puzzled Pint Portland heat map

In response to the pre­vi­ous post (Puzzled Pint sur­veys and met­rics), some­one had sug­gested build­ing a heat map. I built a fairly prim­i­tive one with Google Earth and a short Ruby script. The radius of each cir­cle is pro­por­tional to the num­ber of atten­dees. The height is random-ish and only varies to help dis­tin­guish over­lap­ping cir­cles.

ppheatmap

http://netninja.com/fun/ppheatmap/ppint.kml

It’s hard to really to pull any great con­clu­sions from the 25 data points. Most impor­tantly, I don’t know of a way to nor­mal­ize for our growth over time or how fac­tor in the sea­sonal atten­dance flux. In an ideal data set, those could be fac­tored in and we’d track strictly attendence-for-location with­out also track­ing attendance-for-{other vari­able}. Still, it’s a nice look­ing chart and I learned a thing or two about KML.

Posted in: Code Portland Puzzle Games

repeat

Puzzled Pint Survey Results

At the most recent Puzzled Pint event in Portland, we put out a sur­vey for all play­ers to respond to indi­vid­u­ally. (Previously, we had put out sur­veys with a per-team gran­u­lar­ity, but never per-person.) Because Puzzled Pint does not have a great plat­form for writ­ing blog posts, I thought I’d post the results here, then point to them from Twitter, Facebook, etc. This plan also lets me steal the credit for being the author­ity behind the sur­vey.

In real­ity, I believe that Matt cre­ated it based on com­ments from all of us. DeeAnn did exten­sive proof read­ing and edit­ing. Curtis did the data entry, and I just made a cou­ple of fancy graphs. And typed up this blather.

So allow me to share the ques­tions and answers with you:

If we start repeat­ing bars, would you pre­fer: one home bar that we use each month or 3–4 bars we rotate between

Puzzled Pint is get­ting big. Both Seattle and London are new to the Puzzled Pint fam­ily. Both cities are larger than Portland was, that many months in. In fact, Seattle has had atten­dance fluc­tu­a­tions, with some months rival­ing Portland for size. In Portland, our big months are over the sum­mer. Why? No idea. College stu­dents are off from school, so have more time? It’s sunny out, so extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties become more appeal­ing? Regardless of why sum­mer is so pop­u­lar, win­ter is our slow sea­son. And this win­ter we have num­bers that rival summer’s. From the months we took atten­dance, includ­ing play­ers and Game Control:

attendance

So here in Portland, we need to come up with bars that can com­fort­ably hold 70–90 peo­ple (in addi­tion to their reg­u­lar Tuesday crowd). We have the self-imposed con­straint of not repeat­ing bars. We’ve bro­ken this a cou­ple of times in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, but that is our gen­eral rule. This makes it dif­fi­cult to find bars. There are plenty of bars out there, and new ones open­ing all the time — this scheme worked out when we were 20–40 peo­ple, but starts to break down around 60. Scouting new bars becomes increas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

We are deal­ing with inter­nal strug­gles in PDX Game Control. None of us really want to give up the unique-bar-a-month scheme, but our size starts to force the issue. We thought we’d crowd­source some opin­ions and ideas. This barstool-like pie chart shows how you responded to hav­ing a sin­gle home bar ver­sus cycling through a few:

repeat

There are a few ben­e­fits to hav­ing a sin­gle home bar. The group (hope­fully) ends up on good terms with the man­agers, who know to staff up on that night, who might offer up spe­cials on food and drink. But it kills the mys­tique. You can still have a “loca­tion puz­zle” that resolves to a pass­word you need to give to col­lect a puz­zle packet that night, but that’s more of a workaround ver­sus a true loca­tion puz­zle. Having a few home bars we ran­domly cycle through helps keep the loca­tion puz­zle scheme pure and doesn’t favor any par­tic­u­lar quad­rant of the city (as long as the bars are spread out).

Several of the write-in com­ments (a cou­ple are marked as “other” in the graph because they didn’t tech­ni­cally select an answer) sug­gested open­ing up the rota­tion to more than just 3–4 bars. A half-dozen? Ten? Twelve? Twenty-four? One sug­ges­tion was to repeat after a year or two, which sounds rea­son­able to me.

If Puzzled Pint went to the fol­low­ing areas, would you attend that month? Sellwood, NE 42nd & Killingsworth, SE 82nd & Division, East of I-205, St. John’s, Hillsdale (SW)

We asked a few ques­tions about travel dis­tance. We know folks arrive at Puzzled Pint from all over. We try to keep it cen­tral: sim­ple and quick to get to from down­town via pub­lic tran­sit. This keeps us out of Beaverton (no bars near the Max stops) and Gresham (way too far). But what about far NE? St. John’s? These were the responses:

locations

I wasn’t sur­prised at all by the neg­a­tive I-205 response. I guess it exists on some maps, but mine ends near there with “here be drag­ons.” (My inter­nal map is also bounded by the west hills, Woodstock, and Glisan, but that’s just me.) The 82nd and St. John’s responses sur­prised me. Personally, St. John’s feels quite iso­lated from the rest of the city. And I don’t mind SE 82nd, as I live just beyond 50th, but under­stand that it feels dis­tant for many folks.

If we ran on mul­ti­ple nights, which day would you attend? Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday

What about split­ting Puzzled Pint between days of the week? This is a bit of a biased and self-selecting ques­tion. Folks that can do Tuesday are present to answer. Those that can’t come to Puzzled Pint because it’s on a Tuesday are not at all rep­re­sented. Admittedly, this is one of the least pop­u­lar ideas float­ing around Game Control — we’re then either ded­i­cat­ing two nights that week, or we’re split­ting the team — but we thought we’d float it out there and check the responses. Unsurprisingly, most folks wanted it to stick to Tuesdays, as shown by this barstool-pie-chart, though Wednesdays might work as an alter­nate?

nights

Assorted com­ments...

We have had sev­eral com­ments, both on the sur­vey and in per­son, over the past few months about keep­ing loca­tions baby-friendly. Fortunately many of the larger loca­tions tend to be more restaurant/pub than dive-bar, so this has sort of worked out on its own. We’ll do our best to con­tinue to be baby-friendly.

One of the more silly sug­ges­tions was to start our own bar. How hard can that be, right? Puzzles The Bar, any­one?

Do you have addi­tional com­ments? Feel free to chime in on Twitter (@PuzzledPint), Facebook, or, uh... in the com­ments, here, I guess?

Posted in: Portland Puzzle Games

2014-01-11 11.05.40

Hacking the squirrel feeder

Two years ago I built a squir­rel feeder. It was a sim­ple lit­tle thing with a flap on top and a plex­i­glass win­dow. It didn’t live unmo­lested for very long. Squirrels started chew­ing on the feeder itself!

IMG_0003

when it was new

IMG_0062

the first days of the chew-fest

Over time, I dis­cov­ered the very bot­tom of the feeder’s con­tents would mold. The retain­ing chan­nels got chewed out and the plex­i­glass popped out. I used it for a while as a plat­form to hold food, but more often than not, the con­tents got spilled onto the ground in a feed­ing frenzy. Neither squir­rel nor bird wanted to try for the ground-based food, given the numer­ous neigh­bor­hood cats on the prowl.

2014-01-11 11.00.55

it’s seen bet­ter days.

I’ve been putting dried corn cobs on the plat­form with a small amount of suc­cess. I typ­i­cally put one loosely in the plat­form area, which would get knocked to the ground and ignored. I also have a long wood screw attached to a loop of wire that I’d use to impale the corn and tie it to the nearby fen­ce­post. This sort of worked, but I had to rotate the corn because the squir­rels and scrub jays are appar­ently not smart enough to flip it around on their own when they’ve chewed all the ker­nels off of one side.

I thought it was time for a lit­tle upgrade. Or, if not an upgrade exactly, a hack. The corn-on-a-spike method was a good start to improve on. I drilled some holes, mounted the screws directly to the feeder, and now I have a three-corn feeder that is idiot proof squir­rel and scrub jay proof: they can’t knock the cobs onto the ground and they can get at all the ker­nels on their own.

2014-01-11 11.04.00 2014-01-11 11.04.58

The cobs in the front even do a good job of min­i­miz­ing the wild squir­rel and bird par­ties that cause peanuts placed inside the main plat­form area from spilling out onto the ground.

2014-01-11 11.05.40

Posted in: Dear Diary

spam-n-limas

Yep, I made those Spam-n-Limas

Yes, I indeed made that Spam-n-Lima recipe.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, a Buzzfeed arti­cle of upset­ting vin­tage recipes floated around the inter­net. A lot of them looked gen­uinely bad. A lot of them used some def­i­n­i­tion of “salad” of which I was pre­vi­ously unaware. But one of them stuck out to me:

spam-n-limas

How bad could it be? I set out to dis­cover. Full dis­clo­sure: I like spam. I like lima beans.

2014-01-12 16.54.03-2

I picked a night when my wife was out of town, well, tech­ni­cally, return­ing to town. My plan was to treat Spam-n-Limas as a “decoy din­ner.” It was a din­ner I would post to Instagram and Facebook, to sub­tly alert her to a poten­tially hor­ri­ble din­ner. No wor­ries — at the same time, I secretly made a tasty dish of chicken penne alfredo as our real din­ner. To sur­prise her, I specif­i­cally avoided any men­tion of this “real” din­ner.

The first prob­lem with this vin­tage quote-unquote-recipe is that it listed nei­ther quan­ti­ties nor ratios. I sort of had to wing it.

recipe-closeup

The sec­ond prob­lem was lard. I wasn’t about to buy a big tub of lard that I’d use exactly once for a nov­elty recipe. Lard is pretty gross (says the man who likes both Spam and lima beans). My quan­ti­ties looked a lit­tle some­thing like this:

  • 1 cup of chopped tomato (not from a can, but from a tetra­pak)
  • 2 cups of strained tomato (also from a tetra­pak)
  • about half an onion? (I do not know the exact quan­tity I used — I had a dish of pre-chopped onion left over from a pre­vi­ous recipe)
  • 1/2 bell pep­per
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 can of (low sodium, which is still pretty high in sodium) Spam, cut into 8–10 slices
  • all but about 3/4 cup of a bag of frozen lima beans

It all came together ade­quately, I guess. I fol­lowed the flow of the recipe, but I prob­a­bly should have sautéed the onions and pep­pers, then thrown the tomato in on top of them. Most recipes work that way, but I blindly fol­lowed this one in its ingre­di­ent order with­out think­ing, until it was too late to switch the order. In the end, I pulled this beast from the oven:

nothing ever turns out looking like the photo in the recipe book

noth­ing ever turns out look­ing like the photo in the recipe book

One huge dif­fer­ence: you can’t really see any of the tomato “Spanish sauce” in the orig­i­nal recipe’s image. Should I have used less? If so, it would have been a dry mess. Cooked-then-baked, lima beans with­out any sort of liq­uid turn into rocks, as evi­denced by a few of the top­most beans here.

I didn’t find it hor­ri­ble, but I also didn’t find a rea­son to ever make it again. Maybe lard would have improved it? Or not. No idea. The sauce tasted really out of place from the other ingre­di­ents. It’s also not really vis­i­ble in the picture-ad-recipe, leav­ing me won­der­ing if the pic­ture and attached recipe really are the same thing.

Honestly, if I were to make this again, I’d fry the Spam and serve the limas as a side dish, totally skip­ping the sauce.

Posted in: Dear Diary Food

Main Menu

Introducing Puzzle Sidekick

jigsaw-1024

When I last updated
ARG Tools
back in August, I alluded to an upcom­ing new ver­sion of the app called Puzzle Sidekick. I am pleased to announce that it is now avail­able. If you are famil­iar with ARG Tools, you already know what it does and I sus­pect you will be quite happy with the update. If ARG Tools is new to you, take a look. It is a col­lec­tion of tools and ref­er­ence sheets help­ful for folks who play The Game, puz­zle trails, Alternate Reality Games (ARGS), and so on. It does every­thing from crossword-style word pat­tern searches to decod­ing com­mon ciphers to quick-reference for schemes like Morse code and braille.

This update embraces iOS 7 and pulls in the flat visual style. In fact, it is iOS-7-only. If you need com­pat­i­bil­ity with older devices, ARG Tools isn’t going away, but it will no longer be updated.

Navigating to the tool you need has been greatly opti­mized. Instead of scrolling through a long list of every­thing, as in ARG Tools, most things fit on one screen. The nav­i­ga­tion menu is a bit more deep, but it means every­thing will be in fixed posi­tions on the screen, so your mus­cle mem­ory will play a big­ger part in nav­i­ga­tion. Additionally, the gen­res of tools are now color-coded. This helps you bet­ter find what you’re look­ing for at a glance as well as get a feel for where you are in the nav­i­ga­tion.

Color-coded tools (click for higher detail)

Color-coded tools (click for more detail)

This release was a lit­tle bit rushed. As I men­tioned, I announced it in August and reserved the App Store name, domain name, and Twitter account at the time. I got a friendly poke from Apple a few weeks ago stat­ing that I had been sit­ting on the name for too long with an ulti­ma­tum to pub­lish soon or they’ll revoke the name. Because of this, there are two things that are a lit­tle unpol­ished:

The graphic design. I’ve had a tex­tual descrip­tion of the UI and graphic ele­ments in my head for months. “The main menu is inter­lock­ing puz­zle pieces, three dif­fer­ent col­ors that carry into the sub-menus. The app icon reflects the col­ored puz­zle piece motif to quickly rec­og­nize the app at a glance.” Turning that into real pix­els only hap­pened a few weeks ago. I feel what I have is ade­quate, but it doesn’t really feel the same qual­ity as the Cryptex stock art I bought for ARG Tools. This will prob­a­bly go through a cou­ple of rounds of revi­sion as I find a design I like bet­ter. At the very least, I need to alter the sim­ple rounded-corners to bet­ter match the strange bezier curves used for the iOS 7 icon cor­ners. (I didn’t real­ize they’d switched from sim­ple radii when I made it.) But hope­fully there will be more qual­ity changes than just that.

The iPad ver­sion. Wait, what iPad ver­sion? Exactly. My goal was to release Puzzle Sidekick as a uni­ver­sal iPhone/iPad app, but I ran into some tech­ni­cal snags and didn’t want to risk my release dead­line. It got pushed out to ver­sion 1.1. Coming soon.

You can find more infor­ma­tion about Puzzle Sidekick at puzzlesidekick.com or look for it on the App Store.

Posted in: iPhone Puzzle Games Software

2014-01-04 16.01.48

The End (of the notebook)

Back in April, I started an exper­i­ment with Field Notes Expedition Edition. I love always hav­ing a notepad/notebook and (Fisher Space) Pen at hand. I did index cards for a while (i.e. the Hipster PDA) but I didn’t like them loose, I didn’t like stor­ing them in an over­sized wal­let, and I didn’t like secur­ing them with a scratchy binder clip. I moved on to pocket note­books. I like the stitched bind­ing on the pocket Moleskine Cahir, but the cov­ers kept falling apart, the pages ripped out, and I wasn’t too keen on the off-yellow paper with dark grid­lines. After putting up with a lot of fail­ures, I switched to a Field Notes dot-grid (Fire Spotter Edition). I was very happy with the white paper and the fact that the grid sort of faded into the back­ground, unlike the unig­nor­able Moleskine notebook’s grid. Unfortunately, those note­books didn’t even sur­vive as long as the Moleskine ones. I guess I just go through note­books more slowly than oth­ers. Or maybe I’m more rough on them than oth­ers.

2013-04-28 17.10.13

I had never got­ten to the end of a pocket note­book before it totally crum­bled apart. Until today. Today, I reached the end of a note­book with­out it falling apart.

field_notes_end

The Expedition Edition, with it’s Tyvek-like water– and tear-proof plastic-like paper sur­vived. Nine months later, I’m ready to start my sec­ond note­book of the three-pack.

2014-01-04 16.01.48

 

Posted in: Dear Diary

Ebenezer

2013 in review

It’s the end of one year, the begin­ning of another, the time of Christmas cards and fam­ily newslet­ters. I haven’t typ­i­cally been into either of those, but this has been a spe­cial year — in both good and bad ways. If, some­how, you arrived at a print copy of this blog post, you can find a bet­ter copy online, with click­able links and zoomable images, by going to http://nja.me/2013 in your web browser.

The biggest news, which is also the worst news, is that our lit­tle guy, Ebenezer, passed away the week­end before Christmas. That has put a damper on the hol­i­day spirit.

Ebenezer

On a more pos­i­tive note, the end of the year marks 6 years of Kim and I in this now-105 year old house. We got it in November 2007 and moved in in December. There are con­stant small projects and repairs, and there have been a few big repairs.

We occa­sion­ally have a few mice around the prop­erty, likely due to the com­post pile at the back of the yard. Sometimes one ven­tures into the house. They rarely ven­ture indoors, but I’m reminded of the time I left a loaf of bread on the counter overnight. The next morn­ing, there was a very car­toon­ish mouse­hole bur­rowed from the back of the bread to the front. Whether indoors or out­doors, Norman (our indoor/outdoor tuxedo cat) does a pretty good job of find­ing them. This year, we had a brief encounter with attic rats. Cats couldn’t really help with that sit­u­a­tion. Fortunately, I man­aged to design and print some really nice look­ing vent cov­ers over the ingress points. I used traps to get the ones that were already indoors, then attempted to con­vert the left­over traps into toy cars (with very lit­tle suc­cess).

I’ve fixed cab­i­net doors, replaced the garbage dis­posal, pulled out an old dish­washer (though I let pro­fes­sion­als install the new one), put a lot of work into the gar­den, and count­less other things I’m prob­a­bly for­get­ting. I’ve learned pick­ling (of our home-grown cucum­bers) and dab­bled in cheese­mak­ing.

As I write this, Kim is in the other room, rear­rang­ing the cab­i­net con­tents and replac­ing the lesser-used spice rack jars (cajun pow­der? really?) with more rare but more com­monly (in this house­hold) used ones such as berberé and smoked paprika.

octocatOn the more tech­ni­cal front, as many folks know, I got a MakerBot 3D printer a few years back. A lot of what I do with it is down­load­ing and print­ing mod­els that other folks have shared, such as an iPhone stand, ghost fig­ures, or a dog skull. But I also design and share some of my own mod­els. Although the Octocat from July 2011 con­tin­ues to be my top-downloaded model, I’ve got­ten bet­ter at 3D mod­el­ing and have released a dozen new designs into the world over the past year. Also, I’ve made improve­ments in small-format stu­dio pho­tog­ra­phy, so that I can bet­ter por­tray those mod­els to the world. It turns out that there’s a huge dif­fer­ence between an unedited cellphone-camera pic­ture and one with a proper back­drop, light­ing, and a bit of photo-retouching.

This past year, I pub­lished an aver­age of one 3D model per month. About twice that never made it beyond pro­to­typ­ing or were oth­er­wise unwor­thy of pub­lish­ing. It wasn’t an even one model per month. The pub­lish­ing cycle saw some months with sev­eral releases and other months with none. Here is a visual sum­mary of those mod­els in no par­tic­u­lar order:

catfoodtoy-ovals-thick_preview_featured In January, I designed a cat food dis­pens­ing toy.
2013-12-25 13.42.02 This Christmas after­noon, I cre­ated a jin­gle bell cat toy.
scoop I designed this para­met­ric mea­sur­ing cup. Do you need just one mea­sur­ing cup with­out hav­ing to buy a whole set? How about an odd size like ⅔ cup? Or some­thing totally bizarre like 3.14 cups? Pick the vol­ume you need, and it com­putes the cor­rect dimen­sions and gives you a 3D file.
PotatoHead_preview_featured I cre­ated the con­cept of “Mr. Vegetable Head” and some basic parts to share, with the hope that folks more skilled in artis­tic 3D design would con­tribute bet­ter parts. (Nobody did.)
monogram_cube In a style inspired by the cover of the book “Gödel, Escher, Bach,” I designed a sys­tem to let you pick three let­ters, which are then syn­the­sized into a mono­gram cube that shows you each let­ter, based on the direc­tion you look at it.
yodo_pieces_preview_featured Based on some rough sketches given to me, I cre­ated these game tokens for a board game that some friends invented.
printed_box2_preview_featured Because I switched to a new blade brand that comes in card­board boxes instead of plas­tic, I cre­ated a box to safely dis­pose of used razor blades.
toppers_preview_featured Some of our cat med­i­cine came in badly designed bot­tles that are dif­fi­cult to open. I iter­ated through a few alter­na­tive designs until I arrived at a good ergonomic med­i­cine bot­tle top­per that was far eas­ier to open.
2013-10-13-14.34.47 When deal­ing with a rat prob­lem, I designed and printed some attic vent cov­ers.
ratracer-top I tried (and failed) to cre­ated a lit­tle car made from left­over rat traps.
ratracer-mousecar I then took the same con­cept and applied it to a smaller mouse trap car, with slightly less fail­ure.
image2 I cre­ated a slim mount­ing bracket for a pop­u­lar tiny micro­proces­sor board. Strangely enough, even though this has a highly spe­cial­ized pur­pose, it’s a close sec­ond behind the fun, silly, and absurd Octocat when count­ing the num­ber of down­loads.

I’ve writ­ten another year of puz­zles for Puzzled Pint. In case you don’t know, Puzzled Pint is a monthly puzzle-solving event here in Portland, but also simul­cast out to Seattle and London. (Think logic and word puz­zles, not jig­saw.) It is held at a new loca­tion every month. The night before, we post a puz­zle online that solves to a bar name. The night of the event itself, we dis­trib­ute pack­ets of 4–6 puz­zles each that folks can pon­der over, with a pint or cock­tail in hand. It’s a fun, intel­lec­tual monthly social hour.

I also designed a puz­zle box as part of a puz­zle hunt that the local com­mu­nity threw specif­i­cally for an audi­ence of one: Curtis, one of the found­ing mem­bers of the local puz­zle scene.

On the work front, I’ve been at Elemental for a lit­tle over three years. Since Portland’s city growth tends to pack inward ver­sus sprawl out­ward, my com­mute is a quick 20–30 minute bus ride. I aver­age about 5.5 hrs of walk­ing per day (28,000 steps). I don’t have per­fect dri­ving data for the cal­en­dar year, but I can say that between July 2012, when gas was $3.79, and July 2013 (when I next bought gaso­line, a year later, at $4.09), I drove 115 miles. Most of that was fun sum­mer­time top-down dri­ving in the warm sun.

walking

walk­ing sta­tis­tics

This year, Elemental flew me to the C++Now con­fer­ence in beau­ti­ful Aspen. I have a patent appli­ca­tion sub­mit­ted, related to closed cap­tion­ing. It took a bit of back-and-forth with the lawyers. It’s entirely in the USPTO’s hands now. My under­stand­ing is that we’ll hear back from them in about three years, regard­less of whether it’s approved or declined. If declined, it may take another cou­ple of years of rework. Government effi­ciency at its best.

moo_sticker_roundKim’s busi­ness and full-time pas­sion, Sakkara Clothing & Costume, is doing well. 2013 was a great year. She’s look­ing for­ward to the next year, full of travel and design­ing new col­lec­tions.

Her vend­ing sched­ule gives us sev­eral mini-vacations each year. They’re not full-blown vaca­tions because she always has to work a cou­ple of days, but we always take some extra days to visit friends, go to muse­ums, explore the city we’re in, and to just have fun.

Although I’ve slowly built up con­fi­dence in the kitchen, Kim remains the more expe­ri­enced and ver­sa­tile between us. Occasionally, we have “make some­thing from noth­ing” nights, where we raid the back of the cab­i­nets to make deli­cious food from what is avail­able, like a chal­lenge. We have a run­ning joke about those nights. She keeps adding ingre­di­ents until it’s good. When I try the same, every ingre­di­ent I add makes “some­thing from noth­ing” worse. She can invent recipes on the fly. I require prac­tic­ing a base­line recipe a few times before I’m com­fort­able impro­vis­ing vari­a­tions. Me, make up a recipe from scratch? Forget about it.

That’s about it for 2013. Let’s hope every­one has an amaz­ing 2014!

Posted in: Dear Diary