New Personal Business Cards

I tend to go to a lot of events, and often run into the problem of sharing contact information with people. Since I am an independent contractor, and work for a small number of fixed clients, I do not have much need of a business card professionally, but decided that it could be of benefit socially as well. I opted to go with Moo.com's mini cards, since they are more portable and uniquely designed. I set to work coming up with a design, which I reached here (front and back):

I posted the design to reddit's design critiques board, and showed it around the office for feedback. Most people liked the recessed wood QR code on the back, but did not think it matched well with the design on the other side. So, I took some advice and inspiration from everybody's suggestions, and came up with this:

The consensus on the new design was almost universally positive, and I sent it to the printers at Moo. I am happy with the result, and can't wait to see if it helps at events and conventions!

Office Chair Reupholstery

My office chair, which I love, was getting ragged with age. It is very old, rescued from an old job I had where it was slated to be thrown out. I loved it enough that I asked to keep it, and have used it at home for several years. While no Aeron, it is very comfortable and very very sturdy. Built from steel and molded plywood, the frame was solid and designed to last. Unfortunately, the upholstery was not. Pieces of it gradually wore away, and holes began to form in the seat with wear. Knowing I would not likely find another chair like it, and not wanting to spend the money on a much more expensive chair that would be only marginally more comfortable, I decided to resue it and attempt reupholstery.

Here is what it looked like before my attempt:

Reading a few sites online, I made a trip to the fabric store and found some clearance upholstery fabric on sale, and some chair foam marked 50% off. It was a bit ugly, but I was more focused on the feel and comfort of the fabric, and its price. Then, I took the chair to my garage and set to work:

The finished result is far from perfect, I could have done a better job if I had taken the time to sew proper corners instead of just tucking them around, but my purpose was satisfied. Spending very little money, I restored the comfort and feel of my favorite chair, and it should last me years more to come.

Maker Faire Kansas City

Last weekend I attended Kansas City's Maker Faire — a showcase of projects, groups and events brought together by area makers, crafts people and folk artists. Projects ranged from the inspiring to the inspired, the curious and weird to the immensely practical, and the futuristic to the classic made new. The maker community is very nerd-friendly and has a very geeky vibe at its core. Many of the projects seemed to have a “can it be done” approach to them, often lacking any practical purpose other than as a rough proof of concept. The range fo tools were often more interesting and elaborate than their output, and often gained much more attention and crowd appeal. The hall and booths were filled with 3d printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons and custom fabricators, some homemade, some commercial, and many still under construction.

Though I only had a few hours to visit the faire, the sheer amount of creative energy and inspirational projects were almost overwhelming to see. Hopefully next year I will be able to participate in the event and show off my own varied creations.

In-N-Out Burger is Overrated

The reputation of In-n-Out Burger is almost legendary. Loved almost universally by anyone who tries it, the simple and famously limited menu attracts praise from visitors from around the globe. Chefs Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller and Julia Child have listed it among their favorites. So, when I found I would be traveling to Dallas, Tx, on business, I knew I had to stop there and try it for myself.

Was it deserving of the praise? Not really. Sure, it was good, far better than what is served at most restaurants with a drive through window. The food was fairly flavorful, well cooked, and tasted fresh for fast food. I appreciated the "Animal Style" option, with mustard cooked into the patty and the addition of thousand island dressing as a sauce. The fries were crisp and hot. But it was still a fast food burger. The meat was still thin, too well done, and there were not enough options to make it interesting.

Five Guy's, a rival burger chain, has a variety of fresh cut vegetables to stack on their burger, In-N-Out only has lettuce and tomato, neither very impressive. Smash-burger has a variety of sauces, cheeses and seasonings they can add to their burgers. Blanc Burger, a kansas city local, has thick burgers made from choice ribeye cooked to order and dripping with juice. Town Topic, another KC favorite, has diner-style burgers cooked on a bed of grilled onions that are simple, but delicious.

Compared to all that, In-N-Out burger just did not feel that special. I enjoyed it, and if it were convenient, I would go back, but I just don't understand the adoration bestowed upon its food. It's just a good fast food burger and decent fries, get over it.

Amazing Homemade Pizza at the Office

Homemade pizza with Star Trek pizza cutter at the office

Homemade pizza with Star Trek pizza cutter at the office

Recently, one of my co-workers (dividesbyzer0 on reddit) brought his pizza oven to the office. We provided ingredients, he brought in the dough and home-made sauce, and 4 pizzas were made in total. I have rarely ever had pizza that good, and the results turned out looking as amazing as they tasted.

A few good local beers and some ciabatta rolls rounded out the best workplace lunch I have ever had.

Here are several photos I took of the event:

Home-made pizza sauce and homemade hand-tossed dough

Home-made pizza sauce and homemade hand-tossed dough, some of the best I have ever had

Toppings all added, looks amazing already

Toppings all added, looks amazing already

Sliding the pizza off the peel and into the oven

Sliding the pizza off the peel and into the oven

The finished pizza, tastes even better than it looks

The finished pizza, tastes even better than it looks

Ciabatta rolls with parmesan and fresh oregano

Ciabatta rolls with parmesan and fresh oregano as a side

I made a thing to fight maker’s block

I have several hobbies, many of which are designed specifically to get me away from the computer. Discovering an idea to pursue with those hobbies can be hard. I occasionally suffer from Maker’s block, where I know I want to work on something, but have no idea what it is. I had that problem recently while trying to come up with a project to learn several new skills. I wanted a project where I could learn soldering, Arduino interfaces, and the use of my new CNC router. Being new to all of those skills, I did not know my limitations or the full extent of the possibilities. So, to fight my maker’s block, I made a thing.

arduino shift register led graph breadboard cnc case design

Disassembled CNC cut case for my Arduino counter thing

What I mean is, I made an object with very little practical use at all, that is aesthetically neutral, where the only real purpose was to gain a greater familiarity and basic skills in the areas I was interested in pursuing. When done, it would be a mostly useless ornament where the work that went into it was far more important than the outcome.

The result is a small block of wood with some wires running out of it for connection to an Arduino, and some holes drilled where you can view a series of 8 LEDs, continually counting from 1 to 8 and then starting over again in an endless loop. I wrote the simple code to control it in the Arduino environment, used some basic components including a shift register, jumpers, resistors and LEDs which I soldered to a printed breadboard, and cut a small case from some scrap wood using my CNC router.

CNC cut case design for arduino shift register counter ornament

The outside of the case for the counter thing

The project took just a few hours to complete, and served its purpose well. I learned what I wanted to learn, I moved past my rut of maker’s block and restored my enthusiasm, and now, I am anxious to find the next thing to work on.

I hung this thing I made next to my desk at home. Next time I am suffering from a creative block, I will see it and remember this experiment. Just build something. Anything. This useless thing is a reminder that the process is as important as the outcome, and starting something is not as hard as it seems.

Arduino next to the shift register counter thing I made

Arduino next to the counter thing