Jan 2 — Silly little sketch

Catching up on things from the holiday break, but I took a few minutes to break out Paper on the iPad. Just fooling around, remembering how the UI works, etc…

2018 should see a lot of sketching, in various formats. Maybe this is the year I finally learn to draw for realz?


2018 Reboot!

Let’s be honest; 2017 sucked. Moving on.


2018 is going to involve a return to taking care of myself… physically as well as mentally. I’ve really let that slip and I’m feeling it. Bad.

I recently took time to review what makes me feel good, mentally. One of the biggies is being productive; but not in the way of being-busy but of growing, learning, and creating.

So for 2018 I’ve decided to try to make something every day.

Most days it will be something small; that is OK.

Today I made this blog post.

Trying to Rediscover Some Inspiration…

Ever get to about 3pm and feel like you’re just not going to get anything else important done for work, might as well give up on the day?

Ever get to Thursday and feel like “eh, kind of giving up on this week…”

Ever get to the holidays and decide to basically give up on the rest of the year?

Ever get to the point where you just want to give up on the next decade or so?

Yeah. That.

(No real point… just felt like getting this out of my head.)

2016 Theme: Level Up!

Well I feel like I’ve said this before, but last year sucked… here’s to a much better 2016!

I see I haven’t posted since Maddie’s 3-year birthday. Since then…. well, very little has changed. At least in 2014 I got several projects done around the house; 2015 not so much.

I did make some progress on building a home-based business, with Sproutwise Kids — had hoped to be much further along by now but I’m still happy with the foundation we have in place. We achieved profitability (without salaries anyway), and managed to give $591 to charities in the process. Good start!


So how about those 2015 goals?

I spent a good bit of time a year ago figuring out where my focus should be, in order to look back at the year with satisfaction. What I didn’t put in here was anything relating to Maddie; that is just the giant boulder in the middle of the room that we have to simply work around as we try to craft a happy life…

Here’s what I came up with:


1. Get SL to $200k in profit.

OK… in retrospect that was overly optimistic (though it’s not impossible to do that, given the right type of business and a bit of luck!)

But having that as a focus did help me drive hard in the right direction on a good many things; and frankly having something to work on building helped keep me sane through the long long long days and nights of tending to Maddie.

In 2016, I actually think we could hit that goal, if we execute well. (btw I keep saying “we” — building this business with my brother-in-law; so $200k profit would be split between us…)

2. Establish a Friend Rhythm

FAIL. But it’s still important to me; so it’s something I will work into my 2016 planning which is in progress.

3. Climb three V8’s

Well, I got one. (Technically a V8- but I’m counting it!) But I don’t feel bad about that at all. It was a fun goal to work towards, and it did have some great side effects — helped me focus a bit more on healthy habits; and got me to the gym a couple of times a week (which again helped my sanity).

4. Outdoors Time

Yes. And it definitely worked. More of that in 2016…

5. Grow relationships with 3 mentors/coaches

Hmm; not really. I ended up subbing this with “find some folks online to follow and learn from”. Not nearly as great as real relationships… it was what I felt I could do in 2015. Still need to think about where to go with this one.


level-up2016 — Time to “Level Up”.

Forget about New Years Resolutions… to actually get somewhere you need a system.

In retrospect that’s the biggest problem with my 2015 list above — it’s just a bunch of goals without any real strategies as to how I was going to get there…

To be fair, for each of these, in 2015, I did write up some strategies (separately) and I reviewed every month. Useful, and helpful, but I want to find a more effective way in 2016.

The one good thing about surviving the wasteland of suck that was 2015 is that I feel like I’ve truly regained my footing, and can rebuild a better life from here on out.

Maddie will continue to be a roller-coaster and time-sink… but I can work around it. No point in worrying about stuff outside my control.

So going forward I’m putting into place some systems to help get towards my 2016 goals… My theme for 2016 is “Level Up” — been experimenting with lots of things over the last 2 years or so… time to put the pieces together and effect some major changes in 2016. 1% better. Every. Single. Day.

Maddie is Turning Three

April 2015

April 2015

Maddie will be three years old in a week or so. Wow that’s depressing…

Mainly for my own easy reference, here are all my old blog posts on the topic — wow I was naive two years ago when I said “hopefully this will all be over soon”. Really could not imagine at the time that we would still be in basically the same situation at age 3.

June 2013 — one year into the ordeal:

August 2013 — Maddie hits 16 months…

September 2013 — We switched to a GJ tube and for a brief while I thought we were getting somewhere:

November 2013 — Can you believe this is all because of stomach gas???

April 2014 — Checking in at ~2 years old

June 2014 — 26 months; just had to do a brain dump…


So now here we are at age 3. We’re still just trying to get through each day. Still no real progress on any of the major things: can’t talk, can’t eat, can’t stand — hell can’t sit up unassisted.

Still feeding her through the g-tube 22 hours a day, and dealing with painful tummy gas every 15-30 minutes. Still retching a few times per day.

It’s fucking groundhog day over here.

She doesn’t look like a baby anymore; her face has developed into that of a sweet little toddler. But no toddling… just holding her for hours on end, including lots of thrashing around and crying.

What is Going On???

Something isn’t right here. We still don’t have a diagnosis; but more to the point — nobody else that I’ve ever heard of (we’ve asked doctors) seems to have had this kind of tummy gas problem. In theory we’re supposed to just push in a couple ounces of food every hour or two and unhook the g-tube extension.

If we could do that, we’d be in heaven.

We have her hooked up to an expansion tube literally 23 hours per day. She’s only off for therapies and perhaps a bath. Holding a toddler with an open tube of tummy contents all the time just doesn’t work.

Has anyone else out there experienced this? I would truly love to find out and compare notes.

Nursing Help (through Medicaid) is Saving Us

Thank goodness for our nurse aide; we have help about 24 hours/week now, which is the only way I can get anything done at all. And she’s great… she actually suctions the tube just like we do to relieve Maddie’s stomach bubbles. No way I would ask anyone to do that; as a parent you just do… but Silvia has just adopted whatever she has to do to make Maddie comfortable. Wow.

Her nursing and therapies are being paid for by Medicaid. Fuck anyone that goes around hating on government and wanting to cut everything… real people are helped by these things. Real people are hurt when you cut them.

Last Thoughts…

The thing that’s really bugging me is that Sydney has started shutting Maddie out more and more. Rarely interacts with her, and always resists giving her a goodnight hug and kiss. Resists hard. Very sad to see. We had those two close together (~18 months) on purpose so they’d have each other… but they don’t.


Here we are at 3, and I hope I can write something so much happier at age 4. Until then, we just keep on humming “Carry On” and keep trying our best not to give in to the urge to strangle her.

Her birthday is coming up, so we need to have a little party — for Sydney to feel like things are normal more than anything else.

But to us, each birthday is a bitter reminder of how far we have not come. She still feels stuck in time as an infant, and three years of having an infant crying in your ear starts to get tiresome.

2014 – Year in Pictures

I’ll be honest; toward the end of 2014 I woke up feeling blue. A whole lap around the Sun, and there didn’t seem to be all that much to show for it.

Didn’t get anywhere with work… Maddie is still a 24/7 challenge… my todo list is longer than ever… and I still don’t look like Ryan Gosling — WTF life???

Photo Stream to the rescue.

Aaaahhh… after scrolling through a couple thousand pictures, I see that good things did, in fact, happen this year.

First off, it’s fun to see how much Sydney has grown. She doesn’t look like a toddler anymore:


Jan 2014



Jan 2015


(And that’s not even a great picture of Syd — she looks so much more grown up these days!)





So what else? I did manage to sneak in a little trip to Las Vegas in February. Not that Las Vegas, the fun one:


Canyons around Red Rocks




Was great to see Mike. Hiking around with the brothers… good times. Despite the cast:






Let’s see what else…


In March I started to get serious about the mud-pit we call a backyard.

Last year I built an epic playset out back… but ran out of momentum before I did anything about cushioning the landing. Well after a few too many times cleaning up muddy tracks, here’s what we managed to do:






(First, though, I had to run extra power out to my workshop — now the lights don’t dim anymore when I turn on my saw!)

(BTW Mucho thanks for your help with that, Nate!)



The main backyard goal was to build a deck… but to do that I needed a functioning workshop.

Besides the power and massive internal organization, that meant adding on a little lean-to for my dust collector, and expanding the concrete pad out front… so that was my April project.

Getting organized!

Getting organized!

Dust Collector's Home

Dust Collector’s Home


Before pavers…

Indoor-outdoor shop!

Indoor-outdoor shop!


The extra space out front lets me swing my miter saw out and use it, along with a few other major tools, outside — more sun, less dust.

It… is… sweet.











Come May 2014, I ran out of things I just had to do before work could start on the deck. For some reason sitting on these back brick steps isn’t good enough??? 😉

Redneck much?

Redneck much?


(No, the house isn’t on fire.)



This took some serious doing, and wrecked my elbows for months…

Totally worth it.



Even Sydney helped:

Yay holes!

Yay holes!


Yay friends!


During the deck project we also had a way-too-brief visit from our London friends.

Hope we weren’t terrible hosts! Next year we’ll get ourselves above water.




Finished the deck in June. In July we snuck in Sydney’s first State Fair experience… and I finally managed to get to Inbox Zero. (Hey, small personal victories count!)

No Fear

No Fear

Feels as good as you'd think!

Feels as good as you’d think!








Towards the end of August we hit bottom. Maddie had a tiny little minor near-death experience, and we ended up in the hospital for a week or so.

Electrolyte crash

Electrolyte crash

What a trooper!

What a trooper!








While we’re there, in a desperate bid to stay sane, we switched the girls’ rooms and painted them both.

Space for us to sleep next to her...

Space for us to sleep next to her…

Just got home! Whew!

Just got home! Whew!








And in Sydney’s new room, of course we had to build an Epic Bunk Bed. Done.

Yup, room for 3-4 cousins.

Yup, room for 3-4 cousins.








To wrap up the year, we have achieved a new level of sustainability with Maddie, thanks to the pediatric wheelchair and an in-home nurse aide.

Sydney named it Sugar Plum

Sydney named it Sugar Plum

Now *that's* a look...

Now *that’s* a look…








Maddie loves Shaquan!

Maddie loves Shaquan!

You can bust some sweet tricks off this ramp.

You can bust some sweet tricks off this ramp!








Well, that’s pretty much a wrap for 2014. We all survived, the homestead continues to get better and better, and we even managed to squeeze in some fun.

Onward and most definitely upward!











(If you enjoyed this in any way I’d love it if you’d say hi!)

How to Carve a Dragon Pumpkin

pumpkinI really need to make things more often. This was just a pumpkin carving, but it still scratched a deep psychological itch or two… more on that in a minute.

After carving a “normal” jack-o-lantern, I tried to prompt Sydney to think of something special to do for the other. Kitty? Witch? Quickly fired up images.google.com and started doing searches like “kitty pumpkin carving” and “frozen pumpkin carving”.

Olaf from Frozen almost won the day… until I remembered that she was pretty much infatuated with Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon”. Found a picture of a Toothless pumpkin, and the squeal was immediate. Score.

Next step: Googled “Toothless how to train your dragon pumpkin stencil”. Didn’t think I’d find the same one that had just made Sydney jump up and down, but sometimes the stars just align.

If you’re interested, it’s the 5th image here:

The Interwebz rule.

The Actual Carving

I had never attempted to carve a specific image on a pumpkin before, so this was all new to me. Which is why I loved it.

Printed out that pattern, and taped it on the pumpkin. Somehow I had to transfer the lines to the pumpkin skin… hmm… Toothpick? Broke after two pokes. Knife? mangled the paper without giving a good transfer. Considered grabbing an awl from the shop (might do that next time) but then a paperclip magically appeared in a sunbeam, and I had my transfer tool. Unfolded just a bit, a paperclip does a great job of poking small but visible holes through the pattern into a pumpkin skin.

So take a few minutes, and poke your way around the pattern… poking on the side that you will cut away (within the black in the case of this template). Go nice and tight where the pattern is detailed; and feel free to space it out 1/2″ or so where it’s not (like the outline of the containing oval in this pattern).

Remove your pattern, and it’s carving time.

YMMV, but I had the best luck using a sharp paring knife in conjunction with a small serrated tomato knife.

Follow the pattern carefully with the paring knife, cutting in about 1/4″ to 1/2″ around a section, and then go back and start removing “fill” until you have a notch following the patter nicely. Then use the serrated knife to plunge through and get rid of the “dead” area… and come back and clean up with the paring knife.

It takes a bit of time and care, but working out exactly how to use the tools to do the job is one of the joys of any new project like this.

Doing the tiny bits (nose, mouth in my case) were particularly nerve-racking.

Making Rules

This family activity quickly devolved into me working alone while Sydney played outside. No matter; she helped come up with the idea and was thrilled with the result… and I go to experience a solid hour (yeah, it took me an hour. bite me) of zen-like focus with tools in my hand, a new challenge to overcome, and in the end a tiny little piece of art created.

I need to do more of this. Like every day.

Perhaps just a sketch, or a blog post… but I find that I always feel better when I have made something.

Lots of people know what they love but don’t do it. Seriously… it sounds absurd, but how many times have you heard something along the lines of “oh, I’d love to do XXX, but I just don’t have the time.”

Well, if it’s truly important, you make time. Otherwise you make excuses.

Prioritizing what truly matters to you is the key to an epic life. It sounds simple, but most people just don’t do it.

Go for it.

How To: Keep your Bath Fresh and Dry with a Fan Timer

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 11.40.34 AM

But not like this… ugly!

Ever leave the fan on in the bathroom “just for a minute” and realize three hours later that it’s still running? Me too.

Thing is, that might be costing you more than you think…

You see, when you’re moving air from the bathroom to the outside, replacement air has to come from somewhere (otherwise you’d end up with a perfect vacuum in your house, which would be nifty but not exactly conducive to breathing.)

The replacement air comes from outside your house, through gaps in windows, doors, etc… and if you’re running your A/C (or heater) that air then needs to be cooled (or heated).

Long story short, when you leave the bathroom fan on you end up running your A/C more, which is the single biggest component of your electric bill.

So let’s fix that while giving you one less thing to remember to do!


Welcome to my first “Handyman Sunday” post

Seems like I’m always fixing or improving little things around the house… I’m a huge fan of those upgrades that pay for themselves while making life just a little bit better.

Sometimes it takes quite a bit of work to figure out what to do, source things, do the install (which always has at least one hiccup), etc… so in the interest of saving you time, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so that you don’t have to.


Today’s Project: Installing a bathroom fan timer

Why: Keep the bathroom fresh and dry while saving money

Time: 20 minutes or so

Skills: (a) know where your circuit breaker is (b) basic comfort with working with electrical wires

Sourcing: It took me a while to find these. The first few searches I tried only gave me rotary dial ones like at the top of this post. No way that would pass the wife test… those scream “rest stop toilet”. Fugly.

The only one I found that is reasonably attractive is the AKDT60 / AKDT63 from Air King. The model numbers were confusing at first… but as I interpret their spec sheet, you want the 63 model because that has a 3-position switch: that is, you can manually force “off” without waiting for the timer to expire. Better for home use.

The white ones are available on Amazon here; the ivory model is AKDT63i which is on Amazon here. These are also on Walmart.com.


So let’s dive right in!


You just need a few basic tools; I used a phillips & regular screwdriver, needle nose pliers, and a razor. If you have a pair of wire strippers that’s even better.

Oh, and this is definitely easier if you have a headlamp… I absolutely love my Petzl Tikka. Use it all the time.

Pro tip: if there is a furnace vent in the floor anywhere near your switches, cover it with a box… at some point you will drop a screw.



The switch is about 1.5 inches deep; take a look before ordering and make sure your wall box is sufficiently deep.



Once you’ve cut off the circuit breaker (test it! be sure!) it’s time to pop off the cover plate and unscrew the old fan switch.

After taking it out, I realize that I need to get at those bundles of wires in the back… so all three need to come out.

Go ahead and take the old fan switch off entirely… and grab the screws off that switch to use with the new AKD switch, because the screws they provided are crap.



Everything pulled out, old switch removed, ready to wire it up.

Here’s where the instructions that are included in the box fall short… they assume that you are probably using one switch to control *both* the light and the fan, and barely mention the other option (use this just for the fan; you already have a separate switch for your light, right??) They’re also a bit vague on exactly what wire goes where. I’ll clarify.

Blue: As long as you are indeed using this switch only for the fan, cap off the blue wire on the AKD63  — you don’t need it.

White: Find the big bundle of white wires in the back of your switch box; the white wire from the AKD63 goes there. Just unscrew the big wire nut, make sure enough wire is exposed on the new white wire, wrap it around the others, and re-secure the existing wire nut.

Red: This is where you need to look closely into your wall box. You took two black wires off the old switch when you took it out. One of them probably goes to a bundle of black wires inside your wall box; the other goes — by itself — to one of the “ports” on the wall box. The one that goes off by itself is the one that goes directly to your fan… and that’s the one you attach the red AKD63 wire to.

Black: The other black wire you took off the old switch, which probably runs to a bundle of wires inside the wall box — that’s your wire.

Note: if you *don’t* have a bundle of black wires inside the wall box, you might have to use trial and error to figure out which one should be connected to red and which should be connected to black.



One you have everything secured with wire nuts, make sure none of the switches are near to each other or anything else they could short out on, and have your toddler turn on the circuit breaker for you (kidding).

Test things out, before reinstalling, to make sure your connections are all good. Just handle very carefully while there are exposed wires!

If the “on” position works but the “timer” position does not, your white wire is probably loose. If that fails, try switching red and black (if you’re not positive that those were right). If all that fails, you may have a defective unit… I did, and had to ask for a replacement.


With everything verified as working, cut off the circuit breaker one more time and start reinstalling in the wall box.

Push existing wires as out of the way as possible to make room for the AKD63 — in my case, I pushed them to the left as much as I could. Reinstall the other switch(es) first, thread the wire nuts attached to the AKD63 into some free space, and then install the AKD63 itself.

Set the time you want the fan to run before putting on the wall plate, of course!


Final Thoughts

Some quick back of the envelope math tells me that these will pay for themselves within two years. Assuming they last much longer than that, it’s totally worth doing in my opinion.

One of my two units was defective; hopefully that is an anomaly. They did get pretty good reviews on Amazon.

I don’t know why they designed the switch to look different from the outside… it would be so much better if they made it look like every other switch on the planet. These will often be used right next to another switch in a multi-gang box; why make it stick out like a sore thumb?

So far, these rock! Just leave the bathroom after your shower, flip everything down, and the fan runs for ~20 minutes to dry out the bathroom, then cuts off. Pretty sweet!


So what do you think? Ready to install a couple and make your bathroom a wee bit better?


Need anything from Amazon? Buy through this link and you will support my blog. Sincere thanks!

Use Your Body to Hack Your Brain

brainRough night last night with the baby; have been a zombie all day.

Can’t focus on any creative work… want to become one with the couch…

“No way in hell I’m going to the (climbing) gym.”

Know That feeling? Of course you do.

Luckily, I remembered a concept from Scott Adams’ Latest Book about tricking your brain into a new mood, and I thought I’d put it to the test.

Spoiler: It totally worked.

Your brain is basically just responding to everything that is thrown at it; fresh sensory input coming in, memories bubbling up with suggestions on your current situation, and — importantly — messages in the form of hormones of all kind released by your body.

Here’s the nifty part: it’s pretty easy to get your body to send different messages to your brain, tipping your mood in the right direction.

All you have to do, in fact, is force yourself to do 15 minutes of any kind of intense physical activity that you enjoy. A few minutes later your body will start releasing endorphins which your brain just loves… all of a sudden, your mood and energy improve.

Yes, you may still be tired after a while, but less than before — and your mental ability will definitely be elevated by a notch or two.

Note that this works even if you are in a grumpy mood while you do it (I proved that today). It also works even if you are aware that you are trying to trick yourself… The endorphins are just as real to your brain either way.


Feeling down, tired, or frustrated? 15 minutes of fun exertion and you’ve flooded your brain with happy juice. Makes the rest of your day much easier. 🙂



BTW: The book I mentioned above, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” is actually one of the most useful books I’ve read in at least a year. Scott has a very engineering-minded approach to his life, and he lays out some very compelling steps you can steal and apply to make your life easier (and presumably more successful, if that’s something you want).

I plan to write about this book more in the near future, as soon as my neighbor returns my copy! In the meantime, though, I guarantee that if you give this a read you’ll find it worth your while.

Check it out!

(Disclosure: Affiliate link… but I don’t use affiliate links unless I completely believe in what I’m pointing you towards!)

July Experiment: Low Information Diet

I have an addiction: I’m interested in about a million topics, and I could spend all day just reading about new technology, philosophical ideas, business, even history. New ideas are like crack to me. It’s a sickness.

When the kids are in bed and the wife flips on the TV, I dive into a book or — more and more frequently — I scroll through headlines in my favorite RSS reader (Feedly). If I have a few minutes to kill and I can’t be productive, it’s Feedly to the rescue again.

Basically I just point a firehose of information at myself, and continuously find interesting ideas to play with.

Why is This a Problem? 

On the surface it’s pretty harmless… but if I’m to be completely honest most of what I read — while interesting — is completely un-actionable. I’m entertaining myself, but not improving, not building, not achieving. And I want more from life than to be entertained.

A Book to the Rescue!

I was knocked upside the head about this while (re)reading The 4-Hour Workweek. If you’ve never checked it out I guarantee it is completely worth your time… Tim shares ideas that can actually make your life more fulfilling — even if you have no interest in the lifestyle he preaches.

Here’s a gem from the book:

“Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are convinced that they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming. It is easier to raise $1,000,000 than it is $100,000.”

I can attest to the fundraising from personal experience. It also feels pretty good to think that aiming high is not crazy, in fact it may be the only sane thing to do!

You have perhaps 16,000 days Left… 

One of the basic tenets of Tim Ferriss’s work system is to optimize everything for time, so that you can spend your days doing whatever moves you. It’s the 80/20 rule applied more ruthlessly than you dared in the past… but dammit he makes some good points.

Time. It’s the one thing you can’t make more of.

With so many things on my must-do list (including building a new business — more on that soon), there are just more awesome things to do than skimming the headlines of what others are doing in the world.

Here Goes!

So here’s the experiment for the rest of July (I just decided this today):

  • Feedly is not to be opened. Period.
  • Unsubscribed from the ~10 emails I get regularly.
  • Stack of magazines: recycled.
  • Newspaper: just the Sunday crossword and the comics.
  • I already don’t watch TV news, so that’s easy.
  • Facebook, Twitter, etc: No browsing (I pretty much don’t, already).
  • Long-form reading is still OK. (Carefully selected books, of course!)

The goals?

  • Shift RSS time over to making progress on building a business and writing more.
  • See if my head feels any clearer, if my daughter notices me being less distracted, and if I miss the firehose.
  • After a month off, I expect to reconnect with a much more curated list of information sources.

While I love reading and learning, I suspect that at times I use this information firehose as an escape, and as an excuse to avoid “real work”. Thanks Tim for reminding me that you can build whatever life you want, but it won’t happen if you don’t take action.

Do you have the same reading addiction? Why not join me in a Low-Information July!


Here’s that book again… if you’re ready to work on your own dream life you should give it a read.



Need anything from Amazon? Buy through this link and you will support my blog. Sincere thanks!