Buckets On Hooks On a Stick

This one was Mrs. Mojo's idea. She got some red ladder hooks and some galvanized buckets for Danger to keep things in.

The ladder hooks are wall-mount, so they just have a threaded shaft. I didn't figure the drywall could hold that much by itself, so I added this.

It's just some dimensional oak from the Orange Store. I cut one square for each hook and routed the edges. The squares are rounded over on all four front edges. The tall rail is only routed between the squares.

Then I glued the squares in place and drilled holes for attaching the rail to the wall. The holes are counter-sunk so the screws sit below the surface of the rail.

The finish is the same  Maloof oil/poly blend as the desk. Two hollow wall anchors with screws attach it to the wall.

Now Danger has a place to keep army men, airplanes, or Lego bricks.

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How Long Until Calories Turn Into Weight?

I have more nerdy follow-up on how to lose 30 lbs the not-impossibly-hard way

I've been keeping a log of what I ate and how much I weighed every day for more than 4 months now. And I already mentioned that I like data and charts and understanding how things work. I'm going to see if I can figure out when calories turn into weight.

The Data

I have weigh-in data for 105 days. More importantly, I have 91 pairs of weigh-ins collected 24 hours apart. So I want to see if there's a lag between calorie intake and weight loss (or gain).

So I looked at 1, 2, and 3 days of lag time to see which is the best predictor of weight, here's what I got:

          1 day lag

          1 day lag

          2 day lag

          2 day lag

          3 day lag

          3 day lag

The 1-day lag has the strongest predictive power for my weight. That's pretty intuitive: the weight comes from the calories I eat between weigh-ins. 2-day lag has about 1/3 the predictive power, and 3-day lag is actually slightly negative.

So that seems clear enough: You gain the weight the same day you eat the calories.

But Wait...

Let's try something else. What if we look at which days of the week I lose the most weight. Here's a plot of average weight gained (or lost) by day of week throughout the 4 months.

Check this out: I only lose weight Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday and Monday, I tend to gain a little weight.

What's going on there? Is it just calories?

Here's a plot of the calories eaten between weigh-ins, grouped by day of week.

Weight2.png

Kind of a mess, right?

But there's something there...  Check out the graph plotted along with the 2-day lag (the one with less predictive power):

When I look at it this way, I get a different answer: calories take about 2 days to turn into weight. Calories I ate on Friday seem to show up Sunday.

So What's Going On?

It looks like there's something else in my weekly routine that drives weight loss/gain, and weight lags behind it.

My best theory: Bulleit Rye Whiskey and Stone IPA.

Alcohol is loaded with calories (like 200 per Stone IPA). If I had alcohol, it was most likely on a Friday or Saturday. The extra calories slowed my weight loss, but alcohol dehydrates me, so it looks like I'm losing even more weight. That accounts for the poor fit between Saturday's weigh-in and Friday's calories. By Sunday and Monday, I'm back to normal hydration and it shows up as gaining a little weight.

It's also worth mentioning that we're dealing with small amounts of weight and a pretty narrow range of calories. About 2/3 of these days I ate between 1,200 and 1,500 calories, and the range of weights is similarly small: 2/3 of the time, weight loss was between -1.6 and +0.4 lbs per day.

So that's my theory: I gain the weight the day I eat the calories, but if the calories were from alcohol, then the weight is hidden for a day.

 

 

 

 

3-D Printed Axis & Allies Dice

Have you ever played Axis & Allies?

It's a great game, and it's one of Danger's favorites. There's just one teensy problem: combat is tedious. If you haven't played, here's an example of how you resolve a combat:

Attacker (2 battleships, a cruiser, an aircraft carrier and 2 fighters) Round 1:

  • Announce you're rolling for the battleships, roll 2 dice, count 4 or lower as a hit.
  • Announce you're rolling for the cruiser and fighters, roll 3 dice, 3 or lower is a hit.
  • Announce you're rolling for the carrier, roll a die. If it's a 2 or 1 that's a hit. 

Defender (3 destroyers and 3 submarines) Round 1:

  • Announce you're rolling for the destroyers, roll 3 dice. Anything that's a 2 or 1 is a hit.
  • Announce you're rolling for the subs, roll 3 dice. Count the 1's as hits.

It continues like this until combat is over. Like I said, tedious.

Luckily, Danger found a solution: special dice.

I see 4 battleships, 4 cruisers, 2 destroyers and 2 submarines.

I see 4 battleships, 4 cruisers, 2 destroyers and 2 submarines.

Each die attacks at a different level. The die will show a skull for a hit and a slashed circle for a miss. The gray dice have 4 skulls, red have 3 skulls, black have 2, and white have 1.

Now, let's picture that same round:

The attacker picks up 2 gray dice, 3 red dice, and a black die, rolls them all and counts the skulls.

The defender rolls 3 black dice and 3 white dice and counts the skulls.

Danger designed the prototype die. It's a truncated sphere with 6 faces. Each side has its skull or slash recessed into it. I was worried it would be hard to read, but it isn't a problem at all.

We played a game and I was really surprised how much it improves the combat rolling.

I put the dice up on ShapeWays. I bought a set of 5 each. It set me back... uh... well... quite a bit of cash, but it was a fun project and it really does make the game more enjoyable.

How to Lose 30 Pounds The Not Impossibly Hard Way

For those of you who asked "how did you lose the weight?" here's how. If you were hoping to learn my secret, I hope this helps. If you were just being nice, then I thank you for your support and you are excused from reading this 1,000-word treatise.

The PowerfulMojo Weight Loss Plan

 

1. Don't Eat So Much

I was in the habit of eating enough food to gain 2 lbs per year. Switching to eating enough to lose 2 per week was a big change. For me, net calories were about 1,200/day after subtracting exercise.

2. Get Some Exercise

To lose weight, you can either starve yourself or burn a whole bunch of energy. I tried to do some of each. The exercise came mostly from hiking, which had up sides and down sides

3. Stick With It

This isn't going to happen overnight, but it can happen pretty quickly. I was surprised at how much progress I had made in 6 weeks. Now (after 17 weeks), I've lost 33 lbs.

 

That's not very original, I know. But it's the truth, and it's the shortest answer.

So I've documented some of what I think people are really asking. The tl;dr is: I approached it with cold, analytical resolve and tried to see it as taking care of a robot that needs fuel and maintenance.

The Practical Parts

I Weighed Myself

Weigh yourself frequently and write it down. Then ignore the number at weigh-in time. It's just a data point. Some of them look good and some of them don't. Look back at a 3-day average from 1-2 weeks ago to see if things are working.

Write Down What You Eat

There are tons of online calculators to tell you how many calories are in food and how many are enough to live on. Just pick one that doesn't seem insane. I used http://myfitnesspal.com/.

Don't skip meals

I don't know what happens when you do, but I didn't. Your mileage may vary.

Don't Eat Unless You're Hungry

You'll probably feel hungry a lot of the time at first, but don't eat just 'cause you have time to. If you're accustomed to snacking during idle time, avoid idle time.

And don't eat more just because you felt hungrier before a meal. Eat enough to make a good meal.

Eat Foods With Nutritional Value

If you want to lose 2 lbs per week, you'll probably be running a 1,000 calorie a day deficit to do it. That may make it very hard to get enough nutrition to stay healthy. Pick foods with a lot of nutrition per calorie (so that's what kale is for!).

Knock Off the Booze & Soda

Alcohol has the worst nutrition to calorie ratio in the universe. Soda is 2nd worst. The less of them you have, the more weight you'll be able to lose. However, IPA and rye whiskey are delicious and I did not give them up entirely.

The Psychological Parts

I Made Charts

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People who have spent a lot of time with me will be saying "of course you did." The charts helped me see long term progress and made imperceptible changes feel more real. More than being healthy, I like understanding how things work. Seeing the link between food, exercise, and weight in chart form was very satisfying.

Don't Sweat the Details

You're playing a long game here. If you order something at a restaurant, then find out the Chicken Caesar had 1,500 calories (Cheesecake Factory, look it up), don't freak out. It happens. Cutting 100 calories from your next few meals will probably keep you on track.

Also: nobody knows exactly how many calories were in your food. Just pick a number from the calorie counting app and go with it. 

Your Body Doesn't Care What
Your Phone Thinks You Ate

On the topic of calorie counting apps: some people who enter foods in the crowd-sourced nutrition databases have unsound minds. They think they can lose weight by lying to their diary about how much they ate. Think critically about calorie content and portion size in those public databases. Strive for reality here.

Don't Get Emotional About Mistakes

Mistakes are mistakes. They aren't failures.

Decisions are decisions. They aren't cheating.

If you make a mistake or a decision you regret, don't beat yourself up, and don't compound it using the logic "I've already blown it today, so the rest of the day doesn't count." 

Keep the Streak Alive

Good habits are just positive long term trends in your behavior. Even if you're not a healthy person, you can act like one. Plan just one day around acting and moving like a healthy person. 

Then do one more.

Then do just one more.

As long as you keep the streak alive, you'll turn into the healthy person you're acting like.

Don't Do Stuff You Hate

Again: this is a long game and you shouldn't make rules you can't follow indefinitely. Maybe you go to a lot of kids birthday parties and you like cupcakes with sprinkles. Focus on whether the benefit you get is worth the sacrifices you'll make to balance it. Also, try not to go to too many kids parties, people will think you're creepy.

And don't eat bad food just because it's healthy. That's insane.

If you can't stand treadmills, but you like basketball... you get where this is going.

Your Plan Must Survive Contact With the Real World

Without a doubt, this is the hardest part.

Kids have after school events when you wanted to go to the gym. Sometimes you travel to a wedding and spend two days in a car and then there is cake. Find other time to work out.

You will end up at restaurants that don't have anything low-calorie on their menu. Hiding at home in a fortress of quinoa and non-fat yogurt isn't really an option. Just don't eat much at the taco stand.

I'm lucky to have an awesome wife who was willing to rearrange her plans to make time for me to go hiking. If possible, I recommend having an awesome partner, but I don't know what your Real World will do and I can't say what your solution will be.

Focus On The Positive

If you're looking better and you notice it, you should feel good about that. If someone else notices, practice your "aw, shucks" downward gaze and shuffle. Try not to smile too big. 

If buying new clothes is interesting to you, buy a new outfit for every size along your path.

Admire your beautiful charts! I mean... I hear some people are into that. So if that's your thing, that's cool.

Let Me Know What You Think

I typed this up one night because a lot of people asked me how I did it. I didn't have a short answer, so I documented this (very) long one.

Is this helpful? What worked for you?

Another Win for Charcuterie

This weekend, Danger and I made hot dogs.

From scratch.

I used the recipe straight from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. As usual, the recipe came out perfect with no tweaking. BUY THE BOOK! Seriously, that's, like 7-for-7 on recipes I've tried out of it

All tested and all awesome:

  • Preserved lemons
  • Duck breast prosciutto
  • Ginger-sage breakfast sausage
  • Maple-cured bacon
  • Cured salmon
  • Merguez
  • Hot dogs

My amateur food photography sucks, so here's someone else's picture of some hot dogs. They looked just like this. Swearz.

Photo by Sandor Weisz via CC Search

Photo by Sandor Weisz via CC Search

 

Our Family Game Builder

My 8 year old son, Danger, thought it would be fun to make a board game. He wants to be a game designer and he loves watching TableTop. A print-and-play Stratego seemed like a fun project.

The Map

Danger was in charge of this. He got some poster board (green, because that's what color a field is) and drew a grid on it. After that, he added the lakes. It came out awesome.  It's in 4 pieces so they stack instead of folding up.

 

I'm the Map!

 

The Pieces

Nice mustache!

I was prepared to just do my best drawing the images, but while I was looking for inspiration, I found an awesome collection of Statego SVG files that look exactly like the 1980s version I played.

I printed enough of everything on white card stock with a nice star on the front side. Danger cut everything out, folded it, and glued it up. I used a spreadsheet and a lot of "Print Preview" to get everything lined up for printing.

Let me know if you want the spreadsheet.

A Box

I had a nice box left over from Boccalone (where I got my "Tasty Salted Pig Parts" shirt). It works perfectly. The map fits nicely without rolling and the box has a couple of partitions inside that can hold the pieces.

Playing

It came out great. Danger even taught his (5-year-old) little sister to play. She mostly just stumbles into bombs until she finds the flag, but the extra-aggressive strategy combined with her uncanny luck is quite effective. I may post about her prowess at poker later.

 

He always looks like that when he's winning

 

Check Out Mrs. Mojo!

Mrs. Mojo built a thing! It's a pin cushion on a fabric band. When she ties it around the sewing machine, she has a pin cushion at the ready. It's nice work.

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"My sewing machine and pin cushion keep getting separated" meets every definition of a problem that barely needs solving, and she solved it with aplomb. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I'm glad I did.

Apple Keyboard Power Cable

Power a keyboard with USB instead of batteries

I have an Apple Wireless Keyboard that I love, but it runs on batteries. This little project is how I put a USB wire on it to make it work without batteries. It's still a Bluetooth keyboard, it just runs off of USB power.

The Parts

To complete this, you'll need:

I got all of it for about $16 (not including the keyboard).

Assembly

1. Drill the metal bits

You'll have to drill holes in the battery cover and the "negative" end of one dummy battery. This was by far the trickiest part.

Make the holes just big enough for your USB cable to pass through with the insulation. I was not confident in my ability to nail this on the first try and I didn't want this to be a permanent conversion, so I bought another battery cover from eBay. If you're really committed, you could drill the one that came with the keyboard.

2. Run the wires

Here's what I'm calling the wires involved:

  • New red: A wire you supply that will connect the Vout pin of the AMS1117 to the positive contact inside the dummy battery.
  • New black: A wire you supply that hooks together the ground of the USB cable, AMS1117, and negative contact inside the dummy battery.
  • USB red: The red wire that's already inside the USB cable. It will supply +5V to the AMS1117
  • USB black: The black wire that's already inside the USB cable. It is the ground for all components.

You'll need to drill holes in one end of each battery so a wire can run between them. Run the new red wire all the way through one of the dummy batteries.

Cut the end off of your USB cable and find all of the wires.

Push the USB wire through the drilled battery cover and negative battery terminal. If you buy the same dummy batteries I did, the ends pop out. That's useful for soldering wires to the metal bits without ruining the plastic bits. You have to solder:

  • The new red wire to:
    • the positive end of a dummy battery and
    • pin 2 of the AMS1117
  • The new black wire to:
    • the negative end of the other dummy battery and
    • the usb black and pin 1 of the AMS1117
    • The usb red to AMS1117 pin 3

Here's the pinout from the chip's data sheet:

When you're finished, it will look kind of like this:

3. Test it

Hook the USB cable up to a power source and make sure you get 3.3V between the positive and negative terminals of your dummy batteries.

4. Glue it

When I was done with soldering, I put a glob of hot glue on the usb wire and pulled it down into the dummy battery so it doesn't move. Then I assembled the batteries and glued the gap between them to keep them stuck together.

The battery cover is not glued to anything. It can spin on the cable. To hook it up, just take the batteries out of your keyboard and put this thing in instead.

Standing Desk Converter

I've been thinking a lot about health lately, thanks to Clairvoyant's health challenge. And I've been reading about the health benefits of a standing desk (or maybe not). You can buy standing desk converters like these:

But they start at $75 & they don't look great, so I decided to build one. I prototyped it with stacks of books and came up with a 12" rise for my keyboard and a 20" rise for my laptop on its mStand. The mStand isn't required, but I use it when I'm sitting so it might as well stay. 18" wide is enough to hold a keyboard and trackpad comfortably.

I built it out of some 3/4" cherry ply I had leftover from the desk. I routed the edges so they're rounded and I put a brace at the top of the back to hold everything square.

If I were to build it again, I would change some things:

  • move the legs in about 3/4"
  • have shelves overhang the riser by about 3/4"
  • blend the roundover more carefully into the lower shelf
  • use a wider brace so it's more certainly square

But that stuff is minor. I'm pretty pleased with it.

Leather Headphone Wrap

I'm still happy I tried out 3-D printing by making a headphone wrap, but the device itself leaves a little to be desired. A perfect headphone wrap would be:

 
 
  1. Small   shirt pocket size at the biggest
  2. Easy to wrap    or I'll never use it
  3. Easy to unwrap    or I'll curse at it
  4. Secure    it needs to hold the headphones while preventing tangles

My 3-D printed model scores a 3/4. Unwrapping is a pain, so I started looking for alternatives. Instructables user amalkhan has this model, which I like a lot. I also saw a few others that were more like a headphone wallet.

So I'm going to make one out of some scrap leather I have that matches my satchel. It comes down to 6 steps:

1. Make the Pattern

I picked a size that seemed reasonable and cut it out of cardboard to make sure it seemed right. I traced the cardboard on the leather. I want it to be 2 layers like the bag.

2. Cut the Leather

 
Rough cut leather
 

This is where I realized that two layers really complicates things:

  • The inner layer has to be shorter
  • The stitches have to be radial; not all parallel through the leather
  • Once you glue it up, it will never really lay flat for you again.

Still, I want the extra weight of 2 layers.

3. Glue and Trim

Put glue on one end of the leather and keep it secure. It's best to wait until it's all set before you continue. I did not do that. Once it's secure, clamp it around a dowel or something and glue it the rest of the way.

After it's all glued up, trim off any over-hanging leather corners to even up the edges.

4. Stitch

 
All Stitched Up
 

Another reason I wanted two layers of leather is that I could put cool stitching around the outside of the thing. This is the part that takes the longest; it took me 42 stitches around the whole thing.

5. Add The Snap

To hold it together, I punched in a line 24 snap.

6. Finish the Edges

I started the edges by sanding with 400-grit sandpaper, then I put some glycerin saddle soap on a rag and rubbed it into the edges. It came out looking like this:

 
 

That's about it. So far it has stayed in my pocket one day without tangling.

A Slingshot Ammo Catch Box

A while ago, I got a slingshot and started trying to scare the doves away from my pool so they will poop somewhere else. It didn't scare the doves away, but it turns out shooting a slingshot is challenging and fun. It also scares the neighbors less than firearms or air guns.

The Problem: Lost Ammo

I can shoot the same airsoft BBs I shoot at the doves, but bigger ammo is much more satisfying (and results in less hand-slap from the bands). The bigger ammo isn't as cheap as the plastic BBs. At 80¢ each for .38 cal steel balls, it's sort of important that I get to shoot each one at least a few times before it gets lost.

The Catch Box

 
 

It's made from the cabinet that used to be my coffee shrine before I built a new one. I just stapled a towel to the ceiling inside it to arrest the shots. It already had a screw that used to hold a power strip in place, so I used that to hang an aluminum can from a wire.

Turns out an aluminum can isn't really a good target for a steel ball flying at a couple hundred feet per second. It gets sort of shredded after a couple of hits. Steel cans work better. They still look destroyed, but they actually hold up pretty well. This one has been hit at least a few dozen times.

It Works!

 
 

The box is performing well. It traps about 1/2 of the shots inside. Another 40% can be found on the ground right in front of the trap. The remaining 10% get away and I have to go track them down, but none of them have made it 33 feet back to where I'm standing to hit me in the eye.

Industrial Chic Lamp

I needed a lamp for my new desk, so I built one.

The One I'm Sort Of Copying

Industrial Chick Lamp

My lovely wife found this lamp that she liked the look of. At the time of this post, it was available from Shades of Light for $225.

Looking at it, you can see it's just made of steel pipe parts. It doesn't even look like any are custom cut & threaded. It looks like there may be a union in the middle of the longest pipe, possibly to make shipping and assembly easier, but it doesn't look like anything I couldn't do with a trip to the Orange Store or Blue Store.

I had a few hours to spend on a project on Labor Day, so I gave it a shot.

The Deal

I'm doing this because I feel like doing a project. If I can build a lamp my wife likes as much as the one on the web site, we'll keep it. If my silly project turns out looking cheap & crappy or if she just has her heart set on another one, I'll abandon mine in the alley and buy her whatever lamp she likes.

Finding Parts

I decided to use a pendant light that's designed to hang from its cord, because I don't actually know what kind of hardware converts from plumbing to lamp fixtures. If it hangs on its own wire, I can sort of cheat and just run the wire through the pipe.

I was hoping to have something that comes out looking like this one from Restoration Hardware, but made out of pipe like the first one.

I went to my local Orange Store and picked out  a vintage-looking pendant lamp. It's made for mounting to a box in the ceiling, so (as with all good projects), I'll have to start by cutting up a perfectly good product.

The rest was just parts.

Parts List

Building It

Take the perfectly good pendant lamp and pull the cord out from the ceiling mounting fixture. This will leave you with a lamp & wire, but no housing to hang it from anything.

To make the head assembly, thread the pipe fittings over the wire in this order:

  1. 90° elbow
  2. 8" nipple
  3. 45° elbow
  4. 8" nipple
  5. 45° elbow

Screw everything together, being careful not to twist the wires on the inside as you do so. Now is a good time to check the height. I wanted mine hanging 3-4" below the pipe. Adjust the lamp until you have just enough exposed wire to hang right.

Cut the receptacle end off of the extension cord (that's 2 perfectly good things we've ruined so far!) and fish it through the tee fitting. The wire should make a 90° turn inside the tee. Next, feed the wire through the 6' pipe. This was tricky for me because the stranded extension cord wire wasn't rigid enough to push through all 6 feet. I had to tie a screw to a string and send the string through first. After that, I could use the string to pull the wire back.

Tee Fitting

Don't attach the tee, the 6' pipe, or the head assembly yet.

Split the wires on both the lamp and the extension cord. Thread heat-shrink tubing over the wire. I always forget that part. Figure out which side is the common wire  and hook the wire going to the wider prong on the extension cord to the white wire on the lamp cord. Strip a lot of the wire (like 1") and twist them together. Solder it up. This is going to live forever inside a pipe where you'll never be able to inspect it again. It's important that you get a good mechanical and electrical connection between these wires. I put heat shrink over each wire and a bigger one around the whole connection. Shrink the heat shrink.

Test the lamp at this point. If it's not working, cut your work out of the middle of the wire and start over.

Attach the 6' pipe to the 45° elbow of the head assembly. Try not to twist the wire as you go.

Attach the tee to the other end of the 6' pipe. Again, try to keep the wire from twisting as you do this (it's a bit tricky and a few turns over 6' of wire will be fine, but don't let it get kinked).

Attach the flange to the base using wood screws. Insert the close nipple into the tee fitting and have someone hold the lamp so you can screw the base on.

You're done!

I was going to paint it a cool hammered bronze color, but the galvanized came out looking pretty good, so I'm just going to leave it.

The Cost

It took me 2 trips to the Orange Store (I built the lamp too short the 1st time; the 6 foot height is much better).

I spent about $150 on parts, including the pipes I didn't use and the paint that we decided not to apply.  The whole thing came together in about 3 hours.

The Verdict

We can keep it! It doesn't look as cool as the $600 Restoration Hardware lamp, but it looks pretty good and it lights up the desk just like a lamp should.