Hanging Dunk Bucket

It's been hot out here in the desert. Someone sent me a link to this youtube video and I said "Oh, I'm making one of those."


The tripod came together easy: 3 boards (2x4x10'), a 1/2" threaded rod (12" long), and a couple of washers and wing nuts to hold it together. I also got some screw-in eye bolts and paracord.

I tried just hanging the bucket by its handle, but I got nervous about suspending 30-40 lbs of water directly over my children's' heads, so I made an OSB platform for the thing. I think I'll have to try again with a sturdier container. You can see that this one gets all squished.

I just had to drill two holes in the bottom to install a toilet tank kit (the fill valve and the flapper). I used a fitting to adapt my garden hose to the toilet supply line.

The only real trick was the trigger device. I used a piece of steel and a 3/8" rod I had laying around. I tapped holes through both so I could hold them together with a threaded screw. At the other end of the rod, I clamped a pair of vise grips on the rod and hooked it to the flush lever of the toilet kit.

When you hit the target, it swings the steel lever, turns the rod, raises the vise grips and it empties the bucket on top of whoever is in the chair!

Branded Boards

I found this place that will make semi-custom branding irons. As long as you just want a single letter with a bar, circle, rafter, or rocker, they'll make one up for you.

My in-laws have a name that lends itself well to a branding iron, so I ordered a small pile of irons. It didn't seem super-cool to give them an iron stick for Christmas, so I made up some boards to hang them on.  

The wood is the same 3/4" cherry ply I had left over from the Desk and the Standing Desk Converter, but of course, it's branded with the family brand. I heated the iron up over a propane burner and branded all 6 boards. A couple coats of my trusted Maloof oil/poly blend and a black cup hook to hang the iron, and they were ready to go. 

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out the family name.

Back Yard Solar Cooker

Here's a thing we did a couple of summers ago:

We made a solar cooker out of a windshield screen, a bucket, some clips, a grill grate, and a stick. The windshield screen was already in my garage. It probably cost $8 or $9 at the auto parts store. I also already had a bucket and a grill grate from a tabletop grill.

I used the clips to hold the window shade in a cone shape, put the point of the cone in the bucket, and put the grill grate over the top of the bucket to hold the screen down and the pot up.

We tried cooking in a cast iron pot with its lid on (above), but I think that just took too long to heat up. Instead, I used an oven bag to let light in, but prevent wind from taking away our precious heat. 

The temperature of the cheese hit about 160° F in the sun. You'll melt cheese easily, but there will be no browning. I'd say anything you could do in a slow cooker on low ought to come out fine on a sunny day.

We cooked a pizza on a pre-baked crust. I thought it was soggy and weird, but Danger declared it delicious.

Then we cooked sweet Italian sausage in a red sauce for a few hours. It came out perfect!

Pasta Drying Rack

This might be the simplest build I've done: A place to hang my noodles.


I used a drill, screws, glue, and some sandpaper to assemble a pasta drying rack.

  • 2 ea. 1/2" dowels, 14" long
  • 5 ea. 1/2" dowels, 10" long
  • 2 ea. 3/4" square sticks, 12" long
  • 2 ea. 3/4" square sticks, 5.5" long
  • 1/2" drill bit
  • sandpaper
  • wood glue
  • mineral oil

The top board

Drill holes in one of the 3/4" x 12" sticks. You'll need 7 evenly spaced along one side. Do not drill all the way through; just halfway or a little more. Then drill 2 along an adjacent side so that you're drilling through a new face and into the side of the first and last holes (again, not all the way through). That lets the holes sit so that the drying sticks stick straight out or straight down, depending on how the top is installed.

The bottom board

Drill two holes in the bottom board as far apart as the first and last holes from the top board. These you could drill all the way through or just part way like the 1st ones.

The feet

Use screws to attach the short 3/4" boards to the bottom side of the bottom board (opposite where you drilled the holes. they should be loose enough that they'll swivel.

Glue it

Put the 10" dowels in each of the 5 holes and glue them there. Glue the longer dowels into the bottom board but not into the top board

I like this bit: since you didn't glue the top in place, you can take it off and put it back on with the sticks facing straight down. Fold the feet in and it lays flat.

Sand it

Sand everything until it's silky smooth, then get all of the sawdust off.

Oil it

Liberally bathe the thing in multiple coats of mineral oil. Try to get the wood so soaked with oil that it won't absorb any food, but not so soaked that when you try to pick it up, it shoots out of your hand. If you put a piece of junk mail on it for a second, it shouldn't oil up the paper, but if you leave it there a few minutes it should.

Simpson, Eh?

I just published another article on BlueCanary, this one is about Simpson's Paradox.

Would you believe it's possible to look for correlations within sub-populations, and find them in agreement across the board, but when you look at them in aggregate, the correlation reverses? If you're having trouble believing it, check out the article. 

Hybrid Hot/Cold Smoker

I built a hot-cold smoker a while ago when I wanted to get into cold-smoked salmon and bacon. Here's how it came together.

The Parts

Putting It Together

You'll need a Dremel or some other way to cut the metal of your perfectly good smoker and your perfectly good tabletop grill. They're both about to get temporarily ruined.

Find a nice spot on your smoker. I used the little door on mine that would normally be used for... something. I'm not sure what it's for, I've never used it. Cut a 4" hole, big enough to accept one of the start collars.

Then cut a similar hole in the lid of your tabletop grill and install a start collar in it too

Run a dryer hose between the start collars and clamp it in place.

Then cut a hole in the bottom of your tabletop grill big enough to let the electrical plug out from inside. I cut the middle out of the 3-hole vent to do this.

Put the electric burner inside the tabletop grill and run the electric wire outside. Put the cast iron box on the hot plate.

You're done!

Using It For Hot Smoking

Just build a fire in the smoker like you usually would. Use the tabletop grill to generate as much smoke as you want for the job.

Here's a leg of lamb I'm barbecuing for dinner with the neighbors.

Using It For Cold Smoking

This is where it gets good.

Put your food in the hot smoker with no fire under it.

Fill up the cast iron box with sawdust, wood chips, or whatever you normally use. Turn it to high. When it starts to smoke turn it down. You can fiddle with the temperature control on the electric burner to get just the right amount of smoke. 

You can smoke food this way for hours if the weather is cool enough. The dryer hose cools the smoke down and it doesn't warm up your food.

Witness the Firepower of This Fully Armed and Operational Robo-Do

This was a cool project Danger did for school. The assignment was "Make a robot that does a job."

What would be a problem that barely needs solving? One that a robot could do? I think he hit on the perfect one: "Sometimes I have free time, but I can't decide what to do." To solve it, he built:


Here's Robo-Do. He features

  • cardboard endoskeleton
  • aluminum dermal layer
  • soda can legs
  • flexible arms
  • clear poly screen on his chest
  • push-button nose

And that's Danger's name scrawled across the robot's 'nads. You press a button on Robo-Do's nose and the screen tells you what to do. 

It solves the same problem as the Wheel of Lunch. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of that 15 minutes of coding, so I made this Robo-Do.

It's filled with more than 50 things a 6 and 9-year old can do. Some require a parent ("Go swimming"), but most the kids can do on their own.

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


"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).


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. 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.