Goals for 2017

It’s that time again. Time to set some resolutions / goals. I’m averaging a roughly 25% success rate with these. Note, I’m saying Goals now. New year, new way of doing shit (from Fin).

1. Finish paying off my student loans.

It’s far past time for this one. I’ve been mostly ignoring this because it’s a small amount over a large period with low interest rates. Still, it’ll help get the ball rolling and simplify things.

2. Obtain HAM Radio License (Technician Class).

This has been an idea I’ve toyed with for a while, but I’m thinking this is the year to do it. I might also be able to get some help from my employer in paying for this. Something I need to research.

3. Complete a composition and recording for piano.

I’ve got a few compositions I’ve toyed with. The real goal here is to take one of my sketches and actually get it worked out solidly enough that I’d be happy linking it from here. I’m hoping to perform well enough to rehost the Spring Academy recital on SoundCloud. Otherwise, I’m hoping to get something recorded of ye ol’ piano and posted up. Gotta make some ‘fridge art’.

4. Hit ‘advanced’ student class at new Martial Arts Studio, and hit some marks at the gym.

Starting back at martial arts after taking so many years off has been humbling. I’m at a new school, with slightly different style and starting over from white belt. It’s amusing seeing other students shocked at things I know – they don’t think about the potential that someone has training elsewhere.

At the gym, I’ve started doing resistance training and some basic cardio. My goal is to hit a level where I can comfortably move my own current weight around. A secondary goal is to get my body fat percentage down to a more athletic level (<= 18%).

I’m toying with the idea of running one of the local half marathons this year. Not sure how crazy I want to go.

5. Build out some better hosting services for family on this server

I’m looking at what all I can do for image / picture / family news, etc… I’ve got a few different ideas, some that involve using other services such as google hosting. I’m really tired of facebook, but want to stay in touch with people!

6. Complete some online courses

I’ve really enjoyed doing a few courses on Coursera / Kahn academy. I’d like to do a few more, perhaps while it’s cold outside still. Tough, to do, given how much time everything seems to take.

7. Determine exact viability / state for moving out of this house and improve its livability.

Fin and I want to move, and we’ve talked about it for a while. But just talk. I’m not going to set any more goal for this year than simply determining ‘where we are’ and what we need to move. Hopefully, I can amend this goal to make actions after that – maybe even land us a house somewhere.

There’s a fairly long list of home improvement projects I’ve made, and what all should be done in what order. My goal is to start knocking stuff off of this list. Hopefully, that means some improved organization in some rooms, and ability to do a few projects I’ve been thinking about. I’m going to start tracking “things I’ve done” as that’ll hopefully build energy into doing more.

8. Take a vacation.

This fall, Fin and I finally managed to take a much needed vacation. My only complaint is that we did a bit of combining seeing family with vacation activities. We needed to see family, but I’m thinking this year we do something a little more ‘chill’ / low key.

9. Continue my quest to know Kansas City.

I’m going to set my last years goal again this year. I’d like to visit at least 2 major tourist traps in the KC metro area that I haven’t yet been through / seen. There are multiple museums and such around here that I’d like to visit. We’ll see what I can end up dragging Fin around to see. We’ll likely be entertaining our niece for a couple weeks this summer – and I can drag her out to get some culture if nothing else.

It might be interesting to expand the radius of this out a bit as well. There’s some interesting spots within a few hours drive that might be worth seeing.

10. Be more active and helpful with meetup groups

I’m member / organizer of one meetup, and do a few things with other clubs. This is the most ‘resolutionary’ entry in the mix, mostly because I’m not sure how to manage it. It seems lately, people have been less interested in meetup / hobbies in general – vs ranting on social media. Hopefully I can help others get outside and doing stuff. Or at least be a contributing member to these groups.

2016 was not a kind year to Fin or me. It’s very difficult to look back and find things to be grateful for. I think moving through difficult years lets you see things in a new light. I find myself grateful for family – by choice, marriage, and blood. They have given me hope that we’ll have some awesome years ahead. My hope is that the crap of this year will provide some fertilizer for new growth over the next few.

I just wish it hadn’t sucked so much.

2016 Recap…

I’m keeping this tradition alive, but my feelings toward this year are best summarized by a picture:

SCH Fire Department Dumpster Fire Picture
SCH. Haven Fire Dept Dumpster Fire

Fin and I have been through some rough years. This past year, though, felt like an extra special kick in the face. That said, how’d my year end goals go?

See the picture for a summary.

  1. Consumer Debt Free
    FAIL, stalled out in the summer.
  2. Make measurable progress toward moving.
    More FAIL.
  3. Get technical blog running again
    Even More FAIL.
  4. Build wireless temperature sensor system for greenhouse
    Epic FAIL.
  5. Post another piano recording
    You probably guessed it already. (*cough*) FAIL (*cough*)
  6. Take an actual vacation
    Holy shit. We did this one.
  7. Complete an online course
  8. Learn a web framework (server and browser side)
    You might see a pattern here… FAIL.
  9. Visit at least 2 Kansas City tourist traps
    Well, I saw *both* Sea Life and Lego World? So? FAIL.
  10. Branch out from previous years in a current hobby or find something new altogether
    Hey, I started Taekwondo (Fin calls it Fancy Karate, because she can’t spell it) again. She doesn’t know if it counts, but I’m padding the numbers with a yes.

Well, given all that happened, 2/10 ain’t that bad. Hoping next year goes better.

Getting Back In Shape…

Over the past few years, I’ve made some variant of the “get back into shape” New Year’s Resolution multiple times. Talk to any regular at the Gym, and they’ll tell you all about the January – February rush before things return back to normal.

The past couple years, I’ve struggled with increased mobility issues. So much so, that I spent some time with a Doctor and Physical Therapist for my knees. The general consensus is some form of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. After 6 months of physical therapy, I felt a marginal improvement. This year, I decided I was tired of pain and would attempt to tackle my knees, as well as improve my health.

My ‘start stats’ for this journey (Aug 31):

  • Male
  • 6’6″
  • 260 lbs

I plan on writing up how things go, if only to help myself track progress. I’ve made a few different changes:

  1. Eliminate high-caffeine, soda, high-sugar desserts and foods. I’ve tried to align my diet in order to better control blood sugar, and hopefully prevent diabetes. Started at beginning of August.
  2. Start tracking caloric intake and logging foods / feeling. I’m using MyFitnessPal for my log. I’ll look at writing a more complete review later. Followed for about 2 weeks now.
  3. Monitor activity level, sleep, and heart rate. I’m using Garmin Connect and a VivoActive HR for monitoring. Followed for about a week now.
  4. Gym Lifting Program. I started a membership at our area YMCA, and began working with one of their fitness coaches. As part of a YMCA membership in our area, you get 6 sessions with a fitness coach where they help you build an exercise program. Followed for about a week now.
  5. Returned to the Dojo. I restarted a martial arts program at a new local dojo. It’s an odd feeling having been a fairly advanced student and returning as a white belt. I appreciate a lot more what’s going on, and can focus on the basics again. This also gives me a reason to do daily stretches and excercise beyond the schedule class times. Started at beginning of September.

I think I’m finally starting to see some results, but time well tell. The real question is “can I stick with it?”. Hopefully tracking / posting will help. Meanwhile, a video from one of the Dojo’s I decided to avoid:

Speaking to an empty room…

… write it and they will come? Perhaps.

I’ve recently tried to step back from FB and Twitter and ‘social media’ in general, and return back to the blog-o-sphere. I’ve had some form of blog or another since 2000 – lately, it seems that the majority of blogger folk have jumped ship to FB and friends – or just quit altogether. I’d estimate fewer than 1:10 blogs I used to read are active. Many, like this one, go for great periods of time with no updates, then a series of updates, and then back to quiet.

I guess if we have important things to say, we can post/share them on social media instead.

A while back, Fin alluded to things going on that prevent her/us from posting on a regular basis. In a lot of things, we’re fairly private, and so, I’ll leave it to her to share or not the past couple years. I’ll summarize it with a single phrase: Fuck Cancer. Fin and I have lived the past year in Cancer’s shadow – taking care of a dear relative through all stages of a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Losing a close family member sucks, and we’ve both been fighting to move on. It’s only been a few months, but it feels like years.

We had grand plans for this blog when we started – chronicles of our adventures.

As the dust settles and Fin and I seek a new normal, it seemed like a good time to come back to the blog. We’ll see where it goes, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get back to adventuring and exploring the earlier themes here. I’m not sure where this blog fits in on the new normal – but we’ll see. Maybe there’s some life left in the room after-all.

Lazy Sunday Listening

This has steadily grown on me

A+ producing here. The individual components / performance are good to mediocre, but the combination of mixing, editing, and (shock to here me say it) tasteful digital enhancements combine to a very powerful studio effect.

Side note: anyone else thought about the resurgence of musical videos on the internet? I’m glad youtube and vimeo are around.

2015 Recap and 2016 Resolutions

I’ll be short on last year: FAIL

The only resolution I feel I fully accomplished was participating in the company wellness program. And on that, I give myself a solid C. Last year was about family, and trying to keep it together while my father-in-law fought Cancer. Fin can fill you in on that, but I’ll summarize the year with “Cancer sucks”.

I’m trying to move on, and what better way to start by posting my usual yearly post.

So, 2016…. here we go:

  1. Consumer Debt Free
    No car, auto, credit card, or signature loans. For a stretch, I’d also like to pay off my last remaining student loan.
  2. Make measurable progress toward moving.
    One or more of the following: engaging real-estate agent to help determine needs / value of house, contracting professionals for needed repairs and/or DIY if possible, starting bank relationship for pre-approval of mortgage, seeing houses / contacting buyers agent.
  3. Get technical blog running again
    My technical blog just currently posts a “nothing to see here message”. I’d like to get it going and average 1 post a month. Believe it or not, that blog actually had a regular following and fairly decent traffic.
  4. Build wireless temperature sensor system for greenhouse
    Goal here is to get a temperature / humidity read-out and log for Kris. Bonus points if I can get a working weather station reporting conditions to the web and displaying on the sidebar here.
  5. Post another piano recording
    I’ve worked on a few really lovely pieces the past few years. I’d like to actual post a recording of something – especially since the equipment is just gathering dust in the closet. It’d be really cool if Fin and I could start a pod-cast too, but that’s not likely this year.
  6. Take an actual vacation
    “Actual vacation” is defined here as a minimum of 3 contiguous planned days off from work, not associate with family camping trips, doctors, or family obligations (funeral / wedding ).
  7. Complete an online course
    Technical or musical, I don’t care which – but I need to practice life-long learning again!
  8. Learn a web framework (server and browser side)
    I might combine this with the previous item. I’d like to become more fluent in building websites, especially as the lack of knowledge on modern web development is the major reason why I haven’t yet built a whizz-bang theme for this site.
  9. Visit at least 2 Kansas City tourist traps
    I’ve got a fairly long potential list of tourist traps to visit. I might should add “besides the plaza” here, unless I’m there to visit the art museum. The trick here will be convincing Fin to get out of the house.
  10. Branch out from previous years in a current hobby or find something new altogether
    Lately, I’ve realized a steady movement away from “Jack of All Trades” to “Master of a few”. This year, I’d like to actually explore some new things… Maybe drawing, building models, more hardware instead of software based projects, gardening, tinkering… I dunnos.

It's that time of year again!

If you haven’t started your tomatoes and peppers yet it’s not too late to get them going!  Cole crops too!

Here are some pictures from the greenhouse:





Elderberry cuttings,  some paw paw seeds,  and some wild cherry seeds:


Radishes planted in the ground in the greenhouse:


The greenhouse is getting kind of full,  I really need to figure out some way to make use of the vertical space in there a bit better. 

– Fin

Crowd-Funding Campaigns

Every few days, someone messages me on a new and great crowd funding campaign.

Generally, this comes in the form of sharing a video – a video that makes many grandiose promises if I only donate a few bucks to the cause.  As a few of these campaigns have raised crazy amounts of cash, it seems that they are becoming more popular. Throw a coin at any “Make” fair, and see what I mean.

Now, this may be common sense, but I’d like to share my general way of looking at these crowd-funding campaigns in the hope that I won’t have to deal with people finding me a “Kill-Joy” when the next “big thing” comes along.

Questions I ask when seeing a campaign

What’s in it for me?

If I donate money to your cause, am I preordering a product, or buying a t-shirt that says “I liked it before it was cool”?

Pinonccio – $49 donation gets me a prototype

While kickstarter won’t run them, other crowd funding  sites will host “get a t-shirt” with donation campaigns. If you donate to these, you’ll get a t-shirt, but don’t plan on that t-shirt being anything more than a statement that you can easily be separated from you money.

Why hasn’t this been done before and how is it different?

Let’s say I run across a campaign for creating a garden time-lapse camera system. All I get until the $250 is a thank you and a t-shirt.

At this point, the campaign has satisfied the “something in it for me” angle. There is a real product, and I’m at least somewhat interested. But, is that product out there already?

A quick search on amazon shows me that producers of garden cameras do exist. And, a few of them are substantially cheaper than the $250 this campaign will cost me for one. Does this product provide something new? I may simply not like the company that provides the competing product. Maybe that company hasn’t listened to customer feedback. Perhaps there is a specialized feature I want. Or, maybe I’m just feeling generous.

If the product hasn’t been done – why not? Is there something fundamentally flawed with the idea? It’s possible that this particular product fits a very small niche, and that the only way  of seeing it released is a crowd funded campaign. Or, maybe this product has no real hope for success as the design itself has serious flaws.

Does the group have the expertise to pull the product off?

So, now we have agreed that they have enough of a “hook” for me to bite. At this point, the question becomes, can they make it happen?

Let’s say the campaign is for a desktop Fusion power generator, suitable for fitting into my flying car.

Does the group include a physicist? If not, do they have a good one on standby? If not, would anyone in the group have any way of knowing a good physicist? If not, has the group provided any evidence that they can solve the whole “fusion” part of the problem?

Is there any evidence suggesting that other companies have looked into this problem? Are there solutions out on the market now?

If the group lacks the expertise to build the idea, what are they bringing to the table?

Building a product takes more than having a bad comb over and the ability to shout “your fired”. If the group is going to pay to have the actual development done, have they shown a reasonable budget and plan for doing so?

In the case of a desktop Fusion generator, the evidence would need to be overwhelming before I’d even consider a donation. In fact, I’m not sure anything would convince me it wasn’t a scam. Extremely innovative products tend to have large money backing quickly. Large enough that crowd funding wouldn’t be talked about.

Returning to the Garden Camera, I’d probably look for a meaningful prototype, a good product manager with a gardening background, or simply some good engineers. The technology is known, and I wouldn’t need to worry about development of specialized high technology.

Are they over promising?

If I see a video of something so truly beyond the state of the art to be amazing, the question becomes, how is it real?

If a video advertises some whizz bang Artificial Intelligence, is there research that shows something is possible. For anything computerized, just imagine that instead of the ideal computer shown in the video – it’s your cell phone. How would your cell phone do at the tasks shown? If they are doing similar tasks with significantly better ability – how are they accomplishing it?

Or, are they just lying?

Very talented people are working on lots of the ‘space age’ devices we want to see. Every day. If those devices don’t exist yet, it may be for a reason. Just remember the ‘pet robots’ in the 90s. Yeah, they are cool, but they weren’t R2D2.

Does the group have a valid business plan? Do I care if they vanish?

Let’s say that I really hate the companies producing the garden cameras, and want to donate to this new garden camera company. Does this group demonstrate that my donation will help create a sustainable competitor?

If not, will I care that I’ve purchased a one-off product? In a year, how much will I care if the product breaks?

Perhaps I’m happy that I’ll get my garden camera and can worry about the same problem again later, if need be. That’s a perfectly good answer, but one I should be aware of.

Responding to a Campaign

I’ll generally ignore campaigns that I come across, unless either poked or prodded about it directly.

If so, I’ll walk through these questions until I hit a reason not to donate, and if I hit that reason, I’ll try to let whoever know why I’m not. If the campaign has gone “viral” and I think other people might donate, I might be more proactive about criticism. And, it’s also possible that I’ll share a campaign I’d want to see succeed.

If you share a campaign video, remember – you are sharing a request for money. Requesting money, in my book, removes much of your ability to complain when someone tells you where to go. Manipulative videos may insist that criticism is fighting against a greater good.

We enjoy the right to ask the public for money. In return, the public may criticize that request. Don’t like it? Build the product first using traditional means. And remember, if you are sharing a funding request, then realize the social dynamic of seeking contributions.

Saying Yes can be a Bad Thing

I watched closely as the Diaspora project got going. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, it was one of the first kickstarter campaigns to go viral. Earning $200,000+ in very little time.

Any experienced engineer watching would have smelled trouble. The grand yet completely undefined scope of the project. The lack of real requirements. The lack of any experienced or skilled developers. The poor choices of technology, showing blatant ignorance of the current challenges of competitors trying to do the exact same thing.

In the end, the group of students working this project put themselves through some very rough times. It’s impossible to say what might have happened if the product just fizzled out. And indeed, the tragedies associated with the project, may have happened anyway. Windfall earnings does weird things to a group and to friends. Still, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the eventual suicide of one of the initial members. I don’t think the success of the funding campaign can be directly blamed, but it definitely didn’t help.

Kickstarter does a lot of work to prefilter applicants and campaigns, and even there, people have found a real “bit” in terms of taxes and fees eating into the cash intended for development of a product.

A lot of campaigns fail, but that doesn’t mean the dream has to die. And many campaigns, on their second try, find and fix the errors with the first.


  1. Try to apply some common sense before sending random people on the internet your money.
  2. Asking someone for money gives them a right to ask why and determine if you deserve it.
  3. Giving someone money isn’t always helpful.

There’s a lot of cool kick starter projects out there. Fin and I have sent money to a few. We’ve gotten some cool stuff in return. Do your search before. And if somethings viral?

My experience with viral campaigns is that they are rotten. The cool ones I’ve found and funded tend to be more niche oriented. Though, sometimes, lots of people get onboard for a reason.

— Fate