nic fouts

the many sides

Most of the fun is pretending you know what the hell you’re doing

“Miniature golf, like billiards, is a game of angles. And, like billiards, most of the fun is in pretending you know what the hell you’re doing. The worse you do, the more you have to laugh.”

–Victor LaValle

I have to admit, I sorta forgot that I wanted to post in here more often. Until earlier this week when I got a phone call from someone at work and was told about how he overheard someone in line for coffee that morning talking about how this has gone dormant. I didn’t even know I had people who still read this, so I guess that’s fun. So, to those 3 of you still following along, I’m sorry for the hiatus. I would say that I’ll work on being better, but we all know that’s mostly a lie.

As for current events, I guess a lot has happened since we last spoke. Umm, let’s see… I bought a chainsaw this summer and have been choppin’ trees wherever I can find. I’m spending a bunch of time at a buddy’s house helping him with maintenance work on the trees he has at the new place. I even brought the chainsaw with me to Thanksgiving this week so I’m spending time down in the woods tomorrow after shopping to see if I can slab up a few freshly fallen trees. I’m not at all certain what I’m going to be able to do, but it’s going to be fun no matter what. I walked through the woods this afternoon just to see what was out there and there’s a HUGE Ash tree that fell and would be amazing to get some pieces from it. Half way through planing out the cuts I remembered that we have a tractor here so I can move it around a bit, as needed. That is SOOO much easier than just having to cut it where it lies and hope you don’t kill yourself. You know, those small details in life that are kind of important.

The title lead-in was a subtle hint to another event: I joined a pool league this year. I found my old cues from when I last played in Fort Wayne (over a decade ago) and they were still in pretty decent shape. I didn’t really like them as much anymore, though, so I bought new playing and break cues. They’re alright, not wonderful, so maybe they will get replaced in another decade. Haha. Amazingly, even though it’s been a decade since I played regularly, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of it pretty well. I’m not doing super wonderfully, but I’m averaging fairly alright.

The basement workshop is nearing completion. (Can a woodworker’s workshop ever really be complete?). All the walls are up and covered, the ceiling is done, the door is in (though not quite perfect), and dust collection is being plumbed on the ceiling. I’m at the stage now where I need to build my workbench and some more shelves/storage solutions. Turns out, a plain box of a room isn’t the ideal place to store your tools. You gotta have CUBBIES! Or at least, some shelves under tables. I have the plans done, so now it’s just a matter of getting a bunch of material and going to town. Part of my hesitation is that I think I want to change the design a little bit in a way that requires a jointer. And I don’t have a jointer, so that means I would have to buy one. And if I’m going to buy one, I should get a nice one that I’m going to like. So now I’m spending a ton of free time trying to find the perfect jointer when I could just be building “good enough” and moving on. ….. But I *DO* like me some new tools. So we all know what I’m going to do now.

November 28th, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

Aspire to greatness

“Aspire to greatness. But remember that no one ever assassinated a refrigerator repairman.”
–Bird Waring

I haven’t been a huge believer in New Year’s Resolutions, pretty much at any time in my life. However, this year I had an idea for one that I am going to try hard to hold myself to. It didn’t come to me until halfway through January, so who knows if you can even really tie it to the New Year (but it looks like we’re sure trying).

Over the last few years I have been wanting to spend some time expanding my inventory of (completed) projects, so a semi-good way to do that is to “launch” a at least one new product each month. And I’m not talking about a new variation on an existing thing I’m making, but a new category or substantial modification to something existing. The definition is a bit hazy, but I feel like the spirit of it will keep me honest enough.

I’m calling a product launched when it is listed in my Etsy store. I had a half-hearted attempt at listing my aluminum art pieces on there a while back and mostly just left it to whither away on its own. I haven’t decided if I’m going to remove those listings or just keep them there as a reminder that I need to actively *DO* something with the store. For now, they stay.

The first new product is one that was actually made at the end of last year. I debated long and hard about actually listing this since the design isn’t actually mine. It was a collaboration with my friend Rob and is actually the trial piece we made to prove out techniques and practice for the “real” ones we were making for him. Even with that, this one turned out great and I’m excited to share it with the world. I’ve also taken the techniques learned with those to create my own line of rings.

I’m planning to offer options with the rings: size (obviously), width, wood color/type, inlay (or not), and inlay type (copper or silver). Because of the technique for the inlay I can’t think of a great way to offer colored inlay options, but I’m working on a new technique that might have some promise. I have some supplies to pre-make a few, but due to sizing and preferences, I’m expecting that most of them will have to be custom items

The January listing was technically posted at like 11:30pm on the 31st, but I’m calling it a win for the January product regardless. I have some thoughts on February’s product, so hopefully I can get it posted earlier in the month.

February 1st, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

Only the unknown frightens men

“Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known.”
–Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As a child, I remember clearly stepping into a room in one of my cousins’ homes. Contained within were several computers set up around the room. It was my first introduction to the word “guru” and the Sun computing system. (I still, to this day, count their logo among one of my favorites in the technological world. Or maybe even just “the world”.) On this machine, they taught me of an online game called MUD. The game itself isn’t important, but the concept of a computer system connected to others definitely is. You could say that this particular moment would inform the rest of my life in a way that I never imagined.

I had a flash back to that particular room as I’m seated in a room within my own house tonight (probably very nearly the same size), itself containing several computers that are connected to many others the world over (via the Internet, if you will). I’m not crawling through a metaphorical, virtual dungeon on these computers, but nothing says I couldn’t do just that. Instead, I’m surrounded by buttons and displays that let me interact with servers that hold many kinds of stories. This particular server I’m staring into holds the ramblings of some idiot in Wisconsin who likes talking about nothing. The computer to my right is connected to another server just 12 miles away and is busy parsing data for display in a graph format to show that some OTHER server is having a bad day (that’s kind of my job description now). When said plainly like this, the weirdness factor increases nearly exponentially with each piece of computing hardware in this room. (And we’re not even going to broach the topic of the cloud-connected, remotely controlled *LASER* sitting behind me! Ok, I guess we did.)

I don’t know that I had a point this this at all. I just poked at some buttons to my left and flashed back to learning about what a computer could do. I couldn’t even tell you how old I was at the time, but you would be hard pressed to tell me that it didn’t leave a mark. I was given an unknown and made it a known. Somewhere in there, I guess the terror began. But that’s the real adventure, right?

July 18th, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

The cars we drive say a lot about us

The cars we drive say a lot about us.
— Alexandra Paul

A post about cars, how fitting. A lot of you know that I bought a truck a couple of weeks ago. It’s been over 7 years since I last owned a truck and it’s been weighing on my mind ever since. Now, for those of you that really know me (or even have met me fleetingly), you know I still love my Mango (Jeep) very much. Mango was special ordered from the factory to be exactly what I wanted. And then I went and added a ton of customizations to it after the fact. A large part of that special order was a manual transmission. My first vehicle was a manual (a truck, of course) and I have had several other manuals in the intervening years since. Getting back to those roots was a large part of that decision, and what a glorious 7 years it has been.

But even the iconic Mango never really filled that void in my life. I didn’t have a truck, and I’ve *always* had a truck. I finally started looking at 2006 F-250’s (the same truck I traded in for Mango) and found a few in town to look at. After driving them, I just didn’t feel the spark I once knew. But I glanced over and saw a 2015 F-250 on the lot and nearly fell in love at first sight. (But first DRIVE and it was a done deal.) So I researched the new Power Stroke engines and discovered that the internet thought the 2015 6.7L was a solid engine.

So, heeding the infallible Internet’s advice, I dove in and purchased the beautiful truck. The name is currently pending DMV personalized plate approval, but assuming all goes well that will be unveiled in a 2-4 weeks. In the meantime, you’ll have to make due with reading bubbly prose about it’s gorgeousness (and maybe an Instagram picture or 10). But yes, it is a 2015 F-250 with the 6.7L Power Stroke diesel engine. It cranks 440 horsepower and 860 lb-ft of torque. Both of which are just monstrous numbers. Obscenely monstrous. And it never ceases to make me giddy. On top of that, it has the Lariat package which includes power convenience options, leather seating, power moonroof, and so much more. Oh yea, and it can tow over 15,000 pounds. WHAT?!

For those of you that haven’t seen the truck (somehow), you can see the now-traditional picture taken in the Vintage parking lot on the day I purchased it.

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The astute among my readers will now harken back to the intro where manual transmissions were discussed. Why is that important? Well, the new truck is an automatic. (Although it *does* have a very nifty manual mode that provides interesting control options.) An automatic. Why would I do that? Well, for starters, a manual transmission hasn’t been available in an F-250 since 2009. For others, the TorqShift is simply an amazing piece of engineering.

Power ratings and availability aside, there is something else I noticed with the automatic. And that is driving style. Oh yea, I didn’t let it slip earlier… I kept Mango. Yes, that means I have two vehicles. Plus the motorcycle. Plus the 4-wheeler. Be quiet, I like my toys. But ok, back to what I was trying to say. Aside from the MASSIVE power and size differences, I notice a definite driving style difference when I’m in each vehicle. Mango not only requires more work to shift through the gears and mental math to pick the right gear and RPM range, it also requires more effort — further and harder presses on the accelerator — to get going. But what you get in return is a connection to the road that forces you to be engaged and to see the road differently. It’s that connection that I’ve always missed since giving up my last manual truck, so getting that back when I got Mango was enormously great.

What does that mean for the F-250? Slight presses on the go-pedal makes it… GO. You never need to trounce on it like with Mango. A little press and away you go. Quickly doing 70 MPH if you’re not paying attention. The road and the effort drift away and you’re simply transported to a future destination. There’s no mental math needed. There’s no worry of RPM ranges or whether your left foot has to hang out near the clutch or can instead be rested on the floorboard. There’s just, go. But once you get used to the “going” and you press lighter, I’ve found that I’m actually driving SLOWER in the truck than with Mango on the same road. The truck would *easily* outpace Mango in any road course, but something about it just makes you.. not. Easily rolling down the road is what it loves to let you do. While always reminding you that it’s ready to roast the tires if it ever needs to.

So in the end, I don’t know what these two vehicles end up saying about me. They both have their place and they both get their workouts. But each needs to know its audience and will perform the feats you require of it.

And just because I learned how to do this, here’s Mango’s birthday picture at Vintage from over 7 years ago:

Introducing: The Bad Mango

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May 29th, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.”
–Sir Isaac Newton

I witnessed a perplexing event today. While intaking a quick lunch before heading off to Robotics, I saw a small family partaking at the same time. This family consisted of (what I presume was) a father, a son, and a daughter. The children both appeared to be around the age of 8-10, though I am terrible at guessing ages so put a 5 year swing on that to be safe. I would ordinarily have completely ignored this setting since the children were fairly well behaved. Then the son went to refill his beverage.

And that’s when I noticed. His t-shirt was a parody on the “in case of emergency, break glass” signage one might see over some aid tool. I wasn’t able to catch all of the wording, but the top part read “In Case of Annoying Sister” in big red letters. I was actually able to find the very same shirt with a little internet sleuthing so you can see the whole thing:

While I am entirely a proponent of funny t-shirts (hello, have you ever seen me?), this took me as an odd choice for a young child to be wearing WHILE EATING LUNCH WITH HIS SISTER! A couple of thoughts raced into my cognition, and the top of the list was why a parent would purchase that shirt in the first place. (If it was gifted to the child for birthday/christmas/whatever, it’s not any better.) It’s just reinforcing the stereotype that brothers have to think their little sisters are annoying and should be avoided. And what must the little girl think of her brother wearing that shirt. How does her world-view change (or become reinforced) when that is allowed to exist in her own home?

It bothers me that this shirt exists in the first place, but it takes a lot more public outcry than I can drum up to make retailers change their practices. Ignoring that problem for tonight, I don’t understand what leads a parent to think that this is what they want in their house. For their family. For their children. There are enough external forces in the world driving siblings to dislike each other, why add to the internal ones?

September 3rd, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

I have taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me

“I have taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me.”
–Winston Churchill

I skimmed a headline the other morning that said something about 2 beers being better for pain relief than Tylenol (it actually said paracetamol, but I’m willing to bet the Yanks in the room don’t know what that is). Anyway, if that’s true then whiskey has to be way better than beer. I wonder if I can get research grant money to investigate that. My preliminary tests show that there’s a strong correlation.

Maybe you’re asking why I’m testing whiskey for its pain relieving properties. Well, some context is in order, I suppose. About a year and a half ago, I had an elective surgery. Things went kind of wrong and there was infections and swelling, essentially all manner of not happy. After antibiotics, my physician recommended letting it heal on its own. Things slowly got better, so I agreed to wait it out. After a year of continued pain I finally decided to try something else. I was transferred to a specialist for my… condition, and a surgical option was discussed. Basically, they’d cut out some of the (still) inflamed area and sever the nerves that were feeding the pain signals away from there. I decided I had nothing to lose. That second surgery was almost exactly a month ago, at this point. There is still a little residual surgical pain that is subsiding more and more each day, but the original pain is now completely gone.

Gone enough that I was able to take the motorcycle out today. It’s been over 2 years since I’ve been able to ride my bike, and being back out there makes me very happy. (I quickly remembered that there is still so much left to fix on it, but it was great nonetheless.) That’s not to say that tonight didn’t have consequences. Remember, I didn’t say the pain was completely gone. I don’t think I aggravated anything worse than before, but upon returning home tonight I noticed pain that was back at last week’s levels.

So that’s where whiskey comes in. After the narcotics ran out in the first week, I’d planned to just suck it up and go cold-turkey on the pain. I was still walking with a cane at that point, mostly to slow me down which helped the most. A couple of days into that plan, I decided to regroup and try something new. A nightly glass of whiskey has been working wonders to dull the pain, letting me enjoy my evenings and get some sleep.

So in the end, tonight earned a slightly larger glass than the rest of the week. Totally worth it.

August 16th, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

I Believe Every Human has a Finite Number of Heartbeats

“I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.”-Neil Armstrong

I’m not sure how today came to be, but it did.  Mostly on a whim, I planned this trip to California.  It was predominantly predicated on the desire to check out the Computer History museum in Mountain View.  I’m a total nerd and it sounded like the best use of some vacation time.  So ok, planning a trip to California is pretty standard stuff… that’s not why we’re here today.  Today was interesting because I VERY last minute-like decided to drive out to San Francisco.  It’s about 50 miles away from my hotel, but I figured “what the hell”.  

So, I end up at the Golden Gate Bridge.  After being COMPLETELY turned off by the amount of people at the visitor’s center I decide to drive away having gotten a single (not great) photo.  A couple of random turns later and I end up at a free parking lot near what turned out to be an old military outpost.  It guarded the bay with huge rapid-fire guns.  Some capable of firing munitions over 12 miles.  So that was cool, but then I realized it also had fantastic views of the bridge and the bay itself.  (The latter was obvious, the former less so at first.)

After enjoying the views for a few short minutes, I realized I REAlly had to pee.  Not wanting to deal with the humans at the visitor’s center (and assuming it even had a restroom), I hopped back in the car and decided to go find a gas station.  Mission accomplished I decided, “hey, why not go back to where you just were.  There were probably other cool things you didn’t see.”  So sure, I backtrack and return to my new-found spot of intrigue.  After snagging several new (and way better) photos, I’m mostly just walking around and checking out the military architecture.  Suddenly, someone stops me to inquire about my Colts hat.  The usual couple of initial questions quickly makes us determine that we are from the SAME hometown in Indiana.  Further, we went to the same high school (albeit 10 years apart).  The icing on the cake, though, was when she informed me that she was the daughter of my music teacher.  He was a man I highly regarded, and was fairly good friends with his son.  I never knew the daughter back then, but this chance encounter of being a whim upon a whim upon a dream was quite the twilight set of happenstances.  

I’m not sure how today came to be, but it did.

August 5th, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

Dear Sabbatical: Entry 8

Dear Sabbatical,

It’s officially over. Well, the road trip part of you. After 6,298 miles I’m back home. You threw a ton of horrible obstacles in my way. You took what was supposed to be a fun and quiet time and made it resemble nothing of the sort. But that’s fine. I survived and now I’m at home, where I get to spend two full weeks doing all the things I was supposed to do in Canada. Well, all that plus fixing those problems you threw at me. A few couldn’t be fixed on the road, but now I have my garage so nothing is off limits.

Part of my dilemma now is determining who I tell about my early return to the country. The fewer people that I tell, the easier it is to remain a hermit and not go into public. However, since I’m back, there are some public things that I might like to do. Which means telling those people, which spreads the knowledge around.

But for now, I’m unpacking the Mango and the trailer. Both of which still need a good wash. Maybe that’s a good task for the middle of this week.

July 6th, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

Dear Sabbatical: Entry 7

Dear Sabbatical,

I’m in Winnipeg. Spitting distance, really, from home. Given a final big push, I’m sure I could be home tomorrow night. I’ve been getting up around 6am most days, so an early start could be arranged. Now that I’ve calmed down for a few days (although things are still attempting to rile me back up), I’m considering whether I want to burn some more days “in country” to rack up reimbursement money. The problem is that I’m limping along already. The solar charging didn’t charge the batteries enough, so last night the beeping returned around midnight. The on-board water is still empty, so that’s still miserable. I’m south enough now that it’s hot and humid during the day, so without power the warmth is not fun. One thing I hadn’t counted on as much as I should have is just how crappy the bed in this trailer is. On a whim, I even got one of those memory foam topper things, but it still isn’t enough. Being back home with my nice, real bed would be a good way to end this misery.

I think it’s time to just pack it in and call it what it is: over. A sabbatical is supposed to be a fun time, full of adventure and exploration. My adventure was cut short because of reasons, and it’s no longer fun. Why prolong this suffering when I can just be at home?

July 3rd, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments

Dear Sabbatical: Entry 6

Dear Sabbatical,

I’m smarter than you. At least, I am when I’m not thoroughly pissed off. I figured out what all that beeping racket was about last night. It’s apparently a “safety” feature. The battery on the trailer was low (11 volts), so the temperature control unit was alerting that it couldn’t function properly. Since everything runs on 12 volts, that makes sense. Really, 12 volt nomenclature is misleading but 11 volts is far too low. Even my 12 volt laptop charger won’t work below 12.2 volts.

Which just points out another reason this trip was doomed from the start. The company I bought the trailer from was supposed to wire up Mango with a 7-pin trailer connection, because they were also going to install a brake controller. The day we scheduled that to happen was also their first busy day of the season, so they “suggested” just installing a trailer-mounted brake controller that would use signals from the existing 4-wire harness. That sounded fine, in theory. But one key feature of the 7-pin connector is that it also CHARGES the trailer battery while driving. So last night’s mishap wouldn’t have happened if the original plan was in place, and the trailer charged all day while I was driving.

So fine. In reality, even this was kind of part of the plan. I wouldn’t have been driving ALL the time, so there’s a back-up to charging the trailer. I’ve got a solar panel, and even a real generator, just in case. The generator is a lot of hassle to just use for a little while, so solar panel it is. That does mean it takes longer to charge up, but maybe that’s not so bad. I’m not parked where I wanted to, but I’m burning more time in Canada so I’m basically getting paid for it. While the solar panel soaks up the Canadian sunlight, I’m inside catching up on more of those books I’ve talked so much about. Maybe I’ll take a nap, too.

July 2nd, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | no comments