When we bought our house in Denver, we intentionally got one that didn’t really need any work done on the house itself. That didn’t entirely work out (yay emergency bathroom remodeling!), but most of our attentions have been focused on our yard, and particularly our back yard. We wanted a “livable” space, that we could spend a bunch of time in and really enjoy. It’s fun to look back at where we started, and where we are now.
When we moved into our new house, the yard was a mess. That’s definitely still the case in some areas, but we’ve made a lot of progress with cleaning things up, and turning it into a real “livable” yard. One of the pieces of that journey was getting a real fence installed down the side/back of the property. Here’s what we had when we first bought the house:
As you can see, it was a hip-high chainlink fence. Not only was it pretty ugly, but our neighbor has a dog, and our terror of an animal, Bambi, would just go insane trying to attack him through this fence. To replace it though, we had to get all those trees out of there, because they were all literally grow into the fence. That was a massive project on its own, but we got it done:
With that out of the way, we needed to get our new fence in. We opted for a horizontal-picket style, which is pretty trendy, and “modernizes” the house a little bit, without getting too crazy. I had never built a fence, but Erika’s family-friend Joe came and helped, so I learned pretty quickly. We got the back/side section done together in a few days:
We stopped there because both of us were busy, and it was a good stopping point anyway. That was towards the end of Summer, so the weather started turning a bit, but I managed to grab some good days in between snow and whatnot (Denver’s weather is crazy), and managed to get the rest of it down, down the side of our house, all the way to the front:
I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out (everyone keeps saying it’s more of a wall than a fence!), and now I know how to make one if I ever need to do it again. Nothing too complicated, just taking your time and thinking it through. The biggest mental hurdle for me was getting over thinking of the posts as being relevant to the position of the ends of the pickets. The posts just provide the structure/foundation, and then the framing that you put in is what handles the pickets (and attaches to the posts).
At least I know if this internet thing doesn’t work out I’ve got an alternate job to fall back on 😉
During our last team meetup, we had a “guac-off”, where 2 of us made our own recipes of guacamole, and then everyone “blind taste tested” (aka devoured them, without knowing who made which one), and we voted. Mine won! In the end it was the texture (more chunky) that won it for me. Someone asked for the recipe, and this is the best I could give them:
- Avocados (1-3 depending on size and how much you’re making, scoop out with a spoon, roughly dice, mash into bowl with a fork. Leave at least one half out, un-mashed, and add it in later to keep some more chunky texture)
- Tomato (~1 whole, remove all the seeds/juicy bits, and dice the outside flesh)
- Cilantro (handful, chopped up roughly)
- Yellow Onion (~1/4, finely diced)
- Lime Juice (usually 1 or less full limes’ worth; too much makes everything watery)
- Jalapeño (~1, as much flesh as you want, and then include seeds to taste, that’s where the heat is)
- Garlic (optional, I don’t remember if I had this during the meetup. Just a tiny bit (half a clove) either way, it really “comes to life” in guac)
- Salt and Pepper (uses quite a bit of both, especially salt. Just keep adding and tasting until it’s good)
I start out by scooping, slicing and mashing up 1 avocado, and leaving one to the side. Then I’ll chop the onion, tomato, jalpeño and cilantro, and get that all in there. This is also when the garlic goes in (if you’re using it). While adding these, I’ll mix it and mash it a little bit, just to make sure it’s all mixed through. Now scoop, slice and throw in the other avocado, then add lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix it up (mashing a little more in the process) and keep adding salt/pepper until you get the taste you’re after. You can also tweak with more jalapeño or lime juice at this point, which is where a lot of the taste comes from.
For an interesting twist, throwing some chipotle powder in at the end can add a pretty good spice/smokey flavor.
Benchmade Volli on top, Kershaw Blur on bottom.
- The Volli is clipped so that it sits tip-up in the pocket. The Blur is tip-down, so that’s taking some getting used to.
- The handle on the Volli is noticeably thicker/fatter than the handle on the Blur. Since the clip also has a higher profile, the entire package is quite a bit bulkier in a pocket
- The AXIS lock on the Volli is really nice, and the locking mechanism along the spine is a nice touch — you can double-lock the blade open for heavier work.
- The Blur has a faster spring-assist, and a more satisfying “clunk” when coming open. I think the sound/clunk comes partially from the aluminum frame (vs the Volli’s “G10” handle, which is some kind of plastic/fiber stuff).
- The Volli has zero blade-play, which the Blur has a bit.
- The thumb-stud on the Blur is “one-sided”, and has a bit sharper of an edge on it, which can be good or bad.
- Because of the slightly wider handle (and thus wider arc to get around it), I find the Volli harder to close one-handed.
- The straight edge on the Volli’s blade is a big plus for me. The slightly curving blade on the Blur really annoyed me when sharpening it.
- Handle length is (almost?) identical. Blade is a little longer on the Blur.
- The Blur is a little heavier .
- I really like the blade grind on the Volli.
- The Volli’s blade is a little thinner than the Blur, and is also ground down along the spine to make it appear even thinner still.
- Since the handle on the Volli is plastic, I guess I won’t be able to use it as reliably as a bottle opener (note the scratched out surface on the Blur, where the blade meets the handle 🙂 ).
Overall, I’m happy with the Volli, and will definitely keep is as my EDC (at least for now). I do think that if you could take the Volli blade and put it on something resembling the Blur handle, but keep the AXIS lock, you might really have a winner.
Image shows leather hand-pad, copper-tipped pressure flaker, small stone (Jasper?) arrow head and larger glass/beer bottle arrow head (both made by me, today).
A few weeks ago I decided to have a look on Meetup.com and see if there were some meetups that looked interesting enough to attend in the area. I spotted the Wilderness Awareness and Survival Skills in Denver group, and joined it immediately. I’ve been interested in this sort of thing for a while, and even attended a week-long school with Tom Brown a few years ago. The next meetup was going to be a basic flint-knapping class, which is something I’ve wanted to try for a while. We talked about it at the Tom Brown Tracker School class, but like so many other things, didn’t have time to get any hands-on experience. I’ve also been watching a bit of Ray Mears stuff lately, and he does some basic knapping in some of his episodes, so I had some recent motivation to check it out.
The meetup was held in the court-yard/shared space between 2 apartment blocks, one of which our guide lived in. Andrew is a really personable guy who apparently works for Denver Parks & Rec at the moment. He’s also studied and been practicing primitive skills for a while, and these meetups are his way of passing those skills along to others. He was really well-prepared, and provided us with everything we needed (except a chair) to get started, and to make some simple blades/arrow-heads.
We were mostly aiming for 3-notch arrow heads, since they give a notch to got in the end of an arrow shaft, and then 2 side-notches for binding the head to the shaft. They are a little more complex than some of the others I’ve seen (or the ones that Ray Mears was making), but they aren’t that hard once you get the hang of things, and I guess could even work without any natural glue, which is an advantage. They definitely require a fine, strong point on your pressure-flaker though, so you need something like a deer antler, or if you’re using some modern tools, then a copper-tipped flaker like we used works nicely.
For practice, we used the bottom of beer bottles, which flake pretty nicely, are cheap and easy to acquire, and are pretty consistent (so you don’t have to figure out crazy impurities or anything). To get the base off, we put a giant steel nail inside the bottom, then just shook it up and down a little until it popped out the base. Then you start flaking off the edges and go from there.
- A strip of leather (which you use in your hand, to guard against sharp flakes, and the tip of your pressure flaker)
- A round/smoothish rock (or a few different ones), for percussion flaking and also for “platforming”
- A pressure flaker, which you can see in the picture above (that’s a thick piece of copper wire in the tip of a piece of Aspen (I think, the wood doesn’t matter that much, just make it soft enough to get the wire in there). Traditionally, you’d use a deer antler (which we also tried). They are amazingly strong, and already pointed.
- Stone/glass to knap.
There are 3 main things we were told to keep in mind:
- Platform: this refers to setting up the edge that you’re working on. Basically, you use a rounded stone to abrade/grind off the edge so that you can remove all the small irregularities and provide something a bit more substantial for your pressure flaker to grip onto.
- Centerline: which is just referring to the rough centerline of the mass of your piece, on a horizontal plane. You always want to be flaking down from this line (into your hand, “under” the piece you’re working on).
- Acute: you’re looking for acute angles, below the centerline. That’s where you can get good flakes, and make progress. If the angle is obtuse, there’s nowhere for your flaker to grip, and you won’t be able to flake anything off.
I went back and found my notes from Tracker School about flint knapping, and was impressed to see that they lined up almost 1:1 with what I learned today. Getting a chance to try my hand at it really made a difference though, and I’d like to give it a bit more of a shot in the future. I’m particularly interested in super-simple, percussion-flaking, which is something that seems like it could be immediately useful in a survival situation (where you’re not going to have something like antler or copper wire handy for true pressure flaking).
A big shout out to Andrew for being a great teacher, and I really look forward to having some more classes and adventures with him and the others.
I decided to start a separate blog as a kind of fishing journal to track my adventures in fishing. It’ll probably focus mainly on locations, what I tried to fish with, how I went, etc, but it might be interesting to you. If you’d like to check it out, head over to fishing.dentedreality.com.au (I’m still back-filling some posts back to when I relocated to Denver).
Once a year, all of Automattic gets together in one place for a full week of face-to-face work, learning, food and fun. We fly in from all around the world, shuttle to a hotel/resort/space of some sort, and then get together to work through a bunch of things. This year we descended upon Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah (another US state crossed off my list!). The week was roughly structured into a front-loaded, work-type-things section, and a tail end more loaded with activities. For my part, I:
- Learned more about Node.js (and got a copy of coworker @TooTallNate‘s “Node.js in Action“), specifically in relation to some new applications we’re building out at WordPress.com
- Worked with React.js some more (which is awesome and pretty exciting)
- Went on a 5km run (walked the first bit, but then my knee was feeling OK so I ran most of it)
- Took a gondola ride up the mountain, then went on a ~1.5 hour hike through beautiful aspens and conifers, past a trout-stocked lake and through some downhill MTB trails
- Went on a guided fly fishing trip with guides from Trout Tales, where I (finally!) caught my first fish; and then my second and third as well
- Visited High West Distillery for a tour, tasting, and picked up a bottle of their Son of Bourye (a delicious blend of Bourbon and Rye)
- Met a bunch of new Automatticians and spent time hanging out and getting to know people new and old
- Road tripped from Denver, CO to Park City, UT and back again with @alternatekev and @michaelarestad
Michelle did a great official write-up on the WordPress.com Blog.
Here is a collection of shots from the week (including the trip there and back):
* Title image taken by Luca Sartoni
I just got back from seeing Phantogram play at the Ogden Theater here in Denver, CO, and they blew my mind. It was definitely one of the stand out shows that I’ve seen recently, which was extra impressive for a Monday night, at a venue I can walk to from my apartment, for $25.
Their set was super tight, and flowed really well. Instruments were switching constantly, and the four of them wove guitar, drums, keys, bass and samples together flawlessly. The two core members, Josh and Sarah, switched vocals every few tracks to provide a balance and variety that kept things interesting, while one of the best-executed light shows I’ve seen played on around them. Their stage presence was dramatic, powerful and engaging, when it wasn’t intimate and personal, depending on the track.
If you get the chance, go and see them, you won’t regret it.
I was moved enough to buy a shirt as a memento, which I almost never do at live shows.
* Header image from Wikipedia entry.
Easiest Development Environment
As much as native mobile app developers would have you believe that apps are the future, I still think that open web technologies are the key to the future. Give it a little time, and we’ll mostly be writing all of our mobile apps in HTML/JS, and deploying them in wrapper-apps to our phones. I consider this basically inevitable. Learning to develop for the web is super important. You’ll need to know it basically regardless of what main language you’re working with, because despite our best efforts, you will still end up manipulating CSS, tweaking some HTML tags, etc. That’s not going to go away any time soon I don’t think.
I’ve been pretty fascinated with the idea of recording my own location for a while now. I started using Foursquare at SXSW in 2009 and have mostly continued to do so since then (I have over 3,700 check-ins). You can see my check-ins being syndicated back to this website (using Keyring Social Importers), and if you scroll back through the history of the main page, you’ll get maps aggregating a few check-ins at a time.
In February last year, I started using Moves, and quickly came to love its simplicity. It’s a background app that runs on your phone and keeps track of your location. Using server-side data processing, they crunch the raw location information to figure out when you were walking, running, riding, or on some form of transit, then give you back a timeline and a map showing what you’ve been up to. It’s a really nice “set and forget” way of keeping up with how many steps (roughly) you’re doing each day, plus your other forms of exercise. The app has continued to make small improvements, and then on April 24, Facebook bought them. I can’t say I’m stoked about the acquisition, but regardless, it’s a cool app, and it collects some fantastic data.
Since it’s all data, and there’s a growing sphere of location/movement-related data services out there, shuffling your data around is just a matter of a little programming. As I mentioned, I’m importing my Foursquare data into my blog already. I also have a Moves importer that’s currently creating a text-only summary of my information. I’ll probably add simple maps to it at some point. Moves-Export is a pretty neat service that will automatically import your Moves data and can give you a better breakdown of things, plus auto-post to Runkeeper and Foursquare (if you like) when activities are over certain thresholds (e.g. riding for more than 15 minutes). Pretty awesome.
Today, Chris Messina tipped me off to Move-o-scope, an awesome web app that will slurp in your Moves data, and give you back a rich visualization of it all. It lets you toggle things on and off, pan around the globe and see what you’ve been up to. It’s fascinating. Here are some places I’ve been since last February!
It’s fun to turn on the “Transit” layer (orange/brown, seen in the last picture above and the first one in the post), and follow the lines around the globe to see where you’ve been, then turn it off and zoom in to get a feel for what ground you covered while you were there.
This year has actually been a particularly big year. Probably the headliner happened only a week ago; Automattic raised $160 million, on a valuation of $1 billion. That’s a lot of money. That’s a large valuation, and it feels kind of weird to be employee #35 of a company of that scale. We’re now at 247 employees, and we span 30 different countries. Whoah.
Other than that, this year we: had a pretty large secondary fund-raising ($75m, via Tiger Capital), made some exciting acquisitions: Cloudup, Scrollkit, Longreads, had another successful WordCamp San Francisco (where I spoke, and organized the Contributor Day again), launched WordPress.com Connect, transitioned to a new CEO (Matt Mullenweg, our founder), and a bunch of other interesting things both internally and externally.
In my sixth year as an Automattician, I’ll be relocating to Denver (my second relocation since I started, capitalizing on working for a completely distributed company). I look forward to new adventures there, and continued adventures with Automattic. It continues to be an inspiring and challenging company to work for, full of interesting and impressively-smart people.
Thanks everyone for continuing to make Automattic home, it’s the best job I’ve ever had, and it would be hard to ever top.
: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay.
Last weekend, I went to a friends house for a “story telling” night. The theme was “time”. I decided to tell the story about how I cut my thumb with a hatchet recently, and someone recorded it, so now you get to hear it as well.
(It’s pretty quiet, so you’ll need to turn your volume up to hear it properly).
Today is kind of exciting, although it’s been a long time coming so it’s not much of a surprise for me 🙂 Today Scott Berkun, the author of books such as The Myths of Innovation, and Confessions of a Public Speaker, releases his latest book, The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work.
The book gives an inside look at what it’s like to work at Automattic, and to work on something like WordPress.com. Scott was my direct team lead (of the team that I now lead) while he was at Automattic, so the book contains a lot of personal interaction with yours truly. It also happens to be a fun read with a bunch of interesting insights into distributed teams, management, and the open-source-based culture we have at Automattic, and which may well be the future of many more companies.
I’ve read versions all the way back to some of the first drafts, and am right now reading the “final” version which I received in hard copy. You should go get it and read it as well.
- I have a computer on my arm!
- I can read text messages without taking my phone out
- I can control music that’s playing on my phone
- WordPress notifications on my wrist? Yep.
- Calendar alerts? Got ’em.
- The form-factor is slick: it’s slim, super lightweight and IMHO, looks pretty darned cool.
- Nice backlight, which I can activate by shaking my wrist or tapping the watch
- It’s waterproof! (although I’m too nervous to actively put that to the test)
So why can’t I love it? Let me count the ways (biggest reasons first): (more…)
Anyone who works in a remotely corporate environment has no doubt heard a bunch of (often ridiculous) military metaphors describing business-as-usual. We’re divided into “squads” and talk about “strategic thinking” and “tactical mistakes”. We develop “mission statements” (more about that later) and managers demand that we “go in for the kill”, all the while referring to their top executives as their “Generals” and modeling the hierarchy of their companies around the command structures seen in the military. While a lot of this is just the strange glorification of business (and war), it turns out that some of it makes a lot of sense (on a very metaphorical level), and might just be evolving right along with military tactics. John Robb has done some amazing work analyzing the application of open source concepts to warfare, I’m going to do something like the opposite and look at applying special forces operating concepts to technology startups.
I recently finished reading Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice, by (Vice Admiral) William H. McRaven, who credited as organizing and executing the mission that brought down Osama bin Laden. He is now the Commander of US Special Operations Command, so he’s somewhat of an authority on the subject. While reading the book (which is a really interesting read in its own right, I highly recommend it), I couldn’t help but notice a lot of corollaries between what I was reading and the structure and function of tech startups (and perhaps smaller units within larger technology companies). Let’s look at how Special Operations Warfare compares to working at a startup.
When I moved to Brooklyn in June, I decided that I wanted to get to know my new neighborhood reasonably well, reasonably quickly. Being an engineer, I figured a methodical approach was the best solution, so I got a map and got to work.
Based on a rough understanding of what was where, and letting the nearby Prospect Park somewhat dictate the area I wanted to cover, I drew out a grid with my new home roughly at the center, covering the bulk of the surrounding area that was of interest. The grid looked like this: (more…)
NOTE: I am fully aware that at times in the review below, I sound like a ridiculous book-critic or something. I do not care. Also, links to Amazon contain my affiliate id.
A few weeks ago I attended the New York Times‘ TimesOpen Open Source Science Fair on behalf of Automattic/WordPress.com. As part of my “thank you” bag, I got a copy of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. I left it on my bedside table in a stack of other books which I’d thus far neglected to start, let alone finish (not to mention all the unopened titles on my Kindle).
On Saturday, I attended the 2012 New Times/TimesOpen Hack Day. It was a long day, but I had a lot of fun. I sat in on an intro session to Arduino which was pretty cool, and also a session on the EchoNest API, which I ended up using in my project. You can find out all about my project on the Readtrack project page.
It’s a bookmarklet-powered little app that analyzes the page you’re looking at (using the AlchemyAPI) and then tries to find related music (using the EchoNest API) which it then plays back to you in your browser (using rdio). I got a “runner up”/honorable mention prize 🙂
One of the most visually-polished projects was “Story Arc”, which showed a visual representation of the frequency of mentions of keywords over the NYT archives. Probably the most fun one was a set of drivers for a DDR pad, hooked up to commands for things like deploying code!