Christmas Car 2016 – Thumbprint Drawings (Ed Emberley)

Author: tracysigler | Posted: December 23rd, 2016 | | Tags: | No Comments »

Christmas card 2016 front - Ed Emberley Thumb Print Drawings

I didn’t think we would get a card together this year. Mary had this idea at the last minute and got us all organized to knock it out one evening. If you’re a child of the 1970s, or even close, you may remember the thumbprint books from Ed Emberley. See below.

And here’s a zoomed in shot of the back of the Christmas card: Read the rest of this entry »

Screenprinted Lampshade Experiment #1 – Birds on Wires

Author: tracysigler | Posted: November 19th, 2016 | | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Don’t try this at home! Actually, it was pretty fun screenprinting this lampshade, but it was also a challenge. White Plastisol ink is very thick and difficult to push through the screen, even when using a coarser mesh. I got the pattern repeat tweaked in Photoshop and very carefully registered the fabric each time it was printed. Overall I like the effect.  Read the rest of this entry »

Azusa Mini Bike + Predator 212 + Minor Customization = Fast Fun

Author: tracysigler | Posted: March 3rd, 2016 | | 13 Comments »

mini bike right profile

I built this mini bike using an Azusa kit and a Predator 212 engine. I don’t think I’ll ever buy another Azusa frame set. As someone who used to weld and fabricate for a living I think I can objectively say that the build quality on the frame is not great. Sure, the welds are strong and I have no concerns about it breaking. But the engine plate wasn’t square with the frame, the pin for the fork on the drum brake had to be cut down because collided with the sprocket, and the head tube for the fork had distorted from welding and I had to ream it out just to get the bolt through. Weld spatter and burrs are not a big deal but the structural problems were disappointing. I made it work though.

The design theme is a tribute to my father. I have never known anyone who is such a hard core DIYer as my Dad, except for his father, and my younger brother. From cars to houses to furniture and art projects. Dad just goes for it. Actually, my Mom is the same way. So I got the “do it” gene from both sides.

Various custom touches are detailed below. This video also lets you hear how the Predator engine with a straight header sounds. No wheelies were performed in this video. But this little scooter will pull the wheel up with ease. The first time I rode it the front wheel was a foot in the air before I noticed. Hang on. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Convert a Bose 901 to hold a Sonos Speaker

Author: tracysigler | Posted: June 29th, 2014 | | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

Bose 901 converted to hold a Sonos Play 5 speaker

This post is starting with a photo of the finished product. I’ve been lugging around a pair of Bose 901 Series IV speakers I got from a neighbor for more years than I care to admit. The cabinets are solid wood and are in great condition. But this “high tech” for-its-time speaker had problems. The primary one being that it holds nine (!) small speakers and every one, in both cabinets, 18 (!), has a foam “surround” connected to the speaker cone that had decayed over the years. There are kits available to restore these, but I decided to go for a modern upgrade instead. Vintage Bose fans will hate this. Most audiophiles, which I am definitely not, don’t consider these to be great sounding or “accurate” so I had no guilt about cutting them up.

I already had a Sonos Play 5 I and love it. I also love the funky retro-modern look of the Bose 901, especially when paired with a chrome speaker stand. The Bose cabinet is plenty big to hold a Play 5. By putting them together I got the look I want and great Sonos functionality. Plus, no speakers wires necessary! Just plug it in to a close electrical outlet and you’re good to go.

Here’s what I was working with. Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas Card 2013 – House Diorama

Author: tracysigler | Posted: December 19th, 2013 | | Tags: , , | No Comments »
Christmas Card 2013 - House Diorama

Christmas Card 2013 – House Diorama (Click it to see it bigger at Flickr.)

In 2012 we couldn’t get a card done in time. Our dog had just died and Paris was away at college. The motivation and planning didn’t come together. But this year we’re back! Mary had the idea of a diorama and we decided to make one of our house decorated for Christmas.

  • Roof – We cut up some extra shingles from the new roof we got this year.
  • Bricks – We took photos of the different bricks, printed them life size, and cut them up.
  • Windows – Mary cut out the windows and trim, using colors similar to the house. We tried to keep the whole thing slightly cartoonish and handmade-looking.
  • Bushes – Those are made of leaves from the actual holly bushes we have. Dangerous work hot gluing those together!
  • Christmas tree – My grandmother made that ceramic tree a long time ago.
  • Wreath and “lights” – Mary strung up some beads to make lights and made the wreath from green pipe cleaners.
  • Gravel – Straight from the driveway. Not exactly correct but a lot easier than making grass and a sidewalk.

Finally, each family member made his or her “self.”

We started with a piece of foam core cut out for the house and glued the bricks and other parts to it. Then we backed with a piece of drywall also cut to the shape. Then put the whole thing on a large square of drywall so we could light it from behind and have the Christmas tree “inside.” We put pieces of colored paper behind the windows to create the appearance of rooms. The photos below show the set up.

As usual, these cards end up being a lot more work than we expect. But I don’t regret one minute spent working with my family to make something for ourselves, and other family and friends.

(Previous Christmas Cards)



Stick it in ‘D’ for DO IT!

Author: tracysigler | Posted: August 26th, 2013 | | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

stick shift(Photo by brutalSoCal)

When I was a kid my Dad would sometimes make a joke after we would get in the car. He’d say “stick it in ‘R’ for race!” Even as a youngster I knew ‘R’ was for reverse, and the image of flooring it in reverse always made me laugh. Recently, I was heading out on a road trip with my wife. I had a large amount of coffee that morning. As we were leaving I said “stick it in ‘D’ for DO IT!” That got a good laugh from her, which is always a top priority for me, and so it has stuck with me.

I feel like I often stick it in R or N without noticing. Next thing I know days, weeks, months, and even years have gone by and I’m not driving in the direction I want. I come up with all sorts of games to keep myself in D, and “doing it”, but they never seem to fool me very long before I need to come up with another “system.” Maybe that’s all bullshit. Maybe elimination is all I need. Or maybe I just need a kick in the ass from a loved one, friend, coach etc.

I met Mark Bell last year but I certainly don’t really know him. That said, I feel like I know him from watching the excellent documentary Bigger Stronger Faster at least twice, and from watching a countless number of his YouTube posts. Most of Mark’s YouTube posts are about powerlifting, which is something I’m very interested in, but occasionally he drops some knowledge bombs that are relevant to everyone. The video below is one of my favorites. It’s an ass kick from a virtual coach, and as I tell my real coach, having someone up in your business staring at you always makes you try harder.

Heads up, Mark can meander a bit when he is freestyling and the language will not be appropriate for some people. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Stick it in D and DO IT! Start driving toward something.

Valient Thorr – Where have you been all my life?

Author: tracysigler | Posted: August 8th, 2013 | | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Valient Thorr

How can it be that Valient Thorr has existed since 2001 and I just now heard of them? The affects of aging apparently. Wisdom and hipness must be inversely related. Thanks to the miracle of modern media consumption I can know the megarock sounds of VT!

I’ve lived in the same state as the Chapel Hill, NC-based band for seven years. That makes this oversight extra messed up. I probably missed numerous chances to see them live, without traveling the globe to do it. Looks like they are ripping up Europe this summer but I’m hopeful there will be a triumphant homecoming gig right here in Cackalacky sometime this year.

OK, here’s how I heard about Valient Thorr. I was lying on couch watching the Vevo channel on my Roku. When you search for a music video on Vevo it automatically continues playing “related” music.  I started with Turbonegro. That was followed by a couple mediocre bands. Then we jumped way off the tracks and I was subjected to several seconds of Whitesnake’s “On My Own” before I could pounce on the skip button. Keep working on that algorithm Vevo! Mercifully, that was followed by Valient Thorr’s ultramega rocking, and funny, “Double Crossed.”


Official Valient Thorr website

Stop Thinking! Just Set Priorities with a Matrix Instead

Author: tracysigler | Posted: March 31st, 2013 | | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Opportunity Priority Matrix(Photo by reingestalter)

OK, I don’t really mean you should stop “thinking” just stop making decisions about what to work on at work, at home, etc. Decisions will wear you out before you even get started. That’s why it’s called “decision fatigue.”

How can we simplify our lives? By coming with a tool to help us rationally process all the opportunities we have.

What kind of tool do we need? The Opportunity Priority Matrix! My wife and I even used a matrix to choose a car recently.

The steps are this simple:

  1. Choose the criteria that are important to you, or your business, or whatever you are working on.
  2. Choose a range of scores, e.g. 1-3, 1-10, etc.
  3. Score each “opportunity” across all the criteria.

The highest scoring item should be your highest priority, and on down the list. Allocate your time, focus and other resources accordingly. End needless debate, in your head or with other people, about priorities by pointing to the outcomes in matrix.

Why do we need this again? Because you’re are tired of making the same decisions over and over. AND pursuing any opportunity means you have less capacity to pursue other opportunities. That’s why it’s called “opportunity costs.” So we should work on the most important stuff, first. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Getting More Email Improve Your Productivity?

Author: tracysigler | Posted: January 14th, 2013 | | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Email Space Invaders - Can Getting More Email Improve Your Productivity?(Photo by mistersnappy)

Maybe. This post is about using “sticks” instead of “carrots” to compel yourself to take care of business. This idea works for me, but if you don’t practice good email inbox hygiene then it most certainly will not work. In fact, it will just make you less productive, which is what most email does.

I’m not bashing people who leave hundreds or even thousands of emails in their inboxes. To me that does seems insane, and I would find it incredibly stressful (which is why this idea works for me). But I’ve known some very high-functioning people who never seem to delete or even just move emails to another folder.

I treat my inbox like a to-do list. While I strive for “inbox zero” the truth is I rarely get there. That said, I usually keep it to 20 or less by the end of the day. If there is some activity I want to make sure I do on a regular basis, a reminder in my inbox will certainly get my attention. More on that later.

First we need to make sure we’re getting as little email as possible before we add any to the pile. Managing email in general is a very big topic but here are four quick tips that help me:

  1. Unsubscribe from everything. You don’t need whatever it is you’re getting. Use a feed reader or social media to keep up with your favorite bloggers etc. Consume information “just in time” (i.e. go look for it) instead of “just in case.”
  2. Use Boomerang for Gmail. But not too much. In Getting Things Done author David Allen says to never put things back in the inbox. You wouldn’t do that with your postal mail so don’t do with email. There’s also an old expression “OHIO” for “only handle it once.” But Boomerang makes it easy to get an email you don’t need right now, delivered “just in time” when you do. I used to put any email that was going to take a lot of time to either read or respond to into a “Read/Review” folder, but I never would read or review them. Now, if I get something on Tuesday and don’t want to deal with it until Saturday, Boomerang to the rescue! My inbox is cleaner in the meantime. Read the rest of this entry »

Cycling Time Trial Lessons for Life: Sacrifice, Defeat, Winning

Author: tracysigler | Posted: December 10th, 2012 | | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

(Photo by Tricia Plays)

A few years ago at the age of 43 I set a very middling time at a popular bicycling hill-climb-time-trial in Asheville, NC. Seriously, my time was pretty much the dead-on median for guys in my age bracket. I thought I was in reasonably good shape at the time, but was certain I could do better the next year. I couldn’t. Or the year after that. In fact, I was so much slower, due to bad planning and training, that I didn’t even enter. At 46 this year, I knew the odds of me improving were not getting better.

I put a plan together and stuck to it. For something like 30 years this race has been in May. By April I was in great shape and knew a PR (personal record) was going to happen. My only physical or cycling goal at this time was to beat my performance from three years before.

I started checking the sponsoring team’s website for the exact date, but there was no info. I checked back a couple times, still nothing. Finally I emailed them. The response was devastating. “Yes, the race is on, but this year we are moving it to September.” Devastating because not only did I not want to maintain that level of fitness, I didn’t think it was even possible. I was at my limit. Depressed, I pretty much abandoned any organized training, got slow, gained weight, and put it out of mind.

At the beginning of August, with only five weeks to go, I decided I had to give it a shot. I still had some base fitness left, right? Maybe, but I had also gained some weight. I went out to the course and gave it my all. I felt like I was having an asthma attic at the end, and I don’t have asthma. The result, a miserable 27 minutes. Almost three full minutes slower than my goal. That is a huge deficit, over 10%. Success seemed beyond my reach.

But it wasn’t. Exactly five weeks later, race day, I posted another middling time, but at 24 minutes 9.45 seconds it was 1.76 seconds faster than my original time. Words fail me to communicate the intense feeling of satisfaction of reaching my goal.

Here’s what I learned or re-learned in the process: Read the rest of this entry »