Monday, October 14, 2013

The Broken Token

I'm an IT guy by trade.  I work in the Telecommunications industry, setting up and managing call centers for clients all over the US.  Well, to be fair, lately it has been mainly in Minnesota, but I did go to Phoenix a few months ago.  I'll do whatever my clients need me to do, from building call flows to deliver their calls to the correct agents, to building menus and automated systems that allow their calls to be handled without ever talking to a real person.  It's not very glamorous work, most times its pretty boring.  I'm either in the upstairs office of my home or in a random hotel somewhere, eating badly and not sleeping enough.

To gain access to the secure networks of my clients they often issue me a Secure Token generator.  Its essentially a key fob that generates a random 8 digit number every 60 seconds.  I use that number, along with an 8 digit PIN, and a password to log in to the systems I administer and support.  At the moment I have three separate token generators and they all look identical.  I needed something to help me keep them separate.  I figured color coding was the key.

Before I left home on Sunday, I grabbed some scrap pieces of 550 cord from my scrap box and attached them to each token generator.  Sitting in my hotel room tonight, I took a few minutes to tie those scraps into some cobra weave bars.  I don't have anything to cut the loose ends with, nor do I have a lighter to melt them if I could cut them, but they will work until I get back home in a few days.

In a few minutes and a little scrap 550 cord I was able to make something that will allow me to keep each token separate and look pretty cool at the same time.  You know, it doesn't have to be something amazing.  It doesn't have to be insanely complex.  Just making something, and not buying it, not spending money on something that you can easily make yourself, gives you a great feeling.  Try it, you'll like it, I promise.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Return of the Fishing Bracelet and Soup!

Just a quick post here tonight, well this morning. Wow!  I need to go to bed.  I lost track of time sitting on the couch tonight working on a new fishing bracelet?  What is a fishing bracelet you ask?  Well, its a survival bracelet, made from 550 paracord, that contains some fishing line and a few hooks inside it.  Other than some of the wrapped line showing through the holes in the cobra weave bracelet, you would never know that it contained 25 feet of 50 pound test line and two number 10 hooks.

In other news I have been eating more soup than you can shake a stick at these last few days.  Soup?  When it is 95 degrees out still and 100% humidity in the great state of Virginia?  Yep!  Taco Soup.  Seriously, go get these ingredients.  A single batch cost me $13 at the grocery store.  It easily fed my entire family, with enough left over for my wife to take in her lunch and my son to eat as his "snack" before going to bed last night.  The recipe is deceptively easy but the result is amazing.  Quick!  Go make some!


1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15.25 oz.) can sweet corn, drained
1 (12.5 oz.) can white chicken breast, drained
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 oz.) can green enchilada sauce
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning

Mix all ingredients together in a large pot.
Heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Oatmeal Spoon and a trip to the beach

I just got back from the beach.  Well, I got back this past Friday, but then the holiday weekend kicked in, and before I knew what was happening I woke up this morning and it was Tuesday.  I was able to spend some time with my brother and his family last week, catching up, doing a little fishing, and of course, spending a little time carving a few spoons.  It was a beautiful week, lots of sun, nice temps, and was just what I needed after a few weeks of traveling for work.

I worked on a spoon while I was down at the beach, well two spoons I guess, but one is still a long way from being finished.  I've been pondering what to do with it, and then today, on a walk with my dog, it hit me.  Oatmeal!  I've been trying to get back into the habit of eating oatmeal for breakfast again.  Not only is it pretty tasty, but it also seems to stick with me for a while during the day and I am not starving so badly at lunch.  I spent a little time today thinning out the bowl and I left it with a knife finish, I'm happy with it.  Now it just needs a coat of oil and I'll be good to go.

Oh, that thing that it is laying on?  Just another project for another post.  More on that later.  I need to get my leather working tools out.  Thanks for reading.  Go make something with your hands, maybe even a spoon for oatmeal.  Its a great feeling.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

That Whoopie Sling Thing

My brother asked me a few weeks ago if I could make him a set of Whoopie slings.  As usual, he sent along a Youtube video that showed some instructions.  He has done this before with his request for a fishing bracelet.  That reminds me, I need to make a few more of those.

Before he sent me that video I really didn't even know what a whoopie sling was.  In case you don't know, a whoopie sling is used to attach a hammock to a connection point.  Its benefits are the fact that it is light weight and adjustable.  After watching the video, I told him I could get it done.  Of course, life got in the way.  Several business trips later though, I finally sat down and knocked this little project out.

As with most things, the thought of creating the whoopie sling ended up being much more difficult than it truly was.  I made my first one in probably 20 minutes and the second one in less time.  I could provide a tutorial, but really, just go check out this video by Matt Ukhammocks.  I will say that his method is a bit fiddly, I actually ended up using a piece of wire to pull the ends through, but I think it may have had more to do with my bad taping job than anything else.  No matter how you do it, removing a few strands from the end of the Amsteel cord was a tremendous help.

The fixed loop at the end of the sling, called a fixed brummel, is actually pretty easy and the technique that is shown in the video is exactly what I did.  The difficult part for me was hiding the tail within the cord itself, its a tight turn with a short end to work with.  This was also true for the back splice ending after the constriction splice was done.

I paid $7 (US) for 25 feet of Amsteel Blue plus shipping.  I probably should have looked around a bit more, I have a feeling shipping charges were a bit on the high side.for sure.  The other materials I used were items that I already had at home, a pair of scissors, a pen to start my holes (as seen in the video) and some wire to help make the splices easier.

Trust me, you CAN make these.  It takes a little bit of patience and some time, but it is very doable.  Why pay $15-$20 for a set of these when you can make your own for a fraction of that cost?  The slings made here are scalable.   You can easily increase the length of the slings just by adding more cord.  These are 6 foot whoopie slings.

Thanks for reading, go out and make something with your hands.  You won't regret it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Passion is as passion does

Its been a while since I have posted anything out here on this blog.  Its been a busy few months, a new job, more travel, the start of baseball season.  I'm out of town now actually, sitting in a hotel room for the 7th night in a row, missing my family, missing my dog, and my home.  It happens, the things you go through to provide for your family sometimes cost more than anyone realizes.

I drove to Darwin, MN over the weekend.  I had some down time and thought I would do a little sight seeing.  Darwin, MN has a population of about 350 people.  It is a small place, really small.  I saw a bar, one restaurant, and a big ball of string.  For all it lacks in size, the ball of twine on the one small street more than makes up for it.

It's housed in a gazebo walled in by huge panels of plexiglass sheeting.  It is made of bailing twine and it fills the inside of the gazebo almost completely.

What makes this ball of twine most impressive is that it was made by one man over the course of 29 years.  The story is that he worked on it for 4 hours a day, every day during that time span.  He started it in his barn and then when it got too big to manage he moved it outside.  He put it up on jack stands to be able to keep the ball formed properly.  

What does this post have to do with spoon carving or wood working?  It shows what you can complete when you are passionate about a project.  Working on something 4 hours a day for 29 years shows just how passionate Mr. Johnson was.  This project probably controlled his life.  It probably consumed him.  Can you even imagine?  What is your twine ball?  What project consumes you?  Is it carving a spoon or making a chair?  Is it hiking or making bracelets out of paracord?  Perhaps we don't all need to go to the lengths that Mr. Johnson did, but if nothing else we can take from him the following thought.  He didn't make this ball of twine in one day.  Not even in six months or six years.  He worked hard on it, focused on it, and ended up making something truly great.  I learned something on Sunday.  I learned that I need to find my ball of twine and start rolling.

Please go make something with your hands.  Please.  You will be surprised at how much fun it is.