Building a Custom Hockey Stick Holder

Instructions on how to build my custom hockey stick display brackets. Mostly so that I have it documented next time I need to do it.

Several years ago I wrote up my designs for a custom hockey puck display case.  When I wrote that, it was mostly as reference for myself, so that it would be documented the next time I went to build one.

I’ve designed custom brackets for mounting hockey sticks, as well, and it’s time for me to make another set of those.  Of course, that’s not documented, either, so here we are.

I start with 1/2″x 1 1/2″ pine or poplar craft board, depending on whatever I happen to have on hand or whatever I find first when I run out for materials.  Really the quality of the wood most matters in how you want to finish it and I just spray paint it black (getting ahead of myself here) so that really doesn’t matter.

Materials in hand, it’s just a couple 45-degree cuts and one straight chop to round it off, with the created pieces looking like this:

Could the bottom piece be rounded to 2 inches?  Certainly, but the first one I made was a little short so everything I’ve done since has followed.

Depending on how you’re going to mount it to the wall, you probably want to put a hole through the larger piece, in the middle near the flat end, so you can run a screw through it later.

Where to place a hole for mounting my custom hockey stick bracket.

Glue the pieces together as they appear in the diagram and you’ve got yourself a bracket.  You can stain it or paint it to make it prettier, of course.  As I mentioned above, I paint mine black because the sticks I’ve got are black so it matches.

You need to make two brackets for each stick, unless you’re really good at balancing and don’t expect the stick to be bumped at all.

This is the end result:

My custom hockey stick brackets in use.

My Trello Weekly Summary

I’m trying to get myself to better recognize work I’ve completed, so I wrote a process to look at my Trello board and send a Slack message to myself. This is why and how.

I used to write a lot about Trello.  The API, how I use it, how my day-job teams were using it.  It’s been five years since I’ve said anything new.

A big part of that is that I haven’t been doing anything new.  I did a ton of Trello-related work in about a one-year period and then was done.  But I still use it every day and recently found a gap that I decided to close.

My personal Trello board has three columns.  “Not Started,” “In Progress,” and “Done.”  Pretty simple.

The “Done” column is the one I decided needed some help.

The “Done” column is important to me.  It’d be easy to not have one, simply archiving cards as they were completed.  I think it’s easy to get lost in a never-ending “Not Started” list without seeing the things that have been completed.  Instead, I have a process that runs nightly to archive cards over two months old, after they’ve had time to pass out of my mind.

I’ve been finding of late, though, that that’s not working for me.  I see the “Done” column, I know it’s there and that there’s a lot of stuff in it, but that’s what I’ve boiled it down to.  “A lot of stuff” that’s done and easy to ignore.

So I decided to add another automated process.  This one runs weekly and sends me a message via Slack, detailing how many cards I’ve completed in the last week.

I’m not doing this for analytics or anything.  I don’t have any goals to accomplish a certain number of tasks (they’re not estimated or anything so they’re all different sizes, anyway).  I just want to get another reminder in front of my face.  This one is a little disruptive, so maybe it’ll stick differently.


For the record, the following is the code for this new process (with a little obfuscation):

This makes use of my TrelloApi and SlackApi helper classes.

On COVID Homeschooling and Technology

My latest fight with technology in the face of COVID: Setting up accounts for my daughter that don’t allow for parental controls that respect her blended family.

The thing that’s driving me surprisingly nuts about trying to homeschool my daughter during “these trying times?” Not the time management; I expected that to be bonkers. Instead it’s the technology.

I’m a software engineer. How can the technology be a problem?

As a developer, I know the limitations of our industry and I can see when my use case isn’t impossible, just the product wasn’t designed for it. I’m also well aware of our industry’s history of designing for the situations that developers themselves are most familiar with rather than that of their potential customers.

As such, today’s frustration comes due to Google and 1Password and their definition of “family.”

The kid has an Android tablet, which she uses with a locked-down guest account, with my Google account as the primary user. Part of that lock down is that she doesn’t get access to Chrome. This has never been a problem when the tablet was “just a toy” but now that she’s using it for school, she needs Chrome.

The way to manage what sites she can go to is with a child account administered by me. Okay, fine, I didn’t want to give her a Google account at this age but Google has the option for accounts to be managed by a parent so I’ll give it a shot. But I can’t create her account – even though I can manage it after it gets created – because my wife and I have a family group for sharing of media and my wife is the manager, so she has to do the initial setup. A small hurdle but an annoying one nonetheless.

But wait! This means that my kid’s account will be tied to our family group! The problem there is that she has two other parents – her mom and step-dad – who should also have the ability to manage what she can do with this new Google account of hers. Shockingly, my ex-wife and her husband are not a part of our Google family group. The end result is that my daughter’s account can either be managed by her dad and step-mom or her mom and step-dad (assuming they have a Google family group over there, that’s none of my business) but not any other combination of the four of us.

And it’s not like Google doesn’t know about this problem, there was a support thread created about it over a year ago.

So I set up this new Google account and drop the password for it into 1Password, where I have a vault of the kid’s passwords. That vault is shared with her mom, of course, right? No, because, like with Google, she would have to be in my 1Password “Family” for me to be able to share that. I can share my daughter’s vault with her step-mom but not her birth mother.

To be fair to 1Password, there is a workaround in which I could give my ex-wife a guest account on my family that only has access to our daughter’s vault. However, if the whole point of shared vaults is to give each user a  single place to access everything, that point is lost by forcing her to have two separate 1Password logins.

This is two different tech companies both independently deciding that “Family” means a bunch of people living in the same house, and real world families look way different than that.

As I said, I know this industry has a problem with developers building solutions for people who look like them. It’d be easy to say the stereotypical development team of young, single guys didn’t consider the possibility of a blended family using the product.

If you do that, though, you have to also assume that the team of young, single guys included no children of divorce, which just isn’t statistically likely. So, instead, I can only assume that both Google and 1Password made the conscious choice that blended families don’t count.

Griffins Jersey Contest: Sour Grapes Again

Several years ago I embraced the sour grapes I had about losing the Grand Rapids Griffins’ jersey design contest and wrote about it.  Since I’ve been ranting about it all day on Twitter, I figured it was time to do that again.

I’ve repeatedly said that I put more thought than the Griffins intend into my entries in their contests.  This year was no different, as I was intrigued by the idea of what exactly makes a 1980s hockey jersey design.  I won’t rehash that all here, I included it all in my post about my entry.

I researched, I designed, I wrote about all of that because I’m genuinely curious.  Also I wanted to win, but I never expected to because there are way better designers than me out there.

So I did all of this research and I designed and I wrote and I published.  Genuinely curious about that question, I found no one willing to engage in discussion.  No one responded to me here.  Discussion at Uni-Watch, the contest host, seemed to center around not knowing what the Griffins actually wanted, not what a fauxback should actually look like.  The Griffins themselves provided no direction.

My design made it through a round of voting and was named as one of twelve finalists.  I posted a review of the finalists and the biggest piece of feedback was that the best designs didn’t make it to the finals.  While true, it doesn’t answer the question.

Then this morning the contest winner was announced and it’s something so far from what I consider 80s hockey jersey design that I’m completely at a loss.

It’s a nicely-rendered jersey, for sure.  But I can point to five reasons I don’t think it’s a proper 80s fauxback.  It also hits my previously-noted nerve about logos that only describe what they’re for literally, as there is no griffin on that jersey.

And when the world’s foremost expert in sports identities says you got it wrong, it probably means something.

So we have what the Griffins were looking for from their 80s fauxback contest but it’s so far from what I would expect that I still feel the need for discussion.  I want to know what the designer took his inspiration from.  I want to know what about that design the Griffins were particularly struck by.  But the Griffins aren’t giving details and the designer didn’t write a blog post about it like I did.

There’s this question out there I’m really curious about and I feel like the response is deafening silence.  It’s driving me nuts.

Building Physical Things

Part of why I love software development is that I get to make things.  Through my efforts, something new has been created.  It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

As much as I love it, there’s something even better about building physical things.  Even something as simple as an Ikea bookcase.

Ikea "Hemnes" bookshelf box
Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase box

You start with a box.  It’s relatively small and clean and self-contained, but it really isn’t anything useful.  And the first thing you do is destroy it.

An unboxed Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase
An unboxed Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase

That neat and tidy box becomes a bunch of parts spread all over the floor.  It’s a mess.  It’s not useful and it’s even worse than the box because it’s in the way.  But the mess is also potential, as each of those parts has a place.

A partially-assembled Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase.
A partially-assembled Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase.

Then you get to work, and things start to come together.  The pile of parts gets smaller and smaller, fitting together with each other.  Your project starts to look recognizable, like, perhaps, a bookcase.

A completed Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase.
A completed Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase.

Then it’s done.  Your pile of parts is gone and in its place is a piece of furniture.

Working in software, there are no parts, really.  No matter how many pieces your project may be in, none of them are physical.  You can’t spread it across the floor and piece it together like a puzzle.  I wouldn’t trade my job, but sometimes it’s nice to solve a problem that’s a little more tangible.

On “Guaranteed Installation Windows” and Comcast

Seemingly everyone has a Comcast horror story.  No one likes the company and people who use their services do so begrudgingly.

Except for me.

Oh, sure, I know they’re ridiculously overpriced but I recognize that they can get away with that.  I don’t expect them to charge less than market value out of the goodness of their hearts.  They’re a business; they want to make as much money as possible.  Aside from the price, though, they’d been pretty good to me.  Seemingly I was the only customer they treated well.

Until last weekend.

I just bought a new house and Saturday was my big moving day.  I spent most of the day lugging around furniture.  Mattresses and a pool table.  The big stuff.  Heavy stuff.  By 4:00 PM, I was behind schedule and tired and ornery but I had a “guaranteed installation window” from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM – set up using Comcast’s “Movers Edge” system – so I adjusted my schedule to make sure things were ready for the technician.

I made sure my TVs and the cable boxes I was bringing from my old apartment were all out and accessible.  My cable modem was plugged in and ready to go.  And I kept moving a little bit but for the most part I waited.

And waited.

And at 6:10 PM, I Tweeted this:

At 6:47 PM I got a phone call from the technician telling me that he would be unable to do the installation that day because he didn’t have any equipment for me.  Two things were wrong here.  First, as I mentioned, I brought my own equipment.  Second, apparently this lack of available equipment was not evident until 45 minutes after my appointment was supposed to happen.

So I told him that I had the equipment already, brought over from my previous residence.  He was first surprised, then told me that I needed new equipment for their X1 platform.  I told him that I already had the X1 equipment.

At this point, he paused for a moment, then asked me if I’d tried hooking any of it up.  I had not, so he told me to give that a shot as service to the house was already showing as active.

So an hour after the technician was supposed to have been there, I found myself doing the install myself.  The TVs worked just fine.  He called back as I was getting the modem set up.  After I had it plugged in, he sent it a signal.  It worked too.  Happily, he pronounced everything complete and asked me to text him the address from which my equipment came, then disconnected.

The next day I got a response from @comcastcares apologizing for the late appointment arrival.  After I explained that it wasn’t a late arrival, it was that he didn’t show at all and I basically did the install myself, they gave me a $20 credit.

Frankly, my time is worth more than that.

Now, the experience isn’t going to get me to switch, and Comcast knows that, which is why they can get away with this.  They’ll continue to take my money (minus a token $20) happily.  They’ll put up with public shaming in the form of this post as long as I pay my monthly bill.

So I don’t expect to change anything.  I’m not trying to change anything.  I’m just putting this out there as one more Comcast horror story.

Thoughts on The Force Awakens

Like any self-respecting nerd, I have capital-t Thoughts on The Force Awakens.  I didn’t see it on opening night but I did make it before the weekend was out.  I’m sure my thoughts aren’t anything new but I want to get them out of my head so they’re coming out here.

It should go without saying but there will be spoilers ahead.  Sorry, no getting around that.

I should also state off the bat that I loved the movie.  I’m going to focus on things that could come across as complaints but I feel like they’re nit-picks more than anything.  The Force Awakens was beautifully put together.  Well-acted, visually-stunning, with an incredible John Williams score.

That said…

I came away from the film feeling like it was a “darker and edgier” remake of A New Hope.  Orphan from a desert planet meets an unexpected older mentor, finds that s/he is force-sensitive, sees said mentor struck down by a dark Jedi in a black suit and mask, then barely escapes as a planet-destroying superweapon is wiped out by a rag-tag fleet.

But wait!  It’s gender-bent!  And the mentor is killed by his own son!  And the superweapon is even bigger!  And people actually get stabbed/sliced/etc. by lightsabers!  It’s like they took the Battlestar Galactica playbook and applied it to Star Wars.

It’s awesome.  It’s larger in scope than Episode IV.  But I think it’s impossible not to make those comparisons.

Additionally I have an issue with the balance of power between Rey and Finn.  Rey is a complete badass.  Pilot, mechanic, handy with a blaster and, apparently, extremely strong with the Force. Finn…  Well, comparatively, he’s okay, I guess.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff calling Rey a Mary Sue (or other worse, misogynistic things) but I actually have no problem with her character.  I just wish we saw more of what makes Finn tick.  This is a guy who deserted the First Order because it was The Right Thing to Do.  Who picked up a lightsaber because it was the only weapon available and he needed to fight.  Who used that lightsaber – with no training – to fight the closest thing to the personification of evil that he’s ever seen.

That’s badass, too, but seems overshadowed by just how incredible Rey is.  Not saying anything should be taken from Rey, I just would have liked more backstory for Finn.

That said, I imagine backstory for both characters will be prevalent in future films.

On the Dark Side, we have Kylo Ren.  Clearly this is a heavily-conflicted character.  It’s impossible not to compare him to Anakin Skywalker (which, as he basically worships Darth Vader, is pretty much the point).  I think he could actually be more of a bad guy than Vader as Anakin was pretty much tricked into joining the Dark Side.  Han Solo tells his son that he’s been tricked, but I think Ben chose of his own free will to become Kylo Ren.  We may learn otherwise in future films – redemption arcs are big in this series – but it seems to me that Ben didn’t want the power of the Dark Side for any noble purpose like Anakin, he just wanted power.

Seeing him without his helmet adds to that, I think.  He’s not a deformed half-man confined to a suit like Vader.  He’s a human who chooses the suit.  He can take it off.  He just doesn’t want to.

Speaking of the Dark Side…  As Rey embraces the force in her battle with Kylo Ren, it sure seems like she’s putting a lot of hate and vengeance into it.  We know those lead to the Dark Side.  I wonder if anything will come of that.

If the new trilogy is darker and edgier, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Rey to turn to the Dark Side, with her conversion showing Ben just what a horrible thing the Dark Side is and pushing him back to the Light Side.

Google Works in Mysterious Ways

I was in a pairing session with one of my teammates earlier today and we stumbled into an interesting little bit of inspiration.

Working in Javascript, we were thinking about splitting some values while iterating through an array but that didn’t really feel like the right answer.  Looking for some kind of better solution, my teammate Googled “split” looking for documentation and similar examples.

I immediately laughed because a Google Maps search result was included, which was completely outside the context of what we were searching for (though a valid search result for the simple query we entered).  As I explained why I was laughing, though, something hit us:

That gut feeling was right.  We didn’t want to split anything.  We wanted to apply a map to it.

I guess Google gave us our answer.

Full Stack Engineer vs. Web Developer

When I started my professional career at Michigan State University’s Division of University Relations, I was a web developer.  I wrote PHP and ASP and JavaScript and HTML and sliced up images in Photoshop and designed MySQL databases.  I had to do a little bit of server management.  I also trained clients in how to use the systems I built for them but that’s beside the point right now.

When I made the jump to TechSmith Corporation I retained the title of web developer.  I wrote ASP and JavaScript and HTML and didn’t slice up as many images but did work with MSSQL databases.  I had to do a little bit of server management.  I also wrote VB6 apps.

Over the years at TechSmith the ASP and VB6 (mostly) gave way to C# but that wasn’t the only change.  Somewhere along the line I became a software engineer.

I can’t speak for the industry as a whole but at TSC there was an impression that web devs weren’t “real developers” compared to the software engineers working on the company’s desktop products.  So everyone became software engineers and everyone was equal, even if the job didn’t change at all.

Fast forward to several years ago and the term “full-stack engineer” starts being thrown around.  A full-stack engineer being someone who writes back-end code and front end code and maybe does some image manipulation and can do some server management…  And I fail to see how this isn’t what we used to call a web developer.

As an industry, did we create a new title just to get the word “engineer” into it?  “No, I’m not one of those slacker web developers.  I’m a full-stack engineer.”  I get that the term became famous when Facebook was (supposedly) only hiring full-stack devs but why give it that name when “web developer” already meant that.

For a long time, even after my title at TechSmith changed, I defined myself as a web developer.  One of my mentors called me out on it and I couldn’t explain why I clung to that label.  Maybe it’s because, the way I see it, “web developer” is just less of a mouthful than “full-stack engineer” and more accurate than “software engineer.”

If there’s supposed to be a difference between web developer and full-stack engineer, I don’t see it.

I should say that I don’t actually have a problem with the full-stack engineer title.  Web development has evolved.  There are fewer gaps between web development and mobile development than there were a decade ago, for example.  I just see web developer and full-stack engineer as the same thing and think it’s jarring to see the titles used as if they’re not.

The Tools We Choose

So a little while ago I was thinking about Ricky Robinett‘s blog post about using Twilio to get notified about World Series ticket deals.  Specifically, I was questioning the use of Twilio to drive the notifications.

Personally, I prefer my notifications via email.  To the point that I look at that post and think, “Come on, he only got his notifications via SMS because he works at Twilio.”  I mean, why involve an API when PHP can send email pretty much out of the box?

Then I look back at my own posts.  My recent bit on how I’m using Trello to help track my finances.  And all the other ways I’ve used Trello.  And I’m sensing a theme here.

We use the tools that we know.  That shouldn’t be a surprise.  What hit me is just how much I’ve stayed inside the Trello ecosystem, at least with regards to things that are worth writing about.

So I’m going to get out of my comfort zone a bit and rewrite my financial tracking tool to make use of Twilio.  I’ve been saying that I wanted to play with Twilio for awhile now but I had an opportunity to do so and chose to shoehorn Trello in instead, since it was what I was more familiar with.

I’ll write about the Twilio implementation when I get around to it.