The Green Shed

I've been tracking my electricity usage since 2007. Since then, I've used 1.25 trillion joules of energy.

A button, ad, product listing, etc for a digital product should only be allowed to say “purchase” or “buy” or “acquire” if ownership is fully transferred and unrestricted. Everything else is renting.

There are going to be podcasts in 30 years about how the early internet was a hoax. No one will believe anything that good could have happened. 

I came across this quote:

I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.
— Vincent van Gogh

I printed it out, and I'm putting it on the wall above my workbench.

I Decided to Try Metalworking

It was probably 5 or 6 years ago that I stumbled up on Clickspring, the mesmerizing YouTube channel where Chris builds incredible machines that are both functional and works of art, all in his small home shop. Whenever a new video came out I'd wait until I had a quiet evening, then pour myself a glass of scotch and sit in front of the TV, enraptured by the beauty, precision, and attention to detail.

From there the YouTube algorithm took over, and my feed has been chock full of incredible machinists, both home and commercial. Lathes, mills, presses, grinders, welders, micrometers, and dial indicators have been sparking joy ever since.

At some point I had the thought, "Maybe I should try this." At the time I opted not to; getting into the hobby isn't cheap, and I didn't want to find out after a few weeks that I didn't actually enjoy doing this myself.

Then, two things changed.

First, time passed. 5 years later I was still fascinated by the idea of making something out of these raw materials. I've done a fair bit of 3D printing, so I was familiar with what it took to design an object that needs to exist in the real world. Metalworking would be a major level-up.

Second, I had an HVAC unit installed in my garage, which meant I could work out there during the warm months, which is most of them. Without that option I'd either have to work in the house (not an option) or during the extremely brief window of cool weather (too short to be worth it).

So, this holiday season, I decided to finally go ahead with it, and purchased a Sherline mini lathe.

There was a 15 business day lead time on purchases at the time. My lathe arrived in late January, 2024.

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The unboxing and setup process was enjoyable. It took a few hours to get setup, but thankfully I had the required parts on hand. (The biggest unexpected requirement was a board/shelf to mount the lathe tool. Sherline recommends you mount the lathe to a board, not directly to a workbench. I had the needed wood lying about, but that was pretty lucky.)

In the 10 days or so since then, I've been practicing, building little fidget toys mostly. Facing, turning, measuring, and cutting threads.

And I've been loving it!

So far it's been everything I hoped it would be. It's fun, challenging, and a tremendous outlet for creative energy that has nothing to with screens. After sitting in front of display all day, I desperately need an outlet that isn't computer related. Metalworking has been perfect.

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The precision of metalworking was one of the key attractions for me, and I haven't been let down. I was able to turn a little threaded fidget toy that has essentially no visible seam between the two parts. I can't tell you how much I love that. (The accuracy of this lathe has been incredible. I'm so pleased with it!)

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My most recent accomplishment has been this little pen. This was more challenging than the other parts I had built to that point, and required mixing all techniques I was still learning. It's a pretty simple little thing, but I'm immensely proud of how it came out.

I'm only just getting started on this journey. I have a lot of project ideas ahead of me. There's no rush to any of it, of course. That's part of the delight.

P.S. If you want to follow along, I often post my progress on Instagram here

Listened to the latest Stratechery Interview, with Om Malik. One thing I was struck by during the interview was Om's optimism and contagious enthusiasm about tech generally. The narrative around Tech (and maybe everything else?) has been so negative the last ~decade. I've really missed the enthusiasm and excitement I had early on in my career (early-mid 2000s). Tech has plenty of problems, no doubt. But, I want to spend more time finding fun things to be excited about.

NotePlan

Started using NotePlan as my PKS* and I've been absolutely loving it.

  • Native Apps (not electron)
  • Private (And E2E encrypted coming soon)
  • Oriented around the "Today" note
  • Easy to automate
  • Export everything to Markdown any time you want. No lock in.

Apps

There is so much good stuff in this article by Alan Jacobs it feels like a failure to target a small bit, but I'm going to anyway.

Technopoly tells us that we own ourselves, and that everything we need to fulfill our own (unchallengeable) desires is available for sale in the marketplace. But of course this is a system that only works if what we desire can in fact be purchased; and since that cannot in advance be guaranteed, the initial imperative of Technopoly is to train our desires, to channel them towards what the system already has for sale.

And the greatest instruments ever devised for such channeling are our internet-connected devices, especially when we connect to the internet through apps. The reason? Because while pens and paper can be used in extraordinarily varied and unpredictable ways, apps can’t: the ways in which we can interact with them are determined with great specificity and no deviation from the designed user-interface paradigm is permitted. You can use a pen to write a poem in elaborate cursive, sketch a tree, play Hangman, or, in moments of desperation, scratch a mosquito bite or skewer a chunk of watermelon. (I am describing, not recommending.) With TikTok, you can … make TikToks. The app is so far the ultimate extension of what Albert Borgmann called the device paradigm.

I think this gets to the heart of something I've long felt, but struggled to articulate.

I love the tactile nature of hand-based UI. The direct-interaction with object-on-screen, the elimination of the indirection of the pointing device, and the thrill of haptics is a computer experience like no other. As others have said, these are the most personal computers we've ever had.

And yet, our interaction with them is mediated by, as Jacobs points out, these apps. These little emotional casinos, begging for our next coin of attention, neutered by App Store rules, subject themselves to protection payments in the way of a platform owner tax on each sale.

Contrast, as Jacobs does, the liberté of pen & paper: unmediated, uncontrolled, unlimited by another. Stark, indeed.

But even within the confines of the constructed edifice of computer interfaces we could have gone another direction with these devices. Openness, flexibility, and freedom were available. The technocrats, however, did not choose Liberty.

Every day if feels like a greater miracle that the Open Web exists at all. One that I don't want to take for granted.

I ❤️ The Web

Jamie Zawinski celebrated 25 years of jwz.org this week, and there was an article about the Netscape Meteors Throbber which made the rounds as well. Reflecting on it all reminded me of how special a time those early web days were, but also how much I really love the web, even after all these years.

So much has moved to mobile apps these days, and while I've worked on plenty of those, and I'm proud of the work I've done, the web is my true love.

The freedom to do whatever you want, the ability to view your work just about anywhere, the openness of View Source, all with no gatekeepers — it's incredible.

I love being able to make a change to a website and deploy that change in seconds. No review, no 30% tax.

Your ideas, a blank canvas, and infinite possibility. It's a world unlike any other these days, and I don't take it for granted.

New platforms will come and go. The web will always have my heart.

Sun Kissed

The tips of the snow-covered San Fransisco Peaks are illuminated at sunset beneath a darkening blue sky.
The tips of the snow-covered San Fransisco Peaks are illuminated at sunset beneath a darkening blue sky.
Date Taken
March 02, 2023
Camera
SONY ILCE-7RM4A
Lens
FE 85mm F1.8
Focal Length
85.0 mm
Shutter Speed
1/80
Aperture
f/9.0
ISO
100
Keywords
Alpenglow, Landscape, Sunset, Winter

Less AI

I've grown tired of AI/GPT news, but I apparently don't have the self control to just stop visiting Hacker News. So, instead, I installed Sprinkles, which will inject custom JS/CSS into any webpage you want (just like the ol' greasemonkey).

I added this custom script:

// news.ycombinator.com.js
const dimTopics = ['gpt', ' ai ', 'openai', 'copilot'];

for (const el of document.querySelectorAll('.titleline')){
  for (const t of dimTopics){
    if (el.textContent.toLowerCase().includes(t)){
      let titleRow = el.closest('tr');
      let pointsRow = titleRow.nextElementSibling;

      titleRow.remove();
      pointsRow.remove();      
    }
  }
}

et voilà, a more pleasant HN experience.

I expect to add more topics to my list over time.