How I Learned to Cut Dovetails By Hand  – Core77

When I was in 6th grade, I took a summer activity workshop that focused on a different skill each day. One of the days was focused on wood shop and I made a simple toolbox that my mom still uses. I enjoyed it. I never tried woodworking in any significant way until I was in architecture school, twenty years later.

During the first week of classes, the shopmaster (who was a very kind and pleasant person) gave us a comprehensive “safety training” which consisted of three days of completely freaking me out about using any  tool… ever. The three day “training” culminated in being forced to use a table saw during which the entire session focused on “kickback.” (Kickback, in case you don’t know is when the grain of the wood gets angry at the teeth of the saw and essentially uses the blade as the force to project the wood with insane force away from the blade.) The most freaky thing about the whole experience was the 2×4 sticking out of the wall behind the table saw as a warning to “pay attention” while you were using the saw.

What I learned from the training was that anytime I needed to use any tool beyond a pen or a T-square, that I should wear a black suit and look confused, and that someone would do the work for me. So, while my colleagues were learning to cut dovetail joints and cast molten metal, I struggled to put together a simple wooden box, paranoid that I’d cut a finger off, or crack my skull open with a flying 2×4.


I’ve wanted to be able to hand-cut dovetails for years, and I’m proud to say I now can! I recently took “Hand Tools Skills – Mastering Dovetailing,” a four-session class at Tools for Working Wood in Brooklyn. This is a review of that class.

Source: How I Learned to Cut Dovetails By Hand  – Core77

Whistle 3 Pet Tracker is a Scam

I’m not sure what it is with me and tracking devices. After a recent attempted break in, I decided that the most valuable “thing” in our house is Molly, and that if she got out and lost, that we’d be lost without her.

So, after a failed attempt at using a Tile device to track her whereabouts, I did some research and found what seemed to be the perfect product, the Whistle 3 Pet Tracker. Unlike Tile, which relies on Bluetooth for tracking, Whistle 3 has a GPS unit that works with wifi and cellular to track pets no matter where they are. The added bonus is that Whistle 3 also tracks activity for your pet (kind of like a canine or feline FitBit.) Cool, right? The Whistle 3 sells for just about $100 and requires a $9.95/month subscription to allow the tracking feature to work.

Molly and I started using the Whistle system in early October and it was AWESOME. You can see from the picture, that the device attached to her collar — it looks kind of big, but it’s pretty lightweight, and Molly didn’t seem to mind it at all. The device has a significant battery life (it needs a 10 minute charge about once a week), and the tracking information was very accurate and interesting.

And then it all went South.

For some completely unexplained and unexplainable reason, Whistle “changed” the software that runs the app and speaks to the Whistle device. While the tracking feature still worked, the activity reporting stopped working completely. So, I’ll spare you all the fine grain details, but I asked the folks at Whistle for some help, and they were (initially) very responsive. They walked me through some troubleshooting steps and agreed that for some reason, the original Whistle device had stopped tracking activity properly. They promptly replaced the device.

Device #2 didn’t work either.

The second round of troubleshooting was more intense and involved banging the device (hard) on a counter or floor. It seemed peculiar, but it also seemed to work… for about a day. After a few weeks, Whistle decided to replace the device with a third replacement.

Device #3 didn’t work either.

By this point, my issue had been “escalated” to a woman named Trizza that appeared to be either an owner or a knowledgeable partner in the Whistle operation (she is listed as part of the “leadership” team.) She admitted that they had “recoded” the software and that for some inexplicable reason they had decided to change the manner by which activity data was shown in the app to reflect “minutes rather than intensity.” The issue is that the tracker now didn’t show minutes OR intensity. The problem, Trizza admitted had caused quite a bit of confusion among customers and that there was an outstanding request to the “product team” to allow customers to choose to see either minutes or intensity. Trizza asked me—point blank—to “bear with them” as they worked through this change, and assured me that she would send me a brand new tracker, and re-start the entire experiment. She went on to say that if I wasn’t fully satisfied at any time, that they would refund my entire out of pocket cost—for the device, and for any subscription months. Molly and I were willing to try to help the Whistle folks figure out what was going on, and agreed to give device #4 a risk-free try.

Device #4 didn’t work either.

And that’s when things got sketchy. Trizza stopped responding to e-mails, and when I asked to cancel the entire subscription and asked for a refund, the request was denied. I tried explaining the situation to Katelyn, Alexis, and Madilyn at Whistle customer service (and indeed, they had access to the entire archive of conversations between the many interactions I had that led up to Trizza’s request and promise of refund… but my request to cancel was still denied. After five months of well-intended troubleshooting and reporting, all came to a grinding halt when I (politely) blew the whistle on the entire experiment.

Which, naturally, prompted me to poke around on the Internet a bit. I found that I wasn’t the only unsatisfied Whistle customer. Apparently, this entire process is some sort of scam, where they hook you in for more than 90 days, and then refuse to refund the cost of the device, and require you to spend down your entire year of subscription, a $200 “risk-free” bargain, that in effect is an outright scam. I’ve filed a complaint with AMEX and will follow up with further action to ensure that other customers aren’t getting scammed or promised service/products that do not exist or are not operational.

I am officially blowing the whistle on Whistle, and would strongly warn anyone considering a Whistle 3 to investigate other options and to avoid doing business with Whistle, because they are a company that doesn’t live up to their own hype and doesn’t keep the promises they make to well-intended customers. It’s another great example of a sham company that can dodge regulation and hide behind the murky darkness of the internet, while legions of customers get scammed.

Things Teachers Taught Me

For a long while, I’ve had this idea of authoring a book (I have many ideas for books…) about inspirational things or solid advice that past teachers or life experiences have taught me.

Throughout my career, I have had some great (and some dreadful) teachers and some equally outstanding life lessons both bitter and sweet. Recently, I was chatting with a friend who asked if I would want to be 20 all over again, and was surprised when I said no, I wouldn’t. Which got me thinking: I really have very few regrets. All of the worst moments of my life, and the most difficult challenges have equipped me to handle just about anything. The confidence I have earned was not born, it was bred… and is a hard-won patina earned through wounds and scars.

Similarly, a few years ago, I had a bit of an epiphany. I have a few friends that are more than a few years younger than me and I often find myself mentoring them on big life decisions. NO!, I would think… DON’T do THAT! Because my age and experience gives me a reasonable gauge of how THAT experience might turn out. My intent had always been to save my friends the hurt and anguish of making a bad decision with an outcome made more clear by age and wisdom. But, I realized, it is exactly the many poor choices followed by hurt or misery that fortified me and made me who I am today. Sparing them hurt would be disabling their ability to build coping mechanisms and confidence. Perhaps that is the teacher in me. Perhaps not. Scandinavian parents have an adage: Telling a baby not to touch a hot stove means nothing. However, when a child touches a hot stove, he will feel the burn. He will learn on his own not to touch the stove again. Certainly no parent of the year award there, but some pretty powerful psychology nonetheless.

So further to my goal of writing a book of good advice, here is my top 15 list of things I’ve learned from great teachers:

1. Always ask nicely and acknowledge that people are busy and don’t owe you an answer. When you get an answer, be grateful and say thank you.

2. It is indeed lonely at the top.

3. You pay a price for being a smart person in a stupid world.

4. Communicate. In a communication vacuum, people will make up their own details… which often will be worse than actuality.

5. Success is more often celebrated with a stab in the back than a pat on the back.

6. There is a big difference between being cordial and being friends.

7. The past is not the future.

8. Leadership is about doing the work for others and letting them get the accolades and credit for it.

9. Read everything you can, but read it carefully. Most people don’t read carefully.

10. People learn differently. People think differently.

11. Uniformity and conformity are so powerful they usually self-extinguish.

12. Organization is the key to simplicity.

13. Wealth is relative and ultimately unimportant.

14. Noble aims are unsupported by broken means.

15. Karma is for real.

Why This German Supermarket Emptied Their Shelves

Regardless of your politics, it’s interesting to think about how many of our products come from different places and different countries. In protest of immigration laws, this supermarket removed all products from shelves that are made in a foreign country or made with ingredients from a foreign country. Amazing how little is left.

Literally, food for thought.

How politics made their way into this grocery store

Source: Why This German Supermarket Emptied Their Shelves

Branding Matters In Local Government, And Atlanta Is Leading The Way

Place branding was the topic of my dissertation. I’ve continued to research and chart it since my dissertation was published, and it’s interesting to see how the entire branding exercise became so incredibly short-sighted and messy, and how that disorder eventually evolved into a better solution that is both responsible and functional.

From Fast Company:

Not all cities have a budget for design, but Atlanta’s department of urban planning is showing why they should.

Source: Branding Matters In Local Government, And Atlanta Is Leading The Way

European Style Gluten Free Baking with FiberHUSK®

I have been eating gluten free for nearly 10 years. It’s hard to believe that much time has gone but, but it has. Over that time, gluten free products have become prolific in the United States and Europe. However, there is a marked difference between American and European gluten free products, especially baked goods. Most American gluten free products seem to be dense and overly sweet. European gluten free products are (on average) nearly identical to their glutenful counterparts.

For some time, I have been curious as to why this is the case. The answer lies with psyllium husk. Not widely used in America (it’s the main ingredient in Metamucil), it is a common ingredient in European baked goods. Psyllium husk absorbs up to 8x its weight in water. This is handy in baking, as a slow bake will cause this water to evaporate, leaving the baked goods spongy and chewy, very similar to guten filled counterparts.

Psyllium husk is widely available, and easy to use. Check out this German site featuring FiberHUSK, a product specifically made for baking. It might be a good thing to try for your gluten free holiday baking!

Für ein saftigeres und luftigeres Gelingen Ihrer glutenfreien Backwaren. Funktioniert als Bindemittel und Mehlzusatz bei Low-Carb Gerichten. –

Source: FiberHUSK® Flohsamenschalenpulver | Glutenfreies und Low-Carb Backen