Sunday, November 30, 2014

Another axe handle

I found an axe head that was just a little too large for any of the pre-fabricated axe handles I could find for sale at hardware stores. I was committed to saving it from the scrap pile as soon as I saw it, but it's been sitting in my garage for the better part of a year for lack of the right piece of wood. I was recently able to find a satisfactory piece of hickory to make a new handle from and accomplished the task over two days this last week. Here are some pictures of the build.

Of course I took it out immediately and started hammering on a fallen tree. I was confident in my craftsmanship, but it felt good to just feel the solid thunk of the axe into the wood and feel that the shape and fit were as good as they looked during construction. In one of the pictures is a previous axe I restored with about an overall weight of 5lbs, it feels like a feather compared to this new monster. This new axe is HEAVY coming in closer to 8lb overall weight with the much larger head and thicker handle. It is a lot of steel and wood to swing through the air. I imagine it will be great for splitting. Not that I get much use out of my outdoor tools where I live, but it's nice to bring tools like this back to life. Something tangible to hold up as a completed project always feels great.

When I brought the axe home I put on the first coat of boiled linseed oil. There were other oils at the shop, but it was worth waiting the few days to do the right thing.

Update: A few weeks later I made a leather sheath for this axe. Post here

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mean people fail (2014)

Children and technology

Parenting rant.

Some of the junk people are writing about children and access technology are perfect examples of why activists should seek consult before interpreting scientific research. Contradictory research findings by an army of grad students studying the soft (pseudo) sciences are not a basis for the sound raising of children. Why do I say pseudo science? Because I've always enjoyed and agreed with this Feynman rant.

The "studies" linking access to technology to this malady or that malady and the articles attempting to summarize or use them as a call to action are just silly. I don't believe they are malicious, just ignorant and misguided. I refuse to even link to them here because I don't want people receiving attention for this type of behavior. We can only speculate as to how they can divine and attach to such rigid certainty about their conclusions that they are ready to scream for legislation or world wide bans on this or that random technology to x random threshold. 

Plausibility alone is not a criterion for accepting speculative tales, but enough people just run with this to make it perpetuating. Here's a classic paper on the topic of something called adaptationism in biology. To paraphrase the topic of the paper, they poke fun at biologists that identify some trait of an organism and jump to conclusions about why it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The problem becomes worse when considering phenomenon like citogenesis. Randall Munroe explains:

Now, that said, I certainly monitor what my young children watch (avoiding violence and media that I feel teaches the wrong lessons), but I'm excited to see him grow up with technology I didn't have. Already he amazes me every day with his aptitude for taking advantage of the tools and what he pays attention to as he tries to wrap his brain around bigger concepts. Every day we have thoughtful conversations that are really amplified by the other things he is learning. I'll be getting him his own tablet as soon as he is responsible enough. I don't know when that is yet, but probably soon. Until then I don't deny him access to devices unless there are externalities such as bed time, dinner, etc.

So where do parents go wrong with technology? I suspect, as with many things it's complacency. We are all guilty of it to some extent, whether it's because we get lazy or are focusing on something else like our careers. You'll hear terms like "the electronic babysitter". This is funny (and, honestly, sometimes true), but all too often I believe people just throw the towel in and give up. Ignoring the children's development or blaming your conflicts with them on factors out of your control are recipes for disaster. I believe that to be a good parent you can't make excuses or give up. You constantly need to deliberately detect, approach, and overcome where you might be going wrong. But first and foremost you need to let the child know you love and care for them and that you're acting in their interest. Never give up and have the humility to adjust when you might have been wrong. ...oh, and make them laugh while you mentor them. Approaching with love really means with love, not an iron fist.

That's the end of this rant. I'll come back to it in a few years and see if I feel the same way.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Creating alerts

This article has good advice for creating failure or event alerts and how to keep yourself sane.

"My Philosophy on Alerting based my observations while I was a Site Reliability Engineer at Google"

It's written by a Google Site Reliability Engineer. I have a few friends that have had this job in the past and I've really come to respect the position. Here's a random interview I found while trying to find a link to describe the SRE job.