Xyla Foxlin is a creator with a YouTube channel that I’ve followed for a while, and she just posted something that resonated with me—a list of the top 10 things she’s learned as an engineer, maker, creator, and human being.
The ones that really hit for me:
1. The longer you make stuff the easier it gets — mostly because you collect knowledge and tools.
I’ve been working with tools for most of my life, to the point where it’s just second nature, and it’s only been in the past ten years or so that I can afford high-dollar specialty equipment for jobs I do constantly. But there isn’t much I wouldn’t tackle—within reason.
3. Trust in yourself to figure it out. Developing the confidence to problem-solve as you take things on is invaluable.
For me, that confidence bore itself out when I took on the Travelall project, specifically the cowl vent replacement, because I had no backup plan. But believing in myself was key to going as far as I did and being able to bring it to completion. And that problem-solving is the most gratifying part of the whole process.
5. Everything is fixable.
I’m still working on this one, but my additional wisdom is: when you know something is broken or came out wrong, step back. Take an hour or a day, and have a think about it. Often I find that my first solution for fixing things isn’t the best one, and I need time and distance to come up with a better plan.
6. Build a community of friends who have knowledge and tools.
I’d say the corollary here is to then develop into the person who has the knowledge and tools. I’ve got truck friends who I would drop everything for to help, because they’ve been my mentors for more than just dumb truck stuff. One of the sayings around the antique car world is that we have to get young kids interested in our hobby to keep it from dying out; truer words have never been spoken.
7. Invest in personal protection gear that is comfortable and safe.
I did this with safety glasses and I now need to upgrade my dust mask situation.
10. Skill takes practice. Don’t compare yourself to the people you see online; just get out there and do it, and learn from your mistakes.
So I got some stuff done this weekend. The weather has been brutally cold so I’m not that interested in spending time outside, but I did venture out there for some tasks. In rough order:
- Went out for brunch at a place we’ve never been to: Kimchi fries and bulgogi on my huevos rancheros. I don’t think any of us ate again until dinner.
- Reorganized the basement shelving (consolidated old brewing equipment, moved similar items together, swept under old shelves, generally straightened up). It’s amazing how soothing I found this.
- Punted on dinner and ordered Indian food from down the street. This restaurant is on its 17th grand re-opening, so the food was OK—but definitely better than trying to cook something ourselves.
- Enjoyed both Saturday playoff games, which were entertaining. The girls actually sat on the couch with me for most of Packers/49ers, which was fun!
- Installed a replacement steam radiator valve, replacing the replacement which did not work for shit (it basically let the radiator get as hot as possible, which made the bedroom uninhabitable). Verdict: the new one is working extremely well. I will have to buy six more of these.
- Bundled up the dog and myself for a coffee walk Sunday morning. She looks dapper in her Christmas sweater! we did a short walk because I put on one layer too many and was overheating quickly. (Jen got me a proper set of thermal leggings for Christmas, and with those, smartwool socks, and an UnderArmour ColdGear shirt, I was sweating).
- Bundled up and headed out to the garage to finish welding in a third patch on the spare fender and ground it down to (mostly) smooth metal. It’s going to take some filler to clean up. I bought a surplus flight suit from eBay a while back which is doing an excellent job of keeping warmth in and hot metal shavings out.
- Learned that spark plug holes in cast iron US engine blocks designed in the 1960’s are tapped metric. I would have bet my house this was not the case.
- Dug out the garage doors and ran up the Scout. She was happy.
- Scraped and shoveled the front walk again for the elementary kids tomorrow morning.
- Posted a new set of designs to Threadless, made some money!
- Realized I’d never moved any of my font collection over to the new laptop(!?); rectified that situation quickly.
I hit a deer on November 21 and filed a claim with USAA that evening. It’s now December 22 and I still don’t have a payment for the car in hand. There was one lost week when the salvage yard was waiting on the lien release document I misplaced, where I had to chase down the issue myself after nobody contacted me. On the day the claim was resolved, December 15, they cut me a check instead of following my instructions and electronically transferring the funds to my bank account. The representative I spoke to this morning said it would take 5-7 business days to get that check, which means it will probably show up the day after Christmas.
I would have a hard time recommending USAA to anyone after this laborious process; the fact that I have done more work to resolve my claim than my fucking claims adjuster irritates me.
We have a Brother all-in-one printer that was highly touted to be the “best printer for Macs” when I bought it several years ago. This is how I feel about it. It’s one more “cannot connect to printer” message away from its day in the field with a baseball bat.
Finn and I got our COVID booster yesterday, and I woke up this morning feeling as sore as I did on Day 8 of the welding project. I thought I’d be OK to get some stuff done around here but I also feel like my feet are about an inch off the ground, so it’s probably best not to be driving or operating heavy machinery. I took a nap at noon with the dog and I’ve been playing Starfield since 3, but part of me is itching to get up and get something done.
After about 45 weeks of almost flawless fitment, my Invisalign trays started to get out of whack at the end of last month, specifically the top sets. Usually they go in with a nice satisfying click as they fit around the little nubs glued to your teeth (the trays need something to grab onto), but mine weren’t clicking. The tray was hanging down more and more to the point where I couldn’t wear them during the day because they gave me a horrible slobbering lisp. I checked in with the orthodontist, they rescanned my upper and lower palate, and I picked up two new boxes of trays the other day. When I put the top set in I got the click and they fit perfectly. I put the newest set in Tuesday night and I can tell they’re now working on moving my premolars outward to continue making room for the front teeth—which are almost straight—because the premolars are sore as shit. I’ve got about 30 weeks left in the series, which will put me somewhere around the end of the year for a straighter smile.
Back in the late 1990’s, when the web was alive and open and could be anything you wanted it to be, there were a handful of writers who started keeping journals online, and small communities formed around them, and their numbers grew. The best of these became daily stops during my morning coffee, and I found enough inspiration in their ability to code their own sites and write so well that I started this site—halfassed, really, hiding out as a secondary link on my primary site for a year until I got enough nerve to buy a boutique domain. Some of these folks hung it all out there, writing about every feeling and experience they had, and they gathered audiences around them to share their experiences. They also attracted haters who threw bricks and perfected the art of shitposting. Most of those pioneers are gone now, their domains shuttered, but a few old-school bloggers are still out there.
One of the originals, Dooce, died by her own hand yesterday after a long struggle with depression. She was a singular voice, who wrote with cutting humor and heartfelt tenderness about her kids, her dog, her husband, and life. In the early days I remember her comments section as a supportive place where friendships were made and she often responded to her readers. But she also took a lot of shit for her site. Whole websites were created just to attack every post. Her site had fallen off my regular reading list a decade ago or so when her site became mostly about sponsored content; the ad landscape was changing and she had a family to feed. She was still posting occasionally, and apparently her viewpoint over the last couple of years was transphobic and ugly, which was a shock to learn about.
Whatever the case, I consider her one of the primary influences for starting this site and my striving to be a better writer. I’m terribly sad for her and her family.