Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #13

Goal Update
Took another weekend off because I was just too focused on studying and building things. No excuses, so I stepped it up during the week. Also, every time I think about planning for something, a curve ball comes in and well, I haven’t quite finalized my race plan for the year. There will be some triathlons (sprint, olympic and half ironman), 5ks, 10ks, the Chicago marathon, and at least one Ragnar relay. Good news is my [terrible] swimming form is coming back; didn't’ feel like I was going to drown for the entire mile I swam yesterday. Only way to get better is to get in the water! I have also been trying to bike for 20-30 minutes in the morning; really loving how productive my days have been after this simple change.

Weekly update
Miles Swam: 1.02 [1.64]
Miles Run: 22.93 [296.46]
Tacos Ate: 21 [259]
Miles Biked: 42.4 [620.05]

Things I worked on

As promised, I got the Z-Carve up and running this weekend! Woo!!! First, I lowered the table to give some more clearance (after modeling it in Fusion 360 of course). Unfortunately, I did not get the t-track nor the waste board installed, but that is on the list for this weekend. The enclosure is still a work in progress, but I hacked together a simple quick and cheap enclosure to keep the dust contained using some cheap plastic sheets. Simple, effective and yet somewhat elegant… I’ll call that a win!
The Z-Carve with cheap plastic sheet enclosure
The control box has been installed, still have to work out some of the programming to get it to where I want, but all of the buttons and switches work! The next step will be just wonderful. After fighting some wiring issues (motor wasn’t running perfectly), I got the machine tuned and was able to cut out a fidget spinner for the Inventables monthly Challenge (link to my project files). Nice little four leaf clover for St. Patrick's Day

Four Leaf Clover Fidget Toy

Favorite Podcast of the Week

As a kid, I watched a lot of the discovery channel (okay, a young adult... alright I still watch it, but have you seen mythbusters?!?!). Many of you may know Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. What most of you probably don’t know is Mike started his show business in the opera… to get women! What a guy. But seriously, this is a great conversation to listen to with plenty of gems throughout.

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week

"Don't follow your passion, but always bring it with you." Mike Rowe
"Copy genius" - Dr Bill Dorfman

Random of the Week

Oh boy it's late (11pm)! I need to work on getting to bed at a reasonable time when I wake up and have biked 10 miles by 6:30am…
After logging over 150 miles on my new bike and the STAC Zero trainer, I think it's time to give it a short initial review. NOTE: I have not ridden any other trainers for a significant amount of time, so take this review with a grain of salt.
Before purchasing my bike, I knew I was going to want some way to ride it indoors and avoid the silly stationary bikes at the gym with the saddles that are extremely uncomfortable. In order to ride indoors with your bike, you need what is called a trainer. After some research I found there are typically two types of trainers: (using my termonlogy) tire on and tire off. The tire on trainers provide resistance through your tires in numerous ways; the major set back being it wears through tires. The tire off trainers basically replace your back wheel and gear set with a set of gears that provide resistance as you spin indoors. These trainers do not wear your tires, but require you to remove your tire anytime you want to spin indoors; and they are typically expensive.
Enter the STAC Zero trainer, and a new category. This trainer utilizes physics (eddy currents) to provide resistance without a physical connection to your bike. Watch these videos for more info, and this video to explain the physics. Freaking awesome right??? It takes me less than 5 minutes from the time I roll out of bed, to get dressed, set up my bike on the STAC Zero and start spinning, all without wearing out my tires! Not to mention this trainer costs only $300 for the base unit or $375 for the version with a power meter. Again, I can not comment on the accuracy of the power meter as I do not have another one, but others say it is relatively accurate.
At this point, I highly recommend this trainer. Utilizing the weights on the wheel to provide additional inertia give a very smooth ride, very road like. If you are new rider (or experienced) and in the market for a new trainer, I can’t say anything bad about the STAC Zero.

Time to write post: 31 minutes

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #12

Goal Update
Guess what?!?!? I GOT IN THE POOL! Had water in my ear for half the day (just bought some ear plugs to try out), but I swam just over a half mile. Wow; I forgot how to swim efficiently. Time to get back on that horse! Little bit of reading and viewing the Total Immersion series before too long, but I made the dive. Other than that, it has been a recovery week, and I took the weekend off while in Chicago celebrating St. Patty’s day with friends. The bitter cold, among other things, kept me from any outdoor activities unfortunately. To make up for my slacking, I have almost finalized my racing plan for the year. Stay tuned!

Weekly mileage update
Miles Swam: 0.63 [0.63]
Miles Run: 20.46 [273.53]
Tacos Ate: 19 [238]
Miles Biked: 28.17 [577.65] - Almost ran as much as I biked…

Things I worked on

Last week was a busy one, and with my weekend travels among other excuses, I did not accomplish much. Monday’s after the 6 hour drive back from Chicago always unfortunately end up as a waste. This upcoming weekend I have several projects planned and ready to cut. I should be getting some run-time on the Z-carve in all its glory (pending table lowering, waste board installation, and enclosure installation). I will also update the raspi code so that all my fantastic buttons and lights all work.

Favorite Podcast of the Week

During my 7 hours alone in the car this weekend, I listened to approximately 20 hours of podcast content… It is difficult to pick just one favorite of the week, so I will give you my top 3.

Simple one liner to catch you interest… in this episode you will learn about ‘the largest revolution most people have never heard of (happening right now).’

This one really resonated with me; these are all things I have been trying to bring into my everyday life as they are common among many of the lessons learned through my diet of 31 days of podcast content in the past year. ‘Here are the 7 nuggets of wisdom: Use focused goals, seek knowledge, learn how to change, control your money, master time, surround yourself with winners, learn how to live well.

I have been very intrigued with minimalism, having just successfully completing 17 days of the minimalist challenge with my little sister (kind of lost when I wasn’t here). Basis of minimalism is “the thing that gets us past things so we can make room for life’s most important things, which actually aren’t things at all.”

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week

“Creativity is probably the most important skill in the 21st century.” - Steven Kolter
“The people that matter don't mind and the people that mind don't matter.” - Jerrod Camichael

Random of the Week

As I am running out of time (seems to be a common theme… I’ll look into it), I would like to quickly share something simple that has recently brought me a lot of joy with a very little cost. Anyone who works (or has worked) in an [corporate] office building knows how terrible the coffee is. If you don’t you either have a full time barista, a coffee snob in your area, or most likely you have no idea. As a former barista for Caribou Coffee for 1.5 years through high school, I can tell you there is a better way, which may be a fad; cold brewed coffee. While working at Caribou, I never realized how good the cold brew was because 1) I didn’t care for coffee and 2) the hot brew and mixed drinks like lattes and mochas were just awesome.

Today after going through stages of ‘caffeine is bad’ to ‘the things in coffee are healthy’ I have been been brewing my own cold brew coffee for about 4 months now and think the little caffeine in my mornings (always after 9am when my cortisol levels begin to level out) seems to keep me energize throughout the day. Cold brew not only tastes amazing, but it is easy. There are hundreds if not thousands of recipes and contraptions to make it (just google ‘cold brew coffee’), but here is my system.

Things required
  1. 1 cup of coffee beans - grind coarsely (french press)
  2. 4 cups of water
  3. Storage Container (I use mason jars)
  4. Paper coffee filter
  5. Funnel
  6. (optional but nice) french press
  1. Add water to storage container (french press)
  2. Grind 1 cup of coffee beans coarsely
  3. Add coffee beans to water.
  4. Let sit for 10-12 hours
  5. Pour cold brew coffee out through a coffee filter paper lined funnel into storage container (mason jar). The filter paper is not required, but I do not like any coffee remnants in my cold brew.
  6. Leaving a small amount of water in the french press (do not press the plunger down), add 4 more cups of water to grounds. Stir to suspend grounds.
  7. Let sit 12-36 hours (stirring even 8-12 hours).
  8. Repeat step 5 and 6; however, you press as much water out of the french press as you can. Discard the spent coffee grounds.
This process yields 8 cups of cold brew coffee, which is concentrated. I usually dilute it at 1:1 - 2:1 water to cold brew ratio as I rather sip on it vs. sipping on a espresso shot. Great, simple process that takes me about 10 minutes a week to make coffee that tastes fantastic. Trust me, you will be surprised. Alright time to sleep, have a great week everyone! Leave questions or comments below!

Time to write post: 38 minutes

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #11

Goal Update
Surprise for the week: my STAC Zero trainer arrived early on Saturday! Took me a whole 2 hours after it arrived before I started using it… 90 minutes and 31 miles later, I stopped to go out and have a few beers for a friends birthday. I’ll be giving a full review after I log some more miles, but first take is this thing is amazing! Not sure if its the trainer or my bike, but I LOVE THEM BOTH! Also, on a nerdy side note, the STAC trainer is the only one that uses eddy currents (video describing it) to provide resistance, or in the more common tongue, it uses magic magnets to provide resistance without physical contact (read wear and sound) to the bike.
My Cervelo P2 on the STAC Zero Trainer (orange)
Weekly update
Miles Run: 22.87 [253.07]
Tacos Ate: 21 [219]
Miles Biked: 86.23 [549.48] - Told you I love this trainer!

Things I worked on
Well, I finished the Z-Carve electronics control box! Only thing left to do is update the code for the surprise I mentioned a few weeks or months ago. I promise, it’s worth the wait!
Front Panel of CNC Controller

Internals of CNC Controller

Side Panel for motor, end stops, spindle and vacuum
I also re-wired the Z-carve with updated 3D printed clips to allow the zip ties to go through the extrusion connections and added the second drag chain. I also did some design work on a nice 3D printed GT3 belt clip that I could adjust yet held the belts tightly. Right now they seem to work, but only time will tell. Once I power up this beast, I plan to push the limits of the machine; I have read of several people running cuts the GT2 6mm belts at 70-100ipm (inch per minute)… my belts are 9mm GT3… the surface area in contact with the gear increase a ton, correlating the the ability to drive faster, harder cuts.

The last step to finish up the wiring is to drill a hole through the table to route the wires, add a grommet (to limit noise and dust) and mount the control box. So excited to start making a huge controlled mess with this beast. Probably need to get working on lowering the table (for more Z- clearance, see last week’s post) and finishing up that enclosure....

Favorite Podcast of the Week

Very interesting podcast on the decision making process and how to use multiple mental models to make better decisions and improve performance. From the Art of Charm page:

“All knowledge is interconnected,” says James Clear, “so it’s very hard for our brains to fully comprehend just how interrelated the world is and how those forces play on each other. So it makes predictions very difficult to be accurate in the long run.”

This lack of accuracy applies to all of us — even the experts. Because for all we think we know about any given problem set before us, there are missing pieces of information from the overall puzzle that we’re simply unable to consider. One study by psychologist Philip E. Tetlock found that experts in several high-level fields (e.g., nuclear physics) were only correct about future predictions around 33 percent of the time.

“Two-thirds of the time, even the very best, smartest people were wrong,” says James. “So you can imagine how wrong you and I are on a daily basis!”

I am really struggling to summarize this podcast; maybe the best way is with the message I sent this to my sister right after listening to it: “This shit is crazy!” Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week
“Innovative ideas often happen at the intersection of seemingly unrelated areas.” - James Clear

"Soon is not as good as now." - Seth Godin

Random of the Week

Well, I am running out of time, so this will be a quick one. Recently, I have been adjusting my diet (again) to try and find out what works out best for me in terms of my training and energy levels throughout the day. First, I will highlight some of the simple ‘rules’ I try to follow daily (and no I am not perfect, but with the 80/20 rule I have seen some major improvements).

  1. The ‘sun diet’ - the sun provides all the energy to the Earth (yes, even fossil fuels are actually sun power); therefore, we should eat sunlight… Since I have not developed chlorophyll to convert sunlight into ATP, we should try to eat things as close to sun energy or plants.
  2. The ‘natural diet’ - if I don’t know exactly what ingredients were used to make it, don’t put it in your mouth. For example, what was used to make an apple? Oh sunlight! Cool. What was used to make that kung pao chicken? Umm… a chef with about 50 things. Don’t eat.
  3. The ‘bulletproof diet’ - Have a look at the site, basically the premise is all the ‘low-fat’ things we taught were healthy for our entire childhoods is probably wrong and that we should eat a higher fat and protein based diet with limited GOOD (non-processed) carbs.

How do I know this works? During my training for my first marathon, I would physically run out of fuel after 14 miles. In multiple instances I would easily hold a 7:30 mile avg through 13 miles, then all of a sudden mile 14 would be a struggle and I would be at an 8:45 pace. After I was done, my day was spent on the couch napping and eating. Today, I can run 15 miles at 7:10 avg (yes I am in better shape… yea I said that, better than marathon shape?) without any crash for the last mile(s) and then go on with my day like nothing happened. Not enough data to write a paper about it, but I am convinced my body is responding much better to these rules.

My most recent addition has been having breakfast smoothies based on the ‘no meat athlete’ guide. Not only does this take very little time and brainpower to prepare, it surely helps get me going and prepared for my workouts in the afternoon. Take a look here.

Almost forgot, TACOS. Gotta taco bout it later!

Time to write post: 36 minutes

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #10

Goal Update
Nothing special this week, well until today. I did a simple brick workout (4 miles bike followed by 1 mile run, rinse and repeat 3x) where I set a new mile PR (5:45) and 5K PR (18:14) with my Garmin watch. Not a bad hump day. Looking forward to getting my bike trainer in the next week (shipping from Canada - should be here Monday) to start logging those miles!

Weekly update
Miles Swam: 0 [0]
Miles Run: 19.94 [213.2]
Tacos Ate: 15 [198]
Miles Biked: 62.17 [463.25]

Things I worked on

Late last week I got my Z-Carve put together enough to get an Etsy order out the door. Luckily/surprisingly/maybe I am getting good at this, I did not have to do much calibration from the calculated values for my new belts to get within ~0.5mm repeatability over 300mm!
Custom Wood Sign for Etsy Customer
After cutting out the piece, I spent a lot of time putting together my Z-Carve control box. Instead of me yapping, I’ll show you the proof in the pictures.
Z-Carve Control Board Shell

Z- Carve Control board with Main Electronics

Z-Carve control board in a functional state
I still have to add some of the extra features that caused the re-build of the box, but it is fully functional at this time! The features I will add are the wiring of the push buttons, the status LEDs, and then relay control of the various circuits (spindle, vacuum, enclosure lights). I will be wrapping that up this weekend and then moving my Z-carve bench down approximately 4 inches to give the proper clearance in the Z-direction and enable some expansion.

That Z axis (vertical) clearance though... Damn it Zach.
Favorite Podcast of the Week

I started reading Mr. Money Mustache blog about a year ago. Pete ‘retired’ at around 30 years old and has lived with his wife and kid without holding a real job for the past 12 years, spending only $25-27k per year! His approach has many similarities to minimalism, with the basic goal of simplifying your life and optimizing for what you really want. Really interesting blog and podcast, this podcast will give you a taste of the ‘cult following’ that is Mr. Money Mustache.

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week

“You’re not supposed to optimize for money; you’re supposed to optimize for happiness.” – Mr. Money Mustache (AKA Pete Adeney)

"Just get started today. There is never a perfect time to start so just do it... Win tomorrow today... Compare is despair... Compare yourself to yourself yesterday. "  Portia Jackson eoFire #1582

Random of the Week

Alright, let’s talk about this bike fitting because I have been geeking out about it for almost two weeks. Over in Grand Rapids at properly named Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, they have a Guru Fit System to help fit you to the perfect position. If you are interested, watch this video, it will explain it all. Mechanically, the Guru Fit System is rather simple; a few stepper or servo motors that can move pistons up and down at 1mm increments (probably finer resolution, but as this was my first fitting 1mm was more than enough), allowing extremely easy adjustment of various settings on a bike. The settings we adjusted during the fitting were first the seat height, then the arm reach, then the arm height, then the seat angle, then a few more I don't remember and finally various combination of all these settings. Just like the eye doctor, it was a lot of “is one or two better? Now do you like two or three?” Although I felt like I was giving the wrong answer the whole time (as we all do at the eye doctor), I could actually feel a slight difference with each adjustment. And honestly, I had no idea there was that much adjustment on a bike!

Fortunately, there is some science behind the madness that another person can use to verify the bike position that ‘feels good’ is also bio-mechanically sound. Yes, the nerd is showing, but seriously there is a ton of science behind it - Google 'Biomechanics' and prepare to spend hours realizing how little you know about the way the human body moves. Throughout the fitting, once we found the position I liked, Alex, the professional bike fitter, would have me spin (or pedal) and then come to a rapid controlled stop where he would take a measurement such as my knee angle at the bottom of the pedal cycle. Surprisingly, I was typically right smack dab in the middle of the suggested ranges developed biomechanic experts for all of these measurements. If these measurements weren't enough, the final metric used to dial in the bike fitting was the power output on the bike. It was tracked all through the fitting and you could see a difference as my perfect fit was dialed in. I love it when a plan comes together! Needless to say, after the fitting, I pulled the trigger and bought the bike. While you may think you can just buy a bike and walk out the door to ride, in this case, we spent the next 30-45 minutes adjusting the bike to fit me. Again, nerd alert, but these high value bikes are a work of engineering art! Last summer during my long 60+ mile rides, I would often have some discomfort or numbness throughout the ride. After this fitting, I will be surprised if I couldn’t fall asleep in my new bike position! For those that are just starting out or ready to improve their biking times, I highly recommend getting fit by a professional! Now, it's time to go study. Have a great week everyone!

My new bike and the GURU Fit System

Time to write post: 37 minutes

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #9

Goal Update
This last week of February was a recovery week and I tried to take it a bit easy. Over the weekend, I did not do anything athletic (after getting fit for a Triathlon bike), but drink fantastic Michigan Craft beers and spend time with friends. After coming back from a booze filled weekend, I was shocked at how my Monday workout went; normally it takes several days to ‘sweat out the booze,’ but I crushed a 10.84 mile pyramid run (1 up, 2 x 1.5 miles with 0.5 recovery between, 2 x 1 mile with 0.5 recovery between, 2 x 0.5 miles with 0.5 recovery between, 1 down). Week has been great; just need to jump in that pool...

February Totals
Miles Swam: 0 [-44.4]
Miles Run: 120.97 [+38.77]
Tacos Ate: 91 [+9.2]
Miles Biked: 212.34  [+46.54]
Weekly update - Recovery Week last week
Miles Swam: 0 [0]
Miles Run: 30.41 [210.26]
Tacos Ate: 13 [183]
Miles Biked: 31.66 [401.08]

Things I worked on

Over the past week, I have been putting the Z-Carve back together. Simply put, it sure has been an adventure! I took care of a lot of the sub-assemblies before my weekend extravaganza (replacing belt idlers and pulleys for wider 9mm-GT3 belts and cleaning everything). I also designed and utilized some beneficial access to a 3D printer to rapid prototype some parts (belt clips, drag chain mounts) which I will remake once the Z-Carve is alive. Monday, I finished the installation of the LED lights on my bench so I could see what I was doing and then began the build.
Z-Carve with Enclosure Lights
Check out that clearance! Lucky or good?
Wiring occurred Tuesday and I went to bed shortly after a quick test with the controller. Tonight I wanted/needed to carve a piece for a customer; however, I ran into some trouble during calibration. After tweaking a bunch of settings and the current to the motors, I began to further diagnosis the problem with one of my Y-axis motors which was acting like it was skipping steps. First I removed the belt (and any load on the motor), with the same result. I then did a resistance test on the wiring and found that I had accidently cut a wire when crimping on a connector! After replacing that broken connection, I tested resistance, then fired everything back up and continued with calibration. After adjusting the parameters for the new belt pitch the machine was dialed in within 1mm on 300mm runs! Good enough for tonight as I have to get this blog post done before midnight!
Calibrating using a 1000mm ruler and a v-Bit - Notice the Z- Clearance
My plan for the rest of the week is to get the custom signs out to my Etsy customer, and then spend the remaining time and weekend actually wiring up the CNC control box, adding the waste board and t-slots to my bench and hopefully building the enclosure. One thing I do want to do before building the enclosure is lowering the torsion table ~4 inches. Right now, my Z-axis is limited by ~2 inches due not measuring the Openbuilds Z-axis correctly. Busy week as always!

Favorite Podcast of the Week

New podcast I am listening to: Strength Running Podcast

As I am spending a lot of time running, biking and avoiding swimming, I thought it would be good to expand my knowledge on running. Through numerous resources, I heard the Strength Running podcast is great. I have only listened to 3 episodes (started from the beginning - newish podcast with only 16 episodes to date), but I have already learned so much! Now, I have a more intense warm up and cool down that I use for each run along with some pretty intense core routines. If you want to take that next step with your running ability, I highly recommend listening to the podcast - you never know when you’ll be chased by a bear!

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable that's how you break the plateau and reach that next level.” - Charlene Johnson

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” ~ Jim Rohn, Tim Ferriss, multiple others

Random of the Week

As I mentioned in last weeks post, this weekend would be an exciting and busy one! Unfortunately, I had some stuff at my full time job that required some extra hours this week, pushing back my workout and then my play time. Shit happens right? Anyways, this random section will be short so I can get some sleep and post this before midnight.

So last Friday - first, I gave a quick presentation at a local community college as a quick interview for developing and then teaching a 3D printing class to a bunch of manufacturing engineers! Over the next few months I will be designing a class (the first in a series of many) and then teaching the 8 hour course on a Friday sometime in June! I kind of like the sound of Professor Zach…

After talking through some of the details about the 3D printing class, I went home, packed and then drove a few hours to get fit for my first Triathlon bike. I went to Grand Rapids Bicycle Shop where the wonderful professional bike fitter, Alex, took about 90 minutes using a sweet Smart Guru fit system to dial in my perfect fit. Luckily for me, what ‘felt’ good also was right in the sweet spot of the bio-mechanically correct position - guess years of practicing good form and mastering mechanical systems has paid off! After the fitting, I purchased my first Triathlon bike, the highly regarded Cervelo P2!!! So excited to begin logging tons of miles on this sexy thing! More details about the fitting to come next week! Go out and do something you dream of - “By doing, it will come.” - Mihoko Ward.

My new Cervelo P2 with the Smart Fit Guru system 
Time to write post: 35 minutes