Category Archives: Lifestyle

Posts about various lifestyle cheats to improve overall quality of life either by routine adjustment or specific product(s).

Why do I blog?


Why does anyone blog?

There are lots of reasons to that someone might blog and I don’t really think any or them are necessarily bad or good.  I do think if you’re personally not getting anything out of it then you’re probably not doing it well or are being dishonest with yourself about the self-interested gains…  To be clear I don’t personally think there is anything wrong with personal gain.


A lot of people blog to get the word out there about themselves.  This is effective for a lot of people because it will get eyeballs on their pages.  If you’re an artist, sell personal products, or have an affiliate or advertising driven content site then it’s probably smart to do this to drive traffic.

Credibility Building

This is a lot like those plumbers that have a YouTube channel showing how to do basic repairs.  If you proclaim yourself to be good at something then it’s a way to showcase it on the internet in hopes that will drive some kind of revenue.  This is probably a good idea for classes of trade and some might argue that my OpenSource project Naos is the equivalent of this for me as a professional developer…


Some people like to just feel important because lots of people are reading their content.  This can be a huge self esteem boost, I definitely got that feeling with all of the traffic that I got on my standing desk article from HackerNews.  My friend once said that “pride is a funny thing, you need just enough to get you out of bed in the morning but no more”.  It’s good to feel important every now and then in life and also probably good to realize that if that’s all you have then life feels a little empty.

Therapy/Thought Processing

This would be some kind of exhibitionist journaling kind of thing.  Lots of people find that writing things down helps organize their thoughts, reinforce ideas, break down barriers in their thinking, etc.  Getting those thoughts out in the wild can’t hurt because it just adds more to the collective information of the internet even if we don’t know how to squelch out the noise correctly yet.

Back to the point, why do “I” blog…

Probably a little of all of the previous ones because I’m self actualized enough to not rule any out but not self actualized enough to really know very concretely.  That said, none of those were reason enough to get over the hurdle that; I really don’t like to write!  It’s tedious, feels like work, keeps me in front of a computer even more which is something I’m always trying to get out of.  It’s just not fun for me…

The thing that pushed me over the edge started around information sharing.  My father grew up in eastern Kentucky where there is little opportunity and a fair amount ignorance (both willful and otherwise).  However, he was smart enough, or maybe someone taught him, that what you don’t know CAN and usually does hurt you in life.  He dedicated his life to learning and passed that demon/angel down to his children.  The problem with learning so much about the world is that I started to feel bad for people who didn’t know what I did and spent/spend an inordinate amount of time explaining things to people (the irony is not lost on me that I feel bad for people that are probably happier than me since knowledge really is sorrow sometimes).  Specifically I would explain the same things over and over again, or over explain things to people who don’t care about them.  It really wasted a lot of my time but I didn’t really notice because I genuinely care so much about helping people get to information.

So in short I blog because it’s the easiest way to share notes with people.  I like the idea of free information out on the internet, I use other peoples info ALL the time and I think it’s good to give back to balance the equation a bit.  I like the idea of that it might contribute to my companies revenue.  I like the idea that it is consumed by many people and I might have a real positive impact on peoples lives.  It probably does help me organize my ideas and thoughts.  But none of that is enough, I LOVE that it’s easy to share with friends and people I meet the few things that I have (or at least think I have) figured out thus far.  May or may not be a good enough reason in other peoples opinions but it was the inflection point for me.

Would be curious to see peoples comments on reasons I’ve missed or why they blog.

Mobile kegerator – draft beer anywhere!

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This all started in college when a few engineers (myself, a Chem E, and a Mech E) decided to hack up a fridge and pour black and tans in our house.  It wasn’t a complicated setup but pushed all the edges of different taps (keg couplers), different gases (CO2 and N2), different faucets (standard and restrictive/stout).  Clearly we found out that pouring Guiness in your home is kind of a pain.  That said I was hooked and never went back.

This progressed into several kegerator competitions at work (all of which I or the team I was on won) and one for a charity auction.  This developed a bit of a name among people I knew for eccentric beer pouring options.  This led to my brother asked to pour Guiness at  his wedding, it was in a park and I had to fly to get there so my options were limited…

The Problem

Most kegerators include the refrigerator as a coupled component of the system.  Obviously you aren’t going to fly with a fridge but you don’t need to.  Most people don’t want to just have draft beer in their home or office where the fridge is important.  Most of the time it’s a wedding, a Halloween party, a release party, etc.  I do find the older I get it’s harder and harder to justify a whole keg of beer but there always seems to be a good excuse for one.

The Solution

Get back to the roots, in the early days of mobile kegerators we used recycling bins to be able to hold the ice/water and the keg, wheel it around, keep it discrete (we we’re professionals and this was for “lush” week at the office).  We added internal refrigeration just because we were sick of constantly running down for ice, this isn’t a problem for a one off party so ditch the fridge right out.

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All this picture needs is a keg in a bucket of ice…  Ultimately the only things you need something are the gas and regulator, the keg tap, the shank and faucet, and something to mount it on.  Let’s break it down:


Obviously I couldn’t fly with a tank full of allygal (N2/CO2 – 75/25 blend – used for Guiness) but that’s okay because this is easily rented full of gas from your local welding supply shop.


I prefer one with a CGA-580 inlet (common on larger Nitrogen tanks) and use an adapter to CGA-320 (common on small tanks and almost all CO2 tanks).  If you never have need for the 580 then you can buy a CGA-320 regulator instead.  I personally think that Micromatic premium regulators are the best but there are several out there and I’m sure they all work well enough.  Make sure it’s a double gauge so you can see bottle pressure as well as line/keg pressure.

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Keg Tap/Coupler

Again I think Micromatic makes the best but just make sure you’re getting the right one for the beer you want to pour Guiness uses its own, Bass uses its own, most American beers use the American Sankey, there’s a Slider, a Euro Sankey, etc.  This isn’t fun when you have a keg and no coupler…

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Shank and Faucet

The shank is just the metal tube that you can bolt through something and connect a hose to one side and a faucet to the other.  There are several strange options out there but really there are two, the normal one and the stout/nitro beer one.  I prefer stainless because everything else seems to add a small aftertaste but the stainless is a little pricier and the other do work…

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NOTE: All the way open, all the way closed!! A half open faucet doesn’t have enough space for things to flow as designed and will burst the CO2 bubbles on the way out creating a ton of foam, this is the most common newbie mistake on pouring draft beer!

The Mount

Mine was made with scrap MDF and some left over spray paint on a balcony.  You can weld a trick metal one if you have the equipment or go down to your local maker spot and 3D print one (or upload to Amazon and have them mail it).2015-08-13 09.51.11You need something strong enough to handle the jerk open and closed of a proper pour and that’s about it…

The Tools

Regardless of how much I want it to be true this can’t be pre-assembled and there isn’t some magic pressure for the beer.  You will have to assemble this thing on site and tune it as well.  There are only a few tools necessary but it’s worth having them in your bag to make life easy.

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  • Screwdriver to connect hose clamps
  • Faucet wrench to attach the faucet to the shank
  • Wrench to connect hoses and regulator


Draft beer is a passion of mine and something I have a lot of fun with, if this is something you’re into then here’s the recipe, get out there and bring some life to your next party!

Notable Pictures of the Past

How it all started: Left to Right – IT Kegerator (most techincal one), Software Kegerator (winner of IT vs. Software Competition one), Charity Auction Kegerator (nicest one).



How it ended: This was the culmination of kegerator building prowess funded by cash and creativity of a financial and intellectual powerhouse… – Yes that’s a touch screen with active level tracking – 5 kegs – 10 faucets – waterjet cut sign, ground effects – and it’s all on wheels!



Where it is now: Since it’s not at Microsoft anymore it’s been scaled down a bit, but she’s still alive and kicking!

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Standing Desks – Save your back, change your life!


Standing desks are super trendy right now and for good reason.  They solve several problems: metabolic slow down from lack of exertion, proper hip alignment, increased movement which has been linked to better problem solving, makes you stronger, etc.

I’m not going to try to sell you on standing desks, I clearly believe in them and you should do your own research and then take the plunge.

What I’m going to try to do is offer several of the options that I’ve either used or seen first hand with some pictures, pros/cons, price, etc.

Common Across all Desk Options

Desk Height

Make sure it comfortable!  I find if the desk is too low I experience pain the back of my wrists from holding them at a weird angle; for me the ideal table height is almost exactly at my navel (belly button).  I’m 6’1″ and 42″ is what I tend use, this can take some time to figure out but it’s worth finding out what is good for you…

Touch Screens

I have both a touchscreen laptop and monitor and I love them both!  The screens do reflect light a little more and they get smudges that need to be wiped off.  These tradeoffs aren’t for everyone but I find the more I use the touchscreens the less my wrists hurt, your mileage may vary.

Dvorak Keyboard Layout

I go back and fourth on this, it’s unchallenged that you will move your fingers less distance.  It’s about 44% which is around 9 kilometers less distance if you typed Moby Dick!  It’s not hard to learn and not particularly hard to switch if you go to another computer but kind of annoying if you share your computer with someone else and does have a ramp up cost to learn…  You can read more on the topic in this publication from 2001.

Wireless Headset

While this is not necessarily part of a stand up desk, it does promote walking around and movement in general.  This is a huge win for anyone who works from home because it will give you the freedom to walk around and once you’re standing AND have a wireless headset you will naturally wonder around promoting blood circulation and change in focal length for your eyes which are always high on the list of ergonomics.  You will also get more done on phone calls; making coffee, taking out the trash, doing push ups, etc.  I personally use the Logitech H820e Dual Ear (also available in Single Ear – and make sure you install the Skype plugin so the answer button works!).  While it’s not perfect it’s the best I can find.  I’ve used the other Logitech headsets and they’re alright but they are less comfortable and shorter range.  This thing can reach around my entire house and lot, I’ve actually walked 7 (yes seven) houses down my street and stood in a neighbors living room while on a call.  It’s also super lightweight so you have to be careful about leaving it on (I tend to forget to take it off when getting off of a call which eventually will become uncomfortable).  The battery is pretty solid also, maybe 5 hours, maybe 7, not really sure but a long time.  The only thing to watch for is it feels a little delicate so be gentle when putting on the charging base station.

Thera Cane

Yes the Thera Cane looks a little gimicky but I find that leaving it by my desk encourages me to take breaks and use the hook to massage the back of neck that seems to always get tight after a lot of typing, I even travel with thing (I like it that much).


Don’t skimp here, this is an investment in your health, longevity of your career, your life in general.  I haven’t really found the panacea that I’m looking for but I’ll list of a few of the things I use with some thoughts.

Desk Solutions (in no particular order)

Homemade IKEA Corner Solution




This is probably the cheapest option and pretty easy to put together.  This is my favorite of the options as it’s a nice big desk to easily work on.  The only downside is that it’s static both in location and height so as long as moving around isn’t an issue then this is a pretty solid option…

If screwing into your walls isn’t an option you can get 3 more legs.  I’ve not personally done this but the blog I got this idea from did it that way so it’s probably stable enough.

Parts List
  • 1 – Adjustable Leg – GERTON Leg, adjustable, chrome plated $30.00 Article Number:  602.616.26
  • 1 – Table Top – LINNMON Table top, black-brown $35.99 The price reflects selected options Article Number:  102.513.52 Size: 59×29 1/2″
  • 1 – Monitor Stand Shelf – EKBY JÄRPEN Shelf, black-brown $14.99 The price reflects selected options Article Number: 200.943.47 Size: 46 7/8×11″
  • 1 – Monitor Stand 4 Pack Legs – CAPITA Leg, stainless steel$16.00 / 4 pack The price reflects selected options Article Number: 200.495.38 Adjustable from 8 1/4 to 8 5/8″
  • 1 – 2″x4″ from hardware store
  • 1 – handful of screws
  1. Cut the 2″x4″ (and paint if desired) and screw into studs in wall at your ideal table height minus the thickness of the table top (if you don’t feel super comfortable doing this then you SHOULD hire it out).
  2. Adjust the single large leg to match this height.
  3. Screw the leg onto the corner that will not be supported by the 2″x4″s.
  4. Lift the table top and leg and place on top of the 2″x4″s (this is much easier and safer with help).
  5. Screw the table top into the 2″x4″s from the top (or use angle brackets underneath).
  6. Attach the base plate of the small legs onto the shelf.
  7. Screw the legs into the base plate.
  8. Set newly made monitor stand onto the table top.
  9. Enjoy!

Balt Beta Classroom Cart


The Balt Beta cart might be the option I use most.  I leave it downstairs in my home and it allows me to move it to any room pretty easily (like into the dining room to watch my child play in the living room).  The cart is adjustable to ANY height using a friction clamp (that is actually quite solid).  The keyboard tray moves around which doesn’t bother me but I can imagine this would irritate some people as it can’t lock in place.  The dual monitor part must be ordered separately and they don’t have any native support for a laptop and monitor so I had to rig something using pieces from Ergotron.  I personally use and swear by touch screens and the cart gives an almost perfect distance to allow easy touching.  There are two shelves that can be added to the post that are pretty cool but I found I didn’t really use them much as I usually have a table nearby to set drinks on.  The only real downside is that the setup is a little pricey and is crazy heavy (really solidly built) so it’s really only good to be used where you can wheel it around easily.





Ergotron WorkFit-S


Ergotron offers a few options in this space but the WorkFit-S is the only one I’ve personally used.  It’s designed to work on an existing desk which is a great feature for anyone who has a desk they really don’t want to get rid of or in a cubicle environment.  Since it can raise and lower it offers the ability to ease into the standing desk thing without having to spend some time on a bar stool.  You really have to buy the work surface and large keyboard tray in my opinion so this rig will start to add up.  Most people use the laptop/monitor combo but if you are using dual monitors and are taller than 5’10” you should probably get the “Tall User” kit because otherwise the monitors will likely be too low to be comfortable.  The only downside is that the whole thing, while very well built, does seems to wobble a touch when you’re typing aggressively.  This never bothered me but did irritate some of my friends with the same setup.


ErgotronWorkfitSOption-View2 ErgotronWorkfitSOption-View1

Components (as pictured)

Raise The Desk Option


If you have a desk you really like you can always just raise it to typing height then raise the monitors.  This is a very cheap option for most people and also useful if you’re in a CoWorking space where you can’t really build things and are stuck the desk they provide…  Basically you need to raise the desk which can be done with cinder blocks, bed raisers, books (I guess).  Anything that is strong enough AND stable enough to hold the desk.  This can usually be found with a visit to your local hardware store.  The other thing you need is to raise the monitor(s) which is best done with something lightweight (i.e. NOT books) and these little shelfs that can hold 200 lbs. work well for that.



Components (as pictured)

Raise The Work Surface Option


If you are stuck with a desk and can’t or don’t want to raise it then you can also raise the working surface and put the monitor on a shelf/book case or get a surface raiser that can hold the monitor.   You can build something yourself from a hardware store seen blow or get a pre-made option.  In general these are advertised with the monitors sitting on them but I don’t consider that adequately tall based on the published ergonomic numbers for someone my height.  This is simliar to the WorkFit-S option above but takes up more space and is also more stable.



Component Options

Pelican Suitcase Travel Option


After a week after from my setup(s) at a company retreat I found my back hurting quite a bit and decided I needed a travel option for my setup.  This is challenging as it has to be able to be checked as baggage with an airline and provide the minimum viable options as a standing workstation.  Those features are; table top at appropriate height, monitor and laptop at appropriate height, completely self contained in a suitcase that will keep everything safe and be able to be checked with an airline.  The case does weigh in around 80 lbs. which I’m working to thin out so it’ll cost a little extra at the counter but for it’s worth every penny to open up traveling with my family and stay productive and comfortable while working!


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