Back to the office — sorta — with beard intact.

My employer is easing back into having folks coming into the office starting this week. We’ve had some people coming in during the entire work-at-home period because when you’re an engineer making brake and suspension systems for cars there’s just some stuff that can’t be done at home, but it’s been maybe a dozen or so folks. However, now there’s enough people showing up that the I.T. department feels some on-site presence by us is warranted. So, for the immediate future, I’m working from home on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and I’ll be in the office for at least a half-day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My counterpart is in on Mondays and Wednesdays. If things are busy then I’ll stay the whole day, otherwise I head home at lunch and finish out the day remotely. This also gives me an opportunity to work on things that can’t be handled remotely as well such as the new laptop I’m staging for one of the groups this morning. They’ve armed me with Purell, Clorox disinfecting wipes for wiping down equipment that comes in, and rubber gloves so I should be good to go.

The one thing I wasn’t happy about with this is the fact that I’d probably have to shave my beard as the standard face masks don’t work well if you, like me, have a full beard. My mother-in-law made us a bunch of cloth face masks to use, but she had to use rubber hair bands for the ear loops because all the shops were sold out of elastic straps. The face masks are just small enough that the hair bands won’t stay on my ears. My ear folds over under the stress of the bands and off it comes. Additionally, they also wouldn’t work properly unless I shaved my beard.

My cubemate ended up coming to my rescue by not only finding a pattern for a face mask that includes a beard pouch to stuff my beard into, but someone to actually make one for me. Here it is in all its glory:

Les models a patriotic looking beard pouch face mask.
You patriotic looking bastard, you!

It’s going to take some practice before I can put it on quickly as I’m still figuring out how to stuff my beard into the pouch. It has some elastic around the top of the pouch to help hold it to my face and that’s a little itchy and I’m not quite able to get ALL of my beard behind it (as you can see) but this covers more than any of the other masks I’ve tried and fits pretty well. It even has a sleeve inside for putting in replaceable filters for some extra protection.

Interior detail of beard pouch face mask.
An inside view. You can see the insert sleeve in the pic above along with the elastic band around the pouch.

I don’t know the name of my beard savior, but I want to thank them all the same so I’ll make sure to pass it along via my cubemate. I’ll have to take this home every night and wash it, but that’s a small price to pay to keep my beard. If the whole coronavirus thing continues on for as long as some folks are thinking it will then I may have to hunt her down and pay her to make me four or five more. Maybe get some with patterns from Hawaiian shirts on them! Yeah!

Vorticity 2 by Mike Olbinski

I love a good summer storm and the physics involved is always fascinating to me, but nothing quite brings home the sheer immensity and power of a storm like time lapse photography. Mike Olbinski spent two years putting together this compilation of storms he filmed into one incredible YouTube video in 4K.

I made the tough decision last year to save everything I shot that spring and combine it with whatever storms I captured in 2019 and make the best possible time-lapse film I could. It was incredibly difficult to sit on that collection of footage for over a year, but I’m glad I did. When you’ve done a few of these, at some point you gotta work even harder to top yourself and I did my best to make that happen. Even though I’ve lost all perspective at this point having watched this a million times during editing, I do feel it has some of the best footage I’ve ever compiled into one of these films. I had such a high bar set and many, many clips did not make the cut.

You really need to watch this full screen to appreciate it fully. Better yet, if you have a streaming device hooked to a big screen TV that will playback YouTube then watch it on that. This took my breath away. Best of all, it’s one of two:

You can read more about what he uses to capture these stunning events and see other clips at his YouTube channel.

I actually watched an old-timey coffee grinder being restored.

I often surprise myself by being fascinated by things that, had you told me I would be fascinated by them, I would tell you you’re out of your mind. I blame PBS’ This Old House for making me like this.

You see, for three years or so I worked for a fleet tracking/stolen vehicle recovery service called Teletrac here in the Detroit area as part of the graveyard shift. It was part tech support and part service job. Not only did I keep the computers that ran the system up and running, but when calls came in or a car was stolen I was the person who interacted with the customers and police. The system was pretty stable and calls were infrequent so there was a lot of downtime where my job consisted of breathing and trying to stay awake.

Fortunately we had a TV available to us. Unfortunately it was only over-the-air broadcast capable and at 3AM there wasn’t a whole lot on the big four networks worth watching. Hence my first real appreciation for PBS in general and TOH in particular. Keep in mind, this is a good 30 years before I would actually own a house and I and my co-worker had no real home maintenance experience, but it wasn’t long before we were offering our critical takes on the floor tile choices the people on the show were making. I don’t make a point of watching the show anymore, but when I did I really enjoyed it.

Which brings me to this YouTube video by the folks at My Mechanics which I stumbled across over at Boing Boing. It’s simply 26 minutes of some guy who bought a nasty old metal coffee grinder refurbishing it to pristine quality. That’s it. No real narration other than the occasional bit of text.

In this video i’m restoring an old coffee grinder. A few weeks ago I bought an old bench grinder to restore on eBay. The guy who sold it was actually selling more antiques, he had a room filled with old items. I took a look at his other stuff and this unique coffee grinder caught my attention right away. So I ended up buying it for $35. The one thing that really impressed me on this coffee grinder was the metal body, usually they’re made of wood. I also liked the colour very much. The restoration itself turned out to be a lot more challenging than I first expected. I’m very happy with the final result of this coffee grinder. I really like how the handle turned out.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have neither the know-how or the patience to do something like this that makes it so fascinating, but I watched the whole thing and was impressed with the results. The video doesn’t cover every single second, but it does appear to cover every step and meticulous is definitely a good word to describe the process. There is a part of me that wishes I could to this sort of thing, but another part that knows it’s not something I’d actually enjoy. Watching someone else do it on YouTube? Yeah, I can get into that because what was likely days — if not weeks — of work was compressed down into a mere 26 minutes. Me doing it myself? Probably not a good idea.

Surely my house will have good fortune now.

I came home to an unexpected delivery from Amazon yesterday. I originally thought it must be something Anne had ordered because she orders stuff all the time that I have no clue about, but she pointed out later that it was addressed to me. Puzzled, I opened the box and found a solar powered Maneki-neko or Good Fortune Cat.

A lot of folks think these are of Chinese origin as you will often see them in Chinese restaurants in America, but they are actually a Japanese lucky charm. I have a couple of porcelain figures in the house already, but I’ve always wanted one with a moving arm and so I put this fellow on my Amazon wish list.

Ignore the clutter in the background. I hastily took this pic with it on the dining room table.

I’ve no idea who sent it to me. The note that came with it simply read: “Hi Les, I’ve read your blog for a long time. We seem to be on the same page on just about every issue. It’s a small token, but wanted to say thanks. You’re a good dude. From – Just some Canadian guy living in the U.S..”

No, thank you, Some Canadian Guy! I’ve wanted one of these for a very long time and being solar powered means I don’t have to replace batteries in it all the time. I’d probably still be blabbing away on here even if no one was paying attention, but it is always gratifying and humbling when I realize folks make a point of seeing what nonsense I’ve spouted recently. It’s been almost two decades and that hasn’t changed for me. Thank you for dropping in.

I’ve had dreams kind of like this.

This commercial for IKEA beds is pretty impressive:

What’s even more impressive is the work that went to making it possible.

The “Beds” protagonist, Max the dog and many of the beds were hung from cranes and suspended over buildings during the 3-day shoot in Johannesburg.

The VFX team at MPC (Moving Picture Company) collaborated with film director Juan Cabral and advertising agency Mother London to create a detailed matte paintings, adding CG beds and embellishments and compositing elements including the NASA rocket and plume.

Led by 2D Creative Director Bill McNamara, MPC’s 15-strong team utilized the innovative filming techniques – which captured a great deal of the action in-camera – to then create the VFX and embellish the shots. In order to build the bed staircase, Ikea beds were filmed against green screen on the ground.

Ikea Beds in the Sky – The Inspiration Room

Apparently this was filmed and released all the way back in 2014, but this is the first time I’ve come across it. Still, very cool so I thought I’d share it.

My best match of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

I haven’t been as active in uploading gameplay footage to my YouTube channel as of late and I realized I hadn’t uploaded anything from Black Ops 4. Considering I’m already at Master Prestige and have ground out the Dark Matter camo for my weapons I figured it’s probably about time I put something up. As it turns out I just had what was probably the best round of Hard Core Team Death Match ever so that seemed like the natural one to go with.

However, rather than just upload straight gameplay, I took the time to record a voice over trying to explain what’s going on. My buddy Greg told me that my best CoD video so far had been the first one I uploaded because I had commentary on it so I figured I’d try the same with this one. It’s not as good because things happen quickly, but it adds a little more to the footage. Frankly, I’m impressed I got the audio to line up considering I recorded it in real time while watching the playback and then overlaid it in the editor.

Take a tour of a brand new 4 bedroom home in Tokyo.

Being that I am currently in the process of house hunting and have had a long-standing fascination with Japan, this video from the folks at Life Where I’m From that gives us a guided tour of a brand new four bedroom home in Japan caught my attention. The limited available land in Tokyo requires building homes right next to each other and they tend to be expensive. This particular home is over $400,000.

Check it out:

Note: You may need to click on the Closed Caption button at the bottom right for the English translations.

There are some very cool aspects to this home such as the control panels for filling the bathtub before you ever enter the room and the video intercom to see who is at the front door. I also like how many things are tucked away behind panels. That said, a stove without an oven and the overall cramped aspects of this house (let alone the price) make me glad I’m not living in Tokyo.

The Idiot’s Guide to Japanese Apartments

Back in my early 20’s when I was big into anime and manga I would occasionally entertain the idea of moving to Japan and living the life of an expatriate. Then I looked into what it immigrating to Japan would require and opted to just live in Japan vicariously through anime and manga. The more I learned about Japan the more confident I became in my decision.

However, every now and then I wonder if I didn’t make the wrong decision. Then I see something like this video by Rachel and Jun and any doubts vanish:

In comparison to Japanese apartments (at least in the larger cities), the places I’ve rented are almost palatial in size. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a few features in this video I wouldn’t mind having in my own place. That control panel for filling the tub from any room is pretty wicked cool. That said, living in Michigan our earthquakes are rare and rather timid so all the earthquake proofing stuff is nothing I need worry about.

I only just discovered their YouTube channel and I’m loving it. They’ve been at it for the last 4 years so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but they tackle all sorts of interesting topics from modern Japanese table manners to gender equality in Japan to how to get an apartment in Japan. Being a Japanophile who decided staying home was a better option, this scratches a long standing itch and is just generally fascinating.

A couple more that I found very fascinating:

There’s several forms of Japanese clothing that I’ve always wanted to try because of how they look or how comfortable they appear to be. I wasn’t aware there had been controversies about it here in the States.

There’s a lot of “trivia” about Japan that makes the rounds. This video takes on some of those claims and whether they’re true.

I don’t know how many other folks who drop by are as fascinated by Japan as I am, but I’m in heaven watching these videos.

Your cute cat pics for the day.

According to Google photos, Cuddles came to live with us around this day six years ago. Here’s a few pics from back then:

And here’s a couple from a few weeks ago:

He’s grown into quite the handsome cat and he still likes to curl up in my arms despite being considerably more than a handful these days. He’s my buddy and when I’m home he’s rarely far from my side and he’s always ready to play.

And, no, I have no idea why I look so stoned in a couple of these photos.

Korean tourist asks Italian street musicians if he can join them for a song.

Contrabass player Jun-Hyuk Choi from Korea was travelling in Florence, Italy when he happened upon some street musicians and politely asked if he could join them for a song. He kills it. Absolutely kills it. Particularly when you learn that he’s used to playing on a instrument with four strings and this one only had three.

The song is Autumn Leaves.