Christmas, Life

Our 2014 Christmas Letter

Before I can even open with a greeting, I need to share the most important news since our last Christmas letter: Late last December, Jon Lovitz personally replied to me on Twitter. THE Jon Lovitz, of “Saturday Night Live” and “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold” fame. Now, I don’t consider myself a hero, but if some people want to call me that, well…

Friend, sit down with a mug of hot cocoa, a blanket, and a purring kitten, because you’ve been waiting all year for this letter to arrive and you deserve to be pampered. Find a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed, because this letter is like a massage for your mind that you won’t want interrupted by your so-called “friends” or “family.” Calgon, take us away!

Christina and I both turned 30 this year, and since neither of us have had midlife crises yet, we’re guaranteed to not die before the age of 60. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

I went to Hawaii in January (again, ugh!) for work. Fun fact: my computer screen looks exactly the same on a desk in Hawaii as it does on a desk in Minnesota.

Gabriel is in kindergarten now. I know what you’re thinking: “Is his kindergarten experience identical to the events in the Oscar-worthy 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film ‘Kindergarten Cop’?” Yes. Yes it is. “Get to da choppa!” Ha ha ha.

Gideon had been struggling with eczema and extremely itchy skin, so we put him on a restricted diet, and it has really helped. Basically, we don’t let him eat poison ivy leaves anymore. Sometimes just one as a treat if he’s been really good. It’s so hard to say no to that adorable little boy when he asks “Just one more leaf? Please??”

Gloria’s still around here somewhere.

I went to Park City, Utah in September for work. Fun fact: my computer screen looks exactly the same on a desk in Utah as it does on a desk in Minnesota, except blurrier due to oxygen deprivation.

Christina went to Las Vegas in October with her mom, sister, and Shania Twain. I would tell you what they did there, but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

I bought a 3D printer this spring. A 3D printer is this machine where you feed in money, and it gives you plastic trinkets that everyone asks why you didn’t just buy them at the store in the first place but what they don’t understand is that you do get to feel marginally superior because your plastic trinkets were homemade, until they break, but then you can print a replacement basically for free, as long as you don’t put a monetary value on your time.

We went on a family vacation this summer to Lake Superior and Wisconsin Dells. I would rate our time at Lake Superior as “superior,” and our time at Wisconsin Dells as “dells.” Wisconsin Dells is known for having many outdoor water parks, which, for a city further north than some parts of Canada, is either incredibly optimistic or incredibly short-sighted.

I built a Minneapolis-themed table that is now residing in the art museum at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Well, at least until they notice that I put it there.

We went camping again this year. The mosquitoes were so big that even they were making the “state bird” joke. Just kidding, mosquitoes can’t talk. The mosquitoes were so big that they were quite a nuisance and many people complained about them. Boom, roasted!

We’ve really embraced social media. This year, Christina and I tweeted, Facebooked, and Foursquared 4,226 times. That’s an average of 5.5 times per day per person, or in metric, a buttload of wasted time (1.1 Imperial buttloads). It’s easier to understand how much that is with a visualization: If we had instead spent 30 seconds talking to our kids each of those times instead of using our smartphones, then we would be good parents.

Merry Christmas!

Chris, Christina, Gabriel, Gideon, and Gloria

3D Printing, Christmas, Programming

Today’s Functional Print, CHRISTMAS EDITION: Christmas Tree Feet

In today’s appropriately festive 3D printer news, I’ve printed replacement feet for some ornamental Christmas trees:


These feet took a while to design — the organic shapes and border ridges were new concepts to me in OpenSCAD, but I was able to settle on a design that could be printed without supports.


Spot the original, if you can!

The feet didn’t require supports, but this was only because I printed the “toe” separately and attached it with acetone afterwards. If I hadn’t done this, I would have had to print a bunch of additional support along the bottom of the foot.


The trees are similar to OpenSCAD script and STL file are available on GitHub. Feliz Navidad!

3D Printing, Programming

Today’s Functional Print: Wire Cube Plastic Connector

In today’s “hey, that’s actually useful” news, I’ve printed a connector for assembling wire cube shelving. The shelves are shipped as a stack of identical wire squares that come together with round plastic connectors, allowing you to build customized shelves, like this one:


We bought some at a garage sale, but we were two connectors short of a full set. I designed the replacement in OpenSCAD and printed each one in about an hour and twenty minutes.


The finished print with support material still attached.


After removing support material.


Amazon sells 4-packs of these connectors for $6.44, so the retail value of this print was $1.61.

The OpenSCAD script and STL file are available on GitHub.

3D Printing, Christmas, Programming

Today’s Functional Print: Christmas Light Clips

In today’s “’tis the season to be printing” news, I’ve printed replacement Christmas light clips.


They took about half an hour to model in OpenSCAD, and each one can print in only three minutes. Their exact design appears to be unique to the decoration that they came from, but these very similar clips sell for $2.99 for a pack of 100, so each clip has a retail value of about three cents.

The clips are being used to attach lights to these festive holiday deer:


Here’s a closeup:


Let’s play “Find the original clip!” It’s in there somewhere.


The OpenSCAD script and STL file are available on GitHub.

3D Printing, Programming

Today’s Functional Print: Cootie Eyes

In today’s “is he posting about Cootie again?” news, I’ve printed replacement eyes for our Cootie game. The eyes are tiny and get lost really easily, so they are a natural candidate for replenishment.


These eyes are so small that I had to dial the print speed down to 3 millimeters per second (from 30 mm/s) so that plastic would have time to cool before the next layer was added and so the motion of the printer didn’t tip over the eye as it printed the top of the peg.


That’s a face that only a mother cootie could love.

The OpenSCAD script and STL file are available on GitHub.

3D Printing, Programming

Today’s Functional Print: Cootie Legs

In today’s “does that really count as functional” news, I’ve printed replacement legs for our Cootie game. You can’t buy replacement parts for Cootie, so the retail value of these legs is literally priceless.




These legs are low-polygon because I’m not yet experienced enough in OpenSCAD to replicate organic shapes. I generated these legs by intersecting the extruded x, y, and z profiles of an original leg, seen here:


The OpenSCAD script and STL file are available on GitHub.

3D Printing, Programming

Today’s Functional Print: Train Valve Gear

In today’s “how did I ever live without a 3D printer” news, I’ve saved a decades-old toy train from the trash heap by printing a new valve gear for its left side of its wheels. The train is a 1986 model New Bright toy train, and it was destined to encircle our Christmas tree, but a missing piece was causing the front left wheel to get lifted off the track by a dragging piston rod. It took about half an hour to design a replacement in OpenSCAD and an hour to print. Its value is immeasurable.

Here’s the component by itself.


And here it is in place:


You might not be able to pinpoint it, since it fits so perfectly that it’s undetectable as an aftermarket add-on. Here’s a closeup:


The OpenSCAD script and STL file are available on GitHub.