2024 Kickoff

We’re already going into the 4th week of January and unfortunately this is my first time writing here in ~7 months. It’s amazing how quickly time passes by – there are many quotes that echo the sentiment… The days are long but the years are quick. Time waits for no one. All are true and sadly we can never get back wasted time nor can we buy more of it.

With that said, 2023 was a great year! A lot of great things happened and it also came with a lot of change as well. My business continues to strive and do well – overall gross numbers were down slightly from 2022 but I think we’ve also continued to see an economic decline as well. My day job has remained the same but we’ve seen a variety of personnel changes as our project manager and branch head made lateral position changes, opening up their positions to be backfilled.

I’m looking forward to a variety of things in 2024! I already have a few new product announcements on the horizon and possibly some new services. I’m looking to completely rebrand my local / retail business due to some brand confusion of the current naming. I’m realistically looking to finally complete construction efforts on my shop by the end of the year – ideally late summer.

I really don’t do well with New Year’s Resolutions or just goal setting in general. I know I have plans in place and objectives in mind and I work towards those as much as I can within the bounds of everything daily life likes to toss in the way. However, I recognize that I need to figure out how to do a better job prioritizing time for things like this (documenting) and more importantly marketing and social media sharing in general. I’m looking forward to 2024 and seeing how I can improve not only on this but as a husband, father, business owner, and all the other titles I hold as well. I’m excited to see what I’m able to accomplish in 2024. Let’s go!

Danielle | Knee Surgery

If you’ve followed any high-level for sports long enough you’ve likely heard of Dr. James Andrews, who founded the Andrews Institute. Dr. Andrews is a surgeon for knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries and is a specialist in repairing damaged ligaments. Dr. Andrews became one of the best-known and most popular orthopedic surgeons for his work on many high-profile athletes. The Andrews Institute is home to nationally recognized physicians that utilize leading-edge techniques, technology and treatments for each and every patient.

Danielle has had trouble with her right knee for a number of years now. The first time it got to a level of discomfort that was enough to be seen about we scheduled an appointment and drove over to Gulf Breeze and met with Dr. Jordan at the Andrews Institute. Gulf Breeze is about a 2 hour drive from our home, which is well worth the expertise and level of care offered – it’s certainly second to none.

Dr. Jordan met with us, discussed the pain and discomfort, and sent Danielle down for x-rays… which ended up with a prognosis that she had a torn meniscus. Because of Danielle’s age, Dr. Jordan recommended a procedure where he would try to repair the meniscus… basically using stitches to pull and hold all of the torn portions back together with the intent for the meniscus to heal itself back together. This was suggested to mitigate arthritis if other procedures were performed instead. Unfortunately, after a LONG recovery process, it was determined that the surgery didn’t work and the meniscus wasn’t healing back together.

Later, a second surgery was scheduled to clip the torn meniscus. This surgery came with a shorter recovery process and it relieved pain for a while but eventually the knee pain came back. A follow up appointment with Dr. Jordan revealed that there was no cartilage remaining and she was basically having bone-on-bone contact and rubbing as she walked. With the relatively newborn twin girls, further surgery and associated recovery wasn’t ideal either. In effort to push out a surgery date, Dr. Jordan offered cortisone shots quarterly, and suggested an unloader knee brace that was intended to manually shift the knee to relieve some of the pressure.

Not too long after the girls turned 3, and them being lot more self sufficient and just much easier for me to take care of… along with Daniel, work (or time off from the Navy base) and managing Driven By Graphics as well, we scheduled a follow up appointment with Dr. Jordan late in 2022 to discuss a plan to lessen Danielle’s knee pain and improve her quality of life. He advised that he did not perform joint replacement surgeries, which was the ideal surgery for her given the circumstances – we were referred to Dr. Mayes, who specializes in hip and knee replacements.

During the consultation with Dr. Mayes, he offered two options: 1) being a partial replacement but follow up surgeries would likely be required in 5-8 years or 2) being the total replacement. Dr. Mayes suggested the total replacement, stating that the components used are much more durable and rigid than that used in the partial and would last significantly longer.

Today, May 1, 2023, is the day that will be marked and remembered for Danielle’s 3rd knee surgery – the total knee replacement. We had to arrive at the Andrews’ Institute Surgery Center at 6:45am for pre-op preparation. As I finish writing this, it’s now 9:45 and I just received the message that she’s out of surgery and is in recovery. I’ll wrap up in saying that I know the coming days and weeks are going to be tough and likely painful, but she’s a tough fighter and I’ll be by her side to help her through it all! I know she’s looking forward to life on the other side, hopefully being able to walk without pain… being able to follow and play with the kids more freely and so we can travel without being so concerned with constraints from the pain of walking.

Softball

This post is mostly just for me – for my personal record keeping because I am certain I won’t remember otherwise.

On April 18th, 2022 I was playing softball at Oakland Terrace field and hurt my wrist attempting to make a sliding catch in the outfield on a shallow fly ball. I came off the field with a very sore wrist but I was still able to move it. Our team was able to make the 3rd out in the field and I was likely going to be due up to hit in our half of the inning. I pulled a bat out of my bag to see if I would be able to hit… there was no way. My wrist had already begun swelling, the ability to move it was decreasing, and the pain, while not awful, was not subsiding.

After the game, I decided to drive myself to the ER and have it checked out. I figured the best case they tell me it was sprained and put me in a sling to rest it and the worse case I actually broke something. I was 40 years old and had never broken or fractured a bone in my body… but in the hallway of the ER a PA showed me the x-ray on her phone and there was a small fracture on the top of my wrist.

Fractured left wrist

They put me into a temporary split and told me to follow up with an orthopedic the following day. Dr. Goodwiller advised that while fractured, the bone sat right back into place and would not require any surgery. Based on his opinion, we opted not to put it in a cast, but rather use a temporary brace instead. I got to wear the brace for about 6 weeks with checkups every couple of weeks.

But let’s get back to the softball part of the story! While the bone was healed prior to the fall season, the tendons and ligaments were still tight and sore. There was no reason to push the issue and play in pain and/or risk further injury.

This past Friday night (March 3rd, 2023) I went to softball practice and it was the first time I threw, caught, or hit a softball since I fractured my wrist. This was the longest time I can recall that I hadn’t stepped between the lines since I skipped my first year of eligibility for little league – when I was 10 years old. I’ve remained VERY busy with the day job, the side hustle, trying to build out the shop when I can, and spending time with family.

Last night, Monday, March 6th, 2023 was the opening night of our softball season and was the first time I got to step back onto the field and between those lines. While it’s not my personality to socialize with everyone at the ballpark or even with all of the players on my own team, it was great to see familiar faces again and share the common interest that is softball. While my outfield defense was quite rusty and I made mistakes, I went 6 for 8 at the plate for the night and we won both games to start the season 2-0. But most importantly, I got to step on the field and play softball with my brother again. And in those few hours, we were able to slip away from all of the worldly things – away from the media, the politics, the daily stresses, and everything else life throws at us… and just have some fun!

This picture is not directly relevant to the above, but it does capture a moment when my brother and I were able to share the field together.

New Church Softball – September 20, 2021

Water Filtration

Water makes up about 60% of our bodies and helps to regulate our body temperature, lubricates and provide cushion for joints, and aids in many other bodily functions as well. Yet there are so many who have limited access to water globally and even fewer that have access to clean water. We’re blessed in the US to have access to so many resources yet, water treatment induces many chemicals into the water supply in order to clean the water… unfortunately those chemicals may not be the best things for our bodies.

With all that said, I decided to do a little research and purchased and install a 6-stage water filtration system including a reverse osmosis filter. This is the one I purchased: https://amzn.to/3lZX89Y

I was able to get it installed a few days ago…

6-Stage Water Filtration w/ Reverse Osmosis
Full Filtration System Installation
6-Stage Water Filtration Overview

Home Project || Amazon Echo Show 15

Nothing too crazy here but today’s project was wall mounting this Echo Show 15. It was very easy to install and I think it looks great!

Let’s see if we can be better organized in 2023! We’ll at least be able to get rid of that calendar on the fridge now.
Hey Alexa, can you add milk to the shopping list?

Home Project || Media Center – Part 2

I played around and got our surround sound temporarily wired… I’ll re-do it and clean up the wiring later but it’s nice finally getting to enjoy the in-wall and in-ceiling speakers again.

I’ve also been balancing customer orders but working on getting back to trimming out the network wiring too… after having to retrace where a lot of these were initially run.

I temporarily wired in the AVR and sub amp and have plans to add a second sub and amp later.
Slowly getting there… I need to terminate these and get the second patch panel mounted.
This view shows the in-ceiling speakers in the tray. They are currently wired as rear surrounds but I might transfer these to Dolby Atmos speakers later.
This view shows the in-ceiling 10-inch subwoofer (top left)… with plans to add another above the tree, centered between the vents… Move that tree! 🙂

ChatGPT

ChatGPT is an open-source project by OpenAI which had a beta release on November 30th, 2022. There has been quite a buzz about the project, its capabilities, and how it can/will effect change in the future – it already is! What is ChatGPT? Let me tell you… better yet, let me allow ChatGPT to tell you…

ChatGPT is a recently developed large language model that was trained using a combination of supervised and unsupervised learning techniques. This makes it capable of generating human-like text responses to a wide range of prompts.

One of the key features of ChatGPT is its ability to understand and respond to natural language input. This means that you can have a conversation with it just as you would with another person. The model is also able to generate responses that are appropriate for the context of the conversation, making it a powerful tool for applications such as customer service chatbots, virtual assistants, and more.

Another interesting aspect of ChatGPT is its ability to learn from and adapt to new information. As the model is exposed to more and more data, it is able to improve its performance and generate more accurate and relevant responses. This makes it a valuable tool for businesses and organizations that need to keep up with changing customer needs and preferences.

Overall, ChatGPT is an exciting development in the field of natural language processing and machine learning. With its ability to understand and respond to human language, as well as its ability to learn and adapt, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with computers and other AI-powered systems.

The above response was taken directly from ChatGPT after I asked it to write a basic blog post on itself. You can ask it virtually anything and it will respond in a human-readable way that’s quick and easy to understand. It’s like a search engine on steroids because it’s not just giving you a list of links for you to click and read through yourself but rather consolidating information and presenting it to you directly. If you have additional questions or need the response refined you can continue asking questions and it will respond accordingly. Very cool! Very powerful! This is definitely a game changer!

Die Cutting w/ Roland VersaCamm

I’ve often been asked how I dial in cut force, particularly when die cutting… and the answer is testing… with each and every material… each and every time. If you’ve replaced your blade the cut settings may be different. Test again. Trust but verify.

When die cutting, the standard/built-in test cut doesn’t work well because it’s just too small to give you a good representative cut. So here I made a 1.25″ CutContour circle and imported that into VersaWorks.

Start with a low setting (no need to cause damage from the start) and slowly work your way up. After it cut through at 145, I stepped back through at 5gf increments to see if it would cut through at a lower force… 140gf worked but it took more force to punch them out of the material than I liked. So 145gf was the magic number for this job.

The idea is to really dial in the proper force because cutting with too much force will cut deeper into the cutting strip causing it to require replacement even sooner… and you also want to keep them from falling out too easily which could cause the cutter to jamb or stop cutting if one falls out over either the front or rear material sensors.

This was my first time trying to die-cut holographic so I really had no idea where I would end up on force, so I started really low on purpose. I was running a 2-pass cut (aka double cutting) which allows a lower force to be able to be used.

I will also note I am using cheap 45° blades from Amazon. I’ve used Roland, CleanCut, and these from Amazon. With the work I do, I haven’t noticed any difference other than the price.

https://amzn.to/3umx6id

This is an affiliate link, which means at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Listening + Quotes

I am a listener. I listen to people speak in person, in videos, podcasts, text messages, or emails, and I often try to pick up on the nuances. What are they unconsciously saying, that they aren’t actually saying? Sometimes it’s easy to read between the lines, but typically it takes a bit of patience to pick up all the pieces and put the puzzle together.

I also like quotes and aphorisms that invoke deep thought, critical thinking, and/or reflection. Often I try to capture the good ones… jot them down on a sticky note or enter them into the Notes app on my phone. I’ve thought some of them could be paraphrased and put on a shirt to inspire others but I’ve never taken any action to do that. So what will I ever do with these quotes I hear or read that and record? Probably nothing or mostly nothing, but today I’ll take a little action and share. Most of them are not direct quotes, but paraphrased or wordsmithed to have more meaning or insert my own flavor of clarification.

The most inspiring people are those overcoming the fear of doing something, the courageous, not those who are excellent at it.

What do you believe to be true that isn’t?

Time is the most valuable asset that you will never own.

Having gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

These are only a few of the many but today I was led to share, even if only a little 😉

Die Cut Stickers

Today, well technically yesterday since I’m writing this at almost 2 am, was a LONG day. I’m headed out of town for the day job in the morning, so I’ve worked tirelessly to get every order I possibly could done and prepared for pickup while I’m away; at least 7 orders will be shipped tomorrow, assuming both UPS and USPS perform the pickups as scheduled. But let’s get to the title of this post… die-cut stickers! One of the orders I worked on today was for a new client, Triple Seven Concepts. They’re a new startup looking to do some marketing by way of stickers. So I got these printed and cut… and they’ll be headed out tomorrow!

Triple Seven Concepts | 3-inch Die Cut Stickers
Triple Seven Concepts | 5-inch Die Cut Stickers
Triple Seven Concepts | 5-inch & 3-inch Die Cut Stickers

And now that it’s a little past 2 am I should probably wrap this up because 4:45 is going to come really soon!