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A couple weeks ago, I was surprised to find that my Jackson Monstar whitewater kayak had a 6 inch crack in the bottom.   I contacted their customer service and they said to fill out their warranty form, even though the boat is 5 years old and it was very unlikely that it would be covered.  After submitting the form, they said my boat wasn't covered under warranty, but they would offer me a new one at wholesale.  I was pleasantly surprised by this offer, but I didn't feel like the boat was beyond repair.  So I asked if it could be welded, but they said the boat is made of out Cross Link plastic, which cannot be welded.  They did suggest using G Flex epoxy to fix the crack though.  Here's the process I used from the instructions.

Supplies

  • G/flex 655-8 Epoxy Adhesive
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Paper towels
  • Paint mixing stick
  • Disposable latex gloves
  • 2" cellophane packing tape (or duct tape)

Tools

  • Drill with 1/8" bit
  • Sharp knife
  • Saber or hacksaw blade
  • Chisel
  • 80-grit sand paper
  • Butane/propane torch
  • Painting breathing mask

Instructions

The first step is to drill out the ends of the crack.  It is extremely important to drill out the very center of the end of the crack.  If you are off to the side, then the crack can "skip" around the hole and continue past your patch.  I used a drill bit for wood and it worked pretty well.

After the holes are drilled, the G/flex instructions say to "Open up the cracks and splits with a saver or hacksaw blade to create a slight gap in the break."  I used a hacksaw blade (18 teeth per inch).  I had to start in the center of the crack to get the saw blade through the crack.  I then cut towards the end hole, reversed and cut back to the other one.

Next the G/flex instructions say to "Bevel the edges of the crack with a sharp scraper like end of sharp chisel or with a cabinet scraper to create a 3/8" to 1/2" long bevel on both sides of the split and on both sides of the hull."  I ended up using a wood carving tool.  I found it difficult to create as wide of a bevel as recommended because of how thin the plastic was.  An angled planing tool would probably have been a better choice, but I don't have one of those at this time.

Next the G/flex instructions say to "Sand the beveled surfaces to round the edges and create more taper with 80-grit sandpaper." I cut about a 2" wide piece of the sandpaper, slipped it through the crack, and the pulled it through WITH the angle of the bevel.  Once I reached the end, I switched the angle for the other side and then pulled it through again.  I did this a couple of times all along the crack for both sides.  Next time I think I'll do this more than a couple of times, maybe 10-20.  Then I just sanded both sides normally, making sure to sand about 1" around the crack as well.

Because my kayak is made of crosslinked polyethylene, a high-density polyethylene, I needed to heat treat it.  The G/flex instructions say to "Pass the flame of a propane torch across the surface quickly.  Allow the flame to touch the surface, but keep it moving - about 12 to 16 inches per second.  No obvious changes takes place, but the flame oxidizes the surface and dramatically improves adhesion."  Another benefit of doing this is that it burns off all of the small "threads" of plastic that the sanding process creates.  I used the torch on both sides of the hull and make about 3-5 passes.  The plastic definitely heated up and deformed a little, but it came back into shape upon cooling.

The last step is to apply the epoxy.  This is when I put on my breathing mask and the gloves.  I used the mixing instructions provided and mixed more than I expected to use.  I didn't want to have to quickly mix up another batch because I had run out.  Once the mixed epoxy was ready, the G/flex instructions say to "Apply a bead of the adhesive to the beveled joint, overfilling it slightly.  Cover the adhesive with 2" wide cellophane packaging tape while forcing the excess (overfill) through to the other side of the joint.  Avoid using too much force, which leave the taped side under filled."  I used duct tape because I didn't have any packing tape on hand.  After applied the tape, I smoothed out the epoxy with my fingers, trying to make it flat and not push too much through the crack.

I flipped my kayak over, making sure no force was on the taped crack.  Next, the G/flex instruction say to "Spread out the adhesive on the opposite side to fill in the beveled seam.  Add or remove epoxy to fill the bevel flush."  I decided to add a ton on the inside since it would be below the seat anyway.  My hope is this will make the patch stronger.

After waiting overnight (7-10 hours), I removed the duct tape from the outside of the hull.  The patch looks really good to me and feels very strong.  The G/flex instructions say to "Wait 24 hours before subjecting joints to high loads."

I hope to take out my newly fixed kayak next weekend.  I'll report here on how it fares.

Building My Own 3D Printer

3D printing has always intreged me and recently I decided to build my own 3D printer.  I decided to build my own instead of just buying one because I think I will enjoy making it as much as using it.  I'm documenting this project at DIY 3D Printer Project.  Hopefully my trials and successes will help others.

Meditation

I've been meditating each morning before I leave for work for a couple of weeks. I've been interested in “learning how to meditate” for a while now, but never really knew where to begin. Eventually, I found this article on How to do Mindfulness Meditation and decided to start with just 2 minutes each morning.

From the beginning, I found it very difficult to NOT think about anything. Focusing on the breathing and counting, as described in the article, do help but it was, and still is, a struggle. I kept doing it and am now up to 5 minutes each morning. I hope to spend more time in the future, but I feel like I am not able to do it effectively past 5 minutes right now.

I have found that I am now much more aware of my thoughts and emotions. I still get angry and frustrated, and occasionally snap at someone, but I feel like I can almost stop it in time. Before those emotions just “happened” and most of the time I was surprised.

Since I've started, I've read more articles on meditation, including Meditation for Beginners, and how to increase my practice and knowledge as I continue. I’ve found a large benefit in meditating and encourage you to try it yourself. Hopefully, sometime soon, I will feel like I’m actually good at it.

Ecuador 2013

At the end of January, 2013, I travelled to Ecuador for 2 weeks. The first week was for whitewater kayaking in Ecuador’s amazing rivers, and the second was for board surfing in the ocean and hanging out at the beach. I was extremely excited about going, but I had never been to South America before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had a great time and am now trying to figure out how I can go there every year.

I’ve wanted to go kayaking in South America for years now, but never seemed to have the time, be healthy enough, or figure out the logistics. Last Fall I decided that I was going next year no matter what. I found out that a friend of mine was already planning on going with Small World Adventures (SWA), a kayak guiding service. I jumped at the chance and booked my trip with them that night. They provide an amazing week. Everything is taken care of: lodging, food, shuttles, river levels, everything. I’ve never kayaked so care free in my life before. My friend posted a very detailed trip report about our kayaking adventures.



My journey through Ecuador

The first day I flew into Quito (blue) from Seattle. The flight takes all day, but going through Houston was actually easy. The next morning, SWA drive us over a 13,500 foot pass to Borja (red) where they have their Cabañas Tres Rios lodge. We stayed there 2 nights, then headed over to Tena (green) for 2 nights for some warm weather and warm rivers. After that we came back to Borja for another 3 nights, then the kayaking portion of the trip was over and back to Quito. Most people flew back to the US the next day.

I flew to Guayaquil (turquoise) and took a 2.5 hour taxi ride to Montañita (yellow). I spent a day there and couldn’t stand it. It’s a very overcrowded town and its infrastructure can’t keep up. So, upon the recommendation of SWA guide Greg, I headed up to Canoa (purple). It was 250km away and took over 6 hours by bus and taxi. There I stayed at the Canoa Beach Hotel, which was run by an US expat and had just opened 2 months earlier. It was amazing and I highly recommend that hotel and the town of Canoa if you want a relaxing beach vacation in Ecuador. The surfing wasn’t big, but they were the cleanest waves I’ve every surfed. I had a return flight scheduled out of Guayaquil, but there was no way I was going to taxi or bus back there just for a flight. Instead I took a 6.5 hour taxi from Canoa directly to Quito, completing the circle.

Overall, the trip was amazing. I wasted some time and money figuring things out, but I had fun experiencing everything. I hope I can go back every year for a week of kayaking and a week of surfing. Next time though, I’m going to fly from Quito to Manta and back to maximize my beach and surfing time.

My Favorite Android Apps

I've had an Android mobile phone since the first one was released. Over the years, much has changed with Android. Here are my favorite apps and games.

Alarm Clock Plus (Utility)

I've been using this app for my alarm clock for a couple months now. The reason I use it over the default Android alarm clock app is I can customize how many times it will allow me to hit snooze and it can require the correct answer to a math question. The combination of these two settings has stopped me from snoozing for an hour after my alarm first goes off. Here are my settings:

  • Snooze a maximum of 3 times
  • 3 minute interval between snoozes
  • Must answer 1 medium difficulty math question to snooze
  • Must answer 3 medium difficulty math questions to dismiss
  • Custom MP3 ringtone

Note, this version has ads, but there is an ad-free version too.

Any.DO (Task Management)

I’ve been using this app, in conjunction with the Chrome plugin, for a couple weeks now. I really like how it’s always in your notifications list, even if you have no tasks for the day. So far, this is the best task management online system I've used. My only complaint is the data in the notification window doesn’t update automatically.

ASTRO File Manager (Utility)

This app has been around since the beginning, but a lot of improvements have been made. Sometimes you just need to find a file that’s on your phone. Maybe you use your phone as a usb flash drive, or want to install an app that you downloaded outside the Google Play store. This app is great at browsing the files on your phone or any linked storage, like Dropbox.

Bunny Shooter (Game)

Time to shoot some evil bunnies with arrows. This game is a little like Angry Birds, but less annoying (IMO). I've spent a lot of time with this game and have gotten 3 stars are almost every level. Beware, it’s addicting.

Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff (Game)

I am so addicted to this game.  You start out with an awesome video explaining how Quahog gets destroyed.  Then you spend the game rebuilding it and creating characters from the Family Guy universe.  You earn coins while playing to get more buildings and decorations.  You can also in-app purchase (and occasionally earn) clams to speed things along and get special characters.  This game is very funny if you like the show, but we warned it will cost you a lot of it get addicted like I have.

GO SMS Pro (Text Messager)

I use this “GO” text messaging app instead of the default Android app, because it shows your texting threads much like the iPhone.

Granny Smith (Game, $)

This app costs some money, but it’s super fun. It’s a racing, obstacle course game on roller skates. It sucks you in pretty fast.

KHET (Game, $)

I describe this game to friends as ancient Egyptian laser chess. I have the physical version of this game and love it. Playing against the computer can be very difficult. Note, the player vs. player mode of this app is unplayable. It just doesn't work.

Mr. Number Call Blocker (Utility)

This is my number 1, all-time favorite app for Android. It allows me to automatically send all phone numbers not already in my contacts directly to voicemail. I've had telemarketers calling me once a day for years with no frustration, because of this app. If I was marooned on a desert island and I could only take one app with me, this would be it. (Not really, I'd take an ocean currents app)

Ninja Fishing (Game)

Warning, do not install this game if you cannot stop yourself from in-app purchasing. The game is free, but the in-app items for purchase are VERY tempting. This is one of my favorite mobile games. It combines a lot of different game play mechanics into one game. First you have to avoid fish to get as deep as possible, then you have to catch as many high valued fish as possible, then you have to cut up those fish with your sword to gain the points. Once you have points, you can buy longer lines, bigger hooks, stronger swords, etc. So far I’ve earned over 400k points without purchasing any in the app, but the temptation is super strong.

Photon (Game)

This game is pretty simple, but very fun. It’s kind of like Tetris, but with circles and power ups.

Wifi Analyzer (Utility)

This is a great app for seeing what wifi networks are in the area and what channel they are on. I’ve used it for home, work, and on vacation. It can help you find the best location in a room if the signal strength is weak and more.

Password Management

A couple weeks ago I read a blog that recommended some Mac applications. One of them was 1Password, a password management application. I installed the free trial on my work computer (Windows 7), home computer (Mac), and phone (Android). In addition to a desktop application, there are plugins/addons for modern browsers like Firefox and Chrome. All of which I’ve installed.

After a couple days of using it, I was hooked. This is a must-have application and browser plugin/addon if you want to avoid password reuse, pick secure passwords not found in any dictionaries, and save tons of time. Needless to say, after 3 weeks, before the trial was over, I purchased the Mac and Windows combo pack.

Here’s how it works. After installing the application on your different computers, browsers, and devices, and hooking them all up to your DropBox account, just log into a web site. A dialog like this one will pop up, asking for your 1Password master password.

1Password master password login dialog from Chrome

1Password master password login dialog from Chrome

Once authenticated, the 1Password plugin/addon will ask you for a name to save this web site/username/password combination. Once you save it, the next time you need to log into that web site, just press Ctrl+\ (Windows) or Command+\ (Mac) and you’ll be automatically logged into that web site. If you have multiple logins for the same web site, it will show you the list and you can easily use the arrow keys to pick the one you want use and press Enter.

Additionally, it comes with a customizable password generator. In the example below, you can see I’ve chosen a password that is 16 characters, has 4 digits (numbers), and 4 symbols (punctuation). While this is not actually a password I use, I have used this tool to generate new passwords for almost every account of mine. With no password reuse, if one of those systems gets hacked, the hackers can’t chain my accounts and gain access into anything else of mine.

Password generator example

In the 5-6 weeks I’ve been using this application, I’ve saved 99 web site logins, 14 other account logins, 3 secure notes, and 5 software licenses. I estimate I’ve saved hours in these 5-6 weeks and look forward to saving more. No more looking up passwords in some Excel file or saving them on the browser and then not being able to login on a different computer. Again, I cannot recommend this application enough. It will save you countless hours over the course of a year.

On a parting note, for your main accounts that you use to log into other sites (like Google or Facebook), I HIGHLY recommend setting up 2-level authentication. This usually involves adding your mobile phone number to the account and receiving a text every time a new device or IP logs into that account. You do NOT want to end up like this guy.

My Movember Adventure

I first heard about Movember, a weird fundraising effort for men’s health, 2 years ago when a friend of mine did it. Please donate to help men’s health research, especially for prostate cancer. I meant to participate in 2011, but forgot until about halfway through the month. However, this year I remembered and it helped that 20+ guys in my office were participating as well. I haven’t had any facial hair since high school, when I tried (in vain) to grow a gotee. Never a fan of mustaches, I knew I was in for a trip.

Here’s my photo journal of my transformation from a hairless upper lib to a full-bodied cookie catcher. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Day 1: Freshly shaved and excited.

Day 5: My serious mustache face, needs work.

Day 10: The itchiness from hell has begun.

Day 15: Really considering quitting, but I'm already half way through the month.

Day 20: The itchiness has finally subsided. I no longer hate my mustache with a fiery passion.

Day 25: Looking fly in my kayaking gear. About to go kayak surfing at La Push Bay.

Day 30: Just need a baseball hat to complete my Magnum PI look.

  

Every year for the long Thanksgiving weekend my friends and I rent cabins on the Olympic Peninsula coast. We go whitewater kayaking on the rivers and creeks of the OP, kayaking surfing on the ocean, play games, eat tons of food, and play lots of games. Every year it’s an amazing time and always comes with an adventure. This year was no exception.

This year the forecast was rain all four days, so I was expecting (and hoping) to spend most of the daylight hours at the Mosh Pit. This did not happen. Instead, we had all of the rain on Thursday night and mostly sun for the rest of the trip.

We got to the cabin early enough to go kayak surfing in the bay, but the swell period wasn't that great and the waves were pretty big. That usually makes for a beat-down session, so we decided to stay inside.

On Friday, 5 of us loaded up our creek boats to go paddle the Upper Sitkum. We had beta from locals that the ideal level was 2,500 cfs. That morning it was 4,000 cfs and rising very fast. So we decided to go run the South Fork Sol Duc (Class IV+), because we've never seen it too high before and it was close by. The water level was perfect, but the river was not. There were many, many trees and logs in the river. Our group had 2 swims, 2 lost paddles, and a lost boat. It was an adventurous day, but everyone made it off the river.

The next day, the river levels in the area had dropped to normal levels. Since we were missing some gear and had enough adrenaline for a while, 6 of us decided to go paddle the Main Sol Duc (Class III). The level was medium and most of us had a leisurely day. We got back to the cabins early and some decided to go kayak surfing in the bay. I was feeling lazy and decided just to chill for the rest of the day.

Sunday was our last day and we had to take the ferry back to Seattle. I knew if I didn't get a surf session in on this trip, I'd regret it so I woke up early and was out in the waves by 8:00 am. The surf was on the smaller side, but the period was great and the sun was shining. It was the tail end of the storm, so some of the waves doubled up, which usually helped getting out past the inside breaks. I caught a lot of really fun waves, including a 12′ face on the last ride in.

All in all it was a really fun trip and I can't wait to do it again next year (minus the swims and lost gear). Plus the view from the ferry on the way back was phenomenal. From the upper deck, we could see Mount Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympics. It was a great view.

I feel very lucky to have grown up with my parents and grandparents teaching me about personal finance. I learned about specific topics like compounding interest, debt, inflation, the stock market, assets versus liabilities, and balance sheets. But I also learned about their financial mistakes and what has historically happened with interest rates and inflation.
Unfortunately, our education system does not feel it’s necessary to teach these skills in school. I am still looking to continue my education in finance, especially in light of the nationwide problems that have occurred in the last couple of years.

If you feel you need more knowledge on these topics, then I suggest searching online for personal finance course online. I haven’t tried all of these myself, but there are lots of options. Find one that is free, comes from a reliable source, and looks like it covers a lot of different areas of personal finance.

Once you feel you have a good foundation from one of these courses, I recommend checking out the finance videos at Khan Academy. I’ve been watching these for a while and they are very well done.

This video, Deficit and Debt Ceiling, while not a personal finance video, is a really great one. I highly recommend it for everyone.

Scrolling to an Element

A friend of mine wrote this code and it's been helpful to me over the years. It may no longer work in all modern browsers.

When writing AJAX websites, developers sometimes need to scroll to a particular element within the DOM on the page. The most common approach, using javascript, is:

/**
* Scroll to an element (by id attribute or name attribute of the anchor tag )
*/
function scrollToElement( elementName ) {
  if ( elementName ) {
    window.location = "#" + elementName;
  }
}

However, this approach is not cross-browser compatible because some browsers will refresh the page. Since this is mostly necessary in an AJAX application, refreshing is most likely NOT desired.

So my friend came up with the following JavaScript that I have found to work in most modern browsers.

/**
* Scroll to an element (only works by id attribute)
*/
function scrollToElement(elementID) {
  var theElement = document.getElementByID( elementID );
  if(theElement != null) {
    var selectedPosX = 0;
    var selectedPosY = 0;
    while( theElement != null ) {
      selectedPosX += theElement.offsetLeft;
      selectedPosY += theElement.offsetTop;
      theElement = theElement.offsetParent;
    }
    window.scrollTo( selectedPosX, selectedPosY );
  }
}

If you use the prototype.js, dojo, jquery or some other javascript library, then you could rewrite the function above to use a CSS class finder function, which would allow you to scroll to an element without needing the id attribute set.