Entries from June 2012

A First Attempt at a Solder Fume Extractor

I believe strongly in publishing negative results, so I've written an account of an old project (December 2006), in which I tried and failed to build a solder fume extracting and filtering machine and learned some useful lessons along the way.

My New Résumé, and How to Build It in LaTeX with SCons

I recently rewrote my professional résumé. In accordance with received wisdom I was always careful to limit the story of my working life to a single page, but I've heard too much lately about how this restriction is out-of-date and likely to shortchange an applicant; in my case I had to describe the positions I've held very thinly and leave out some of my minor honors altogether. Some of the layout compromises I was forced to make never sat quite well with me either.

Since I was going to radically change it anyway, I took the opportunity to implement my new two-page résumé in LaTeX instead of InDesign, partially for geek-cred but also to make it more maintainable: for instance, the plain-text source file works well with revision control tools and now resides in a git respository.

Building my résumé from source also solves an irritating little problem I had with my InDesign workflow: the need to maintain two otherwise-identical *.indd files, one with my personal phone number and email address for sending to recruiters, and one without them for publishing on the Internet. If I changed anything in one, I had to make the same changes in the other, and then make sure to export both to PDF. With LaTeX I can pass command-line arguments to conditional statements to make this easy. For even more geek-cred, I can automate all this using SCons and provide myself with “public” and “private” build targets for the two versions of the document.

DIY Paracord Bootlaces

Six years ago I walked into an Army-Navy surplus store and bought a pair of Hi-Tec hiking boots for something like 30 dollars. They're sturdy and very comfortable, have given me good service in all sorts of places and conditions, and are likely to keep doing so for years to come. The laces, however, were beginning to show their age and experience; the anglets had come off and the inner core of the laces had retreated into the outer sheath. I had an opportunity, therefore, to replace them with a much stronger and more useful type of bootlace: mil-spec 550 parachute cord.

Black never goes out of style

This fits into the trend of survival experts and EDC enthusiasts carrying miles of paracord on their persons at all times, usually by tightly weaving it into something like a watch band or key chain. I'm impressed by their techniques but I'm far from being a serious student of wilderness survival—I only sniff around the edges of that community—but I enjoy hiking now and again and I'm very much a fan of preparedness and capability in all aspects of life.