I bought a Ducky One 3 Keyboard

To be exact, I bought a Ducky One 3 Daybreak SF 65% Hotswap RGB Double Shot PBT QUACK mechanical keyboard.

That’s a mouthful.

Two of my sons own the Ducky One 2, and they love them. I assumed Ducky made mostly gaming keyboards which is correct, but they also make excellent mechanical keyboards for people like me who write a lot and appreciate a quality typing experience.

The colorful Ducky One 3 Mechanical Keyboard

First the downsides: The Ducky One 3 has no software so changing the RGB lighting or creating macro requires learning some obscure firmware commands. I got around some of this by installing the Keyboard Manager utility that’s part of the Microsoft Power Toys collection. That allowed me to easily map keys to control the volume since this model doesn’t include a media knob like my Corsair K95 did.

Also, if you are coming from a keyboard with a traditional layout, it might take some getting used to not having the ten-key area.

Otherwise, the Ducky has been a pleasure to use. I don’t miss the wrist rest or the much louder sounds the K95 created. The tactile feels of the Ducky is so smooth that it’s simply a joy to use. This is by far the best keyboard I’ve used but I would not recommend it to everyone.

Who might like this keyboard? Those who value a quality typing experience and don’t mind paying for it. Mechanical keyboards cost a lot more than their membrane counterparts, so you should be comfortable spending $100 to $200 for one. You can spend A LOT more than that on a mechanical keyboard, but you quickly run into the laws of diminishing returns past the $200 mark.

Before I purchased mine, I visited Best Buy and tried typing on a 65% model from Corsair and Razor to see how I liked the smaller footprint. The keys don’t feel cramped, but it takes a little time to get used to the smaller size. Within a week or two I didn’t think about the size anymore.

Overall, I really like the Ducky One 3. It’s a substantial upgrade from the K95 I’ve used for the past five years. I have the model with Cherry MX Brown switches and it’s far less “clicky” in sound compared to my K95 that also had Cherry MX Brown switches. They are wonderful switches for typists, but gamers might want to consider other Cherry MX options.

The 3 Most Important Tools that Helped Me Drop 70 lbs in 2021

If you’re starting a plan to lose weight, the number of tools available to help you on your journey can feel overwhelming. Depending on the type of exercises you enjoy, you may already have everything you need. My philosophy was to just start doing something to get my body moving, and for me that was walking. After a few weeks, I added an exercise bike I inherited when my father passed away.

I decided to list three key products that have helped me lose weight over the past year. This is not a comprehensive list, but all were at least partially instrumental in my ability to drop nearly 70 lbs. in 2021.

  • Apple Watch – I bought an Apple Watch for Christmas in 2020 and didn’t do much with it for three months. I bought the Apple Watch 6 with cellular on AT&T, but if I could do it again, I’d buy the far less expensive Apple Watch SE because it has all the fitness tracking features I care most about. The Watch tells me how many calories I’ve burned during the day, how many steps I’ve walked, how many minutes I’ve exercises and so on. Being able to track my walks by distance/steps helped keep me motivated when I first started. I’m sure other health trackers like Fitbit would work well too.
  • Lose It! – This app that runs on iPhone or Android that makes it simple to track track your food. I’ve tried other apps before and they were too cumbersome and I lost interest within a few weeks. What I like about Lose It! is that it makes it super easy to enter food I consume during the day, set calorie goals, and tracks macros, if you’re into that.
  • Brooks Beast 20 – I knew from the start I would be walking a lot, and I needed a comfortable and stable walking shoe. I visited the St. George Running Center and tried on and tested about a dozen different shoes, and I liked the Brooks the best because it has a wide toe box and felt snug around my foot without feeling constrained. If you have a more narrow foot, then something like a New Balance Fresh Foam model may work better for you. The key here is to find a shoe that’s comfortable and will not hurt your feet after a long walk.
https://cdn.runrepeat.com/i/brooks/34760/brooks-beast-20-black-ebony-grey-8538-main.jpg

These three items were enough to get me moving. I started by walking around the block a couple of times. I worked up to walking one mile then two. I started tracking my steps on my Apple Watch and set a goal to walk at least 10,000/day. Within a few months I was averaging about 4 miles a day which is about what I’m doing now, months later. My 14-year old son had early morning mountain bike practice a couple of times a week, and I’d take him to practice and then walk around the park or parking lot to get in my steps for that day.

Can I give you one tip if you’re down or discouraged about your weight and/or health today? Just start doing some type of movement for a few minutes each day. If you can only make it around the block once or twice like me, that’s fine. Don’t worry about distance or calories if you’re getting started. Making movement and exercise a habit is far more important to your weight loss than tracking every step, every calorie or every macro.

I’ve used many other tools that have helped me drop weight, but these three items have been the most important, and they are tools I’ve used since day one, and that I’m still using today. You will probably find your most important tools don’t match my choices, and that’s cool. Use whatever works best for you.

Perception vs. Reality

It’s hard not to feel envious or jealousy when browsing photos from friends on social media. They all look so happy. The parents seem calm. The kids are dressed impeccably and on their best behavior. Did they really snap that photo on their iPhone or was it staged by a professional?

The perception is that this family is just about perfect.

I’ve seen this play out where the perception they portray online is one of a perfect marriage and happy children while waiting for their next photo-op.

But look a little closer and you’ll see the signs that perception doesn’t quite match reality. Behind those well-choreographed photo sessions are parents who sleep in separate rooms, children who barely acknowledge their parents, and a whole lot of shallowness.

I no longer look to other parents or families to help me assess how I’m doing as a parent, spouse or friend. Comparisons of this kind don’t work very well. I’ve learned that many of these people are not happy, and are simply playing a role in a dysfunctional family.

We all want to appear that we have our act together. Social media allows us to control how others perceive us. That’s both a blessing and a curse.

Keep it real. Perfection is boring.

Ration your Opinion

One of the most valuable passages I read this year is this: “I don’t need to provide my opinion on every subject.”

It’s OK to simply listen. Most times, my opinion isn’t going to change minds. In fact, it seldom does.

Next time you read something on social media that makes you angry, ask yourself, “Do I need to engage? or “What do I hope to accomplish by engaging with this person?”

Not everyone has earned the right to hear your opinion. Share it with those who will respect you, no matter where you come down on a subject.

The Backstop is Gone

The backstop area behind home plate separates the spectators from the baseball players. It also helps corral baseballs that get past the catcher or are fouled off by the batters. In a sense, it’s a safety net.

Losing my mom and dad within the span of three years has me feeling like I’ve lost the backstop to life. No matter how my relationship was with my parents (sometimes rocky) I could count on them to be there to provide a helpful word of advice or simply listen as I talked through a concern that was on my mind at the time.

My mom was my primary backstop during my teenage years. I could go to her with any issue. Usually she just listened. Sometimes she would share a similar experience she had while growing up. As my mother’s health worsened, my dad took over the role until he passed away earlier this year. My father is more of a problem solver, so his approach was different than that of my mom’s. But I learned a lot from both of them.

Losing my parents has encouraged me to intentionally engage more with my sisters and seek out a deeper relationship with them. A lot of time has passed since we were close, and honestly, we weren’t all that close growing up due to divergent interests and age differences. But it doesn’t have to remain that way.

Last month I met my youngest sister in Las Vegas for lunch. I enjoyed catching up with her and hearing what is happening in her life. Listening to her I realized we have a lot more in common than I imaged. She listened to my concerns about my health and attempts to get in shape and provided encouragement. I left lunch in Vegas with a closer relationship with my sister.

I still have work to do with my siblings. But I’m hopeful.

My parents are gone, but maybe amongst siblings we can provide support and compassion and be a backstop for each other. Seems like that’s what my parents would want.

Getting in Shape

I had my big toe fused in November. For the next few months I went back to the doctor who performed the surgery, and he would take x-rays to determine if my body was healing properly. This went on for about four months before he determined I could resume most physical activity.

The only activities I can’t do at this time are running, jogging and jumping. Sports like tennis and racquetball are out because I risk jamming my toe into the end of my shoe. But I can walk. I can ride my exercise bike. I can do floor exercises and work out with resistance bands.

I focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t.

At one of my last visits to the foot doctor I asked what I could do to accelerate my recovery. He said, “Drop some weight.” So I bought an Apple Watch for Christmas, but didn’t do much with it until the end of March. I almost returned the watch, but I’m glad I didn’t.

From around the first of April till today I’ve dropped just over 45 lbs. I thought I would share how I’ve done that and what I’ve learned about myself over the past few months. I’ll start with my least favorite part of the process: tracking calories.

I’ve tried to count calories in the past, but after a few days I’d give up. It’s just too hard to remember. But I knew monitoring what I was putting into my body would be as important as any new exercise routine. So I downloaded the Lose It! app on my iPhone and started. I still don’t enjoy it, but I’ve made a habit of tracking each item I eat. This one change has brought about big changes in how much I eat. I decided I wouldn’t deny myself most foods, but that I would monitor the amount of food and calories I was consuming each day. I quickly realized how many sweets I was eating each day, and began replacing them with fruits I enjoy like blueberries, strawberries and cantaloupe.

Selfies help track my progress – Nov 2020 till Aug 2021

The other big change I made was set a daily exercise goal on my Apple Watch. I started with 10 minutes and added another five minutes every other week until I’m now up to 50 minutes a day. I don’t stress about what type of exercise I will do, but I have a couple of favorites which include my exercise bike and walking around my neighborhood. One tip I have is to set small goals you can reach. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see instant progress, so I decided to focus on tracking my calories and exercising a few minutes each day. I didn’t make drastic changes to my daily schedule, diet or daily routine. It was also important that I be able to put on my shorts and tennis shoes and start working out quickly instead of driving to the gym, and then figuring out what to do.

About 14 years ago I dropped 65 lbs on the Atkins Diet. But I found it really hard to keep the weight off because the diet wasn’t sustainable for me. I removed entire food groups, banned sugar and most carbs, and the weight came off fast. I was a miserable person to be around though.

But I’ve learned that losing weight fast isn’t the most sustainable method. I’m learning to cook healthy foods at home. I’m drinking a lot of water instead of fruit juices. I’m one of those dorks who carries around a 40 ounce Hydro Flask! I keep a drawer of healthy snacks like nuts and protein bars and string cheese so I’m not tempted to down a Snickers and bag of gummy bears. If I have a day where I go over my daily calorie allotment, I’ll try to spend extra time on my bike or walking the next day, but I don’t get down on myself. I also found inspiration for losing a lot of weight by watching Chris Terrell on TikTok.

I’m at the half-way point of my weight loss. I have just over 50 lbs to go to get to my weight goal, and I figure I’ll be able to meet that goal sometime in the first few months of 2022. Slow and steady.

Fragility

2020 has been quite the year.

About three months ago my father had a heart valve replaced which put him in the hospital for almost two weeks.

A couple of weeks after returning home to begin the long recovery routine, his closest friend caught COVID-19. Each day his son posted updates on his condition, and things went from bad to worse until he passed away two weeks ago.

Another friend’s mother tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Thanksgiving. I spoke with another friend today who tested positive. It feels like every day we learn someone close to us has tested positive.

Last week it was my brother-in-law who was admitted to ICU with the virus. One day he’s making progress and the next he’s in bad shape. It’s one big terrifying roller-coaster ride of emotions.

On a much smaller less critical scale, I had my big toe fused to my foot with two screws last week during out-patient surgery. The recovery is a long 8-10 weeks, but I’ve already noticed a substantial decrease in pain so I’ll deal with the recovery just fine.

2020 has taught me how fragile life is. One day everything is fine, but the next can bring heartbreak. I’m so glad my father made it through his heart procedure, and I hope my brother-in-law makes it out of ICU soon and is able to recover at home.

Before this year I was more likely to text my dad or maybe call him if I had something important to share with him. But not this year. This year I like to FaceTime so I can see his face. He has lost over 100 lbs. this year and I barely recognized him when we started to FaceTime. Like, is that really my dad? I always see a bit of myself when I look at my dad, and that brings a lot of joy.

Man, am I glad to still have him around.

I hope in 2021 I can replace those FaceTime calls with in-person visits.

Roll of Quarters

Fresh off a divorce, I moved into a one bedroom apartment near downtown Seattle in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in the spring of 1995. My possessions included an aging computer, an old Aztec patterned couch, and a calico cat with a bad attitude.

My post-college life wasn’t on the trajectory I had anticipated.

Finances were tight, and I was beginning to understand the cost of living in Seattle was a lot higher than Rock Springs, Wyoming, where I’d moved from a year earlier. I’d recently taken a job with an internet service provider, and I was learning skills that would pay dividends much later. But I didn’t make a lot of money, and those last few days before payday were rough.

My apartment was small. It wasn’t particularly modern, but it was clean and well maintained. And best of all, it was free because each month I took deposited checks from the 19 other tenants and occasionally showed apartments to potential renters on the weekends.

Near the end of each month, a maintenance man would show up and make sure the two washers and two dryers in the tiny laundry room were working properly. He also dropped two rolls of quarters through my office letter box. The first time he did this, he included a note detailing how the quarters could be used for refunds if a tenant had a problem with a machine. Otherwise, I could keep them.

What the maintenance man probably didn’t realize was that $20 worth of quarters often was enough to cover food for a week or more until my next paycheck arrived. When I’d open my office door to retrieve the rent checks at the end of each month, it felt like Christmas seeing two rolls on the dingy orange carpet. That $20 felt like $200.

Even today, when I hold a stack or roll of quarters I’m reminded of that incredibly kind gesture from a man I might have seen three times in the four years I lived in that apartment.

Heihox Manual Coffee Grinder

Back in 2015 when I was first getting into making coffee at home, I purchased a small Hario grinder. For under $50, it worked well for over five years. I dropped it a few years back, and cracked the outer shell, but it still worked just fine.

As I began to experiment making larger batches of coffee, the Hario became more time-consuming that I felt it should. I considered an electric grinder, such as the high-rated Baratza Encore or Virtuoso+. But I decided I like the manual coffee making process too much to go that route, so I began to look for a higher quality manual grinder.

In my search, I came across the YouTube channel by James Hoffman where he compared a number of high-end hand grinders. This introduced me to a few features I hadn’t considered such as burr material, hopper capacity, and grinder size. I really wanted the Comandante grinder, but I didn’t want to pay $250.

I eventually found the Heihox grinder on Amazon for about $100. The review were mostly positive, but I had a hard time finding any review outside of Amazon. I decided to buy it and try it and then return it if it didn’t perform like I wanted. It arrived in a good quality box which was a good first impression. I’ve been using it almost daily for about two months, and it’s a big improvement over the Hario. The grinding motion is much smoother, the grinds are more consistent and the steel burrs make quick work on the coffee beans.

I haven’t come across many downsides. I wish the hopper capacity was a little more than 30 grams of beans, but that’s not a deal breaker. It feels really substantial and balanced in my hand while grinding. The picture above doesn’t show this, but it comes with a textured grip made of rubber which helps you keep a firm grip on the grinder. This grip slides down the grinder, but it’s easy to pull back up before I begin grinding.

I mostly grind my beans for pour over using a Chemex. Sometimes I’ll grind them a bit finer for AeroPress. And lately, I’ve been using the course grind setting to make cold brew coffee using a Frieling French Press. If you’re looking for a grinder for Espresso, I don’t know if this model allows for that fine of grind setting.

Maybe one day I’ll have a Comandante, but until then, this $100 grinder from Heihox punches above its weight class. I’m keeping it.

My Coffee Subscription

As I improved my coffee-making skills in the French Press, AeroPress, and Chemex, I began to consume more coffee. Coffee I purchased at the grocery store was fine. Here in Southern Utah, we have a few local coffee roasters that sell beans I can grind at home. But over the past year, I got bored with my limited choices. So I began to search for a coffee subscription service.

trade-coffee-new

I decided to give Trade Coffee a try, mostly because I like the design of their website. I signed up, and my first bag of beans arrived about a week later. Besides offering coffee beans from dozens of roasters around the US, they have some features that keep me with the service. Among them:

  • Ability to change order date (earlier or later)
  • Coffee rating system
  • Gift service (sending my favorite coffee to friends!)
  • Tips on different brewing techniques

I didn’t expect to be so satisfied with my first foray into a coffee subscription, but Trade has been fantastic in exposing me to coffees I wouldn’t have otherwise tasted. When I signed up, Trade asked me to answer a few questions to determine the type of coffee I might like along with my preferred brew method. Of the dozen or so bags of coffee, Trade has sent, only one bag wasn’t that memorable.

A couple of my favorite coffees so far: Colombia San Roque and Guatemala Finca Nuevo Vinas.