Posted on February 12th, 2020
There's a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan due to a Coronavirus outbreak onboard. With the exception of China, the ship has more cases than any country on earth, clocking in at 175 people infected. The worry is that with so many people living in such close proximity that the virus will continue to spread. If that's the case, the bulk of the passengers may end up with the disease despite all efforts to keep it contained.
As a result, cruiselines are taking drastic measures to avoid this situation from happening on their ships. Most of them are canceling or rerouting cruises to China and other Asian countries. Some of them are denying passage to any customers with a Chinese, Hong Kong, or Macau passport. Anybody having visited those countries within 30 days, regardless of citizenship, will also be denied passage.
Needless to say, many passengers are canceling their cruising plans regardless of destination because they are worried a carrier of the Coronavirus will end up onboard.
The media, always hungry to stoke people's fears because fear is good for their business model, are all too happy to keep feeding the fire.
Not a good time to be a cruise company.
I've never been a big "cruising" person, but my mom absolutely loved it. She loved being able to go to lots of places on a single vacation. She really loved being able to go to so many different places without having to pack and unpack each time. So we ended up going on a number of cruises, including The Caribbean (twice), Alaska, The Mediterranean (twice), and The Panama Canal. They were all great, we had a fantastic time, and I am grateful to have found travel which was low-stress for my mom since that was all that really mattered...
Mom aboard the Dawn Princess in the Caribbean in 2004
Mom aboard the Norwegeian Jewel in the Mediterranean in 2007
Mom aboard the Norwegian Pearl in Alaska in 2009
Mom aboard the Disney Magic in the Mediterranean in 2010
Mom aboard the Island Princess in the Panama Canal in 2012
And, let me tell you, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. people found out we were going on a cruise there was at least one of them telling us "I would never go on one of those because it's too easy to get sick when you're trapped with so many people on a cruise." Which may be true, but neither me nor my mom ever got sick. Not even so much as a cold on any of the half-dozen voyages we were on.
Meanwhile I've gotten sick after flying on planes, staying in hotels, or attending events where people were sick. I've also been run down by a van in the South of France, hit by a taxi in Chicago, and been run over by a cyclist in Salt Lake City. As if that weren't enough, I've been held up at knife-point in Seattle and at gun-point in San Francisco. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I've gotten injured and had many other problems... all while not traveling on cruise ships.
Would I cruise again? Of course I would. There are pitfalls, sure... especially in China and especially now. But there are pitfalls in any method of travel. And the positives for cruise travel are really too good to ignore. Even if you're not a big "cruising" person like me.
While I am not much a "cruising" person, I am an amateur woodworker.
And nothing quite tests your resolve as a woodworker than having no budget to build something. I drew up a plan for a gift shop's children's book display and calculated the materials would cost $48 to build. I only had $10-$12 to spend. So instead of actual boards, I scrounged around Home Depot for the cheapest possible lumber. They had warped thin boards for cheap, so I bought $12 worth and just spaced them out as far as I could to hold exactly what was required securely...
It was a strange project. I didn't have the material to use pretty miter joints everywhere, so I used them only in the places they would show, then used butt joints everywhere else. ALL of the boards are curved. I just nailed and glued them into place, straightening as best I could as I went. Worked great, and I had a whopping 3-1/2 inches of board left when I was through!
Posted on January 29th, 2020
As I mentioned in my entry for "yesterday," I broke my blog. Something that didn't get fixed until "tomorrow." I actually still wrote entries for "yesterday" and "today" but decided to save them for "tomorrow" and "the day after tomorrow."
If that's all confusing to you, just think about how it feels to be me! My head has to be in the past, present, and future at the same time. All because I decided to go messing in Blogography's guts without a backup.
I've been thinking back to what I did today (yesterday) and, other than hammer away on WordPress, I can't think of anything special.
Oh... check that... I did clean up my garage wood shop! The shelves I built got all sanded, varnished, and delivered, so I wanted to put my tools away and clean up so I'm starting my next project organized and sawdust-free. And it took a minute, I tell you what. It's shocking what a mess I had made. Why I can't put a tool back after I use it is a genuine mystery. It would certainly make my life easier.
What would also make my life easier? Throwing garbage in the trash rather than on the garage floor. Contrary to popular belief (held by me) you can't just sweep it all up at the end of the day. Dustpans can only hold so much. And so I end up having to pick it all up before I sweep. Which takes longer than if I had just tossed it in the trash in the first place.
But don't try telling me that.
When I'm being a wood surgeon, the last thing I want to hear is somebody telling me what to do. I actually became wood surgeon specifically to get away from people telling me what to do.
And, oh yeah... in case you didn't notice, I've started using the term "wood surgeon" now. I find that I prefer it over "wood worker." I toyed around with "wood doctor" for a while, but telling people that I have a doctorate in playing with wood seemed dishonest somehow. I'm amateur at best.
I bet Bob Vila never has to deal with existential crises like this (he says while wondering if whomever came up with the plural for "crisis" realized how stupid it looks and should have just made it be "crisises" like you'd expect it to be).
Probably not. He's Bob Vila. He gets to be a fucking wood wizard if he wants to!
Ooh. Now I wanna be a wood wizard.
Posted on January 27th, 2020
The key to using cheap lumber is to own a planer to grind it into shape.
Except I don't have a planer, so instead I assembled my project with small screws, dampened it a little bit. Then let it set for a couple days to see how it all comes together.
It wasn't too bad... only minor adjustments and some sanding to whip it into shape. It sits level and looks like a million bucks... even though it only cost me $25 to make. Time to remove the little screws and move up to the big screws so it will be solid as a rock...
Shot with a wide-angle lens in my tiny garage wood shop... it's square, I swear!
My favorite trick when needing thin pieces of wood? Paint stir sticks! They cost 98¢ for ten of them! And they always look fantastic! I edged the little booklet displays I made with them...
Unfortunately, Home Depot didn't have an 1/8" router bit in stock (even thought their website says they did)... so I had to pay $5 for some 1/4" hemlock to make the dividers...
The contrast between the light pine and the darker hemlock is actually pretty cool! So I meant to do that!
All that's left is to sand it, varnish it, then haul it to its new home!
I would do woodworking every waking minute of every day if I had the time.
Posted on January 26th, 2020
I may be ankle-deep in sawdust, but here I am... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Push Back. The impeachment trial is absurd. There is overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing in a number of areas, and it's clear the president is exploiting his office for personal gain at every possible opportunity. But because Republicans in The Senate are 100% willing to enable his abhorrent behavior, he's going to remain in office. Which is why This post from Dan Rather is so important. "As many of us focus on the news out of Washington, let us not forget on these cold, winter nights, many are struggling with hunger and hopelessness. There are the lonely, the homeless, the sick, and scared. Service to others is a way to push back at the cynicism of our times."
• TEMPORARY! OH MAN! TIME TO STOCK UP MY FREEZER! YOU SIMPLY CANNOT BEAT THESE SAVINGS!!!
As I've made known many, many times, I rarely buy anything at the grocery store that's not on sale. I build my meals around what I can find that's inexpensive. I very nearly grabbed these for taco night until I was like "Wait a minute! Aren't these usually about $2?!?" Stores are pretty devious. They expect people will grab something on sale without looking for how much it's on sale.
• Dance Dance Dance. A new bird has been discovered. It's feathers are like a black hole, absorbing most light. This results in a very cool mating dance you gotta see...
It's amazing that we keep discovering new animals as scores of others are going extinct.
• Scraps. It's hard to complain about working on the weekend when I get to set up my wood shop and build displays! I cut the pieces for a rack display I will assemble tomorrow, and now I am building a half-dozen little fruit-crate-inspired booklet displays. They will have a small standee sitting next to them with info and pricing...
As thrifty as I am for my own projects, I've doubly so when spending money for work. The stands had to be heavy so they wouldn't move... and deep so they wouldn't tip over. I made the tray part look nice, then used whatever scraps I had laying around for the back-stops since they don't show. Works like a charm, and they ended up costing a whopping $2.20 each. =sigh= Designing and building displays is the best part of my job. Wish I got to do more of it.
• Peanut Hell. Killing time until 10:00 so I can fire up the power tools... I'm watching SNL from last night with Adam Driver. The cold open takes place in hell where Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials is visiting. She sold her soul to the devil so she could be on television forever. THEN can you guess what commercial comes on? Just guess! I hope that was planned and SNL contacted Progressive to have it happen, because that's genius.
In other news... POOR MR. PEANUT! Guess he shouldn't have killed all those kids with peanut allergies!
• Art. I recently read a Facebook post by Rachael Eliot Barker that's so important to me that I am reprinting it in its entirety...
"Recently, there was a dust-up over The Comedian, a piece in which Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana to the wall of a gallery and sold it for $120,000. A gallery patron made additional news by pulling the banana off the wall and eating it. Interviews made it clear that everyone involved was trolling. The saga was catnip to people who believe that conceptual art is full of shit.
Maurizio Cattelan is clearly full of shit, but his work begs the question: could an artist ever walk into a gallery with some snacks, say 'This may look like something I picked up at the bodega on the way here, but it is in fact my Art, behold my Art,' and NOT be full of shit?
In my opinion, the answer is yes.
My opinion is heavily informed by this 1991 piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) is a pile of free candy. Visitors are invited to take one piece of candy. Frivolous, right? The piece may be staged in any gallery that follows a few simple rules. The most important rule is that the pile should weigh 175 pounds.
175 pounds was the healthy weight of Gonzalez-Torres’ partner Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS.
González-Torres had a Roman Catholic background, and taking the candy is meant to be an act of communion. The patron partakes in the “sweetness” of Ross while participating in his diminishment and torturous death.
The decision to use candy has political significance. In 1991, public funding for the arts and public funding for AIDS research were both the hottest of hot-button issues. HIV positive gay male artists were being targeted for censorship. González-Torres was desperate to be heard, and part of the logic of Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) was that you can’t censor free candy without looking ridiculous. The replicability of the piece makes it indestructible; González-Torres had an intuitive, ahead-of-its-time understanding of virality that came from dealing with an actual virus rather than the internet.
I’ve never seen this piece staged, but I think about it all the time. The artist, sadly, is no longer with us. But we will always have the most brilliant, heartbreaking free candy to ever be heaped in a corner. The key to conceptual art is storytelling — how well can you tell a story without words OR a “proper” picture? The banana on the wall sucks because it doesn’t tell a story about anything but attention-seeking and greed. I can’t stand Banana Guy or the media coverage surrounding him because stunts like that make people close their minds to unconventional art and storytelling, which can be just as sophisticated and moving as conventional art and storytelling."
I always assume that there's a story like this behind every artistic endeavor. I may not understand it... I may dismiss it... I may not like it... I may disagree with it... and all that is okay. So long as it means something to the artist and not just a stunt, I can at least respect them putting themselves out there like this.
And that's it for Sunday bullets.
Posted on April 27th, 2019
Jake is doing so much better, so thanks to all of you who reached out with concern and kind words! He still limps... sometimes more than others, but he's showing vast improvement. I wouldn't be surprised if his limp is mostly gone in another week.
Right now my priority is keeping him safe from another fall.
When I design projects I also write out a task list and a schedule so I know how long it will take. For my new "banister cat tray" I had one evening allotted for construction. One evening to fill nail holes, sand, and prime. And one evening to smooth-sand and paint two coats. Which means I was ready to install it yesterday morning...
The carpet that goes on the bottom arrives on Wednesday. In the meanwhile, I hope things are a little safer for Jake and Jenny. At least Jake can't fall asleep... then fall off... so easily again.
From the bottom, it's not very obtrusive, which is nice...
I sent the photos to a friend who does carpentry... he replied with "DESIGN FAIL! Somebody using the hand railing for the stairs will run into your construction!"
I couldn't understand what he was talking about until I realized that the angle of the photo doesn't show the whole story. So I sent him this photo and said "YOU WERE SAYING?!?"...
Turns out I actually DO put some thought into my projects!
Eventually I want to build a narrow staircase so they can climb up to the banister instead of making a dangerous jump. Until I do that, I put a bench in front that they can use to hop up more easily. Jenny was the first to take a look...
And there you have it... a safer, conveniently cat-sized walkway!
And now to think about how I can build cat stairs... and a safety ledge for the windows above the stairwell where Jenny likes to play. A "feature" of my house that terrifies me to no end. The girl is fearless when it comes to heights. Which is fine. But only when it's reasonably safe! She likes to be totally UNSAFE, and it drives me crazy.
Until next Caturday...
Posted on April 24th, 2019
My pricey new Milwaukee cordless M18 Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw is choice. I love it. But more on that later. Let's talk about my new Milwaukee cordless M18 Random Orbital Sander. When it was released last year, I took a hard pass because A) It was $99 without battery, and B) My corded sander works perfectly fine, and there was no sense spending money to replace it.
But last night as I was attempting to sand down my latest project, the cord on the sander snagged on a bottle of glue that was sitting next to a pan of kitty litter and both went crashing to the floor of my single-car-garage woodshed. There just aren't many outlets in a garage, so I'm always running into problem like this (as well as running out of outlets).
While attempting to clean up the horrendous disaster that comes from glue mixing with kitty litter, I suddenly realize that "Boy, a cordless sander sure would have been handy." Minutes later I was digging into my savings as I cruised Home Depot's website. In-store pickup, here I come...
I have no idea... none how I survived without this. I thought the battery would make it heavy and difficult to navigate. Nope. Far, far less difficult than wrangling a cord, even with the added weight. In fact, as shown in the photo, I have my medium M18 instead of my smaller M18 battery, and it's perfectly fine. The kit comes with a dust-catcher extender, so I even have the option of using my mega-battery on it if I wanted to!
And it's not just the lack of a cord that makes it so fantastic... it has multiple speeds (my old one didn't) and the random sanding "pattern" seems to do a better job of making quick work of large areas to boot. If you've already got some Milwaukee M18 batteries knocking around, the convenience of cordless is pretty much a no-brainer.
And then there's the Milwaukee cordless M18 Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw...
I had no intention of replacing my faithful old Ryobi... until it went out of alignment and I couldn't get good cuts from it (nor get the laser guide to aim straight). Maybe somebody smarter than I could have figured out how to fix it, but I was done. My first instinct was to spend the $220 to get another Ryobi. It provided years of faithful service, was relatively inexpensive, and I was familiar with it. But then I saw that Milwaukee had a kit with an extra maximum performance M18 battery on sale for $600 (down from $850) and decided I'd spend the money on quality now rather than having to replace another Ryobi in 4 years...
My worries were A) A cordless saw would have much less power than a corded version, and B) All the reviews talked about what a shitty job it did of collecting dust.
Turns out that A) It has plenty of power to cut through anything I've thrown at it... including Trex decking and hardwoods, and B) All the reviews were right... the dust collection is so bad that I don't even know why they bother putting a bag on it in the first place since hardly any dust ends up in there.
The dust collection problem is annoying, but not a dealbreaker. No miter saw catches all the dust, so what's a little more? Still, you have to wonder what in the hell Milwaukee was thinking that they couldn't have done a better job of it.
Just as with every Milwaukee cordless tool I've ever owned, the benefits of going cordless far outweigh any drawbacks in the ultimate design. I can move it anywhere in my garage shop without having to unplug/plug which is great. I also have one less cord to trip over and one less outlet occupied, which is really great.
Dust collection aside, there are a number of things that Milwaukee gets right. First of all, they've done away with a laser guide in favor of a shadow cut-line indicator. Before using it, I thought this was a detriment. Because lasers are awesome, yo. But then I used it and realize what a huge boost to accuracy it is. A shadow of the actual blade not only shows you exactly where the cut occurs and how much material the blade will be removing... but it also will never go out of alignment, something that plagued my Ryobi...
Another thing I like is the design of the slider. With most miter saws, the tool slides along rails that poke out behind the saw on the top. With Milwaukee, the rails are inside the unit and on the bottom. It's just cleaner with less obstruction on top, though I have no idea if this could be a problem after dust ends up on the rails. How would you clean that? I dunno.
As is par for the course with Milwaukee, the little details are nicely accommodated. The blade cover locks open for easy access (I loathed having to fumble with it on my Ryobi every time I changed blades). Changing angle or bevel is not only fast and easy, but seriously balls-on accurate. On my old saw when I had to meet two 45° angles for a corner, there was always a slight error that crept into the mix. But with my Milwaukee, they meet up flawlessly every time on the first try, corner after corner. No more sanding or filler! Another plus? The saw is fairly lightweight and can be carried from the top or side. I keep mine permanently mounted on my awesome Rigid mobile folding stand, but it's nice to know I could transport it easily.
Ten out of Five Stars. Would purchase again.
As mentioned yesterday, I'm building a ledge tray for my banister to (hopefully) keep my cats safe in the stairwell. After work I had time to paint a base coat. All I have now is a light sanding and two more coats and it will be good to go (the carpet for the bottom arrives next week)...
This unanticipated little project has me chomping at the bit to get started on my kitchen cabinets! Now THERE is a job that will make good use of my pricey new toys!
Posted on April 23rd, 2019
If you've watched the terrifying video of poor Jake falling down my stairwell, you can understand why I hope to never have that happen again. In addition to the $500 vet bill, which could have been far far worse if he had broken something, it's just awful having to watch the little guy hobble around the house as his leg heals.
From what I can tell, he was lying on the narrow banister, as he is won't to do. He might have been napping there for all I know...
Then something startled him (possibly Jenny running around) which caused him to slip and fall all the way down the stairs. About a story-and-a-half...
So I am trying to come up with an added layer of protection that will help prevent slipping and falling... but also help better keep them on the ledge. I'm not sure what the best way to do this might be. But I really want to have something in place so I can travel and not worry so much. Since I don't have much time before I leave again, I thought I'd throw something together quickly now that looks good enough I can leave it in place until I have a better idea.
My thought is to have a "ledge tray" that I can temporarily screw onto my banister.
It will add width so the cats can have more room to lay down. It will be carpeted so the cats have something to grip onto if they start to slip. And it will have a small ledge that will prevent them from accidentally falling off...
So I don't have to look at an ugly carpet edge, I found a 90° molding that will act like a lip on the front. Here I am gluing it to the bottom of the tray...
Tomorrow I'll sand off the putty... paint it white to match my banister... then install it. The carpet squares I ordered (which match my hardwood floors) won't be here until next week, but at least it will be a little safer until I get back home.
The next step will be to build a narrow staircase up to it so the cats don't have to risk jumping up, overshooting the ledge, and flying over it.
After that I'll come up with some kind of ledge under the small window that's on the exterior wall. Jenny sometimes jumps up there (horrifying!) and it would be just my luck that she'll be the next one to fall down the stairwell. Something needs to be added there, I just have to figure out how to actually do it.
I will never run out of woodworking projects so long as I have cats.
Posted on January 29th, 2019
The weather has been exceptionally nice these past couple days, which is both good and bad. Good because I can park outside and do some light woodworking in my garage. Bad because I worry about us having enough of a snow pack in the mountains to avoid drought this summer.
Yesterday when I got home from work I started experimenting with making cabinet doors and drawer facings. What I want are simple shaker-style pieces which look like they would be easy to build. And, relatively speaking, they are...
These are the doors and drawers I want... almost exactly. Photo from HGTV.
But getting doors and drawers that will look great takes great patience, attention, care, and time.
Take the drawers in the above photo, for example. It looks like you just saw off a piece of wood, paint it, slap a handle on it, then crack open a cold one because you're done. But it's not that simple. Every edge has to be routed because a sharp corner has little strength and will be nicked up and dented in no time. But you can't overdo it or else they won't look like they're meant to look. And then there's the biggest issue I face... having flat, flat, super-flat boards to work with.
This is a surprisingly weird thing to have to worry about.
You'd think that the boards you buy would be cut flat (which they are) then processed in such a way that they remain flat. This is not even remotely the case. After the wood has been cut from a log it's usually dried so it doesn't warp too badly, but temperature, humidity, and other factors work on the wood over time and cause it to bend. Every single "true-wood" board I have ever bought has been warped in some way. Every board. This is a huge problem when you are trying to build something that's supposed to be flat. Like a drawer face or a picture frame.
So... what to do?
Option A is to use a material like MDF (medium density fiberboard) or hardboard. It's real wood fibers mixed with resin and heat-pressed into sheets for building. It's inexpensive, smooth, flat, won't warp, paints super-smooth, and is easy to work with. In the past it was fairly weak and lacked the strength of true wood, but now-a-days it's pretty durable stuff and can be almost as strong. As a bonus, it's easy to work with as well. The downside is that it can chip or come apart easily if you're not careful about how you use nails and screws. Since I'm painting everything white, this may be a good choice for me because you'll never see the material. I also like the idea that it's cheaper and won't warp or split.
Option B is to use "true wood" and buy a planer. Running everything through a planer will provide the super-flat boards I need to build nice doors and drawers. This is wasteful and time-consuming, but you get the durability and strength that's made wood the material of choice since cabinetry began.
Option C buy fresh-planed wood from a cabinet shop. Not really an option because it's far more money than I have to spend.
My plan is to build a couple drawer faces and cabinets with MDF and see how it goes. Once I get them built I'll beat on them a little bit to make sure they're not going to fall apart. If they hold up well, then I guess I've found my material. If not, I guess I'm getting a planer. Which is something I wanted to buy anyway, but my kitchen remodel is such a huge deal that I am not thrilled with the time involved in having to use it.
For the most part I am anxious to get started on my kitchen and excited to tackle such a challenging project. But there's a small part of me who is very aware that I don't know what I'm doing yet and no amount of YouTube videos will prepare me for the real thing. Which is why it's nice that the weather has been so good and I can experiment. I'll be a lot more confident about my plans if I have some experience under my belt.
Also? By starting in on cabinetry early I'll have more time this summer to work on more catio projects. Jake and Jenny are wanting new adventures!
Posted on April 2nd, 2018
A while back I decided I wanted to build a pergola over the section of my patio which isn't already occupied by my catio enclosure. Initially I had the idea of fitting a cat-run on the outer edges, but ultimately decided that wouldn't work because it obstructed too much of my view. Instead I think I want something much more simple and open. I also like the idea of having a porch swing on one end and a low-fence creating a barrier at the back. That way I could put a small table and a couple chairs up against it...
I also like the idea of having a cat-run extending from the catio to a viewing platform on top of the pergola for Jake and Jenny. By making it fit between the slats, I could easily remove it if I ever wanted to...
And so... I'm making a parts list and saving my money for the materials needed. It shouldn't take too long to get it put together once I've cut all the pieces, probably just a three-day weekend.
Can't wait for wood-shop season to begin.
Posted on February 21st, 2018
My addiction to home renovation shows has reached critical mass. My list of woodworking projects I want to do has gotten so long now that I would have to retire if I even wanted to make a dent in it.
Right now I'm excited for Spring to come so I can turn my garage into a woodworking shop again and get started on two (well, actually three) projects...
That's months of work given that I can only work nights and weekends.
I've got another project I'd really like to tackle.
I want a pergola on my patio.
Well, a pergola over the part of the patio which remains after I built a catio out there. It might also be cool to build a cat run into it with seating on top, like yo...
That way I could sit outside and read a book under a little bit of shade while my cats run around. Big Fun for all of us!
By far, the biggest project I've ever tackled, if I end up doing it... but it looks like a lot Big Fun to build too!