Custom Nightstand

I bought an old house 10 years ago and, adhering to the advice of Tom Silva, focused any renovation or improvement work on securing the home from water and improving the mechanicals. It was prudent advice but it inferred that some of the more visually gratifying renovation projects were put off and as a result, we got accustomed to some less-than-ideal furnishings and, frankly, some ugly rooms.

After years of the aforementioned prudent renovations, it is finally time to fix some of the things that we can appreciate!

It’s always a little random when I decide to fix something and this was no exception. Let’s start with the problem: I don’t have a nightstand. So I didn’t have a nice place to charge my phone and store incidentals like books and headphones or a cup of tea. There are lots of nightstands available on the market but the wall behind my bed is shaped like this \_____/ so I needed an odd-shaped table. Since I needed a custom solution, I had the opportunity to make it special and did not hold back in this project, opting for an integrated USB charging hub tucked in the back!

One element to my advantage is that three-legged objects never tip or rock. I used “found” materials for the project — ended up building the whole thing using parts from discarded furniture that I collected over the years. The wood does not match (there are parts made from maple, oak and poplar) but it is painted so that doesn’t matter.

The legs were joined to the apron using mortise and tenon joinery. One of my favorite touches, from a woodworking perspective was adding a gentle taper to the legs. They are 5/4″ square at the top and 3/4″ square at the bottom.

In the end, I really like the utility of the piece. Here is a pic of it with the front drawer opened:

Cleaning Up the Family Media Library

I have a digital mess. Our “photo library” exists on 3 different computers plus 2 phones. Each computer has different files but most files are the same. How do I clean it up? With 15K files, I need some help from the computer to find duplicates and rename the files.

GOALS:
1) a definitive collection of photos for every entire year, organized by year (one folder per year), having files named with a counter based on date;
2) synchronize collection across home network so that if a hard drive fails, there is a backup;
3) videos (home movies) should be moved to a sister directory to the photos; and
4) for the current year, all cameras should upload to plex and at the new year, the “keepers” will be copied into the library, organized according to the aforementioned rules.

STEPS:
1) download a local copy of each photo collection so that deduping is not hampered by network speed;
2) purchase and download duplicate photo finder ($40). Run comparisons at 100% setting to delete perfect matches. Run again at 85% and look through to see if there are close matches delete any duplicates;
3) merge remaining photos into one collection;
4) merge remaining videos into one collection;
5) purchase and download Lyn for Mac ($20);
6) video deduplication is manual. I find the best solution is to sort by file size in Lyn and if there are two files with equal sizes, compare thumbnails and delete the dupes;
7) batch rename files with the format: counter – date.extension;
8) in my network, Windows computers will hold the files, so now I will copy the Library to my Windows computer. To synchronize files, I will use Microsoft synctoy (note: this is difficult in Windows 10 but if you install the Windows Sync Framework, it works fine); and
9) lastly, I will configure my phones to “Upload images to Plex”.

Retooling for the New Year

I’ve been keeping a running list of upgrades and system changes to do and thought I should post them as a sort of technical new year’s resolution list.

This is, admittedly, quite dorky stuff and at this point, it’s a to-do list, not a done list. Here goes:

  1. ✓ My home has an old, broken intercom system (pictured above). I took out the old guts and put Alexa inside with some good computer speakers. One special touch was to have the speaker outputs run through an analog volume control on the front of the SoundGuard;
  2. ✓ HTTPS via certbot;
  3. ✗ Android auto for safe, hands free phone us in car (fail: too limited in its options);
  4. ✓ Maybe I should stop using Resilio Sync for copying images from phone to collection. It’s quirky. PLEX has a photo upload thing. I’ll try that;
  5. ✓ LastPass password manager;
  6. I need a way to organize a decade of digital photos and remove duplicates. I like Lyn for organizing but duplicate detection is not a strongpoint;
  7. ✓ Change my personal email from [email protected] on google apps to [email protected] Continue using Chrome to read email;
  8. ✓ Move notes from Evernote to Microsoft OneNote;
  9. ✗ I’ve been using Todoist for a while. If OneNote handles it better, I’ll port that over too (Todoist is better);
  10. ✓ Change work email/calendar/chat from Safari to Mail, Calendar (OSX apps) and make Chrome the default browser and then setup the Hangouts Chrome extension;
  11. ✓ Spotify premium instead of strictly an mp3 collection;
  12. ✓ New bluetooth digital music player in truck (Kenwood DPX303MBT);
  13. ✓ Sprout Invoices with e-commerce via Stripe for freelance work;
  14. ✓ Will try replacing Tablo DVR with HDHomeRun configured with PLEX;
  15. ✓ A jerry can for gassing up the Gravely (because cheap plastic cans drip all over and make me a grumpy old man);
  16. ✓ A new bike.

A Good Website

I’m thinking about universal rules for what constitutes a “good website”.

  • Stable infrastructure
  • Secure hosting and application development
  • Findable: good SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • Usable and easy to adopt to: “Don’t make me think”
  • Responsive to different devices
  • Meaningful: typography, color and layout convey appropriate meaning

I could be wrong but everything beyond that is about art design (image selection), editorial issues (content selection and copy writing) and system design. Those aren’t universal “website” issues.

What do you think?

Post-publish thought: After publishing, I noticed that my post didn’t have a “featured image” – something that I try to include in every post for the expressed purpose of having a “good website”.  Maybe I should get a stock photo of a frustrated computer user but that seems cliché.

how we learn :: who we are.

skateboarding. programming. surfing. guitar. golf. woodworking. bird-watching. cooking. drawing. All skills that take time to develop. Aptitude is required but I want to unbox that a bit in this post.

This is soooooo general, but we often compare ourselves to others to get an idea of who we are.

“I tried and I’m not good at that” instead of “I could be good at that if I spend the time to learn the underlying skills required to perform at that level”. What I mean is you don’t learn to play songs on the guitar without first developing finger muscles, learning notes, chords and scales and how to read music.

Let’s take cooking. I’m a good cook. I learned to be good at cooking by watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks and committing concepts to memory. I have taken deep dives into many focus areas. For example, I spent a lot of time trying to define what makes a good scrambled egg and how to make them good every time. The goal is nicely seasoned, non-greasy, tender curds. I find that most bad eggs are a result of overcooking. Is it reasonable to assume that anyone can make a good scrambled egg? Yes. The person would have to pay attention to the several variables and focus on the goal. Not a lot of talent involved.

For a while, I have perceived certain professional ineptitudes as a lack of ability. I think this attitude doesn’t serve me well. I’d like to push myself to focus on some learning goals, for which, I will approach learning in a systematic manner.  Learning goals will be achieved with research and lab experiments. If I’m having trouble learning something, I’ll try to see if there is an underlying concept that I need to focus on in order to understand the entire task or learning goal.

That’s the point of this post. If I can slow down and approach learning in this way, I will learn a lot of new things. It sounds a little hokey but those new pieces of knowledge will be part of who I am.

Thus, how we learn is directly related to who we are.