Preparing the New Site
June 10th, 2022 | View Post

After many, many months of code changes, I'm delighted to announce that this site is about to get a pretty massive overhaul. The changes won't necessarily be visible to the end user (eg: it will still look the same), but the infrastructure that powers the site will be significantly different. It will be much more powerful, much faster, and much cheaper for me to operate and maintain. The end result is that there will be a lot more content (which I don't feel like I'm really lacking in the first place).

What's the timeline?

I started working on these software changes in early November of 2021. It's a passion-project so I only work on it when I have some spare time. I wound up taking some time off from the migration in January and early February, but then got back to full speed in early March. Since then, I've managed to get everything more or less where it needs to be. It'll still be a few more weeks before I can actually "flip the switch", but as I've been wanting to make this change for a couple of years now, I couldn't be more thrilled to be getting so close.

What changes are coming?

The short answer is that it's a massive infrastructure overhaul. Without going into too many technical details, all of the backend software, operating system, database, and processing infrastructure has been upgraded. This should result in the site running much faster and should allow me to add several pieces that I've had in the pipe for years (detailed photo statistics, geolocations, and videos, just to name a few). It's also going to result in all of my media being distributed on networks around the world. While this will likely have the result of my site being indexed much more heavily and routinely, it should also reduce media loading times rather significantly. I've been testing them for awhile and everything seems to be on par with what I'd expect.

Which brings me to the change I'm most excited about: I'll finally be able to put my entire video library online! When I first built the original software back in 2006, I thankfully had the foresight to create full video support. That might not seem like a big deal today, but archiving digital videos back in 2006 was an extremely daunting and difficult technical challenge. I continued supporting my video management with several major upgrades over the years, but it eventually got far too difficult to manage. The bottom line was simply that we were creating digital videos at a rate that was just too cumbersome to keep up with. Not to mention, storing videos is expensive. I stopped trying to make all of my videos available some time around 2014 or 2015. That's a pretty big gap now.

Once the migration is completed, I'll finally be able to start putting these online and properly managing them. I've been using YouTube's API for years to automatically place videos on their site, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to do the same with TikTok.

Walnut and Maple Art Easel
June 1st, 2022 | View Post

After watching a handful of Instagram and TikTok videos on custom-made art easels, I was asked if I might be able to make a similar one. The ones that I saw, while functional, were ultimately pretty basic. Since I generally like to try and build my projects as nuanced as I can, I decided it would be best to come up with my own plans. Granted, I did use the basic structural idea of the ones I'd seen, but the design elements were entirely my own.

The easel was crafted from Peruvian Walnut, Ambrosia Maple, and a single piece of Curly Maple (for the easel tray itself). It also has a number of hardware adaptations all of which use black oxide finishing. I think the design decisions ultimately turned out a pretty nice looking easel and it made a great gift.

Dimensionally speaking, the easel stands at 72" tall. It has 1-5/8" (40mm) square legs, a 31" wide easel tray, and as noted above, all of the hardware is finished with black oxide. The main structural pivot bolt is 3/8" at 6-1/2" long. The easel tray bolts are 1/4" at 5-1/2" inches long and compress against the front two legs to lock the tray into place. All of the bolts are lined with black oxide steel washers of varying thicknesses and each outer washer has an outermost neoprene washer included to protect the wood.

3-Layer Instrumental Jam
May 19th, 2022 | View Post

I've been continuing to amass a collection of song pieces, multi-tracking instrumentals, and other musical bits on my TikTok channel. Here's the latest one I've posted.

Herman Sourdough
May 6th, 2022 | View Post

Herman Sourdough just after I took it out of the oven
So this is basically the holy grail of sourdough breads. It's a complex process and as I've baked many dozens of breads over the past several months, I naturally wanted to give the most difficult bread a go. And I couldn't be happier that I did. While it was a tedious process that took 15 full days just to prepare the dough, it was well worth it.

Herman Sourdough is still a sourdough and so it still uses a starter that has that unique sour smell to it (like a beer tap), but the twist with Herman is that it's much sweeter. The starter is a careful blend of sugar, milk, and flour. And unlike a typical sourdough starter that specifically requires a warm environment in which to thrive, Herman lives in the fridge. It's an extremely unique bread and has an absolutely delicious flavor profile.

I recorded a few videos shortly after I ate my first slice of it and I'll just go ahead and leave them below.

Crafting Rachel's Easel Legs
April 29th, 2022 | View Post

Given the litany of things I've been building over the past several months, Rachel had noted how she had really been needing an easel. Claire had a handful of them at her house and while I considered grabbing one of those for her, I thought it would be far more enjoyable to build one myself. You know, just to give it that personal touch. Plus, I love a good woodworking project. Rachel found a handful of woodworking YouTube and TikTok channels that had built standing easels. I went through a handful of them focusing on one design in particular that she really liked. Of course I've no intention of building somebody else's design and so I set out to build my own mostly using it as a reference point for the scale.

Two of the pieces of wood waiting to be joined together.
While I was using the project she found as a kind of "base idea", I generally just kind of build these kinds of projects in my head first, jot down a few brief notes, and then bring them into existence with the wood, often just figuring it out as I go along. But with any good woodworking project, first things first: selecting the wood.
I took her up to Woodcraft so that we could find the kind of wood she wanted to use. I wanted to make sure that I could help her understand some of the pros and cons to each type of wood she might like. I also wanted to make sure that we'd be able to get the wood in sufficiently large pieces.

We looked at dozens of woods. The project she liked online was built out of a nice maple. Woodcraft sells a variety of maples; my personal favorite being Ambrosia Maple. But she wanted something a little darker. We looked at teak, mahogany, cherry, cocobolo, and a handful of others. In the end, she decided that she liked the Peruvian Walnut the most. It's a little bit darker and harder than a traditional walnut and is overall a beautiful wood.

I helped her to select the pieces that we'd need as there were certain properties I was looking for (mostly dimensional, but also to do with the grain and knotting patterns).

Preparing to rip one of the walnut pieces on my table saw.

With the wood in hand, the first step was to fashion the legs. I set the table saw to just over 2" and started ripping pieces of the walnut. The wood is cut in the mill to about 1" thick so my thought was that we could glue two pieces that were 2" wide to one another thus yielding a 2" x 2" cubed rod. Given the Peruvian Walnut has a pretty high hardness to it, I had to work the table saw very slowly, but the pieces came out nicely.

Once I had the pieces cut, we chose the sides that seemed better suited for binding. I poured a generous helping of LockTite wood glue all over both sides, spread the glue with a foam paintbrush, and then put the two pieces together. Proper wood clamps are expensive. Consequently, I only have 12 adjustable DeWalt wood clamps of varying sizes. Those alone probably cost around $500, but I digress. Given that the legs to this easel are each 5'10" (177.8cm) in length and I really wanted to ensure a proper join, I needed to use all 12 clamps per piece. This wasn't a problem, but just meant that I could realistically only build one leg per day.

With the clamps firmly in place, the glue is seeping out the sides.

One of the leg pieces after having dried overnight.

I let each of the pieces dry for a full 24 hours before starting the planing process. In retrospect, one of the boards I used should have been planed before gluing. It would have ensured there were absolutely no air gaps between the wood pieces, but for the time being I'm just going with it and will try to work out any gaps with a formulation of walnut sawdust and wood glue.

After the final pieces bonded together and sat overnight, I began the process of planing the wood down. The goal is for each of the legs to be 1 7/8" (47.5mm) squared by 5'10" (177.8cm). Given there are two pieces of walnut formulating each of the legs, I also wanted to ensure that the thickness of each piece is equal. This made the planing process slightly more involved as I had to keep measuring to the center line and taking sixteenth inch bits off at a time.

A pile of walnut shavings sitting next to my planer after thinning out two of the legs

The three legs having been planed down to 1 7/8" (47.5mm) each.

I'm planning on working in some inlays to the legs next before I process them further so I'll be working on some dado cuts next. Rachel has been following along so that she can pickup some of these woodworking tricks and said that she'll do the next phase of planing for me.

The three legs planed and waiting for the next steps

Opening Up a Fresh Durian
April 13th, 2022 | View Post

I've looked high and low for fresh durians in the US. But try as I have, I have never been able to find them. I see them frozen from time to time, I see them sold dried from time to time, but I never seem to find them in a fresh fruit rack. Until yesterday. There is a small Asian market in Asheville, NC that happens to sell them. They were $6.99 / pound and I found the smallest one I could. It still came out to over $40.00, but totally worth it.

Claire and I hosted a hot pot night at her house and so I saved the durian for a kind of pre-dessert dessert. There were many mixed feelings on it ranging from a gooey banana, to sweaty gym socks, to rotten fruit, to just a regular sweet smell. I personally find that it smells just like most other fruits and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Newly Created Albums

Recent Posts
Preparing the New Site
Walnut and Maple Art Easel
3-Layer Instrumental Jam
Herman Sourdough
Crafting Rachel's Easel Legs
Opening Up a Fresh Durian
Stylish Bluebird House Plans
Best Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Recipe
The St. Louis Treehouse
Updating the Database

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