Something From (Almost) Nothing

This post is my entry for June’s IndieWeb Carnival being hosted by Andrei.

First of all, what a great theme for the IndieWeb Carnival. I can’t wait to see what others share, because there is something truly inspiring about seeing what others have made or repurposed.

Part of me wishes that my NO SOLICITING sign build had wrapped a couple of weeks later, because it’s likely the purest form of Andrei’s theme. My latest project falls into repurpose and customization, but the (Almost) addendum to the writing theme highlights how making customizations yourself is the best way to achieve what you want from a product. This pushes against the buy/return (or throw out) cycle that many consumers follow as a default, wasteful consumption pattern today. The project is in its final stage and will be wrapped up within a week.

We’ve lived in our current home for 7 years this July. When we moved in, we bought a Hunter Cranbrook ceiling fan in the mint color. I fell in love with the mid-century modern design the moment I saw it. The fan has served as a conversation piece in our family room. Whether walking in from the garage (our primary point of entry), or walking in from the front hallway, the design grabs the eye. Recently, we’ve refreshed our kitchen/family room with new light fixtures and furniture. It was time for a change (mostly due to our English Mastiff being past the chewing/puppy phase) and we’ve been happy with the changes made. The mint/walnut combo was no longer in harmony with the new palette, but we couldn’t part with this gorgeous fan. Rather than repurchase the fan in the dove gray” option, I told my wife we could do a better job of customizing it. The blades would have still been light pine or walnut, and that wasn’t quite right.

I’d installed the fan 7 years ago, so I had some memory of how it came apart. I took the fan down and disassembled all the parts that would allow me to paint the metal mint components. Luckily, all the mint parts could be completely removed from other non-mint parts, so no masking was necessary. This considerably sped things up for the paint process. I took each component outside and completed 3–4 coats on each item, being careful to make sure every visible surface got coverage. I placed the items in used shoeboxes to keep any dust or insects from landing in the paint as it was drying. The parts look amazing, and I’ve reassembled what I can up to this point. Next came the blades.

Hunter Cranbrook hood painted grayHunter Cranbrook hood painted gray

We needed to do some touch-ups on our kitchen cabinets as part of the rejuvenation of the space, so I decided we’d stain the fan blades to match the semi-gloss, dark espresso color and finish of the cabinets and paint the mint portions of the fan a similar gray to the variant Hunter sells, but even more perfect for our palette. My first attempt at getting the stain resulted in a color way too close to black, vs. the deep raisin and plum tones in the cabinet finish. A much more artistic paint store employee and I spent 35 minutes tweaking and reviewing a custom mix of black stain with magenta and purple tinting until it was just right. I’ve completed one blade as the test, and the remaining three are all that’s left to complete the customizations, so I can re-assemble.

Fan blade & kitchen cabinet comparisonFan blade & kitchen cabinet comparison

The best thing about a project like this is that the fan I already loved looking at and enjoying will now be something I can appreciate no only the designer that created it, but the adaptations made to it with my own hands. Next time you think you have to buy something new, evaluate if there’s something that you can repurpose or enhance instead. The result is so much more fulfilling.

Update: Here’s the final product.

Customized Hunter CranbrookCustomized Hunter Cranbrook

2024 Jun·01


My Blogging Workflow

Much like the cycle of app defaults posts, I’ve landed on another interesting round of posts from bloggers about how they blog. Thanks to Manu for bringing me into the fold with his post, and to Robert for starting the fun and linking to the posts around the web.

I keep a Markdown file of things I’d like to write about someday. That list varies from just loose ideas in a few words to something more thought out if I don’t want to lose the details if it’s something I’ve given more thought to. Occasionally, I’ll add bits to existing ideas, but most of the time the way they go in is the way they stay until I write out a post.

I have a couple of Shortcuts that I’ll use to start a post off to make the YAML frontmatter and template easier. That goes into a folder in iA Writer called drafts. I’d consider a draft to be anything partially written and not scheduled for posting at a future date. I will occasionally write something and have it go out in a few days or weeks. This is because sometimes my writing comes in bursts, but I’d like my RSS feed to be slower for readers. Most posts started in this way get finished in one sitting. Occasionally, it will take time. I don’t feel a pressure either way. When the post is done, I use the LanguageTool grammar checker and then paste it back into iA Writer, update the YAML values and move it to the Posts folder.

The only deviation to the above is linkposts. I don’t post them as much as I used to, but the workflow is similar. I use a different shortcut that formats things specific to my linkpost template. I used to sync my highlights from my read-later app of choice, Matter, to Notion where I’d categorize which site I wanted to use for the linkpost. That workflow went away when I merged all my sites into Tangible Life, and I’m glad it’s more simple now. I’ll tag things in Matter that I may want to use for a linkpost or a newsletter in the future, but most of the time I just create the linkpost at the time I’m consuming whatever it is and post it.

I’ve been reading up on webmentions recently. I am not sure whether they’d completely replace my linkposts, but I’m considering implementing them in the future.

…and those are my flows! Reach out if you have any questions about my workflows.

2024 May·23


Creative Environments

This post is my entry for May’s IndieWeb Carnival being hosted by Juha-Matti Santala.

I used to be precious about these things, long ago. Now, most of my posts get written with my laptop at the kitchen counter. I will sometimes have an idea strike me while I’m making lunches for my kids before school. I’ll walk over, open the laptop and jot a few things down to come back to whenever I get the opportunity. The ability to have what feels like an almost endless battery on the M2 MacBook Air (plus the instant wake and login of Touch ID) removes whatever friction would have existed with this in the past.

There are times when I have an idea framed, but really need some solid quiet writing time. I will usually sit on my front or back porch for these longer sessions. If it’s too hot for that, the Eames Lounger in my home office is a great spot too. Because I use my standing desk for the work that pays my bills, it doesn’t often feel like a creative environment in the sense of my writing. I will sometimes noodle around with something there, or tinker with something that the desk surface is really best suited for. An example of this type of creation would be my recent no soliciting sign build.

Only when I’m doing graphical design tasks do I plug my personal laptop into the Thunderbolt dock at my desk to take advantage of the larger screen. I also have an 11” iPad Pro (2018 model) and Magic Keyboard that I’ll take on the go for writing in random locations. I’ve written posts while waiting in carline for my kids to get out of school. In waiting rooms of various flavors and so many other places I can’t recall at this moment.

In the end, all I really need is a good idea and the creative environment will sort itself out. There’s always the dream of a perfect zen spot next to a rock pond or babbling stream, but if those were the only places I could write, you wouldn’t be reading this post.

2024 May·16


Stand for Something

Vulure; standing on business.Vulure; standing on business.

I took this picture this morning. To me, it represents the epitome of owning your brand. Stand for something in this world. Even if your brand isn’t the brand that others might find attractive or sexy or trendy; fuck all that shit. Master the subtle art Mark Manson popularized with his book title.

Be you. Unapologetically.

2024 May·16


Makers Make

There are times when nothing that’s easily available meets the unique combination of a designer’s functional need while simultaneously satisfying the designer’s form need. Many designers are also makers . It is a special type of satisfaction when you need an item, none of the off-the-shelf options check your various boxes and you decide to craft your own.

Custom made no soliciting sign.Custom made no soliciting sign.

We have a sign at our front door to attempt to prevent solicitations.1 I’ve never liked the sign, other than the fact it was made out of wood vs. the plastic or sticker ones you see being sold at home improvement stores. They’re all ugly and they look like something displayed outside a business. I wanted something simple and nicely designed for our home.

After thinking about how I’d achieve something better, I’m as far along as the picture above. A few minutes in Figma, big bold Montserrat making the emphatic statement, some cardstock and about 45 minutes with an Exacto knife, hole punch and painters tape. I’ll pickup a can of fudge brown spray paint and a coat or two later it will be done and up on the wall next to my front door. Designed and made; on to the next adventure. I’ll post a picture of the finished product as an edit to this post.

EDIT: Here’s the finished product.

No soliciting sign completedNo soliciting sign completed


  1. We’ve lived in our home for almost 7 years now. Since this neighborhood was a new development in an area of Florida that has exploded with rapid urban development”, we get more solicitation of services and products than anywhere I’ve ever lived previously. There’s no regard for the sign at the front of the community that informs sales people that they shouldn’t be there. Nobody cares.↩︎

2024 May·15


Jellyfish

Effortless. Fluid movement. Graceful progress. Adapting to disruption.

Photo by Lance Anderson on UnsplashPhoto by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

Jellyfish are one of the most beautiful creatures to observe. When I find myself mentally stuck” or unable to find a path through a problem, I will often pull up images like the one above or a video like this one. Getting outside for a walk or otherwise surrounding myself with nature in the real world may be optimal, but when there isn’t the time or chance to do that, observing imagery of jellyfish brings a calm and reframing to my thoughts.

Jellyfish as a framework for living is an interesting concept I plan to write more about. The movements of jellyfish are almost hypnotic. Even when something turbulent comes into their path, they flow through and around it. The ability to adapt to these disruptions and continue moving along is the personifcaiton of the popular Keep Calm, Carry On mantra. In our world of constant distractions and disruptions, remembering to keep your mind in a state of calm flow is key.

Watching jellyfish in motion doesn’t clear my mind due to a calming effect of the imagery itself, at least that alone. When I observe them, it serves as the reminder that they are the model. The way they exist is my model of existence. They are the teacher of that which we struggle to learn from our own surroundings and human mentors. Silently demonstrating the principles of life that we can’t hear through the noise of humanity. Beautiful simplicity that can be applied to anything you navigate. Never stopping; slight hesitations as courses shift and turbulence subsides. Movement is the way. Fluidity is the resolution.

2024 May·05


Good Enough

This post is my entry for April’s IndieWeb Carnival being hosted by Aaron Leonard.

As with most things in life, you can approach good enough from multiple perspectives. For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on the two that come to mind most often in my current existence and outlook.

Good enough can be a mantra to fight against the never-ending pursuit of perfection; perfection being the enemy of good. In a world where perfection is constantly in our faces with photo filters and social media posts of everyone around us living their best life, it can feel like nothing is good enough until it is perfect. I call bullshit. Perfection seeking is a fool’s errand and evaluating anything with perfection being the success criteria of what is good enough has that fool doing cartwheels in our fragile and flawed human minds.

Adjust your scale and allow good enough to become any level of anything that both makes you happy and satisfies your needs. Not your wants. Not your warped perception of the world based on the Internet and all the generative AI tricks it hurls at your little glass house like a futuristic trebuchet. Let good enough become a weapon against anything that you know you’ve done to a level you’re satisfied with, yet still feel an obligation to continue to refine for refinement’s sake.

Good enough can also be the mantra of accepting the current state of mediocrity that we’re led to believe is modern success of industry and technology. Clothes that are so cheaply manufactured and cheaply sold that they feel cheap and wear like shit, but are good enough. I call bullshit again. The fact is that we’ve been conditioned, dare I say programmed, to believe this form of good enough is not only acceptable quality for life, but a quality of life.

Modern life. Where we have the technology, and convenience because of it, that we should subject ourselves to good enough meal from a convenient restaurant, conveniently brought to our doorstep by a delivery gig worker and every human in the chain of custody is aiming for that thin line below good enough to meet the margin and not an atom more. This form of good enough is a parasite to the tangible life and should be eradicated. This form of good enough is one that we should all take a stand against and say loud and proud we refuse to accept it or that it is a demonstration of our modern capabilities.

I frame good enough as an evaluation of the Dieter Rams concept of less, but better. In one way, the emphasis is on the less, because anything more would be more than enough vs. good enough. In other cases, the emphasis falls on better and the evaluation is that it may be less, but it is not better in any form and it is not (for me) good enough.

2024 Apr·28


Too little, and too much, self-promotion

Manu frames his feelings so well:

Every time I need to do something that is marketing-related, I can feel the tension in my brain as if a part of me is trying to fight against it.

My discomfort goes a step beyond this. When I actually do get a Ko-Fi donation notification, I feel like guilt, shame and imposter syndrome made a stew in my inbox. There is no reason for me to feel this way. It passes and I then feel appreciated and supported, but damn if that first moment isn’t a bitch every single time.

There is some verbiage, that I don’t use myself in my small self promotion mention in my About page, that I see and sometimes consider importing. If you enjoy reading XYZ, and you’re able to make a donation to support.” It’s subtle and I go back and forth on if it is something people truly would pick up on, the difference between like to/want to” and are able to”. Some readers may want to and aren’t in a financial position to do so.

My current self promo plug still uses want to. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I’ll decide to leave it as is and try to stop overthinking it, or I’ll update it and you’ll know it resolved that way in my brain.

2024 Apr·25


Listenbox is Cool

When I wrote this post about switching away from Castro to embrace the Apple Podcasts app, I mentioned that one feature I was leaving behind was sideloading YouTube videos as podcast episodes. Castro did that as a simple Share Menu option, though my milage varied on how often it would work without multiple tries.

I’ve found that Listenbox is a great way to mimic this functionality while using Apple Podcasts as my player. The premise is simply that it will let you add YouTube videos as podcast episodes. It offers more if you want to subscribe to a paid plan, but my use case needs nothing other than the free option.

From any YouTube video, copy/share the URL and plug it in on the homepage of Listenbox. Once you click Listen, it will provide you with an audio or video version of the YouTube video with buttons to subscribe” in Apple Podcasts and a slew of other popular podcast apps. Once you tap the player of your choice, it will open the show” and you can follow/subscribe to get the episode in your queue for listening. That’s it.

The one paid feature that is enticing for how I use the service is a Listen Later” queue where you could load as many YouTube videos as you’d like and still get a single feed to subscribe to in your podcast app. The only extra effort I have with my free tier method is that occassionally I go into the Shows section of Apple Podcasts and unfollow the shows, since there will only ever be one episode (that corresponds to the video I wanted to podcast-ify).

While ~$50/year may seem reasonable, I am not using any of the other paid features so the Listen Later single feed isn’t worth it to me. Maybe the developers will add an option that only enables that feature for a lower price.

This service reminds me a ton of the awesome Huffduffer. I still use my Huffduffer feed from time to time, but it doesn’t work well with YouTube videos since they aren’t an audio file natively. I wish Huffduffer would support transcoding YouTube videos to mp3 format natively, but I doubt it will get that enhancement.

2024 Apr·21


Why Do I Have a Newsletter?

The expanded title for this post should really be Why do I have a newsletter and a blog? This question was posed to me by a new internet friend over email. He asked it without any intention other than to spark something for future discussion. His inquisitive prompt has been rattling around in my brain ever since. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about it, which usually means I should write about it. Do I write about it on the blog, or in the newsletter?

Since you’re reading this on the blog, I’ll say that this is the version I’m writing for the blog. I may or may not write something related for the newsletter. I guess that gets to my current thoughts on why I have both. I don’t automatically assume that people who read one would necessarily read the other. I purposely avoid (this topic excluded) overlapping content. The essays” that serve as the newsletter intros could easily be blog posts; however, I go into them thinking of them as a different thing. I have some ideas jotted down that could become either one or the other. Once they take shape, I usually know which of the two they’ll evolve into.

My newsletter follows a pretty rigid format. It’s 3 things I think are worth sharing with other humans, with a varying length essay at the beginning. The essay usually has some connection to the 3 things, but not always. The 3 things could be linkpost content on the blog, but for the same reason as the essay vs. blog post, I don’t repurpose them in either direction. Not overlapping the content means if they do choose both formats, there are no reruns. As a reader of other blogs and newsletters, that feels right. My newsletter isn’t just a blog digest”. There are enough tools out there that solve for that need if someone wants to roll content up that way. If someone really wants to read my blog posts in their inbox vs. on the blog or via RSS, at the bottom of each individual post page, there’s an option to subscribe by email.

In the end, I’ve landed on the reason I have both is that I want to have both; it’s not more complicated than that. My want to have both as the author connects to the possibility that readers of my words may want to read one or the other or both or neither… but since you’re reading these words, you’re in at least one of the first three groups for the moment.

2024 Apr·13


Everyday Zen

I find myself doing these little activities around the house that just make me feel very calm. Unexpectedly calm. They may sound odd, because they’re not thought of as things which would give that feeling. One of them is only satisfying during the last step, and gross during the rest of the task. The other is enjoyable throughout. I got to thinking more and trying to figure out why they make me feel this way. I think I have.

They are two tasks that fall into what I would consider everyday zen in my current existence. I have a huge family with so many tasks and routines. Some of those are tedious and just have to be done, but some have a real quality to them. Making coffee would fall into that second group, but there’s a whole post coming dedicated to that.

The first task is cleaning our cat’s litter box. This is the one that is gross for the first steps; scooping the waste and sifting it down to just the parts to place into a black dog poop” bag to throw out in the waste can. The last step, though, is great! Smoothing the litter out, sometimes adding a bit of fresh litter first, is amazing. I feel like one of those zen sand artists for those mere 30-45 seconds. I find it so satisfying and mentally clearing.

The second is trimming off the new growth of shrubs we have in our front yard. This is something I do as often as I notice the new shoots coming up from the bottom. I trim them so that we have a clear view under the shrubs, but with the top full and acting as a bit of privacy screening for the front windows and porch. Trimming that new growth is so enjoyable. I do with with hand lopping shears. It is my everyday zen version of trimming a bonsai tree. I could see myself one day having a bonsai of my own that I meticulously groom and have reverence for the process. Until then, this is my suburban busy dad equivalent.

Finding your everyday zen tasks and routines is a cool process. I’d love to hear about what things give others the same type of feelings I describe above.

P.S. My mom’s everyday zen is folding clean and warm fresh-out-of-the-dryer clothes.

2024 Apr·06


Weather forecasts have become much more accurate

Hannah Ritchie, writing at Our World in Data:

The first big change is that the data has improved. More extensive and higher-resolution observations can be used as inputs into the weather models. This is because we have more and better satellite data, and because land-based stations are covering many more areas around the globe, and at a higher density. The precision of these instruments has improved, too.

These observations are then fed into numerical prediction models to forecast the weather. That brings us to the next two developments. The computers on which these models are run have gotten much faster. Faster speeds are crucial: the Met Office now chunks the world into grids of smaller and smaller squares. While they once modeled the world in 90-kilometer-wide squares, they are now down to a grid of 1.5-kilometer squares. That means many more calculations need to be run to get this high-resolution map. The methods to turn the observations into model outputs have also improved. We’ve gone from very simple visions of the world to methods that can capture the complexity of these systems in detail.

As someone with two armchair meterologists” in my life, I found this article fascinating. There’s so many extensions of this idea of more data capture and faster computing leading to increasingly accurate predictions at scale. One that comes to mind for me is crash detection in cars. It’s a stepping stone to the somewhat inevitable conclusion of full self-driving capability. The stones in-between are simply more data and better compute power. And oh, by-the-way, your vehicle will know if it’s going to rain and adjust for that too.

2024 Apr·02