Dec 30, 2008

Clean/Dirty Flipper

One item, one picture for each side.  It's a "dishwasher flipper thing" that you place on the counter near your dishwasher.  When you empty the dishwasher you flip it to dirty to indicate the contents are (will be) dirty, and when you start the washer you flip it to clean.

This allows everyone to know if they can put their dishes in the washer, as opposed to just leaving them on the counter because "I didn't know if it was clean, and.."

I made six of these and gave them as Christmas presents.  The process involved cutting six thin sheets of dark and light woods (3 each) for each word, and then just swapping out the contents of the words.  The lines across the middle are from the original idea, which was to have each side be half and half up and down, if that makes sense.  But it didn't look good to me, so I went this way.

I learned a lot about doing this kind of thing as I went through the various steps to completion.  One of the most important things being "make a prototype!"

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

Third book cover diorama, this time of Mike Mulligan and his Steam hovel.  I wasn't satisfied with the figure on the right, but like the steam shovel.  You can't tell but the grass is multiple layers as well.  More printed text as a title covered in varnish.

Goodnight Moon

Another book cover diorama, this one for my niece.  Again difficult to do the finer details, and the title ended up being printed text secured with aqua-zar.  (Shellac)

Green Eggs and Ham

I don't know what to call these things -- a book cover diorama?  It's a multi layered scrollsaw pattern that gets painted to look like the cover of a book.  This one was for a nephew as it was one of his favorite books when he was younger.  

Quick and fun to plan and cut, but the painting was a bit of a chore.  Taught me I really need to figure out how to paint in fine detail.

Dec 29, 2008

Big pile o' cousins

The cousins are in town from Michigan, and the five kids have been getting along like gangbusters.  Lily sobbed all the way home from Grandma's because she wanted to hang with the cousins more.  Worth it, though, when they're all together.


These are some puzzles* I scrolled out for my nephews -- and I promise to myself that I shall never ever cut three quarter inch maple again.  It's just not worth it.  Too slow, too many blade breaks, too easy to warp the cut so the pieces don't fit right, too easy to burn the wood, etc.

Never again.

(I'm thinking about making a big dragon out of the remaining wood.  <facepalm>)

* Pic taken before sanding, applying finish, and removing cut guidelines etc.

Dec 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Nothing says Christmas morning like being in your pajamas and a batman mask playing Legos with your sister who is wearing her new hair extensions.  This picture will obviously be showing up on prom night, the grooms dinner, and his children's first Christmas.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Dec 23, 2008

Blackpool - Boy with a thorn in his side

One of the many reasons I think David Tennant is super awesome:

(Blackpool, aka Viva Blackpool here in the U.S. was a .. musical-mystery mini series or something like that.  I hate musicals.  But I love whatever Blackpool was..)

Best bits start at about a minute in...

Dec 19, 2008

Sensory Defensiveness

I have a really aggravating case of Sensory Defensiveness when it comes to food smells and eating sounds.  It's really really really really really really really really annoying and I tend to have Sensory Overload but it's sometimes made worse when I'm in a more than typical depressive state.  This leads to Agitated Depression/Mixed State.  All the price I pay for having such a fun and unique brain.

Dec 15, 2008

Robert 1, Weather 0

Wow, am I glad I got these Yaktrax! They make walking on packed snow a snap, rather than like walking in sand on a beach march. I had my balaklava closed so tight you could barely see my eyes. But no issues with the cold at all! Awesome! As usual, sweating and over heating was the biggest challenge. This evenings temperature was eight below with a windchill of twenty five below.

Dec 14, 2008

Dear Santa

Lily is finally writing her letter to Santa.  Eli wrote a very eloquent letter last week.  I've been told I can't write one as Santa does not take lists from parents.  Lame.

Dec 11, 2008

The Most Beautiful Music In The World

When Lily was three or so I remember being home alone with her one day.  I think it might have been a day her preschool was closed, but it was a wonderful lazy weekday hanging around the house.  We were sitting in the breakfast nook finishing up breakfast or lunch and Lily began to sing.  It was a sweet little "three year old girl song" and she sang it so beautifully.  It was almost as if it was offhand, something she was just letting slip out of her unconsciously.  But it was french.  She sang it like her own language, and I have no idea what it meant.  But it was just the most beautiful thing I may ever hear in my life.

Later she said she would only sing it on days that were "our days" and it was just the two of us home alone.  When you put a little girl on the spot to sing she'll usually clam up, and this was no exception.  As time wore on we forgot it and now when I ask her about it she says she doesn't even remember the name of the song or what it was.  So I will never hear her sing it again.

My father never learned how to read sheet music, and he never took lessons.  He taught himself how to play the concertina after he came back from England (he was there with the Air Force during the Korean war - ask me some time about his unlikely loan sharking).  Somewhere in there he sat down at a piano and began picking out music.  

He could play folk tunes on the concertina and often he and my Aunt Jean and Uncle Jerry would sing at family happy hours up at the lake.  It mortified us, of course, as it's sooo embarrasing to have someone you know sing out loud.  (We didn't know what we were talking about, stupid kids.)  Sometimes he would just play on the concertina -- not just play music, but play like he was on a playground.  He would close his eyes and get a look on his face like he was somewhere else and just play and play and play.  It was rarely anything we recognized, and we would complain that it was "too loud" or that we were trying to watch TV and we couldn't hear Charlie's Angels because of the racket.  We never recorded his playing, but I remember it as a wonderful thundering collection of chords and passion.  

He also used to play the piano.  It was within 10 feet of our television, so if you wanted to watch tv after dinner you would have to put on the massive black headphones and plug them into the side of our little black and white tv.  Whenever we got a new tv Dad would solder in a headphone jack on the side just for this purpose.  You would huddle right next to the screen and crank the volume all the way up just to hear over the playing.

His piano playing was completely different.  He showed me how he did it once and maybe I'll try and learn it for good some day.  It involved chords and just hammering random tunes out, but they were seldom chaotic or ugly.  He had one particular tune he used almost like a baseline and then would noodle from there.  In the summer it might be lighter and brighter, in the winter cooler.  At Christmas time you could hear tunes float in and out of the music.  A little reminder of a carol here and there, but it would be fleeting.  He never stopped playing to adjust his tune or start over, he just kept going.  It was almost as if he was directing currents of music.  It was really beautiful.

When his mother died you could hear it getting darker.  It would boom and thunder and darker bass sounds would pass throughout the tune, casting a shadow over his usual music.  But that was a great exposure of his often reserved emotions.  I remember my sister and I being wide eyed and amazed at the grief of it.

Like the concertina, he would play with his eyes closed, head tilted slightly upward as if he was fumbling around in the dark with his hands trying to find a particular note or phrase.

When he was done playing either instrument it was like the sound was sucked out of the world.  The tv would be too loud, the house too quiet, and when you heard him quietly close the cover over the keys or flush the last of the air out of the bellows it was like you could breathe again and everything was as it was before.  But that something very large and important was missing.  It was some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard.

I seem to remember once recording his piano playing on a Fisher Price kids tape recorder, set right on top of the piano.  It was just a loud noise and was taped over by some family game.   (We had a "radio station" - JMLB)  Other than that, we have no recording of his piano playing, and since he never read music, he never wrote it either.  So I will never hear him play again.

Snowmobiler killed in fall through Wisconsin lake ice

A grim reminder to stay off the ice until it's ready for you.

This is the lake our family cabin is on.  Lots of winter activity on the lake, but never this early.

Dec 10, 2008

The Great Christmas (anti) Miracle of 2001

Jill and Eli warm themselves by the.. stove

A friend was telling me about their recent furnace replacement story (the furnace guy actually pulled up in a Cadillac) when I was reminded of our own story.

The year was 2001.  We were in the midst of a national panic about 9/11 and nobody knew what was going to happen next.  So things seemed bleak from the beginning.  But we had our traditional Christmas gathering and it seemed like everything was normal again.  My wife's family was coming from up and down the state and we were hosting a full house of guests.  Having folks stay at your house can be stressful at times, but her family is pretty awesome, so everything goes well.  Christmas Eve was the usual rush of relatives arriving and coming in and out of the house with their packages and bags.  So many people in our house feels good.  But it also feels warm.  We usually turn the heat down once it gets hopping, but in 2001 we never noticed it getting warmer, so we didn't turn it down.

By the end of the evening we were all winding down and the house seemed a bit cool, but nothing too crazy.  We turned up the thermostat a bit and went to bed.

We woke to 50 degrees of chilly.  By the time I came downstairs I found everyone in the kitchen with the between-room doors closed, warming themselves by the stove.  We called the local UberPlumber.  We knew they would want a ton of money for a fix on Christmas Day, but we were ready for that.  Except they didn't get the message from the answering service.  And the next place didn't answer.  In fact, of all of the plumbers in the book that swore up and down that they were open at extravagant prices after hours and on holidays.. weren't.  Finally got an independant guy who said he'd be over in a bit.

Merry Christmas, extended family, and welcome to my home in which I am housing your beloved and her child -- oh sorry apparently I can't fulfill the only real requirement of shelter -- heating.  Bundle up and huddle around the stove, the guy will be here to fix the "thing that mystifies me" soon.  I'll just pace, it's fine.  It'll keep me warm.

He shows up not too long after and I lead him to the criminal in the basement.  He looks at it for about five seconds and then goes "Hmm." and pulls out a screwdriver.  Flipping it handle out he whacks the furnace once.  Not even that hard.  Fwooosh it goes on.  

"Happens all the time with these auto indexing damper malcontroller adjustment knurled knobs."  (my interpretation of his diagnosis)

He offered to disconnect the doo-hickey from the whatchamacallit so it wouldn't happen again as "you really don't even one of those these days" and to make me feel better for the service call.

The relatives were all leaving for additional stops on their holiday tours, so we bundled them up chilly and sent them into the cold.  By the time they were all gone the house was warming up again, and when we got home from my family gathering the house was toasty warm.

Most expensive screwdriver handle tap I've ever seen.

Dec 8, 2008

G1 macro pictures

Good news:  Wicked awesome macro capability.
Bad news:  ewwwww, dirty keyboard!

Dec 7, 2008

Youthful Exuberance

I think it's important for every parent to go through the public exhibition that is "your five year old just threw up in the middle of the Saint Clair Broiler at noon on a Sunday."

Oh Christmas Tree

This post not only celebrates our family decorating afternoon, but also serves as an example of the low light

(in)ability of my new Google G1 phone.  But I love it nonetheless!

Dec 6, 2008

Scooterville shifty clinic

A snowy afternoon spent at the local scooter shop learning the inner workings and repairs on our scoots..

Nov 26, 2008

A duck, the Pope, and Santa walk into a bar..

.. No, really! They did! We really don't know what it was about, but there was a miniature coffin involved, as well. And we remember it happening last year at about this time. Thanksgiving Turkey Funeral?

Nov 23, 2008

Bear Lake in Late Fall

Another beautiful weekend at the cabin. The lake hasn't frozen over yet, but there is enough ice that we were able to toss rocks on it to see if it would break. It didn't. And then we had a family discussion about ice safety, mostly for Jill. :)

Nov 18, 2008

The Bomb!

The remake of the original jmlb production has finally been released!

Nov 17, 2008

Animal Crossing: City Folk, my impressions

Some of my observations, thoughts, etc.  I think I'm trying to convince my friends to get online with this so we can visit each others cities... :)
  • We did *not* get the wii speak version, waiting to see if it sucks and if we know anyone else with a speak.
  • I played it forever on the DS (Wild World), and now on the Wii.  I have no gamecube experience, so some of this might be redundant to the GC, but I never knew it.  :)
  • I did nooks tasks for me and Eli *and* Lily, so I'm tired of that treadmill, but now that it's over it's cool.
  • Screen is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN DS.  
  • It feels like the same old thing, but fresher.  I'm absolutely going to spend many many hours in the wii version.
  • Subtle improvements here and there in the UI.  Just makes simple menu tasks cleaner.
  • The city is just all the weekly visitors in one place, which is kinda handy.  Oh and having a hairstylist that's not just at nookingtons.
  • I got a makeover to look like my Mi.  Works well.  It's a mask though, so you can't add more to it, like glasses on your Mi.  It just swaps out to the original character face.
  • I've paid off my first mortgage already, but the kids will be stuck in their tiny cabins forever.  I make money faster than the kids, mostly because I don't just goof around, which I probably should do more often.
  • We all live in our own places, which is really nice.  No more fighting about who changed the wallpaper, but as I said, the kids will lag behind in expansions which could frustrate them.
  • It means they have to pay their own mortgage, which they don't care about yet.  When their house gets too small for them we'll see how they deal.
  • The experience on the DS pays off in knowing how to make money, but I'm cool starting over on my bughunt and fishing and stuff.
  • One player per wii console.  That's going to cause issues.  We have a 20 minute block rule in the house right now which will hopefully help.
  • I don't know about visiting other towns when they're not there.  Which kinda might suck.
  • I love how the kids find certain things fun.  Lily is a designer and Eli is a pitfall seed aficianado.
  • It's gotten Lily reading a lot more, but she DID delete the town once on the DS, so not that well, I guess.  
  • Fishing is a bit easier with the wiimote -- not in the "jerk to pull the line in" thing, you can use a button instead -- but in ability to aim your shots better and easier.
  • Right and left on the directional cross swap out tools.  So you can go from net to shovel to fishing pole without doing the inventory screen.  Nice.  (And apparently "down" removes items from your hands.)
  • When you sell stuff to Tom, you select the items in your inventory -- not moving them, just selecting them.  Much nicer.
If you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, it's a new game for the Wii, but it previously came out on the Nintendo DS, and before that the Nintendo Game Cube.  It's very freeform and kid friendly, as there's no real death or killing or fighting.  Just fun!

Nov 15, 2008

Den 9, Hole 9

Our super fantastic mini golf hole survived the Pack meeting / golf game today. It was lots of fun!

Nov 12, 2008

Teaser for Gadget Guy 2: The House of Locks


Threads was a BBC presentation in 1984.  It's split one hour before a nuclear war and one hour of aftermath.  It was done in a somewhat documentary-style, but it has a number of storylines following normal everyday folk.  It has one of the most scientifically accurate predictions of the aftermath including a nuclear winter.

I remember seeing it when it when it came out - they showed it on PBS with tons of warnings about graphic scenes.  It was scarier than "The Day After" because it seemed more real - less like a tv movie.  It also represented the news and information just as we would, via the newspapers and televisions.  When they stop working we lose our connection to the rest of the world, no matter where we live.   (Yeah, and the Internet, but that's probably more fragile than televisions for everyday people.)

But watching it again I was struck not only with the perspective of someone who now has a wife and children, but how things in the world really haven't changed much.  While we don't have a cold war anymore, we do have tensions in the middle east, a fragile infrastructure that would be a trauma to lose, etc.

It's truly horrifying.  Everyone should see it once.

Nov 9, 2008

R.I.P. fnirt and Miloton

I don't know how she got past the confirmations, and she doesn't either, but Lily appears to have deleted Miloton.  It was a town on my Animal Crossing Wild World game for the DS.

Ok, so you're wondering why I would be bummed about this?  Well, I've been playing that game for almost two years now, and it took a lot of hours to get my house, my money, all my furniture, etc.  I had a birthday cake from the townsfolk, and just today I found my first four leaf clover.  And did I mention the new version coming out for the Wii would allow you to bring your character over from your DS?  Yeah.

I guess I wouldn't be so upset, but Eli and Lily just got into it.  They finally found out how fun it was and really started to play a lot.  Eli loved writing letters and planting pitfall seeds to annoy the NPCs.  Lily would make shirt after shirt or plant flowers here and there forever.  And I could help them by giving them money or tools or advice.  And they could go to Nookington's instead of just a tiny little shop in the beginning, etc.  I had worked hard on it and I was finally seeing that pay off for the kids.  Lily still doesn't know what she did, but she's sad.  Eli's stopped sobbing (he was really putting in a lot of work already) and I'm slowly getting over it.

But I just don't know if I can plug away at working for Tom Nook and paying off those mortgages anymore.  And farming trees?  I'm not sure I can do that, either.  Maybe I should just buy a fishing pole and live the simple life of a fisherman...

We've all decided to create a new town and call it Craigville.  But maybe I need some time to grieve...

Coming Soon - Gadget Guy 2: The House of Locks

Today we filmed the first set of scenes for Gadget Guy 2:  The House of Locks and hopefully we'll finish shooting tonight after dinner.  Then comes the long and laborious (actually fun) process of editing and composing.  I think this one is going to be great though, and the addition of Gadget Guy's sidekick Gadget Girl is sure to add to the story!

Nov 7, 2008

Nov 4, 2008

The kids costumes

Eli was Han Solo (with some reasonably dyed hair) and Lily was Leia.  Lily decided at the last minute she didn't like the hair we designed for her, so she went with the hood up.  Looked great anyway.

They preferred the blasters I made them to the ones they made out of legos.  Good call:

As for their pumpkins:  (Eli's)

And (Lily's)

Nov 2, 2008


Well, we got our costumes done in time for the party down the block, even if a lot of the people there didn't know what a wii-mote was. But as always, there is a joy in being the obscure.

Oct 31, 2008

Scrolly Goodness

Someone asked recently if I'm posting these things realtime or am I back filling from my collection. And if it's realtime how on earth do I find the time to do all of this stuff?

Well, a lot of the posts are older items I'm just trying to document, but some of them are realtime. In this post I have a lot of scroll saw items that really don't take that long to do, it's just a matter of planning, executing, and following up. All three steps are difficult for me. :)
J and I were in the garage and while she was sorting something or other I picked up a tiny scrap of wood (final puzzle is about the size of a quarter) and knocked this out in a few minutes:  (yeah, I can be cheesy sometimes, but I always mean it!)

This next one is from a book on Fantasy and Legend Scroll Saw Puzzles, which I really like because of the specificity of subject but the variety of examples.   I've done quite a few of them already, just have to post them:

Finally, three images from a common theme:  Sea Life.  I used some patterns from a simple scroll saw pattern book, and just improvised a bit as well.  Final pieces are about two inches wide/tall.  The original patterns didn't have puzzle shapes cut in them, and I'm just now learning how to cut them so they stay together:

Oct 26, 2008

Yet another lighthouse

I'm a sucker for the nautical stitchings, apparently. This was fairly easy and a heck of a lot less work than the more detailed 'gold' Dimensions lighthouse with a similar look.

It's no Surly Coffee Bender..

.. But lots of fun anyway. It just didn't have same amount of that coffee taste. And you don't want to know how much it costs per bottle.

The quest continues.

My Worst Nightmare

"Hey dad, come look in the garage" is what the note said. When I opened the door and saw this.. vehicle.. I was surprised but guardedly so. I knew Jill wouldn't just buy a car without me but WTF?

Turned out ok as it's a rental from the dealer while they sort out a troubled seat belt in our car.


DMC Ship and flags

Another pattern from the DMC brochure I got with set of floss. It had been a while since I found a pattern I really wanted to do for myself, and this was a fairly simple and quick one. I chose a cream 18 count aida in order to highlight the detail as well as give it a weathered look.

Oct 19, 2008

Nohohon At Night

So I got this toy a year or two ago.  It's a little nodding happy face guy -- called "Nohohon Zoku."  It's solar powered and just nods back and forth.  I've always envisioned it after all the humans die just nodding away.  The post apocalyptic happy face.

But there was some office discussion about whether or not it would keep going -- and it occurred to us that we didn't know if it kept going after dark on the ambient light we get downtown.  So I set a webcam on it and this is the result:

Taylor's Falls

Another beautiful fall afternoon picnicing in the autumn colors.

Oct 16, 2008

Your kids are pattern designers

Eli designed this himself. He wanted me to do a cross stitch for him, but he didn't want any of the patterns I had found. So he took matters into his own hand.

All it takes it a kid, a sheet of graph paper, and some crayons and you've got an awesome cross stitch pattern that's one of a kind, personal, and usually quite beautiful! And if you use the right (read: selective) set of crayons, picking the colors out from your thread stash should be a no brainer.

Graph paper isn't that big when you get down to interpreting it via Aida, and the crayons or markers they use are basic colors which you can then match with those random leftover skeins of floss you have in that drawer.  So these are usually pretty easy and quick to stitch.

It's also really fun for kids to see their work reinterpreted in something as elegant and substantial as a cross stitch.  

If you're feeling really adventurous, these are nice small stitches to experiment on if you're trying to get into framing your own work.  You could even attach a magnet to the back and put it on the fridge, just to come full circle.

Oct 15, 2008

Guys who Cross Stitch

If you're interested in my cross stitching, either click on the "cross stitch" label on the right, or on this link.


Oct 11, 2008

Oct 8, 2008


I started this just in the last week while we were visiting relatives up north. It's from a pattern I got on the Internet, but it appears to have had a slight aspect ratio issue. Seems a little thin but I still think it looks okay. It was free and you get what you pay for.

Tintin is one of my favorite series', and I've been looking for a pattern for some time. I have a few other characters but I may have to either adjust the aspect or just go ahead and make some of my own.

I miss Dark Lilac. :(

Oct 5, 2008

Grand Rapids, Grand Forest

On a walk near the Forest History Center, which unfortunately was closed.

Sep 30, 2008


When asked if my sticker was reflective I responded with "No, XML does not have reflection" and three people actually laughed because they knew what I meant.

We're so tough.

Why? Finally, Why?

Because we sat in that car and you told me I hadn't changed at all. Even having been through all of that stuff, you couldn't see that I had changed, even a little. Yeah, I was still pretty young and naive and ignorant and cocky. But in looking back, so much of what I went through and learned during that time shaped who I am today. And so much so that I feel like I'm a completely different person before those years and after.

I'm sorry. I wish I could have done that differently. I wish you could see my wife, children, career, hobbies, life. I miss having you there.

[If you don't understand this, it's probably not something aimed at you. :)]

Sep 29, 2008

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

We went to the Renaissance Festival yesterday - the last day of the festival and a great day.  One highlight was Eli on the climbing tower:


Sep 27, 2008

Twins Saturday

We're in the second to the last row, spent a ton on food and the kids are still trying to figure out where the quaffle and bludgers are as they think it looks like a Quiddich stadium. It's awesome!