Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

Black Lives Matter

I’m not even sure where to begin or what to say or how to feel right now. I’m at a loss about the brutality happening in this country. It’s at once heartbreaking and horrifying. I’m angered and outraged and disgusted, but I’m also feeling sadness, sympathy, and helplessness… wondering what I can do and feeling like I can’t do anything… thinking that I don’t have the words to express my own feelings or to adequately represent those who are being oppressed, beaten, and brutalized… fearing that whatever I say will be too understated, too privileged, or just trite.

That said, I just want to add that I acknowledge my own privilege in this situation. Not only from a “I’m a white, upper middle class male living in the suburbs” standpoint, but also from a pandemic standpoint (financially). While I’m not in a position/class that allows me to fully understand and empathize with people of color or people in less fortunate financial situations, I want to understand and I certainly feel a wide range of sympathetic emotions about it.

Now that the caveats are out of the way…

Black lives matter. White privilege exists in abundance. White supremacists are not “good people.” Nazis are not “good people.” Black people have always been oppressed in this country and continue to be oppressed. These are just facts.

When I see police in full riot gear… helmets, shields, batons, pepper spray… literally marching against protesters, beating them, chasing them down, spraying them wantonly with pepper spray, shoving them to the ground, running over them with vehicles, enveloping them in tear gas, and shooting them with rubber bullets (why is that even a thing?!), I’m horrified. I’m disgusted. I was brought to tears watching some of the videos. I’m also filled with rage at these police who perpetrate these things. Are they the new “just following orders” Nazis? Are they drunk with power? Are they just excited to play with their new riot gear? Are they all racists?

How has it come to this? It’s because of so many factors, it would be impossible for me to list them all, not to mention I don’t know them all. I know it has to stop. It’s outrageous. It’s horrific. It’s inflammatory. These police are exacerbating the situation with the exact behavior that is being protested. They’re not trying to diffuse the situation. They’re making it worse.

Then I choke up when I see videos and photos of other police officers walking with the protesters… kneeling with them… talking to them… helping them. I’m really hoping they’re in the majority among police. They help. They are the ones who let us know that not all the police are vile.

I do know a few reasons why this situation has gotten so drastically worse in the past few years (not that it hasn’t been bad for years and years before this). One neutral reason is the pandemic. Some people are already stressed out over being cooped up (to avoid dying). I think that’s a minor reason, though.

(Here’s where the polemic starts.)

I think the number one main reason is Donald Trump and his administration. Trump is a despicable human being. Putting aside his gross incompetence with running the country, he’s a racist, a liar, a misogynist, a xenophobe, a con-man, a serial sexual assaulter, a cheat, and a pathetic businessman. He’s also a terrible deal-maker.

This isn’t new. This was well known before he ever ran for president, and yet he was voted into office because enough people from the right places decided that it was better to have a man who was an unqualified, racist, sexist asshole in the White House than it was to have an eminently qualified woman there.

Trump has normalized racism and xenophobia. From his comments about Mexico sending rapists to his immigration policies to his border wall, he has constantly hammered home the idea that if you’re not white and you’re not Republican, you’re a danger to this country… unless you can somehow personally benefit him, of course. He glorifies violence (in many cases, promotes it). He belittles women. He demonstrates racism constantly (and has for decades).

When the “leader” of the country exemplifies those traits, it emboldens people with similar reprehensible views to amplify their voices and actions. There is a strong correlation between increases in racial violence and areas where Trump won the election by a large margin.

He has turned off the lights of human decency and emboldened the cockroaches to come out into the open.

Unfortunately, due to the “cockroach effect” and to various policies, the rot has spread more aggressively to certain police departments and now we have squads of police decked out in over-armored Batman costumes, wielding weapons (physical, mental, and chemical) against protesters who are protesting just such treatment.

I had a conversation with someone a couple years ago who felt that “white privilege” isn’t a real thing because he said it never helped him get a job when he was struggling to raise a new family. It was a frustrating conversation because I don’t think he really understood what “white privilege” meant. It’s just the flip side of the coin that has “black oppression” on the other side (well… it’s more than that, but that’s not a totally bad analogy).

Get Trump out of office. Get people in government who will work to eliminate this blight that is infesting our country. Call out racism when you see it. Love your neighbor. Be kind. Be gentle.

Black Lives Matter.

Table saw under-wing storage

Table saw under-wing storage with pull-out shelf

I’ve been trying to do a lot of organizing and streamlining of my shop the past few weeks. I’m currently using our garage as my workshop, so I need to be able to move everything aside so I can park in there when I’m not working. One issue that I always have is storage, so I decided to use some empty space under the wing of my table saw to hold a storage drawer, pull-out shelf, and a catch-all bin for push blocks and the like.

Sketchy Plans

I took some measurements and sketched a plan… of dubious usefulness. For the record, I stuck with almost none of those original measurements because I was making this unit out of scrap wood I had in my shop and I didn’t have pieces big enough to make it as designed. With some creative shenanigans, I was able to make it work, though.

Panels with dadoes

I cut (most of) the pieces to size and cut some dados to hold the horizontal pieces. I also cut the pieces for the pull-out shelf and the drawer. Everything was assembled using glue… and a mallet… and a bunch of clamps. Time for a clamping montage!



I so rarely get a good picture of Melody that I figured I’d post this one.

(Also a shout-out to Katris for the Katris Nest that she’s lying in. All the cats actually frequent it, so it was definitely a good buy.)

Melody in the Katris Nest

Cell phone amplifier

I’ve been wanting to make a wooden cell phone amplifier for awhile. There are a myriad of plans available, some being really cool and some being mundane (but probably just as effective). I had this plan from Woodsmith and figured I’d try it out with some modifications to simplify it and to account for the fact that I only have a benchtop band saw with a 3.5 inch cut depth.

Here’s what the plan had in mind versus what I ended up creating.

Woodsmith Smartphone Amplifier My Smartphone Amplifier

Same idea and (probably) the same functionality, but I didn’t have any fun wood (just pine) and I don’t have a large enough bandsaw to do the size cuts they call for in the plans. Plus, let’s face it, I knew I was going to butcher the thing, so better to do it with scrap 2x4s instead of maple and mahogany as in the plan.

This does not look promisingTo accommodate the diminutive cut depth of my bandsaw, I milled down some 2×4 pieces using the table saw and the planer so they were 3" x 1.25". Then I cut out the patterns individually on each piece and glued them together. The picture on the left is what I ended up with after the glue-up. It’s a bit messy, but I spent some time with the belt sander and spindle sander (and some vigorous hand sanding) to get each piece cleaned up and to get rid of the glue that squeezed out. The sides were some glued-up 1x4s that I cut on the table saw. Super fancy, I know.

If you’ve ever seen any of the other woodworking I’ve posted about (other than shop carts and shop storage), you may have noticed that I always do the woodworking and Lori always does the finishing. I think I’ve stained one piece myself (the top of my couch table), but she’s stained and painted everything else. She’s got a lot of experience with that and, well, I don’t… not since high school.

Glued and stained (for the first time)Since this was, more or less, an experimental piece, I figured I would do the finishing myself… good practice and no risk! I wanted the center dark and the sides light (as indicated by my first picture), so after I sanded all the pieces, I stained the center pieces and glued it all together, leaving me with this beautiful chunk of wood. Looks pretty good, right?

But wait! I forgot that I have to cut this block on the bandsaw to turn it (roughly) circular, which means I’ll have to re-stain all the newly exposed edges that will appear after cutting. Oops. Not that big of a deal. So I made the cut on the band saw and re-stained those edge, staying mostly inside the appropriate lines thanks to some painter’s tape.

It's round and stained (for the next-to-last time)Okay. That’s fine. Everything is re-stained. The edges all look good. The stain is almost all where I intended it to go.

Except I forgot I had to router the edges to round them over, which means that I’m going to have to re-stain the edges yet again!

It all worked out in the end, though. There was just some extra staining due to my not planning ahead. The shellac went on just fine and the final product looks pretty good for a bunch of scrap 2x4s that were lying around the shop.

Plus it works absurdly well. The amplification that it provides is almost shocking, and there’s no need to keep it charged!

Overall, it was a win!

Sunday morning catio

Three of our four cats were out in the catio this morning enjoying the gorgeous weather… and the wheat grass.

Houdini was inside trying to find someone to give him treats.

(click to embiggen the pics)

Catio Cats

Catio CatsCatio CatsCatio Cats

 Catio Cats

Scholastic cat is scholastic

Milo on a notebook

Evidently, I need another one

I filled up the cutoff bin and I still have more to store. Ha!

Full Cutoff Bin

Mobile Cutoff Bin

In an effort to tame all the piles and buckets of "scrap" wood that I have after each project, I made this mobile cutoff bin using a Woodsmith plan that I saw online. It used a sheet and a half of plywood and I happened to have some construction grade plywood on hand.

The front bins allow me to store long and short scraps that are good enough for future use, while the back section can hold plywood cutoffs and related sheet goods.

I figured it was a good use of my time off, especially since it will help declutter my garage shop, which will then allow me to do more fun projects… or at least continue the ones I’m working on without having to navigate through woodworking chaos.

Mobile Cutoff Bin - Woodcraft Plan

Mobile Cutoff Bin - Woodcraft Plan

Post Apocalyptic

Megan and I took a walk this past Friday and I took this shot of her by some abandoned farm stuff.

Post Apocalyptic


Milo in the catio