Welcome! I am an engineer, programmer, designer, and gentleman. You may be interested in some of my electrical and mechanical projects. Take everything you read here with a grain of salt and remember to wear your safety glasses.

Shop Infrastructure: A Materials Storage Cart

I return to making long-form video and build a useful storage rack for my bits of plywood, plastic, and metal. As always remember to like, comment, and subscribe!

Nietzsche, Nicer

Happiness is the feeling that power increases—that resistance is being overcome.


This famous definition sticks in the throat a bit because of Nietzsche's dark reputation and how it makes that “power” sound, but try a small substitution with modern therapeutic language: “Happiness is the feeling that you are being empowered” and notice how differently it hits. Or how about this very slight modification: “Happiness is the feeling that you are moving in the right direction”?

Looked at this way, Nietzsche turns into an old softy, offering us a surprisingly gentle and generous definition, in which happiness is no destination, no distant mountain peak where all is well forevermore, but something accessible, even easily so. No matter what gloomy valley you find yourself in, one step up into light—and even into power, if you will—is enough.

DIY Sprinkler Controller

At the beginning of the year I published to YouTube this video, in which I build a smart sprinkler controller using a Raspberry Pi and Open Sprinkler software. It's gradually becoming one of my most popular videos. Although I've been neglecting this blog somewhat, I have been making video content! Be sure and subscribe on YouTube if you'd like to be kept aware of those projects.

An Unordered List Styling Curiosity

Recently I completed work on a website that featured a lot of elements with lines tilted 30 degrees from the vertical. That site is Vaba Design, the new home of my professional portfolio, of which more anon. Seeking fun ways to echo that theme in as many design elements as possible, I hit upon the following method for transforming the bullets from an unordered list into 30 degree parallelograms, without using images.

ul li {
  list-style: none;
ul li::before {
  transform: skewX(30deg);
  content: "\25aa";
  display: inline-block;
  width: 1em;

The content line above inserts a Unicode character, in this case U+25AA or “Black Small Square” before the rest of the line. That gets skewed into a parallelogram with the transform declaration. Depending on other things like fonts and colors, it could look like this:

This works pretty well except if your list item overflows a single line, in which case the second line won't indent as you might want. It will start at the beginning of the bullet instead of starting where the text of the first line starts. But if that's not a problem for you, give this method a try.

Making a Custom Hardwood Base for a Video Doorbell

Here's a recent project: upgrading my parents' 1980s-vintage intercom to a new video doorbell. It wasn't as easy as you might think, especially as the intercom left behind a huge hole in the wall that needed covering with this nice piece of walnut. That meant learning some new techniques, such as cutting bevels on vertical workpieces on the table saw (similar to how you might make a raised panel cabinet door) and finishing with spray lacquer (a revelation).