A workbench made of unfinished pine with a hardboard top. There are two shelves on the left and six drawers on the right.
My new mobile workbench, made partially with wood salvaged from an old stationary bench.

I enjoy woodworking. For the past twenty years, I’ve enjoyed it more in theory than in practice. I’ve started many more projects than I finished. My garage workshop was disorganized and difficult to work in. This year, my father and I decided to change the way we work.

First, work on only one project at a time. Too often, we get blocked on one project, so we start another. Clutter builds up and we abandon projects because pieces get accidentally repurposed, or we make mistakes that ruin something, etc. Then we clean up a little but not enough and start the cycle again. No more of that. One project at a time until it’s done. If we get blocked, we figure out how to get un-blocked.

Second, don’t buy any new tools without knowing where we will put them. We both like gadgets. We both will buy a tool that seems cool, but isn’t useful more than a couple of times. Often, we could have accomplished its purpose with something we already have. Also, we often buy more powerful tools than we need. My compound miter saw is a monster more suited for a professional cabinet maker than a hobbyist.

Third, organize the shop better. We had a lot of surfaces that attracted clutter. Beneath them, dead space. Right now, our projects are focused on making better use of the space we have. We’ve built some shallow storage racks that make better use of wall space than plastic shelving and cabinets. Those racks made it easier to see what we have and get our hands on what we need.

After that, we rebuilt an old workbench. I wanted to add shelves and drawers. I also wanted it to be mobile. The old one couldn’t be moved. I salvaged about half the wood from the old bench and built the new one pictured above. I designed it to double as a runout surface for my table saw. Six drawers and two shelves made space for a lot of tools that had been lying around on bench tops.

Currently, I’m adding a quartet of drawers beneath my other workbench. I’ll finish them during lunch breaks this week. Then I can organize a few more things before I start another project.

Reading Update

Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

I have not been reading nearly as much as I want to. I’ve been having a hard time getting decent sleep for the past few weeks. By the time my work day ends, it’s all I can do to focus on not walking into things. Comprehending the written word is not easy. Melatonin and valerian root before bed are helping to re-regulate my sleep cycle, so I hope to pick up the pace on reading.

I have read a little. I finished The House in the Pines, which I didn’t enjoy. I bought The Question Omnibus, which collects the complete late 1980s run of the titular hero from DC comics. It was interesting to re-read these stories. I remembered them being better than they were. Also, no more omnibus collections for me. The book was so heavy that it was physically unpleasant to read.

My latest fiction read is Secret Identity, by Alex Segura. I’m enjoying that one a lot. Set in the 1970s New York City comic book publishing world, it’s right up my alley.

I’m still working my way through A New History of Western Philosophy. I’m going slow on purpose so that I can absorb it better and take side trips into referenced works. Some I’ve read before (Bentham’s Principles of Morals and Legislation, for example, and John Stuart Mills’ On Liberty), so I skimmed excerpts from them as a refresher. I had never read any of Gottlob Frege, though, so I got a copy of The Foundations of Arithmetic. I don’t think I understood it all, but I got enough to move on.

My current non-fiction read is Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber. It’s an uncomfortable read sometimes because so much of my work experience fits into the category of “bullshit job.” I’m glad I find my current work fulfilling. Can it possibly last long enough for me to retire? I hope so.

The Joy of Reading Physical Books

Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Several years ago, I decided to buy fewer physical books. My bookshelves had no more room, and I didn’t have any more space to put new bookshelves. Over the years, I have repeatedly culled books to make space for new ones, but I couldn’t do that anymore. I was down to books I couldn’t part with for one reason or another.

I started buying e-books & reading them on my iPad. That gave me eye strain, so I bought a dedicated e-ink tablet. That reduced eye strain and allowed me to engage with the text, but the device was slow and I didn’t enjoy the reading experience that much. I got a new iPad with a better screen. After spending some time figuring out what settings worked for me—screen brightness, typeface choice, and font size—I was able to read more or less without straining my eyes.

But I noticed that I wasn’t absorbing what I read as well as I wanted to. There’s a ton of data out there about how reading from a screen is not as good as reading a physical book. Like so many people, I thought, “Yeah, but I’m different.”

Yeah, I’m not.

I decided to buy a physical copy for my first fiction read of the year, The House in the Pines. I didn’t care for the book (I might write a review, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it), but I enjoyed the act of reading it. The feel of the pages, the smell of them, the sound of turning them, all enhance the reading experience. Also, I found it easier to go back when I wanted to confirm a detail I thought I’d read. My fingers knew roughly where to turn to. That doesn’t happen with e-books—and the search feature isn’t as useful.

I intend to read more closely this year and to keep more careful track of what I read. I might write about what I’m reading. That means I’ll probably read fewer books this year than last. But I’ll remember them more. I’ll enjoy reading more.

Meanwhile, I’m going to have to solve the problem of where to put them all. In this case, I have a book I know I’ll never read again. What should I do with it? And it won’t be the last one, either. Even books I like rarely get a second read.

I’ve found a website that buys used books I guess when I pile up half a dozen or so books that I’m ready to get rid of, I’ll sell them… and use the money to buy more books.

What I’m Reading

Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Every now and then I get a wild hair to use Goodreads to keep track of what I’m reading, but it never lasts. I hate the feel of the site. When did I start it? When did I finish it? Where should I shelve it? Did I like it? Do I want to write a review? Do I want to discuss it with others? Would I like to link to my Amazon account and import all the books I’ve bought?

Ugh. I don’t want a second job. All I want to do is enjoy reading. And maybe keep a list of what I’ve read this year, just for shits and grins. That’s why I created a Reading Log page on my site. No frills, metadata. Title and author. That’s it.

Currently, I have two books in progress. The first is A New History of Western Philosophy, by Anthony Kenny. I’m only reading Part 4: “Philosophy in the Western World.” I’ve read a lot of ancient philosophers and have a good-enough understanding of medieval and Renaissance philosophy. I don’t really know much about the moderns, so rather than start at the Dawn of Western Civ, only to get bored before I get to within a couple hundred years of the present, I decided to skip it all. I expect this one to go slowly, because I’m trying to absorb what I’m learning and connect it to other disciplines, like science, politics, and history.

My other current read is The House in the Pines, by Ana Reyes, released today. I discovered it on the “Crime Writers of Color” website. The description sounded interesting, so I pre-ordered it. I’ve only read the prologue so far, so I can’t begin to judge it yet.

What are you reading? What are you looking forward to reading this year?


An hourglass resting in beach sand.
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I decided that I should reflect on the year and write a long essay about it. I knew I needed to start right away. But then Stevie P. died and I contracted COVID. Time ran out like dirty bath water. The new year starts tomorrow. This entry will be short.

It would be easy to focus on grief. Losing PK in March broke our hearts. Stevie’s death left us bereft of any animals companions. Four pets gone in less than 30 months. The house is too quiet. I miss them all so much.

But to judge 2022 by the events of its last month would be to give in to recency bias. When I thought about it, I remembered more good than bad in 2022. I have thrived professionally. Likewise, my creative writing has improved dramatically, both in quality and content. Carolyn and I also celebrated our twentieth anniversary this year.

It was a good year, even though it was sometimes painful. I hope there will be more joy and less sadness in 2023.

Top 5 Stuffed Toys

I mentioned recently that I have an assortment of stuffed toys. These are my favorites.

A lop-eared, tan bunny; an orange seahorse with three babies in its pouch, Thunderbug in his Lighting jersey, a moose, and a grey-and-blue triceratops.


We went to a Tampa Bay Lightning game with friends in 2015. Thunderbug, the Lightning mascot, came to the section next to ours and I got pretty obnoxious about trying to get him to cover over to us. In my defense, I was hammered. He never came over. The next week, when we went to our friends’ place for game night, this Thunderbug was waiting for me. I brought him to work to keep me company. Every day for two weeks, I’d come to work to find that my coworker had posed him in different scenarios.

Thunderbug posed in front of a selection of books about Scrum. He is wearing reading glasses and appears to be reading an open copy of "Agile Retrospectives."
Thunderbug, Scrum Master


Sweetie attempted to smuggle this bunny into my luggage before a business trip so I would be surprised when I got there. Except that I needed to check to see if I’d put something in my toiletry kit, so I discovered him before I left. Barry is named in honor of a Barry White’s appearance as an animated bunny in a salad dressing commercial that was airing when Sweetie and I met.

Seahorse with No Name

“The ocean is a desert with its life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love.” —America, “A Horse with No Name”

“Seahorse with No Name” is the name of the seahorse with no name, which means he does have a name. It’s very confusing. He wishes his kids would move out.


Another gift from Sweetie, who got him on a business trip to Maine. Named after the 26th President of the United States because he, too, is a bull moose. Teddy urges you to always vote Democratic because “Giving power to Republicans is like giving kerosene and matches to an arsonist.”


Stomp, a triceratops, is the late Cretaceous period’s hide-and-seek world champion. He didn’t realize he was playing; he is simply so much of an introvert that he didn’t notice the rest of his species going extinct. He doesn’t miss other triceratops because he says, “They were all a bunch of dicks, anyway.”

Counting Down…

Today, on the twelfth day of isolation,* I tested negative. I was almost afraid to take it. I squinted real hard at the test after the timer went off, not sure I trusted my eyes. I took a picture and sent it to Sweetie. No line. Huzzah! Now, to be on the safe side, I’ll continue isolation for another 48 hours. But at least I see an end to this crappy experience.

If I were a social media influencer, I suppose I would have some sun-shiny take on it that ends with a cliche life lesson presented as if it were a profound discovery never thought of in human history. But I’m not, so I don’t. I already wore my mask in public and I’ll keep doing it. I can only withdraw from being out in the world so much, and I’m not going to become a hermit for the rest of my life.

If I learned anything, it was what’s comfortable & what’s not about my bedroom. Until this month, I haven’t spent much waking time there. It’s fine for sleeping. For hanging out by myself, it actually isn’t all that bad, either. I have a comfortable arm chair that normally holds a pile of stuffed animals. ** I suppose I could have used a little table to pull in front of it to rest my laptop on. Maybe I’ll make one when I finish the other wood shop projects I have in progress and planned.

That’s it. Some life lesson, yeah? Getting sick sucks. Avoid it if you can. Have a comfy chair in your isolation room. How profound.

* Worst Christmas carol parody ever.

** A big part of me is still ten years old. And yes, they all have names and biographies.

Playing for me

An acoustic guitar hangs on a wall in between two black-and-white drawings of birds' wings.
Photo by ANNI GUPTA on Unsplash

I played guitar for the first time in almost three years again this week. COVID quarantine is dull. By the end of the day, I’ve stared at the screen all I can. I have two guitars sitting there in their cases. Why not try it again?

I didn’t like how stiff my fingers were, or how sore my soft fingertips became after only a few minutes of play. I didn’t enjoy it.

Playing guitar used to be a constant source of comfort to me. “I play guitar” was part of my self-image, even years after I stopped playing. But over the years, my interest waned. I rarely thought about my guitars except when I noticed the cases off to the side in my bedroom. How did that happen?

I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was twelve. I learned the basic chords and I learned a few songs. But I never enjoyed playing. It didn’t help that the guitar wasn’t a very good one. It was difficult to get it to stay in tune, even over the span of a few minutes. That made playing it frustrating and I gave it up.

In 1989, a friend decided to sell the 1987 Aria she had bought new, only to discover that she didn’t enjoy playing. I tried it, loved the sound of it, and paid her cash. I decided to take lessons and pretty soon, I got good enough to play for others and have them sing along. That was what I wanted: attention and recognition.

That 1987 Aria is still my favorite, partly because of its beautiful sound. Mostly because of the many fond memories around playing it in public.

But the pleasure of performing faded. I didn’t know why. I almost stopped playing. What stopped me was a gift from a member of the therapy group I was in during graduate school. The gift was a question.

Her name was Becky. In one session, Becky observed that it seemed like I did everything with my eyes on how others would perceive it. And appreciate it. And approve of it.

She asked, “What’s wrong with just playing guitar to make yourself happy?”

That is one of the most powerful questions anyone has ever asked me. It shook me. It encouraged me and gave me permission to put my own enjoyment first. I started focusing on what made me happy to play and learn. I started enjoying it again. And I began applying the same principle to other areas of my life. It changed the way I approached life and helped me develop a happier outlook in general.

Playing guitar remained important for many years after that. Eight years ago, something changed. I lost my job. I found a new job soon after, but it was a horrible one. A lengthy commute sapped time and energy, and the toxic workplace drained me even more. I stopped playing guitar.

When I started working at Malwarebytes, I was happy again and had a shorter commute. I started playing again. But after a year, I changed jobs again. Again, a daily commute across the Bay. The next job was also in Tampa. After two years, I started traveling for work. I thought about buying a guitar I could travel with, but it never happened. By the time the pandemic began, I was so out of practice that it seemed like too much effort to start playing again.

These days, my commute is from one side of the house to the other. I have a lot more free time—especially now that I’ve quit Twitter and cut back on following and commenting on blogs. And I have a real desire to play again. The desire might fade once I’m no longer quarantined. But it’s going to be nice to spend time with that Aria again.

COVID, after all

A rendering of a COVID-19 virus.
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

After almost three years of diligence and caution, I contracted COVID-19 this week. The last time I was sick was the week after the State of Colorado shut down over the disease while I was on a business trip there. I caught an ordinary cold from another traveler on the flight home. (“Ordinary” doesn’t do it justice. It was a doozy. But it wasn’t COVID-19; the symptoms weren’t the same.) I haven’t had so much as a sniffle since then, because I kept up masking discipline even as the world began to forge forward with a “What, me worry?” approach to a disease that was still killing tens of thousands of people a month in this country alone. And when people said, “Everyone’s going to get it eventually,” I would think, “Not if I can help it, bucko.”

I got every vaccination I was eligible for. I was super cautious during recent business travel. All was well. Carolyn and I had a trip to Saint Augustine planned last weekend. I tested before and during the trip to be on the safe side, since we were seeing a lot of people. But by Monday morning, I was feeling really low and when we got home, I tested again. Bam. Positive.

I used to joke that after three years of not even having a cold, I would be a giant baby the first time I got sick. But it wasn’t so. I immediately went into quarantine in my bedroom so that I wouldn’t infect Carolyn if I hadn’t already, and I simple… endured. I had a fever that first night that felt no more severe than the side-effect from my recent shingles vaccine. Possibly less, tbh. Since then, I’ve had mild symptoms, mostly congestion, and fatigue. The vaccines succeeded at blocking the disease from truly wreaking havoc on me. I only missed one day of work. I could have taken more time off but I was bored silly and, happily, there’s nothing wrong with my cognitive functioning. Since I am a remote worker, there’s nothing keeping me from keeping occupied.

So far, I don’t appear to have infected anyone else. I contacted my friends to let them know and four days later, they’re all symptom free and testing negative. Carolyn’s fate is still uncertain. Negative so far, but come on. We were in a car for several hours together, in a hotel room overnight, and we live in the same house. Quarantine precautions can only do so much.

R.I.P. Stevie P.

A blue budgerigar sits on a man’s knee, nibbling on a wheat cracker. He looks happy.
Stevie P. accepting tribute in July 2022.

On the morning of Saturday, March 10, 2012, as Carolyn and I were leaving the house to run errands, she looked out to our yard and spotted a ball of gray fluff on one of our bird feeders. When we went to investigate, we discovered a baby budgerigar. He was cold and tired and we brought him inside.

I knocked on doors to ask everyone within a couple blocks of us if they had lost a parakeet or knew someone who had. No one did. I put a flyer on the bulletin board of the local pet store. No one ever came looking for him. Their loss.

I don’t know why I started calling him “Stevie.” Carolyn wanted to call him Pete, and so he became Stevie P. After a while, he learned to whisper his name. That was one of only two words he would eventually learn.

The rest of his copious vocalizations were whistles, chirps, and squeaks. He wolf-whistled. He imitated the beep of a package being scanned for delivery. He talked back to birds in the yard, and he mimicked Pookie’s “assemble the flock” scream. On days when Carolyn worked from home, her coworkers would hear him chattering away. Sometimes he would put in an on-camera appearance. He did it a few times with me, too. He would land on the lid of my laptop and peer into the camera from above. He also liked to perch there when I was writing. My little blue co-author.

A blue budgerigar sits atop a MacBook screen. The screen shows a manuscript being written in Word.
Stevie P, co-author

Soon after we got him, Carolyn put a piece of strawberry on a food clip in his cage. He loved it so much that he smeared strawberry juice all over his face. When I saw him, I thought he’d injured himself and was bleeding. Since he didn’t like to bathe, he had a sticky, pink face for a couple days.

Carolyn has a glass statuette of a scarlet macaw, a gift from a former coworker. From time to time, he would fly to the top of the armoire where she keeps it and sing to it as if offering devotion to a deity.

Sometimes, when I napped on the sofa, he would land on my head and sing his loudest until I gave up on the idea. Other times, he would land on a nearby pillow and watch me until I woke up.

A blue budgerigar sits on a sofa pillow behind a man who has just awakened from a nap. They are both looking into the camera.
“Did you have a nice nap?”

He was a bird who enforced boundaries. He would land on you, but would not allow you to pet him. He’d bite if you tried too hard, then fly away. It was better to let him sit with you on his own terms than have him abandon you.

By now, you’re probably wondering, “What about the second word in Stevie’s vocabulary?” Well, actually, it was a phrase but he pronounced it so rapidly it sounded like one word. My father, like me, is a loud, fast talker, and his animated voice always stirred Stevie up. Stevie would “talk back” to him, chirping and warbling madly. One day when my father was visiting, Stevie slipped a little something extra into his chatter: “fuckyou.”

We had only ourselves to blame. Carolyn and I both use salty language—especially when yelling at refs while watching soccer, which is, like practically all the time. Of all the things for him to pick up, though…

Stevie died a week ago, sometime between when we covered his cage for the night on Thursday and Friday morning. He had some kind of incident the previous weekend. A hawk had flown through our yard and we thought that spooked him, but now I wonder if it was a seizure that he simply couldn’t recover from.

All of our animal companions have died over the course of the last two and a half years. It has been devastating, and now the house is too still.

A blue budgerigar named Stevie P. sits on my foot against a backdrop of flowers in our living room. He looks like he’s up to something. He is the most handsome parakeet you could imagine.
Stevie P. 2011-2022