All posts by JT

Plywood Poster Frame

I spent an amazon gift card to get this sweet x-wing schematics poster.

I didn’t want to hide the cool matte chalk-board-like finish behind a Plexiglass poster frame, so I built a plywood poster frame instead. Pretty happy with it, except I had to cut a half inch from the top and bottom of the poster to account for my mis-measurement. I measured once & cut twice. ūüė≥ūüôĄ

The Treehouse Adventures

In late February, thanks to some nudging from my kids (and a slight case of Spring Fever), we decided it was high-time our backyard had a tree house. Our yard has a large number of tree-house-ready trees, so we actually struggled over which location would be best.

In the end, we decided the best place would be nestled between a live oak and willow oak, just inside the fence. Not only is the location perfect, with 3 large trunks/branches to support it, but being within the fence line, it helps prevent neighbor kids from coming over and hanging out on the tree house. Not that I wouldn’t be happy about that, but there’s a certain liability that comes along with that prospect.

Building this has been one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things I’ve built (I’ve built a few things). If you’re contemplating doing something similar, my advice is go for it, because you (and your kids) only live once!

To get started, I read a lot about some of the basics of building a tree house. E.g. what size boards should be used depending on the distance being spanned, what type of fasteners to use, how to make things level against an organic surface, etc. I also bought this handy little book. It’s full of awesome little tidbits and illustrations. While not meant to be a complete how-to, it provided plenty of light bulb moments and inspiration. Highly recommended.

I started construction February 25 (2017), and after a weekend and some help from friends/family, I had a basic platform installed with floor joists.

Since I am a web developer by day, it feels super good to get outside and work with my hands (and some power tools!).

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Oh yeah. #treehousemaster #rockstarmanofmine

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As much as possible throughout this project, I tried to use reclaimed wood. In that platform, the joists are all new pressure treated¬†2x6s¬†and hung with joist hangers, and the longest span (in the picture above) is a new pressure treated¬†2×10. But the other side’s 2×10 is a leftover from our old water-bed (yep, you heard me right), and the two side 2x6s are leftover frames from an old bunk bed that we never used for the kids that we got from some garage sale.

To fasten the boards to the tree, I used 4 or 5 inch lag screws and washers.

The next weekend was spent working out some details, like corner braces, angle braces, and corner beams for the eventual hand-rails.

Much of the braces are boards from pallets that we scrounged up (the final project probably has about 5-8 pallets in it), and the corner 4x4s were used to hold up an old lattice divider in the yard (the lattice has been gone/destroyed for quite a while).

Here’s a redneck stunt I pulled to get some of those pallets:

(I need a truck!)

By the end of weekend 2, we had half a floor!

As you can see, we also used boards from pallets for the tree house floor.

The next weekend, the first order of business was to finish the floor so the kids could come up and check it out. ūüėĀ

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And they are up there! #mommycantlook #treehouse

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Time was limited that weekend, so I had to wait another week before I could start adding the hand-rail. Took me a bit to sort out how I wanted that to look. I didn’t want to have too many boards to obstruct the views (I wanted the tree house to feel open), so I left about a 6 inch gap between each board.

Well, it turns out my son can fit his head through that gap, and so Meagan was having none of that. So, back to the drawing board, and I had to add some lateral boards to make sure nobody was gonna be squeezing out. As you can see below, we took this opportunity to add a little flair and make it look like an authentic kid-built tree house (I mean.. I am just a big kid, so it’s pretty accurate).

We let our kids, their cousins, and some of their friends paint their names and other things on a few boards, and nailed ’em on!

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Friends make a treehouse a home.

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#happyface #treehouse #myohmia

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Boys working hard. #treehousemasters #gettingsoclose

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Another end to a successful weekend.

The next weekend, we finalized the other 2 sides (minus the door). We got a little creative with those sides to try and work with the trees’ structures.

This is the point where I consider the top¬†“habitable” and began working from the tree house.

Of course, some people had fun with this.

The next step was to build the door/gate. I used a gate latch and built a crude rope/pulley mechanism that allows the kids to open the latch from below the door. I posted a video at the end where you can get a general idea.

Once that floor was complete, it was time to begin construction of the first level, half-way up. I wasn’t sure I was going to go that route, but once the main part was complete, it just seemed like the best way to go.. It would provide a bit of a safety net on the side where the kids would climbing in/out of the top, and allow them to have multiple levels to their “tree condo”.

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Multi-level tree condominium ūüėú

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At first, I attempted build the platform without adding the additional 4×4 supports on the outer corners, hoping the angle braces would be enough. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide enough structural shear-strength, so I had to dig some holes, pour some cement and install some ground-rated 4x4s. Once those were in place,¬†the platform structure was as solid as a rock.

We then got the sides built:

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About ready for some summer adventures.

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At this point, the only thing missing is the ladders. Surprisingly, building these was some of the most difficult work in the whole process.

Phew!¬†This has been a ton of (fun!) work. Happy to see it come together. Here’s a quick video tour:

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Turbo Treehouse Tour

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You might be wondering, “what’s next”. Well, the grandparents purchased a tube slide as an early birthday/Christmas type of gift (ssshhh they don’t know yet), so we’ll see about installing that once it gets in (we got it installed! Scroll down to see). ūüėĀ¬†The adventure never ends! Thanks for hanging with me this far. If you’re interested, page 2 of this post is a big gallery of images from the process. Hope you enjoyed!

Update 5-14-17 we got the slide installed!

FlightLapse #01 – MilkyWay by SkyProduction

http://vimeo.com/211656397 By: SkyProduction
Vimeo URL: http://vimeo.com/211656397
Vimeo Description:

Flying through the night, while the world beneath us is at sleep, is a pretty common thing as a longhaul pilot. Late evening departures lead to far distant destinations like Singapore, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo or J’burg. Depending on the direction of the flight the crew and the passengers either have a short night up ahead if flying eastbound or almost eternal darkness if headed westwards. Read the full article on: https://www.beyondclouds.ch/2017/04/05/vuelo-nocturno-the-magic-of-flying-at-night/

YouTube Fav: Subway performer stuns crowd with Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”- Chicago, Il- Blue Line, Washington S

http://youtu.be/x–yddOolRQ
YouTube URL: http://youtu.be/x–yddOolRQ
Vimeo Description:

On my way home from work tonight I saw one of the best performances I have ever seen- anywhere. This young women playing “Landslide” absolutely stunned the entire crowd which erupted into applause as the train arrives. Her details at the end- please share. #Chicago #cta #blueline #subway #fleetwoodmac #landslide #mikedrop

To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email: licensing@storyful.com

From birth, Marine Iguanas fight for their lives – BBC’s Planet Earth II by Tea_and_Biology

By: Tea_and_Biology
Vimeo URL: http://vimeo.com/190482741
Vimeo Description:

Uploaded for Reddit by /u/tea_and_biology

On the Galapagos, adult marine iguanas have little to fear. For their young however, they risk life and limb right from the moment of birth.

From BBC’s Planet Earth II: Islands. Programme website: bbc.in/2fBKcVo

UNSATISFYING by PARALLEL STUDIO

By: PARALLEL STUDIO
Vimeo URL: http://vimeo.com/189919038
Vimeo Description:

During the summer of 2016, We created and directed a video about unsatisfying situations: the frustrating, annoying, disappointing little things of everyday life, that are so painful to live or even to watch.

We quickly realized that there are a lot of other situations that would be fun to see animated, so we decided to run an animation challenge around this idea.
Join the Unsatisfying Challenge Here : http://unsatisfying.tv/

Direction Animation and illustration : Parallel Studio
Sound Design : Zelig Sound
Music : Samuel Barber
Special Thanks to : Hugo Leick

Pallet shelf with coat and key hooks

Another pallet venture. This is modified from some pictures we found on Pinterest. In those pictures, the ones that had coat hooks had them attached to the front piece of wood, but that won’t work for us since the door would open into them. Instead, we got some celing hooks¬†to attach underneath, and a couple standard coat hooks to serve as decorative “key hooks”.

Grilled BBQ Chicken

Made some delicious¬†grilled BBQ chicken today. Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients:

  • Large chicken breasts. The larger/plumper you get, the longer it takes to grill them, BUT¬†also has a much better chance of being juicy inside and not getting dried out.
  • Grill Mates¬ģ Applewood Rub. Looks like this.
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s¬ģ BBQ Sauce. Looks like this.

Steps:

1. Rub the chicken with the Rub.

Well, technically, the first step, if needed, is to dry the chicken pieces with some paper towels.. You don’t want the rub to slime off. The super important part here is that you are not stingy. I dump a big pile on top of the chicken piece, dump a little in the tupperware thingy, then rub it it in and around. Make sure to get it in all the nooks and crannies¬†and make¬†sure the whole piece is encrusted and orangy.¬†Your hands¬†will¬†be orangy too. I don’t recommend licking it…

2. Refrigerate

You can put the rub on at any time, even right before you want to grill, but it’s ideal to put it on a few hours before you grill to give it time for the rub to set and the flavor to marinate. Take it out around 15 minutes before you start grilling.

3. Grill

Grilling is a nuanced thing, but here are a few of my recommendations for optimum results. Keep in mind, the times are all based on the heat of your grill, its hotspots, etc.. times are approximations.

  • Start the grill 5-10 minutes before putting the chicken on so it’s hot
  • To help with the chicken sticking to the grill, spray some of that grill spray stuff
  • For the large chicken breasts I had, it took about 40 minutes on the grill, so¬†you need to be committed
  • If you have an infrared grill or something, avoid cranking the heat all the way to high. That’s a good way to dry those suckers out. My grill is a standard propane grill and doesn’t get quite as hot. For my grill, I left it on high for about¬†20 of the 40 minutes, then went to medium.

4. Flip

Generally speaking, it’s best to move or flip the meat as few times as possible. After about 10-15 min, flip all the pieces. They should have some nice grill marks by this point.

5. BBQ sauce

After about 5-10 minutes, squeeze some of that Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce on them, and use a marinade¬†brush to spread the BBQ sauce around on the side that is facing you, giving it a nice glazed look. Careful not to go crazy, as you don’t want to remove the rub that’s on the chicken and you’ll¬†be¬†flipping these one more time before you’re done, and¬†you don’t want them to¬†drip all over¬†your grill when you do.

6. Flip again, and more BBQ sauce

Another 5-10 minutes later, when the BBQ on the top has caramelized just a bit from the heat, flip them one more time, applying the BBQ sauce on that side.

7.¬†You’re done!

Well, not quite yet. At this point, you keep them on the grill until they are no longer pink on the inside. Cooking chicken is always tricky, as you need it to be¬†fully cooked (unlike beef). It’s not ideal, but I always remove the biggest ones and cut into the thickest part to see how it’s¬†looking. Even this cut is calculated as you don’t want the juices to all flow out of the cut when you put it back on (if you need to). Once they’re white all the way through, you’re done. Your chicken should look something like this:

In 1980, after long consultation with some of America’s most senior nutrition scientists, the US government issued its first Dietary Guidelines.

The most prominent recommendation of both governments was to cut back on saturated fats and cholesterol

Look at a graph of postwar obesity rates and it becomes clear that something changed after 1980. In the US, the line rises very gradually until, in the early 1980s, it takes off like an aeroplane.

At best, we can conclude that the official guidelines did not achieve their objective; at worst, they led to a decades-long health catastrophe.

The sugar conspiracy

End of an Era: Moving on from WebDevStudios

After 5+ years, last Thursday was my last day at WebDevStudios, and needless to say, it was a sad one. I’m going to miss working with those guys/girls, who have become practically family, and they are, truly, an incredible team. 3 years ago, I wrote a post,¬†Why you should work at WebDevStudios, and I still stand by that post. If you are looking for a great job in the WordPress space, you would be remiss in¬†not¬†considering¬†applying with WDS.

I am leaving on really great terms, and am¬†even seriously threatening to crash their next #WDSCamp. I have also bantered some ideas around with Brad, Brian, and Lisa individually about possibly working together in the future on different projects, and I’m very excited at that prospect.

So, the obvious question, why am I leaving such an awesome place? The simplest answer is, I’m ready to¬†take my next step, and for me, that next step is freelancing. This isn’t a decision I’ve come to¬†lightly, and is one I have been weighing for quite some time.¬†This is going to be a huge change for me. While I had freelanced before starting with WDS, and have a bit since, this will be first attempt at full-time freelance work and trying to earn a living (I have a wife and 3 kiddos!) off of it. I’m exhilarated, but also, obviously, a bit nervous.

So that being said, I’m available for projects, starting immediately! If you know of any WordPress projects needing a senior level developer, please hit me up. I will be operating out of my DsgnWrks¬†business, and would love to take any inquiries at my contact form¬†(or hit me up on Twitter). I have experience in a variety of areas (just ask!), am a¬†tenacious problem-solver, and can provide plenty of references and code examples!

As a parting thought, I will forever be grateful for WebDevStudios, and especially to Brad and Brian, for taking a chance on me in the beginning, when I was some house-painter guy from North Carolina with barely any experience, so thank you guys, and thank you to WebDevStudios for over 5 awesome years! And wish me luck for the next 5!