Category Archives: “Misc”

AutoHotKey Useful

I work a lot on my laptop when out on business, and I find that not having an app key (also known as the “right-click menu” key – although that is misleading) is a right royal pain. I like to use the keyboard as much as possible, and the trackpad is terrible.

I noticed this problem when I was going through some emails on my work laptop and marking them as done (I use the ‘Flagged completed’ function to make them disappear from my main folder). I wasn’t using the mouse, so I was using the up and down arrows to select an email, then hit AppsKey > U > M to mark the email complete.

That is, I would have done if my laptop had an app key. Without one, I had to use the mouse/trackpad, which meant taking my hands off the keyboard. I’m no touch-typist, but it was annoying.

“But surely”, you say, “can’t you just use the right trackpad button on the laptop, which is right there by the keyboard and does the same thing?”

First, let’s be clear about the difference between right click and the app key. They are not the same, but they are related:

  1. The app key is the key on a full-size keyboard below the right shift key and to the right of the right super (or Windows) key that that brings up a context-related app menu at the location of the cursor. It looks like a little menu or list, and sometimes has a little mouse pointer on it.
  2. The right button on your mouse brings up the same app menu at the location of the mouse pointer.
  3. If the cursor is in one position, and the mouse pointer is in a different position, pressing the Apps Key will bring up the menu at the location of the cursor, not the mouse pointer.
  4. If the cursor is in one position, and the mouse pointer is in a different position,right-clicking brings up the menu at the location of the mouse pointer.

This meant that if I was relying on the cursor to select items in the email list, moving up and down with the cursor keys, and not looking at the location of the mouse pointer, I needed the Apps Key, otherwise just hitting the right-click button would bring the menu up in the wrong place, and to avoid that I would have to move my hands from the keyboard, move the mouse, and it’s just a whole thing.

I found a solution in the form of AutoHotkey, which was always being plugged by the folks over at Lifehacker. AutoHotkey provides

Fast scriptable desktop automation with hotkeys

and

a scripting language for desktop automation

and it solved my problem easily. I installed it, and just added the following line to the default script:

Capslock::AppsKey

All this does is remap the Caps Lock key (which I never use) to the App Key, so that now on my laptop I can easily bring up the app menu without using the mouse.

In addition, I added these lines:

^;::send %A_YYYY%-%A_MM%-%A_DD%
^+;::send [[%A_YYYY% %A_MM% %A_DD% %A_DDD%]]

These are extra. The first line just expands the very useful Excel and Access functionality of inserting today’s date with Ctrl+; across the whole of Windows. The second line does the same, but wraps the date in double square brackets to easily insert a valid date wiki link in my TiddlyWiki. Of course, the date is in ISO-8601 format to avoid confusion.

AutoHotkey is very powerful and useful, and these examples barely even touch the surface, let alone scratch it. Highly recommended.

Managing your tasks with todo.txt

[This was posted on my company’s internal intranet, hence the dry tone. But hey, content is content.]

I am always trying to find ways to manage my to-do list. I’ve tried various methods, including paper, Outlook, Google, and various phone apps, with varying amounts of success. Recently, I think I have found a method that seems to be working better than most. It uses a very simple but powerful tool called todo.txt.

Todo.txt was created by Lifehacker.com founder Gina Trapani, after realizing that many computer geeks were using a simple plain text file to manage their task list. She created a simple set of rules for formatting a plain text file (like what is produced by Windows Notepad) so that the information is structured in a predictable way.

The summarized rules are:

  • A single line in your todo.txt text file represents a single task
  • Priorities are always at the start of the line, in the form: (A), (B), (C) etc
  • Task contexts are represented like this: @Home, @Work, @Errands, @Phone etc
  • Projects (sets of related tasks) are represented like this: +DubaiMetro, +DohaMetro, +Renovations
  • Completed tasks start with an X (and a space)

There are some other rules including how to deal with creation dates, due dates, and completion dates. All the rules are here. There’s a lot more to it, including a dedicated Unix command-line tool, lots of powerful filters and so on, but the point is that it is very simple and powerful, with even more powerful features if you want them.

An example of a valid todo.txt file is:

2014-12-22 Submit application @Work +PM
2015-01-11 scan photos @Home +Blog
2015-01-12 @Work draw diagram +DubaiMetro
(A) Urgently buy milk @Errands
X This has been done @Home +Renovations
(A) Call Mom @Phone +Family
(A) Schedule annual checkup +Health
(B) Outline chapter 5 +Novel @Computer
(C) Add cover sheets @Office +TPSReports
Plan backyard herb garden @Home
Pick up milk @GroceryStore
Research self-publishing services +Novel @Computer
x Download Todo.txt mobile app @Phone

The smart things about todo.txt are:

  • You can edit the file using any text editor on any computer: Notepad, Sublime Text, gedit, vi, vim, emacs, the OSX default editor, you name it.
  • Because the formatting rules are fixed, apps can be created which use the format and provide a nice interface for managing your tasks. There are free apps available for Linux, OSX, Windows, Android and iOS.
  • Your todo.txt file can be in a cloud-based file storage service like DropBox. Mine is, and it means that I can view and edit it at work with one app (or directly in a text editor), in my phone with another app, and then again at home on Linux with whatever I want.
  • If you want paper, you can easily print the raw text file, or many of the apps provide a nicely formatted list with color highlights and checkboxes.
  • It’s future proof – it’s not locked in to any app or software, and can be moved around as much as I want.

It’s been working well for me. While it allows 26 levels of priority (A-Z), I only use 4 (A-D), and they mean this:

  1. The task I am working on right now
  2. The tasks I will do today
  3. Tasks that I plan to do this week.
  4. Tasks reserved for next week/future

The tool fits nicely with my attempts to keep control of my productivity and workflow, and I highly recommend it.

That Was My Jam

I used to enjoy posting a video with a fancy generated backdrop based on the video imagery. Sadly though, This Is My Jam has shut down, leaving only the archives of people’s posts. Was it The Guardian’s fault? Implicitly of course, as in all things, the answer is a reverberating yes.

They have been kind enough to set the site up as a kind of memorial, so you can browse other people’s archives as well as your own. Here are a few choice ones:

They also generated a little spiel about each years “jams”. Here are mine (I’ve emphasized some nice or strange bits):

2015: muteboy’s 2015 started strong with “Outdoor Miner (Wire cover)” by Hate Songs. 9 more jams followed it! Plenty of post-punk, new wave, and melodic death metal. muteboy found a rare one: “Burning Bridges” by Wire. People really liked “Good Morning Britain” by Aztec Camera (with Mick Jones). muteboy crossed 75 jams in February! And it all came to an end with muteboy’s final jam: “Rheinlust” by Fursattl.

2014: muteboy’s first jam of 2014 was “Living On The Ceiling (Vince Clarke Remix)” by Blancmange. 18 more jams followed it! Plenty of new wave, ambient, and 80s. muteboy posted a rare gem: “In The Space Capsule (Love Theme)” by Teeth Of The Sea. “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)” by Eurythmics got a lot of love. “Sequitur” by Steve Hauschildt closed out the year.

2013: The year got going with “Sensoria” by Cabaret Voltaire. muteboy found their eternal jam in August — “True Faith” by New Order. There was a lot of new wave, electronic, and electronica. “Dirty Epic” by Underworld got a lot of love. muteboy crossed 50 jams in November! “Europe Endless” by Kraftwerk closed out the year.

2012: In August, muteboy joined This Is My Jam, and kicked things off with “Never Be The Same” by Ulrich Schnauss. Nice. It was a year of electronica, ambient, and electronic. muteboy’s 2012 came to a close with “Zombie 303” by AGT Rave Cru.

In the absence of the site, I might still post the odd tune on here. (New stuff should probably go over on Both Bars On, I guess). Here’s my first one. In fact, it was the final tune I posted to TIMJ a few weeks ago, but I was playing it in the car this morning, and it put a smile on my face again, so here you are:

Printing a big map from OpenStreetMap for cheap

This is a followup from this post back in August 2013. The instructions described there no longer work, but this new way is easier and uses an open-source map. That last post got quite a few comments on it, asking for tips and telling me it no longer worked. I’m glad to provide an alternative.

I’ve recently needed to create large map images again, so I looked around for a new solution. I found it in the wonderful community around OpenStreetMap. From the About page:

OpenStreetMap is built by a community of mappers that contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations, and much more, all over the world.

Local Knowledge

OpenStreetMap emphasizes local knowledge. Contributors use aerial imagery, GPS devices, and low-tech field maps to verify that OSM is accurate and up to date.

Community Driven

OpenStreetMap’s community is diverse, passionate, and growing every day. Our contributors include enthusiast mappers, GIS professionals, engineers running the OSM servers, humanitarians mapping disaster-affected areas, and many more. To learn more about the community, see the user diaries, community blogs, and the OSM Foundation website.

Open Data

OpenStreetMap is open data: you are free to use it for any purpose as long as you credit OpenStreetMap and its contributors. If you alter or build upon the data in certain ways, you may distribute the result only under the same licence. See the Copyright and License page for details.

I particularly like the “free to use” bit, and because it’s free, people have built some amazing tools that extract and format the data in useful ways. All we want is a big exported image of a certain area, so here are the steps.

  1. Use the Firefox browser. (You can probably duplicate these steps in other browsers, but I’ll leave that up to you)
  2. Install the Easy Screenshot add-on. (There are probably equivalent add-ons for other browsers)
  3. Go to BigMap 2, which is a tool created using the open data from OpenStreetMap.
  4. Click and drag and zoom to find the rough area you want a map of. You don’t have to be exact – go bigger than you need.
  5. Select the map display type using the buttons on the right. This is very cool – as well as the regular types you can have a watercolor effect, cycling map, Russian language map, or (my favorite for the work I’m doing at the moment) the toner and toner-lite versions. Play around and see what you like. Another advantage of the open data model is that people are free to create new display types.
  6. Once you’ve selected the area and the map type, click Submit.
  7. In the new screen, you can see a nice big map. But this map is made up of a grid of map tiles which make up  the whole map. If you right click in the map, and save the image under the cursor, you’ll only be saving one small tile. A control panel at the top left allows you to manipulate the map. I’ll try and describe what the controls do. Play around, you can always click on ‘BigMap’ in the control panel to go back and start again.
    • The information line at the top shows the number of map tiles shown, the total map resolution, the zoom level, and the aspect ratio.
    • EXPAND lets you expand the area covered on each side, without affecting the zoom level. It adds map tiles to do this – you can see in the information line.
    • SHIFT lets you shift the view one tile width up, down, left or right, without affecting the zoom level.
    • SHRINK lets you shrink the area one tile width up, down, left or right, without affecting the zoom level. It removes map tiles to do this.
    • The ZOOM controls are as follows:
      • in/double size zooms in on the map, and makes the size of the map area bigger as well, by adding map tiles.
      • in/keep size zooms in on the map without making the size of the map area bigger.
      • out/keep size zooms out while keeping the map size the same.
      • out/halve size zooms out while halving the map size.
    • The bottom row of controls include the ‘BigMap’ link which takes you back to the first screen, and the ‘hide this’ link.
    • The controls below that allow you to save special scripts to generate the required map, but I’m bypassing those. I think there is a function to ‘Enqueue’ the map for generation and download, but I don’t think it works on huge images, and a huge image is what we want.
  8. Using the controls, find the area and zoom level you want. I found that zoom level 13 gives nice street- and building-level detail. As you zoom in, notice that the image grows bigger than the browser window and scroll bars have appeared. Scroll around and enjoy your huge map!
  9. Click hide this to hide the control panel. If you need it back, just click the map.
  10. Using the Easy Screenshot add-on, click Capture Whole Web Page. The add-on has some editing tools, but I just click the save button to save the image to the desktop, or copy to put it on the clipboard.
  11. You now have a huge map image you can print, edit, or otherwise use. Enjoy!
  12. If you want to print it on a presentation board, follow the instructions on the old post here.

Open data, people creating free tools, it’s great. If you have need for maps in your business, check out Switch2OSM for information about using this stuff commercially.

I’m using these maps to semi-automatically generate cover art for my podcast, The Coiled Spring. Check out Episode 15 here.

We’re In

Cassie and I moved into our new apartment in Abu Dhabi on Friday, bringing to an end a far-too-long period of living out of suitcases in hotel rooms. Our new place, on the 15th floor of the Capital Plaza building, has a view of the Arabian Gulf, two bedrooms, four bathrooms (yes) and tiled floors throughout. The Capital Plaza building complex contains the fancy Sofitel, has five towers (hotel, office, three residences), and looks like it was designed by Ivo Shandor. I’ll be posting some photographs soon.

Four bathrooms in the American sense. two bedrooms, each with an en-suite, one “powder room” or “cloak room”, and one bathroom off the maid’s room (yes), which we’re using to store boxes.

There’s a lot more to write about obviously, because the last couple of months have been a real rollercoaster. More to come. In the meantime, I will leave you with a new word I learned today:

Abuversary
A contraction of “Abu Dhabi” and “anniversary”. People celebrate (in their own way) many abuversaries. 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, whatever it takes to mark the passing of time, and your ability to survive.

I’m Definitely Going To Need New Shades

So yes, this impending move to basically a swamp by a desert is going to mean some changes in the wardrobe. Apparently the business dress is very formal, so I will have to get used to wearing a suit and tie again. I used to do this as a matter of course, but hanging around with Construction Engineers, and cycling to work, meant that my sartorial standards have slipped. I’m looking forward to getting suited up for the office once more. Maybe some new desert boots too. New suit hunt documentation to come.

I’m definitely going to need new shades (and yes, I will call them shades). I just got a new prescription for my eyes, and I will be getting new glasses before we go, so I’ll get some good shades as well. Some good ones, not the acceptable-but-not-really-very-good cheapo online ones.

But what style? So many options. So many pitfalls.

Having had opinions for most of my life, and after some research, here’s a bit of a pinboard of styles I like. Feel free to comment sotto voce.

Spotting a trend?

Not all of these are possible or desirable, of course, but I wanted to clarify a few points. Wraparounds are out (even though seeing Rik wear them in ‘Bomb‘ made me want to), Ray Ban Wayfarers are out (overkill), the Steve McQueen Persol look is a bit “Esquire”. But in the end, I have to go with what I think looks good. I’ll be sure to post what I get. I would also welcome comments from you.

I must say I’m keen on the clear frames look. What do you think?

Anyway, from TV star Eddie Monsoon, the fantastic and controversial ‘Back to Normal with Eddie Monsoon’ from 1983. Good shades.

A Festival-Goer Through The Years

My good friend Dr James Kneale gets around. He likes avoiding getting muddy at traditional British muso events like Glastonbury when it was still a little bit cool.

James at Glastonbury

James at Glastonbury

But what you may not know is that he always knew where the party was.

(Side note:

Aicd-Party

WERE’S THE AICD PARTY

)

Yes, even in the face of mid-period Thatcherite police brutality, he was there at the Battle of the Beanfield. Here we see him drawing the attention of a 80’s-mustachioed war cop.

James at the Battle of the Beanfield

James at the Battle of the Beanfield

It’s not all fun fun fun though. James is more about getting messy in the literal sense, rather than the music journalism figurative sense. He was there when corporate greed and laziness (for example painting the the doomed molasses tank brown to hide the leaks) killed 21 people and injured 150 in the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919.

James at the Boston Molasses Flood

James at the Boston Molasses Flood

But for chest-deep mud and human suffering, you can’t beat the trenches of the First World War, the War that should have ended all Wars, but in fact was just one caused by previous, and leading to more.

James at the Somme

James at the Somme

Not really sure what the point of this post is/was. James posted the picture of him at “Glasto”, and I just thought it would be fun to paste him into other muddy/messy scenes. This was a while back.

But then with it being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and many British friends posting pictures of great-grandads and so on, it might seem a bit disrespectful. That’s not the intention. Just a silly idea, based on a whim.

Anyway, the joke is that the joke is still being told, and despite it not being funny, humans can’t help keep telling it, in the hope that this time it’ll elicit a laugh.

Inky Success

For reasons that will become clear in good time, I’ve been inspired to fix and sort out all sorts of little projects that have been hanging over me. This is partly procrastination for the more important tasks, but hey, I’m getting stuff done.

I like fountain pens. We’re not talking Mont Blanc Meisterstucks here, just your basics. I’ve never had great handwriting, and I find that fountain pens make it a lot better. I had cheap WHSmiths ones at school, and I’ve treated myself to upgrades ever since. The school pens always used the standard blue ink cartridges, which made terrible weapons if you poked a few holes in them with a compass point, then threw them at someone’s shirt.

I recently got a Kaweco Sport from JetPens, which I love. Ii makes me happy, because it was cheap, and it’s nice and smooth to use, and it’s compact, and it uses the international standard ink cartridges. Over the years, I appear to have gathered many of these cartridges, and it makes me very annoyed when I think about how many different cartridge sizes there are. It’s an example of naked selfish greed, to force people to use the cartridges that only fit your brand of pen. Kaweco does the right thing, and uses the international standard. Plus they have that great German thing of making their name from the abbreviations of three words (I think, or is that KaDeWe?).

On an unrelated note (apart from in an office supply obsession sense), also from JetPens I bought a Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil, which rotates the lead as you write or scribble or sketch swimlane diagrams. This prevents the classic “hypodermic” sharp point you get. Nice design too.

Cassie bought me a nice Cross Century for Xmas a couple of years back. I was very pleased, and ever since I’ve tried to incorporate it into my daily scrawling arsenal. Sadly though, it never really worked out, because no sooner had I inserted one of the proprietary Cross ink cartridges, the pen would start writing all scratchy and dry out. It wouldn’t last a few hours, and by the next day it was completely dried up. The pen became one of the little things that needed fixing.

A week ago, I was checking out whether it was possible to repair these pens. I found the Cross forum on The Fountain Pen Network, and did some reading. It turns out that Cross ink is notoriously dry, and Cross pens run dry as well. Several people suggested that switching to a refillable cartridge converter and using bottled ink would solve the problem. So I bought a Cross refillable converter, and a bottle of the recommended Aurora black ink, which gets lots of good reviews for being wet and giving good flow in most pens.

Both items arrived on the same day, and I wasted no time in soaking the nib to get all traces of the old ink out, before screwing in the new converter, and sucking up a bunch of ink from the nice little square Aurora bottle. It worked immediately, as would be expected, still being loaded with ink. I set it aside to test later.

The following morning it wrote just as smoothly as any pen I’ve used. Well, almost. The Kaweco I think is still smoother, but that may be because it’s so light in the hand. I was very pleased, because I can now use my nice Cross pen as my “daily writer” ugh did I actually just write that?

It’s at this point in fountain pen articles where I would normally be expected to post photographs of my testing pages. I won’t be doing that; while fountain pens improve my handwriting, they don’t do so to the extent that I want to show you. Legible is good enough.

Bottles of ink? Converters? Maybe I’ll convert my old Parker Vector as well. I feel like I’ve made my first step into a larger world, a world where I will likely end up with ink all over my shirt in the very near future.

 

Can U Dig It?

Some more ancient thoughts from the drafts folder. Quite the essay this one.


After going to Comic Con here in San Diego a couple of weekends ago (This was written back in 2008 – ed.) (about which I have some more thoughts later), and after unpacking the boxes of books that were shipped over from London in the big move, I’ve been thinking about comics and all that entails.

I’m rather excited about the forthcoming film version of Watchmen. Oh, I know, I hear what you’re saying. “Matt, you should know better than to get excited about an Alan Moore comic movie adaptation. Don’t you remember From Hell? Or The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Or V For Vendetta?”. But maybe what I’ve seen so far gives me a modicum of hope. Would you take that away from me?

I love the original collection. I wasn’t hip enough to buy the comics when they first came out in 1986 (or whenever), but I became aware of the story and the artist through the songs (songs? Mashed-up dated beatbox grebo rock studenty grooves is more accurate) of Pop Will Eat Itself. In a couple of their best and most beloved numbers, they chant series of things that they dig, concluding with the observation that, “Alan Moore knows the score” in Can U Dig It?, and going so far as to say, “Watchmen! We love you all!” in Def Con One.

(By the way, the sample “Can you dig it?” was spoken in the movie The Warriors by actor Roger Hill, who died at the end of February. RIP. -ed.)

I have a book I found in a charity shop called Beyond The Gates Of Dream by a certain Lin Carter. It is a pulp book in the truest sense, being printed on the cheapest paper and featuring a gaudy cover bearing no relation to the content. It was an interesting read, with a big foreword describing the joys of turning over the pulps at the bookstore every Saturday, before going to the movies to watch the next Flash Gordon serial episode, then coming home to listen to The Shadow or The Phantom.

My earliest exposure to comics was buying a big bundle from a jumble sale for 10p. I never really bought them new. I think the bundle had a bunch of tatty Fantastic Four in it – I still remember the early story about the Impossible Man.

I was a member of the Dennis the Menace Fan Club from the Beano, which gave me automatic membership of (Dennis’ dog) Gnasher’s Fang Club. I was also a member of the Desperate Dan Pie-Eater’s Club from the Dandy. I suspect there was some rivalry between these clubs, but i think I was too young to be aware of it. I think I still have the plastic wallets and badges somewhere.

Something else about those funnies – I didn’t find them that funny. They always depicted kids reading the comic and crying with laughter. To me even then, they seemed like an old-fashioned form of comedy. I think they’ve had to drastically change their style, if indeed they still exist.

I was always at a loss to understand who went out and bought these things every week. I was raised to be very frugal. Frivolous things things like that were frowned upon. I would make a comic last for weeks – similar to making the Sunday paper last until the following Sunday. Even now I have trouble letting go and buying stuff like that. I have this fear of getting into a situation where I have to become a collector to “keep up”. I’m not the tidiest person, but I do like stuff to be organised, and I can’t handle clutter. Living in a cramped less-than-tidy London flat taught me that.

A good example is the excellent zombie horror comic series The Walking Dead. I bought the first volume in Secret Headquarters, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I often take it out and read it again. I now find that there are eight volumes available, and I would love to read them and see what happens, but eight volumes? I just don’t have the space, or the inclination to spend and store. Oh yeah, the money is an issue too.

Another comic I bought on recommendation in Secret Headquarters was the vampire series 30 Days of Night. This was recently made into a bloody (excuse the pun) terrible movie. I’ll explain why.

The book tells us that vampires exist, and have alway been around. It doesn’t tell us about their origins or anything, but they are effectively immortal, and can withstand serious injury. A group of vampires descend upon a remote Alaskan village, Barton, which is so far north that once a year, the night lasts for thirty days. Thirty days without sunlight – great for vampires. Carnage ensues, until the townspeople, particularly the sheriff, fight back in an innovative way. Great story, fantastic splattery scratchy artwork by Ben Templesmith.

The movie didn’t change that, but it did remove some key points, and the portrayal of the vampires just ruined it. In the book, the vampire speech is written in a scratchy typeface, to give the impression of a nasty, hissing, rasping voice. But in the movie, they took this to mean that the vampires spoke a different language, and the language they chose sounded alarmingly like Klingon – that is, harsh and guttural, with overuse of the “sh” and “k” sounds. So clichéd.

The behaviour was just as bad. In the book, the vampires were just normal people, except with the teeth and all. They came in various shapes and sizes, including a little girl. During the double-page carnage scene, one of the lead vampires stands in the midst of it all and shouts that it’s “F**king fantastic!” – a realistic sentiment, given the fun they’re having popping people’s heads off like soda caps.

In the movie, they just ponced around, doing animalistic clichéd “predatory” head movements and being very conscious of the prosthetic teeth in their mouths. Lots of mouth open hissing/roaring too, although not as bad as Underworld. (Wow, that was nearly my first post here!).

Worst of all, they left out the best bit of the book. They’re all having fun in Barton, and then the big boss vampire turns up. He’s very annoyed that this gang of vampires has made such a news-worthy mess – they’re supposed to keep to the shadows and not draw attention to themselves. Don’t frighten the meat!

So, to punish the leader of the gang, he bites his head off or something vivid. Most enjoyable. Still in the movie, the cop punches through the gang leader’s head, so we don’t lose too much. Fun!

Oh, Mr Carpenter

“…knock us up a chair out of wood,
make it comfortable yet attractive,
so that all the people in the world can have a good sit-down”

– Vic Reeves, 1989ish

At a recent dinner with Friend Alex and his lovely wife Jess, Alex said he had been working on learning simple woodwork. He showed me a picture of an Adirondack chair he had made, to which I said that I wanted one – the sit-up plastic chairs we have are no good for relaxing on the deck. To which he said, “Come over and we can make one together”. I enthusiastically agreed.

The following Sunday, I went to the (only) lumber store (that was open on a Sunday) and bought a bunch of redwood planks, according to the instructions we were going to follow. Then I headed over to Jess and Alex’s lovely new place, which has a great garage/workshop which I am totally envious of.

We got straight to work. Alex had already worked out the clever ways to make the required cuts, so we were able to breeze through it, in between chatting about how electricity works and eating pizza. After a while we got into the swing of it, with him wielding the circular saw and me drilling holes and screwing things together. In what felt like no time (but was in fact about four hours) we had a beautiful completed Adirondack chair.

There was some wood left over, but Alex already had a plan for it. While I made the final jigsaw cuts and made the final assembly, he whacked together a fantastic matching footstool with collapsible legs so it can either be a stool or a calf-rest.

The chair and stool are now in my garage, awaiting a sanding and three coats of something – probably marine varnish which will stink to high heck but keep the wood protected and looking great for years.

Thank you so much to Alex for suggesting this and helping do it, and also to Jess for indulging our “play date”!

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