Category Archives: diy

Time Machine Featured on Instructables Homepage


I built a video booth (same idea as a photo booth) where users can sit and read off a teleprompter screen and make short videos of themselves reading from my stories.

The project Instructable, Teleprompter Assisted Recording Device In Shipping crate, just got featured on the Instructables homepage!

I’m hoping to take this thing to Maker Faire, where I can put it to good use.


Geek heaven: Last night while the girls were busy watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks in honor of Halloween (Kiki’s Delivery Service was already checked out), I assembled a pair of speakers I built back pre-parenthood but had never gotten around to wiring, and hooked them up to an ancient, cranky vacuum-tube amplifier I had in the closet. Nothing makes music sound better than a brand-new pair of homemade speakers and the smell of burning dust.

After three hours the amplifier developed a short and blew its fuse (which made an awesome melting-wire noise in the middle of a Mos Def song). But what a great three hours!

Month One Success!

I compounded my third-act despair from earlier this week by spending Thursday and Friday baking instead of writing: My friend and baking idol David Bauer (of the Farm and Sparrow bakery in Marshall, NC) was teaching his “Rustic Breads for the Brick Oven” class at North House, and I was delighted to be able to attend the class and learn (or begin to learn, or begin to begin to learn) some of his techniques.


Despite my best efforts at self-sabotage, I set myself up at the Java Moose for a couple of hours this morning and managed to scribble out the last few scenes. Wonderfully, the characters decided to stage a completely different conclusion than the one I had outlined for them. I like theirs better.


Month One Success! Hurrah!!!

Midsummer Migration

We’ve now driven three hundred miles north to Grand Marais Minnesota, to get the girls here in time to help prepare for the annual Solstice Pageant at North House.

I did yesterday’s writing in a wooden gazebo overlooking Lake Superior. Mostly this had the effect of underlining how immune I am to my surroundings when I’m working. For all I knew or cared, I could just as well have been writing in the basement of a chemical factory, or within sight of a recently-burned-over parking lot. Of course, emerging into an absurdly beautiful setting works as a nice surprise and reward when I’m done.

Town Gas, Wood Gas and Homemade Gasoline

In the course of doing some research for the Pismo story, I came across the following items:

Town Gas: Evidently, natural gas was not in common use in the U.S. until after the Second World War. Each town manufactured its own gas– town gas– out of what was available: most commonly coal, but also rutabagas. (I would use rutabagas at any rate.)

Wood Gas: A cursory googling will yield a number of cars retrofitted to run on wood. Big tanks of wood.

Homemade Gasoline: This seems obvious in retrospect, but if you have a source of crude oil in your backyard and you rig up a makeshift still, you can make your own gasoline. It’s easier than making moonshine.

Bread and Swing Sets

I started a batch of whole-wheat bread and set it out to rise on the fireplace hearth. (It makes sense to do that when there’s a fire burning, but no sense at all in the summertime. I seem to do it year-round though.) Then my parents showed up and my dad and I took off for the lumberyard while my mom took care of the girls. We bought a van-load of hardware, swing set parts and treated lumber, and Dad double-bungeed the van door shut over the twelve-foot stock sticking out of the back. We started out drilling and bolting in the carport until I pointed out that the growing assemblies would soon be too heavy to actually carry out to the yard, so we stuck an extension cord out a bedroom window and set up under the big oak tree. Every half hour or so I went in to check on the lifeless dough. The girls were watching Charlotte’s Web and jumping up whenever the weather radio went off, calling out approaching storms. In fact it did look like rain, so Dad and I worked as fast as we could, trying not to drop four-by-fours on each other’s heads. We got the frame for the swing set done and rolled upright just as the rain started to fall. Mom and Dad took off to get Dad to work a seven-to-midnight shift in the emergency room. I stuck the dough in the turned-off oven with the oven light on and took over with the girls, who were engaged in an all-out grunting duel on account of the pig movie.

After grunting and dinner and half a conversation with Rachel and the girls’ bedtime, the dough had finally risen and proofed and was ready for baking. I got two scenes drafted, but there appears to be some danger that each scene, though complete, will be shorter than the last. Things will get interesting once I get down to one-word-per-scene and under. The bread turned out okay. We had to use up stale tortillas and pitas all day today for lack of regular bread, but now I’ve replenished the supply. I feel good about that.