We got Finnegan a balance bike for Christmas one year ago. Now, a few weeks shy of his fourth birthday, his speed and balance indicate that he’s nearly ready for a pedal bike. He likes to race and be chased while riding and fearlessly wants to go “trail biking”.

We all grew up with training wheels. We grew up dreaming of and then fearing the moment when we had to take off the training wheels. We all felt the fresh terror and freedom of trying to balance on two wheels. I’ll never forget some of my first bike runs on two wheels down the front hill of my childhood home.

Not these kids. Balance bikes are all the rage. I see tiny tikes smaller than him cruising around bike trails. He’ll eventually end up with a pedal bike and as soon as he figures out how to pedal and look forward at the same time his life will be forever altered.

Seeing these milestones pass as a parent of a new generation, full of new rules, new techniques, new science and new technology is so wild. He’s a voice assistant native. He yells into the air to turn on the Christmas lights. He wants to talk to “the robot” (ChatGPT voice chat, which is a scary-good education and entertainment vehicle for an inquisitive toddler). He’s been playing alphabet and spelling games on an iPad since before he could properly talk.

Watching him learn to balance on two wheels while balancing his rapid growth and development is a challenge as a parent, but one that is tremendously exhilarating—just like the freedom of the open road for a nearly four year old (I guess).

Child biking down a path on a kick bike
”Faster, daddy, I’m going to catch you!”


Shrub prep!

We want… a shrubbery!

The Head Night (who says “Ni!”)

Late in the summer I purchased a Drinkmate to carbonate water at home. It does what it says on the tin—allows me to carbonate things, mostly water. I like the Drinkmate because it doesn’t break the warranty to carbonate other things… so I’ve been experimenting! However, that is a different post.

I wanted to spice up my water drinking habit. A stray post on Reddit about “drinking vinegars” caught my attention and I got sucked into the world of homemade drinking vinegars — or shrub syrups.

As best as I can tell shrubs are a basically a simple syrup infusion that are often fruit-based. The practice is rooted in old food preservation techniques. There seems to be all kinds of ratios, but they are often cited as a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, sugar, and vinegar.

In my experimentation so far, I’ve found that I like to vary this ratio based on the ingredients. You can hot process (boil your mix) or cold process (wait a few days) and I’ve been opting for the latter.

For Labor Day this year, I started my experimentation with the following two recipes:

  • Grapefruit & lemon, turbinado sugar, apple cider vinegar
  • Blackberry & pluot with sliced ginger, white sugar, apple cider vinegar.

For the Christmas season, I just prepared two new recipes:

  • Cranberry, orange & grated ginger, turbinado sugar, apple cider vinegar
  • Blueberry & vanilla bean, white sugar, and 50/50 apple cider & balsamic vinegar

The method is straight forward:

  • Wash your fruits, cut & mash, and weigh
  • Add an equal weight of your chosen sugar
  • Mix the macerated fruit and sugar well and let sit at room temp (or in the fridge) for a few days until all the juice is extracted and the sugar is dissolved
    • I found that a stick blender worked wonders on the tough cranberries and stubborn blueberries. I didn’t blend long enough to make a smoothie, just long enough to break them down
  • After the juice is extracted, strain through cheese cloth or a nut-milk bag
  • Weigh the resulting syrup
  • Add up to a 1:1 ratio of your vinegar of choice
  • Refrigerate and let the flavors mellow

Once you have your shrub syrup just add 1 to 1.5 ounces to 6-8 ounces of your drink of choice for a flavorful soda!

I’ll share a small aside about oleo saccharum – oil sugar. For the syrups that involved grapefruits, lemons and oranges I follow basic directions to create this delicious oil sugar and then added them back to my final shrub to enhance the flavor. You simply combine strips of citrus zest with sugar, muddle them together aggressively and then wait. In about 24 hours you’ll have a sweet aromatic citrus oil sugar. I want to do a lot more of these and find other uses. They are delicious. It seems prudent to seek out organic citrus for this project,

I’m enjoying my shrub syrups. They are delicious and keep in the fridge for months. Does drinking vinegar have health benefits? Maybe. That said, a shrub soda is much healthier than a regular soda and far more complex and interesting!


Cranberry orange shrub with seasonal garnishes of frozen cranberries & cinnamon stick

Apps I’m Using 2023

Here’s a year-end list of my top apps from the last year.

As a Design Professional™ this is what we use now. I spend 8-10 hours a day staring at this app.
I use Slack all the time. It’s fine. The redesign is fine. You’ll get used to it.

I was recently convinced (shamed?) into switching to VS Code, finally leaving behind my beloved Sublime Text. It’s been a steep learning curve but I see why it’s popular. I still find myself dipping back into Sublime to do the basics like edit pesky .svg files.

This is the one and only task management app that has stuck with me. I’ve been a daily user for nearly a decade.
I’ve been using Vimcal for almost three years. It works seamlessly with Google calendars across my accounts, let’s me quickly create booking slots and allows me to see all my calendars in once place. The mobile app is nice too! Can’t say enough positive things.
I’ve been mourning the loss of Sparrow Mail ever since Google bought it and shut it down. I used Gmail in the browser, created site specific browsers and then used Shift for many years. I ditched all of that as soon as I got my hands on Mimestream. What a fantastic, essential piece of Mac software. I’m eagerly awaiting an iOS and iPadOS launch! If you like Gmail and great MacOS apps, you’ll like Mimestream.

This is the best screen capture tool I’ve ever used. It fully replaced Skitch and provided a host of functionality that I use daily. Screen capture with overlaid front-facing video to create Loom-like videos is fantastic!
I’m a heavy notion user across several teams. It’s great for documentation and light-weight project management. I’ve adopted it marginally for personal note-taking, but may seek a better solution (more on that below).

Have you ever wanted IFTTT but for which browser links open in? You want Choosy. I’ve been able to craft some cool flows that allow Google Meet links to open in Chrome even though I largely use Safari as my primary browser. It’s powerful!

Magnet •
This is my window manager of choice on MacOS. It’s simple and just works well for my brain.
I use Hazel to do simple things like sort and archive screenshots from my desktop, move certain kinds of downloaded items and organize scans captured with my Doxie. Fantastic all-round utility.

I used to track shows, movies and books in Things, but not any more. Sofa’s dedicated app and clever user interface gives me just the tools I need to organize and log what media I’m consuming. I also love the home screen widgets on iOS!

Ivory •
We all followed along with the slow downfall of the bird app. The community I cared about rebuilt itself on Mastodon, so I’m happy for such a robust and beautiful client across all Apple platforms.

Between the persistent browser tab and the frequency I open the iOS app, is this still a hobby? We’ll see.
This deserves a longer post at some point, but the Shaper3D iPadOS app has given me endless pleasure as I dive deeper into my 3D printing hobby. It’s a genius app that really has been thoughtfully designed for a touch interface.

What’s next

I didn’t mention it, but I also heavily use core Apple ecosystem apps like Mail, Reminders, Safari and Notes. I’m happy with most of these apps and use them both for personal and professional reasons. I’m eager to replace Mail with Mimestream but it’s not urgent.

I am looking to improve my notes experience and have started experimenting with Obsidian, Roam, and Reflect. We’ll see if anything sticks. Obsidian is promising, but the setup experience has me disappointed.

I haven’t used it yet, but I suspect I might end up using Linear at work in the next year. I’m excited to try it out.

Lastly, I’ve been keeping an eye on Raycast and might try that out as my default launcher on MacOS.

We’ll see if anything shifts in 2024!

I figured out the iPad

I got the beautiful, shiny new iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd Generation) about 6 months after its initial release in 2018 along with the corresponding Magic Keyboard case. I had quite a lot of aspirations to replace my laptop in many situations. The most promising was going to be travel. I was hoping to travel lighter and perhaps even leave a laptop behind on work trips.

Along with the rest of the community I quickly figured out that multitasking and the app ecosystem were not up to the task.

Around 2020, I did realize that I loved doing 3D design on my iPad using Shaper3D. I got a 3D printer and wanted to make sure it wasn’t another reason to spend time at a computer. Three years later, I’ve designed hundreds of models sitting on my couch while hanging out with Kaylin and watching shows. This has been a bright spot in my iPad usage.

Earlier this year I upgraded to the M1 iPad Pro model. It’s so much faster (and enables even more complex 3D work). It’s still bad at a lot of things.

I was recently describing my iPad usage to a friend and the reason I love this device finally clicked: it’s not a computer.

Single tasking. 3D creative work. Mindless scrolling on Reddit. Watching YouTube. Archiving email. Organizing Todo’s in Things and Reminders. All the “little” stuff that I want to do on the couch, all with the ease and joy of using a keyboard, trackpad and Apple Pencil.

This is a remarkable, weird little super computer. I still am figuring it out, but I like it. I think.

Oh, and this blog has been entirely written on the iPad Pro.


Update on December 12, 2023.

Time has a way of progressing at a confounding pace. Slow and fast, punctuated with all kinds of tragedy, joy and change. This blog has laid fallow during a time of personal change. I finally had a moment to revisit and realized this was the most recent post. The post below remains unmodified from its original publishing but the world has been forever altered since it was written on February 24, 2022.

Hamas’s attack on innocent Israeli citizens was horrific and terrorizing. The ensuing war that Israel has been conducting that is impacting the innocent children and adults of Palestine has been barbaric and horrifying.

I don’t claim to be an expert on war, foreign policy and foreign affairs. However, it’s easy to see the permanent impact that the conflict has had on the citizens of both countries.

War cannot be forever. It cannot be the answer. I’ll let the existing column inches from people far smarter than me hash out the details, but my heart still breaks. For Palestine. For Israel. For Ukraine.

I was 16 in 2003 when I watched the initial “shock and awe” campaign unfold on cable television. I listened to cable news anchors parroting the threat of weapons of mass destruction as a clear and present danger, a justification for raining down mass destruction on Iraq. I saw thousands of young people being sent over to fight this war. They were only a few years older than myself.

My feelings about the unfolding war were intensified by the approaching deadline of mandatory registration for the Selective Service. Would this war end up justifying a draft right as I came of age? I still have a copy of my enrollment card, printed in rapidly fading inkjet on cheap paper.

It wasn’t even the first Iraq war I remembered. I have fuzzy memories of Tom Brokaw’s voice saying “fox holes”. I remember seeing footage of tanks rolling across dunes and wondering what creates a Desert Storm. Oh, right — oil. It was 1991. I was four.

I’ve reached adulthood in a generation of millennials that grew up on war. I have friends and family who bravely served our country, fighting petty and largely unjustified wars. Those people are heroes. The people who started the wars are criminals. It’s a duality with which we’ve had to accept as we move on with life, perservering through a financial crisis, a global pandemic and more.

I know people who’s lives have been wrecked by untreated PTSD from their service. I know people who’ve made a good career out of their service yet harbor misgivings about the machine in which they are a cog. I know people who served and have returned to a civilian life, mostly unscathed. They are lucky.

Last night I watched Russia invade Ukraine. Instead of cable news anchors droning on about American might, I doom-scrolled through Twitter, TikTok and Reddit watching raw footage of the conflict unfold. I heard stories. I heard the voices of a peaceful people full of uncertainty and fear about what the dictator next door really might be able to accomplish. And I saw the early morning devastation as Ukrainians worst fears came true.

There are young people in Russia wondering if they will have to fight. There are young people in Ukraine wondering about their future — and wondering how to fight back.

I find the footage of anti-war protests in Russia to be heartening. Cameras panning the crowds show a young population speaking out, potentially at great personal cost, against the actions of their puffed up despot. A young population that understand this war is unjust and unprovoked.

I’m sorry if you read this far and hoped I might have any sort of conclusion. I don’t. I just feel so young to remember so much war.

Shop Infrastructure: Flex Shaft Grinder

The months are ticking by at an astounding clip, so I figured it was time to tackle a small infrastructure project in the shop over the weekend. For Christmas, I got Kaylin a flexible shaft grinder from Harbor Freight. When she’s working in her studio she often needs something a bit more aggressive than a diamond file or sandpaper and the grinder is the perfect tool.

After discussing, we decided that it made the most sense to keep the dust in the workshop instead of trying to create a setup in her much cleaner studio. The grinder will also be useful for post-processing 3D printed parts, so I will benefit from having it in the shop as well.

The grinder itself has a direct drive spindle and a motor designed to be hung above the work area. Instead of hanging the motor, I designed and printed a wall mount and a holder for the hand piece so everything could be mounted for quick access. All the cable organizers are also quick 3D printed parts.

Image of grinder, hand piece and power strip mounted on the wall.
All parts mounted for easy access right above the work bench.

So far this is incredibly convenient to have in reach right above the bench. I might adjust where things are mounted over time if it’s not working as expected. As a final enhancement, I am designing a holder for all the the rotary tools and bits that will get mounted for easy access.

A Toddler and His Water

Life is flying before our eyes. We suddenly have a 17-month-old toddler running circles around our house, collecting rocks and twigs in the yard and smearing food across every surface we own. It’s an amazing and often hilarious time.

We’ve learned something. Water is very, very complicated.

We drink water. We bathe in water. We swim in water. There is water in the toilet. There is water in the dog bowl. There is water sitting in the edge of the washing machine and dish washer. There is rain water. There are puddles. There are hoses full of water but that water is not the same as the water that comes out of the fridge. Oh, and sometimes water is frozen.

Teaching Finnegan that that toilet water and dog bowl water are very different than a glass of water, which in turn is very different from the pool and also different from the bath, has proven to be a very difficult task.

For now, we’ll just have to watch out for his speedy hands as they get dunked in to my glass of water for a quick splash and discourage drinking out of the big, delicious vessel that is his evening bath.

Water is hard.

Plex, Synology and Streaming Nostalgia

Kaylin is much more of a movie buff than I am—some of her most cherished movies include classics like Pete’s Dragon, the Back to the Future trilogy, Elf, The Secret of Nimh and then take a sharp turn towards the broad category of Christmas movies. Our DVD collection is… something interesting.

Shortly before the winter holidays I won the argument that our DVD player was taking up excess space and not getting used. I was granted permission to begin digitizing the whole collection.

I’ve had a Synology DS418 Play since December 2019. It’s just been acting as cold storage for files and I’ve been anxious to put it to use as a media server.

Luckily, this isn’t much of a how-to post. The documentation for Plex and Synology made the process incredibly easy so I’ll only outline the tips that I collected along the way.

The Setup

  • Synology DS418 Play
  • Plex Media Server installed from the Synology Package Center
  • Apple TV 4K running the Plex app
  • LG C9 television

Initially, it was unclear to me that the media I wanted Plex to reference should live a folder other than the default Plex folder that Synogloy creates during setup. Once I realized this, I quickly made a Media shared folder that contains only two folders, TV Shows and Movies.

In an update some time after I initially completed the installation, Plex added new text files in the root directory instructing that no media should be placed in the Plex folder. Helpful.

Scanning Media

I was aware that Casey Liss had well written article about his DVD ripping process which I followed exactly, including the compression scripts mentioned at the end of his article. I found MakeMKV to be simple and easy to use.

Unfortunately, I got ahead of myself and scanned quite a few DVDs and compressed them before previewing on my television. I found the compression far too agressive for my taste when viewing on the LG C9 so I ultimately re-ripped those files and simply moved the ~4-6gb .mkv files to the server.

File Names

The advice in the article to use The Movie Database to search for movie titles was perfect. Plex was able to index all my named files following the Movie Title (Date) format.

TV Shows

I struggled when scanning a few television show seasons. Renaming became tedious and I started writing a quick script to do the heavy lifting. Before I got too far down that path I did a search in the Mac App Store and landed upon TV Show Renamer Pro.

It’s far from a perfect app but it does what it says on the tin. I ran in to a bug (that turned out to be a bit of bad UX) and I received a response within hours when I emailed the developer for help.

I’ll continue to use the app any time I add TV shows to our collection.

Enjoying the Setup

Once the scanning, sorting, and naming were completed everything has been working without any issues. We’ve been able to watch our movie collection on our TV and other devices streamed directly from our personal cloud running in the basement.

It’s been great to have easier access to some of the nostalgic and classic movies. Plex places your own media on par with a Netflix or Hulu experience. It’s so great to be able to jump in to your own media with ease.


This blog has been fairly quiet over the last few months. I’ve struggled to find words to write here that seem worthwhile. Just now, I’ve written and deleted three paragraphs because it’s unclear how to sum up my feelings about 2020. Never in my life have I experienced the extremes that I’ve experienced this year.

This has been an intense year for our family. January began with losing my father-in-law to a decades-long battle with MS. Two weeks later our son was born. Two months later COVID-19 began sweeping the country, leaving Kaylin and I to raise Finnegan largely in isolation. As the summer began, the country was reminded yet again that Black lives do indeed matter and that our system of policing is broken.

Later in the summer, we spent time at the beach, alone. I launched a new product with my team at work—my colleagues all working remotely for the first time. This fall, election season ramped up and our country avoided four more years of catastrophic leadership. We watched the results roll in from a cabin in the woods, between many hikes, alone. Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone without the usual festive outings and family gatherings.

It sounds like this might be a complaint, a down note with hours left to go in the year. Although we’ve had incredibly tough moments this year, I feel lucky and blessed. We’ve been able to adapt and live comfortably and safely this year. One year ago I was sitting with Kaylin, counting the days until Finnegan’s due date, thinking about what the coming year would hold. We certainly could not have predicted this year.

My heart goes out to my friends and family who are essential workers. The stories they have to tell of this year are the real stories, the ones that matter. Wear a mask. Stay home. Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. These are the three best ways to say thank you to those who’ve been tirelessly serving our country.

Nothing about this year has been what I expected. I’m tired. I’m anxious to see what the coming year holds. I’m nervous, but I am hopeful that we have a path forward to a new normal.

Stay safe. Here’s to a new year—one where we can process the terrible losses of the year past and work to a better existence for us all.

A Needle of Hope

As I suspect most of us do, I too have a had a very unhealthy habit of checking notifications and scrolling feeds shortly after I unglue my eyelids each morning. For the past four years it has been a drudgery. This last year it’s been excruciating to see the news of the pandemic, lost jobs, political outrages, fires and smoke, and the vast array of other misery that is neatly summarized every day.

The last two mornings have been different. My feeds have been full of family, friends, and acquaintances posting selfies of themselves receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. I tweeted this morning to summarize my feelings, but I’m overwhelmed and joyful to see the start of the end of the pandemic.

It’s a surreal feeling to read the headlines over the last several weeks. A new president, multiple vaccine approvals, friends actually receiving those vaccines—it feels good. Having a bit of hope about the coming year is a very new feeling, but I like it.