Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: A Series

The world is singularly focused on the pandemic. COVID-19 is the primary topic covered by every news outlet. We’ve all been indoors for weeks, working from home if we can. I am not qualified to predict what may happen or to give medical advice (you can read that here). I just know that we must all stay home and should wear a home made mask when we leave the house for essentials.

In the midst of COVID-19, I can’t help but see everything happening around me in a strange new light. Things feel so much the same, yet so incredibly new, different—dystopian.

So, I will be publishing a series of short posts sharing thoughts, photos, and collected media. If you pay attention to what is happening in your community and online much of this will be mundane or repetitive.

I expect to look back in a year, ten years, twenty—and instantly relive the feelings evoked by these scattered bits of ephemera. I just want a record of these strange times. For me. For Finnegan.

I wore a mask in public. A mask that I laboriously sewed the day before. I’m not at the point where I plan to shave my beard so I sewed a mask that I thought would cover and be comfortable. It was just OK.

In these weird times, while wearing a mask to go to a medical appointment, I’m contemplating iterative improvements to a DIY face mask.

Me, in my face mask.

Built-in Basement Shelves

We’ve constantly been working on our house since we moved in. Kitchen, bathrooms, paint, full basement remodel—it’s been busy.

We decided it was time to tackle a smaller project in our basement. We’ve wanted to transform an awkward space between two doors in the basement and make it useful with some built-in shelving! We’re incredibly happy with the results.

The Build

This was a pretty straight forward project. I purchased primed pine boards from Home Depot as our base material and put everything together with screws. Each screw was countersunk so it could be hidden under wood putty.

First, I mounted some rails into the studs to establish the shelf spacing.

Rails mounted into the studs. I had to avoid the outlet and the thermostat.

I worked my way up from the bottom, measuring each shelf board and front piece. Nothing is square or plumb, so each shelf is a different width.

Bottom shelf in place for a test fit.

After cut to length, the shelves and front piece were glued and pin nailed together to hold them in place while drying. Then, finished with some wood putty and sanded.

Once the shelves were all in place and secured with some screws into the back rails, all the countersunk holes were covered in wood putty and the edge and front joints were caulked to give it that really nice built-in appearance.

This is what happens when I’m left alone to style a photo.


Years ago I built a set of shelves in a closet and finished them with a trick that I found on a carpentry forum. It’s now my go-to trick for finishing surfaces that will take some abuse, like shelves.

It’s really simple:

  1. Prime and paint your shelf boards in flat latex paint
  2. After a good painted finish is achieved, add several coats of water based polyurethane, sanding lightly with high grit sandpaper between coats.

I’ve used this for shelves, a small section wood floor in a closet and a few other small projects over the years and I love how it turns out. It’s a nice smooth finish to the touch, it’s durable and stands up to wear. And you can make the shelves match anything by using the appropriate paint color!

And that’s it! Great project, lots of room to store books… and room for toy bins below for the future.