Welcome! I am an engineer, programmer, designer, and gentleman. You may be interested in some of my electrical and mechanical projects. Take everything you read here with a grain of salt and remember to wear your safety glasses.

An Unordered List Styling Curiosity

Recently I completed work on a website that featured a lot of elements with lines tilted 30 degrees from the vertical. That site is Vaba Design, the new home of my professional portfolio, of which more anon. Seeking fun ways to echo that theme in as many design elements as possible, I hit upon the following method for transforming the bullets from an unordered list into 30 degree parallelograms, without using images.

ul li {
  list-style: none;
ul li::before {
  transform: skewX(30deg);
  content: "\25aa";
  display: inline-block;
  width: 1em;

The content line above inserts a Unicode character, in this case U+25AA or “Black Small Square” before the rest of the line. That gets skewed into a parallelogram with the transform declaration. Depending on other things like fonts and colors, it could look like this:

This works pretty well except if your list item overflows a single line, in which case the second line won't indent as you might want. It will start at the beginning of the bullet instead of starting where the text of the first line starts. But if that's not a problem for you, give this method a try.

Making a Custom Hardwood Base for a Video Doorbell

Here's a recent project: upgrading my parents' 1980s-vintage intercom to a new video doorbell. It wasn't as easy as you might think, especially as the intercom left behind a huge hole in the wall that needed covering with this nice piece of walnut. That meant learning some new techniques, such as cutting bevels on vertical workpieces on the table saw (similar to how you might make a raised panel cabinet door) and finishing with spray lacquer (a revelation).

Building a Laundry Room Sink Cabinet from Birch Plywood

Kitchen and bathroom cabinets are hard to come by. What is a DIY remodeler to do? This video is what. Watch it and see one way of building and installing your own laundry room utility sink cabinet. A good solution if you can still find the plywood!

Reading in 2020

Having finally updated my reading list for 2020 and completed all the usual analysis, I have to shake my head in disappointment. I only read 20 books, the lowest number since I started compiling these lists in 2016! Where is the huge list of checked-off titles one would expect in a year ten months of which saw I and pretty much everyone else practically forced to abandon our distractions, empty our social calendars, and sit quietly inside getting some work done? I'll tell you what happened: work, by which I mean work other than reading, expands to fill the time available, and it's hard to tell from which direction the expansion will come.

In my case that expansion mostly came from everything involved in improving my home workspaces, setting myself up to work-from-home in a R&D lab of one, building some things I'm mostly pleased with, and getting some videos of those things published. As soon as some level of lockdown arrived (never very severe anyway in my home state of Florida) and the horizon of my free time widened, it was too easy to say yes to those voices, both of others and of other parts of myself, that prefaced their requests with "since you're not busy anymore...." Perhaps I'll spend 2021 saying no instead.

And maybe I'll return to some other pre-quarantine patterns too. I remember that, having failed to read 36 books in 2019 as intended, I had scaled back my ambitions for 2020. Now I know that I failed those goals as well, despite unexpectedly ideal conditions. So this year I'm back to 36. I may miss again. But 2019's 33 books is still a lot better than 20, and if setting a more ambitious goal is responsible for that, I think it's worth doing.

Theme Park at Home: Walt Disney World's EPCOT Floating Planters

After a couple of years of thinking about it, I built a floating planter, similar to the ones at WDW's EPCOT, and set sail with it on the lake my parents live on. Disney was kind enough to provide instructions in a book titled Secrets of Disney's Glorious Gardens, but I departed from this book in some significant ways, for instance, by adding an anchor system that allows us to bring the planter to shore for maintenance. Also, in the video I build a hot-wire cutter to make the styrofoam circles of the planter, a cutter equipped with a motorized rotary stage that turns it into something like a foam lathe.