Viewing entries in
My Stuff

I Built a Gaming Table!

I Built a Gaming Table!

Ever since I first saw the Geek Chic products at C2E2 a few years back, I've been slightly obsessed with having my own convertible game table. The only problem is that they are expensive as hell.  Convincing Dani that we needed to invest in one just wasn't going to work.

So then I thought, I'm pretty good at making things... maybe I could make my own table.  Oh poor naive Tori, this was going to be a serious project. First things first, I started to research! I scoured the web for resources.  It turns out more than a few other people had this same idea. So like the good crafty person that I am, I started a Pinterest board! In the end, I decided to take the general approach in the nicely laid out plans here: Game Table Project with Step By Step.

First Try:

With my first attempt at a table, I started with a modified size. I felt like the original size was too large.  This first frame was largely an exercise in how things could not go the way I wanted. It was also a good lesson in how inaccurate pre-dressed lumber and hand power tools can be.

Take Two

I was pretty unhappy with the way the first frame came together. the sides were bowed in and in general it just wasn't how I wanted it.  So I took it apart and started over.  This time following the plan dimensions a bit more closely. Since I don't have a table saw, planer, or various other shop tools I had to make a few substitutions.

  1. My arm rails are an inch wider.
  2. I used pre-made table legs chopped down for height in lieu of the tapered legs.
  3. I used pre-made crown molding under the arm rests

Messing up the Top Insert

The insert is, and has been one of the toughest part of this build. Which is why my table currently sits without one. A couple problems came into play building this piece.  The pre-dressed wood from Home Depot (as previously mentioned) is not precisely cut, and is often slightly bowed. So getting the top measured and cut correctly to fit the opening, which is also ever so slightly off from square, turned out to be a large issue.  

I would up with an insert that fit super tight. There was not enough clearance to allow for the wood to swell in the summer correctly.  In attempting to remedy this I managed to really fuck up the insert by cutting it too short on one end.  I then had the bright idea of cutting it in half and doing adding a piece down the center perpendicular to the other boards.  But again, I ran into issues making this happen with imprecise tools and uneven boards. So currently that part is on hold.  I think I may eventually try to build leafs instead of one large piece.

Finishing it Up

Please excuse the pun, I couldn't help myself.  This was also my first attempt at applying finish to a piece of furniture.  And it taught me a few very valuable lessons.  The first being always try to do your sanding before final assembly. The second lesson was in how messy staining is.  I choose a dark stain to match our other furniture.  I then followed that up with a couple coats of a hybrid oil/water based polyurethane for the arm rests and the inside vault walls.  You can see the finished project below.  Well, I'll say it's finished until I get a table saw and can build the insert leaves.

Always looking to break out some dice. Let me know if you want to come over and play some games!

Groot O'Lantern

I hadn't carved a pumpkin the past few Halloween's.  I thought it'd be fun to resurrect that old tradition with one of my favorite new comic characters. After searching around on the web, I found a nice pattern that I thought I would try of our good friend Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.  You can find that pattern on the website. 

My carving skills were a bit rusty and the pattern was pretty ambitious, but I think it turned out pretty well.  I even used the dirty flat side of the pumpkin to give the Groot O'Lantern a bit more character in the daylight. 

In hindsight, however, I think I would have taken the approach where you etch out the design instead of cutting all the way through the pumpkin.  A couple of days later, Groot is looking pretty shriveled up and pathetic. :(

Baby Joanna's First Birthday

A little over a year ago, our friends Sarah and Brandon brought this beautiful little girl into the world.  Dani and I are fortunate enough to get to spend time and be a part of her life.  Below are some photos from her first birthday party. As you can see, she loved playing with Molly, Laney, and her birthday cupcake!

Recent Life Musings Stanley Cup Edition

The wife was away this weekend to a fitness blogging conference in Portland, OR, so I had myself a fun little weekend.   I saw a couple movies, did a bit of shopping, and played some nerdy games with friends. I missed Dani, but it was nice to have some play time. I picked up an early birthday present for myself - Lego R2D2. In case anyone wonders... Lego's always make a great birthday present. :D

The past couple weeks have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. There's been a lot of good news and a doozy of some bad news. I'll start with the with the bad news. About two days after the marathon bombings I slipped on some stairs and I thought I had twisted my knee.  Turns out I finished off my already weakened anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. So lucky me gets to have surgery in a couple of weeks which pretty much finishes off the chance of any fun summer activities this year and likely any hockey until after the first of the year.  I'm pretty bummed!

Back to brighter news, did you hear the Chicago Blackhawks are the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions? That's right 2 cup rings in four years. I remember watching the Hawks for so many years growing up every year either not making the playoffs or coming up short.  It's so easy to take for granted how consistently good the team has gotten over the past six years.


NHL 2013 Finals Banner

NHL 2013 Finals Banner

The downside this year was living here in Boston during the finals. Being a fan of the enemy team is not a much fun. It's even less fun when your wife and her whole family are rooting against you. It made for an oddly emotional series for me. I just kept thinking about how awful it would be here if the Bruins won and I'd have to hear about it all year. Thankfully the hawks came out on top, in stunning manner. And bonus I got to attend a finals game for the first time ever. Unfortunately it was pretty much the worst game the Hawks played the entire series.  Still a pretty amazing experience.

NHL 2013 Stanley Cup Finals Game 2

Oh and my championship hat and hoodie will be here this week! 

The other big awesome news this week was the Supreme Court overturning part of the Defense of Marriage Act. So now my marriage is fully legit. LIke for realsy, no take-backs, all the way legit.  So in a handful of states the misses and are are no longer second class citizens. Score for progress america!

Well, thats all I've got for today. Less than three months until NHL training camp!

A While Later...


This will be my last post about the events of April 15th, 2013.  Though it's only been a little over three weeks, it feels like much longer. And so much has happened in my life and in the world since then. I want to put down some final thoughts and move on with my life. I want to post about my awesome weekend in Chicago, and get back to sharing my monthly Loot Crate goodness. I'm still alive, unharmed and have, hopefully, much more life left to live.

This past Sunday Tom and I went along to watch Dani run the Quincy Half Marathon. It was the first time since the bombings that either of us were at a race as spectators. it was a small race, about 600 people I think.  There was only a handful of spectators, all family and friends of the runners I assume. And Dani did quite well, gaining a new personal record by about 4 minutes if I remember correctly. It was sort of an odd feeling being back in that environment  I did feel a little bit of anxiety which I allowed myself to indulge in, but then quickly shrug off.  There was a fairly heavy police presence which provided a relatively safe feeling that allowed me to move on with my day.

At the start of the race, they took a moment of silence to remember those who we lost and those who were injured at the bombings. I got emotional again. I find I can't help it when the event is brought up in such a solemn way. The race director then gave a short speech about the best thing we can do is keep on doing what we love, running. By "we" I mean of course the runners - not us lowly spectators.

It bothers me that in this speech, and in the articles I've read since the marathon, the focus is always on the runners.  As a person who is often at races to spectate and support my wife, I feel somewhat slighted and unappreciated. The bombs on April 15th tore through the crowds watching the race. They killed three people there to support and watch the runners.  Where are the uplifting messages to thank and support those of us who love to come and watch our friends and family?  We may not be running all the races, but are we not worth a mention given what has happened?

But hey, we are all "Boston Strong" right?  I wasn't sure, and still am not sure, if I should publish my thoughts on that sentiment.  When this slogan first came out as a powerful message of solidarity it felt nice. The mass thoughts and prayers coming from Boston and around the world were almost palpable. But then it turned into something else.  Through internet memes, media, and merchandising it took on a atmosphere of celebration. A "Fuck Yeah Boston!" kinda feel if you will. And this happened so fast.

To me that feels wrong. It feels way too soon. There are people still in the hospital, people still reeling from the events. The bloody images from the street are still way too fresh in my mind for any kind of celebration spawned from those horrible acts. It's sort of like being at a party where everyone else is happy and cheering but I'm just sad and angry. Resilience and strength in a community after a tragedy are a good thing. Lets just not forget that what happened seriously fucked up life for a lot of people for the foreseeable future.

So that's pretty much all I wanted to say. I'm happy they caught/killed the guys responsible for this. I hope justice is done and history will forget their names, while remembering the heros from that day.  I'm still working through my own stress and anxiety.  The human mind is kind of amazing in the way it deals with things like this. The dreams I've had... oye! But it's getting better.  And if there is one positive thing I can take from my experience, it's a better appreciation for life and living it to the fullest.

Running through Disney

Well it's been almost two weeks since we've been back.  I guess it's finally time that I blogged about it.  I think once Dani heard about the Run Disney races, there was little chance that we would not be doing them. Right away we decided to take part in the 2013 Disney World Half Marathon, which coincidentally was the 20th anniversary of the race.  This race part of an entire marathon weekend which consisted of a 5k on Friday morning, the half marathon on Saturday morning and a full marathon Sunday morning.  Those that had lost their mind could compete in the "Goofy Challenge", which was doing both the half and the full marathons on adjacent days.

2013 Run Disney Marathon Weekend

So Dani, her parents, and myself went down for a long weekend to enjoy the race and some fun-filled days at the various Disney parks. We wound up staying at one of the Disney "budget" resorts - Caribbean Beach resort.  It's not a terribly luxurious place, much more suited for families.  But it was still pretty fun.  We had this pirate themed room which I thought was pretty awesome.  And it was nice that there was shuttles right outside the door that would take you to almost any of the Disney properties.

Our room at Caribbean Beach Resort

We landed in Orlando late Thursday afternoon. After we finally got checked in pretty much all we had time for was to head over to Downtown Disney for some dinner. Friday morning we were up early to go to the race expo and get our race bibs before getting to Hollywood Studios. (Formerly MGM Studios for those of you, like myself, have not been in many years) This is my favorite park.  It has the best rides - Aerosmith Rockin' Coaster and Tower of Terror - and some of the best attractions - Star Tours, Toy Story, and the Muppets.  But I think the thing that really sealed the deal for me was after walking out of the Muppet 3D show we ran smack into Phineas and Pherb. Of course we had to stop and get our pictures taken!

Phineas, Tori, and Pherb

After taking in a late afternoon dinner we went to be early. By early I mean 7pm. Our alarms were set for 2:30 am so that we would be ready to jump on the first 3am shuttle bus to the race start.  We were dropped off at the race festivities area which was in the Epcot parking lot. About 4am we all took a short 20 minutes walk over to the start line.  It was a huge race so there were tons of corrals. And as you would imagine there was a ton of pre-race stars, interviews, and eventually fireworks.  The race itself had its highs and lows.  The course took us down the highway around the front entrance to Magic Kingdom, and then into a back lot entrance into the park.  We ran through several of the "towns", through the castle and back out another side door.  The rest of the race was largely spent running along back roads near some of the resorts, then on the highway, and eventually the last mile and a half was into the front of Epcot, around the fountain and back out the entrance to finish in the parking lot.

Half Marathon Start Line

Overall the race was a good experience.  I was disappointed that we had very little park time.  But they did a good job of having characters and things to look at all over the course. Unfortunately because of my slower speed and corral position towards the back, the lines for photos at these characters were 20-30 people deep. I never felt like I had time to stop.  The other issue was that it was unseasonably hot.  The first half of the race was in the dark with temps in the low 60s. By the time I finished though, it was sunny in the mid-upper 70s and 80% humidity. With no shade I thought I was going to die. After three hours and some change I finally crossed the finish line and got this epic Donald Duck medal.

Donald Duck Half Marathon Medal

The rest of that day was spent at Magic Kingdom including an awesome character dinner with Pooh, Tiger, Piglet and Eeyore. Sunday we enjoyed Epcot, and Monday we took in Animal Kingdom before our evening flight back to Boston.  It was a fantastic trip and there is already talk of going back in 2015. Dani wants to run the Goofy Challenge on it's 10 year anniversary.  I think I'll let her do that one on her own!  There's a few more selected pictures below, and can see the full picture set here:

Star Tours

Under the Sea

Dani "Minny Mouse" Holmes-Kirk

Tori, Piglet, and Dani

Animal Kingdom

My Collection Obsession

Ever since I was young, I've had a bit of an obsession with toys.  Especially action figures. Being a child of the 80's I grew up with the like of He-Man and She-Ra, Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, Silverhawks, GI Joe, and Voltron to name but a very few.  I've always been pretty creative. I was constantly drawing and building things when I was a kid.  I think the combination of my love for these characters along with a deep appreciation for the artistry of sculpting articulated action figures and other toys has completely rekindled my love for these toys as an adult. Now that we have moved into our own place just outside of Boston, the wife has reluctantly allowed me to display parts of my collection.  Currently I have about 70% of my modern and vintage toys set up around the apartment.  I'm excited to share some pictures of the displays here.

There are a few lines I seriously collect, and others I casually collect.  The largest chunk of my collection is taken up by the various Masters of the Universe lines.  This includes the ongoing Mattel Masters of the Universe Classics Collectors Line.  I'm a current and future subscriber to Club Eternia.  Here are some counts of what I have verses the totals for each line.

Vintage MOTU Figure/Vehicles: 69 of 121
Vintage Princess of Power: 10 of 60
He-Man New Adventures: 9 of 41
Modern (200x) MOTU: 52 of 90
MOTU Classics: 84 of 98 as of the time of this post.
NECA MOTU Stactions: 5 of 18

You may also notice in the pictures above, I am a proud owner of a 99% complete vintage MOTU Eternia playset.  I've got nearly all the parts, the manuals, mini-comic AND THE FREAKING ORIGINAL GIANT BOX!  I LOVE this set and can't wait to get a table set up to display it.  It's huge - notice how it's almost as tall as the chair back!

Some of the other lines I collect are the vintage LGN Thundercats, Diamond Collectables Stargate SG1 and Atlantis, Mattel's DC Universe Classics (I'm a sucker for the build a figure concept), Bucky O'hare, and vintage and Modern Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Thundercats: 13 of 63
Stargate: 6 of ??
DC Universe Classics (single wave figures): 49 of 158
Bucky O'Hare: 7 of 12
TMNT Vintage: 74 of 262
TMNT Modern (2012): 14 of 14

There's also a few other random toys and such scattered around in on shelves and boxes.  As you can tell it's a hobby I really enjoy!  I'm heading to New York Comic Con in a couple of weeks.  I'm hoping to fill some of the holes left in my collection.

September Creative Mornings, Making Stuff, and Learning

Jake Nickell

I'm a bit late with this recap from the Chicago Creative Mornings lecture for September. I just finished up my last week working full-time for John Marshall, and things have been a bit hectic. The September talk was given by Threadless founder Jake Nickell at their headquarters and warehouse over on W. Madison.  He talked a bit about the history of Threadless and the process they went through from a basic website run from his apartment to the t-shirt juggernauts they are now.  I always find it incredibly inspiring to hear about someone taking an idea from a very simple first execution through to a really amazing product.

He then went on to talk about making stuff.  I couldn't help but to be motivated and moved by his passion for making things.  He strongly advocated for just getting out there and making something.  Make something new everyday.  Make things with your friends. If you have a great idea, just get out there and start making it. You don't need a business plan, or anything fancy and formal.  Just grab a friend, and start making.  In fact, the company recently changed their slogan to "Make Great Together". This could be seen painted in neon colors in a large t-shirt framed t-shirt art piece on the wall above him.  It's so clear once you enter the building, that the employees are encouraged to make new art to share within the space. I really took a lot away from this talk.  I recognize in myself that I have the tendency to try to over plan a project, or wait for things to be perfect to get started.   And it's a good reminder that it's not the case.  Take an idea and just start making. The video for this lecture has not been posted as of this blog, but you can see past Chicago CM lectures on Vimeo here.

What made this so perfect is how it really ties in with another one of my passions, learning.  I truly enjoy learning new skills, programing languages, techniques, and trends. And I've always found the best way to learn these new things is simply to start making with them.  I have recently started learning how to build web applications with Ruby on Rails.  After going over some tutorials, I dove right in and started building a project.  It's slow going at first, and I still have to look a good number of things up, but having a project to work on keeps me motivated.  The more I work on making this project, the better I will get at the skills I'm trying to master.  For another example: I was presented with a potential contract job by a creative staffing agency.  The client was looking for someone to build out a mobile website using jQuery mobile. While I am very proficient with HTML and jQuery, I had never used this new mobile library that had recently been released.  So I read up on the software, and went right to building a mobile website for my company utilizing the library.  It took me a couple of days, but when I was finished I had a lot better grasp on the software than I would have just reading the documentation. While I wound up not getting the gig, I was extremely happy to have been prompted to learn this new skill.

So to summarize: Stop waiting, start making. Everyday. You'll probably learn new stuff along the way. And chicks dig smart peeps.

Also, if you are in/near Chicago, you should definitely go see their space. They have a store up front where you can buy tees. Totally worth the trip.

A Thank You to my Co-Workers

It's my last day at the John Marshall Law School as a full time employee.  The hardest part about leaving here is this really great group of close friends I have made. I hope to still hang out with them outside of work in the future.  I put together a little video with clips I shot on the departments new hand held video camera. Hope you enjoy it guys! Thanks for everything!

Controlled House Destruction

Heard some racket outside, and walked out to see the house across the street coming down. Pretty fun to watch! Here's a short(ish) video of the front part coming down.