The Vinestead Anthology

One universe. Five books. Zero sequels.

Book One



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Book Two



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Book Three



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Book Four



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Book Five



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Connect iCloud to Windows 10 Calendar App

I’m writing this post because, although I set this up earlier this year, I tried to do it again today and couldn’t remember how it was done. ALL of the information I searched for was wrong. 

So, to my future self who will set this up on a computer some day, this is how you can use your iCloud calendar in the Windows 10 Calendar App.

  1. Go to www.icloud.com and log in.
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Under Apple ID, click Manage
  4. Log in again for some reason
  5. Under SecurityApp-Specific Passwords, click Generate Password
  6. Load Windows 10 Calendar
  7. Add Account
  8. Choose iCloud
  9. Use your Apple ID and the app-specific password generated in Step 5.

And that’s it. No privacy settings. No rebooting your computer. It’s so easy and so IMPOSSIBLE to find on the Internet.

Por Vida Preorder Bonus

The latest chapter in the Vinestead saga is officially available for PREORDER today!

“Why should I pre-order your book, Daniel? What’s my incentive?” – Billy the Square

That’s a great question that cuts right to the bone, Billy! You’re right; you should get some kind of bonus for preordering Por Vida and supporting my flailing writing career. Because yes, the joy and warm feeling of letting an independent author know his work is valued just doesn’t mean much in this on-the-go, Insta-snap world of ours. You need something more, and I understand that.

So here we go.

If you PREORDER the Kindle edition of Por Vida before January 9, 2017, I’ll send you a PDF of the first ten chapters of the book. That’s enough for you to meet the characters and learn a little about the Vinestead universe in the years 2035 and 2045 (including the Great Machine War so often mentioned in previous books).

“What if I don’t like the ten chapters? What if I cancel my pre-order?” – Billy the Square

Well, that’s your choice, Billy. Just keep in mind that I’ll know you canceled, and for every refund I see come across my dashboard, I’m going to give my dog a mean look.

 Cheyenne doesn't tolerate mean looks very well.

Cheyenne doesn’t tolerate mean looks very well.

If your conscience can bear indirectly causing a canine emotional distress, then by all means request your refund. But if you do, please consider donating the money to your local animal shelter.

Otherwise, forward your Amazon receipt to daniel@verastiqui.com, and I’ll send you the Por Vida: Preview Edition and my thanks as soon as possible!

 

Your email address won’t be used for anything else.
It won’t be added to my mailing list.
I won’t rat you out to the FBI.

I’ll just file it under email address of awesome person in my head.

 

Target Practice

“Take a deep breath and release it. When your lungs are empty, gently squeeze the trigger.”

Jessie tightened her grip on the Sig Sauer and inhaled sharply through her nose. The girl’s body trembled as she held her breath, but Gordon put a steadying hand on her shoulder, prompting her to release it. She tightened her finger around the trigger, rocking through the Sig’s double action, until finally the hammer fell and the gun jerked in her hand. Twenty yards away, the bullet tore through the outer border of a paper target before embedding itself in the wooden backstop. Five inches to the left and she would have hit the green silhouette. Seven more past that and she would have put a bullet between the eyes of the would-be assailant.

“Sweet,” said Gordon, patting Jessie’s shoulder. “You scared him. Now try to stop him.”

The wind had loosed a few strands of her blonde hair; Jessie tucked them behind the earpiece of her safety glasses. She followed his instructions again, but slower this time, taking several seconds to draw in a breath. It fluttered out through her slightly parted lips, almost visible in the cold November morning. She paused to let the last of the shivers leave her hand and then pulled the trigger twice in quick succession.

The first bullet landed just inside the green target while the second didn’t even mark the paper.

Jessie thumbed the release on the side of the gun and dropped the empty magazine into her waiting hand. She inspected the chamber to make sure it was empty before placing the Sig on the foam lining of its carrying case. She stepped away from the blue barrel and open her hands to show Gordon they were empty.

He nodded at her. “First shot was on target. He won’t be hearing anything out of that side of his head for the rest of his life. Second one missed entirely.” Gordon went to a knee and looked up at the ten year old girl who just the week before had been reluctant to even pick up a weapon. “You rushed it, Jess. You breathe, you fire. You shortcut the process and someone’s gonna end up getting the better of you.”

“Sorry,” said Jessie.

“Hey now.” Gordon touched her on the cheek. “Don’t be down. I didn’t learn to shoot until I was twice your age. You’re gonna be dotting Indians in no time, guarantee you me.”

Her eyes lit up at the prospect. “You mean it?”

“Just takes practice,” said Gordon, drawing himself up. He raised a finger in the air. “I fear not the girl who has fired a thousand guns once. I fear the girl who has fired a single gun a thousand times.”

Jessie stared back, unblinking.

“Put three more in the magazine for me,” he said, handing her the autoloader.

As the girl shook three bullets out of the small ammo box, Gordon caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Coming out of the tree line behind him was the blue vest and wide-brimmed hat of Jeff Evans, the democratically elected arbiter of the Lost Pines Survivalists camp. His gait suggested there was more to his sudden appearance than the desire for an early morning stroll. He held up a hand as he cut through the benches that had been set up for spectators.

“Ready,” said Jessie, holding up the magazine.

“Slot it up, but don’t charge just yet.”

“I thought I’d find you two out here,” said Jeff, touching the brim of his hat. “Does your mama know what you’re up to, Jessie?”

The girl nodded enthusiastically. “It was her idea. She said Mr. Gordon is the best shot in three counties.”

“Is that so?”

Gordon shrugged. He had no choice but to play humble when people talked about his skill with a gun. Had it been some innate ability or something acquired through years of practice, he might have smiled and genuinely accepted the praise. But no, his abilities had come through code, had come from a shortcut he had just told Jessie didn’t exist. He had thought they might fade with time, like the muscle memory in his fingers that no longer remembered how to play the opening riff to Paradise City, but they persevered through the years, through the neglect.

“What’s he got you shooting there?” asked Jeff.

Jessie ejected the magazine, checked the chamber, and then handed the gun grip-first to Jeff. Gordon had spent two days going over gun safety with the girl, and he was proud to see her treat the weapon with respect without having to be reminded.

“Looks like this guy’s seen some action. From your personal stash?”

Gordon nodded. Mechanical arms in the video library in his head sought out the tapes of a night some twenty years ago when the Sig and its identical brother had last seen action. Before the imaginary vidscreen could flicker on, Gordon began to count, running through an ascending list of integers to keep his mind busy. The numbers incremented faster and faster, until the impulse to relive the past faded from conscious thought.

“Well,” said Jeff. “It’s a fine weapon. Why don’t you show me what you can do with it, Jessie?”

The girl looked to Gordon for permission. He handed her the magazine and nodded to the blue barrel.

“Take it slow,” he told her. “Count to twenty between each shot.”

Gordon and Jeff took several steps back as Jessie got into position. She wouldn’t be able to hear them at a distance with her earplugs in, but Gordon spoke in a softer voice just to be safe.

“So what can I do for you, Sheriff?”

“You know I hate when you call me that, Gordon. Authority is held by the people, not by the person. All I do is help settle disagreements.”

“And you do a fine job.”

A breeze cut across the firing range, prompting Jessie to lower her gun for a moment.

Gordon looked back at the sun behind him. The sky was clear, but the cold and the wind were keeping the harsh rays at bay. It was a fine day for a little target practice.

“I don’t know a lot about you, Gordon. But I do know you value your privacy. We all know that.”

The first shot rang out.

“Spit it out, Jeff.”

“There’s a woman at the gates, asking after you. Not by name, but… Gordon, the things she knows about you, the way she described you. I mean, it just fits your timeline. It explains why you walked in here twenty years ago with a single duffle bag and a reluctance to tell use your real name.”

“It’s Gordon.”

“No,” said Jeff. “It’s not. She showed me the pictures. You’re younger, but it’s you.”

“What did you tell her?”

The second shot answered for him, followed by an aborted cheer from Jessie.

Jeff cracked a smile. “I told her to fuck off, what do you think I told her?”

“Good man.”

“But that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned. Some of the things she told me, well, they might make Clemons nervous. You two already don’t see eye to eye, and this might be enough for him to stir up some serious noise. I for one wouldn’t want to see you get the boot.”

The resulting silence was broken by the third shot. Jessie put the gun down on the barrel and turned around, smiling.

Gordon gave her a little clap.

“You don’t owe child support, do you?” asked Jeff.

The memory of a hotel room at the Austonian flashed. Her saw her lying on the couch, her head rolled to one side, before the counting drowned the image out.

“Not likely,” said Gordon, chuckling.

“It makes you nervous, doesn’t it? Having someone come ’round asking for you?”

“What makes you think that?”

Jeff lifted the brim of his hat and made a show of looking down. “You’ve had your hand on your gun since I mentioned the pictures.”

Gordon loosened his grip on the Sig and crossed his arms again.

“So she was telling the truth,” said Jeff. “You really are him.”

“No,” he replied. “Not anymore.”

“Come on, Gordon. You know none of us really change.”

“Mr. Gordon! I got him in the face!” Jessie had retrieved the paper target from the backstop and now held it out proudly in front of her.

“A fine shot,” said Jeff.

“Good job, Jess. I think that’s enough for one day.”

Jessie looked like she wanted to protest, but the girl had gotten used to taking orders as one of the stipulations of Gordon training her. She showed her empty hands and then took off at a youthful run towards the tree line. “See you tomorrow, Mr. Gordon!”

Gordon waited for her to disappear in the greenbelt. “I guess that depends on what you tell Clemons.”

“I’m not gonna tell him a damn thing,” said Jeff. “But you may want to come clean to the group about who you really are. We’ve got families here depending on each other for survival. It’s not fair to use us as cover. Like you said, you’re not the man you were twenty years ago, so I think you know you have to do what’s right.”

“What’s right? Or what’s necessary?”

Jeff patted Gordon on the back of his shoulder like a father might do before teaching his son a lesson.

“That depends on which is more important to you.” He touched his hat and headed off towards the tree line, leaving Gordon alone with the cold breeze.

As he cleared the Sig and placed its various pieces into the foam lining of its carrying case, he thought about how lucky he had been to last this long. Going off the grid wasn’t something done on a whim, and staying off for good was a dream rarely realized. Thoughts of what he could have done differently ran through this head, but back then, he’d done all he could. Cutting all ties to the world, sending out false leads, saying goodbye to the technology he had loved so dearly: these were the sacrifices he had made.

“I’m not going back,” he said aloud.

If anything, it was time to go deeper. Flee to Peru or Siberia, somewhere the tech couldn’t follow him, where stories of his past had never been heard and passed around like legends. He’d find another group of outcasts to glom onto, maybe teach their children how to shoot and kill, prepare them for the coming war.

Gordon hesitated, but finally willed himself to take that first step towards the tree line. Soon, he had passed through the greenbelt and come out on the east side of the compound near the vegetable gardens run by Sam Reed and his boys. A dirt path took Gordon to the plaza where half a dozen men stood sipping water from canteens. Around them were ATV flatbeds loaded with freshly cut firewood. A group of younger boys were transferring the wood to wheelbarrows so they could distribute it to the roughly thirty families lived and work at LPS. Last year’s winter had been the worst Texas had seen in decades. No one was going to suffer through a cold night this year, not if Clemons had anything to say about it.

Tyler Clemons nodded to Gordon as he passed. The former golden boy at Mac Haik Temple still talked like a used car salesman, but even Gordon could detect the sincerity in his voice. If Russell Hildebrand had actually died from his pneumonia last winter, Gordon was pretty sure Clemons would have climbed down into that little boy’s grave and stayed there until he joined him on the other side.

And yet something about the man didn’t sit right with Gordon.

He managed a curt nod and continued on his way. Past the double-wide trailers, Gordon took a northerly turn and ended up near the small stream that ran through the compound. Across a newly built footbridge and up an abrupt rise was his cabin, complete with its own bathroom and separate bedroom. Those hadn’t come with the cabin when he got it, but he’d found that home improvement was just as effective as counting when it came to keeping the memories down. So he’d redone the interior, added his own water closet, and finally the bedroom, of which his twin bed filled half.

Gordon stepped inside and left the door open behind him.

The main room was big enough. A fireplace sat between two wooden rockers. Facing them was a couch with new upholstery done by Jessie’s aunt. Directly ahead, a small refrigerator buzzed from the half-kitchen. There was no stove, but the hot plate was sufficient for making a quick meal. To the right was Gordon’s dining table, not that he could remember ever eating dinner there. Most of his meals came from the cafeteria where he could sit around expansive picnic tables with like-minded individuals who had withdrawn from a world that was spiraling out of control.

Withdrawn from a government that wanted to enslave them.

From corporations that wanted to exploit them.

From a population too frightened to believe that salvation could come from within, from the innocent men and women trapped in the system.

Gordon crossed the room and stood next to the rocking chair. He fingered his belt until his holster started to slide down his leg, leaving the Sig safely tucked in his other hand. With a groan, he collapsed into the chair and put his head back. It was too early in the morning to be feeling his age, but the cold always made the creaks worse. His mind jumped forward, playing out the scene to come. For once, he didn’t start counting.

Instead, he closed his eyes and waited.

Sometime later, footsteps sounded from the door.

When Gordon opened his eyes, he saw the small frame of a woman standing in silhouette except for her hair, which burned a fiery red. From the center of the shadow, gold dots stared back at him across the gulf.

Gordon steadied the Sig on the arm of the chair.

“What took you so long?” he asked.

Hayden Island

FEED://banks.media/celebtracker {DANNY GUNS MONTREAL. Seen walking around the flower district in Portland, OR at 18:45:39 PST with TANZY. Got into I.C.E-1 branded SUV after eating at Che La Vie. DEVELOPING.}

The SUV followed I-5 north for several miles before taking the exit for Hayden Island, curling its way downward into a misplaced suburbia on the northern edge of Oregon. Well-to-do Portlandians hurried across the wide roads in their dense jogging suits, their reflective limbs catching the light from the SUV’s LEDs. Moon towers floated above retail parking lots, their pinpricks of illumination supported by tall, unyeilding stems. Danny watched the pedestrian parade roll by, took note of the few cars they passed.

Lexus. Audi. Tesla.

Real estate opportunities on Hayden Island were effectively nil, so it spoke to I.C.E-1’s power and influence that they had carved out their own little section of the moated sanctuary. Tanzy had never talked about how much money her hacktivist collective brought in every quarter, but Danny was sure it was orders of magnitude higher than what he earned in his solo endeavors.

Rusted train tracks passed over the SUV’s moon roof, briefly illuminating the interior. Danny noticed Tanzy’s hand on the knee of her crossed leg, tapping out a rhythm that was either anxiety or anticipation.

“It was nice of you to finally come up,” said Tanzy, noticing his gaze.

Danny nodded as he turned to the window again. “It was time. You live in Umbra long enough, you start to think the rest of the world doesn’t exist. It’s nice to see there are still normal people walking around.”

“Normals. The affluent aren’t normals.” She gestured to a passing row of boats on trailers. “They’re our meal ticket. Client and victim, all in one convenient package. It just goes to show you, babe; it’s not about having the right product, it’s about selling to the right people.”

Danny bit back his own sarcasm and nodded politely. Perhaps later after they had rolled around in the sheets a bit he would say something about her schooling him on the basics of business, but not here, not in front of her driver and the muscle sitting in the passenger seat. As the figurehead of I.C.E-1, Tanzy’s authority was above question, and guests who didn’t temper their responses with the necessary deference often felt the full force of that authority.

Another flash of a streetlight. A smirk on Tanzy’s face.

The SUV made a tight turn into a row of trees that held close to the road for about a quarter mile before opening up into a large clearing. A squat, two-story building sat in the middle of the clearing surrounding by fifteen-foot high fencing tipped with razor wire. Robotic sentries stood on high pedestals at eight points, scanning for threats. As the SUV entered the clearing, low guide lights rose from the side of the road, illuminating the car from all sides. The gate opened automatically, and the guard at the booth gave a small nod to the driver as they passed through.

“Isn’t this a little much?”

Tanzy shook her head. “You can never spend too much on security.” She leaned forward to speak to the driver. “Up front is fine, Miguel.”

They stopped in front two massive, steel doors and a guard was at Tanzy’s door in an instant. Danny let himself out of the SUV and walked around it to join her.

To the left of the door, a small brass plate read simply, “I.C.E-1.”

“Welcome to my home, Mr. Guns.”

Inside, the headquarters of I.C.E-1 looked just like any other generic office space, with hallways stretching out to the left and right, carpeted with blue hexagons on a green background. Framed reproductions of the Portland skyline dotted the walls between doors. Tanzy ignored the hallways and walked through the double doors on the far side of the foyer.

The decor shifted to pure minimalism: white walls, thin black lines framing doorways, and a light gray grid on the floor. The lobby was larger than Danny’s apartment back in Umbra, and the cavernous space made the receptionist and her desk look tiny.

Tanzy gestured to the girl. “My niece, Evangeline.” She cupped her hand to her mouth. “Long-ass name, kinda rolls off the tongue like a brick into shit.”

Danny tried not to laugh as Evangeline approached.

“How are things tonight, Eva?” asked Tanzy, her voice echoing.

“Just a few messages, Aunt T. Also your guest arrived about an hour ago. I set him up in your waiting room.”

Tanzy stopped in the middle of the room. She gestured to Danny. “My guest is standing right here.”

“Oh,” said Evangaline, “I just thought.” Confusion swept over her widening eyes.

“You let someone into my office without an appointment?” She looked back at the guard standing just inside the door. “How did they get into the building?”

“Not just someone…”

Tanzy reached for her waistband under her jacket and withdrew a metallic 9mm. She started for her office doors.

Evangeline ran to intercept her. “No, no, it’s okay. It’s Mr. Coker. I recognized him from the feeds. He didn’t have an appointment, but I didn’t think you’d want me to turn him away.”

Benny Coker?” asked Danny. “White Line Benny Coker?”

The girl nodded.

“Does this happen often?”

Tanzy shrugged. “You know those types. Think they can just barge into any collective in the country and start throwing their money around. I like the money part, but I can’t stand the audacity.”

“What are you going to do?”

She slipped the 9mm into the back of her pants and motioned to a door on the left. “I suppose there’s no harm in hearing him out. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Pass up a chance to watch you do business? I can’t think of anything hotter.”

“Let me dispatch this feed monger, and then I’ll show you the meaning of hot.” Then, louder, to Evangeline, “Give me five and then bring him in.”

Danny followed her through several backrooms, including a doorway that was partially hidden behind a shelf full of empty computer cases. The door opened into her private bathroom and from there they stepped into her office. She walked to the front of her desk and turned to Danny.

“How do I look?”

She wore dark jeans that hugged her legs, a white shirt that hung loosely over her waist, and a black jacket of luminescent leather. A hand-knit scarf of purple and black wrapped around her neck. Wavy hair framed a natural face, its color matching the plastic frames of her glasses.

“Like the queen of Portland. A pleasure to be in your company, your Highness.”

Tanzy rolled her eyes, smoothed out her shirt, and gave her breasts a quick lift with both hands.

Two short raps came from the door, and then they opened to reveal Evangeline and a middle-aged man in a dark blue suit. He removed his sparkling white cowboy hat when he saw Tanzy.

“Now what is owner of the third-largest media feed in the country doing so far from the Jersey Shore?”

Benny smiled in return, nodded to Danny. “Sorry for dropping by unannounced. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Tanzy.” He held out a hand in greeting.

“Please, just call me Tanzy,” she replied, shaking his hand. She jerked her head towards Danny. “This is Felipe, my sex slave. You may call him slave or boy.”

“Oh, no,” said Benny, chuckling. “I’ve seen enough feed to recognize Danny Guns Montreal when I see him. I meet celebrities all the time at my casino, but I can honestly say this is a real pleasure.”

Danny shook hands with the man, felt the sweat already building in his palms.

“If you ever get out to the East Coast,” continued Benny, “give me a ring. I’ll set you up at the White Dragon, on the house.”

DIY Gladiator Garageworks Mini-rails

Because the price of rails is too damn high!

If you called me up and said Hey Daniel, these guys are gonna kill me unless you cut me some French cleats free-hand with a circular saw, I would calmly reply well you better go to your happy place because you’re about to get straight-up murdered.

After viewing April Wilkerson’s French Cleat System video, I thought to myself maybe this is the excuse I need to finally get a table saw! But at over $300 for a good one, I decided to put off this purchase and try doing the 45-degree length-wise cuts myself. As you can see from the photo above, I failed miserably.

Dejected, I decided to just order some new bins for my existing Gladiator Garageworks system ($). As I was adding the new rails (which honestly aren’t that expensive), I realized they are overkill for what I wanted.

So I just ordered the bins direct from Whirpool (Amazon doesn’t have them in stock) and waited for them to arrive.

Then, PROJECT!

Measuring for mini-rails

Since screws and nails don’t weigh that much, we don’t need the full Gladiator rail system. All we really need is a lip on a mount. Lip on a mount. Lip on a mount.

That’s fun to write.

Cut the lips

I had some scrap wood (I think 1/4″?) that fit nicely into the tabs on the back of the bins. So I cut those into 2 1/4″ strips.

Man that scrap wood is terrible. Splintering all over the place. Thank god for eye protection.

You should test the fit of the scraps you cut. If you want to be fancy-pants, you can make the strips actually fit snugly. It’s a game of eights though, so be careful or you’re gonna have to do some sanding.

Cut the mounts

Use a thicker piece of scrap to cut the mounts. I believe I chose a 1/4″ as the lip depth, but who knows at this point? I wasn’t really keeping track.

Glue those bastards together. On the first rail, I used the smallest screws I could find. Then I discovered you can use brad nails, which is so much more fun! Find the shortest brads and put one in each end. Then cut the excess off with some dikes.

Make sure you use some glue. That’s what all the pros are always saying, anyway.

Repeat the process

Build as many rails as you want. I did six before I got really bored with this project and wanted to go inside to play video games.

Find a place to mount the rails

Again, stealing an idea from April, I decided to mount the rails on the inside of the door to my water heaters. That would keep them out of sight and make the garage look cleaner. Double win.

Take note that if you’re gonna do this, you have to account for the lip on the doorjamb as well as the length of the bin (where it might hit another door or jamb as it closes). I was able to fit 4 of the Gladiator bins on each row under these constraints.

Done!

After mounting all the rails and the bins, take a step back and admire your work.

Do not be fooled by the angle of the picture. I assure you they’re level. Probably.

24 new bins for holding stuff! How exciting. I was running out of space in my old bin storage unit. If I fill up these guys, I’ll repeat the process on the other door. Now you know.

Alright, I think that’s enough BSIY posts for this year. I should probably get back to writing a new book or–gross–exercise.
 

BSIY Fold-down Workbench

Because you park your cars in your garage like a good American

Oh, Saturdays. Is there anything better than a Saturday with nothing else to do? You wake up, cook yourself some chorizo and eggs, pop a few Ripped Fuel pills, and decide to build yourself a fold-down workbench in the garage.

Also because the Longhorns don’t play until six.

Let’s talk supplies

Head over to Home Depot in your SUV and purchase the following:

  • 4′ by 4′ plank — if you go longer than 6 feet wide, you may have to add another foot. That will look weird. And where will you attach it?!
  • (3) 2x4x8 — whatever color, material you like
  • Piano hinge
  • (2) 3″ bolts in 1/2″ diameter w/ nuts.
  • A latch! — Something like this.
  • Some screws — wood screws, 2.5″ or 3″

Make sure you purchase all of these things together, take them out to your car, and not be able to fit the 4’x4′ plank into your Nissan Rogue. You’ll really enjoy having to go back into Home Depot to have them cut the plank for you.

Measure out the framing

As April Wilkerson points out, you want to put the frame a few inches from the edge of the plank so you can use clamps. Measure, make some marks, do a little dance.

A speed square makes makes this speedy and square

I went all the way around before I realized that one edge of the plank is going to have the frame flush against the wall. So, you can do all four corners, but be sure to measure from one edge to one intersection for the boards.

Cut three sides of the frame

As I learned in the previous Mirror Framing Incident of 2016, it’s a crap-shoot to measure and assemble a frame by itself and then try to fit it to something. Instead, measure the sides one-by-one and screw them into place somehow. April drilled holes for pocket screws; I couldn’t figure that out at all! I just clamped the boards into place and screwed up from underneath.

You can go all gangsta pocket holes on the cross beam if you want, or, just screw in from the sides.

Complete the frame

At first, I cut a board to fit snugly in the open space. Then, I realized I wanted the eventual legs to fold flat against the bench when it was stowed. This meant leaving enough room on the sides for the legs. Here’s the progression.

I used some scrap to size the new board. I was so proud of myself for being smart.

Attach board to wall

Now, why are we doing this step now instead of after the feet are cut? Well, smart-ass, maybe you forgot that your garage floor isn’t level! Yeah, now who’s writing this post?

Anyway, grab a level and your favorite drill, find some studs, and just go to town. That means whatever you want it to mean.

If this is the first time you’ve ever attached a board to a wall, try putting the center screw in first, but don’t tighten it all the way. Then you can rotate the board until it is level, drill a pilot hole, and screw it into place. The more you know, right?

Make one good leg and one crappy leg

This really is the hardest part because who knows how legs work.

Note: If you mounted the board on the wall at your desired height in the CENTER of the board, then one leg will be slightly shorter than that height and one leg will be slightly longer. That’s all I can say about that because it’s too complicated and you’re an adult.

Here’s the sequence I used for the second leg.

  1. Use a speed square to mark 45 degree angles from both corners (making an X)
  2. Drill a 1/2″ hole at the X
  3. Put the board in place in the workbench and clamp it down. Use the existing hole to drill into the frame.
  4. Remove the leg and trace a circle that is centered around the hole you drilled. Surely something in your garage is the right size.
  5. Use a jigsaw to cut the half-circle

I decided to cut both boards to “a little longer than final” so that I could get them attached and see how much I needed to cut off to get level.

The crappy leg — don’t just make a lot of marks and hope it works!

Clamp, drill, etc…

Left leg is shorter than the work surface; right leg is longer. This will make sense later.

Test the fit on the wall

You can now put the workbench on the really sturdy board you attached earlier. Test the level and adjust the length of the legs as necessary. I’m not gonna lie — my first-try legs produced a perfectly level surface. Yeah, that’s right, first try.

You can see how badly I mangled the left leg at the top.

Latch it up, latch it down

We’re coming to the step where we’re going to attach the plank to the board on the wall. To do that, we need a way to keep it against the wall while we work. Use a scrap piece of plank (from the piece the Home Depot guys had to cut for you because you don’t know the size of your car).

Measure, attach it to the wall, and put the latch on it.

You can use the second half of the latch on the plank if that’s your style.

Attach the piano hinge

The hinge I got from Home Depot was 4 feet long and needed to be cut down to size. Figure out which way it’s supposed to bend and attach the plank to the board on the wall.

Once you’ve filled all 89-bajillion holes in the hinge, your bench should look something like this.

Another cross beam

The keen observer will note an extra cross beam in the previous photo that was heretofore unmentioned. This keeps both legs in sync as they fold out and also keeps the legs from coming out too far when you extend the bench.

Attach the cross beam while the bench is folded out and put the beam right below the framing.

Depending on how much attention you pay to your projects, you might be able to get both sides of the cross beam flush with the framing.

WARNING: This beam creates an excellent space to mash your fingers!

Put your car in your garage

Fold your work bench up and pull your Japanese car into your American garage like the thoughtful neighbor you are. Seriously, why do people park ten cars in their driveways? Or worse, on the street? Or worse, on the street in front of my house?!

It’s a thing of beauty.


Disclaimer: This edition of BSIY was kind of a cheat because I watched this video of April Wilkerson building a DIY Fold Down Workbench. She’s really amazing and details every step of the build. If you’re actually interested in building one of these, I fully recommend you watch her video.

She even has plans available on her website (for a small fee), but that kinda defeats the purpose of Bullshit-It-Yourself, doesn’t it? Come on, only a lame-o uses plans and schematics. You’re not a lame-o; you’re a bad-ass BSIY vato.

Disclaimer 2: I only took on this project to justify buying a jigsaw. Don’t tell Dom.

The Empty Story

Speaking of things I didn’t realize early in my writing career, did you know there is more to a story than a simple gimmick? It’s easy to break my novels down into gimmicks (Xronixle – VR, Veneer – AR, Perion Synthetics – Robots), but those don’t really encompass the totality of those stories.

For every novel I publish, there are dozens that never get past a handful of chapters. I used to wonder why that was, and I was able to put a name to it the other night while watching the Westworld premiere.

Every story that stalls out… is empty.

What does that mean?

Suppose we start with an idea: a tornado full of sharks is making its way up the coast of California. Well, as undeniably awesome as that idea is, it is nothing without real human drama added to it. Imagine you made a movie about that very idea, but you didn’t add any humanity to it, didn’t give the characters feelings or identity or motivation. That’d be a pretty shitty movie, wouldn’t it?

The idea of a theme park full of pseudo-artificially intelligent robots is a gimmick plain and simple. It’s nothing more than a setting. If you want to make a good story out of it, you have to add something more to it. Make no mistake, I enjoyed every minute of the Westworld pilot, but it didn’t click for me until Anthony Hopkins was interviewing Dolores’ dad.

The dad says something along the lines of you’re living in a prison of your own sins.

Suddenly the story is about more. There’s something LARGER than the story INSIDE the story. There is more to Westworld than a superficial gimmick. At least, that’s the promise.

Por Vida is a novel about synthetic transcendence, obsession, friendship, mental health, y más y más, but I struggled for a long time to write it. Initially, it was just a guy and a girl in a bunker at the end of the world. Just that idea alone makes me think oh that’s neat, but how do we change that to oh that’s compelling?

A great example of what I’m still failing to articulate is the movie Inception. Without the Cobb-Mal subplot, I don’t think that movie would have worked as well. As it is, once that twist is revealed, subsequent viewings of the movie become less enjoyable. The dreams are an interesting idea, and the visuals are stunning, but without those core human emotions of betrayal and love and regret… it’s not the same movie.

It’s hard to enumerate the steps that take you from superficial to deep while writing a story. For me, it has only happened four times in 16 years. I try not to worry about it, and instead choose to focus on my ability to recognize when a story is empty

Ah, the life of a writer: knowing you suck, but not knowing how to fix it.

But at least we’re self-aware, right?

Further reading: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

BSIY Mirror Frames

Because your girlfriend said it would be easy

When Dom and I built a new home last year, we had this idea of using pre-framed mirrors in our bathrooms. We asked the builder not to put anything on the wall, so of course we spent a month staring at a blank wall while brushing our teeth. The problem, we discovered, was that there were no mirrors available in both small and large (for my sink and hers) with the same style of framing.

The only solution was to buy naked mirrors and build the frames ourselves! At least, that’s what she told me. So we got some mirrors from Lowe’s and some supplies from Home Depot. We looked at some plans online, but that’s not really my style. They don’t call it Bullshit-it-Yourself for nothing.

I drew up a plan.

I know, it’s really complex. But, the plan was only to figure out how much molding we needed for the frame.

Now, I could tell you about the first mirror frame I built (it took a month), but I know your time is valuable, so we’ll skip right to the second mirror, which only took a day.

1. Gather Supplies

Here’s everything you’re going to need and why.

  • A mirror (optional — you can choose to print a 30×36 poster of Jeff Goldblum if you wish)
  • 1/4″ x 2″ x 4″ sheets of plywood to act as backing
  • Crown molding or baseboards, whatever floats your boat
  • Liquid Nails
  • Caulk
  • Sliding Miter Saw (Confession: I only accepted this project because it would allow me to purchase this.)
  • Small screws (for securing backing to molding)
  • L-brackets (for larger mirrors, as extra stabilization)
  • Mounting hardware
  • Painting Supplies (paint, brush, tape)

2. Arrange backing

Lay out your plywood to create a base. We’re going to arrange them to make the minimal amount of cuts later.

Do your best to eliminate any gaps between the plywood.

3. Set mirror on backing

Get your girlfriend to help you carefully place the mirror on the backing.

Let’s assume you’ve already messed up a frame or five before tackling this project. Use some scrap molding to carve out the plywood by placing them right at the edge. Use clamps to hold them in place while you push the mirror into the corner.

Use EVEN MORE MOLDING to mark cut-lines on the plywood (left pic). Cut the plywood down to size and use molding to confirm it is close enough (right pic).

4. Cut and glue the molding

Without letting the mirror move, remove all the scrap molding.

If this is your first time using a sliding miter saw, you’re in for some fun! Pick a side to start on and cut the first piece of molding. Use 45-degree angles and eyeball (you can measure if you are one of those DIY weirdos) the placement.

Glue it down with some liquid nails and use clamps to make sure it stays up.

Work your way around the mirror in this manner until you have three sides completed. DO NOT GLUE ALL FOUR SIDES unless you enjoy starting things over.

Note: For whatever reason, I had little luck measuring and cutting. Instead, I carefully made a cut, tested the fit, and repeated until it was perfect. Get it as close to perfect as you can; we’ll fix the tiny gaps with caulk later.

5. Glue the mirror down

If the mirror is sufficiently large, ask a friend, neighbor, or pastor to lift the mirror as you apply liquid nails to the plywood.

You should probably use a lot of glue. Like, a lot. You wouldn’t want this thing falling off the wall onto your sink and then your bathroom floor. That’s seven years bad luck.

6. Complete the frame

Using the skills you learned in Step 4, cut the final piece of molding and glue it to the plywood. Give it some time to set.

7. Add some bracing (optional)

The smaller of our mirrors didn’t seem to need it, but because of the size of the larger one, the entire frame felt kinda flimsy. To ensure a uniform shape, add some L-brackets to the back of the frame.

This keeps the two pieces of molding in each corner steady so you can caulk them.

8. Secure those panels

Use some of those small screws to secure the plywood to the molding. What size screws, you ask? I don’t know, man. Just a small one that won’t poke up through the molding.

At the very least, add screws to the joints between the plywood panels. Add them along the border at regular intervals. I’m sure there’s a scientific method for determining the maximum distance between each screw but we’re gonna leave that to the science nerds.

9. Clean up your mess, you animal

Depending on how the mirror is going to be mounted, you may want to clean up the rough edges of the plywood, since they’ll be visible from the side. Use a file and some sandpaper to smooth those out.

Admittedly, this is the worst part of this BSIY design. It’d be nice if the plywood could somehow be recessed into the molding so that it’s hidden, but I’m not Chip Gaines and neither are you.

10. Fill the seams

Use a caulk gun (or brute strength) to fill in the seams at the joints.

You might as well tape prior to caulking since there is a seam that touches the mirror.

11. Sand, prime, paint, and hang

This part doesn’t involve a single power tool, so I won’t go into much detail. Make the frame look nice. Take frequent breaks to show your girlfriend and make sure she’s pleased.

Final Warning

Do not attempt to craft the frame without the mirror in place. Doing so will inevitably lead to the mirror not fitting in the hole. Then you’ll have to cut the backing, fit the mirror, and redo the backing. It will look horrible. Like this:

This project doesn’t take very long, so don’t worry about being without a mirror. If you start in the morning, it can be on your wall by dinner.

And then, dinner!

The Broken Promise of Synthetic Transcendence

by Aiden Haefer | Banks Media Productions | 01.15.2035

There’s nothing special about the Plummer Tower on the corner of Fountain and Gardner in Hollywood, California. It has a modern design of black windows on a gray grid and stands fifty stories tall. From the outside, you wouldn’t be able to tell it houses one of the biggest lies of the twenty-first century.

Since the technology was developed twenty years ago by Perion Synthetics, more than 78,000 Americans have bought into the slick marketing campaigns of companies like Vitra Synth.

Their message isn’t subtle: by transferring to a synthetic body, you can live forever.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Prospective clients are told their consciousnesses are moved to a synthetic body, but how is that even possible? A synthetic body doesn’t have an organic brain. Just because you read out of one book and write to another doesn’t mean it’s the same book.

This is hardly a new question:

In Reasons and Persons, [Derek] Parfit asks the reader to imagine entering a “teletransporter”, a machine that puts you to sleep, then destroys you, breaking you down into atoms, copying the information and relaying it to Mars at the speed of light. On Mars, another machine re-creates you (from local stores of carbon, hydrogen, and so on), each atom in exactly the same relative position. Parfit poses the question of whether or not the teletransporter is a method of travel — is the person on Mars the same person as the person who entered the teletransporter on Earth? Certainly, when waking up on Mars, you would feel like being you, you would remember entering the teletransporter in order to travel to Mars, you would even feel the cut on your upper lip from shaving this morning.

Then the teleporter is upgraded. The teletransporter on Earth is modified to not destroy the person who enters it, but instead it can simply make infinite replicas, all of whom would claim to remember entering the teletransporter on Earth in the first place.

Using thought experiments such as these, Parfit argues that any criteria we attempt to use to determine sameness of person will be lacking, because there is no further fact. What matters, to Parfit, is simply “Relation R”, psychological connectedness, including memory, personality, and so on. [source]

The method of transcendence offered by Vitra Synth is similar to Parfit’s teletransporter idea. A wealthy subject’s brain is copied bit-for-bit into a synthetic chassis. According to VS representatives, the process is “destructive” and leaves the subject’s brain non-viable. Thus, the original human dies while the synthetic human lives on.

But, as Parfit points out, is the new synthetic you really you?

More to the point, by electing to undergo a procedure that renders our brains non-viable, thereby resulting in our own deaths, are we not committing some form of suicide?

For the rich and powerful, the prospect of immortality likely outshines any philosophical questions of self, but for the rest of us, we have to ask ourselves: who are these synthetic humans? Do they share our goals, values, and beliefs?

Is the process of transcendence truly destructive? Or does it simply need to be to prevent Parfit’s paradox (or more likely, uncomfortable questions)? There won’t be any risk of waking up on the wrong table if the original human is killed, right?

* * *

It’s not hard to understand why First Humans groups like Tru Organa and Stop Synthetic Proliferation were created. By allowing companies like Vitra Synth to offer Personhood-as-a-Service, we are setting a precedent that devalues human life and raises synthetic life to a level matching our own.

The kicker? None of it would be possible if customers were more informed.

2015 gave us the dawn of synthetic humans. In 2025, Joseph Perion championed a synthetics rights campaign started by his father, resulting in the granting of personhood to fifteen hundred synthetics. Today, there are almost 80,000 synthetic humans walking around as if they are just like us.

They’re not.

If you’re considering synthetic transcendence, consider this:

  • Your organic body will die, thus you will die
  • A copy (screw what the marketing says) of your consciousness will awake in a synthetic body. You will not be human. You will not be you.

Pottery Barn? More Like Desperate Barn.

All I wanted to do was buy Dom a skeleton. It seemed simple enough. She saw it in the store and really liked it. I thought, huh, maybe I’ll order that online and surprise her? So I did just that. But, in order to get a 15% percent coupon, I had to enter my email address.

I know. You’re thinking: you brought this on yourself, Daniel. And sure, I wouldn’t have minded an email every week from Desperate Barn (not their real name, but lots of people are saying they’re desperate, lots of smart people. I don’t know, someone should probably look into that), but what I got instead was just… disappointing.

That’s just way too many emails. And a lot of them were the same damn email about 15% off my first order.

So yeah, I know what the solution is, but did it have to come to this? Did I really have to write a blog post about it?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that Por Vida work has dried up until the book comes back from the proofer, so I’m really, really bored. So this is what is has come to.

TL;DR

You’re doing email marketing wrong, Pottery Barn.