Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Algerian/Andorran Fusion

Week three of my “cook a dish from every country” challenge saw the classic combination of Algerian and Andorran food that we all love. I made Cannelloni Andorrana (a lamb and pork-stuffed pasta) and Algeria’s maaqouda (potato fritters).

For the pasta, I used a combination of recipes from around the Web: I made the pasta filling from onions, ground lamb, ground pork, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and pepper, feta, cream cheese, and an egg.  I used half a lasagna noodle for each roll, and I covered the rolled up noodles in a basic bechamel. After covering with mozzarella, I baked it for about 20 minutes at 400º.  I’m not used to the earthy flavor of lamb, but I liked it, and it did well with my family.

For the maaqouda, I followed this recipe from 196 flavors exactly, and they turned out great, although I should have added more salt to the “dough” before frying.  They’re basically fried mashed potatoes, so it would have been hard to mess them up.

What’s your favorite Andorran/Algerian food combination? Leave it in the comments below!

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Tavë Kosi from Albania

In week two of my “cook every country’s national dish” challenge, I made Albania’s tavë kosi. It’s cubed lamb shoulder covered in rice and then baked in a yogurt sauce; I also made pite në tigan, a fried Albanian flatbread.

While I didn’t care for the tavë kosi (the lamb was quite tough, and I don’t generally like yogurt-based sauces), the pite në tigan was very nice — sort of a cross between naan and a tortilla.

The photo I took was not very appetizing:


CNC, Maker, Woodworking

I Built a Mid-Century Modern Nightstand

When I was tasked with making a  31″ tall nightstand for my mother-in-law that would fit in a 9″ wide space next to her bed and provide drawers and a shelf. I decided to use the opportunity to try a furniture style I haven’t tried before: mid-century modern.

From what I can tell, “mid-century modern” basically means it can look however you want, but the legs MUST be tapered and they MUST be splayed at about a 7º angle, so I opened SketchUp and designed a nightstand with tapered legs splayed at about a 7º angle.

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Kabuli Palau from Afghanistan

In an attempt to broaden my culinary knowledge and my family’s palate, I’ve challenged myself to cook the national dish from every country (or something close to it). First on the list: Afghanistan.

I made Kabuli Palau (a.k.a. Qabili Palau or Kabuli Palaw); it’s chicken topped with rice topped with sugar-glazed carrots and raisins (and traditionally, slivered almonds, which I omitted).

I followed this thorough recipe and video from Afghan Culture Unveiled. It was a hit with my family, which was a surprise to me; our kids don’t usually like the meals that my wife and I like.

Which delicious destination will I visit next? Nobody knows (except me)!


Endonyms, Programming

Introducing The Endonym Project

An endonym is a name that people give to the area where they live. For example, you might live in a city that is officially named “Brooklyn Heights,” but you and all of your neighbors call it “The Heights.” This is an endonym.

I’ve always wondered about how well-defined the geographic boundaries are for endonyms that aren’t tied to specific locations.  For example, how far east do you have to go from Minnesota before the people who live there don’t say they live in the Midwest?  Do Wisconsinites consider Ohio to be in the Midwest? If so, do Ohioans?

To explore this idea, I’m building The Endonym Project. It’s both a tool for collecting endonyms and a place to display them.

To share your endonyms, just click the big pink button on the homepage, and you’ll be shown a map and a text box. The map will be centered on your general location. If you have a name for the area shown in the map, enter it in the form. Otherwise, click “I don’t have a name for this area.”

After each time you share an endonym, the map will zoom out and ask you for a term for the larger area — lather, rinse, repeat.

When you’re finished, you’ll be given a link to the map of endonyms.  This map collates all of the terms submitted on the site and displays them instead of the official map labels.  The more frequently an endonym is submitted for an area, the more prominently it is displayed on the map.

If there are more endonyms that aren’t being shown because you haven’t zoomed in far enough, the map shows red/yellow/green heatmaps.

So far, I’ve collected 3,386 endonyms. Add to that number by trying it out yourself, and let me know what you think.

Google Chrome, iOS, Mozilla Firefox, Programming, Reenact, Safari

Reenact is back on iOS, baby!

Five years ago, I wrote an iOS/Android/Firefox OS app called Reenact that helped you reenact photos.

Four years ago, I abandoned the apps in favor of a web app that only worked in Chrome and Firefox.

Today (zero years ago), I’m happy to announce that the web-based version of Reenact works in all major browsers on all major platforms, now that Safari on iOS supports camera sharing.

The web app can be pinned to the iOS home screen and works as well as a native app would. It doesn’t require Internet connectivity either; all of the image manipulation is done on the client side, and none of your photos are uploaded to anyone’s server.

Go ahead, give it a try!


She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy Now That It Has a Fresh Coat of Paint

I repainted a toy pedal tractor that we bought off of Facebook Marketplace to give to my son for Christmas. Actually, I repainted a toy pedal tractor TWICE because the cherry red spray paint that I used the first time never dried, so I had to scrub it off with mineral spirits and sand the body of the tractor back down to bare metal before using apple red spray paint the second time around.

To add insult to injury: just as I was finishing up, I tried to spray a little black paint onto the bolt I was about to use to attach the seat, and the top of the spray paint can exploded, sending dots of black paint all over the freshly painted rear wheel. I did the only thing I could do: had an aneurysm and then photoshopped the before-and-after pictures to remove the black speckles (jk LOL!).

Looking at these photos, I see that I also fixed the orientation of the front wheel.

The tractor itself is a AGCO Allis 9815 that was made by Scale Model Toys in Dyersville, Iowa some time in mid-90s, according to my Googling.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots:

Maker, Woodworking

I made some picture frames (banana for scale)

I made some picture frames for my sister to put her daughters’ school photos in. I’ve included some bananas for scale.

The frames are walnut with red oak inlay and a chamfer around the inside edge. The inlay strips were added after the frames were assembled.

I finished them with a couple coats of clear spray enamel and knocked it down with steel wool in between coats.

The contents are held in with some large plastic washers. I didn’t include a sawtooth hanger on the back because I hang 99% of all of my photos with 3M velcro strips, and any hardware on the back of the frame usually gets in the way.

Christmas, CNC, Maker, Woodworking, X-Carve

COVID Christmas Ornaments

Inspired by a picture my wife sent me of almost this exact same thing, I made some COVID-themed Christmas ornaments for the family members I won’t be seeing at Christmas this year.

You can make your own too, if you have an X-Carve; the Easel project is right here.

CNC, Woodworking, X-Carve

How to use your router to install your router lift for your other router

I bought a JessEm Rout-R-Lift II router lift for my shop. It needs to be recessed into a workbench, but it doesn’t come with a template for cutting an appropriately sized hole. You can buy an MDF template for $27, or you can do as a I did, and make your CNC router carve the hole for you.

I created a project for Easel, the CNC design software used by Inventables’ X-Carve CNC router, that will carve the opening for you. It leaves a ledge for the leveling screws and tabs for the mounting bolts. Here’s what the resulting carve looks like mounted in the wing of my table saw:

I drilled the holes for the mounting bolts afterwards and added threaded inserts.

The router lift fits perfectly in the opening. On my test carve (using a 1/8″ straight cut bit), it was snug on all sides, but I switched to a 1/4″ bit to speed up the final cut, and it left about a millimeter of play in both directions. The snugging bolts take care of that though, so I’m very happy with the fit.

That said, absolutely do a test cut before trying this on any material that you care about.

Inventables Easel Project: JessEm Rout-R-Lift II Template

3D Printing, Maker

Today’s Functional Print: Adjustable Shelving Leg Inserts

In today’s adjustable shelving news, I’ve printed an insert to join two vertical sections of a boltless adustable shelving unit.

The part looks like this, pictured next to an original:

To make it easier to print, I split it into halves and nested the parts, printing four full inserts at a time:

The shelving unit it gets installed into looks something lie this:


The piece gets installed between the vertical sections of the shelving unit, keeping them aligned:

I couldn’t find the brand name of these exact shelves, but it’s similar to this Hirsh model, and I’m pretty sure it came from Costco.

The SketchUp files (full, printable) and STLs (full, printable) are available in my 3D prints GitHub repo.

Apple, JavaScript, PHP, Programming, Software

Turn your Mac OS Photos library into a Web photo album

Six years ago, I released iPhoto Disc Export, a tool for exporting an iPhoto library as a standalone website. Now that iPhoto is no longer supported on the newest versions of Mac OS, I was force to update the software to work with Photos. Enter Photos Disc Export.

Photos Disc Export is a a PHP script that exports a Mac OS Photos library into folders of image files (one folder per day) and builds a minimalist JavaScript-powered website that provides a simple photo viewing experience. The website can be put online, or it can be run entirely offline (like from a burned DVD). The code is all open source and the usage instructions are in the README.

Here’s a screenshot of the main page of the website it generates:


And here’s an example of a single photo’s page:

I know it’s a pretty niche project, but hopefully it will come in handy for anyone looking to make their Photos library more shareable and accessible.

Photos Disc Export

Maker, Woodworking

Box with a Vengeance

My son needed to bring a box to school earlier this year for holding valentines, and he asked if I would make him one, so I made him one.  It’s walnut with a maple inlay, and it has a slot in front so that valentines can be put in without opening it.

This was my first time trying a wipe-on polyurethane, and I have to say that after putting on four coats and barely getting the same effect as a single coat of brush-on poly, I’m not impressed.

See also Box, the Sequel, and My First Time Boxing.

David Tewes, Publicity

TPT (Twin Cities Public Television, also known locally as channel 2) did a story on David Tewes and his museum exhibit, which grew out of the website that I created in 2017.

Amateur photographer David Tewes captured scenes in Minnesota and out west after World War II until 1955. About 800 Kodachrome slides were found by a distant relative, who uploaded the images to a website in Tewes’ honor. The images were found by Minnesota Marine Art Museum curators in Winona, Minn., and they decided to show the work.

“Distant Relative: The Chris Finke Story.”

Minnesota, Publicity

This happened last summer, but I forgot to mention it: Minnesota Public Radio ran a story about my research from 2013 on which state has the most shoreline.

“Chris Finke is a software programmer who is originally from Minnesota. He remembered watching an advertisement in 2013 from “Explore Minnesota” that claims there’s “More to explore in Minnesota,” including more shoreline than California. […] Finke decided to use an open-source mapping resource called OpenStreetMap and write a program to calculate the total shoreline for each state.”

It just goes to show you that genius is not understood in its own time, nor until it moves out of state.

David Tewes, Minnesota

A website I made is now a museum exhibit

A photo of the New England Furniture Company building in downtown Minneapolis in 1950 by David Tewes Three years ago, I wrote about how I found old Kodachrome slides in my father-in-law’s attic, scanned them, and put them online at  In an unexpected turn of events, photos from that website are now on display at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

Jon Swanson, the curator of collections and exhibits at the museum, reached out to me early last year. He serendipitously came across the site and felt that David had taken a number of photographs that fit in with the museum’s mission of exhibiting art inspired by water. I sent him the slides, and after what I’m sure was a significant amount of work on his and the museum staff’s part, the exhibit launched on January 10: Shutterbug: The Mid-Century Photography of David Tewes.

Minnesota Public Radio covered the news:

“Dave Casey, assistant curator of education and exhibitions at the museum, said the images carry both artistic and historic value that merit an exhibition. In addition to documenting that era, they also serve as a lesson of what photography was like and how it was experienced in the 1940s and 1950s. And Tewes’ unique eye and experimentation created visually interesting work.”

Their story generated almost 15,000 pageviews on and surprised my sister-in-law’s husband when he heard my voice on the radio on his way to work.

KSTP, the Minneapolis/St. Paul ABC affiliate, did a segment about David and his photos as well on the evening news:

If you’re in or near Winona, Minnesota (yes, the same Winona from the Super Bowl commercial), the exhibit of David’s photographs runs through May 3.

Maker, Woodworking

Whoever named the fireplace, good job

This was the fireplace in our living room.

It never worked properly since we moved in, since the previous owners didn’t use it once in twenty years. Fixing it would have cost as much as replacing it, and in order to replace it, we would have had to tear out the surround, and in order to tear out the surround, we would have had have to remove the bookshelves… Long story short:

We planned on replacing it all with a setup that looked like this:

We hired a professional to install the new fireplace and run a new vent line, but I did the rest myself.

We bumped the fireplace out into the room so that it would be more of a focal point, and we replaced the side bookshelves with different shelves on the top and a drawer/cabinet combo on the top.

The panels next to the fireplace open up to reveal storage with adjustable shelves — a good spot for video game consoles.

The panel above the fireplace opens up to allow access to the area above and behind the fireplace, just for good measure.

Because the fireplace was no longer embedded in the wall, it opened up a space between the living room and the utility closet behind it, so I built a shelving unit to use that space.