Working on Ghost Hunters has left a sort of lasting legacy on my life. I am far, far away from that work now, but there are frequent reminders of all that time spent on the road in those cold, dark places.

Now working on a scripted show, I watched an actor walk in for a script/table read last week… it was Steve Valentine, who just so happened to host the Ghost Hunters Halloween live show in Delaware in 2008. Imagine that! The last time I saw him was nearly 3,000 miles away, on the opposite coast. I found it bizarre, but that’s actually not the strangest coincidence brought about from my time spent on Ghost Hunters. The absolute weirdest, craziest thing that’s ever happened in my life was during the filming on Ghost Hunters Academy in 2009.

Filming in various towns up and down the east coast, we ended up in St. Augustine, Florida for a couple weeks, to investigate the old lighthouse there. When that wrapped up and we were heading out of town, one of our crew guys had to fly home to care of some personal business.

Our caravan lumbered up the highway to Jacksonville, and we set up camp at a gas station, while one of vehicles continued on up the road to take our crew guy to the airport. While waiting on the driver to return and relaxing in the driver’s seat of the RV (which had the GHA logo on the side), an incredibly fit-looking black man with dreads approached. “Hey, are Jason and Grant around?” he asked (Jason and Grant being the stars of the main Ghost Hunters series.) “Nahhh, they’re not on this show,” I said, “this is a spinoff……. You know, you actually look a lot like the guest investigator on Ghost Hunters Live in Kentucky.” He simply smiled, shrugged his shoulders a bit and said “yeah.” My mind was completely blown – was this the same guy??? While trying to figure it out, he said “Well, if you see them, tell ’em I said ‘hi,'” and he walked away. “Tell ’em I said ‘hi?'” DUDE! NO FREAKIN’ WAY!

My good buddy Ben (one of the Academy contestants) was sitting in the passenger seat, watching this whole thing go down, so I put him on the case. “Ben, look up wrestler Elijah Burke and see where he’s from!” He did, and discovered that our Ghost Hunters Live guest is/was from….. you may have guess it: Jacksonville, Florida!

No doubt about it, while working on Ghost Hunters Academy, I ran into the guest investigator of Ghost Hunters Live at a gas station 750 miles away from where the show took place. And that, my friends, is one of the two weirdest things that’s ever happened in my life.

Ghost Hunters Academy RV

The Ghost Hunters Academy RV and Chewie in New Jersey

 

If you are new(ish) to WordPress, it doesn’t take long to figure out that your pages are super-customizable, to such a degree that the options can become dizzying. Many of the tutorial pages about turning categories and/or tags into individual pages are just so convoluted and really filled with too much information. Since most of my posts fit into one of six categories (Music, Tech., Travel, etc.), I wanted to turn those categories into individual pages and have links to those category pages show up on every page on my site. It ended up being a really simple process, and this is what I did:

Step 1 – In your WordPress Dashboard, navigate down to “Appearance” – “Menus” as shown.

 
Step 2 – Give your Menu a title. It can be anything, and the title name won’t show up anywhere on your published pages. Click “Create Menu.”

 
Step 3 – Scroll down the page and select what categories, pages, and/or tags you want to turn into individual pages. Click “Add to Menu” for each section. If any sections are missing, click on “Screen Options” at the top right of the page and check any box that’s missing (options to display are “Theme Locations,” “Custom Links,” “Posts,” “Pages,” “Categories,” and “Tags.”)

 
Step 4 – You can rearrange the order your links will display on your pages by simply dragging and dropping them into the order you want. Also, you can create sub-links by dragging one of the gray page link boxes over slightly to the right. For example, if I wanted to make the link to my “Music” page appear in a dropdown menu when highlighting the “About” page, this is how it’s done.

 
Step 5 – Click “Save Menu” when done arranging and apply it to your site by selecting the menu you just saved in the “Theme Locations” box (where to select the theme is shown in the photo above; the final product is shown below.)

Feel free to leave some feedback if have any tips to add, need any clarification, if this post has helped, or if you want to just say “hello!”

To keep a short story short, we recently decided our big, round dining table was taking up too much space. As a replacement, we agreed to sacrifice the beauty of our coffee table in hopes that it would become something greater (you should have seen it before it was sanded and stained… ugh!).

The coffee table originally had a glass top, but that got left behind during our cross-country move. There is a raised edge around the whole table top, so we wanted to add a little something to make the entire tabletop flush. Tile seemed like the best option.

 

Coverting a Coffee Table to a Dining Room Table

 

Rather than the old days of pilfering through a collection of tiles and mixing and matching (I guess that’s what they did back then), tiles are attached to a mesh backing, with enough space between them for grout. If the tile sheets are too big, you can just cut the mesh and eliminate however many rows of tiles you need. They just make it so easy.

 

Coverting a Coffee Table to a Dining Room Table

 

Another thing that makes this process easy is double-sided, adhesive sheets. The idea is like double-sided tape, but bigger and more heavy duty. In this case, we slapped some of those sheets down on the table surface, laid the tile down on top of that, applied the grout, and voila! There was more time and thought that ultimately went into the whole process than I am probably making it seem, yet it was simpler than originally expected.

Luckily, in this case, the glass tiles didn’t have to be cut. We had to snip some tile rows off by cutting the mesh, but the spacing ended up being nearly perfect. The fit was getting a little snug while putting down the final two tile sheets, so the alignment of the rows is a little off. It still looks nice, though, and gained a ton of character when compared to the lovely but simply stained look the table previously had.

 

Coverting a Coffee Table to a Dining Room Table

 

Next on the agenda is finding a chair set. We don’t mind getting down and dirty and doing a little sanding and staining if we have to. They just have to take up a fairly small amount of real estate. And hopefully we find the right chairs soon, because the size of the chairs will ultimately determine the height of the table.

This past weekend, I was biking around L.A. and made a random stop at a thrift store. I happened to find a set of four stools that seemed to work for the table. Being on bike, it would have, of course, been impossible to get them home. Heading back a while later, what do you know? Someone didn’t buy all of the them… someone bought TWO of them! BLASTED! It was a maddening, yet really funny experience.

So once we get the chairs, for the table, it should just be a matter of cutting the legs to height, staining them, and attaching them to the table. It like we are so close but yet so far…… and the search continues.

 

UPDATE (9/9/12):

I found a chair set on Craigslist that works well with the tables. I wasn’t completely sold on the look of the chair backs, but it was a compromise since my wife didn’t like the saddle chairs I was after. Regardless, the color scheme of the chairs we ended up with go great with the table, and the seat padding is a nice microfiber one.

 

Coffee Table to Dining Room Table Conversion

The legs that are being replaced…


If you are new to woodworking projects, this part is really important:

The width of the coffee table legs were 2″ x 2″, but 1.5″ x 1.5″ wood looked fine at the hardware store, so we brought the lumber home, cut it up, sanded it down, and stained it, only to find that it didn’t look right. Here are the two things we learned from this – 1) If you’re making a table taller, make sure the new legs are at least the same width as the original ones. Otherwise, your table is probably going to end up looking cheap and might be wobbly. 2) If you need 2″ x 2″ wood, you can’t just saw a 2×4 in half because 2x4s aren’t actually 2″ x 4″!!! Rather, they’re in the neighborhood of 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. Strange, I know, and I can’t tell you why…. but it’s true.

We visited three hardware stores, and finally discovered (thanks to the helpful folks at Anawalt Lumber in Hollywood) that we could have them saw a 4×4 board (which is actually 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″) down the 2″ square that we really needed.

 

UPDATE (11/7/12):

So, with the new legs, we’ve finally finished sanding and staining and all that jazz. Ohhhh, what a learning process. But that can’t be bad. In such projects, it’s nice to know what you’ve done wrong, though it would be even better know beforehand that the outcome isn’t going to work!!!!

Here is the latest… I don’t know what wood the tabletop is made out of. Since we went to numerous hardware stores in search the proper size legs, we jumped on the prospect of the lumber store cutting some thicker oak boards down to the 2″ x 2″ size needed. It turns out the tabletop must not be oak because the hue is a slightly different from that of the legs. You can see that in the photo below, but it’s still similar, and the wood grain is really nice looking… so we’re quite okay with the end result.

As a final note, the placement of the legs has also changed. Originally they were about 6″ from either end of the table and also set a few inches inward from the front and back edges. To accommodate extra chairs, the legs are now at each corner of the table, making it all a little more spacious.

 

New Dining Table Legs

 

So there it is, another project in the books. If you have any questions about the conversion, I will be glad to help out. Also, if you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it below!

Sometimes it seems like I have an insatiable curiosity. I have a lot of interests and read about things that sometimes make people ask “Why do you know that?” So when I recently saw a home-brewing beer kit for sale, it was another thing that piqued my curiosity. I had to have it. I had to learn what it takes and how the process works… and if I could follow directions without screwing it up. (It seems to be going well so far, by the way.)

The kit really simplifies the process, which is really great for starting out. It’s called Mr. Beer, which sounds dumb, as straight-to-the-point as it is. I don’t know if it’s always the case, but the whole Premium Gold Edition shebang was a mere $24 at JC Penny. When I got it home, I compared prices on Amazon and Walmart, and the same kit was selling in the neighborhood of $45 to $53 or so on those sites. Good deal here.

Mr. Beer Home Brew Kit

Included items in this edition of the kit are a 2 gallon fermenting tank, eight plastic 1-liter bottles, two cans of malt extract, brewing yeast, sanitizing cleaner, and just about everything else you need to make your own batch. “Just about everything else” means you needs to supply your own measuring spoons, whisk, can opener and bowl to sanitize those tools in.

The directions are simple, and this is a quick breakdown of the process:

step 1 – SANITIZING:
Sanitize the brewing tools with the included cleaner packet

Tools Needed for Beer Homebrewing

Prepping the brewing tools to be sanitized

step 2 – BREWING:
Boil water and the included booster in a pot… mix in the can of hopped malt extract… this mix is called “wort”…

Creating the Beer Wort

The wort (next to some delicious fried rice)

…. pour the wort into the keg… add water… stir vigorously, mix in yeast, and cap the keg. Store out of sunlight for 7-14 days.

Adding Yeast to the Beer Fermentation Tank

Adding yeast to the fermentation tank

step 3 – BOTTLING:
Bottle it up, gently mix in a designated amount of sugar, and store for another 7-14 days

Bottles of Home Brewed Beer Ready for Storage

All bottled up and ready for storage

Today, July 15th, is the big day. The bottled beer has been stored away for two weeks now. It’s my understanding that the first batch is always a bust, as the equipment needs broken in and such, but that’s going to be our little secret… I’m not going to be telling that to the other people trying the beer today. Cheers!

July 17 – update – The beer wasn’t so great. I’m drinking it anyway. After all, it’s beer! The first batch has a lot of head when poured. It looks nice, but the flavor tastes flat. It also has some flavor that sort of reminds me of, well, plastic. Imagine that… it’s been in brand new plastic for a couple weeks. I rinsed everything thoroughly before brewing, but I guess that doesn’t matter.

Despite the outcome, it’s still not the worst beer I have ever had, by any means. The one time I had Mickey’s, it was like an instant hangover. Seriously, I was sipping it, and had a headache within a half-hour. You know how bad a cheap beer tastes when it’s warm? Well that’s how Mickey’s tasted when it was cold.

Back to fun stuff… While on the topic of beer, I might as well plug my favorites, so you – all eleven loyal readers – know what to get me on my next birthday. In no particular order, the top 3 are: Kentucky Bourbon Ale, Well’s Banana Bread beer, and Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat.

That’s it for now! I’m looking forward to brewing the next batch of beer at home, which I’m 97% sure is going to taste like liquid gold compared to the first batch. Again, I love saying it when I really mean it: cheers!

One of my relatives gave me this big, beautiful behemoth of an armoire about a year back. I had never really used it for its intended purpose and stored a bunch of random junk in it, rather than a nice, large TV. While sitting around twiddling my thumbs last week, I had an epiphany (thanks for the time to think, unemployment!). Furniture has slowly been accumulating in my apartment, and this place sure isn’t getting any bigger. I realized there there are some opportunities to consolidate around here, and it seemed like a really cool idea would be to make a wine rack in the bottom half of that big armoire. Then we could at least get rid of the wine cabinet already in here.

The armoire

 

Setting the wheels in motion, my lady and I sat down to make a lot more decisions than I had initially anticipated. “Do we make the storage more vertical or horizontal? How many bottles would fit each way? Do we set the shelves at a slight angle so the wine keeps the corks moist? How many rows do we need for the stemware?” You get the idea. And then there was the math. Man, was the math hard. We argued about dimensions, and I won, although that’s not usually the case… especially when it comes to math.

After heading to the hardware store, we borrowed a table saw, and we were able to make a pretty crude Torsion box. That style is basically interconnected pieces of vertical and horizontal wood that come together to create a grid. And the cool thing is that it doesn’t require any nails or adhesive to hold the basic pattern together. Nails are only needed when you’re creating a frame around the box. And that’s a pretty good idea in this case so some of the wine bottles don’t just roll right off.

Torsion Box Being Built

 

Unfortunately, I went a little overboard with the table saw and cut more slots on two of the Torsion board pieces than needed. Those two pieces should have been intended to be the outside/frame. By that time we had given the table saw back, so I hand sawed some spare wood to fix my mistake. That took FOREVER! Next time I will try to not be so giddy about using power tools.

Torsion Box / Wine Storage Assembly

This shows the extra cuts I shouldn’t have made…

 

Some of the shelves fit together a little too tight, so I busted out the handy-dandy Dremel and sanded down the gaps we had cut in the boards. It was getting to be about midnight at that point, so I did that work in the kitchen, since it’s the room furthest away from the wall we share with the neighbor. Using a low rotation speed for sanding still kicked quite a bit of sawdust around. Next time I will just sand wherever I please. After all, such consideration for noise around here isn’t mutual, by any means.

Routing a Torsion Box with a Dremel

 

Once the shelves fit together better, the preliminary assembly was looking pretty good:

Wine Storage Built into an Armoire

 

It was then time to take the shelves apart (yet again!) and stain everything to match the armoire. Like the math earlier, another source of contention between my lady and I was the color of the stain. I ended up being wrong this time, though, as the “espresso” color she picked ended up being almost a dead-on match with the armoire.

Wine Storage Grid Nearing Completion

Still waiting on the stain to fully dry…

 

The whole staining process took an entire day, as I used two full coats. During that process, I also built and stained what was to become two rows for hanging stemware. Just like everything else, this process consisted of a lot of trial and error. I screwed the stemware racks to the middle of the shelf, only to then discover that the base for champagne flutes is a lot smaller than it is for wine glasses. At this point, the champagne glasses could just slip right through the cracks, so I had to disassemble the stemware racks and recalculate the distance between them.

Completed Wine Cabinet Built into an Armoire

 

Breaking down the process into a short(ish) synopsis seems kinda like Noah building the ark, then you read a few more sentences and 40 days have passed. Never having built anything like this, it was a fun experiment that really worked out great. The only unfortunate thing about this design is that the single wine rack holds three fewer bottles than the old wine rack. We knew that when designing the new one, but we are going to be building shelving for the right half of the armoire soon…. that won’t be so bad going from the single, old wine rack that holds 18 bottles to building storage for 30 bottles! It’s time to clear out some space… anyone need our old wine rack???

The old wine cabinet… any takers?

6/17/2014 update – the old cabinet is no longer available!