Put this on the list of stuff I kind of already figured: Vaccines won’t protect millions of patients with weakened immune systems.

It’s unclear how many immunocompromised people don’t respond to coronavirus vaccines. But the list seems at least to include survivors of blood cancers, organ transplant recipients, and anyone who takes the widely used drug Rituxan, or the cancer drugs Gazyva or Imbruvica — all of which kill or block B cells, the immune cells that churn out antibodies…

I’m not parading around French-kissing strangers, but I’m obviously going to keep wearing a mask until I see that my white blood cell count is back up.

Date posted: April 20, 2021 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

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In related news, the guy who owns one of the two Scouts I saw back in January has listed the darker Scout II for $3500 on Craigslist. Not that I need a rusty carcass. But those door inserts would be cool.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: April 19, 2021 | Filed under Bumper, Scout | Comments Off on Action Shot

So I had something to do with this project but not as much as I might have ten years ago: after eight years, WRI.org has been redesigned and modernized, from a rickety poorly-architected bunch of spare parts to a modern website befitting the largest environmental think tank in the U.S.

Also of note: a data visualization story done by my friend Rosie, who took a pile of gigantic spreadsheets and helped develop a narrative out of them.

Date posted: April 19, 2021 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »

Finley asked me for help putting a proper desk in her fort, so I had her draw me a picture of what she wanted so that we could plan things out. Her idea was elegant and made a lot of sense, and after I suggested a counterproposal we decided to go with her original plan, using lumber and materials we had around the house.

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Finn and I hit the store for the two things we needed: a pair of strong hinges and some chain. The key to the desk was that it needed to be collapsible, as space in the fort is at a premium. I cut a crosspiece down and we roughed in the height, and after we picked up a friend who wanted to help, I had them install the hinges and put the chain in place.

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Once that was done I cut two pieces of scrap wood and made a simple latch for the stowed position, and voila! She has a usable desk next to the window.

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Date posted: April 19, 2021 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

So I did find a welder within easy rental distance, and on Sunday morning, after we were walked and fed, I ran out with Finley and grabbed it, along with some stuff for her fort. When that project was done, I turned my attention to the bumper.

I knew I was going to be getting something not quite as good as Brian’s gas-shielded MIG welder, so I wanted to practice and get things dialed in before I messed up my good metal. This was a Miller 120 wire-fed MIG, so I made sure I had the right thickenesses dialed in and started messing with some scrap on the bench. After some welding and grinding and welding and grinding I had what I thought was the right setting for the machine, and moved out to the driveway where I had the bumper set up on some sawhorses.

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The first bracket went on reasonably well on the front, and I filled the back with about four passes to make sure it didn’t go anywhere. I think I had to do three in front and four in back, pausing to grind and brush between each for clean metal. The second went on a little smoother in the front and I got enough of the back filled to feel comfortable. Let’s be clear, there was a lot of booger and spatter and I missed the joint several times completely. This was not perfect.

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Then I used a stepper bit to drill two holes into the bumper itself (shudder) and then welded two captive nuts to the outside for a license plate directly in the center. Once that was done and cleaned up with the flap wheel, I mounted the whole thing on the truck and test-fit the lights.

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So the next step is to fill the gaps with a little bondo, sand things down, and get ready for paint!

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: April 18, 2021 | Filed under Bumper, Scout | Comments Off on Bracketry

On Friday morning I hopped in the car and drove to M&T Stadium for my second shot of Pfizer. The first one went relatively smoothly; apart from spending two hours in a long cold line inside that meat locker of a stadium, the process was painless. This time was a mixed bag. My main beef was with Baltimore City, for providing exactly zero cops out in front of the stadium, where all of the cars coming in to the parking lot were snarled at one light: five different lanes of traffic trying to merge in to a one-lane road. And before you think this was easy; let me emphasize these were citizens of Baltimore, where we treat driving like the last half hour of Mad Max: Fury Road. It took 40 minutes to get past the light and get parked. Once I got in to the stadium, the line was shorter and moved quicker than the first visit, and I had my shot done in about half the time. (The Air Force and National Guard troops, as well as the nurses and admin folks actually dosing people, are awesome and should all get paid extra).

I spent all day Saturday waiting for side effects that did not manifest, for the most part. Jen and I got up around 8 and did what we call the coffee walk, where we take Hazel down to Atwater’s, pick up two large coffees and two triple ginger muffins, and do a long circuit around the neighborhood for about 2+ miles. We got back home and shared breakfast with Finn, farted around a little, and then I went outside and cleaned up the greenhouse. All of the seedlings are doing well even though we haven’t had much direct sunlight this week. I watered everything, moved some stuff around, and then reorganized the rain barrels. One of the two homemade ex-Pepsi barrels has broken down and leaked half the collected water after several storms, so I swapped it with the other. The next rainstorm will tell us if this one is toast as well.

After I put the soft top on the Scout, we jumped in the car and drove to Home Depot so that I could get another 2″x3″ and some ratchet straps. The plan was to build a third cradle bar for the hard top, slide the whole thing backward, and hoist it up into the ceiling. See, in years past I’ve just hoisted it up where it came off the truck, which meant the truck could only back up a certain amount in the garage before it bumped into the top. This left me with about 6″ of space between the bumper and the doors. With the new bumper I’m going to need more room, so changes needed to be made. While we were there I happened to pop into the rental center to see just offhand if they had a welder—and they did!

Back at home I laid down for a half an hour after lunch, which had made me feel sleepy, but never actually napped. So I got back up and got the top where I wanted it. From there I cleaned up the workbench and got some metal prepared for test welding on Sunday: I wanted to get it dialed in on scrap metal before I work on the real deal. This may be a futile gesture, but it also could work.

The horror stories of other folks’ reactions to the vaccine never did manifest themselves. I can’t tell if my tired was just post-cancer-low-blood-cell tired or we’re-all-busy-fighting-off-COVID tired. Either way, it didn’t slow me down that much and I’m thankful.

Date posted: April 17, 2021 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

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Here at the Lockardugan Estate, we’ve been getting along through COVID lockdown the best way we can. It’s been a challenge to be around each other all day every day without killing one another, and we’ve each been through the soul-crushing phases of denial and acceptance at least fifteen times. I used to think our house was big, but after having been shut in here like a biodome, I’m aware of just how cozy everything feels. The boom in the housing market makes a lot of sense in retrospect.

Last week, Finley had had enough of being trapped (been though she’s going to school two days a week) and asked if I could take her to the mall. Also monumentally bored, I immediately agreed and we decided to go right after finishing dinner. We got a late start out the door. Walking inside, I could immediately sense something was wrong: the security gates were coming down and people were headed to the exits. Turns out they close at 8 and not 9. So we went to Target so that we could walk around and look at things and just be out.

One of the things I found in a bargain game bin was a copy of The Division 2, a first-person shooter I’d read about last year. I picked that up along with some other small items and we headed home. After waiting a full day for the game files to copy and then update, I tried it for the first time the other night—and was immediately impressed. It’s set in Washington D.C. and the environment is breathtakingly detailed. The first missions were well-balanced and interesting, and I’m getting used to the game mechanics. Hopefully it’s got a lot more content to keep me involved; I see myself playing this one for a while. I’ve been getting tired of Fallout 76 for some time, and this game scratches the itch for action without having to deal with running from place to place or worry about picking up or crafting or fixing stuff.

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Jen has been organizing the piles of crap we’ve thrown up into the attic, and one of the things she came upon is an old chair I’ve had since college, something my roommate Pat gave me when he left town: a Scandinavian chair of unknown origin with ratty leather that we had to retire when the cats began tearing it apart and baby Finley was eating the foam. I decided we’d Freecycle it just to get it out of here. In order to find some information on it for the listing, I googled the sticker underneath and found that the brand is Westnofa, a Norwegian manufacturer of midcentury modern designs, usually featuring laminated wood framing with leather upholstery. Apparently this furniture is worth some money in good shape; I’m obviously rethinking my earlier decision to give it away. It’s a very comfortable chair that we both like, but we’d been quoted a lot of money to have it redone before it was retired. I think we need to do a little more digging before we make a decision.

Date posted: April 15, 2021 | Filed under family, geek | 1 Comment »

I stopped in to the Harbor Freight and picked up the cheapest auto-darkening helmet they had along with some small welding magnets, but the guy at our local Home Depot rental counter looked confused when I told him they offered welders on the website, and assured me they didn’t have any. So I’ll have to take a day off, go to our rental outlet, which isn’t open on weekends, and get one there.

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Sunday was supposed to be wet all day but shaped up to be sunny and warm, so I took advantage of it and pulled the roof off the truck. This year I’m modifying the setup in the garage a little to move the top backwards so that I can pull the truck in a little further, but I need another set of ratchet straps and a 2×3″ to finish it up. We then took a ride to the Home Depot with the top off and the entire family enjoyed the sunshine. I didn’t have time to pull out any of the soft top hardware and install it, so next weekend I have to decide which color I want this spring: black, nutmeg, or tan?

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Otherwise, she’s running smoothly. There’s an intermittent squeal from the power steering belt that alarms me, so I’ll put some belt dressing on that to see if it helps at all. The manifold bolt I replaced makes a huge difference in the engine note; everything is much quieter now. She is being a little finicky on hot starts—it takes some cranking to get her to catch, which tells me there’s something in the carb that needs adjusting.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: April 12, 2021 | Filed under Inspiration, Scout | Comments Off on Sunny Sunday

When Finn was a tiny baby one of my favorite things was to get her fed and changed, put her in the backpack, and sneak out of the house while Jen slept in to hit the local yard sales. Catonsville has a reputation for epic yard sales because there are scores of big old houses with attics and basements and garages filled with decades of stuff. Finn would sit up above my shoulders and sing and talk to herself, and I’d walk from house to house and look, occasionally stopping to stuff something into the  pack and occasionally panicking as I realized I was going to have to drag three lawn chairs and the baby a half-mile home by myself. Usually it all worked out.

The historic section of our town (basically all the houses across the street from us) were doing their community sale on Saturday morning, so I snuck out of the house with Hazel, a backpack, a wad of cash and my AirPods, letting the girls sleep in. We headed across the street in a thick fog and strained to see where the sales were through the muck. My guess is that many houses who planned on selling probably took one look outside and passed; the pickings were slim at first. Hazel and I found that most of the offerings that were out were junk; ugly decorations, Christmas stuff, glassware and fake flowers, uglier lawn furniture. One house toward the end of our route had some period bike gear I briefly considered—as well as a Specialized Rockhopper of the same vintage as my Cannondale. Discouraged, we headed downtown for coffee and triple ginger muffins, and on the way back I played a hunch and headed down the one street we hadn’t tried. Through the fog we came upon a huge sale in one of the old victorians by the Catholic Church and I guided Hazel up the driveway toward the back, where a bunch of old tools sat. For $12 I got a handful of box wrenches and this sturdy Craftsman toolbox:

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With a little cleanup this will replace a modern plastic toolbox with a flimsy caddy that folds in half.

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Sunday morning the girls and I put 32 hardened tomato seedlings plants into bins in the greenhouse. I wound up buying 20 bags of soil for all of the containers, and we jammed all of them with as many plants as we thought might fit.

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There are more varieties this year, and I expect all of them will try to get huge, but I’ve told Jen I’m going to be merciless about keeping them cut back to focus on producing. I’ve still got to get the rain barrels organized—the one under the garage gutter is leaking slowly, so that will have to get tossed—but the other two look like they’re in fine shape and will get pressed into service directly.

Meanwhile, the hand I burned smoking meat last weekend is looking worse and worse as the damaged skin peels off; the knuckles have been in bad shape all weekend (I did wear nitrile gloves while planting) but now the other skin is beginning to let go. The whole thing needs a soak and some Vitamin E. Don’t play with fire, kids.

Date posted: April 12, 2021 | Filed under greenhouse, tools | Leave a Comment »

Some very nice presents showed up on our porch today: two books on using a smoker, which will serve us well for the next meal we make. Thanks Renie and Tony!

The seedlings are on the sixth day of their hardening schedule, so they’re up to 6 hours of indirect sunlight outside. The plan this weekend is to get as many of them into tubs as possible and get the back panel of the greenhouse taken off for airflow. I was going to rebuild the water platform this spring, but with wood prices being what they are I think I’ll punt until next year and set it up with a rain barrel. I pre-fertilized the tubs with bonemeal and nitrogen mix, hoping it’ll give them all a leg up when they hit the new dirt. They’re all getting huge, so my hope is we’ll get blossoms quickly and start producing fruit.

My other weekend project is to rent a welder and install brackets on the Scout bumper, as well as put a couple of captive nuts on the front for a license plate. I’ve got to hit the Harbor Freight for a cheap welding helmet and a couple of triangle magnets to get started.

Date posted: April 9, 2021 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »