There’s rain pattering against the windows right now, in spite of the forecast that called for cloudy skies but no rain. I’m waiting out the wet stuff so that I can go back outside and continue truck-based activities in the hope that I can wrap things up this weekend. I took the day off yesterday to rest up a little bit and cover some errands, which was a good strategy in hindsight.

I had a set of new Invisalign trays waiting for me to pick up for a week; about a month ago I put in a new top tray and it clearly Did Not Fit, so they re-scanned my mouth and made some new ones for me. I’ve got 27 more to go, which means I may be done with these (barring any adjustments) by October or so.

Sometime in January I noticed the wood threshold between the office and living room had shrunk, leaving wide gaps between it and the floor planks. The mice in the ice room have been busy despite the bait I’ve left them, and our terrier mutt has been worrying at the gaps for several months now. I have a thin strip of oak I have to cut down to set into these gaps, but I have to wait until she can go outside, as the table saw in the basement scares the crap out of her. The other night she woke me out of a sound sleep to jump off the bed into the darkness. Groggy, I got up to investigate and found that Bella had caught a mouse, brought it upstairs to show us, and was releasing it to play when it snuck under the door to escape. Following her instincts, Hazel immediately chomped it. I picked it up with her empty water bowl and hurled it out into the backyard. Hopefully, now that it’s warming up, the mice will evacuate and we can go back to normal levels of anxiety.

* * *

Meanwhile, I had the radio on in the garage the other day and this song from the ’80’s came on, and now it is stuck in my head and it is not even the best song on this album and I am kind of in hell:

Date posted: April 12, 2024 | Filed under earworm, family, house | Leave a Comment »

I’m taking the week off from work to both burn through some PTO time and to part out the green truck in the driveway to hasten its departure, and with a few setbacks I’ve made serious progress on the project. With the exception of the power steering setup I’ve gotten everything off the truck I wanted. I’m taking Thursday off from laboring in the driveway both because I’m pretty well exhausted but also because it’s going to rain from about noon today until tomorrow morning. I’ve got a list of other things I need to accomplish—mostly errands to run and some small repairs around the house.

One surprise addition to the list is diagnosing an issue with the Scout blog, where an update to WordPress has broken something in the backend of the site where it won’t load the media library and every update/refresh to a post or page is rewarded with a blank screen. I’ve narrowed it down to an incompatibility with the 10+ year-old theme I’ve been using (a slight variant of which powers this very site) which is about as bare-bones as a theme can get—and is the primary reason I’m using it. After switching to one of the pre-installed templates, the site works fine. So, I’ll have to debug that situation later today.

I’m a bit frustrated at my lack of stamina this past week, to be honest. I realize I’m coming off a cold winter where I wasn’t as active as I was last summer, but being completely worn out after four days was sobering. I powered through Wednesday with snacks and a burger for lunch but I just didn’t have the amount or duration of energy I did last year. So I’ve got to figure out how to add more high-impact exercise into my busy daily routine, I guess.

Date posted: April 11, 2024 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Back in the 80s as a highschooler and aspiring comic book artist, I was at our local mall and picked up a copy of Heavy Metal magazine from the newstand rack. A story called Rebel was the feature in that month’s issue, and I was enthralled. It was a well-drawn post apocalyptic Road-Warrior-esque story set in New York City and I stood there for an hour absorbing as much as I could. I guess I didn’t have enough money to buy the issue, because I don’t have a copy. But I immediately went home and started drawing my own version of what I had seen, which went on for about 30 pages before I ran out of story ideas. Fast forward to yesterday, where two comic artists who run a channel reviewing comic books featured the trade paperback version of the strip I seen 30 years ago. I’m glad to see it holds up as well as it does in my memory; it’s an incredible work of art.

In a strange and bitter happenstance, one of the reviewers on this YouTube channel was accused of soliciting and grooming high school aged girls, and committed suicide a few days ago after she went public.

Date posted: April 5, 2024 | Filed under art/design, entertainment | Leave a Comment »

Wow, this is a PR nightmare. Volkswagen trolled its own biggest fans by teasing a new harlequin model on April 1, and then was shocked when people actually got excited about it. I suppose now they’re trying to figure out how to respond without being even douchier than they originally were. The harlequin was a multicolored, limited edition model produced almost 30 years ago, back when the VW brand still had some friendly brand equity, and it was a rare treat to see one flash by on the road; I remember one parked on the street in Baltimore City for several years. VW’s brand has faded since then, with lousy reliability eroding their cars-for-the-people image and Dieselgate erasing any reason to trust them. What could have been a great idea—imagine if they’d used April Fools to actually announce a cool promotion for a car they actually planned on rolling out—they tripped over their own feet again.

(previously)

Date posted: April 2, 2024 | Filed under cars, humor | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been syndicating a lot of posts from the Scout site here ever since I set it up, although lately I’ve cut back on just posting everything, and keep it to the highlights. Search engines get testy when you post the same content in multiple places (going back to the early days of porn spam) and deprecate your search rankings accordingly. I figured I’d better start playing ball a little better and added a custom field on that site for what’s called a canonical tag, where you add a little flag at the top of the page to let search engines know that they’re looking at the originating site. Then I went through the first year of syndicated posts and added the proper tag for each one. There are SEO plugins that do this automatically but I’m too cheap to be bothered—and frankly I don’t need more plugins gumming up the site. This will probably make no difference in the long run but it makes me feel a little better about my digital citizenship.

Date posted: April 1, 2024 | Filed under housekeeping | Leave a Comment »

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks polishing my YouTube channel up to see what kind of traction I could get, and I’m actually quite impressed with the results of nothing but organic traffic so far. When I set up the account 15 years ago I posted a timelapse video of putting polyurethane on the office floor, which somehow generated 11,000 views over time. I dumped random videos there from time to time but never really took it seriously until I posted the Hudson recovery video last year, which racked up another 11,000 views in five months.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of hours watching or listening to about thirty channels on YT, mostly “Will it run?”-themed. From what I’ve seen a lot of the top posters in this category have 500K+ followers, allowing them to monetize the channel and buy their own racetracks or move to larger properties and build giant garage workshops. I’m nowhere at that level, but testing out the algorithm and learning how to produce the videos has been fun so far.

I’ve been working mainly with a couple of older GoPro Session cubes, Dad’s 12-year-old Canon Vixia camcorder, and my iPhone to capture footage. The GoPros are great for set-and-forget timelapse shots, which I’ve been leveraging heavily, and the iPhone is great for handheld interstitial shots with narration. I have a Hero Session 5 with built-in stabilization and a Hero Session which  doesn’t, so I use the 5 along with my phone for any handheld work. The Vixia is definitely showing its age. Its sensor is old so it’s very contrasty, and the footage is grainy compared to the modern cameras. However, it makes for a good tripod-mounted talk-into-camera unit, and with a $10 DC-in cord and a $10 XLR to 1/4″ headphone cable, I can use an old shotgun mic from work to improve its built-in sound quality.

I think the working model for filming moving forward is going to be something like:

  • The Vixia is set up on a tripod for into-camera shots, where I’m explaining something I’ve found or setting the stage
  • The GoPro Session 5 is a hand-held/maybe head-mounted unit for showing what I’m actually working on
  • The GoPro Session is set up as a dedicated tripod-mounted timelapse unit
  • My iPhone is used for supplemental handheld shots—usually when I’m taking a break and giving updates.

For editing I’m using my old friend Final Cut Pro but I’m finding that even with an M2 chip in my MacBook Air it’s still laggy at times. I should have sprung for 16GB of RAM in hindsight, but for now it’s getting the job done, and like everything else I’ve ever done, I’ll keep working on a shoestring budget and making it work.

As I assemble each video, what I’m finding is that I have to spend a lot more time planning shots out to get better coverage, and also to narrate what I’m doing in the moment without repeating myself. The pros make it look a lot easier than it actually is. Usually when I’m working on the trucks I’m hustling flat out so that I can make the absolute most of the day, and any footage I pick up is a bonus. I don’t want to slow progress down but I do need to carefully consider what I’m doing, think ahead about how I can set up new shots, and fluidly move between tasks so that it’s not as jumpy. I’m also considering some kind of head or chest GoPro mount to easily capture what I’m working on up close instead of depending on tripod-mounted static shots.

I followed some basic instructions for how to set up a channel and for how to post each video with the right information—adding the right titles, descriptions, keywords, and leveraging the built-in tools to cross-promote other videos in the channel. From what my analytics show, I’m getting a fair bit of views from my embedded posts on The Binder Planet, but there are a lot more folks finding it through organic search on YouTube.

As a basic exercise it’s been really good to practice shooting and editing skills, and develop a workflow for collecting and editing all the footage (there’s so much footage from each one of these) as well as the ins and outs of building a social media channel, which is helpful for work.

Date posted: March 28, 2024 | Filed under photography | Leave a Comment »

This is mostly for music nerds of a certain pre-Spotify age, but I found it fascinating: the oral history of Pitchfork from Slate magazine.

Greene: It was always, and only ever, a bunch of nerds writing essays about records. It was that before it became famous. And it was that after it became famous. It was only ever that, and those are the people who still come to Pitchfork, but I guess it wasn’t enough.

Date posted: March 22, 2024 | Filed under entertainment, music | Leave a Comment »

I celebrated my birthday quietly at home, on a day that felt a lot like the day before it and the day before that. I walked the dog with Jen, we had coffee and breakfast, and then we went to work. I’d bought some marinaded chicken at Trader Joe’s on the weekend so I fired up the grill and cooked it,then shredded the meat and made quesadillas for the family. The girls bought chocolate cupcakes and sang happy birthday and I blew out my candle. That was a highlight, as were the many messages I got from family and friends.

Date posted: March 19, 2024 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Last week, while considering the two trucks I’d learned about in New York, I got a text from Bennett:

The owner is a friend’s family and they wanted it gone before it collected more tickets from the local constabulary; I told Bennett I wanted it and asked for his help in going to get it. He got in touch with his brother for the towing rig and a plan was hatched.

Sunday morning I met Bennett over at his storage yard so that we could pull the Hudson off the trailer, park it, and use that for hauling. Before we could leave, we had to replace the hot lead to his trailer winch, which took some surgery and delicate tinkering. Moving the Hudson was pretty easy (we’re used to this procedure by now) so we were on the road north by 9:30.

The truck was at the bottom of a tricky driveway at the end of a fast curve, so I stood outside and stopped traffic while Bennett expertly backed the trailer up the hill (digging the bottom lip all the way up) on his first try. He backed it down the lane to stop at the rear bumper of the Travelall.

She looked worse in person than in the photos (big surprise!) Like she’d been at sea for years and had been beached in a storm. The owners of the house came outside and watched as we busied ourselves setting up the ramps and unloading tools.

The first issue was that it was on four flat tires: two of which were questionable and two of which looked like a dinosaur had been snacking on them. I put my compressor on the “good” ones and got the passenger’s front to fill and hold, while the driver’s side rear would fill and empty at almost the same rate. So: it was up to the winch. We aligned the ramps and yanked the truck backwards up to their edges, and realized the trailer hitch would never clear the deck of the trailer. But we’re pros at this: we stacked up some scrap wood and propped them with 2×4’s to lengthen the ramps and make the angle work better. I put a long board between the hitch and the trailer, levered it over the edge, and we were quickly up on the deck. Turned out the one good tire was bolted to a drum which had frozen, so it was effectively useless.

We pulled it back as far as possible but knew having the engine over the rear axles was dangerous, so we made a plan to flip it around as soon as we found a good-sized parking lot. After strapping it down tightly, we said our thank-yous and I went back out to the street to cover traffic. Bennett got up a head of steam and came down out of the driveway at an angle to avoid getting high-centered, and we were soon on our way.

Down the road we found an empty restaurant parking lot with a couple of steel posts that would be perfect for our next trick: pulling the truck off the trailer, then loading it on facing front. He backed it up to a post which we fastened a strap around, and he gently pulled forward to pull the trailer out from underneath the truck. The front tire—the one with air—still wouldn’t budge. We used the strap to pull the truck backwards to clear the post, and Bennett turned the trailer around to meet the front of the truck.

When we’d gotten the Travelall about 1/2 of the way up the trailer he remarked that he was impressed with how well the battery was holding up on the winch; fifteen seconds later the winch began to sputter as the power dimmed. We dicked around with ratchet straps and a come-along that was definitely not strong enough, and finally unhitched the Ford, pulled it up to the front of the trailer, and used jumper cables to juice the battery enough to get the truck winched all the way forward.

From there it was easy to strap the truck down and get on the road. After a quick lunch at the diner up the street, we drove back to Maryland through howling wind and snow showers to my house, where I’d moved the red Travelall backwards to make room.

Here we used a similar method to get the truck off the trailer: we hooked my tow strap to the telephone pole and the tow hitch on the truck and Bennett simply pulled the Ford forward. We quickly threw a tarp over the carcass to hide its beauty from my neighbor, who is coincidentally trying to sell his house—sorry!—and packed things up. Then we drove back to his storage lot to help get the Hudson back up on the trailer. We got everything covered and strapped down, and took off for home.

I haven’t had a ton of time to look the truck over, but here’s what I see so far:

The outside sheet metal is all Pennsylvania-good. Meaning it has rust in many of the same places the red truck does: in the front fenders at the bottom and over the eyebrows, in the front grille below the marker lights, behind the rear wheels at the bottom of the arches, and in the bottom corners under the taillights (mine is solid here). There’s good chrome trim around the outside which looks like it might all be intact. There’s one good chrome rocker trim on the passenger side—the driver’s side was ripped off at some point. Both bumpers are in excellent shape, and the rear bumper has a set of inset reverse lights. There’s a beautiful roof rack and luggage rail setup on the roof. It’s a single-tailgate model but we can’t figure out how to open it—there’s no handle anywhere, and this truck came without a key. The drip rail is in excellent shape given how long this truck had been sitting. There’s a lovely patina of the original IH green, buffed down to red primer, splashed with yellow lichen across the whole truck.

Inside, it’s a 4-speed stick, and the furnishings are all Custom—it says this on the dashboard. Fabric door cards, fancy steering wheel, padded dashboard, and deluxe headliner. The front bench is shot, and the rear bench had been folded forward, so I can’t see what shape that’s in. Water has gotten into the truck from the driver’s door seal so the front floors and seat are wet. In the far back, there’s what looks like a heat or A/C unit sunk into the wheelwell on the passenger side, and a square toolbox on the driver’s side. The chrome trim for the headliner inside is all intact, and there are two visible dome lights.

A quick look under the hood revealed a V8 with power steering, and a large brake booster, as well as a mount for an A/C compressor. It’s IFS up front, which means there’s no leaf springs for me to grab, but I can definitely pull the rears to have them re-arched.

So, the next steps are to do an inventory of what’s good and what’s not, and start pulling parts off the truck. I have no title and no bill of sale, although the owner said he’d look for the former. Our cursory inspection showed a lot of rust and I’m sure it’s deeper than it looks, so stripping this truck down to the shell won’t bother me too much. Jen doesn’t want it lingering in the driveway, and neither do I, so I think I’ll sell some Scout parts to make room for Travelall parts. I’ve already dug two spare fenders out of storage, and I can sell one set of spare doors to free up a lot more space—Bennett said he might be interested in them, in which case they are his for the asking.

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

Date posted: March 11, 2024 | Filed under friends, Scout, Travelall, Trip Logs | Comments Off on Recovery Mission

ill peach, BLOOM. Dumb name for a band, but a good track. I like the beat, and the bridge at 2:01 is a lovely transition. Gives me some strong Metric vibes, minus the guitar. The rest of the album is hit or miss, but they have a couple of other good tracks from earlier EPs available.

The runner-up from last week:

Acopia, This Conversation is Getting Boring. Much more downtempo, but another good groove. I wish the bass was better quality; the sound is flat and sounds just a hair late on the rhythm and not in a good way. Other than that, excellent.

Date posted: March 6, 2024 | Filed under earworm, music | Leave a Comment »