I think the SkyPilot knows when people are planning to be on vacation, because they like to throw little curveballs in the way that make getting out of town more challenging. I thought I’d made some good progress as a human being by planning for and buying tickets to Europe months in advance, and securing the services of a pet sitter right after that. I had some vague ideas for how to map out our two weeks, and we arranged for a cleaning service to come and work on the house before we left. There are a ton of things left on the do-this-before-boarding-the-plane list, but the big stuff seemed to be under control.

A few weeks ago, Jen tried to use the oven to cook something and it just never got hot. She transferred the dish to the microwave (which is also a convection oven) and it finally finished, but that wasn’t a good sign. Today she pulled something out of the microwave and closed the door, but it just continued making the “I’m cooking something” noise; the only way to get it to shut off was to open the door or throw the breaker. Attempting to clean the oven only resulted in filling the house with the sour egg smell of gas and a dirty oven.

So, it looks like we’re going to go shopping for a new microwave when we get back, and I’ve got to find someone who can fix the oven before we leave. Super. 

Date posted: June 12, 2024 | Filed under appliances | Leave a Comment »

This is a bit of a saga to unwind, but so worth it: Some SpaceX junk fell to earth on a Saskatchewan farm, and the landowner contacted a local authority to ask who should clean it up: an astronomy professor at the local college. She talked to local media about the situation, using the opportunity to talk about unregulated space junk. SpaceX heard about this, and sent two employees in a rental truck to come and pick up their crap (portions of which took two people to lift into the truck) in front of a gaggle of local reporters and camera crews. I’m glad to see journalism still functioning, and I do hope that governments begin regulating private spaceflight before 200-lb chunks of Elon’s pet project come crashing through my roof. (via metafilter)

Date posted: June 12, 2024 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

Here’s the update from the last two weeks. We’re gearing up for vacation so work is probably going to slow down a bit.

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

Date posted: June 12, 2024 | Filed under friends, Scout, Travelall | Comments Off on June Update Video

Somehow this one popped up in my brain today and hasn’t left: Eurotrash Girl, by Cracker. A good band who never really followed up with another record as good as Kerosene Hat, unfortunately; this album was on solid rotation the year I graduated college, and Low was the soundtrack to a summer painting houses. I’ve always loved the mixture of rock and country stirred together in this band—just enough twang to make things work.

Date posted: June 11, 2024 | Filed under earworm, music | 2 Comments »

In preparation for our upcoming trip, Jen and I were talking about whether we were going to bring cameras to Europe. Having sold my lightweight Fuji rig earlier this year, I was looking at hauling around a full-size DSLR and lens if I was going that route, which was less than optimal. Looking at our iPhones, we both came to the decision that it was time to upgrade from our 4+ year old iPhone SEs to something a little more modern, and use those for shooting photos. Jen and I are slow-walking technophiles: we are surrounded by technology but we upgrade only when we have to. We tend to keep our stuff until it’s either broken down or technologically unsupported; she’s using a 9-year-old laptop and I finally upgraded an 11-year-old machine this year.

Our phones have been rock solid and reliable but they’re getting long in the tooth. My battery is only good for a couple hours and the single-lens camera is functional but not optimal. So we went to the Apple Store on Sunday to pick out some new phones. After a little research we both settled on the iPhone 15 Pro, which is only a little larger than our SE’s but all screen, with the fancy camera, better processor, more storage, and most importantly, a long-lasting battery.

We set Jen up first and went so far as to having the boxed phone on the counter, but AT&T’s activation servers were down so they couldn’t get the process started. So we had to leave empty-handed, and have to return tonight to try again.

Meanwhile, I’m considering taking the Yashica TLR with me, because I can’t be without a giant heavy mechanical object of some kind. Or maybe I’ll respool some film and take one of the 620 cameras instead…

Date posted: June 10, 2024 | Filed under apple, photography | 1 Comment »

This is an old one but still a good one. Blonde Redhead, Spring and By Summer Fall. I picked this album up years ago at the library and had it on solid repeat for weeks, and it never gets old. For some reason it crept back into my head the other day and hasn’t left.

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

I worked in Laurel, Maryland 25 years ago at a dot-com startup. We were based first in a small office building on Rt.1 and for about four months there was enough room to fit everyone in the same building. As the plans to expand unfolded, with the eventual goal of hitting an IPO, we started exploring the surrounding area for a larger office space. One of the places I passed by often and wondered about was a building up on a hill south of the space we eventually landed in. It was only barely visible from the road, but the company name was spelled out in large art-deco letters above the entrance: AEROLAB. It was occupied at the time but it looked like a secret military installation or evil scientists’ lair, which would not have been out of character: Laurel is a weird place.

These days, the building is abandoned and seems to be a popular destination for urban explorers (as well as the sizable homeless population in those parts):

Date posted: June 5, 2024 | Filed under history | Leave a Comment »

A couple of years ago we got word of a new invasive species around here, and were told to kill any examples we saw. The spotted lanternfly hails from China, eats crops, trees and ornamental plants, and has no known predators here in the states. The first one I remember seeing in the flesh was actually up outside of Philadelphia buying steel with Brian for the bus project; we saw it flitting past us and land on the pavement in a parking lot. After squishing it, we reported it to the local hotline and went on our way.

Last week we began noticing small bugs on our grape arbor and trees; black with white spots, they weren’t familiar to either Jen or I. A little research revealed they are spotted lanternflies and that they love grapes. There is no good way of killing them; you have to smash them when you see them, and the little fuckers jump when they see you. The arbor is covered with them. There’s no commercial pesticide that will kill them. So, I guess we’re screwed.

Date posted: June 4, 2024 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Longtime readers are bored of me talking about the Fallout game series, but I’ve dipped my toes back in after binging the web series on Amazon, which was, remarkably, pretty good. While not sharing quite the expansive feeling the game series did, I thought the character development and careful attention to detail was done exceptionally well, and they nailed the tone of Fallout 4 really well. They’ve already committed to a sequel in the series, which is nice to hear.

I’d already been replaying Fallout 4 for a month or so, having grown tired of the repetitive nature of Starfield, and had grown tired of replaying the same levels in that over again. In a rare moment of clarity I figured I’d check to see if Fallout: New Vegas was available through Game Pass, for which I am paying, and I was surprised to see it was. Loading it up for the first time, it’s really clear that it was released in 2010: the graphics are pretty blocky, the lighting is junk, and it’s easy to see the limitations of the original platform. That being said, it took me about an hour to adjust to that regression, and now I’m enjoying the game. The base mechanics for the later games are there, so it’s a lot like making the jump from Fallout to Starfield, but backwards—the fundamental controls are present minus all the stuff they added later. Apparently this is the best of the whole series, according to the interwebs, so I’m in for a treat.

Apparently Starfield is supposed to get some sort of expansion pack later this year, which would be nice; I’d like to go back to that and do something different, having completed all but the last main quest. And I chortled to read that No Man’s Sky is getting another in a series of updates, which will make a supremely repetitive and boring game…a little less repetitive and boring? I’m shocked anyone is still playing that game.

Date posted: May 31, 2024 | Filed under geek | Leave a Comment »

We’ve been discussing the AI policy (and current lack of one) at work lately, and during a retreat last week we did an exercise on how to use AI for simple tasks. I’ve messed with it before and found it useful for certain things. One of the suggestions in the retreat, however, caught my ear: have AI map out a vacation itinerary. In years past I’ve bought a travel book for that region or city and used it as a guide, with both success and failure, so having a robotic tour guide didn’t sound like a bad idea.

Intrigued, I plugged a couple of questions into ChatGPT and after some tuning, I got a four-day itinerary for Porto, where we’re going to be vacationing later this coming month. I cross-checked the suggestions last night with Google Maps and found that they hold up pretty well; the AI doesn’t have us walking into the Atlantic Ocean to get somewhere, or jumping continents for dinner reservations. I’m now looking at the feasibility of driving to Lisbon and nearby Sintra with a couple of overnights, and I’m going to ask ChatGPT what it recommends doing down there too. For quick suggestions, this is a lot faster and can give us specialized hints, especially if we fine-tune the requests.

Date posted: May 31, 2024 | Filed under travel | Leave a Comment »