So about that pious feeling I had last weekend, the one where I was crowing about getting rid of stuff?

Well, Hazel and I hit a community yard sale at the church down the street and I spied this beautiful leather midcentury chair off to one side. I inquired as to the price and was told it was a donation, and if I wanted to donate to the church, I could take it. That was the easiest decision I’ve made in a while. I’ve always wanted a set of chairs like this but they’ve been priced out of our reach, so this one was a fantastic find. And as it turns out, it originated from the church across the street; it had been in their garage for a while and they wanted to get rid of it quickly. Now it’s taking up space in the living room until we can figure out what we’re doing with it.

And, by the way, everything I did put out at the curb was gone by lunchtime.

Date posted: May 17, 2024 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

I’m at the end of Day Three of the Comms retreat at work, and we’re doing a lot of talking about human-centered stories focusing on people working at the very tip of our spear: the men and women who are making change on the ground through initiatives and programs we’ve founded. Traditionally, we’ve sent people into the field to collect stories: a researcher, local handler, photographer or videography team. Back In The Day this would have been me; I was lucky enough to go to a number of foreign countries to capture footage and interview people, then come home and cut it together into a video.

But that’s expensive, and we’re facing shrinking budgets (while our overall financial health improves, go figure) and fickle audiences who expect different things these days. Vertical self-shot TikTok-style videos get the eyeballs while more polished videos don’t resonate with larger audiences. There are exceptions, and this is a generalization, but with YouTube and Instagram offering vertical reels and LinkedIn close behind, I have to accept that my cinematic way of doing things isn’t the best way anymore.

One of my colleagues, an ex-BBC journalist, showed me an inexpensive camera rig he’s been working with lately: a DJI action camera in a GoPro-style form factor with a ton of slick features I wasn’t aware of. He and I brainstormed the idea of setting up shooting packages for our country offices where we’d put together a camera and sound rig with instructions in a box and ship them to some of the places we want to highlight, and have people on the ground shoot content for us.

I was already looking at upgrading my GoPro rigs (now eight years old) for something easier to set up and use, and the DJI camera features a front and back touchscreen, automatic horizontal/vertical axis sensing, stabilization, and a host of other features (plus a swappable battery, something the GoPro Sessions don’t). I pulled the trigger and bought last year’s model from Amazon to do some testing with my YouTube project, and I’ll see if I can get a rig together that I can recommend for my colleagues in the field.

Date posted: May 15, 2024 | Filed under photography | Leave a Comment »

I was bummed out to read yesterday that Panera is discontinuing its line of “charged” lemonades because two people died after drinking too much of it. Two years ago, when we were cleaning out my father-in-law’s house, we were hitting the Panera pretty regularly and I was using the strawberry mint lemonade to push through hot summer weekends humping trash into a dumpster. I liked it because it didn’t have the same laxative effect coffee does to my 50-year-old digestive system. Around here they keep it behind the counter and you have to pay for refills, but I’ve been in other stores where you can just go up and refill it yourself. I wonder if they ever considered that from a failure of design vs. a liability standpoint; I guess we’ll never know.

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The YouTube channel has now gotten 110 subscribers, which is roughly 1% of what I’d actually need to monetize the thing. I made an introduction video to beef up the channel and have followed some of the Creators advice that has suddenly popped up in my feed to juice up my stats; the low-hanging fruit seems to be working, albeit slowly. The channel is designed mostly as a way to remember what it is I’ve worked on while also practicing filming and editing skills, and testing out some different methods of shooting things, much like this weblog acts as my institutional memory. Which is good, because the details get very fuzzy before COVID.

Speaking of editing, Apple just announced they’re releasing Final Cut Pro 2.0 sometime later this year, which is good news—so long as they don’t move all the furniture around again. I’m going to have the fellas at work give me a crash course in Adobe Premiere sometime soon so that we can trade files back and forth, but my heart will always live with FCP, much like it did with the dearly departed Aperture.

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I’m currently feel very proud of myself; walking the dog this morning, I passed a house with a bunch of stuff out front under a big FREE sign. One of the things was a beautiful steel floor-standing cabinet with a beefy handle/lock combination, several built-in shelves and two enclosed drawers. My lizard brain screamed GO GET THE TRUCK RIGHT NOW but the smaller mammalian section  counseled me to do a mental map of the interior of the garage, which is completely full. BUT YOU COULD PUT STUFF IN THERE, lizard brain responded. Try as I might, I don’t have any room, nor do I really need a cabinet such as this with the space that I have. So I kept walking.

And on the way home I resolved to put a bunch of crap in the basement out by the curb on Saturday morning under a FREE sign. Let’s make some more room.

Date posted: May 9, 2024 | Filed under apple, life | Leave a Comment »

Shit. This was a bit of a gut punch this morning. I was never a huge fan of Albini’s music but his stamp on the music I’ve enjoyed over the last 40 years is undeniable. His list of engineering credits (he eschewed the title of producer as well as a producer’s customary percentages, most notably on Nirvana’s In Utero, which would have made him a millionaire) is long and legendary, and his writing on the music industry is just as impactful. He was due to release a new album next month with Shellac, his current band.

Previously.

Date posted: May 8, 2024 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »

Having used a lot of my hand-me-down tools for work on the trucks in the last couple of years, I’ve put some serious hours on them, and like everything else, they need maintenance. I’ve got a drawerful of Craftsman gear from back in the days when it was made in the USA and Sears actually backed up their unlimited warranty; recently a couple of my 3/8″ ratchets began slipping under load, which points to a lack of lubrication. Given that I’ve never serviced them, it’s been 30 years since I got them, and they’re older than me, I think it’s about time they got some love. Doing some research, I was able to easily disassemble one ratchet, clean and lube it, and put it back in service, but I’ve got another which isn’t coming apart as easily. It’s a cartridge-based design where one retaining clip releases the entire mechanism, as opposed to two separate clips on the front and back. My issue is that the retaining clip ears broke with the clip outside the channel—and the cartridge still hasn’t released. There are replacement cartridges available for this wrench but I’d rather keep it as original as possible, so I’ve got to do some more research to figure out how to release it without wallowing out the handle.

Meanwhile, I’ve been building out a basic toolset for the OG-V and supplementing the one I keep in the Scout. Jen got me a trio of Tool Rolls for Christmas, and the universal roll I put together has gotten a lot of use so far. I like it better than the canvas roll I had previously, which tended to spit tools out the side at the worst times. If I had the choice again I would have asked for the larger version, which would hold a better assortment of larger tools. Meanwhile I’ve tried to make the one for the OG-V inexpensive, scabbing together some metric sockets I had laying around and other tools from Harbor Freight.

Something I need to invest further in are another set of screwdrivers; mine are a mix-and-match assortment of inherited sizes and shapes, and it always seems like I’m missing the ones I need. I bought a Milwaukee set a couple of weeks ago and put that to use on the green truck but I need another big set to round out the collection—and so I can finally retire some chipped and rounded junk in the garage and basement.

My other avenue for tools has been a bust. All of the local yard sales have been terribly disappointing this year: a folding table covered in glassware and fabric, boxes of kids’ clothes, or piles of books and toys. I used to pack Finn up in the backpack and roam the streets on Saturday morning, and almost always came back with at least some good tools.

Date posted: May 6, 2024 | Filed under tools | Leave a Comment »

Well, the end of a fun and educational chapter has now come to a close. The green truck was towed off into the rainclouds yesterday, after I picked some final parts off Friday night. I’d been trying to get the passenger wheel well off since last weekend, and of course it proved to be more difficult than I figured it would. The spot welds came out easily but the lower edge was part of a sandwich between the inner fender skirt and the lower lip of the rear floor, so I wound up trimming about 2″ from the bottom of the well and carving a big hole into the front of the C-pillar to release the whole thing. I have no idea if I’ll ever need it for anything, but it’s a very complex compound curve that I’d never be able to replicate in a million years, so I’m keeping it.

Then I put two good tires on the back of the truck, put the one good tire back on the front, and threw the other two junk tires in the front floorboards with the spare bench setback that was taking up space in the garage. I threw a bunch of other junk inside, vacuumed out the interior, and tied everything down with some old rope.

That evening, a guy reached out on the Binder Planet to ask if I was keeping the square seat bases on the floor, and I told him they were going with the truck the following morning. After thinking it over, I figured I might be able to beat the rain if I got an early start the next morning (the pickup was scheduled between 1-3PM) so I took the dog with me to Harbor Freight and picked up another spot weld cutter, ate some breakfast, and got to work. It was drizzling but the roof of the truck made for a nice cover, so I set up camp inside and started on the passenger side. I got both mounts out in about an hour, then tied everything back down.

When the truck arrived, it was a newer Chevy pickup with a trick wheel lift boom. The driver backed up to the truck and had the front wheels off the ground before he even got out of the cab—the whole thing was done with a remote control and a monitor on the dashboard. That must be how repossessions are done these days. There was a little bit of confusion about the lack of a VIN, but I consulted my records and wrote it down on a Post-It for them. He gave me a $100 bill, I signed the paper, and they were on their way. I really felt a pang of guilt about cutting up and selling the green truck, but I only have so much room and spare time—and it was more of a project, in the long run, than the red truck. So it’s out of the driveway, leaving behind an oil slick and a pile of rust that I have to go sweep up when the rain stops.

So I did order a bunch of gaskets from IHPA with my counter credit last week: a rear quarter window gasket, and the pillar and outer door gaskets. With these in hand, I should be able to both reinstall the rear window, which will get rid of a 1″ gap at the bottom where water has been trickling in and down the inner fender, and around all four doors. The door gaskets on the red truck are all in rough shape and I really want to seal the outer edges to keep as much water out as possible. I’ll have to peel all the old stuff off, clean the gunk off down to the paint, and reinstall. For two of the doors I have to actually adjust the hinges before I can do anything else—the driver’s door in particular needs some serious attention. One of the gaskets is on backorder, so they’re going to wait until it’s in stock before they ship the whole thing out.

The other gasket I ordered was for a different IH product completely: I found a cheap source for the e-shaped gasket on the beer fridge, which has been leaking for a while now. I measured the amount and ordered two extra feet in case of stupidity, and that should be enough to get things started. That one has already shipped, so I should be able to make a project of that this week.

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

Date posted: May 5, 2024 | Filed under Scout, Travelall | Comments Off on She’s Out Of My Life

This year, our usual gang of truck nerds couldn’t make the date for the IH Nationals in June, so we decided to switch things up and go to the Harvester Homecoming, which is held a little further west in Fort Wayne, Indiana. That event is held on the grounds of the original IH assembly plant, so I’ll be taking Peer Pressure back to her birthplace. (IH Nationals is now held at the Truck Assembly Plant in Springfield, where the Travelall was built). It’s in the beginning of August, which will prove to be a hot drive, but nothing we haven’t done before. And that’ll give me a the summer to really shake out the cobwebs in the truck, which didn’t get run a whole lot last year. None of us have been to the Homecoming so we don’t know what to expect, but it looked like the event was fun and they had a big turnout last year.

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DJI has released a cheap, tiny new drone which skirts under the legal requirement to get FAA registration. It’s called the DJI Mini 4K, and it can shoot 4K at 30fps for 30 minutes and has a range of 6 miles. The most important thing is that it’s priced at ~$300 for the basic kit, which is very tempting. Hauling the old Phantom 2 around in its giant Pelican case was a pain in the ass, and I’m sure the advances in stabilization, camera technology, and basic drone technology would make that old Phantom feel like a box camera under a kite. File that under toys I don’t need but would be fun to play with.

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

Date posted: May 2, 2024 | Filed under photography, Scout | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been reading a couple of stories about large American companies over the last couple of weeks and seeing some broad similarities repeating themselves.

Boeing, a successful company, merged with McDonnell-Douglas, a failing company, in 1997—and somehow the MDD leadership wound up running Boeing. They immediately changed from an engineering-led manufacturer to a company run by financiers chasing stock prices. They started outsourcing everything, quality dropped, and now their decades-old reputation has been torpedoed.

There’s a new article about Google out this week, in which the author pins down the exact day they decided to make their search worse in order to increase their ad revenue. The similarity: a guy formerly from Yahoo, who ran their search division into the ground for seven years, forced out the guy who built Google’s search into the powerhouse we remember, and kicked down the wall between search and ads. Have you enjoyed using Google search for the last five years? It’s a piece of shit.

Meanwhile, roughly half the country is primed to re-elect a grifter who uses inflated stock prices to prop up failing businesses and avoid paying taxes, because he’s “good at business” or something.

Date posted: April 27, 2024 | Filed under money, politics | Leave a Comment »

3D printing is nothing new; it’s been around for decades at this point, and people have been making cool shit for a long time. I’ve always been interested in seeing what can be achieved with different materials, and I’ve seen people design incredible things in 3D modeling software that then gets printed into solid objects. I thought I’d dip my toe in the water with a pretty simple first project: a fake car dealer badge like they used to make Back In The Day. My inspiration came from something I got off the Flintstone Scout, which still had the original IH dealer badge from Cumberland, MD stuck to the rear of the tailgate.

DSCF8876

I started looking for the proper typeface and settled on a classic House Industries font from the archives, modifying the S and making minor tweaks to the other letterforms to fit the era I was going for. The lower typeface was another old favorite, Bitstream Geometric 212, that I’ve had for probably 25 years. I set them up on a rectangle like some of the others I’ve seen in reference, put two beveled screw holes in place, rounded off the edges, and looked into how to build a 3D file with the tools I’ve got here.

Adobe makes a 3D program but it’s only available as a standalone package (not part of Creative Cloud) so that was out. I read up on how to build a 3D-readable file from within Illustrator, played around with the settings, and tried to bring it into SketchUp, but found that they’ve put a lot of their file import features behind a paid plan as well. So I messed with my file some more, found a free converter that switched an .OBJ file to an .STL (which most print-on-demand services prefer) and sent out for a couple of quotes. I was, frankly, quite shocked to see what they were charging: the first shop I contacted quoted me $50.02 for a piece of ABS plastic 4.5″ wide.

So clearly, it’s cheaper just to buy a fucking 3D printer than it is to ask someone to do a one-off project. Shit, I had metal laser-cut, bent, and powder coated for less than half that price. I don’t know what that plastic is made from, but it must be more expensive by the ounce than printer ink or something.

Date posted: April 25, 2024 | Filed under art/design | 2 Comments »

Our original CR-V (now called the OG-V) now in its 18th year, is rapidly approaching historic motor vehicle status. I drove it down to Bob’s house yesterday and marveled at how pleasant a driver it still is with 162K on the odometer: plenty of power from the engine, a buttery-smooth manual transmission, and all of the modern conveniences one might desire, minus all of the fiddly tech bits one might want to avoid. The seats are still firm and comfortable, the driving position is optimized for long distance travel, and having the  sunroof open was a pleasant way to prowl the highways of Southern Maryland—until it started raining.

That being said, it’s showing its age in small ways. Driving the new CR-V puts all of these things into stark perspective: It feels solid, it’s cave-quiet inside, and all of the doodads do the dads they’re supposed to.  In the OG-V, the seals around the doors and windows have all shrunk, so there’s a lot more wind noise in the cabin these days. Eighteen years of shitty Baltimore County roads have taken their toll on the suspension, which translates to squeaking inside and outside. The automatic window button doesn’t automatically lower the window all the way down anymore. Ever since the body shop fixed the rear hatch after the car’s unplanned departure down a hill and into a Jeep, the rear window release doesn’t work. She’s slowly burning more and more oil. And recently the battery has been getting weaker and weaker.

About halfway to Bob’s house I stopped for a bite to eat and some coffee, and when I got back in the engine barely cranked before catching. Alarmed, I got off the phone with my Mom and charted a course to the nearest auto parts store. I keep a toolkit in the well under the back deck, and pulled the old battery out to bring inside. Ten minutes and $200 later I was installing a new one in its place, and when I turned the key the engine fired right up with a gusto I haven’t felt in a year. She seemed a little peppier on the rest of the drive, and I was happy to know I wouldn’t be stranded thirty miles outside of our towing coverage.

I am going to add some stuff to the tools in the car, however—more wrenches, pliers, and metric-specific stuff I don’t currently have in there—knowing she isn’t getting any younger and that she may require more side-of-the-road surgeries to keep motoring along.

Date posted: April 22, 2024 | Filed under honda | Leave a Comment »