I’ve been wanting to move out of the city for some time now. I’ve been here for twelve years, since the first Bush administration, and I’m ready for a change of scenery.

I’ve been increasingly unhappy with the city experience over the last couple of years; minor gripes with the amount of space in my house have grown to include things like an intense hatred for the police helicopters hovering over the bedroom each night; the endlessly repeating song coming from the ice cream truck (yeah, it’s cute the first time, but just wait until the frickin thing crawls down your street at 2 mph), and the kids walking down the street who FEEL THE NEED TO YELL ALL THE TIME. I’d like to actually have a lawn, some trees, a garage, and a house with windows on all four sides. And now that life is getting serious, I’d like us to live in a place where the schools are public and good.

That being said, I drove out to Finksburg to look at a house listed online. On paper, it sounded good: Built in 1900, four bedrooms and three and a half baths, an acre of land, fireplaces, central air. I drove, and I drove, and I drove. I wound up out in farm country, following single-lane roads through rolling countryside, until I found the house.

The house wasn’t what we were hoping for, at least in my opinion—the neighboring house is stuck right up on one side of this place, and it’s a plumber’s office, with the attendant vans parked outside. The area is surrounded by farmland, and the distance to any main highway is far. The first live being I saw after getting out of the car was a Holstein cow. But that’s not what spooked me.

I got scared when I began thinking about the changes about to take place in our lives—both Jen and I have lived in the same place for years. We’re used to our routines, we’re used to our habits; we have a relationship with our surroundings and our neighborhoods that’s easy and comfortable. Need a good cup of coffee? I’ve got you covered. Need a valve job? We know the guy. Looking for a great dinner? Jen can point you to several within a ten minute drive of her house.

I’m not scared to join households with my fiancee. (I’m not afraid to use the word fiancee, either.) I’m not scared to start an adult life with her, to arrange joint accounts and save for retirement and think about marriage plans and buy stuff for babies. I’m looking forward to it, in fact.

I’m concerned about all the unknowns that go along with buying a house. I’m afraid of redneck neighbors, termites, radon, tornados, decreasing property value, indian burial sites, eminent domain, locust infestation…

We are at the edge of a wide chasm, Jen and I, and we’re about to jump together. Knowing that makes me feel better, but I’m still worried about the unknowns.

I posted pictures from the NY trip this afternoon. Tractors, type, barns and boats. Big fun, people.

My (incomplete) artist suggestions for Apple to include in the iTunes Store:

  • The Pogues
  • Dismemberment Plan
  • The New Pornographers
  • The White Stripes
  • Sigur Ros (was up there, but is now gone)
  • The Rolling Stones

Song of the Day: Go With The Flow, Queens of the Stone Age. Rawwwwk!

Date posted: May 30, 2003 | Filed under Future Plans, history, house, music | Leave a Comment »

I broke down and bought a Jelly Roll Morton album From the iTunes Store last night. 22 of the best mid-20’s Jazz standards for $10? I’m all over that.
Link not work? Sorry, you need iTunes on a Mac.

Today I ordered $175 worth of fencing for the backyard of my house. Big deal, you say, so what? Well, with the completion of the fencing back there (so that we may hopefully be able to ignore the lovely view of the alley, the fact that three of our neighbors have taken to parking their cars directly across from the house, and avoid any more theft) and some planting, the backyard should be complete. A major overhaul on the front door, some minor cosmetic stuff, and we put the house up on the market. ¡Adios, Baltimore! Time to beat feet out of there. And not a moment too soon.

Frightening. There comes a certain point in the day, sometimes midway through your career, sometimes several in one week, where you realize just how much you still have left to learn. And I mean just technically. Not the existential every-day stuff (which is cause for more concern, and usually another round of drinks.)

I just had one of those moments. It’s only 3:38PM. Boy, I need a drink.

One reason not to drink, but to get back to work: The collected caricatures of David Levine, one of the bestest there is. The New York Review of Books has made his work viewable as a gallery going back to 1963. (via metafilter)

Date posted: May 29, 2003 | Filed under art/design, house, music | Leave a Comment »

atom heart mother, 5.25.03

atom heart mother, 5.25.03

Jen and I drove north to my folks’ place to spring the surprise on them this past weekend. We got in at about 10:30 Friday night, and when we told them my Mom freaked out and smothered us in a huge hug while my Dad laughed and grabbed a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Luckily my sister stopped by not too long after that and joined in the celebration. It was a great way to start off the weekend.

Saturday, my Mom had scheduled a tour through the Wells College Book Arts Center, a small program run by the school to teach letterpress printing and bookbinding. Jen and I geeked out completely on the boxes of letterpress slugs, the old turn of the century crank presses and the piles of beautiful broadsheets they showed us. There’s something wonderful about the tactile feel of a letterpress print job and a handmade bound book; Terry and Sarah were kind enough to give us a pair of books and a pile of broadsheets from their portfolio for an engagement present, so I have lots of frames to make. Thanks guys!

Saturday evening we got a pile of Dugans in one place (my parents’) with food and booze and had ourselves a real celebration. When you get a roomful (or a porchful, as the case may be) of my extended family together, you have to come with your A-list material, and be quick, because the thing goes down like a celebrity roast. Unfortunately Grampy was feeling ill so he stayed in bed, but the official good time was had by all. My Uncle Brian, a judge in the county of Cayuga, offered to marry us on the spot, then kept offering helpful suggestions (parasailing marriage, nudist marriage, etc.) to sweeten the deal. Wisely, we declined, but thanked him for the offers. I think both Jen and I went to sleep with our sides hurting from laughing so hard.

Sunday was rainy again, so we did some driving through the county to antique stores and walking by the lake. And some getting yelled at for taking pictures of old farmhouses by crazy-ass neighbors in trailer homes. (Yeah, that one was fun. Jen was about to leave my ass by the side of the road for Captain Angry to come shoot at will. Admittedly, I was choosing to ignore the seven posted NO TRESPASSING signs, but I was going under the assumption that they were optional.) Renie’s friends Dee and Tom were in town for the weekend, and Tom had expressed interest in driving a tractor while in farm country. Always one to oblige, Brian offered one of his to us for the afternoon, and we drove to the farm to get the tractor tutorial. After a five-minute crash course (no pun intended), Tom drove a John Deere down into the pasture past the dairy herd and did circles. Jen and I hopped up on the sideboards of another tractor and rode down with Brian to spread manure (yeah, I can show a girl a good time, can’t I?)

Tom showed me the controls of the tractor and I took a turn; Renie followed and got down from the cab with a huge grin on her face. Jen then jumped on board and took it out and over the hill out of sight—the smile on her face as she came back was huge. Dee followed Jen and took it across the rows, bouncing Tom into the cab roof as she opened up the throttle. Did you know that most modern tractors have air-conditioning, automatic transmissions (there is a clutch, but once you get her in gear, it’s not unlike the Tiptronic shifter in high-end Audis) and four-speaker stereos? That Deere had a better sound system than my house.

The evening was topped off by a trip to Pete’s Treats, an outside ice-cream stand up in Union Springs, for homemade hot-fudge sundaes on outdoor picnic benches. I don’t think anybody could dream up a more small-town American weekend.

I got the first prints back from the Apple/Kodak service bundled in iPhoto yesterday; they look fantastic, and the process was simple. I highly recommend it, and I’m probably never going to pay for 35mm negatives again. Can I just say again that I love my camera?

Date posted: May 28, 2003 | Filed under family, Trip Logs | Leave a Comment »

ring, 5.21.03

ring, 5.21.03

Update: Here is a link to some pictures from our trip.

It’s Official. Last Sunday (the 18th), I took Jen to the airport, where we boarded a plane bound for Charlotte. Originally, the destination was a secret, but after the dipshit ticketing lady asked Jen three times if she was going to Savannah, I broke down and gave her a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for the plane ride. Switching planes, We landed that afternoon in a light rain and took a taxi to our bed and breakfast, the Eliza Thompson House, which sits squarely in the middle of the city’s historic district. Exhausted from our travelling (and the bum-rush through the Charlotte terminal to our second plane), we were content to turn on cable and lay in bed. Until the thunderstorm came and began knocking out the power. (at one point, during the Simpsons, the power went out for a minute, then came back up as Krusty the Clown said, “Ugggghh… that’s better,” and then went out for good.) We walked down to the parlor where candles had been lit and enjoyed our after-dinner coffee and dessert with the other guests.

The next morning, we put on our walking shoes and had a light breakfast in the courtyard of the hotel. Then, we set out into the city to explore the sights. Savannah’s historic district is laid out in a grid, with picturesque squares in repeating patterns throughout. We wandered through the damp streets, stopping in the cemetery to shoot pictures of the Revolutionary War-era headstones. In the downtown district, we stopped and took pictures of lots of architectural and typographical subjects (the geek designers in us coming out. Who else has a whole series of digital pictures of the old Woolworth’s tiled floor entrance, “Because we liked the typeface?” That would be us.) as well as the riverfront and cotton exchange. After lunch we met up with a tour guide to look at the gardens in the city, and then changed for dinner.

The 17 Hundred and 90 is a ground-level restaurant in the foot of another inn, and it is furnished in early-american style with captain’s chairs on a hard stone floor. (caution: the number for this restaurant is misprinted in the Fodor’s guide and will ring at Il Pasticcio.) We were seated in front of the piano player, who cheesed the appetizer up with a dual piano-synthesizer attack. Dinner was started with oysters Rockefeller and a bottle of Cabernet and got better from there. After the main course was served, the piano player calmed down and moved into standards, playing a selection of Porter and Gerswhin (we requested Someone To Watch Over Me) and the room got fuller and quieter.

After dessert, we strolled back towards the hotel through the foggy city, enjoying the quiet cozy atmosphere. As we got to the center of Madison square, I stopped Jen and asked her if she loved me. After telling me she did, she asked me what I was asking her. I got down on my knee and pulled the ring from my pocket, and asked her to be my wife. Giggling, she said yes, and we held each other long and tight. As I slipped the ring on her finger, the church bells struck ten, and we just about skipped back to the hotel.

The next day we awoke to sunny skies, in spite of the weather channel, which was claiming it would rain all week. A delicious pecan waffle at Clary’s was followed by a second day of exploring, where we stopped to take pictures of Madison square and collect four-leaf clover from the garden under the statue to press in the book. (Good luck charms never hurt.) We then realized the guy on the statue was being depicted in the midst of his heroic death attempting to rescue the regimental flag during the Revolutionary War. Romantic choice, Bill. Continuing southward, we followed the Fodor’s guide through a tour of the sites from the novel, and strolled through Forsyth park to the fountain.

That evening, we made reservations at the Pink House, and arrived early for a drink in the tavern in the basement, where a sweating Tony Siragusa lookalike twinkled another piano. Upstairs in the mansion, we were seated next to a magnificent fireplace in the southern room, where we dined on grouper stuffed with crab and a twin lobster tail in a sherry wine and cream sauce. We sat for a half hour and reviewed the day, reminding ourselves that we were engaged. Following dinner was a slice of Jack Daniels pecan pie and a flourless chocolate torte with coffee.

Early for our ghost tour, we returned to the tavern for a glass of Bailey’s over ice and enjoyed the fire in the corner. Gathering in Reynolds Square with four other couples, we followed the guide, an excitable lad named Sam, on a half-baked tour through the northeast section of town. Sam fancied himself a paranormal investigator and decided to orate on the different classes of hauntings, which was dull and boring, but he did have a bizarre lecture style which involved holding his right hand in front of him like a claw (and making Jen and I laugh.) Because we ended the tour right back in front of the Pink House (which was one of the haunted sites on the tour), we stopped in the tavern for another drink before returning home. There we met a really nice guy named Mike, agreeing that Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago was a tall drink of water, and talking about the city. He also got to be the first person we told about our engagement. Thanks for the good wishes, Mike.

Wednesday’s flight was scheduled for the early afternoon, so we packed our things and walked down Jones street to Mrs. Wilkes’ for lunch, where the good people of Savannah line up outside to wait for a table to open up. The food is served boarding house style, with twelve people at a table passing bowls of low-country Southern food around to each other. Jen was in a blissful state, reliving childhood with each bite of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, butter beans, biscuits (with sorghum), and sweet iced tea. I’m not listing everything here, but I couldn’t find enough room on my plate to fit everything, and it was all so good I filled up quickly. For dessert, they brought a choice of either peaches and cream or banana cream pie, and we found room to fit it.

On our way out, we bought the cookbook and grudgingly made our way back to the hotel to wait for our cab. As we dorve out of the city, we held hands in the back seat and reflected on our stay in the city, one of the best vacations I’ve ever had, and one of the most romantic places I can think of.

Note: This account was delayed a week to preserve the element of surprise for our families, who we told this weekend. Many thanks go to the good people of Savannah, the ladies at Heirloom Jewelry, and all our friends who kept the secret quiet (“I can tell you when we’re leaving, but not where or what we’re doing.”) Pictures will be posted directly.

Date posted: May 27, 2003 | Filed under history, travel, Trip Logs | Leave a Comment »

Whew. Sorry about the delay in writing, folks. It’s been a mighty busy week.

I decided to try out another of Apple’s services today and order photos through iPhoto; they are printed on Kodak paper and delivered to your doorstep. The ordering process was easy, although my 400mhz Powerbook had to sit and think about the entire archive of photos I’ve got (1.25GB, currently) on this drive. Once it chugged through them all, it was a very easy process to select and order photos using my Apple ID. I ordered about eight photos and with shipping, the total should be somewhere around $10. I hope they come out well.

Date posted: May 22, 2003 | Filed under photography | Leave a Comment »

Please god don’t let my Mac barf on OSX 10.2.6.

OK, so anybody who might be reading this: Jen is looking for part or full-time print design work in the DC/Baltimore area, starting immediately. She’s had five years’ experience in the field, has a Master’s degree from the University of Baltimore publication design department, and she does excellent work (I may be biased, but I tell the truth here.) If you have any leads or suggestions, please let her know at jenllockard@excite.com.

You may or may not have noticed, but the style sheet problem with Safari got fixed today. I spent an evening banging my head against the wall trying to fix it, then ran the page through Dreamweaver, cleaned up the HTML, and fixed it. Something must have gotten bollixed up about last December or so and just got recopied since then. The pages looked fine in all browsers save the latest build of Safari, where they became craptacular. Whew. It’s nice to have that cleaned up.

Date posted: May 16, 2003 | Filed under geek | Leave a Comment »

arabber, formstone, 5.15.03

arabber, formstone, 5.15.03

I stopped on my way home this afternoon to take a picture of a vanishing Baltimore icon: an Araber stopped by the side of the road, selling produce from the back of a cart. Jen and I have heard them wheeling slowly through the neighborhood over the last few months, and it occurred to me that I haven’t bought produce from one in a long time. This gentleman gave me two bags of seedless grapes for $4 and let me take his picture. I consider that a pretty good bargain. I hope I see him again in the neighborhood. note: (I would have linked to a good info site on arabers, but there don’t seem to be any.)

Huh. People are all freaked out about the journalist who got fired by the New York Times for making stuff up, which comes right on the heels of the announcement by the journalist who previously got fired for making stuff up writing a novel…about a journalist who makes stuff up. Ain’t America sweet?

Jen is in the middle of talking to my alma mater about teaching a flex class there in the fall, and wanted to know if i was interested in teaching a web design class as well. I’m intrigued and hopeful that they will call me back, as I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the last time I did it, and would like to try it again.

This morning I loaded Miramar’s PC MacLAN on my PC at home, looking for a way to get around the ._ hassles that OSX comes with; I was also hoping I could use the Mac volume as a storage facility for music files with iTunes as well. We’ll see how it works over the network tonight—I’m still working out some of the bugs in the system. It would also be nice to have the printer shared throughout the network.

Date posted: May 15, 2003 | Filed under Baltimore, geek, photo | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been working on a project where the issue of readability has come up more than once, especially long lines of text in paragraphs. Searching for some hard data, I came upon the Usability News site, and also the University of Wichita’s psychology department and their studies based on usability testing. I’m impressed by the breadth and depth of the results, as well as its layout online. I’m going to be linking back to this one (and doing a lot of reading) in the next few weeks.

Todd, my cube-neighbor, asked me a few weeks ago if anybody I knew would be interested in a beautiful used dining room table for sale; he and his wife were selling it to make room for their new table. After a brief consultation with Jen, and a visit to look at the table (and a very tasty frittatta which Heather claimed was burnt—it was not), I signed on the dotted line. Tonight it will appear in my dining room, which is little more than a narrow hallway between the living room and kitchen, and hopefully not dwarf the rest of the house.

Outstanding television. The West Wing, over the course of the last couple of episodes (that I’ve seen, at least) has been some of the best television I’ve watched in a long time. This evening’s episode, the season finale, was gripping, intelligent drama—and last week’s leadup was some of the most suspenseful TV I’ve seen in years. And John Frickin’ Goodman as the Speaker of the House!

Date posted: May 14, 2003 | Filed under art/design, entertainment, house | Leave a Comment »

No, my truck was not abandoned simply because I parked it out in front of your stupid house. If you have such an issue with the fact that my truck is parked three doors down from my house out in front of your door, get off your fat ass and walk down to ask me to move it. Don’t call the cops and complain that somebody left the truck there, especially since it had only been there since sunday morning. And if you have a problem with the way my truck looks, perhaps you should walk out your front door, turn around, and get an eyeful of the sorry-ass front of your house. Maybe I should call and complain to the ASPCA the next time I walk past your air conditioner and get a noseful of that rotten cat piss stink fuming out of your living room.

And, you know, I did buy a cover for it, so that I’d be a better neighbor and you wouldn’t have to look at it. I kept that cover on it right up to the day somebody ripped it off in broad daylight and you didn’t call the cops. So thanks, neighbor.

If my truck gets towed, you better believe your car will soon be sitting on four flat tires, bucko.

So you’re bored of all the average-looking cars out there on the road, and you want something distinctive. A Civic is too plain, a Hummer H2 is too big, and there’s already a Z8 parked on your block. Why not a DeLorean? A company in Texas will be happy to sell you a “remanufactured” model with a 6/6000 mile warranty. Already got one? then you’ve probably heard about their extensive warehouse full of OEM parts, shipped straight from the factory in Ireland when the company shut down. Heck, if I had $35K burning a hole in my pocket, I’d be interested in buying one for giggles.

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

Date posted: May 13, 2003 | Filed under Baltimore, Scout | Leave a Comment »

So this weekend our friends Tim and Betty were married in D.C., kicking off the last great wave of marriages among our group from college. We had folks fly in from San Francisco and put a serious hurt on me when I tried to keep up with them (a bad idea—they had cast-iron livers and the time change on their side-I never stood a chance); we had folks drive down from New York and suffer mechanical disaster only miles from the Delaware Memorial Bridge. We randomly bumped into two other different couples we knew on two different days in two different locations, thus filling our karmic quota for the year.

Jen got the award for Best Resurrection From The Dead for her ability to shake off a vodka hangover and power through the morning of the wedding; there was a point where I thought I might lose her, but when she looked me in the eye and asked for a bloody mary, I knew my girl would make it, and look good too. After making it from the Baltimore beltway to the DC beltway in about fifteen minutes, I got us almost lost and then to the church with ten minutes to spare.

The ceremony and reception were as beautiful and elegant as you would hope for; the bride and groom were as gracious, relaxed and perfect as you would sell your soul to be. And it was fantastic to sit and catch up with old friends.

Date posted: May 12, 2003 | Filed under friends | Leave a Comment »