My Monday drawing class was nothing to write about, but last night’s session went off a lot better.
On Tuesday evening, I finished cleaning up the inside of the linen closet in the upstairs hall. When we moved in, it was filled with creaky, overpainted wooden shelves and the obligatory wire rack screwed to the back of the door (I think the good Doctor bought these in bulk.) I stripped everything and pulled the wallpaper out to find uneven, cracked plaster walls over a crudely sawn hole in the floor—for plumbing access. After we had Ben hook up the wiring I installed this spring, we threw a bunch of blankets in there on top of a tupperware and forgot about the whole thing. Because of the rain this past two weeks, I’ve been able to tackle some of the interior projects, and I finally got around to mudding and taping the interior of the closet. It’s amazing how much better the first skim coat makes it look, even if it’s still not dry—gotta love 90% humidity. Strange house quirk #74: At one time, the inside of the closet door was painted metallic silver. Yeah, you heard right. Then again, these are the folks that put carpet over linoleum over the hardwood floors…
Tonight Jen and I are driving north to see my family for the weekend. I’m looking forward to some recharge time by the lake, and I hope the weather is kinder up there than it’s been down here. We’re bringing the Holy Box Of Wedding Photos for them to see, as well as the second half of my Dad’s ladder, which I’ve been holding hostage for three years. If I don’t post anything here in the next couple of days, enjoy your weekend, friends.
BGE can bite my skinny Irish ass. What should have taken two weeks to do, tops (consolidating two electrical meters into one, and merging two bills) has taken 11 months, four turn-off notices, four seperate promises by different CSR’s, and one bottle of Pepto-Bismol. And it’s still not done.
Tell Us A Story. Given the tons of feedback I’ve gotten around here lately, and the haphazard posting most of my online peeps have been doing, I’m going to guess you’re all having loads more fun than I am this summer. Or, your computers have crashed. Or, I’m just very dull. Well, here’s a story for you, based on a call I got from Jen yesterday about some new freelance work. She asked if I’d be interested in doing some PowerPoint for her current freelance employers.
Rewind to the spring of 2000, when I was employed at a now defunct dot-com. We were still in the rosy pre-crash days, when IPO’s were exploding across the financial pages and we all entertained thoughts of buying Ferraris with our stock options. I got called into the marketing VP’s office to look at several thick stacks of color printouts on his table.
Him: So, what do you think of these?
Me: (paging through what were obviously PowerPoint presentations) They suck. Boy, do they suck.
And damn, did they suck. Some had the slickee-boy sheen of “consulting firm” all over them—glossy, shiny graphs and charts peppered with New-Economy speak touting ROI and Time-To-Market and Synergy. Others had the beaten feel of “in-house design department”, where the dull colors swallowed dull titles set in Times New Roman, the Font Face For Desktop Publishers. It was all incomprehensible gibberish to me, and unfortunately I’d have an up close and personal relationship with it for the next four months. This was the Roadshow: a week-long caravan from city to city, organized by the underwriters to sell the IPO at the highest possible price. The PowerPoint was the glue that held the whole presentation together, and it needed to be perfect.
Him: You can do better than these, right?
Me: (still being the Good Corporate Employee) Sure!
Him: Can you make PowerPoint?
Me: (wincing at the idiocy of that sentence) Sure! (lies.)
Thus began a descent into Hell, where my life became one bar chart after another, punctuated with paragraphs of twaddle pulled from the pages of Business 2.0 and Upside magazine. I had to figure out how to fit thirty company logos into a page with a bar chart and a paragraph of text, while also making our company logo (teal green and magenta, just lovely) larger. Because the program’s charting software was so ugly, I built everything in Illustrator and imported the clean graphs. I edited and rewrote their sloppy paragraphs. I rebuilt corporate logos when I was given 30×60 pixel GIF files from the web. My job became a daily routine of tweaking, changing and modifying graphs and charts at the whim of two senior VPs, and soon I was stuck in the middle of an ego contest, creating different versions of the same slide for each person while they flung poo at each other.
I got pretty good at “making PowerPoint”, though. I also got pretty good at drinking heavily when I left work. But somewhere along the way, the stories of jetting via private plane from city to city for the roadshow gave way to anxious glancing at E-Trade accounts as the market began to tank. Sometime late that fall the plans for our IPO were scrapped, and the project died on the vine. The three IBM laptops I purchased for the roadshow sat idle in my desk drawer. As we watched the economic news get worse, I began thinking of an exit strategy, and by December I was gone. Luckily, I went to a firm where PowerPoint wasn’t on my list of projects.
Back to the present day: We’re recently married, seriously planning children, and attempting to fix everything we possibly can before the little bundles of joy start appearing on our bank statements. We’re also paying off the honeymoon, eyeing a leaky roof, and waiting for a dishwasher to materialize in our kitchen. Can I make PowerPoint? You bet your ass I can.
Jen and I happened to catch a few episodes of “Scrubs” last weekend on TV, and were reminded of how funny that show can be when it’s working. Today on Salon I found a quick interview with one of the stars, who made a movie in the off-season called Garden State. I looked at the trailer and movie site, and found that it’s playing at the Charles on the 20th. I also liked the song playing in the trailer, and found it on the ITMS: it’s called “Let Go”, by a band called Frou Frou. (the other one on the main trailer is “Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service.)
Well, this entire week, we’ve been getting the Big Giant Finger from the sky pilot upstairs, which means the house is still two different colors. I had good intentions of finishing the back corner and moving to the west side, but stayed inside because of 70% humidity and a “chance of thunderstorms”, which never did arrive. Instead, Jen and I took a trip to Frederick and wandered around the antique malls on Saturday afternoon. She found a quartet of excellent fruit labels, and I ventured into dangerous territory by purchasing two seafoam-colored Russel Wright bowls.
Sunday, we attacked the doctor’s office, cleaning out a pile of stuff for donation (we now have a pile of hefty bags approaching critical mass in the hallway) and clearing out the room. We also cleaned up the atrium for the first time in ten months, so that one may actually walk into the room instead of tripping over paint cans. I also scrubbed the remaining wallpaper paste off the inside of the linen closet in preparation for taping and mudding. If the weather’s gonna be crappy this week, I’m going to get something done inside, darnit.
Sunday evening, we decided to drop by Nate and Kristen’s with some ice cream and check out the house (they live mere minutes away, and this is the first time we’ve made it over there). The sound of a very pregnant Kristen settling in behind a bowl of Godiva Belgian Dark Chocolate was worth the trip.
File Under Future. Given that Jen’s going to be freelancing for the forseeable future, we’re going to need some upgrades to the office. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is a large-format printer for running proofs. Last night we saw some prints from an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 at Nate’s house, which were very pretty. Doing some research this morning, I found some info on it, which was less than good. Instead, I found the Canon i9900 which is at a comparable price and which prints at a max size of 13×23 from USB and FireWire. Given my experience with Epson printers and Canon cameras, I’m sold on the Canon. Of course, it’s going to have to wait for a while.
Most of the folks I know have some idea that I do lots of freelance work on the side, and sometimes I get myself into some pretty tight deadlines. Part of that work is beginning to show up online: The new iteration of the Calvert website went live yesterday. While there are still a ton of bugs to be worked out (I’m not handling the update on the server, just supplying pages), the overall update of the look and feel is worlds better than before. Because of the scope of the project, we’re going through section by section, so most of the interior areas still carry the old branding and design, but we’re making progress throughout the site as the weeks go by. Stay tuned for more updates. (I’ll also post some screenshots of the old site, maybe tomorrow.)
I Once Was Blind, But Now I Can See. We are so gonna see this movie if it shows up around Baltimore. (Right. Along with Farenheit 911, Finding Nemo, and all the other movies we haven’t seen yet.) Also: RJD2 is playing the Ottobar on September 30.
The final 15 or so wedding pictures have been scanned and posted, so all of you who know where to look can scroll to the bottom of that page to see ’em. *whew*.
(Almost) One Month Jeep Report. My experience with the Chrysler company’s flagship brand has been a pretty smooth one so far; I’ve enjoyed a month of smooth, seamless driving, peace of mind, and general happiness. The steering on the Jeep is smooth, unlike the jerky, nerve-wracking motion of the Taurus—a sustained turn to either side brought on strange pulls and slips in the steering wheel, like the belt was going bad. The radio has a funny habit of losing its stations on hot days, but the buttons aren’t obscured by the cupholder, and overall it’s a better unit than the Delco model from the Ford. The driver’s window tends to rattle when it’s rolled partially down and the door is shut—I’ll have to pull the door apart and tighten the channels inside at some point. Average MPG is around 21 highway, which is better than the 16 I was told. Finally, the fluids are all still very clean after 3,000 miles, unlike the chocolate soup the Taurus used to make. All in all, I’m very, very pleased. (Added on 7/22: The rear liftgate seems to randomly choose whether to lock itself when the switch on the door is thrown; it’s about a 50/50 shot. Curious.)
Subject: RE: the Catonsville 4th of July Parade
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 16:18:27 -0400
From: “Mayor Martin O’Malley”
To: “Bill Dugan”
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 19 Jul 2004 20:18:27.0996 (UTC)
Well, I have broad shoulders, but I always
feel bad for Katie and the kids.
Thanks for your kind words, and for your
Last night I drew some more nekkid pictures at MICA. It was a pretty good evening, although I ignored my own lecture from last week and sketched a bit more than usual. By the end of the evening my mojo was fading, so I packed up a little early and went home.
Meanwhile, Jen had been busy rearranging furniture, and she came up with a fantastic floorplan for the living room which adds the oak library table we were given last year and balances out the whole space. (The living room is a long rectangle, split in the middle by the fireplace and entry arch, which makes it hard to unify both sides.) What a huge difference.
iPod update. I found this repair kit for the 1st gen iPod, so I may be able to fix Jen’s unit, but that won’t solve the busted Firewire connection. More research to follow.
Saturday Jen and I put a day of work into the crumbling pile of wood we call a house; I got 90% of the back side of the house painted while Jen waded into the gardens to wrestle the weeds into submission. I will now sing the praises of the Wagner Power Painter to the heavens, build it an altar in the living room, and raise our children to leave it offerings of tobacco and corn. What took me all day to roll by hand in front took about four hours with the sprayer, and I’d estimate that two of those hours were pure ladderwork. (The back of the house features all three main wires to the house: cable, phone, and electrical, which makes moving an aluminum ladder a sphincter-tightening proposition.) Finding the correct mixture of thinning additive to the paint took a few tries, but once I figured it out, the paint went on like butter—and evenly, too.
Saturday I experienced my first book club meeting, which was a pretty harmless good time with a new bunch of folks. Slaughterhouse-Five turned out to be a quick but interesting read, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the next book on the list. Thankfully, the game of Risk never made it to the floor after the discussion was over, and we left in good cheer.
From four online form requests for a roofing estimate, I’ve gotten a grand total of one reply.
(Today I sent this letter to the Baltimore City Mayor, Martin O’Malley, who rode a float in the Catonsville 4th of July parade.)
As a new transplant from Baltimore City to the town of Catonsville, I was pretty embarrassed by the treatment your family got during the parade a few weeks ago. My wife and I recently bought a house on Frederick Road and hosted a party with bunch of other city-dwelling folks, the majority of whom I’d call O’Malley supporters. We cheered as you passed by (and, I have to admit, my wife has a crush on you. I’m glad you didn’t stop long in front of our house, for the sake of my marriage) but I’m afraid we were in the minority.
It took a lot of guts to take part in that parade, considering the pronounced Republican slant of the town, and I have to take my hat off to you, and offer an apology for the boorish behavior of the rest of the town.
I hope, at least, you and your family had fun on the rest of the day. Thanks for coming out.