Emailing a bunch of designer friends for advice yesterday brought back an interesting (and unexpected) result: Looks like I’m steering towards the Epson instead of the Canon printer. This is a surprise to me, as my last experience with Epson printers had me at the teetering brink of suicide. However, the 1280 looks to be discontinued, and the 2200 is a bit pricey.

A nice man came to the house and crawled all over the roof at 7am yesterday morning; he claims to have fixed our current roof leak problems and to have replaced about 30 slates; he also mentioned that the roof is getting old, that there’s no easy repair for our ice guards, and that the fascia board along the back of the house is coming off, slowly taking the gutter with it. (Cue sound: buckets of money hurled out the window.)

As if the malware, pagefile, and general lousy computer issues I’m having weren’t enough, the breaker on my side of this building is tripping because there are too many computers on at one time. So until further notice, I’m taking my iTunes server offline and going home. Nyah, nyah.

Date posted: November 30, 2004 | Filed under geek, house | Leave a Comment »

I’m sitting here at work, silently thankful for forgetting my leftovers at home, because if I eat any more stuffing, gravy, or yams, I will explode in a cloud of turkey-scented goo. Our weekend was fun, exhausting, comfortable, and relaxing at the same time. After inhaling the feast (and killing the last four bottles of white wine left from the wedding), we laid around and watched football. Friday we split off into three groups—my Mom and sister headed out to Ellicott City to shop, my father and I went to check out the B&O Railroad Museum, and Jen crashed out upstairs, trying to recover from a chest cold.

The B&O Museum has come a long way since my Dad and I saw it last. We crawled around the engines in the parking lot about five years ago one Sunday when the museum was closed, but the closest I’ve been to the exhibits inside have been drunken paper shows held by the AIGA where I was more concerned with remembering names than looking at locomotives. Last year, the dome over the roundhouse collapsed under the weight of a heavy snowfall, and I think it may have been one of the best things to happen for the museum (damage to some of the priceless exhibits notwithstanding.) They’ve taken the opportunity to expand the whole facility, redesign the interior layout, and add staff. We were surprised to find a long line outside the front doors, packed with young children waiting to see Santa and the model trains. There’s a food concession stand, new model exhibits on extended loan from the Smithsonian, and several newly refurbished engines sitting outside the work shed (which will be open in 2005.) I’ve not seen my father’s eyes that wide in a long time. Saturday we made the Annual Pilgrimage To The Shrine Of Inexpensive Swedish Furniture, and later hit Home Anthology to wade through the midcentury modern goodness. All in all, it was a very good visit.

Plug. We had the good fortune to catch The Shipping News on AMC last night—if you get a chance, check it out. It’s a quiet, slower-paced movie, but rewarding and entertaining. From the director who brought you Chocolat.

Advice.I’m thinking about taking some current freelance cash and finally getting a large-format color printer for the office; I’m leaning towards a Canon but put off by the $500 price for an inkjet. Anybody have one they can recommend?

Holy Fucking God, does Windows XP “Professional” suck donkey balls. I’ve had it running for three weeks and it’s the buggiest, crashingest, most spyware-infected, slowest piece of shit I’ve used since Windows 3.1.

Date posted: November 29, 2004 | Filed under family, geek | Leave a Comment »

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, 11.26.04.

Date posted: November 27, 2004 | Filed under photo | Leave a Comment »

Ourtunes. Java-based download client for iTunes. Hee hee. | Sending and receiving faxes with OSX. Good to know-especially the receiving part.

Date posted: November 24, 2004 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »

Many big ups to Dave for offering the use of his table saw. You may be wondering why it’s so consarned important to me to get this built: it could have something to do with the fact that the window on the north wall of the dining room looks hideous when compared to the other one, and all the work we’ve put into the room doesn’t look finished without it.

Because I Absolutely Love Things Like This… New York Changing, a book with before/after shots of New York City, in what looks to be meticulous recreation of photo angle, position, and time of day. Fascinating.

Date posted: November 23, 2004 | Filed under friends, history | Leave a Comment »

Dave did indeed save Thanksgiving; stopping over last night with Clifford, we traded the world’s most industrial-looking table saw for the impossibly low price of two hefeweizens. Besides being the heaviest saw I’ve ever carried, it has that rounded, metallic 1950’s charm and a lack of any safety features (which is not that big a deal—the safety cover was off the Delta at least 50% of the time to accommodate the cut) but the motor is badged General Electric, runs very smooth, and has a carbide woodworking blade. So, barring any disasters, I’ll be milling the trimwork for the dining room tonight, and still have money to change the oil in the Jeep. Thanks again, Dave.

Date posted: November 23, 2004 | Filed under friends | Leave a Comment »

Our visit to Pax River was good. We visited with Mrs. Lockard for the afternoon, and she was better off than I was hoping. She was mentally sharper than I’ve seen her in a long time, even if she’s physically weaker. We took her out for an early dinner, and hopefully brightened an otherwise dreary Saturday afternoon. I really hope we’re able to celebrate the holidays with her and show her a good time. Of course, the Ghost of Dysfunctional Christmas is standing between us and those plans, but we’ll have to deal with that when it comes.

Hard On My Toys. I’ve had a Delta table saw for about the past five years. I bought it at a time when I didn’t have outrageous amounts of money, but decided that using a handheld circular saw to rip 10′ boards lentghwise was getting to be tiresome. I went out to the Home Depot to browse, and after half an hour of looking through the field, I selected the best American-made unit I could find for under $150. Since then, I’ve ripped a couple miles of board-feet between two houses’ worth of projects. During that time I found that the saw had a number of shortcomings (cheap fittings, a very wobbly motor, few allowances for attachments, a small fence) and only a few pluses, but I was able to jury-rig it enough to get it to work for me.

This past week, I’ve hustled to finish a bunch of outstanding projects so that I could get to one that I was looking forward to: finish carpentry around the front window in the dining room. I bought some very clean, expensive wood for the trim (the good stuff is hard to find) and had just begin to rip the sill to size when the saw cut out. I unplugged it, applied Dugan’s Second Law Of Fixing Stuff (unbolted the motor, took it apart and put it back together) and got another five seconds of juice out of it before the whole thing died in a puff of ozone.

Add this to the Skilsaw circular I burned out milling the door down this spring and that makes two expensive tools I’ve killed this year. It’s not like I’ve been throwing these things off the roof or leaving them in the rain; this is everyday use we’re talking about. I think I’m going to have to stick with the brands I trust at this point—A DeWalt cordless that actually has fallen off a roof and continues to work flawlessly; a Makita circular that’s followed me through two years of High School setbuilding, four years of college, and two houses; a Porter Cable sander that’s touched every woodworking project I’ve done; and a Craftsman ¾” drill that’s older than I am and deserves a new set of bearings.

I always wanted to buy the best tools I could afford and have them for the rest of my life, and this is one of those times when a compromise burned me. And the killer is that I don’t have the cash to buy that beautiful DeWalt replacement I saw last month. I can’t say that the Delta owes me anything, but I’m probably going to have to buy another 5-year saw and kill it as well.

Date posted: November 21, 2004 | Filed under family, house, tools | Leave a Comment »

Tomorrow Jen and I are driving south to share a preliminary Thanksgiving with her folks. As you may have read, her Mom is not doing as well as we had hoped—things are looking kind of grim, really. I think she (Jen) is handling this admirably, given the circumstances and history. Since the wedding, we’ve been trying to toe the line between our own sanity and keeping close by for the “in case” we know is coming. I’m feeling guilty, on reflection, for the amount of time I’ve not spent with her family since the wedding, but I think we both needed some time by ourselves to cement our little family unit in preparation for this eventuality. As always, we’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

Sunday we continue the preparations for Turkey Day in Catonsville, which will involve much food preparation, cleaning, some finish work upstairs, cleaning, and then some beers.

Date posted: November 19, 2004 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

Last summer we were privleged to have a houseful of idiot frat-boys renting the house across the street from ours. At all hours of the day and night we got to hear drunken arguments between couples, fart-can burnouts from Fast And The Furious wannabes, motocross races on the front lawn, and parties until five in the morning. (These complaints courtesy of the man who used to blow out TV picture tubes with a baseball bat at 11pm in his rental backyard for kicks. Oh, how the tables have turned.) The lawn was mowed bimonthly, the driveway was jammed full of cars, and the gutter that blew halfway off during Isabel stayed stranded on the front lawn for four months. We cursed the owner for being such a lousy landlord, and had no way of contacting him to complain.

This morning I crossed the street with a camera and a cup of coffee to meet the owner, who led me into the cluttered garage to look at a pile of parts bungeed to the near wall: the front clip of the MGA, a transmission standing on its flywheel, various boxes of rubber and chrome parts laying on a leaning steel shelf, rusty wire wheels stacked next to a pair of old motorcycles. I was told the engine is in Columbia. As he pulled apart the jumbled parts to show me specific items, I recalled browsing the internet last night for information. I happened upon a great MGA site with a ton of excellent advice on buying and restoring old British iron, and one paragraph struck me. The author mentioned that actually putting the body and the frame right is relatively easy—if you have an eye for detail, the bodywork really isn’t that bad (just time-consuming, provided you have a MIG welder), and the running gear is always the easiest stuff to have fixed. It’s when the time comes to buy the chrome, trim, and leather to finish off the car that 50% or more of the total project price is spent.

Which, when I thought about it, made a lot of sense.

Given that the chrome I saw was very bad, and the rest of the finish was scattered around the garage in boxes and cans (and the frame was rusted, the nosecone looked like shit, the engine was in Columbia, etc.,) I decided I’d pass on this one as well. I didn’t even bother to take a picture to show you.

Date posted: November 18, 2004 | Filed under design, humor | Leave a Comment »

Going to see the MGA , tonight, if I can swing it tomorrow morning. Note: The seller lives across the street. Boy, am I stupid.

Rant. I Hate Adobe Acrobat Distiller. I wish it would explode into flames and die. Followed by Quark Xpress.

Date posted: November 17, 2004 | Filed under design | Leave a Comment »