Bad news on the phone today, making up the trifecta (and hopefully, last) of bad news for the rest of the year. This was unexpected and totally unfair; a kinder, gentler man I’ve never met. It looks like we’re driving to Jersey within the next week to pay our respects.
The last two weeks have been pretty stressful and chaotic, with animal sickness, human sickness, travel, holidays, and household projects. I sat down at the computer to get some work done yesterday and I felt, for a period of about five minutes, like an orangutan suddenly placed behind the wheel of an automobile: What is this thing? How did I wind up here? What do I do now? Where is my banana?
Today is no different; in fact, it’s been harder than yesterday. I was able to get some time critical stuff out the door yesterday, but after that was done, I was frantically searching for something to occupy my head, which has not been in the work-accomplishing place. My usual internet haunts have not been shiny enough to keep my interest. (I suppose this is also partially due to the fact that I got a series of checks in the mail last week, so the consumer portion of my brain is insistently prodding me to buy stuff. I’m resisting.)
I have work to do—plenty of work, actually. Why can’t I get back in the saddle?
I’ve been looking at DSLRs for years now, wishing I could afford to buy one, and I’ve spent a ton of time researching and comparing brands and models. My immediate intent was to find a good camera to help Jen ease back into photography, especially after all her film from
Ireland Italy was expensively misprocessed and the liars at Ritz Camera tried to tell us it was the fault of the airport x-ray machinery. (They didn’t even offer to comp us on the processing. Stay away from Ritz.)
After I got several good-sized paychecks in hand this fall, I paid off some bills, put a chunk in the bank, and started hunting seriously for her camera. The reviews seemed to be pretty even in favor of each brand, which didn’t help me much. I’ve been a proponent of Canon since I bought my G3, and I love the simplicity of their menu/UI systems. The manuals are top-notch, the support is superb, and the camera itself has been bombproof. However, the DSLRs Canon offers in my price range feel cheap and plasticky in my hands, like they were put together with Legos and a hot glue gun. When I picked up a Nikon, it felt real in my hands, like a film SLR does, and that felt reassuring and good. After some exhaustive research, I finally gave up and took this guy’s advice, buying a new D50 kit for a delayed birthday present. I think she’s happy with it, and I was impressed with it when I held it in my hands. It’s a solid camera, the lens is fantastic, and it takes beautiful pictures.
As fate would have it, an older D70 came up on Craigslist a few weeks later for a very reasonable price, and I bought it. I’ve been playing with it slowly ever since. It’s been a little hard because I only got the body—the seller wanted to keep the expensive lens for his new D80, so I needed something to use in the meantime. As it turns out, Nikon hasn’t changed their basic lens mount in ages, so later-model Nikon lenses will fit newer DSLRs, at the cost of some of the advanced features. Jen has a Nikon N65 film SLR, and I’ve borrowed her Quantaray NF AF 28-80mm lens to learn the camera. The pictures are clear but the contrast is low, which I’m guessing is due to the lens not being made specifically for DSLR cameras, and the lens not talking properly to the camera. I’ve yet to do a side-by-side lens comparison, but I’m trying to block out some time to try.
My biggest worry was the UI setup: I’m a usability snob, so this is a big sticking point for me. I’m finding the Nikon menu system different from Canon’s but not impossible to understand: a philosophical difference. Canon makes everything available from the selector wheel (the multi-directional circle on the back) and adds several modifier buttons based on the model of camera—the UI on my G3 isn’t fundamentally different than Jen’s Powershot 100. Nikon makes certain things available from the selector wheel but adds combinations of buttons to access special features, like an arcade fighting game. When taken to the extreme, this gets ridiculously hard to remember and physically challenging to accomplish. (This was why I detested the abominable Coolpix 4500, and the reason I took a G3 underwater in Bimini instead.)
I’m finding, though, that the D70 is far easier to use than the 4500, and now that I’ve begun to understand the UI philosophy, it’s beginning to make sense to me. The difference in organization means I have much rewiring to do in my brain in order to take advantage of the camera’s features. I’ve been dicking around with the automated settings and learning the modifiers to them so that I can eventually move into the manual modes and try to remember the aperture/shutter speed math of my SLR days.
One thing that made life easier was a firmware upgrade, bringing the menu system up from the 1.3 factory installation to a 2.0 version—almost identical to that of Jen’s newer D50. This, at first glance, is a huge improvement and worth the time.
Overall, I’m pleased with the decision and excited to get further into the camera. I think the decision to go Nikon was a good one, and I’d recommend these two camera models to anyone.
I spent the three-day weekend nesting, which felt good after two weeks of upheaval and chaos. Nesting for me generally means power tools and some kind of mess will be involved, and this weekend was no different.
(Here’s more information and pictures.) Sorry about the yellow cast to the picture; I forgot to change the white balance setting.
When last we left, the fireplace was covered in a wood and cardboard facia, waiting for a permanent cover to be installed. I pulled the cardboard off weeks ago, and now that the ceiling and baseboards are done, the fireplace is the last thing to be worked on.
This weekend we went searching for suitable lumber to work with, and found that there isn’t much to choose from in the major home supply stores. I was looking for a good sheet of 1/2″ sanded plywood, but all we could find was 3/4″ plywood or 3/4″ MDF and nothing close to useable in 1/2″ thickness. I decided on sanded
birch redwood plywood for the face and pine for the sides. Unfortunately, the first try at the sides did not allow for a bevel cut, so I had to go back out for thicker planks and start from scratch. It was at this time, hidden in the back of the store, that I found sheets of 1/2″ MDF for half the price of the plywood. Oh, well.
I could only find quality planks in poplar that worked, so I sucked up the extra cost and bought them. The first step was to get the sides correct. First I cut and beveled the insides and then the tops, adjusted the height, planed the bottoms to fit the walls, and tacked them in. This was mostly easy, as it was all tablesaw work, but the hard part was next: milling a $35 board down correctly, with squared beveled cuts in four places. Here I had to get creative with a circular saw, and wisely decided my current saw was not up to the task.
My saw is a Makita that was rescued from a reposessed vehicle eighteen years ago and has been with me ever since. It’s a great saw but it was used hard before I got it, and I’ve used it hard ever since. The rental I got is a new 8″ version of my saw, which means the fittings and calibration are correct, and I can trust that 45° means 45°. The only beef I have with it is that it doesn’t have a guide fence (or a fitting for one) so that I have to manually set up guide fences with wood and clamps to get a clean cut. Otherwise, the motor is strong, and the build quality is great.
The first three cuts went very well, but the angle of the fourth cut was opposite the saw’s cutting angle. First, I backed away from the finish edge by a quarter-inch and made the cut straight to remove the center. Then I tried to drop the circular saw in to make the cut, but soon realized this was a mistake, and almost ruined two hours’ worth of work. Instead I made a fence for my router, routed out about 1/2 the depth of the board with a miter bit, and then used a 45° bit to follow it down to the elbow, where I used a handsaw to finish the edge.
A few more adjustments to the feet, and I had the faceplate tacked in. Next, I beveled each side and the bottom of a new plank for the mantle facia, adjusted the width, and tacked that into place. Finally, I cut and fit the inserts for the inside edges of the fascia and tacked them in too.
Now, the finish work. The plan is to pull the front plates off, secure the sides into the framework, and install some shims on each side. Then the front plates go back on for good. Next I put in some faux feet to follow the line of the kickplate on either side and cover the uneven floor on each side.
The real challenge will be to find decent cap molding for the top edge of the mantle to mimic that of the rest of the woodwork in the house. I have no idea where to find this, only that it will be hard and that the major chain stores don’t carry anything worth using.
Today we woke up late in our own bed with noplace to be and nothing to prepare. After coffee and breakfast down the street, we hit the grocery store to stock up on essentials and the Home Depot for one more piece of wood. On the way home I spied a Scout in the Sunny’s parking lot so I wrote a quick letter and returned to the store to see if the owner was present, found a nice guy who, unfortunately, didn’t want to buy my truck, and came back home to get started on the day.
Jen and I cleaned out the office and the atrium, threw away most of the stuff left over from Penn’s habitation (FIP is contagious, after all) and scrubbed the floors and walls. Then, for the first time in over a year, we opened the office door and let the other cats explore. I’ve been waiting to do that all week, and it felt good.
Downstairs, I’m almost finished with the baseboards. With the exception of one corner, all the cap molding is in place, the toe molding is stained and in place, the walls are cut in, and the electrical is installed. The hallway got cut in, I put the lights back up, and the floor is mopped. Now I start on the fireplace cover so that we can finally button up the wall molding and call the room done.
My Dad is doing well, although they had to check his pulmonary function this morning and stop in to the ER to check on a fever this afternoon. From what we understand, the pulmonary stuff is a side-effect of the medication they gave him after the surgery.
My pop is doing pretty well. He’s been on some heavy antibiotics since his appendix came out, but one of the side effects is anxiety, which makes it hard for him to sleep. Today a call to the docs resulted in some new meds and some benadryl to help knock him out. He looks better this evening than he did yesterday, and he seems to be firing on more cylinders. We got to sit around the table and have dinner as a family this evening, and that felt very good.
Upstate New York is as picturesque as ever, if your idea of compelling subject matter includes ruined barns, abandoned cars, and empty, widswept fields. Which mine does. I had to struggle not to screech the car to a halt on the way in to town to snap photos every half-mile. Perhaps tomorrow I can break away to shoot a little while my father naps. I’m also going to try to get up and visit my Grampa, hopefully in the morning when he’s awake, and catch up a little with him.