I’m sorry I didn’t write to you last week, when you were an apple, but it was a busy week for the three of us. You’ve now been to three baby showers that aren’t your own. We went to a restaurant for the first time since January and had a meal as a family without making Mommy feel like she’s been pounding shots of tequila on spring break. Your legs are growing longer! Outside, the tulip tree in the front yard is blooming, and the daffodils are exploding all over the place.
The warmer weather means I’m doing some research on new cars for getting the three of us around, because the Lockardugan fleet has a total of four doors for two cars. You see, we own two perfectly good, working, dependable coupes that are completely impractical for taking you anywhere, which means that one of them will have to go. As sad as I am to get rid of one, I’m looking forward to a new car. I’d like a full-size American pickup, but I’m setting my sights smaller, on something like a Honda Fit or a Nissan Versa. I know it’s not a sexy as a BMW or a Land Rover, but I don’t think you’ll notice the difference from the back seat.
Then, there’s car seats. At the Target the other night, we looked at the latest models, and I doubt I can get some of those things through our front door, let alone into the back seat of an automobile. Consumer Reports had an article that has me completely freaked out about any kind of car seat at all, because apparently all the good ones are made in Europe, and eight out of ten seats tested didn’t protect the test subject in a side impact. Avocado, I don’t want anything to hurt you, so I hope you can forgive me for the crash helmet and Nomex fire suit you’ll be wearing until the age of three. It’s cool, though-I’m going to do it Evel Knievel-style, with the cape and the scepter and everything.
We had a little scare with our insurance policy this past week, too. Your parents have insisted on employing themselves in the most economically sensitive industry imaginable, which means we pay stupid amounts of money to make sure prescription drugs don’t force us to declare bankruptcy. It turns out we have deductibles for each of us as people, and both of those combined equal the family plan. So Daddy has to fall down some stairs and charge up the hospital bills before they’ll take care of you. Do you see how much I love you? Now, let me show you how to dial 911 on my cellphone again.
Even though we’ve shopped a lot for other babies, we haven’t started buying stuff for you yet. You’re going to be a suprise, but we’re not letting that determine specific colors or themes. I think we’re going to make the front bedroom yours, which means we need to find a place to store the crap that’s in there right now-you’d think with all the room we have in this house we’d be able to find a place for some beds-but things have gotten a lot tighter around here lately.
Your father has been busting his ass to get the front porch fixed up before your arrival, and every day brings a new challenge. Like the ceiling joists, for example. The guys who put them in weren’t familiar with a tape measure, or building codes, or complicated stuff like that. No, they just toenailed a bunch of two-by-fours into the side of the house and stuck a roof on top, which makes the fact that it hasn’t collapstigated once in the last eighty years an architectural miracle. I admit, the tempation to vault the ceiling is very strong, but I want to call in a friend who knows some more about building to see exactly what’s possible before I get my hopes up. Whatever the case, it’s going to take a little more time than I’d hoped.
At this point, Europe is looking better and better all the time, kid—public transportation, sturdy car seats, socialized medicine, a ban on corn syrup, and one Euro is worth an entire house. And, they know how to make good beer. Think you’d like to learn Italian?
For the last year or so we’ve been working on finding a good school to get Finn into so that she’s got the best possible chances in 9 through 12th grade. We looked at a couple of very pricy private schools, one of which seemed to be a factory for Stepford Aryan lacrosse players. She also tested for the local magnet school, which has a very good reputation in this area. We’d done a tour last fall and came away extremely impressed by all the programs we saw. Their graphic arts program was staffed and set up better than the facilities I taught at over at UMBC. Their Environmental Science programs all looked fascinating, all the technology programs were sharp, and even the cosmetology program was legit. Jen arranged for Finn to take the various tests and we waited nervously for the results. She didn’t wind up being accepted to the other expensive private school we looked at, but we found out this week she was accepted into the magnet for Environmental Science and she’s low on the wait list for the Graphic Arts program. I can’t express what a huge relief that was for our whole family.
Our local high school isn’t terrible—it’s rated #5,920 out of all of the high schools in the country, #104 in Maryland, with a 92% graduation rate. But in contrast, Western Tech is rated #366 in the country, and the #6 school in Maryland according to the US News & World Report ratings. And according to the Baltimore County report card, it has a 98.6% graduation rate. It’s set up to be a lot more rigorous, with a lower teacher-to-student ratio than the others, and the facilities and curriculum all look solid.
I’m so proud of her for working hard to get in. She deserves a program that will challenge her; I hope she digs in and makes the most of it.
I haven’t taken many pictures in the last year—something I’ve been thinking about is looking over the number of files in my Lightroom library to see what the falloff has been—but we had to take a picture of Finn for a church thing yesterday and I thought I’d post it here too.
Wow, look at that. Fifteen years ago this week I started demoing the old exam room in preparation for a renovation; I think it was this same day Jen came in and told me she’d just gotten a positive result on a pregnancy test.
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I’ve been using a cast-off MacBook Pro from work for email since before the pandemic; I have one good machine cobbled together from multiple out-of-service 2013 Retina models—this one has a drive from one machine, a replacement battery from another, and a screen from a third. It’s serviceable for what I’m doing on it, mainly email, photo selection/cataloguing, and other basics. But I’m stuck at OS 10.14 on this machine and I’d really like to upgrade to the latest version for security and modern features. It can’t talk to my iPad, which kind of sucks. It suffers from random 1-5 second freezes. There are some applications I can’t run anymore.
I think it’s time to upgrade my personal system here, given that the last truly new MacBook I bought was back in 2011, funded partially by the sale of my previous laptop. I’m looking at something ligher and slimmer (and cheaper) than a true MacBook Pro, which points at a MacBook Air: They’ve just updated the model to the new M2 chip and it goes head-to-head with the 13″ MBP with only a few minor omissions that I don’t care about at all. I’m waiting for a large expense report check to come in from work, and when that does, I’m going to pull the trigger.
Happy Birthday, monkey.
This is the first weekend in a long time where we’ve been home. Like, in our own house for two days. Jen has been socked in with work for several weeks, and a lot of it has come to a head, so we thought we’d take a break from driving south to Lexington Park and stay around the homestead. I’ve had a lot of things around the house piling up in our absence, so I took the opportunity to knock a couple of them out.
The first thing was replacing two basement windows that were original to the house. I’d ordered replacements back in March and they finally arrived about a month ago; I’ve been waiting for a solid weekend to tackle the project. Pulling the old windows was pretty quick work—they were only held in by two sets of ancient brass hinges and a hook and eye latch. I cleaned up the wooden surrounds, cut and installed baffles, and slotted them into place. With some careful carpentry the inside baffles got nailed into place, and they got caulked tight. Now we can have open windows and enjoy fresh air in the basement! A miracle.
The second project is one Jen has been asking about since last year: painting the garage to match the house. I started out by scraping the west side and got it ready for paint. After cleaning both my guns and consolidating the remaining paint, I filled the compressor and sprayed out the west side and half of the driveway side before running out. I’m going to have to repair some of the plywood on the front side and do a lot more scraping overall, but it looks pretty good so far.
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Finn has been binging a new videogame for the past month, and has been asking me to play with her. It’s a survival/exploration game called Ark, where you land on an island teeming with dinosaurs and have to learn how to gather food, build tools and shelter, and tame those same dinosaurs to help you advance. She’s been playing on her iPad, but I can’t load it on my phone and squint at tiny menus. I saw that it was available for the Xbox so I ordered a used copy on Amazon and installed it on the console. From there it demanded a 100GB update, so we waited days for the console to choke that down (it puts itself to sleep after an hour, so I had to constantly keep it awake) and then two more updates before we could play.
Once that was done, we picked up our controllers and started a new world together. And found, very quickly, that it was almost impossible to navigate in 2-player mode. They split the screen horizontally, so the top half is one character view and the bottom half is another, but they didn’t change the menu system to fit that resolution. So when you go into the menu system (and half the game is spent here) it’s still the size and shape of an iPad and you have to squint at tiny little icons smushed into the narrow space given. It’s like looking at the menu bar of Word 97 through a peephole: impossible unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I tried for several nights but found it almost unusable.
She then found a new game called Albion and started playing that. Seeing that it was available for the Mac, I downloaded a copy and tried it on my 8-year-old laptop, which slowed to a gelatinous crawl, cooling fans struggling to keep the processor from melting. I thought about it for a day or so and decided I’d pull the trigger and finally buy the iPad Pro I’ve been looking at since they were released. Playing games with Finn was a big part of the decision, but the other reason was that I want to work in Procreate with the Apple Pencil and learn how to illustrate with the system. I bought a new 11″ unit with the Pencil and picked it up at the local Apple Store this past week. The early review is very favorable: playing Albion on it is easy and fun! We spent a couple of hours on Friday getting me set up in the game and understanding how not to die. Now I have to catch up to her character level.
This is the first device I’ve owned with Face ID, and it’s very slick. The Pencil is fast and responsive. I bought Procreate and started fooling around in the program but it’s going to take a lot of time to sort out how I use it and get the most out of it. Getting used to the way the brushes and pressure work is an uphill battle, especially for someone as picky about the tactile feel and orientation of scratchboard tools as I am. I’m going to start out trying to mimic what I know and love, and then see where the app takes me.
Hey, collapstigated is a word I learned while taking a recorded interview when I worked as a claims adjuster.
Ex: “The only way I can drive is to have three of my friends sit on the right side of the car because the wheel on the left side is collapstigated.”
Try not laughing when you hear that. Fo’ reals.
I tried. Can’t. Makes me guffaw every time.