Working in D.C. again is much different without the lousy commute. We’re only on our second day, and the scheduling hasn’t been sorted out yet, but I’ll gladly take 45 minutes on the train vs. 2 hours each way. And I haven’t sorted out the best way to take advantage of the train time yet, but getting through a back-issue pile of New Yorkers isn’t a bad way to start.
Everyone at my new office is so ridiculously nice. I got into Union Station on Monday at 8:45, stopped for a muffin, and walked into the office at 9:01. I was greeted by the Communications Coordinator, who gave me a tour, got me hooked up with email, oriented me with the basic office layout, and left me a welcome card on my desk. I met everyone else as they came in and they couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly. My office is cozy and warm, a welcome break from the meat-locker warehouse I was in before, although I miss my old office chair very much.
There’s a program staff to meet, 20 years of materials to review, a handful of ongoing projects to catch up on, a stack of HR paperwork to complete, a workflow to set up, and an entire shelf full of gear to be inventoried. I can’t wait to get started.
I had dreams, big dreams. I had a list of projects two pages long that I wanted to tackle in my free week. Most of them involved hefty tool rental fees, multi-day logistics, or the employ of multiple day laborers to complete. Some of them were simple. Most of them didn’t get accomplished.
I was supposed to haul an engine out of my friend Brian’s yard about two weeks ago, and for whatever reason we weren’t able to synchronize our schedules. We finally got together on Monday and got it moved into the garage without collapsing the floor, but it ate up most of the day. I did recover enough that evening to transfer my batch of Belgian Dubbel into the secondary, and then brew a Kalamazoo IPA, which started with a 25 minute grain steep and is mostly Centennial hops. It smells great and hopefully it’ll be done quickly because I’m running low on Texas Bock.
Monday was supposed to be the day I borrowed my neigbor’s pickup and hauled concrete chunks out of the driveway, but that didn’t happen. I did dispose of two old bucket seats, an inoperable snowblower, half a load of brush, and a spare tire, which made me happy.
Tuesday after I drove Finn into school, I came back and attacked the attic. We’ve been hurling stuff up there into piles for the last six years, so the whole room has gotten way out of hand. All of the baby gear is now organized into one section and the rest of it is separated into categories. After I got that finished I worked my way down the stairs into the atrium–what is now the master bathroom–and continued cleaning. More stuff had been piled in there by necessity, so that got sorted and moved to the right locations. Then I cleaned up the construction debris and made it all ready for whenever we’re able to get back to work.
I’ve been meaning to get a brewing stand built for months now, because the amount of brewing gear I’ve got has outgrown the table I was storing it on. I picked up a wire restaurant rack from Lowe’s and set it up to hold three fermenters, with a set of tubs below and storage for other gear up top. It’s much easier to work with everything organized and out of the way. It’s not as strong as the ones I bought from Sam’s Club years ago, but it does the trick.
I’ve had lengths of 2×4″ PVC cut for the kegerator for about six months. The plan was to replace the wood surround it came with, which had gotten stained and dented and had several holes drilled that I wasn’t using. Initially I was afraid to pull everything apart for fear that I’d never get it back together again, but with a full afternoon to work with I figured what the hell. My neighbor (the original builder) had warned me he used several tubes of silicone caulk to hold it together, and he wasn’t lying. Once I’d pulled all the screws out it took just a few taps with a rubber mallet and the whole thing came right apart. I made a few cuts to the edge of the plastic surround to fit and it all slipped right into place. A few carefully placed screws and some clean new caulk, and it looks brand new. The cover went right back on with no problem, and I mounted the temperature controller where it had been originally. I’ve held off drilling to replace the tap handle, gas lead, and temperature sensor because I’m not sure which side the gas tank is going to go on or where I’m going to mount a gas manifold that I don’t have yet.
Wednesday was taken up with a doctor’s appointment in the morning and a bit of rest in the afternoon, but I put a sheet of plywood down on the brewing shelf and cleaned up the rest of the kegerator before disassembling my old speakers. I was planning on buying some new MDF to cut down into new sections, but I held off in favor of some other more important projects.
Thursday, on my way in to drop Finn off, I passed a set of dumpsters by an apartment building and spied something that looked familiar: Two A/V receivers sitting on the ground waiting to be picked up. I backed up and when I spied the word DENON on the face, they quickly made their way into the car. Later, when I had some time to look them over, I realized they were units in the same family, separated by one model number. It took some time to sort out the controls and how they worked, but both of them fired up, recognized an iPod, and worked perfectly. They date to 2008, so they predate HDMI, but for utility use in the garage or basement they’re perfect.
I also sold a set of Scout doors I’ve had kicking around the garage for the past four years; they were painted blue with a white stripe by the PO and gave up their window regulators and some other hardware years ago, so they’ve been getting in the way ever since. Erik M. stopped by to pick them up before work, and he grabbed a spare set of wing windows as well. Now I can pull the windows from my good doors and stack them vertically where the other ones had been, which will make more room for the engine in the back corner.
In the afternoon, I had Jen help me lower the traveltop onto the Scout, and I pulled it out into the sunshine to bolt it in. Brian gave me a 3-gallon jug of muratic acid (he gets it free from work) to dip rusty parts into, so I dunked a pile of body bolts and other hardware and soaked it earlier in the week. After two days the bolts look brand new, and they go in just as easy as butter.
Friday we have plans to do a family trip out into the mountains and see leaves and pet cows, which sounds just right for all of us.
So Brian and I finally got our schedules organized to move the spare engine out of his backyard. First we had to borrow Bennett’s engine hoist, which meant disassembling it and fitting it into Peer Pressure, then driving that over to Brian’s. Then we had to build a ramp to coast the engine and cart down off his patio, onto grass, and then onto the driveway. Then we rebuilt the hoist and raised the engine.
Then we scooted the Scout under it and ratcheted it down with four straps.
The engine hoist got broken down and shoved into the back of Brian’s Prius. I drove gingerly up 95 to the house, backed in, and we reassembled the hoist.
Then we muscled the engine and cart up into the garage, got the hoist inside, and attempted to mate it to the Harbor Freight engine stand I’ve had for 8 years. We got three of four bolts to mount but when we let the hoist drop the whole stand leaned frighteningly forward. So we put it back on the cart and called it a day.
So, I’ve got some reading to do. I think I’m going to start with some basic engine rebuilding books and go from there. But for now, I’m resting my back.
13 years ago, Jen asked me to come down to the Oyster Festival to meet her family and have some fun. We’ve been going back ever since.
Finn is getting in on the action this year.
She even tried one herself!
I’ve been spending the last two weeks on eggshells, because a huge decision has been made and the wheels are in motion but I wasn’t allowed to say anything until now. I gave my notice at idfive a week and a half ago, and my last day of employment there will fall one week shy of five full years, the longest I’ve ever served one company.
It’s been a very industrious, educational, and rewarding five years. In that time, I’ve seen friends come and go, survived a round of layoffs, watched the design and printing industry contract around me, watched as my production skills were eclipsed by two and three generations of new technology, and seen the whole web industry turned on its head by mobile-centered design. There was a time when, during the recession in 2009, I was certain I would be out on the bricks looking for work as a day laborer. Luckily, the company dug in its heels and consistently found challenging work to keep the lights on, and as I depart, they are hiring new staff to keep up with incoming work.
I’m stepping into a new role as Visual Communications Manager for the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. My purpose is to help WRI’s External Relations team develop the brand through online and print design, storytelling, infographics, and data visualization (that last bit is almost verbatim from the job description). What it means for the day to day is that I’ll be coordinating all manner of projects with development teams locally and globally, managing in-house staff and freelancers, scripting video production, and possibly even shooting some photography. WRI’s mission is to find ways to sustain the world’s natural resources, focusing on six main issues: climate, energy, food, forests, water, and cities and transport. It’s privately funded, so every time Congress decides to shut the country down it won’t impact me directly. It’s an organization and a mission I can definitely get behind–instead of selling dish soap, I’ll be selling important ideas, and that feels good.
It’s going to be a huge challenge, and I’ll admit I’m very nervous. Nervous but excited. Jen and I hit the Columbus Day sales to stock up on new work clothing, which has been a long time coming (no more cargo shorts for the Idiotking) and we got one of just about everything, minus a pair of casual black dress shoes. I even found another suit that fits me, which is about as rare as hen’s teeth.
I’ve repeatedly said I would never commute to D.C. again since I worked for Supon, but I think this experience will be different. In 2000, I was driving a car to Savage from Canton, taking the train to Union Station, taking the Metro to the closest stop, and then walking six blocks to the office, which took an hour and a half each way. WRI’s office is within spitting distance of Union Station, so the total trip should be about 40 minutes plus a little platform time. Given that I currently drive 30 minutes each way through the West Side of Baltimore, I’d much rather have that time to work, read, or decompress, instead of avoiding potholes and traffic.
I’ve been dreading the change and the feeling of uncertainty for the last month–leaving my comfort zone and taking a leap of faith–but the simple exercise of writing this post has me excited for the future.