I got a really nice letter from Bennett, one of my local Scout friends, when I was laid up last month. He offered to get our local group of IH guys together and get some work done on Peer Pressure while I was laid up, the generosity of which blew me away. We set up a date in early March and he had me put together a list of stuff I’d like to tackle: Hydroboost, fuel sender, and maybe something else if we have the time.

The Hydroboost project involves removing the big stock brake booster and replacing it with a GM hydraulic unit sourced from an Astro van and hooking it into the power steering pump. What this does is improve overall braking power, allow for added stopping power in the event of an engine shutoff, and make more room in the engine bay. Back in 2013 I assembled all of the parts but stalled out, because I don’t trust myself enough to follow the sparse instructions found online or bleed the brake system correctly by myself.

Clockwise, from upper left: Astro brake unit, power steering hoses, power steering adaptors, aluminum standoff block, brass fittings.

So I’m sending this photo over to Bennett and Ray, the acknowledged experts, to make sure I’ve got everything I need. I’ve got to pick up new brake fluid for sure, but hopefully everything else is correct.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: January 31, 2018 | Filed under friends, Hydroboost, Scout | Comments Off on A Boost for my Hydro

I wrote my Cars Of A Lifetime series a few years ago, inspired by a website called Curbside Classic. This past weekend, I noticed they’d put out a request for people to submit their own stories, so I shot off a quick email to the site admin and heard back from him within a few hours. He gave me a login and I posted a sanitized, embellished version of my Volkswagen Bus story this weekend, complete with a couple of new pictures I found, and I’ll be posting my Mazda piece this week.

Date posted: January 30, 2018 | Filed under cars | Leave a Comment »


…to my pop, who is 80 years old today.

Date posted: January 30, 2018 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been wrestling with management ever since I started being responsible for people. I’ve never had good mentors in my professional career. I’ve learned by watching my superiors and emulating their behaviors as well as avoiding the things I didn’t like, which is sort of like learning how to be a lawyer by watching Law & Order reruns.

I’ve found that it’s a lot more busywork than actually making the sausage, which is a huge shift in mindset for a person like me; I tend to work better on large linear projects instead of multiple streams of work. In my current role I’m juggling email, a complicated meeting schedule, multiple large initiatives that span weeks, and project management, as well as one-off requests for technical help on things like video editing, illustration, and design. Oh, and also: managing people. As I started hiring, I was able to find two very good designers who quickly stepped in and took over responsibility and management of their work.

Backing off and letting them do their thing was difficult at first but when I knew they could handle themselves I stayed out of their way. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked for micromanagers in the past, and I know how demoralizing that can be for an employee. I realized that my role should be to give them the tools they need, direction and advice when they ask for it, and the support to insulate them from bullshit.

In my daily travels around the web yesterday I stumbled on something that made me stop and reevaluate my approach, and made me feel better about my somewhat laissez-faire methodology:

Delegate more than is comfortable. The complete delegation of work to someone else on the team is a vote of confidence in their ability, which is one essential way the trust forms within a team. Letting go of doing the work is tricky, but the gig as a manager isn’t doing quality work, it’s building a healthy team that does quality work at scale.

I’m always worrying that I’m not doing enough to help my team, but as with everything else, it’s all about the balance.

Date posted: January 27, 2018 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

I don’t know exactly what it is about this song that has it stuck in my head this week: Is it the throwback hardcore vocals circa 1985, the thrash guitar hooks mixed with melodic big muff bass line, the completely unexpected harmonies in the chorus, or the mixture of the whole thing. But it’s awesome and it makes me want to drive my car real fast and break shit. And, shout out to Baltimore!

Don’t ask me what’s going on in the video; it’s bonkers.

Date posted: January 23, 2018 | Filed under Baltimore, music | 1 Comment »

OOOOOH, DJI just announced the Mavic Air, a new drone that fits somewhere in between the Spark (too small, lousy camera) and the Mavic Pro (gorgeous but expensive) in terms of price and size. Foldable, 4K video, a remote that syncs up with your phone, 2.5 mile range and 27 minutes of flight time per battery. My neighbor has a Mavic Pro and it’s amazing; this promises to be even better. I think my Phantom 2 is going on Craigslist this month. 

Date posted: January 23, 2018 | Filed under photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Huh. Someone is selling the black 5-string version of my Steinberger bass for $1650 in D.C. I’ll have to keep an eye on this.

Date posted: January 21, 2018 | Filed under bass, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Thursday I stopped into our local Hopkins satellite location for a baseline CT scan, now that the baby is gone. This is going to be part of the new routine, a CT scan every 3 months to see if something else appears in my body, because it won’t show up in bloodwork. Overall I’m feeling much stronger this week. My arms still hurt but it’s receding slowly. I’m down to one Tylenol every eight hours, which is a relief. I haven’t used oxy in five days which is making my bottom system happy again. I don’t know how oxy junkies deal with never pooping; I’d be in the hospital with an impacted bowel the size of a subway car.

* * *

This week I tackled the issue of radiant floor heat for the new bathroom, which has been a giant question mark for months. The system I’ve been recommended is modular, incorporating a mat with molded depressions that goes down first. Then we snake a wire through those depressions in a specific pattern before laying thinset and putting tile down. The question has been how much mat, and most importantly how much wire do we need, because the wire has to be cut at the factory to fit the application–I can’t cut it once I’ve got it. I found distributors for the system, visited one on Tuesday, and was so underwhelmed by the “service” I got that I walked out of the store. The woman I talked to refused to help me figure out how much material I needed, because if she got it wrong, it would “come back on her, and there are no refunds.” Well, Fuck you very much. I found that the tile distributor we’ll be ordering our shower tile from also deals in this system, and returned there on Friday. The guy I talked to there took the time to sort through my diagram of the room, calculated the size, and set me up with the mat I need to get started. Once that’s installed, I’ll use a string to test-fit and see how much wire I need before ordering the rest of the system.

Having been stuck in the house for the past month, and while the region was trapped in record-breaking low temperatures, I got tired of always being cold and drafty. I’ve spent the last fifteen years trying anything and everything to make this house warmer, from insulation to new windows, and I don’t feel like any of it has helped. Wednesday afternoon I started paging through Angie’s List for energy auditors and found a local outfit who was offering an audit for $100 (with the other $300 being billed to BG&E). I called and set up an appointment for Friday morning. A nice man named Larry came out and walked through the house, looking over the boiler, piping, and layout, and then he hooked up a blower to the front door that provided negative air pressure. Then we walked each room with a FLIR camera and looked for leaks. Surprisingly, the blown insulation in our walls hasn’t settled too badly–just in a few locations. A big culprit for air leakage is the latex caulk I’ve used in a lot of places, which has shrunken in the cold, and allows for cold air to penetrate each room. Our ancient windows are actually holding air in pretty well, to my surprise. The preliminary findings say it’s going to be a lot of caulking with silicone, some weatherstripping around the doors, and closing up the lip of the aluminum siding/shingle where it meets the foundation outside. Larry will provide a large report with pictures and recommendations in about a week.

* * *

Saturday we jumped in the car after Finn’s soccer game and headed to the Renwick Gallery in DC to check out an exhibit of murder dioramas built by a woman in the 1940’s to further the budding science of forensics. The Nutshell Studies take actual murder cases and recreate the scene in 1′ x 1″ scale and meticulous detail. Jen saw an article about them in a magazine 20 years ago and was fascinated by the collection; last week she found an article about the exhibit and realized we needed to go see it immediately before it closed. Finn was fascinated by the displays and carefully read each of the descriptions before gazing at the dioramas, and I found myself slowly getting better at sussing out what the crime was and how it happened as we walked through the crowded exhibition.

I am a horrible parent

On the front steps of the museum, we were greeted by the middle of the DC Women’s March, being down the street from the White House. After a few minutes of spectating, Jen suggested we join the march, so we walked down to the corner and slipped into the crowd. It was slow going, but the mood was upbeat and cheerful. Everyone in the crowd was smiling and laughing, and the weather was perfect for enjoying our constitutional rights. Pussy hats were everywhere, and it seemed like every hand-made sign was funnier than the last. Finley got caught up in the chants and was marching, fist raised, in a matter of minutes. We slowly made our way down the street to stand in front of the White House, where the crowd slowed, and Finley began a chant she’d heard earlier. A woman with a bullhorn walked over and handed her the mic, and she led the crowd for a minute, then stopped abruptly, shocked, I think, at her own agency. I was lucky enough to get the last two chants on video.

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The White House was the endpoint for the march, so we gradually wound our way out of the crowd and headed back toward the garage. On our return home, we heated up some tea and made our way through three chapters of the Half-Blood Prince before bedtime. Overall, for a lightly planned day, we couldn’t have asked for a better one.

Date posted: January 21, 2018 | Filed under art/design, cancer, family, general, house | Leave a Comment »

Color me interested: Flybrix makes $149 drones made from Legos, controlled with a smartphone app.

Date posted: January 19, 2018 | Filed under geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I got the official word today: No more chemotherapy.

Date posted: January 17, 2018 | Filed under cancer | 1 Comment »