This was one of the busiest weekends I’ve had since before chemo started. First up was an early-morning soccer game for Finley, where I drove us to the wrong venue first but made it to the right one with minutes to spare. Our team won again, but Finn wasn’t on her A game like she was last week. She really got lucky with her teammates, who are very good, and her coach, who is awesome. I think she’s enjoying soccer, and having a good team to work with makes it more likely she’ll want to continue with it.
Then, she and I ran some errands. We had a man at the tile store help us with calculations and got the remainder of the underlayment mat we needed, plus a couple of numbers for professional installers. As I get further into the details of how to put the system in, the more nervous I get, and I’m not sure if Mario has done it before. I think I’d prefer a pro installer putting it in rather than me. Meanwhile, our tile is still at the warehouse because it’s closed on weekends, so Jen will run out and pick it up this week.
Then I decided Finley and I needed a project to work on together. The cats have been crowding themselves up on the dining room window ledge since they were kittens, and they often lay on the carpet in the afternoon, chasing sunlight as it crawls across the floor. I proposed that we build a ledge for the window and enlisted her as my work partner. First we took measurements and drew out a plan at the table, talking over ideas. I listened as she proposed drilling screws into the wall, using Play-Doh as an adhesive, and a wire suspension rig. Then I showed her how we could do it non-destructively, using gravity and some clips.
At the Lowe’s, we used our tape measure and plans to source the materials, talked over how we were going to repurpose deck hardware to make our clips, and then headed to the basement workshop to start building. I showed her how to use the compound miter saw, table saw, and router on the platform, then moved to the legs. This was more difficult because I wanted to show her how to find and cut the angles (we were working with specialized geometry here) and I could tell it wasn’t sinking in–until I cut some scrap wood, led her upstairs, and showed her how it would go together. Then she got excited.
Back downstairs we busted out the compressor and I showed her how the nail gun works, and then the Dremel tool to grind down the two nailheads that came through the other side. Finally, we used the angle grinder to cut a $.75 deck fastener in half, trim the wings down, and smooth the edges. This made the two clips that grab onto the inside window guide and hold the platform in place. She was bouncing with excitement when it was time to show Jen, and except for a few moments, was engaged and excited through the whole project.
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On Saturday morning, an ad popped up on Craigslist for the lens I’ve been waiting for for a year and a half: the Fuji 35mm f/2.0. This lens is a fast, weather-sealed prime with an improved AF motor that blows the 35mm f/1.4 lens I’ve already got out of the water. The price was $125 less than list, so I jumped on it. Finn and I drove up to a McDonalds by the Security Mall and within 10 minutes had the deal done. It’s a sweet little lens and will probably stay on the camera for the next couple of months.
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On Sunday I cleaned and prepped the 35mm f/1.4, Rolleicord, and the drone for Craigslist sale. With the new f/2 Fuji lens I don’t need the 1.4, so that can get converted to cash. The Yashica D is an improved version of the Rolleicord, and it has a leather case, lens cover, and built-in remote timer. The DJI Phantom II is great but way too big for travel, and has been sitting in my office unused for months. If I can gather some cash together for a DJI Mavic Air with the sale of some other camera gear, I’ll be very happy.
Then Finn and I went ice skating with a group from church. Sunday afternoon is a very popular time to go ice skating, so the rink was FULL of people. Finn didn’t seem to have her skate legs on as well as she did last time, but after a couple of laps around the ice with me, she zoomed off to skate with her friends–a harbinger of the next 10 years to come. I am acutely aware that the time when we are the center of her attention is rapidly coming to an end, so I enjoyed every single second of looping around the rink, her warm mittened hand in mine, both of us smiling like goofballs.
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.