Compared to some of our neighbors, we made it through the storm in really good shape. I was returning from Mariottsville in the CR-V packed with a full-size toolchest and a 25 gallon compressor I’d bought from Bennett when the first rain started to fall, around 3:30. By 4:15 I was in the driveway waiting for the rain to slack off so that I could run inside for an umbrella. The girls were over at Christi and Glen’s house waiting for me to pick them up, so I went back out in the Accord to get them. Getting to their house was a little dicey. The roads were beginning to flood, but there was enough road for me to share with oncoming traffic.
On the way home things were much worse. I took the higher route home, preferring to avoid the hills of Edmondson Road, and turned on to a side street to get to Frederick Road. By the time we were able to turn on to Main Street there was 3 feet of rushing water coming at us, with a narrow lane at the center the only thing between us and home. We waited a minute for an oncoming car to pass, I said a silent prayer, and then hit the gas. Wading through the water I felt the wheels slip here and there but we kept moving and made it to the other side where the hill started climbing again.
At home we ran inside with umbrellas and dried off, but it was when I peeked into the basement that I knew our plans for going to an evening party were sunk: we had 4″ of standing water in the basement. When I went out to the garage to get the Shop-Vac I noticed that the egress stairwell to the basement was flooded to the top, meaning we had 3′ of water pushing against the basement door.
Jen started vacuuming downstairs while I struggled with a shit Harbor Freight pump I use to chill wort; it failed and burned itself out. By this point I was soaking wet and the rain was only getting harder; there were rivers of water running past our house into a lake at the bottom corner of our property. I grabbed some scrap lumber from the garage and pounded a diversionary wall into the soil, directing water past the concrete lip of the basement stairs. Then I grabbed a five-gallon bucket, jumped in the pit, and started bailing it out.
Inside, Jen was suctioning up water and pouring it into the shop sink, praying that our drain wouldn’t clog and that sewage wouldn’t back up on us. I’d done some light cleaning on Saturday so we didn’t have a ton of stuff on the floor to get wet, but we did lose some boxes and a roll of paper and other assorted items. I did a bunch of waterproofing down there years ago, and since we replaced the back gutters, the basement has been relatively dry. But we’ve learned from years past that using plastic tubs on metal racks is the best way to store anything down there, especially on days like this.
Once I got the stairwell bailed out, I went inside and we spent the next two hours bailing and mopping. The rain slacked off at about 7PM, and the stairwell started draining faster than water was coming in, so we all took showers and had some warm dinner in front of the final Harry Potter movie.
The next morning we assessed the damage. I got our FIOS router reset and running but had to swap out our ethernet switch for a spare. Apparently it got fried along with our Airport Base Station, the HDMI switcher on our cable box, and maybe even our cable box itself. We enjoyed power and internet up until about 2PM when the transformer in the back of our lot blew, taking our power out and that of the block behind us. My neighbor wheeled over his generator and we hooked it up to the fridge, saving our food from certain ruin. That clattered in the backyard through the evening until about 1AM this morning when the power came back up.
So, lessons learned: I’ve been putting off the purchase of a generator for years, mostly because our once-twitchy transformer was replaced and our power has been relatively stable since about Finn’s birth. It’ll sit in the back corner of the garage and take up space, but it’s time I invested in one. I need to buy a submersible pool pump for those pleasant afternoons when water is trickling under the basement door. And I’m going to have to build a taller lip around the edge of the basement stairs to prevent the Patapsco River from sinking our house.
Here’s an excellent take on the current round of tech layoffs which categorizes the psychological toll in two groups: Corporate and Worker. Corporate minimizes layoffs, usually because the people in that strata can land a similar job relatively easily through their networks.
Then there’s Corporate Layoff Brain. This Layoff Brain mistakes their own experience of layoffs (good! generative!) as everyone else’s, regardless of their field or position. It casualizes layoffs, categorizes it as a “management tool,” and underlines employees’ status as disposable, disempowered widgets — instead of humans with rights and responsibilities to others outside of the work environment.
While Worker is a whole different way of thinking: it’s a culture of intimidation designed to keep those of us with jobs cowed and productive:
This is the second iteration of Layoff Brain. The first is the Layoff Brain I have, the one I share with millions of other millennials and Gen-Xers. It’s a defensive crouch masquerading as “smart saving habits.” It’s a thrum of fear and student debt default and medical bankruptcy rebranded as “hustle culture.”
Technically I’m management, but having been laid off twice, I will always think and plan and worry like a worker.
It’s been a minute since I posted; it’s been a busy couple of weeks. We’ve been organizing for and shooting the prerecorded section of WRI’s annual Stories To Watch, which is always a huge undertaking. Every year we up our game and this year was no exception. For 2023 we found a studio facility in Chantilly to shoot at with a 40’ wide, 14’ high LED background that we had to fill with content. My video team rose to the challenge and built a looping background from an Illustrator file I made, and we produced an 80 slide, five chapter presentation from a rough deck in four days. Our CEO walked in on the first day and was amazed at the LED wall lit up and running the animations; the whole team knocked it out of the park. We booked the studio for two days, so I stayed overnight in a hotel down the street because the commute home is at least two hours—and we used every hour of those two days.
While that was happening, there have been some changes going on behind the scenes in my department. One of my oldest colleagues and current boss is moving on from the organization, and I volunteered to fill in temporarily with another colleague until they find our next VP of Communications. I’m excited to help keep things moving and slightly terrified of all of the things I don’t know, but a new challenge will be good to tackle. So for now, I’m co-Acting Head of Communications. Wish me luck.
While I’ve been scrambling at work there hasn’t been much progress on the bathroom beyond what I did last weekend. All I’ve got to do is sand the drywall and hit it with a cat of paint and then I can screw the fixtures in for good and take a picture for Cousin Margaret.
On Sunday I’m headed up to PA to look at another Scout 800 tucked in a barn; I’ll detail the details on the Scout site later. Monday I’m going to start work on the built in bookcase in the living room for a change of pace.
The Verge did a really solid interview with Matt Mullenweg, who founded WordPress, open-sourced it and its ancillary companies, and later bought Tumblr from Verizon. The interview is framed by the parallels to Musk buying Twitter, and it’s a refreshing look at a founder/leader who isn’t a douchey techbro and who still believes in an open, safe, and inclusive web. (WordPress is the engine that runs this and over 40% of the websites on the internet.) In the article he talks about how hard it is to do content moderation well—his experience to that point had mostly been building the software, not policing the content:
I will say that it was probably the most humbling thing in my business career… Tumblr is a large-scale social network that is only a fraction of the size of Facebook, but we started encountering issues that were beyond my previous understanding of content moderation and free speech.
I think the biggest difference here, and one that most people are only beginning to realize, is that Musk bought Twitter to control what people are saying about him, not to preserve or protect its users. He’s now in a race to monetize this millstone as fast as he can before it flames out due to his terrible leadership; as he kicks journalists off the platform (one of its key audiences) I wonder if it will die back to Truth Social or Parler size.
To Mullenweg’s credit, he’s spent several years trying to sort Tumblr out, losing money the whole time, but he’s committed to rebuilding it in some shadow of its former self.
Twitter became a lot more about arguing, Instagram became about showing off, and Facebook became about weird people you went to school with saying weird things. Tumblr always had this frisson, this magic.
I think most people agree that Tumblr was mostly for porn, but there were a lot of communities and sub-groups active on there that left when it was bought by Verizon. It was a handy platform to stand up a blog and share things quickly, and the repost function became its superpower. We’ll see how it shakes out with a new focus and some careful management. And based on this interview, I’m optimistic for them.
I brought this up in 2005 and I think it bears repeating, especially as I hear it more and more from insanely intelligent people I work with on a daily basis: Please quit using the phrase “your guys’s” in any context or situation possible. e.g., “I want to send your guys’s information via email.” FUCK YOU. I’m currently sitting in an Asana training course and the woman leading the session has used it twice in five minutes. I might have to murder someone; it’s like someone is shoving a chainsaw in my ear.
Thanksgiving morning is here, and this is the first year in a long time that we’re not with family. Finn started with a cold early last week and coughed on Jen several times; this developed into COVID, which was helpfully confirmed by a note from the school two days after we quarantined Finn. Thanks for that speedy notification, guys. They’ve both been squirreled away in separate bedrooms since last Thursday, depending on Captain Chaos here to keep them fed. Overall it’s been OK; Finn seems to be on the mend but Jen lost her sense of taste and smell several days ago and keeps spiking a fever, so there’s no end in sight for her. I’ve been running up and down the stairs and washing my hands constantly trying to avoid the ‘Rona again—we’ve all been boosted, but ‘Rona don’t care—hopefully at least Finn can join me today for a Thanksgiving feast downstairs.
I’ve cooked many a turkey dinner myself over the years, starting in 1996 when I’d bought my house in Canton, but I had no desire to do it this year. Wisely I punted and ordered a dinner for 4 from the restaurant down the street where we get coffee and breakfast. It’s all packed neatly in the IH fridge in the garage waiting to be heated and served. Running errands yesterday, I stumbled upon two 12-packs of Founder’s All-Day Hazy IPA, something I’ve only seen once before. I drink their regular All-Day, well, regularly, but this is only made in small batches so it’s wise to jump on when you see it. I hemmed and hawed and then bought the only two cases they had, feeling smug with myself.
With the spare time I had at the end of the day Tuesday, I finally got off my ass and did something with some designs I’d built last year: I put up ten Scout shirt designs on Threadless, announced it through Instagram, and pointed it back to the Old Line State Binders site I’ve had live for a year but never done anything with. The legalities of using the IH logo are tricky, and I don’t want to make anyone mad, so I’m not using it or the logo script anywhere. I’ve been nervous about sharing these but I figure what the hell; I’m not doing anything else with them and it’s about time they made me a little money. I’ve made a couple of orders already; we’ll see if anything happens. Now that I’ve begun, I’ve got some ideas for other shirts in the works.
Update 5PM: Finn is officially clear, but Jen is still positive. We busted into our premade holiday meal and everyone demolished their plates; the only thing that went untouched was something called “sauerkraut with apples”, which smelled about as bad as you might imagine from that description.