Monday morning I took advantage of working from home and drove into Glen Burnie to visit the specialty moulding shop I mentioned a few weeks ago. The guy at the counter immediately identified what I needed and went in back to cut up the sizes I specified; within 15 minutes I had 62 feet of moulding shrinkwrapped and ready to stuff in the CR-V. Once the shelves are hung I’ll start mitering the cap moulding and installing it, which will be a nice indoor winter project.

* * *

I was out with a group of work friends on Tuesday night and stepped up to the bar to pay our tab. I noticed the bartender expertly mixing a manhattan and asked her what rye she used while waiting for my bill to be rung up. We got into a discussion about the quality of the various rye whiskeys available. When I told her I favored Bulleit, she frowned and said many of the bartenders in DC have stopped carrying it in a show of LGBT solidarity. Puzzled, I asked for details. Apparently one of the children of the founders came out and they shut her out of the company as a result. Disappointed, I asked her what I should use as a replacement and she suggested Rittenhouse, which I will definitely try. Or, I could go with Pikesville Rye, distilled by the same company, which uses a Maryland-based recipe originating in 1895.

* * *

Jeep announced the new Gladiator today, a four-door pickup based on an elongated Wrangler platform. This is the first Jeep I’ve actually been interested in purchasing since the old Cherokee platform (the 2-door model of which I was reasonably happy to own for five years). Two items of note: the windshield folds down and the roof comes off, which is pretty awesome, and it comes with an optional 6-speed manual transmission. No idea on price yet (I’d imagine it’s steep) but I’d consider buying one of these.

Date posted: November 28, 2018 | Filed under Baltimore, cars, house | Leave a Comment »


This is an entry in a series of posts I’m writing about objects I have that I love. I set up a light tent in the basement to use for a winter photography project and I’m going to try and post one of these a week and see where it goes.

I bought my first Scout in 1997, and it came with many things. The seller threw in all the parts he’d collected over the years, which filled up a big Rubbermaid tub, a set of roof racks we stuck in the back, a soft top, and a bikini top. After I’d done the test drive, I handed over my envelope of cash ($2,800 in Benjamins), we signed the paperwork on the hood, and he handed me the keyfob: a battered leather teardrop with a metal badge stitched at the top.

In the 70’s, these keyrings were sold everywhere cheap tourist gifts were available, and usually every make of car was represented with a decent approximation of the company logo. Ford and Chevy lovers could choose from several versions. Smaller makes like SAAB or Volvo got one choice. And niche manufacturers like International got a sort of half-assed version, where only one of the two logo colors was reproduced. I’ve seen these keyrings sold here and there over the years, but these days the available brands have consolidated, mirroring the auto industry as a whole. This ring still holds the original ignition key, as well as keys for the center console, the gas cap, Rotopax lock, and the garage key. It also held a door key which didn’t work in either of the locks, which are useless with the top off anyway. I put that aside.

Also on this keyring for a while was a gift from our friend Mike C. in Colorado, who sent it to me care of the Air Force Academy. This is a genuine weapon safing ribbon from the flight line (not the cheap knockoffs you see on fake bomber jackets these days) he sent me a few years ago, explaining it was backsheesh (a charitable contribution or a bribe, depending on who you ask in the Middle East). I added it on the ring for several years until I realized the white printed lettering was wearing off, and retired it from active duty.

Note: garage key teeth obscured for security reasons.

Date posted: November 26, 2018 | Filed under favorite things | Leave a Comment »

My intention this afternoon was to take 20 minutes to replace the ancient 1970’s era speaker under Peer Pressure’s dash with a new one. A few weeks ago I some cursory research on the interwebs and someone claimed the stock speaker was 4×10″, so I ordered an inexpensive replacement online. Today I pulled the old one out, and it turns out I was wrong (a quick trip into the garage to look over the two spare dashboards I have would have confirmed this): it’s 4×8″, a very unconventional size for a speaker. RetroSound has replacements for $100+, which is more than I care to spend, or there are some cheaper alternatives which are intriguing (and, strangely, listed as OEM replacements for Case/IH equipment). For now, I’ll return the new one this week and come up with another plan.

And, just to prove I am not a complete philistine, I pulled the fiberglas inserts down out of the garage attic and stuffed them into the Scout this afternoon.

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

Date posted: November 26, 2018 | Filed under Scout | Comments Off on Dressed Up

Thanksgiving is behind us, and we enjoyed a wonderful day with Karean and her family in Easton. This was our two-year anniversary of Friendsgiving, which was just as warm and welcoming and hilarious as 2016. We laughed and drank and ate, and even though there was someone important missing, we filled the house with love.

The rest of our holiday weekend was pretty quiet, and that was good. We took in the matinee showing of the new Fantastic Beasts movie (verdict: not as good as the first; too rushed, not enough time with our characters. Visually pretty. The way the story was left made Finn nervous.) and spent the rest of the day lazing around the house. Saturday was project day at the house and then we made an abbreviated but delicious Thanksgiving meal and had the Gebler clan over for dinner.

* * *

After a busy couple of days of fabrication, the shelving I’m building for Jen is nearly complete. Finn and I did some scouting for wall anchors and found an excellent product that only required a 7/32″ hole, and so all four brackets are firmly mounted to the wall. Before I put them in for good, I lopped about 1/4″ off their ends with the angle grinder and beveled the edges.

Meanwhile, Finn filled the nail holes with putty and I showed her how to use the random orbital sander to smooth the whole thing out. Later in the day I routed channels out on the back for the brackets. On Sunday afternoon both shelves got a coat of white paint outside, while the weather was 60˚.

Also, Brian stopped by on Friday morning to look things over in the bathroom and visit with us for a little while; his tile estimate is roughly $500 less than the quote I got locally, which is excellent news. He’s thinking he can get started as soon as the order comes in, which means we might be showered up by Christmas. I can’t think of a better present than that.

Date posted: November 25, 2018 | Filed under friends, house | Leave a Comment »

I got a little bummer news at work this week; one of my long-time employees is leaving us at the end of November for a great opportunity elsewhere in D.C. She’s been with us for three and a half years, and while I always am aware that no job lasts forever, I’m sad to see her go. She was nervous about telling me, but I assured her I was happy for her, and I wanted only the best for her and her career. At the same time, I was able to get another of my designers switched over from contractual to open-ended employment after over a year with our organization (long story), so we had an upbeat Friday after I gave her the good news. We’re planning a farewell sendoff/celebratory dinner the week after Thanksgiving, and hopefully she’ll keep in touch after she gets settled in the new gig.

* * *

As reported here, the Scout meetup went well. What didn’t meet with success was my visit to the alignment shop to install caster correctors; after waiting across the street at a Starbucks for three hours I walked back over and was told the mechanic tried for two hours to get the spindles off my steering knuckles with no success. Rather than break my truck, he backed off and told me he wasn’t charging me anything, which was solid of him. At the meetup I talked to another friend who had the same work done, and he referred me to a older mechanic in Dundalk who loves Internationals and may be able to help me with the situation. I’d much rather drive to Dundalk and work with a greybeard than a 22-year old tweaker at a 4×4 shop, which is what I was faced with before.

* * *

On Saturday evening Jen and I met up with a cancer buddy, a real nice lady who we met in during  radiation treatment at Hopkins. She was in for radiation on her larynx and our schedule overlapped for the whole time I was in treatment, so we got to be waiting room buddies. We’ve all connected on Instagram and she’s recovered stronger than I have. We met up at the Guinness brewery and she gave us big hugs and we sat at the bar and caught up. So far we’re both one year clear and we celebrated with some dinner and laughs. It’s inspiring to see other people kick cancer’s ass and keep moving forward.

* * *

The shelf project is going well; I’ve got fronts and sides glued and tacked on to the MDF. Now I’m sorting out how to hang the hangers on the wall with the most support possible; what I’ve got are T-shaped brackets with two holes on either side, about 4″ apart. That’s enough to anchor one screw into a wall stud, but the other screw–4″ away–will be going into plaster and lathe. I don’t feel comfortable with that yet. I did buy a cheapo Harbor Freight drill press so that I can drill the holes in the shelves straight and level, but the bracket question still needs to be solved. [Sips beer and thinks…]

Speaking of beer, I tapped my session grapefruit IPA on Sunday evening, and…it’s not bad! The hops are definitely stronger than the real recipe but balanced out with the grapefruit, this isn’t a bad beer at all. And it’s great to have something on tap again.

Date posted: November 18, 2018 | Filed under brewing, cancer, house, WRI | Leave a Comment »


Saturday was looking pretty grim for most of the morning but around noon the clouds seemed to burn off and we got some sunshine. Which is great, because the high was 48˚. Even so, six Internationals showed up, including Bennett in Heavy D, Steven G. in his Scout II, Dwight R. in his shiny Scout II, Paul S. in a glorious lifted Travelall, another guy whose name I missed in a second D-series pickup, and of course Peer Pressure. 


We hung around the parking lot for an hour or so, talking trucks, and then went inside for some barbecue. As always, it’s great to talk with old friends and make new ones too. 

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

Date posted: November 18, 2018 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off on Met Up.

In preparation for the meetup this weekend I figured I’d better get off my ass and fix the issues I had with the first batch of stickers I produced. The new ones now say Old Line State Binders on the face of the hub where the Lock and Free lettering is embossed. I increased the size of the map in the background and added a slight rule around the hub to set it off the background. And, now the stickers are the right size: 3″ in diameter.

These look cleaner. The printing went better (it didn’t plug up the blacks like the small version) and the relationship to the flag is OK…but now I’m thinking the hub needs to go back to the original ratio, because the flag is too big. 

It’s a miracle I can get myself dressed in the morning.

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

Date posted: November 14, 2018 | Filed under Scout | Comments Off on New Stickers

From Stereogum, a list of 48 bands and 64 more bands that took 20 years or more between releases. There are some deep cuts in here but because this is primarily a rock-oriented site there’s not enough soul, R&B or blues representation here.

Date posted: November 12, 2018 | Filed under music, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Jen is always a tricky woman to buy Christmas presents for. She really doesn’t want for much, at least, not in the way of stuff, so it’s hard to find just the right thing for her every year. I’ve taken to writing down gift ideas in February so that I don’t forget them in November. Two years ago I was super-romantic and bought her a 40 gallon fish tank to replace the yard-sale sourced starter tank she was working with. She was surprised and it went over well, I think. Last year sucked ass but I was conscious enough through pain meds to buy her a couple of items from Emily McDowell, including a tote bag emblazoned with the words “Groceries and Shit” in beautiful hand lettering.

This year she’s asked for several house-related things, including some shelves for the living room. We’ve had a blank wall in there for years, waiting for some mystery artwork to appear, but she’s sick our shrine to emptiness and asked me to make something to mount to the wall to put stuff on. I looked around Amazon and found some invisible hangers for shelving, and Sunday Finn and I hit the Home Depot for supplies. We got a sheet of 1″ MDF and cut it down to 4′ x 4.5″, then glued and double-stacked four sheets for two shelves. Next I’ll be cutting down a 3″ furring strip and mounting it to the front for a slipguard. When the mounts come in I’ll drill holes and set them up staggered on the wall so that there’s some space on the end for something tall.

Another thing she’s asked for is if we can finally finish the woodwork in the office and den. Sometime between the installation of the front porch windows and the big side window, Lowe’s/Home Depot stopped carrying the equivalent cap molding to our windowframes in stock. This is somewhat short-sighted, because I’d wager EVERY HOUSE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD uses this same cap molding. I’ve looked into setting up a router jig and making it myself, but I’d probably spend several thousand dollars on the jig and I’d honestly much rather have a finished bathroom. I found a woodworking shop over in Glen Burnie who I’ve been told can make this molding for me, and hopefully it won’t be too expensive, because I need 65+ linear feet of it.

* * *

I spent a little time kegging beer last night. My intention was to get the grapefruit IPA in the cooler, but for some inexplicable reason I transferred the session IPA and added grapefruit extract to that instead. So it’s going to be an intense batch of beer. I doubt it’s ruined but now I’ve got to figure out what to do with the base beer for the original grapefruit batch–it’s probably a lot milder than the session, so it won’t be as good on its own. Looks like I might wind up with two grapefruit batches instead of one, unless I decide to dry-hop this batch for flavor.

I spent a good chunk of the weekend grading my first class project. Friday night I reviewed work, looked over their files, and filled out a checklist for each project. Saturday morning I fed that into a spreadsheet which averages the score from the checklist and converts that to a letter grade, and from there I adjusted up or down based on attendance. Saturday evening I filled out most of the comments at the bottom of each grading sheet (because what are grades without feedback?) I built this system after realizing how time-intensive grading is during my first semester, and it’s paid off really well.

Date posted: November 12, 2018 | Filed under brewing, house, porch, teaching | Leave a Comment »


This is the second in a series of posts I’m writing about objects I have that I love. I set up a light tent in the basement to use for a winter photography project and I’m going to try and post one of these a week and see where it goes.

These are a pair of Doc Martens 1561 (4 eye) oxfords I got at Nordstrom’s with my ex-girlfriend over 25 years ago. The store was going through a Docs phase in the mid 90s, back when they were still making all their shoes in England. The day we were there, I tried on all of the pairs of this shoe available in my size and these fit the best. My girlfriend and the salesman pointed out some kind of flaw in the leather on one of them, but that flawed pair was the pair that I chose.

In 2002, Doc Martens killed 1,000 skilled jobs in the UK and moved production to China. I tried a modern Chinese-made pair of 1461 oxfords two years ago through Zappo’s, and noticed the difference in quality immediately. The leather on my pair is thick, firm but not stiff, dyed perfectly, and sewed by hand. The leather on the Chinese shoes was thinner and stiffer, and felt inferior in quality (if it was leather at all). The soles were hard compared to the 20+ year old soles on my shoes–which had always been firm but pliable. And the fit felt like they were sewed by a robot around a block of wood; they didn’t fit my feet at all. As I recall, they were charging $120 for these. Obviously I sent them back.

My slightly irregular shoes always fit like a glove and I’ve never regretted choosing them. I had to replace the laces about ten years ago after they wore out, but it was pretty easy to find new ones with Amazon’s help. The soles are worn and the stitching on the back of the left shoe is unraveling, but with some careful repairs I’ll have them for another 20 years.

Date posted: November 11, 2018 | Filed under favorite things | Leave a Comment »