Finn made out very well for Christmas. She got a Fuji Instamatic camera (I am insanely jealous), a pike of Pokemon cards, and a programmable LEGO robot. One of the things that didn’t make it to her pile under the tree were any XBOX games, as we limit her devices to weekends, and generally there’s not a lot of time to play with her on weekends anyway. Over the break she tired of the games on her Kindle, and she didn’t get the Nintendo 2DS she asked for, so we leaned on the XBOX.

We have three multiplayer games for our console, Super Lucky’s Tale, LEGO City Detective, and Plants vs. Zombies 2. Super Lucky’s Tale is OK but the mechanics are terrible and the camera doesn’t track with the game well. It’s like jumping on a trampoline with a cardboard box over your head. LEGO City Detective is decent and has a giant open world to explore but the game does a terrible job of teaching the player game mechanics, so often we’re wandering around the same location trying to figure out what we have to do to advance the story. And the story itself is filled with a terrible attempt at humor, so it gets annoying quickly. Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a complete piece of shit that I haven’t been able to get working; it requires an EA login (besides the XBOX login) and continually fails to connect to the EA server, so we’ve never actually seen it running.

Finn and I sat down and made a list of multiplayer games she’d like, and I stuck them in an Amazon list. On the way home from running errands the other day I had a bright idea and stopped at the library, where I checked out three games for us to try: LEGO Star Wars TFA, Portal Knights, and Star Wars Battlefront 2. The first two were on Finn’s list; I was hoping LEGO Star Wars was better than City Detective, and so far it is. We like it much better because even though we’ve been stuck in a few places it’s much easier to track what we’re supposed to do, and YES SHE CAN PLAY AS REY. Portal Knights didn’t load for us because the disc is damaged, so we’ll need to swap that for a better copy.

The third disc was for me: Battlefront 2 is beautiful and addictive and different from what I expected it to be; the original Battlefront on my old XBOX was a simple jump-in-and-shoot title that was actually pretty limited in terms of gameplay (as a single player). This one includes a single-player storyline as well as an AI controlled set of battlefields, as well as online multiplayer, but I’m happy to play it on my own. I think LEGO TFA and Battlefront 2 will be the next games I purchase now that I’ve played Fallout 4 mostly to its end: I got a year out of that game, and it was worth every penny. 

Update: I got an XBOX360 copy of Dead Space 2 at the Five Below for $5. It installs and plays on my XBOX One even though it’s 8 years old, and it doesn’t look half bad! 

Date posted: December 30, 2018 | Filed under entertainment, finn | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been having problems with my seat belt for a couple of months now. It won’t release enough for me to get it around my waist. If I’m on a slight incline it won’t release at all. No amount of gentle tugging, violent pulling, or gentle pleading would help. I decided I’d take advantage of 50˚ weather today to pull the ratchet mechanism apart to see what was wrong.

My seatbelt is based around a simple mechanism involving a single ball bearing in a cup. When the ball is stationary in the cup, the seatbelt has give and will release properly. When the ball is moved out of the cup by a strong force–say, a collision–it contacts a pawl which closes a ratcheting mechanism and stops the belt from releasing. Most of the online sources I found said the mechanism was probably filled with dust and the ball was stuck. I pulled it apart and shook out about a pound of dirt, straw, leaves, and dust, but the mechanism was still jammed. After blowing dust out of the cup with a can of compressed air, the mechanism started working and all was well again.

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

Date posted: December 27, 2018 | Filed under Repairs, Scout, Seat Belts | Comments Off on Restrained

Since the beginning of our relationship, Jen and I have had a tradition. It involves raw oysters and ham that has been boiled in a pillowcase. We have always traveled to St. Mary’s County for stuffed ham, and it’s usually in the autumn

Beer and St. Mary's County ham sandwich

Jen decided this year she was going to try her hand at making stuffed ham herself. She did a bunch of research and found several recipes, deciding she’d use a County family recipe to base her version off of. She bought a corned ham from our local butcher and prepared it herself, stuffing spiced cabbage, kale, and onions into the slab with an extremely sharp carving knife.


This was then wrapped in several layers of cheesecloth and boiled in a pot for hours. 


Then she pulled it out of the pot and we let it sit and cool in the bags overnight out on the porch. When we pulled the cheesecloth off, it didn’t look all that appetizing, but…


…when I started carving it, it looked like the stuffed ham I remember. And then when we tasted the first few bites: HOLY SHIT that’s good. 


This is how she served it: with garlic new potatoes, bacon green beans, and Hawaiian rolls for the ham (technically I’ve only had it with potato rolls, but these were super tasty). 


It all turned out incredible, and better yet, we’ve got leftovers in the fridge! I hope she makes this again. 

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

Huh. A 5-second timelapse video I posted on YouTube 10 years ago of me staining the porch floor has over 10,000 views. I have no idea why.

Date posted: December 27, 2018 | Filed under shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Date posted: December 26, 2018 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Here’s the hole I chopped out of the wall. It looks like shit. This is before I put patches in place, replaced the plank over the gap in the floor with two boards, and trimmed the inside closet moulding. 

This is the old fridge in the newer, wider hole. 

And here’s the new fridge in place. I’m going to mimic the rest of the window/door moulding and mill some boards to cover the jagged edges. That should clean things right up and make the kitchen presentable again. 

I asked the delivery guys to move the old fridge out into the garage, where it will sit until I can put an unswitched outlet in the front corner and relocate all of the garden tools to somewhere else. Or, more likely, I’ll pull one of the two cabinets off the back wall and stick it all the way back there. 

Date posted: December 24, 2018 | Filed under appliances | Leave a Comment »

I had a list of stuff I wanted to get accomplished over the Christmas break. Some of it was house-related stuff, some of it was school-related stuff, and some of it was stuff I just wanted to finally get to. It’s all been sidelined by the fridge crisis.

Our current, failing fridge is an upscale top-freezer model, standing 33″ wide by 65″ tall. It sits in our hallway coat closet, peeking out of a hole cut in the wall, directly under the staircase. That staircase is the problem, as the angle and position of the staircase dictates how much vertical room we’ve got to work with. Modern french-door refrigerators are generally 36″ wide by 69″ tall, varying in depth depending on the unit. The existing hole we had would not accommodate a larger fridge, which meant I would have to sneak an extra 4″ from somewhere.

I busted out the Sawzall and set about seeing how much room I could find if I enlarged the hole on the other side of the staircase. This meant I had to pull the moulding off the inside of the closet wall, gently saw through all of the lathe, trim a bunch of the remaining wall studs, and reroute the doorbell wiring (unfortunately severing one of the leads in the process). I measured and measured again, and with all the trimming I did, I think I’ve got the room to work with.

Once I knew that, we went to Lowe’s and looked at the available stock for the third time, finally settling on a 21 cubic foot Fridgidaire in stainless steel on a $850 discount from list price. They looked in back and found one available for us, and we ordered it.

Sunday I continued cleaning up the jagged hole I’d hacked away at, fitting drywall into the sections where the plaster had come off the lathe and replacing two sections of flooring with spare tongue and groove I’d stashed in the garage. Then I slapped a gallon of drywall spackle over the patches and called it good enough, because Jen is making a St. Mary’s County Stuffed Ham for Christmas dinner, and we needed to clean all of the dust up before she started cooking.

After cleaning the house, Finn and I sat down for some LEGO City on the XBOX and then knocked off a few of the backed-up advent activities: viewings of a Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, roasting some marshmallows over the fire, and having a picnic under the tree. 

Date posted: December 23, 2018 | Filed under appliances | Leave a Comment »

Our refrigerator has decided it’s time to break down again, just a few days before Christmas and with a 25-lb. ham freshly purchased. I had to make an after-hours run to the store last night for ice, and throw all of our groceries in the coolers, and run two coolers’ worth of stuff over to Christi & Glen’s spare fridge. Meanwhile the temperatures are projected to be in the mid-40’s instead of the 20s like they were last week, which would have been perfect for storing stuff on the back porch. Merry Christmas.

Date posted: December 22, 2018 | Filed under appliances, house | Leave a Comment »


I saw this Pro Street Cougar in a parking lot the other night while Finn was at karate. Pro Street means you’ve made modifications to the engine and maybe the driveline, and most likely put a rollcage inside; everything else is supposed to be stock, which explains why this is still street-legal. 

Date posted: December 20, 2018 | Filed under cars, photo | Leave a Comment »

Last night I was in a giant bowling alley with my family, celebrating the holiday at our company Christmas party. 

One year ago yesterday, I was recovering from cancer surgery to my abdomen, facing down recovery and more chemotherapy. 

I didn’t really have a lot of time yesterday to reflect on how lucky I am to be here (and have less time today) but goddamn, I’m happy to be alive.

Date posted: December 19, 2018 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »