Here’s the north side of the greenhouse, right after I started pulling the 15-year-old plastic off the top section. It’s hard to see here, but it was all green with algae and moss and dirt. I’d actually washed it off last spring but the plastic is so old at this point the dirt just built right back up and made it look like crap. I’ve already torn the wall plastic off at this point.


Here’s the side with no plastic at all.


I put the top section on first so that I could get up on a ladder and do the spine, then worked my way down the sides.


This is the finished north side. Luckily the footer here is in decent enough shape that I’m going to leave it alone. I also ripped out all of the foam wall padding left over from the orchid house so that we’re getting 180˚ of sunlight at all times.


Here’s the South side; I actually did this side first thing in the morning, and the sheet they cut for me was so big I was able to use one piece from the spine all the way down to the footer.


After I got the plastic up, I did some reorganizing inside. This year the tables will be in the center to give the plants as much height as possible. I tore out all of the irrigation piping and put the third table along the north wall (left side in the photo above) for storage; I think we’re at the point when metal shelving might be a better solution for all of the pots and gear we’ve got stacked over there. All of this doesn’t look like a lot of work, but my ass was thoroughly kicked by the time I was done.

Next up: replace the footer under the front door with a single piece of wood, rebuild the rain barrel platform, and start buying soil for the bins.

Date posted: March 31, 2019 | Filed under garden, greenhouse | Leave a Comment »

technical difficulties

That was strange. As far as I can tell, my .htaccess file was corrupted through a hack in the Akismet spam plugin in WordPress; I tracked down the root cause yesterday and rebuilt the file last night, but it took until this morning before everything was happy. You may now return to your regularly scheduled weblog.

Date posted: March 31, 2019 | Filed under geek | Leave a Comment »

Fuji just updated its wireless camera app for the first time in the 2+ years I’ve been using their cameras. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m hoping I can try it out this weekend and see if they’ve made it easier to do things.

Date posted: March 29, 2019 | Filed under photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »


I took some time to look over the Champion radiator that came in last week and compare it to the stock unit I’ve got out in the garage so that I know what I’m working with. I bought the 3-core deluxe version, figuring cooler is better with a 5.7 liter engine, and also got two new upper and lower radiator hoses to replace the ones that are there.


Overall, it’s a very sturdy radiator and feels solid in my hands, as well as 10 pounds lighter than the OEM version. I pulled my spare fan shroud from the parts bin and test fit it (use M6 x 1.00 x 16 metric bolts) to find that it doesn’t quite line up at the bottom when I started two bolts at the top. I’ve read in some places that it needs to be trimmed to clear the pulley and fan, but I won’t know that until we get into it.


When I line it up side by side with the OEM unit it sits a little shorter in comparison, but I’d need to take more time to measure and compare to see if it’s any deeper.

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

Date posted: March 27, 2019 | Filed under Radiator, Scout | Comments Off on Champion Overview


Small victories can sometimes add up to a larger result, and that’s how I feel about the past weekend. I don’t feel like I got any one big thing done, but I made a lot of progress on several fronts. My FitBit tells me I walked 15,000 steps and 64 floors of stairs, and I sure do feel that in my legs today.

First, we had Christopher come in from New York on Friday night, which was great; he’s always fun to have staying with us and a great excuse to get out of the house and do interesting things. Unfortunately, Baltimore was boring this past weekend so we couldn’t take him to an awesome exhibit in D.C. or an art happening here in Baltimore, so we settled for K-Pop Disco Theater Barbecue on Friday night. Saturday was windy but sunny so I took advantage of that to pick up some supplies at Lowe’s to repair the garage lights and the greenhouse door.

Jen’s eye was hurting (she scratched her cornea on Friday) so she took a nap and Christopher, Finn and I drove to Second Chance to walk through the warehouse and poke around at the merchandise. I was there to look at doors to replace the one between the blue room and the new bathroom, and found a beautiful 12-panel French door in almost the right size as well as a full-light door in exactly the size. Jen was asleep so I punted until later. Then we hit Housewerks and poked through the odd merchandise there, stopping to admire a porcelain autopsy table parked outside.


That evening we drove into Baltimore for dinner at Peter’s, our old neighborhood haunt from my Canton days. Jen had read they suffered a fire last year but had reopened this spring, and we were lucky to get a parking spot around the corner and seated in half an hour (no mean feat for a popular restaurant with 18 tables). As usual, the service was excellent, the food was delicious, and we left sated and happy and went straight home to bed.

Sunday I continued working on the garage light (the light switch had gone bad), the greenhouse door (fitting a storm door handle to aluminum channel took some engineering) and then the greenhouse footer, while stopping to help Finn set up a jewelry stand out in front of the house. Mama and I were skeptical but she wound up selling two necklaces for $8. I think she’s on to something.

Date posted: March 26, 2019 | Filed under Baltimore, finn, friends | Leave a Comment »

Procrastination is a perfect example of present bias, our hard-wired tendency to prioritize short-term needs ahead of long-term ones.

This. Also:

Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task, Dr. Sirois said.

As I write this, I’m procrastinating. (NYT paywall link)

Date posted: March 25, 2019 | Filed under life, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

We had a fierce windstorm this weekend which got inside the greenhouse and blew the door open. I wasn’t surprised by this, because the doorhandle had finally broken a few weeks ago and I was waiting to replace it in some dry weather. I had to make two trips to the Lowe’s for supplies but was finally able to get a new handle installed and working. Then I set my sights on cleanup and prep for plastic. First I dumped all of 2018’s dirt out on the mulch pile and stacked the bins. Then I moved everything off the south wall into the center so I could look the footing over.

Greenhouse side

Here’s the south side of the greenhouse. This is before I started; the footing is the wooden section at the bottom (2″ x 12″ x 20′). There’s a horizontal metal rail bolted to five vertical hoops, which are set in concrete, as far as I can tell. The wood is screwed to the underside of the rail and sits on the ground. The soil from the inside is pushing the bottom outwards, and the rail is warped. Normally the plastic is fitted into a channel in the rail and held in with a strip, but that strip is gone and I’ve had to wrap the plastic around some thin wood boards and staple that to the footing. Ghetto.


Here’s the after shot. This is two new sections of wood connected with a metal strap in the middle. The plastic remains the same because I haven’t replaced that yet.


This is the interior; this is after I moved all the slabs inwards and backfilled the dirt. Next up is to order some U-bolts to secure the footer to each of the pipes for some added stability.

I’m going to redo the front footer under the door next, as it’s made up of several sections of wood that aren’t connected to each other anymore and it needs to be stabilized properly. The back section looks fine, and I’m putting off working on the north side until I absolutely have to because it’s going to be a soggy pain in the ass and I’m not looking forward to that level of excavation–but I know it has to be done. However, knowing now that I can raise the rail upwards means I can adjust the height of the footer, and that’s good news.

Date posted: March 25, 2019 | Filed under garden, greenhouse | Leave a Comment »


Look what showed up on my doorstep yesterday!

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

Date posted: March 23, 2019 | Filed under Radiator, Scout | Comments Off on Shiny

The New York Times (apologies, paywall) did an article on “snowplow parenting,” a new term that describes a parenting style beyond helicopter parenting:

It starts early, when parents get on wait lists for elite preschools before their babies are born and try to make sure their toddlers are never compelled to do anything that may frustrate them. It gets more intense when school starts: running a forgotten assignment to school or calling a coach to request that their child make the team.

Later, it’s writing them an excuse if they procrastinate on schoolwork, paying a college counselor thousands of dollars to perfect their applications or calling their professors to argue about a grade.

Jen and I have struggled with the appropriate amount of parenting oversight since Finn was born. On one hand we are free-range adherents, and believe she should fall down and get up on her own. On the other hand, we are terrified of anything that might happen to her and not being able to shelter her from the evils of the world, because she is our only daughter. I understand the instinctive urge to seal her in a bubble until whatever magical time we decide she’s fit to face the modern world, but I know this will cripple her emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

A few weeks ago a friend of hers rode her bike over to our house after school, and the two of them played at the house for a while. Then they asked if they could ride bikes to the playground across the street, which Jen and I both agreed to. After they were down the road and out of sight, Jen and I admitted we were both freaking out a little bit; this was the first time we’d let Finn ride her bike out of sight, without us, across the road. But as we talked about it, we both had to remind ourselves that we had been riding farther than this on our own a at a younger age, and she’s not going to learn or grow independent without us trusting her.

That trust can be hard to come by. We are currently struggling with where the line is between being involved and letting her fall down on her own. There are certain things that require us to step in (do your homework, remember to bring home your report card, etc.) where failure will set her up on a bad path for the future. But there are other places where we’ve backed off to let her fail on her own and suffer the consequences in the hopes that it will WAKE HER THE FUCK UP. As I look back to my own struggles with responsibility at her age, I know that it’s something she needs to step up and accept on her own, but I hope to god it doesn’t come as late in life as it did for me. And the lectures are getting tiring.

* * *

Sixteen percent of those with children in college had texted or called them to wake them up so they didn’t sleep through a class or test. Eight percent had contacted a college professor or administrator about their child’s grades or a problem they were having.

I recently ran into a similar issue while teaching. I’m not sharing details but suffice it to say someone revved up the plow.

When I found out I was accepted at college, found out how much it would cost, and understood what was at stake, I took the entire experience seriously. My parents, god love them, had no idea what I was doing from month to month unless I called them from the pay phone in the hall outside our dorm room. I knew it was my responsibility to get to class on time, turn my work in on time, talk to my professors about issues I was having, and get the best grades possible, because this was my one shot to stay out of a waiter’s uniform or a manual labor job. I didn’t bug them with issues about grades or money or relationships, even though I had issues with all three, but I was damn proud to show them my grades at the end of each semester.

I cannot imagine calling a professor or a dean to complain on behalf of my daughter. If she was being abused or exploited I’d certainly be doing more than picking up a phone, but her grades are her grades. It’s up to us to teach her to value her education and to have agency in her own life; the teachers are there to build on that.

Date posted: March 23, 2019 | Filed under general, teaching | Leave a Comment »


Here’s your Idiot (the guy on the right) with the CEO of the World Resources Institute (definitely not an idiot) getting his 5-year tenure award. 5 years!

Date posted: March 21, 2019 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »