After some back and forth and miscommunication, I dropped the Scout off across town this morning for caster correction surgery. I was a little nervous after the initial efforts failed, but I trusted the online reviews and an hourlong conversation with the owner in April and handed them the keys. At about 10:30 they called and the mechanic had an honest conversation with me: He said he’d worked on many different lifted trucks and because the tires were the size they were, he couldn’t promise the correctors would do much, especially as he figured it would take two hours a side to get them in. I figured I was in for a penny, in for a pound, and told him to go ahead anyway.
They got back to me at about 2:30 and said it had taken a lot less time than they figured—only one hour per side. He took it out on the road for a test run and said the tracking was much better, and that he was surprised at what a difference it made.
On the ride home, I noticed a big difference in the way she handled at speed. Where before every bump sent the wheels in a different direction, and expansion joints unloaded the suspension and sent the whole truck sailing on a random course, the steering is staying straight and true. Before, I spent a lot of time anticipating what I thought the truck would do and adjusting for it, which made for some white-knuckle driving. Now the small stuff is negligible and the expansion joints are tolerable. Because I was on mostly elevated highway around Baltimore I didn’t have a lot of flat straight sections to test the hands-off results on, but what I did try was straight and true.
It’s not perfect; the only thing that’s going to fix everything is a taller wheel and a thinner tire. But that’s something I’m not going to spend money on this year.
I’ve had a film called Columbus in my Netflix account for several months now. I read a glowing review back in 2017 and liked the sound of the movie (synopsis from IMDB):
A Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, where his architect father is in a coma. The man meets a young woman who wants to stay in Columbus with her mother, a recovering addict, instead of pursuing her own dreams.
What that doesn’t say is that the movie takes its time to quietly develop, something I respect in this day of careening storylines. It’s an intensely personal movie about the relationships between parents and children, and respects the personalities and the stories of its characters. The director uses the visual backdrop of Columbus, Indiana, to frame his narrative. The city became a center of modernist architecture through a visionary foundation founded in 1954, and is the home of seven National Historic Landmarks. I highly recommend it.
Meanwhile, I found some cheap DVDs and a game at the thrift store last weekend; three of the seven Harry Potter expanded editions (we lent our box set to the daughter of some friends and haven’t seen it since), and Children of Men. I found an Xbox360 version of Halo: ODST and got it for $1.50. It loads and plays on my Xbox but it’s easy to tell it’s 10 years old. That having been said, I’m enjoying it so far—I’ve been a Bungie fan since the Marathon days, and their studio voice is all over this game.
Here’s a second visualization of the bathroom, looking from (approximately) somewhere in front of the closet. I have to tape out the cabinet depths to confirm, but this looks pretty good to me. And the quote is lower, too!
As regular readers here might know, I’m loyal to the Apple brand, because it’s been good to us. In the late 1990’s my friend Logan asked me if I thought it would be smart to invest in Apple stock; this was before Steve Jobs had rejoined and before Ameritrade was a thing on the internet. If I’d been a smarter man I would have scraped together $100 at that point and found a way to buy some; I’d have made about $10,000 on that paltry investment by now.
When I look back on my history with Apple machines, I realize there are a lot of them that have come through my door. Here’s a brief account, mostly for my own edification, of what I’ve had and what happened to them all.
- Mac IIcx (Norman): Norman was the first computer I bought myself, having learned the rudiments of Macs at our computer lab in college. I knew I was going to need to find a new job—contracting was becoming a financial drain—so I resolved to learn some design skills. It so happened that a neighbor of a friend who I’d house-sat for was selling her old IIcx and offered it to me with Quark 3.1, an early version of Illustrator, and some other programs already installed. I took her up on the deal—I think it was $400, which was a lot of money for me at the time—and had to scratch more money together to afford a monitor. When I bought it, it was already several generations older than the ones I’d learned on in college, but still usable. Once I had that purchased, I used it for learning page layout and organizing my illustration mailings. That experience, and a well-placed friend from college, got me an internship. Later I put a a DayStar Turbo 040 card, which, as I recall, involved nervously pulling and mailing the logic board off to the company to be soldered together with the new card. Norman ran faithfully and well for years, but he was old when I bought him and like any nerd I had my eye on a newer shinier machine.
- Power Macintosh 7100/80 (1996, G-Force): This Mac was purchased after the internship changed to a full-time design gig at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. While I was there I inhaled Apple/IT information and reorganized our small network of Macs—optimizing and networking a Quadra 900, a Quadra 840AV and an older IIfx, which I later upgraded with a Radius Rocket to boost its speed. The 7100 was a stable, solid unit that I’m sad I ever got rid of. It got me through years of after-hours freelancing, and when it was relegated to second-line status I experimented and got an install of MKLinux running on it so that I could bang around inside Apache and learn Perl and web services. I donated this machine and Norman to the AmVets sometime in 2003.
- Powerbook 520c (Max, 1999): I bought this machine after I switched to web design. I was working at a regional sales/rental/services company that had moved into web design, and our small band of designers and programmers had a big grey cube all to ourselves–the wild west days of the web. The Mac was a rental that they were disposing of, and I got it for cheap. It was an early laptop with a plastic cladding over a magnesium chassis, which meant that most of the screws were stripped and the clutch mechanism for the lid was worn out. In comparison to today’s laptops with their millimeters of clearance, this machine felt like it was put together at the Fisher-Price factory. But, it was COLOR! and it ran System 7 pretty well. It worked OK for a while, but the tired battery gave out soon after I bought it, and the screen started flaking out, and it was soon relegated to novelty status.
- Compaq (1999, beige box): This was one of two PCs I’ve owned, acquired when I was deep into coding and all of the tools I was using were written for that platform. I don’t remember if I bought this or they gave it to me, but I had it for several years. It ran Windows NT, which allowed me to set up local domains and build and serve sites right on the machine instead of out on expensive public subdomains. For what it was, it worked well, and I used it for several years before I went back to Macs. I don’t miss Windows NT.
- Power Macintosh 8500/150 (Alpha, 1999): I bought this from the rental department as well, intending to use it as a replacement for the 7100 and a server in the basement. It worked reasonably well for what it was, but I don’t remember using it as a main machine until I brought it to the game company and stuck it under my desk to use as a print design and light-duty graphics machine. Much of the interface for Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom was built on this machine. I don’t recall what happened to this unit, but I probably donated it when I moved out of the city.
- Powerbook Pismo G3 (1999): While I was working on a Windows unit at work, I was also lusting after new laptops. When I switched jobs to the dot-com, they gave me a blank check, and I ordered a top-of-the-line Pismo maxed out with RAM. It served as my main machine up until the day I left. While I was there I had a Sun workstation running some form of UNIX that was neat to play with, but was way out of my league.
- Powerbook Pismo G3 (2000): After I was laid off, I needed something to work on, as all of my home machines were pretty creaky. I bought this machine off of eBay and miraculously didn’t get ripped off. It was in good shape and had no dead pixels, and it was my workhorse laptop for the next three years, getting me through multiple freelance jobs and the pivotal switch from System 9 to OSX. This remains one of my favorite Apple machines of all time; the styling of the case set it apart from all other beige laptops of the day, and the keyboard remains one of my favorite designs. It was modular and powerful and sturdy as hell.
The office in my first house: the beige PC, 8500 and a Pismo on the desk. Hi Penn!
- Powerbook Pismo G3 (2001): I bought this from a friend for Jen to use as a freelance machine, and it served her very well until the day it fried itself.
- Various G3 iMacs (2003-8): I went through a phase where I was buying and fixing cheap old gumdrop iMacs and using them for various things, including reselling them. For a while I had a music server at home and one under my desk at work with a giant iTunes library, and ran them until they all fizzed out. Purple was the longest-lived unit, serving all the way to 2008, and then it finally gave up.
- Powerbook 100 (Junior): I found this little gem on Craigslist, I believe. This was the initial offering Apple made to the portable market, and was nothing more than a Mac SE with no floppy drive and limited memory. I used it for simple writing tasks for a year or so but again, because the batteries were long dead it was mostly just a novelty. My sister wound up with one of these and donated it to me when she moved. I tried, but couldn’t get one good machine to work out of two. At some point in the late 2000’s one of the caps blew and it stopped booting, so I traded it for a Powerbook 160 and $10.
- iBook G4 (2005): I upgraded to this machine when my Pismo was getting long in the tooth. It was between this and a full-size Powerbook, and I had to go the cheaper route for financial reasons. In hindsight it wasn’t a bad decision, although as the average browser screen size got larger the size of the iBook display limited the way I saw things unless I was hooked up to an external monitor. This machine served me through a year or so of back-stairwell freelance gigs (always be hustling) and two years of self-employment. It went to Orlando, out to Portland and later to San Francisco, and across the Baltimore/DC area. It was a great machine. I sold it in 2007 to finance the purchase of a new production machine.
- IBM Thinkpad R30 (2006): I bought this as a development machine when I got the TalkPlus gig in Portland, and used it as a coding box while I did all the visuals on the Mac. It was flaky when I bought it but did what I asked of it (running HomeSite and several other handy coding apps) and I humped it and the iBook west for both trips; in hindsight I should have just spent money on a single dual-boot Powerbook. After a while it devolved into chaos when the clock battery died; then there was some nonsense with the BIOS that involved a three-step boot process, and after lending it to my father-in-law for a brief period, it came home and sits on a shelf in the office. It needs to have the drive pulled and get donated.
The Thinkpad hard at work, California, 2007
- Powerbook G4 Aluminum (2007, Dugan Portable) I bought this for the low price of $300 on Craigslist, and while I don’t use it every day, it’s been a dependable workhorse of our fleet. It had a bad LCD, which I replaced soon after I purchased it, and since then it’s been pressed into service whenever I need to go back in time to use an old piece of software or hook up an old peripheral. It also came with a bombproof Brenthaven laptop backpack, which has been used for everything from carting the 17″ MacBook Pro around to hiking trips in the woods.
- Powerbook 160 (2007): I don’t remember why I bought this, but I did. It worked for a while and I had some fun with it (I think I loaded some old floppies in the drive to see if it could read them, that sort of thing) and then I put it aside. Soon after that it stopped booting. I haven’t followed up on it lately, but I’d love to find someone who can troubleshoot and repair it. Having done a little research online, I wonder if it’s the power supply?
- Powerbook 1400cs (2007): this was actually in response to the Powerbook 160 dying, and I wanted something that would still read some of the floppies I had laying around, as well as the ancient CD-R’s I’d burned in my early days. I got it off of Craigslist and was happy to see it booted quickly and came with a PCMCIA slot, which meant after some calisthenics and scavenging a first-gen Airport card from a sick Base Station, I was able to get it connected to our wireless network. I break it out every year or so and boot it up, and apart from a screen issue where the lower half is ghosted for a few minutes, it runs fine.
- Power Mac G5 (2009): I traded some IT time for two of these big boys, as a client was downsizing and didn’t need either of them. They were both finicky, fragile pieces of shit that were constantly overheating and randomly crashing, requiring constant vigilance and multiple surgeries. The first unit suffered from bad RAM and thus kept corrupting its startup disk, and the second had cooling issues which meant it would go down at random intervals with no warning. I installed a older copy of OSX Server and used these machines to learn how to administer it, which came in handy for several IT gigs. I dragged them along for as long as possible but replaced them with a decommissioned Mac Pro from work as soon as I could. When that was complete I gutted both chassis for usable parts and brought the aluminum cases to a recycler, where they fetched about $20. Good riddance.
- MacBook Pro 17” (2007, IdiotCentral): A big-boy portable that wound up being too big. I got this in December of 2006 after dealing with the aforementioned iBook screen, and I think in hindsight it was overkill. This machine was a monster in size and weight. It was great for working on large layouts, and all of the standard connections on a MBP were nice to have back after the limited selection on the iBook. I used this for several years of solid web design work both as a freelancer and at a full-time gig. It suffered from a video board issue later in its career where the lower half of the screen went blank. I cracked the case several times to install new parts, and after installing two inverter boards, I was able to resurrect it in order to put it up for sale. This was sold in 2011 to help pay for a new 15″ MacBook Pro.
- Macbook Pro 15″ (2010, IdiotBrain): This has been my workhorse machine for the last nine years. In frontline service for the first 6, it faithfully traveled with me to and from work at the agency, keeping my freelance work separate from my 9-5 gig. A couple of years ago I upgraded the spinning drive to a solid state unit, which sped it up dramatically. I had few problems with it up until early this year when it unceremoniously blew up. I figure the motherboard just fried itself after thousands of cycles. I pulled the drive and any swappable components out and put it out to pasture. I then put drive inside a decommissioned 15″ MacBook Pro I got from work. This model is two years older than the original, but the drive installed cleanly and it booted up like it was no big thing. The trackpad click function is broken but other than that it runs fine. To all outward appearances, IdiotCentral is still running, even if I’m only using it for personal email and backing up website data.
- iBook, Pismo G3 (2013): These two laptops, mirror images of two machines I’d already owned, were in a closet at the agency and weren’t being used for anything, so I dragged them home and cleaned them up, and they both run OK. The Pismo had never been converted over to OSX (WOW) and the iBook was used for someone’s travel laptop, so they were both used lightly. I recycled the batteries and put the iBook on my workbench downstairs for a couple of years for research needs. The Pismo got juiced with the leftover goodies I’d collected from our old fleet and sits in a container on the shelf.
- Mac Pro (2015, New Brain): I got this from work, as stated above. It had been sitting unused in the corner of a studio room for a year until I saved it and ran some tests. It turned out the RAM was bad, so I bought it for $50 and swapped the bad chips out for new ones. It’s been in the basement ever since, serving out 16TB of data flawlessly. Unfortunately, it’s trapped at OS 10.7 which means I can’t upgrade the OS beyond where it is, and that also caps some of the software I can install. I will eventually replace the platter boot drive with a solid state drive and fill all four bays with gianter drives for our data, but for now it hums along happily.
- Macbook Pro 13″ (2017, WRI Mobile): This is my work-issued laptop, and I’ve had it for about three years now. The first machine I had was an inherited 15″ MBP, which was decommissioned, and they replaced that with a used 13″ machine. That laptop met a sticky end with a full thermos of coffee in my messenger bag, so they gave me another used 13″ that had seen some hard use. I scraped and washed some old running stickers off the case, opened it to dust out the fans, and dropped a larger solid state drive in it, and it’s been my frontline machine ever since. I’m looking at trading it for a new Touchpad MBP sometime at the end of this year.
I was supposed to have some work done to the Scout on Saturday morning, but the mechanic failed to hear the words “International Scout” on the phone and realized it was going to be more than a 3-hour job. So we rescheduled for this coming Friday, and I hope they will be able to handle it without any further hiccups. In the afternoon we headed across town to hang out at Will’s house for some barbecue and a bonfire in the backyard; it was great to catch up with him while the girls ran and played together, and we stayed much later than we realized.
Sunday we got up late, farted around the house in the morning—eggs are back on the menu, so life is returning to normal—and got ourselves ready to hit the pool. After some last minute inquiries we picked up one of Finn’s friends, staked out a spot under an umbrella on the west edge and relaxed while the girls played in the water.
The greenhouse is producing a ton of tomatoes, and after a brief blossom-end rot scare I think the remainder of the fruit on that plant is safe. The weather was a lot hotter yesterday so by the time I checked in on things late in the afternoon there were some plants looking wilty. We’re looking at 5 days of hot, sunny weather this week so daily watering will be key to keeping things healthy. The cherry plants are by far the most productive, followed by the roma plant. I haven’t figured out what the heirlooms respond to, because no amount of fertilizing the flowers seems to get them to produce more than two or three fruit per plant. I’ve also noticed that there isn’t as much bee activity in there this year, which is worrying. I think the majority of the production we enjoyed last year had to do with bees discovering the greenhouse while I was stuck in the hospital, while this year I’ve been doing the heavy lifting for Nature.
Speaking of hospitals, I’m waiting on communication from my doctors about our next steps. My white blood cell count has continued to drop. They ran a bunch of rule-the-weird-stuff-out tests and I’m happy to say I don’t have hepatitis A, B, or C, and I tested negative for HIV. Not that I was expecting a different result.
Update: looks like I’m going to be scheduling another test.
We’ve had a giant rhododendron in our driveway since we moved in this house. It’s a pain in the ass because it was allowed to grow for too long unchecked, so its footprint reached out into the door-swinging space of an already narrow area. Originally it was one of three, but I yanked the other two out after they died.
There was a whole section of parking that really wasn’t parking because of this. We noticed it was getting sickly this spring, and one of two main branches died off before springtime. Jen and I made a deal that we’d let it bloom one last season and then I’d yank it out. On Saturday morning, its time was up.
I worked on it with a pair of clippers and a shovel, clearing out the bottom of the two branches and digging down about 2 feet with the aid of a mattock, and gave it a couple of shoves to see how well it was clinging to Earth. Then I put the Scout in 4lo, wrapped my snatch strap around the base, and goosed the accelerator. POP!
It came right out. No drama, no fuss. I used the chainsaw to section it up into smaller bits and filled the hole back in. It sure does look different over there now.