I grew up listening to Howard Stern on the radio, and when he made the switch to satellite I lost track. Sometime in the intervening years he embraced his ability to be an excellent interviewer. He had Hillary Clinton on last week, and the whole thing is fascinating: he’s empathetic and insightful, and she’s a human being. It’s depressing how much of the current political process strips the personality and warmth from our candidates; I like this Hillary and I wish we’d seen more of this side of her on the campaign trail four years ago.

Date posted: December 30, 2019 | Filed under entertainment, politics, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I had the Scout out a couple days before Christmas to run some errands, and she ran great after a warmup in the driveway. The new battery has a lot more power than the old one ever did. About halfway through my trip, while accelerating, I heard and felt a Ting! behind the steering column, from somewhere behind the dash. Alarmed, I did my usual scan for damage, and felt nothing different through the pedals or in the sound of the engine. She continued running straight and true, and the engine was strong and responsive. I continued on and filed that away in my brain for later diagnosis.

A little later it became clear what the issue was: my speedometer needle was bouncing all over the place. For most mechanical speedo cables the cause is the same thing: at some point the grease in the wire got gunked up with age or dirt, and the teeth have started slipping. I’ve got a couple of different options to fix it:

  • I can buy a new speedo cable and install it: about $40 from a Light Line vendor.
  • I can pull the existing cable and shoot graphite into each end, hopefully cleaning out and clearing up the binding problem, as long as the teeth are still intact.

While I’m in there doing this, I could update the gears in the instrument cluster to reflect the difference in tire size from stock to where they are now; this would show the proper speed and ensure the odometer is recording the right distance.

For Christmas, I asked for a 12 volt bench power supply so that I can pull the instrument cluster and put it on steady power to troubleshoot the lights, as well as the other gauges I’ve got in my spares bin. (After doing some more sleuthing I realized I can do the same with two 6-volt batteries wired in sequence, but oh well). So the first thing to do will be to wire up one of my spares and see if I can sort that out first. Once I know what I’m doing, I’ll pull the working unit and fix that, as well as address the speedo cable issue.

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

Date posted: December 30, 2019 | Filed under Future Plans, Scout | Comments Off on Speedometer

I’ve kept my activities low-impact while I drag myself out of the hole this illness has got me in. I felt like I was up to some small stuff on Saturday, so I wandered up to the bathroom and made some forward progress. The first thing to do was to remove all of the framing around the toilet window that was put in when the drywall went in and redo it. See, Mario put it in and measured the casings at 5½” wide, when everything was supposed to be at 4½”. I left it purposely for the very last so that I could see what all the other casing and moulding measured out at, and about halfway through the job I knew I’d have to pull it apart and redo it all. It actually didn’t take that much time to fix. It was easy to pull off. I ran it through the table saw to narrow the casing, lopped the edges off the stool, and cut the top casing down before putting the crown on top. Then it all went back in place and while the wood putty dried I gave much of the rest of the new woodwork a coat of semigloss paint. I cut some small pieces to fit in where the cabinets join the doors, installed more kickplate under the back stairs, and put a coat of paint on the toilet window before calling it a day.


On Sunday I listened to the Ravens game while I painted. Pretty much every piece of woodwork got another coat of paint, and I spent a couple of hours focusing on the closet doors, which came primed from the factory. They look worlds better. The whole room really looks worlds better, actually.

Tomorrow (Monday) I’ve got to call the cabinet place to see if they can get me a short piece of fill wood for the right-side cabinet on the front wall, so that I can stand it off the side by about 2″ before putting it in permanently. I’m going to go get valves for the water supply pipes and install all of those, and get some lumber to finish off the inside doors in the closet, but I’m waiting to see how we’re going to organize the space in there before putting kickplate in. I can also set up the kickplate for under the sink.

Later in the day, I was adjusting the $50 bandsaw I picked up a few weeks ago and to my dismay the lower support guide, a cast metal part that assures the blade stays straight, crumbled in my hand. A number of searches reveals that, surprise! Sears doesn’t carry this part anymore, and pretty much everyone else who has one of these saws is looking for the same part. So, I’ll do a little digging to see if I can find another part that I can substitute, or I’ll just throw the whole thing in the fucking trash.

Date posted: December 29, 2019 | Filed under bathroom, house | Leave a Comment »

When you support free, you support billionaires. When you pay, you support sane businesses and real creators. Start paying for things that cost money. If you can’t afford to, use fewer things, which generally make you happier anyway.

This is a long, but very well written article on Flickr’s SmugMug’s recent plea for help to find more paying users, and its future. TL;DR: It’s not going anywhere, but they need to double down on their core audience.

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

As with 2018, I did get a lot of my 2019 list taken care of. The radiator and caster shims were a big improvement, and having the rear U-joint fixed was expensive but necessary. Little things like the hood strut and the front speaker were great quality-of-life improvements that I was happy to have. But this is a 40-year-old truck, and issues need to be addressed:

  • Buy a new starter. The unit Bennett and I swapped in a number of years ago was a used part from his stash, and on one of every five starts I get the I’m-not-fully-engaged sound, which tells me the solenoid is going bad. I’d like to get a new sturdy unit in there so that I’m not worrying about it.
  • Pull the wiper motor back out and re-adjust it so that the arm geometry isn’t oriented below the windshield and the motor is fastened in with all four bolts.
  • Replace the windshield with a new one. Mine is absolutely terrible; I don’t know if a pro installer would even work with me given the condition of my windshield frame. I’m not the only one who needs this, and guys have talked about doing a windshield installation party, so I may push for this in 2020.
  • Re-route the speaker wire. This has been needed for 10 years.
  • Clean out the engine bay. I talked about doing this last year and ran out of time. This is basically wrapping the carb in plastic, shooting the engine bay  with degreaser, and then hosing the whole thing out. I’d have to do this somewhere other than our house now, though, because I don’t want to dissolve our new driveway.
  • Put the new battery inside a marine container, and replace the battery tray. My existing tray looks like it’s been floating in saltwater and I’d like to try and save the inner fender before it dissolves that too.
  • Fix the driver’s side manifold-to-exhaust leak. I have the bolts; I just haven’t gotten to this yet.
  • Sandblast some of my spare sheet metal and prep it with sealer. I have a compressor but not the sandblasting kit, and there are a lot of parts I’d like to clean up.

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

Date posted: December 27, 2019 | Filed under Scout, To-Do List | Comments Off on 2020 To Do List

I’m writing this at the dining room table in my pajamas on Friday morning, after a breakfast of pumpkin pie and coffee. Breakfast of Champions!

(Spoiler alert: if you don’t see a bunch of redacted text below, force-reload your browser to update the CSS. Hover over the text if you dare.)

  • Christmas was great! A little understated this year, because we made our major Christmas purchase earlier in the month—more on that when it happens—but fun and full of cheer. Finn got her first MP3 player: not an iPod, to her dismay, but something just as good (and cheaper) if/when she loses it, preloaded with music she requested.
  • We hosted Jen’s family here for Christmas dinner that afternoon, and it was great to see everyone under the same roof. I was able to navigate the new head unit to provide Christmas music into the living room, and we had a blazing fire going all night. Hazel was super-chill with the little kids, to our relief. We all ate way too much good food and topped it off with excellent dessert. I think we were all in bed by 10PM.
  • My cold has still not lifted. I’ve been swilling cough medicine by the gallon since last week, and because my immune system is still compromised it’s taking much longer than normal to fight this thing off. I don’t have a fever, and I’ve been able to get up and move around OK the whole time, but I’m tired of coughing and blowing my nose. I may be visiting the urgent care clinic today.
  • Thursday was a relaxed, sit on the couch and fart around kind of day. We did eventually get up and join the Geblers across the street at the playground, and then walked up to a neighborhood cafe for some lunch. Hazel was happy to get a good walk in, and it felt great to be out in the warm weather. We left at about 3:30 because we had Rise of Skywalker matinee tickets, so we loaded our pockets with Christmas candy and settled into our seats. The verdict: I agree with a lot of the criticism I’ve read since we saw it—there’s way too much retconning away from Last Jedi in this script, some of the characters introduced in that movie got completely sidelined, and it introduces—and then forgets—a gigantic number of plot holes and questions. The first 20 minutes felt like a speed run through a department store, and the big set pieces could have used another few minutes to breathe and let us feel the stakes. I feel like Abrams did a better job on the first movie; this was good but pales in comparison to the best movies in the series.
Date posted: December 27, 2019 | Filed under entertainment, family | Leave a Comment »





Date posted: December 26, 2019 | Filed under family, finn, photo | Leave a Comment »

The coughy sore-throat lung butter illness that was sweeping through work hit me on Tuesday like a ton of bricks; what started out as a tickle in the back of my throat has progressed to a full-on cold and cough and ache. I’m guzzling off-brand Dayquil like it’s a can of La Croix. On the positive side, my voice has dropped three octaves, so I’m the bantamweight Barry White. I hopped on a work call the other day and several of my co-workers didn’t know who I was when I started talking. I should change my voicemail recording while I can.

We’re mostly prepared for Christmas here; what’s left to do is wrap presents and prepare for the big day. We’ve got a couple of cool Advent activities planned until then, and I’m working from home as many days as possible.

* * *

Well, this is great. Apparently the folks who bought Flickr sent out an appeal to Pro users (I didn’t see it; must have wound up in my spam folder) asking us for help finding new paying members, stating that the service isn’t paying for itself. I shudder at the thought of finding and replacing all of the photos I’ve embedded from there on this blog; the number is in the thousands, easily. And, I don’t know where I’d move them to.

Date posted: December 20, 2019 | Filed under geek, general | Leave a Comment »


Date posted: December 20, 2019 | Filed under hazel | Leave a Comment »

The empathy and wounded optimism of Short Term 12 is the film’s calling card, but its position as the source code for the future of Hollywood—both its ensemble and its director—is, for better or worse, the most remarkable part of its legacy.

I loved this movie when I saw it, and I’m happy it’s making end-of-decade lists. The Ringer did a piece on the incredible casting of the movie before anyone really knew who they were. Go find it.

Date posted: December 17, 2019 | Filed under entertainment, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »