I took the Scout out on errands Sunday before the first snow of the year. The weather was in the 50’s so it was good to get outside in the sunshine. I used the last of my starting fluid to wake her up so I thought I’d stop off at the auto parts store to pick up some more. When I came back out and cranked her over, the battery decided it was too tired to go on. I guess after 11 years I can’t complain too much; it was a bargain battery anyway.

$150 later, I put a new one in place of the old, hooked the terminals up, and she roared to life with vigor. While I was out, I got three thumbs-ups, a honk and a wave, and two guys telling me they love the Scout.

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

Date posted: December 16, 2019 | Filed under Purchasing, Scout | Comments Off on Energized

Saturday I took advantage of a relatively light schedule and got a solid block of hours in the bathroom for the first time in over a month. First up was to get the linen closet leveled, centered on its pedestal, and secured to the wall. Before I could do that I had to install a section of wood, included with the cabinets, to stand it off the wall by about 3″. I clamped it to the cabinet, scribed it (the wall is not straight), and tried using the new band saw, but found that the band saw was in desperate need of adjustment. Instead, I cut it freehand with the table saw. I clamped it on to the cabinet and screwed it in place, then snugged the whole cabinet up against the wall: a perfect fit. Now the extra room will allow the cabinet doors to clear the door casing when they’re open.

Once that was secured in place, I knew where the woodwork around the window could be, and started putting that back in. I’d already cut the stool, so it was simply a matter of putting the surrounds back in, measuring, cutting, and milling the casing, and setting up the top moulding. After caulking and adding wood fill to the nail holes, I leveled the small cabinet next to it and secured that to the wall. At that point it was time to wrap things up, because we had advent plans for the evening.

* * *

Jen got us tickets to see the Moscow Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker in the city, so we got our church clothes on, gave Hazel her sedative and put her in the crate, and headed into Baltimore. We got there early because they’ve begun security checks at the theater, so we had about an hour to kill before the curtain went up. We all got a cocktail at the bar and found some chairs in the upstairs lobby to relax in.

The production was beautiful. The Hippodrome isn’t the largest of stages, so I got the feeling they had to adjust the blocking to fit all of the dancers, but they did an amazing job and we were all captivated. The pair doing the Arabian Variation took our breath away. By the time we got home it was 10:30 and Finn went right to bed.


Sunday was a family day. The girls went to church while I ran some errands—a haircut and some Christmas shopping—and then did some small jobs around the house. When they got home, we went into Ellicott City for some lunch at Georgia Grace cafe, where the menu leans Greek and the food is delicious. Then we came back  and took Hazel for a walk around the neighborhood. Back inside, we caught up on our Advent activities around the dining room table. First, we made our family picture, and then we cut out snowflakes to hang on the windows. Then we lit a fire and talked about our Christmas lists. I started feeling lousy and went upstairs for a nap, and by the time I woke up Finn was just settling down in bed.


I’m hoping this lousy feeling doesn’t mean I’m coming down with something, as I still don’t have a very healthy immune system. I did get a bunch of sleep overnight but woke up with the same sore throat and achy feeling.

Date posted: December 16, 2019 | Filed under bathroom, family, finn, hazel, photo | Leave a Comment »

A 4-door 1961 Pontiac Tempest just popped up on Barn Finds in pieces, but it reminded me of this 2-door from last year in beautiful shape: there’s something perfect about how the designers moved away from tall fins and folded layers, sculpting more subtle shapes in this era of cars; this particular style is one of my favorites. The split grille is Pontiac’s design language, and the inset behind the front wheels merging into short fins is perfect. Blacked-out dog dish hubcaps are the finishing touch. This would be in my dream garage.

Date posted: December 15, 2019 | Filed under cars, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »


Hazel, much like our daughter, is a creature of habit. She (Hazel) understands how things are supposed to go after two days or so, and happily follows a schedule when it’s made clear to her (Finley takes a while longer). She’s been sleeping on the bed next to me for the past couple of weeks because her separation anxiety hasn’t decreased yet—she’s only been on Prozac for 14 days, so we won’t see any real change until Christmas or so—and hosing out the crate first thing every morning is a drag. She’s gotten to the point now where she sleeps in each morning, so after I’ve risen and woken Finn up, she staggers off the bed and sleepily follows me around the house. I put her on the lead out back and she does her morning business, and then comes right back inside. It’s cold enough that she doesn’t want to hang out in the backyard by herself—and I don’t blame her. If I had to whip my jimmy out on the lawn to pee in 20˚ weather I’d want to go back inside immediately and take a hot shower.

Jen has been cranking on two projects so Hazel has been at puppy daycare twice this week, which is a godsend for all of us. It’s a huge warehouse/outdoor area by the airport where she can go and play with 40+ other dogs from 8AM to 6PM. We pick her up after I get off the train and she’s a happy wiggle when she sees us; after she gets home and has some water and a snack, she passes out on her heated bed like a wino on a bender. The one drawback has been that she comes home smelling like the pee of a thousand dogs; it’s like she swims through a river of it to get back home to us. Tuesday night it was raining and when she got in the car she smelled like a train station bathroom. We hauled her upstairs and threw her directly in the bathtub for a shower, which she tolerated but did not enjoy.


After we have dinner and do homework and get Finn to sleep and the house quiets down, I sit with her in the den or living room and she crashes out in her settle bed and snores. When it’s time to wrap up the evening, she watches me start dousing the lights and checking the locks, and she trots over to the front door where I hook her up for her nighttime pee. We come right back inside and she waits by the stairs for me to lift her over the gate, and then she trots up into the bedroom and immediately curls up next to my pillow. This is our routine; it’s comforting to follow.

Deviation from a daily routine sends her into puppy panic. Last night, instead of putting her on a lead by the front door for her evening pee, I walked to the back door and waited for her; she stood in the doorway of the kitchen, blinking at me as if to say, “Hey, asshole, we go out the FRONT door for this.” I coaxed her over and put her on the lead, and she stood on the back porch shivering, trying to figure out what the fuck was going on. I thought I’d be able to stay inside but had to go out in socks and convince her to come down to the lawn and pee, and then she decided she had to start barking at something in the shadows and I had to chase her back up the stairs. Clearly I did not respect the system.

As I’ve mentioned before, sleeping next to her is like sleeping with toddler Finley: she’s as hot as a toaster and she likes to lay directly on my body; more often than not I’ll wake up with my arm under her butt or most of her on one leg and I’ve got to push her off to get the circulation flowing again. She grunts and snores and sometimes she’ll get up and circle around to find a new nest and then BOOM she’s laying all 33 pounds right back on my hip again. And then immediately continues snoring. At least the puppy farts are mostly behind us (see what I did there); the room stank like a hobo’s butt for a while.

Separation anxiety, as mentioned above, is still a real problem. Any time past two hours in the crate and she starts peeing on herself. We’ve taken to buying Nature’s Miracle in 55 gallon drums. We have to schedule our trips in short bursts, and anytime we’re away from the house I hear the urine clock ticking like the countdown in a disaster movie. Sometimes we get lucky, and she’s just happy to see us, and other times she’s soaking wet and happy to see us (and not all that interested in going outside, strangely).

All that having been said, we’re all happy to have her, for the most part, and she brings joy to our house every day. Like any child, pet, spouse, or family member, she’s her own person and has her own particular idiosyncrasies, and it’s taking time to learn who she is and what her quirks are. If we could just get her to calm the fuck down and not spray the inside of her crate with panic urine while we all go to the library, life would be great.

Date posted: December 12, 2019 | Filed under general, hazel, photo | Leave a Comment »


Date posted: December 10, 2019 | Filed under house, photo | Leave a Comment »

Not much to mention here, other than the fact that I ran up the girl twice over the weekend, once to pick up the Christmas tree, and another to just get her up to temperature and get fluids running through the system. I did notice that even though I’ve had her on a battery conditioner for three years, there’s a decrease in the amount of cranking power I’m getting. After 11 years, I think it’s probably time to replace the cheapo Advance Auto house brand I threw in there when my budget was tight. I noticed this weekend that Costco carries Interstate batteries, and I’ve had good luck with that brand in the past. I’m going to nurse her through the holidays and upgrade in January.

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

Date posted: December 9, 2019 | Filed under Future Plans, Scout | Comments Off on Weekend Report

We met the new neighbors on Tuesday. After more than six months of intrigue, random realtor showcases where carloads of strange people showed up to the house and wandered around the neighborhood shouting (yes, this did actually happen) and long periods of inactivity, a very quiet couple moved in soon after we got Hazel. Jen met them one day when she had a stoned dog out in the backyard after she’d been hit by the Prius, and couldn’t really talk to them much. She resolved to properly welcome them to the neighborhood with some flowers. We walked over after dinner and rang the bell; they invited us in and we stood in the foyer of the house and talked to them for about 20 minutes. They are lovely people and we got along very quickly. We agreed to organize a dinner with them after the holidays and get to know them a little better.


Renie was in town on Wednesday courtesy of the FAA, and she was able to get a hotel very close to the office. We met up and got some dinner at Union Station on Wednesday night and did a debrief from Thanksgiving; it was great to get some quiet time to catch up with her where we weren’t making food or driving somewhere or cleaning up something.

Carni, my lead designer, left us on Friday after over five years with WRI. Back when I was the whole design department, I knew I needed to hire someone to help with the rapidly increasing workload. After looking at a pool of over 200 applicants, his work stood clearly out above the rest, and I was lucky to get him. An incredibly capable designer, I leaned on him a lot for many different things while I was focusing on the larger picture and learning how to be a manager. As he grew into a larger role, I made sure to get out of his way and let him run with the things he wanted to tackle. He’s moving to a local studio that focuses on data visualizations, which is where his interests have been for several years, and I couldn’t be happier for him. But now I’m scrambling to find someone who can do a quarter of what he could, and I’m going to have to fill in for the rest.


One of our awesome Advent activities this year was to meet up with the Morrisses and make sock monkeys at the American Visionary Art Museum. The girls did this two years ago when I was laid up in the hospital, and they had a great time together, so we put it back on the calendar. At the top of the back warehouse there’s a huge open room where the staff had set up scores of tables with basic necessities—bags of stuffing and some directions. You are expected to bring socks and scissors, and they supply thread, buttons, and other decorative elements. We found a table and got to work, making friends with a young woman who was sock monkeying solo. It’s incredibly satisfying to sit and stitch something together with friends; I can almost see the allure of a quilting group (but there’d need to be copious amounts of alcohol). I chose a striped sock and used the most basic of stitches, while Jen used a hook-and-loop and made hers more professional. Three hours later we realized we were all famished (somehow it got to be 1PM without us noticing). We packed up our monkeys and drove down Key Highway to Little Havana and chowed down on delicious cuban-inspired food. It was great to hang out with them, and I have to say, my sewing skills were not too bad!

Sunday morning I spent tinkering around the house getting small tasks done; I ran the Scout up and realized the 11-year-old battery is probably due for a replacement. I straightened up the backyard and cleaned up the garage, then went downstairs and organized a bunch of stray boxes. It’s at the point where I need to put proper shelves in along the wall in the ice room, because we’re out of wall space for racks and there’s no clear floor space. Another holiday break project will be building a longer laundry sorting area and organizing the shelves on the west wall.

Date posted: December 9, 2019 | Filed under family, friends, house, photo, WRI | Leave a Comment »

This is something I need to get on during the next warm spell, when I can temporarily shut off the thermostat:

I’m going to need some graphite packing tape for the twist valve and some replacement steam valves.

Date posted: December 8, 2019 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

In heavy rotation: a (Hardcore? Post-rock? Post-punk? Math rock?) band from Belgium called Brutus. Heavy as shit but with absolutely beautiful melody throughout; the drummer doubles as singer, and I don’t know how she can physically do both at the same time (see also: Mastodon) but she absolutely crushes them both. Standout tracks: Django, Carry, and Space. (via Stereogum)

Date posted: December 5, 2019 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »


(She won).

Date posted: December 4, 2019 | Filed under finn, photo | Leave a Comment »