There are some changes happening behind the scenes here at idiotking.org. As I mentioned earlier, I’m moving hosts this week, so things are going to be quiet for a while as we move the furniture around.
I made an addition to the garage this weekend, something I’ve been considering for some time: a standing air compressor. I have a rolling compressor I got from Bennett back when he was cleaning out his Mom’s house, and it works pretty good. It’s 25 gallons with a 4HP motor, and I was just barely able to tuck it under the workbench, where it’s sat for two years. But I remember something my Dad said about his old rolling compressor, something about the release of air being inconsistent (probably because the output of the gun he was using was overrated for the compressor).
Anyway, I’ve been looking for something that will hold more air and put it out cleanly, and about a week and a half ago a bright red Craftsman unit came up on Craigslist. I let it sit, and it didn’t go anywhere. Then I got to thinking about what I could still get for the one I’ve got, and how this one would fit much easier in the garage (back by the fridge, under the rear window). I had a little over $200 left in the Scout fund, so I emailed the guy and did the deal this afternoon.
This one is a 33 gallon unit, and it’s about 10 years younger than the roller. It’s a heavy mother. It took the two of us to deadlift it into the Scout, and I had to do some careful maneuvering in the driveway with our old kitchen door and the spare tire to get it back down onto the ground by myself. But it’s clean, it works, and it will get me one step closer to sandblasting and refurbishing spare parts.
6:45: I wake up and give Hazel some belly scratches until she wakes up fully. Belly scratches used to make her nervous, but now she won’t get out of bed without them. This dog is weird.
7:00: I shove three pills down Hazel’s throat: a giant frozen horse pill that’s supposed to help her ear condition, a Prozac, and a tranquilizer to keep her from shaking her head every five minutes. Then I mix up some food with some fish oil and feed her. It smells like ass.
7:10: In the new shower. The heated floor feels nice.
7:30: I kiss the girls goodbye and head out the door.
7:40: I’m sitting in the car, parked a little ways away from the train station. I’ve got about 10 minutes to kill before I have to walk to the platform, so I sip some coffee and search for some new podcasts to follow.
8:00: I’m on the train, listening to Sidedoor, the Smithsonian’s podcast about things in their collection you might not see in the museum. Highly recommended.
8:45: Filing through Union Station, following hundreds of other people on their morning commute.
8:50: I drop my bag at my desk in the office. Then I spend about 15 minutes warming up my oatmeal, sipping coffee, and reading the day’s headlines while I eat.
9:10: One of my designers asks me for some help with a visual in Flourish, our interactive charting software. We spend the next 20 minutes trying to get it to do what we want (showing percentages in a popup for data in a bar chart that is represented by numerical values). I’m able to get it displaying percentage data from a different part of the spreadsheet but I can’t crack the particular formula it needs, so we send an email to their enterprise support team.
9:30: I meet with my video producer, who thanks me for the noise-cancelling headphones I got for him, and asks for my help transferring a project from Final Cut Pro to Premiere. I spend the next half-hour directing him on a wild goose chase; he’d heard that previous versions of Premiere would import FCP files, and we have several machines that are running older versions. This proves to be false. He finds a way with a third-party application, and gets to work.
9:45: I set up my production manager’s new MacBook Pro with a Dropbox account and begin syncing about 35GB of data.
9:50: Down to the café to reset the Amazon Fire stick running the display software for that room; the TV has been set to shut itself off from 7PM-8AM and the Fire stick didn’t reboot itself. The batteries in the remote are dead, so I source some new ones. I update some settings and do the same for the three lobby displays upstairs. Fire sticks are unreliable. I’ve returned two of them and another is acting strange.
10:00: I leave a message with a data visualization candidate I’m hoping to hire: I’ve got some good news for her.
10:15: Going through email, sorting out the day’s priorities and tasks (I have 5 hours blocked out on my calendar for actually producing some work, and I’m able to take advantage of about 1 hour of it).
10:40: I get a callback from my candidate and offer her a job! Best part of my day. She’s excited and we work out some of the details.
11:00: I dig up a slide deck from 2017 to answer a question from the London office about getting a map of our locations printed for their walls; the map they like is three years out of date. I find a suitable replacement, set it up for print, and send it to them.
11:15: I shoot an email to my data viz candidate about a side project she sent me a link to (Muppets!) and offer some feedback. Now I have the Muppet Show theme song stuck in my head.
11:18: We get an email back from the Flourish folks, who say they’re working on a solution.
11:30: Reviewing some videos from an international office and fielding questions from other folks on our team, then request a meeting to review the strategy.
11:45: I have to look over some design changes from the folks who are building a system to create interactive reports for us; they’re going into production this week.
12:00: Cleaning out my email inbox, which has filled up again.
12:15: I set up a blank drive and begin cloning the internal drive on my old laptop so that I can return it this week. When that’s done I check on the Dropbox syncing on the other laptop.
12:30: I run out for some Chipotle and bring it back to eat at my desk. I’m not finished with it when…
1:00: …I jump into an hourlong meeting with an external web vendor to talk about design needs; the first 45 minutes is spent going through data spreadsheets until I ask to change direction, and we accomplish everything I need to in the last 5 minutes of the meeting.
2:00: I go directly into another meeting to talk about the IO videos and sort things out.
2:30: I’m called out of that meeting to go shoot some pictures of one of our program leads, who is getting an award from the DOD for being a great boss and giving one of his employees enough time to join the Air National Guard and go through a 6-month training program. I sit through a very low-key ceremony, then have the lead and the DOD rep follow me to our step-and-repeat, shoot some standard grip and grins, then go to a different spot and repeat the process.
3:00: I go back to finish the video discussion, and help come up with a strategy.
3:45: Following up on more email. So much daily email.
4:15: Both laptops are done, so I wipe the drive on my old machine and install Catalina.
4:20: I finish final details with my data viz candidate and arrange for the offer letter to be sent.
4:25: Reviewing about 20 new candidates for our Graphic Design position, taking notes, and narrowing down to 4 for follow ups.
4:40: There are about 20 shots of the award group to go through, so I cull them down to 5 good ones, color-correct the best two, and post them to our Flickr feed. Then I send an email to the DOD rep and our internal team to kickstart the social media posts.
4:50: I lock all the cameras, laptops, and other gear away and attempt to straighten up my desk.
5:05: I’m out the door and on my way to the train. Listening to Broken Record, a podcast with Rick Rubin interviewing various musicians.
5:20: my train pulls out of the station and I’m on my way home.
5:58: I hike back to my car and drive to the liquor store to replenish our beer supply. Jen gets a 6-pack of Harp and I choose a six-pack of Victory Cloud Walker, a hazy juicy IPA.
6:30: We sit down for some dinner: a southern beans and rice recipe Jen found that includes chorizo. Yummy.
7:15: I help Finn go through her homework to make sure everything is complete.
8:20: Jen and Finn head upstairs to bed. I let Hazel out for an evening pee.
8:30: Playing through Fallout 4 as a new character, because I’m lazy and I don’t feel like learning a whole new game. Hazel is settling at my feet, after wandering the first floor worrying at her bones.
9:15: Watching an episode from the latest season of The Venture Brothers on Hulu. Just as funny as it was in 2004.
9:50: I put Hazel out for her last pee of the day. She comes back in and waits by the stairs for me to pick her up and put her over the baby gate.
10:15: Laying in bed and reading through some dumb Internet before going to sleep.
I saw a post on Instagram a couple of days ago featuring a mint-colored Scout with an interesting roll bar setup. In the comments, the poster mentioned he’d used a Jeep TJ rollbar as a base, cut it down, fabbed his own mounting plates, and made it all work. I commented that I would love to see more pictures of his setup, and it turns out he’s actually on the Binder Planet in a thread I’ve looked at before. He bought the whole cage two years ago for $100 and had the whole thing mocked up a month later.
What I like about it is that it’s a square cage that surrounds the passenger area—the rear of the cage fits over the rear seat so there’s more protection, and the whole thing has built-in shoulder belts. I like the look of it, and I love the fact that there are a ton of aftermarket products for the TJ bars—padding, speaker bars, new belts, and lights.
Our local junkyard has a Wrangler in stock every once in a while, and “large rollbars” are listed at $100.
I really think I’m going to be purchasing a welder this year…
Monday I had off from work, and I intentionally made it as laid-back as I could. I spent a quiet morning with Jen while Finn was at school. We relaxed around the house until about 11 and then she ran out for errands while I walked Hazel down to the local café for a bite to eat. The two of us sat in the sunshine and watched the cars pass, and I fed her a little bacon from my sandwich, and then we walked home the long way, up the trolley trail.
I then drove the Scout into Baltimore to the local Grainger storefront, where I had a pair of rocker switches waiting for me. About three weeks ago I was using the bench grinder in the garage for something and the switch on the front broke in my hands. I flipped it on its back and did some surgery to pull the broken switch, then sourced a couple of articles online about a bench grinder with the same issues. From there I was able to find a rocker switch which mostly matched my needs.
While I was in the city I stopped and took some beauty shots of Peer Pressure in an urban environment. The best two setups I found were a line of loading docks facing a huge empty apron of concrete, and an access area adjacent to the train tracks, surrounded by warehouses. The sun was out and the day was warm so I shot about 100 pictures, about a quarter of which I’m happy with.
Back at home, I fiddled with the grinder until I’d sorted out the pins on the switch, and filed the opening on the front out until it accepted the switch housing cleanly. The original switch had a circuit where a lead for the power and a lead for the light shared the same pole, but I couldn’t find a switch that matched it. I went with a three-pole switch and hooked the light up to the center pole, so that it’s always hot (simply leaving the light disconnected prevents the circuit from closing) and unscrewed the bulb. In the summer I’ll solder the power and light leads to the same wire but for now it’s back up and running.
Up in the bathroom I continued painting and finishing small bits of trim. The baseboard behind the toilet is the last major piece to go in, and I’m having issues getting it in cleanly—I should have put it in before the toilet. I cut a test piece and I think I’ve got the shape down, and I’ll have to loosen the cabinet one last time to get it in place, but once that’s done the rest should be easy.
This track crushes. I could listen to just the backbeat minus the melodies on repeat for hours.
There’s been a round hole in the floor of the new bathroom for several years now, covered over with duct tape, and yesterday we decided that something needed to be done about it. We dropped Finn off at a friend’s house and Jen and Hazel and I went toilet shopping at Lowe’s. We settled on a nice American Standard chair-height model with cleaning jets (but not the one with electronic controls, because WTF) and loaded it in the back of the Scout.
I’ve installed multiple toilets in my day and I have to say, this one was by far the easiest to put together. The parts are all built with care, the box came with every tool I needed, and the directions were clear. The only snag I hit was that the quick-connect water bib I’d bought was about 4″ too short, so a quick run back to Lowe’s was needed to source parts at the correct length. This time I went with SharkBite connectors for the water lines and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they went together. If that hadn’t been an issue, the whole toilet would have been ready in an hour.
Sunday’s task is to repaint the walls and ceiling in a uniform color, and cover those areas that are still bare drywall mud. There are a few more places where I can put wood trim in, but until the countertops and some special-order trim sections come in, I can’t finish the rest of it.
I got a new MacBook Pro at work this week, after keeping a 2013 model going for seven years, and it’s taking me some time to get used to the changes. Some of the issues I have are with the machine and some are with the configuration I was given, which I’ll get into here.
From a hardware perspective it’s very nice. It’s a little smaller and lighter than the 2013 model. The bevels aren’t as severe and the feet are smaller. The butterfly keyboard will definitely take some getting used to. I’ve noticed that it picks up random keystrokes here and there; it’s much more sensitive than the old-style scissor switch design. The Touch Bar is an interesting gizmo, and I’ve only just started to fool around with the options it offers contextually. I have to figure out how to turn off all the suggested emojis it wants me to add, and remove Siri entirely. I do really love the touch ID bar on the upper right of the machine, which makes signing in very easy. Having only two USB-C ports on the side is a bit emasculating, but I’ve got a giant dongle on order from Amazon to take the place of all seventeen ports I was used to. And who the fuck decided to get rid of MagSafe and switch to a USB-C plug for power? MagSafe was genius, as were the fold-out ears on the brick to wind the cord. They got rid of that too.
When I originally joined in 2013, there were about 250 employees and they just handed me a box with a new Mac inside. That was fine with me. I might have been one of three or four other people with a Mac in the whole company; I took it back to my office, configured it, administered it and three other inherited machines, and kept things running in my own department with minimal interference for six years. In contrast, we’re now over 900 employees and all the new Macs have been run through the IT department so they can add single sign in and other monitoring software.
When I got it from the IT department they’d set up a master admin account, the first time I’ve ever had to deal with this anywhere. One of their apps controls the Microsoft sign in domain issue, which in theory is nice but in practice is a pain in the ass. Another app is for remote administration, and basically sits in the background listening. The third is a bit of virus software made by a company that was outed for selling its users’ web surfing histories to third-parties in 2018. Its daemon runs in the background and consistently chews up 1/4 of my available CPU at all times. Several times today it spun the fan up so loud I could hear it across the room.
I installed Little Snitch, an app that monitors ingoing and outgoing network traffic to see what is talking to whom and when. It turns out every time I do anything within the Microsoft Office suite, about a million different calls are made to servers all over the world, which seems ridiculous.
In the meantime, I need to seriously consider a new personal machine for home. I’ve got a 10-year-old MacBook Pro that has been adequate for working with email, Lightroom, and other basic stuff, but it’s old and heavy and the battery is tired. And my eyes are spoiled after years of Retina displays.
As I see it, I can buy a new 13″ MacBook variant, but what’s holding me back is the butterfly keyboard and all the assorted complaints it’s generated for the company since they introduced it. I really don’t want to buy a personal machine that might suffer issues, and I don’t want a 16″ machine again—the new MBP design has gone back to a scissor keyboard. Price is an issue, of course, so I’d be getting the midrange machine at best. What I’m not looking forward to is jettisoning an entire ecosystem of USB and MagSafe 2 gear gathered over the years.
I think I’ll probably look for a used model on Craigslist that I can get a discount on. That way I’ll get a USB-C charger for the house and I won’t have to lug this one back and forth.