It’s time for the annual List Of Things I Really Hope I Can Get To for the year of 2021. Looking back on last year’s list, I was able to get a bunch of things done—and do some others that weren’t even on the radar. The engine got degreased—I wound up buying a pressure washer, which made things much easier. I swapped in a new starter, fixed the speaker cable, and sandblasted a bunch of spare sheet metal to get the rust neutralized. Beyond that, we started work on lockable storage, I fixed both front shocks, and replaced all of the bulbs in the dash with what turned out to be bluish LEDs. So what’s in the future for 2021? Let’s review:
- Empty and flush the radiator/engine block. I did the radiator in a hurry and did not flush it before refilling. It definitely needs some love this spring.
- Fix the driver’s side manifold-to-exhaust leak. (2018) Yeah, it’s been on the list for a while now.
- Repair and upgrade the battery tray/holddown situation. This too is on the list; Super Scout Specialists has new trays in stock, and I’d like to get rid of the ghetto bungee cord I’ve been using for 11 years. The only question is how to attach it to the inner fender—is it welded or bolted? Either way, it needs that and a plastic housing to keep the crud away from the engine.
- Fix the wiper motor and linkage. (2019) I struggled with this last spring, trying to get the motor to bolt cleanly to the underside of the windshield frame, but did not succeed. What I have to do is disconnect the linkage to the arms, which will free up the motor to go in correctly, and then rotate the motor slightly to re-align the wiper arms. This will not be easy or fun.
- Replace the windshield. (2016) Again, mine sucks, and I’ll have to put it in myself if I want it done; I’m sure Safelite won’t touch my frame based on how much rust I’m guessing is around the cowl.
- Finish the locking ammo can. At this point it’s just waiting for the front lock mount to go into place.
- Rust repair and sandblasting. I’ve got a white driver’s fender from the Wheaton scout, which has a dent in the front edge and a sheen of surface rust on the back side. I’d like to sandblast it clean, weld up any holes, lay a skim of Bondo over the repairs, and get it primed. Some basic practice with the parts I’ve got will go a long way to the eventual goal of…
- Painting the tub. Since I last spoke to my neighbor’s father, I haven’t heard a peep, so I’m pushing this off to the maybe column and moving onwards. I don’t have thousands of dollars to drop on this right now anyway, so the priority is low.
I’m sitting on the couch in my cold-weather gear after shoveling the walk for the first time today. About 3″ of powder has fallen so it was easy to clear off the walks and driveway. They have no idea how much is going to accumulate so I’m going to keep at it until dark to stay ahead of things as much as possible. I brought in an extra load of firewood last night, and Apple is giving us free AppleTV+ until July, so we should have plenty to keep us occupied tonight.
I was pretty low this past week overall. It was hard to stay focused on work throughout the day, and I’ve been struggling to feel like I’ve accomplished anything solid for a few weeks now. The nature of my day job at this point yields no actual product, and I can’t go anywhere to produce anything in person, so I’m finding it harder and harder to validate my daily existence. (Jeez, that sounds pretty grim when I type it out). Here at the house I don’t have a lot of projects going, so huge gains like the front porch or the Chic Shack or the kitchen tile feel like years ago.
At this point I should mention that I am immensely grateful to have a full-time job that supports my family, and as jobs go it’s incredibly gratifying to know that we make an actual difference for good in the world based on science. In no way is this a complaint about my many privileges. I work with amazing people for an incredible organization. I think I’m just suffering through some of the ennui that most other people are dealing with in Month 10 of quarantine and pandemic, and even though there are signs that things are slowly getting better, there’s still a lot of confusion and unease.
We ordered a new twin mattress for Finn’s bed on Thursday to replace the one she’s been sleeping on since she was in a crib. She’s growing by feet these days, so growing pains are setting in and we have no idea how old that mattress actually is. It’s supposed to land on our doorstep sometime in the next week, and then I’ll have to find a place to store the current mattress until I can haul it down to the dump.
The Baltimore County School Board held an online board meeting last night, which we were not aware of until this morning. Our neighbor listened in and told us it was a complete disaster; apparently the officials on the call didn’t really answer any questions and were evasive when pressed on important details like how kids would be kept safe and healthy and plans for the fall semester. I’m waiting for them to post the whole thing online so I can listen for myself, but given all the chaos we endured last fall with the system being hacked, I’m not confident.
Update 5:49PM: still not posted.
The school system has had its share of leadership issues over the last couple of years, with the last superintendent indicted for perjury and overcrowding for decades—in 2016 it was the 25th largest district in the country—so I understand they have a fair share of problems. But they’ve also had a year to come up with a plan, or maybe a set of plans for different contingencies, and we’ve heard nothing from them that inspires any sort of confidence.
As mentioned before, our Governor has decided that Maryland kids need to go back to hybrid learning by no later than March 1, citing “a growing consensus” in the state and across the country. Whose consensus is that? Is it from the Red states? Or the Red counties within my state? Because fuck them. As I’ve also mentioned here, my daughter’s mental health is one of the most important things to me in the world, but the reality is that I’m still immunocompromised. Hopkins says for me to go get the vaccine somewhere else, but how do I explain I’ve got no white blood cells without a letter from my doctor? Do I need that letter, or will I wind up getting cuffed as I leave the building like this Canadian fuckwit and his wife?
A few weeks ago, during a weekly Craigslist/Marketplace survey, I spied a chewed up a dogdish International hubcap in the foreground of a photo. I reached out to the seller to see what the rest of them looked like. He sent me back some pictures, which revealed the condition I was expecting: well-used but still mostly intact.
This design normally comes in two pairs—two solid and two with a hole in the center, but someone widened the donut pair roughly to fit over locking hubs. Those are pretty much garbage. The solid ones are dented but might shine up nice, and for the price I offered they were a bargain; I paid more in shipping than I did for the whole set. I washed them in the work sink and used a rubber-covered wrench to pop most of the large dents out of the two solid ones. I bought them to display, but I can always pick up some inexpensive clock kits and make something useful out of them too.
Here’s an updated version of the energy graphs I plotted last week; this is a two-part visualization that shows the difference between summer and winter.
A couple of weeks ago I found an old fluorescent light fixture up in the attic of the garage while I was organizing stuff, and hauled it into the basement to take a closer look. I don’t remember where it came from. It needed a new cord, but other than that looked clean, so I picked one up from Home Depot and wired it up. Then I took the light stand down and rigged it up from the ceiling over by the brewing stand. Now, instead of taking up the entire workbench, there’s a dedicated growing setup for starting vegetable seeds. Now I just need a 3-prong programmable timer. The goal for this year is to build on last year’s success. I’m going to prepare the bins better this time, with better fertilizer at the beginning, better positioning, and a selection of new seed for some variety. I’m also going to pick up some inexpensive plastic shelving to clean up the greenhouse and open up space for growing.
I have a little notebook in the console of the Scout where I record the mileage every time I put gas in the tank. I started doing this back in 2014 when I wanted to figure out the MPG, and it’s been super valuable to sort out all kinds of other things beyond quantifying how thirsty Peer Pressure is. I took her out today for a quick run to the grocery store before the snow flies this coming week. When I came back inside I brought the book in and plugged the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. The graph it produced was a little surprising.
|Total Yearly Miles||Miles Minus Nats|
The dip during 2017 makes sense, as I was out of commission from September of that year until about March of 2018 with chemo, surgery, and recovery. I took her 275 miles to the Eastern Shore and back for a camping trip in 2018. Later that year we drove out to Nationals, which accounted for roughly 1,000 miles, and in 2019 we went back. In 2020 I was home every day and thus drove the Scout everywhere. I think I put about 20 miles on the Honda last year. I wonder why I only drove the truck 243 miles in 2016?
I also updated the spreadsheet where I capture costs—for everything like parts, repairs, and incidentals minus gas, and the average cost per year is at $436. I do actually capture gas costs in the mileage book, and maybe if I’m motivated this week I’ll go back out, get the book, and plug that into the spreadsheet.
Meanwhile, there’s a local guy with two trucks on Craigslist, one whole package and one for parts. I inquired about the fender flares on the parts truck but he said he was keeping those. I told him I’d be interested in coming out to see what’s left after the snow melts—I’m still interested in a spare set of locking hubs to put on the shelf, as well as a heater core I can refurbish on the workbench while the snow flies outside.
Finley has been using a Chromebook for schoolwork since they sent everyone home last March, and apart from some initial confusion as to where things were (the cloud) and what it could do (it actually connects to our printer!) it’s been pretty bombproof since then—as a piece of hardware. The software they’re using for the curriculum is hot burning trash. I could have designed something better than this shit on a napkin in 1998. As it turns out, someone else realized this and brought the entire thing to a crashing halt with ransomware late last year. We parents used to be able to log into an account and see our child’s progress but that’s been shut off since the breach, so we’re completely dependent on what Finn sees through her login.
This morning her password stopped working. All three of us tried entering it with no success, so I clicked on the “forgot password” link, which then failed to work. We found the support number and I called it, then sat on hold for 45 minutes until a disinterested, barely conscious woman took my information down, gave me a ticket number, and told me someone would contact me…sometime.
We have Zoom links for Finn’s classes but there’s no direct way to contact her teachers—although I think Jen sniffed out the email addresses and sent word along. But she can’t do schoolwork, and if there’s no other way to contact her, she won’t know what’s happening in class. So far, there’s no word from tech support. Swell.
Meanwhile, word from Baltimore County about the COVID vaccine is sparse and confusing. Apparently I’m in the fourth tier (C), which contradicts some earlier information we’d been given, and I’m not eligible for the vaccine without some kind a note from my doctor. I contacted my oncologist and got a form letter back which basically says don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you. So who knows what’s going to happen.
Meanwhile, our governor has decided that the kids need to go back to hybrid learning by March 1, to which I say: FUCK YOU. Unless we three get vaccinated, Finn will be learning from our dining room table until further notice.