December is winding down, and I’m looking through the various streams of data to see what I can learn from my online activities this year. I have WordPress configured to keep track of how many posts I’m writing per month and by which category. The yearly post count average looks like it’s holding steady over the last ten years, shallowing out the trend line that skewed from a flurry of activity in 2005:

The category data gets a little more complicated to parse, because my syndication system pulls in posts from the Scout blog and that data shows up in the category count. I used a GREP script to filter that out and updated the spreadsheet I used from last year, keeping 2020’s data and adding the new numbers to see what’s gotten the most attention. I pulled two categories from the count—Shortlinks (this category is just a flag for sidebar posts) and Photo (a flag for any post with an embedded Flickr photo) because they skew the data. Orange is 2020, red is 2021:

The Finn, Family, House, Politics (ugh) and Scout categories all bumped up a lot this year, which is what I’d expect. And clearly there are some categories that don’t get any love—maybe I retire and reclassify some of those in 2022?

My site stats tell me that May 2 was the busiest day of the year, and that posts I wrote about iPhone calendar battery drain and my Subaru GL wagon are by far the most heavily traveled pages on the site. That tracks; This site is more for me than it is for you, but I’m happy all three of you have read this far.

Date posted: December 30, 2021 | Filed under general, housekeeping | Leave a Comment »

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I got a text Christmas afternoon from Brian, who had been browsing Marketplace and found a 31′ Airstream Sovereign for a ridiculously low price and mentioned he was going to look at it at 8AM the next morning. Being an enabler, I invited myself along and promised I’d arrive at his doorstep at 7:30. Which meant I had to get up and out the door by 5:45.

Having successfully roused myself, I did in fact make it to his house by 7:30 with a fresh Boston kreme donut. We loaded up his truck and struck out for the border of Delaware, where we found the Airstream docked next to a large garage.

Waiting for the owner to come outside, we looked over the exterior and found it to be in excellent shape. The aluminum siding wasn’t too oxidized, and the tires held air (but definitely need to be replaced). All of the access doors were present. The glass looked OK, and while crazed from the UV coating having delaminated, wasn’t cracked. When the owner came outside he told us to have at the interior, and we stepped inside and backwards into 1974. 90% of the original cabinetry is still there. He’d ripped out all of the carpet so we could see the floor was in rough shape around the edges—a common problem with all Airstreams. The beds were present, and the rear bathroom fittings are all still in place, but spotted with mold and dirt. I poked around other areas and found a lot more rot in the floors, but agreed with Brian that the bones were in good shape. He ran back outside to do the deal, and within a half an hour we had it hitched to his truck and were on the way out the driveway.

Taking the back roads home we avoided the 5-0 and made it safely to his house without intervention or tire blowouts. We then surveyed what he’d just bought and came up with some plans.

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Plan One is to sit on it for a few months and flip it when the weather gets warmer. The seller claimed he’d had people from all over calling him about it; Brian got it for a stupidly low price. I have no doubt he could resell it for more money. And some of the interior parts might fetch good money on the classifieds market; there are curtain fittings and appliances that would be impossible to fabricate today.

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Plan Two is to gut the interior and replace the wooden floor. We’ve found several how-to sites with advice on how to do it in sections without lifting the whole shell off the frame. With that done, we could fix up the outer shell (fix the windows, etc). and sell it as an empty project.

Plan Three is to fix the floors and build out the interior with the basics—a working kitchen, bathroom, beds, etc., and keep it as inexpensive as possible to maximize the profit.

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Plan Four is do do Plan Three and then install custom accessories for the buyer—upgrades to the kitchen, add solar power, or other high-end options.

The important thing is that we’ve got to finish the bus by late spring, so the Airstream will be parked for a while waiting on that to finish and a new garage to be erected at Brian’s house. When that’s done we can get it inside and really start tearing into the project to see what’s there.

Date posted: December 27, 2021 | Filed under friends, general, photo | Leave a Comment »

Christmas snuck up and walloped me on the head this year, and while I was on the floor it ran out the back door and was gone.

Jen prepared a fantastic Advent calendar of fun activities for us, and while I enjoyed them all I’m already missing the leadup to the big day. In some respects, Christmas itself was a letdown; I had more fun doing fun things with the girls—the symphony, ice skating, a cocoa and Christmas light tour, fancy French dinner, egg nog tasting, making cookies with the family—than I did on the day itself. Don’t get me wrong, we all had a great time, and Finn was well feted with gifts. But my favorite part is spending time doing things with the family and finding fun together, even if sometimes we have to force our moody teen to participate.

Jen’s intention was to make a St. Mary’s County Ham and fried oysters for Christmas dinner, so she went to our local butcher and asked for a Country Ham, which is what the recipe called for. This means different things to different people; what she got was a salted and smoked ham in a bag, a dry slab of meat designed to survive a voyage around the Horn of Africa. This is not the correct ham. She read up on this and did her best to make lemonade out of jerky by soaking it for a day, but what we got was a ham that was saltier than anything I’ve ever eaten. Bummed out, we took a vote and decided to ditch the rest of it. For the record, what you ask for is a corned ham.

Last night Jen used a recipe from St. Mary’s County to make oyster breading and fried up a batch for dinner. This was much more successful; we gobbled them up quickly and enjoyed every bite.

* * *

Hazel gave the family a Roomba, after I’d heard lavish praise about it from my sister. I unboxed our new unit and set it up to run on Christmas afternoon (I spent about an hour doing the New Account Signup Dance with iRobot, Nintendo, and several other companies) to clear the floors of pine needles and paper shreds. About 1/2 hour in I was getting worried because it was leaving large swaths of floor untouched and seemed to be interested in returning to the bathroom several times, but when it finally returned to its dock to recharge the floors looked worlds better. I know it’s just mapping our floor and selling the data to various government agencies, but it seems like a good tradeoff while our daughter claims she’s allergic to chores.

* * *

In preparation for a shiny old IH fridge sometime in the spring, I put the garage fridge up on Freecycle with a couple of pictures and waited for someone to contact me. Within 24 hours I had three bites, and then I had to figure out how to get it out of the garage and into the driveway by myself. I cleared a basic path and muscled it down and out of the main doorway, and a man in a pickup truck hauled it away. Now I have to stop myself from filling the big empty space with more crap.

Date posted: December 27, 2021 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

Looking through my fuel/mileage notebook, and doing some revised math, I put a total of 3177 miles on the Scout this year. Now that I’ve fine-tuned the ratio calculation, I’ve updated the averages table from earlier this year to truly reflect the miles driven:

Total Yearly Miles Miles Minus Nats
2015 580 580
2016 276 276
2017 315 315
2018 1768 631
2019 1972 836
2020 1195 1195
2021 3177 2041

It certainly does feel like I’ve put more miles on her this year; from another Ohio trip to a visit out to the Scout Guru’s garage in Rehobeth to parts hunting in Western Maryland to multiple trips out to Chestertown, I’d say she’s gotten a hell of a workout.

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

Date posted: December 22, 2021 | Filed under Inspiration, Scout | Comments Off on Mileage Wrap-up

Billy Conway, prime drummer for the band Morphine, died last week at 65 from cancer. Fuck Cancer.

Date posted: December 21, 2021 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »

Saturday’s Advent activity was ice skating, which we haven’t tried in three years (has it been that long? jeez) when Finn was 9 inches shorter. We went to the local skate rink during open hours and got some rental blades, then cautiously hit the ice while Mama watched from the sidelines. Finn was all knees and elbows because her center of gravity has changed so dramatically in the last couple of years. We only made one halting loop around the rink before she asked to use one of the skating aids. I followed her around until it looked like she had the hang of her balance, and then we did a bunch more loops by ourselves. After two circles she made better progress and was soon skating by herself; as she built confidence she got better. It was great to be back out on the ice, and this time I didn’t get a pair of skates that compressed my ankles into dust!

* * *

I got a text from Brian in the middle of the week asking if I was available for a day’s work on the bus while they had a film crew on site, so I shuffled some plans around and loaded up the Scout. The plan was to get the folding seats mounted and then see how everything else fit into place; in the month since I was out there last the two couches for the rear came in, along with a ton of electrical gear.

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I drove out the night before and stayed in the guest room so we’d have an early start. The weather forecast was in the 40’s so I packed and dressed in layers—bike tights under my work pants, and a fleece over a long-sleeve shirt over a thermal. Even so, in the shade it was chilly. We put a charger on the bus battery to get it started and pulled it out into the sunlight, where I could see just how good the floor turned out. Not one of the squares pulled up—everything laid down perfectly flat and straight.

We quickly got to work, first trimming unneeded hinges from the backs of the seats and cleaning them up with the angle grinder. I hit them with some paint to cover the bare metal.

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From there we started cutting plates for the seats as the owner and film crew arrived—a nice young woman with a simple camera rig who set to work shooting what we were doing. Brian got the metal cut and I crawled under the bus to start setting the plates and hardware. By about 12:30 we had both folding seats mounted in place, and tested folding them down into the bed, which worked like a charm. We then bolted the swivel chair to its base and roughed that into place with the refrigerator to see how much room we’d have for the kitchen area: It’ll be tight but it’ll work. While we were doing that, Matthew was assembling the two couches for the back section, and when his wife and one of their sons showed up we put them in back to see how that would work.

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They were thrilled with all of the progress and now that they can see how things are setting into place it’s easier to see what space is available for what. Brian and I roughed out some ideas for electrical components—we need space for a fuse box, an inverter, and a splitter, among other things—and started sorting out how we’re going to run wiring for lights and sound. By 3:30 we were getting very cold, so we started cleaning up and hit the road home by 4. The Scout wasn’t pleased with the cold but ran like a sewing machine there and back.

* * *

Yesterday was a wash because of a bad stomach bug, but I’m back on my feet and running again. We have plans for a fancy meal at Le Petit Louis in Baltimore tomorrow night, and I figure much like the Wizarding World in 2020 we’ll sneak in just under the wire before Omicron hits hard. And Christmas is just around the corner!

Date posted: December 21, 2021 | Filed under family, friends, photo | Leave a Comment »

This video totally brings me back; Dad owned a repo agency at the same time this video was produced, so a lot of this stuff is very familiar—”Japanese cars are the easiest to break into” made me nod my head without thinking about it. I remember figuring out how to slim jim a domestic car (24:03)  in one afternoon; I’m mechanically inclined but cars were engineered so simply in those days it wasn’t really that hard. He shows a special tool for busting into the Ford Fairmont (12:13); I just made them with coat hangers. The part where he busts into the garage made me laugh; I wonder if this guy got sued or prosecuted for making this.

(via reddit.com/r/obscuremedia)

Date posted: December 16, 2021 | Filed under cars, history | Leave a Comment »

It’s been almost two years since I sat down on a train to go to work, and I haven’t missed it at all. The MARC train is super handy and served our family extremely well in the first six years I worked at WRI, but if I don’t have to spend 2.5 hours a day commuting and $2200 a year for tickets, I’m a very happy man.

We had a happy hour scheduled after work yesterday, so I weighed the pros and cons of driving and parking vs. taking the train. Driving is a pain in the ass, it’s expensive to park in DC, and given that I’ve cut way back on drinking recently I figure my tolerance is even weaker than it was before. So I really didn’t want to drive. But the idea of sitting in a hot metal tube with a bunch of other people in recirculated farty air wasn’t that appealing either (yes, the train smells like farts in the winter). I had no idea how busy the MARC trains are these days, but I decided the latter was the better option.

The parking lot was relatively deserted when Jen and Hazel dropped me off, and the train was even emptier. Soon the familiar lull of the rails soothed me into a half-sleep. I used to fall asleep on the train all the time. A couple of times I overslept and wound up in Baltimore, and I had to jump the next southbound train. I don’t miss that either. As we got close to Union Station I was dumbfounded by the number and size of the new buildings that have gone up in the H Street area adjoining the tracks—rows and rows of shiny condo buildings in places that used to be full of weeds and homeless encampments. I’m sure that having a bedroom directly adjacent to the busiest rail corridor on the East Coast would be an excellent investment opportunity.

The station itself was dark and quiet—many of the storefronts are still empty and what remains are quiet ghosts of their former selves. I walked outside and was happy to pass Clayton, the ever-cheerful flower vendor outside the west side exit, who was accompanying a Christmas recording with sleigh bells. I’ve wondered from time to time how he was doing—the flower business was his income—so it’s good to see he’s still alive and kicking.

I did some work in the office, swapped out a backup of our family media library into a locked cabinet at my desk (always have offsite backups, kids) and then hiked down the street to the Wuntergarten, an outdoor beer garden a couple of blocks from the office. We had about 20 people show up and it was fantastic to see friends in the flesh again. I caught up with a bunch of folks, had a couple of tasty beers, and ate some farewell cake for my boss, who is stepping down this month. I said my good-byes at about 9:20 thinking I’d make the 9:40 train. When I made it to the station I realized I’d read the schedule wrong and I’d be on the last train out at 10:55, so I texted Jen and apologized for my mistake. I put on a podcast and waited for an hour in a completely deserted station until they called my train. I definitely don’t miss that.

Date posted: December 15, 2021 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »

Date posted: December 15, 2021 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »

Final coats of paint

Wow, I hadn’t realized the fireplace mantel is fifteen years old this week.

Date posted: December 14, 2021 | Filed under house, photo | Leave a Comment »