We had guests over for a lovely dinner on Saturday night, and I figured I’d set up some soft jazz in the background for mood music. I’ve got an iTunes library with a real nice jazz collection that I’ve spent years curating. For a long time, all it took to work was to have iTunes running as a shared server and the AppleTV would pick it up on the network; I could scroll through the shared media from there and play that through the head unit into the speakers. So that’s what I did.
But Saturday our AppleTV didn’t see the server; an app is supposed to pop up called “Computers” and from there the library is visible. But I didn’t see that. I checked the connections and realized the AppleTV was on the wireless network, so I hardwired it: still no luck.
Thinking it could maybe be that the ancient version of iTunes 10 I’m running downstairs (the server is a 2008 model and maxed out at OS 10.7) isn’t compatible with the AppleTV, I figured I’d bypass that and started hunting for old laptops from that era which could still talk to it. I’ve got an ancient Powerbook G4 running 10.6 in the basement, so I dug that out and booted it up to see if I could access the shared library. Success! I moved it to the den and balanced it on the receiver, then plugged an iPod input to the headphone port. But from there I got nothing; I guess the mini headphone jack isn’t compatible with that port.
The receiver has a big Spotify sticker on the front, so I checked into that as an option. For some stupid reason it needs an app on your phone, which is a ridiculous situation and one I can’t use anyway—I’m still on the free account and it requires a paid subscription. So I just tuned into the local college radio station and we suffered through some hair metal.
This morning I did some sleuthing and happened upon a random comment on Apple’s boards which led me back to iTunes on the server to check whether I was still logged in to the iTunes Store: I was not. (How I ever got logged out remains a mystery). I logged back in and presto! the server popped back up on AppleTV.
After three years of trying, we hosted a dinner for our excellent neighbors last night. Our menu was requested by Finley: smoked brisket, mashed potatoes, and salad, which sounded great. Jen bought a 16 lb. side of brisket that I cut in half and covered in a homemade rub Friday night. Saturday morning I had to run out for more hickory chips and a chimney charcoal starter, and got the beef on the grill at about 10:30. By 1:30 it hit the target temperature (which was just in time, as I’d run out of chips 20 minutes before) so I brought it inside, covered it in marinade, wrapped it tight, and put it in the oven to finish cooking (this isn’t technically cheating, as the meat isn’t smoking anymore). It turned out excellent: tender, moist, and full of flavor. The top half was a little more fatty than I prefer, but the lower section at the tip was absolutely perfect.
Jen found an excellent cocktail for us to serve: Suburban Anxiety. A lavender lemonade sounds like it could go horribly wrong but we found it to be delicious and sneakily alcoholic. Also on the menu: Blood & Sand, a Scotch-based cocktail I had several years ago at a neighborhood cocktail hour. It wasn’t as good as I remember, but then, I’m not a professional bartender mixing with top-shelf alcohol (I used a bottle of Dewar’s left over, I think, from the wedding). As it turns out, there was unintentional symmetry serving a Blood and Sand with smoked meat; looking back at that 2015 post, it turns out I’d tried using the smoker that same weekend for the first time to smoke a chicken—and failed miserably.
It was lovely to sit in front of the fire and have friends over and talk about adult stuff (and cats, and comic books…) and be social after so goddamn long; it made cleaning the house that much more worth it.
While babysitting a brisket on the smoker Saturday morning, I took an impact gun out to the garage and separated the hardware from the cushions on the black bench seat I’d bought a couple of weeks ago. The hinges were all pretty beat up so I figured I’d put them in the blast cabinet and clean them off, then wire wheeled everything to get it ready for paint. It took a little doing but I was able to punt the pin out on the latching mechanism to add some tension back to the spring. With that done I hung the parts in the garage and hit them with etching primer. They’ll sit and cure for a couple of days before paint, and in a week or two I can reassemble the bench and get it ready for installation.
I also wire wheeled the locking ring on the old steel gas tank, then used a hammer and screwdriver to spin it free. Pulling the old fuel sender revealed a rusted, corroded mess that looked like it had been dropped and “repaired” with a homemade filter at some point. Both electrical contacts looked completely shot, and the wire wasn’t even attached. Inside the tank looks remarkably clean—there’s a remanufacture label on the outside, and the inside is coated with some kind of sealant. I think it should be pretty easy to drop the plastic tank and replace it with the original, and hopefully I’ve got a usable rubber seal left on the plastic tank—that sender is only six or seven years old and should be just fine. I cleaned up the metal ring on the tank and hit it with some rust encapsulator. And the outside of this tank has a date with the wire wheel and some spray-on undercoating before I worry about swapping it out.
Our health plan at work is good for some things and lousy for others. I had a Major Life Event strike back in 2017 and by all accounts the insurance company was exceptionally good about covering what they promised. Jen hasn’t given me any of the details—I’m sure if I saw any of the numbers my head would explode and I’d wind up right back in the hospital. But they are lousy for other things. Theoretically we enjoy dental and vision insurance but I’ve never been able to get details on exactly how the vision insurance works or where to get a card to hand someone. Given that my lenses have now tripled in price—I ordered a set of progressives a couple of weeks ago—I figured I’d put my shoulder to the wheel and try to unravel the mystery.
My first logical stop was the company intranet, which was built on top of Microsoft Sharepoint by the lowest bidding vendor, and as a result sucks worse than a trip to the DMV. Search results are comically bad; by bad I mean no search results. after digging around I found a Word document from 2019 listing benefits which gave the barest of information and referenced a table further along in the file that did not exist. You read that right: we have a website where they post unsearchable Word documents that immediately go out of date, instead of using HTML. The veteran digital strategist in me has ground my teeth to nubs over this.
I then looked on my insurance card, and figured I’d call them; hell, they employ people who are supposed to help. After sitting through the automated menu, which couldn’t identify me by the Member ID printed on my card, I talked to a cheerful CSR who sounded like she was working in the bottom of a mine shaft. She informed me that I needed to call the parent company who runs my insurance and talk to them.
Miraculously the phone transfer worked and I talked with another lady who helped me identify myself and then explained that I would have to write a letter, with paper and a pen and a stamped envelope, and send in a copy of the receipt to a post office box in Utah. I guess this is their way of making the barrier to entry high to avoid reimbursement; who writes letters and buys stamps anymore? Still, we’re talking about $400 in total so I dug out the required stationary and got it done. I expect a prompt reply by spring of 2027.
She also told me that it should be easy for any vendor to look up my vision insurance, but when I explained their repeated failures and pressed her, she gave me my Member ID. Was that so hard?
Meanwhile, I’ve been wearing my safety glasses at my desk more and more in order to see what I’m doing; I must look pretty stupid during Zoom calls. The new readers should be here next week, and I surely hope they work for me.
I called my window vendor yesterday to get a quote on the basement windows, and for kicks I threw the measurements in for the window halfway up our stairwell, figuring it was a good place to start replacing stuff on the second floor. The numbers for each basement window came back about $20 higher than what I paid for a full-size window three years ago, and the full size window is now double that amount.
After picking myself back up off the floor, I kicked myself for not having replaced them all three years ago before the world went completely to hell.
This Scout came up for sale last week on Marketplace somewhere out west, and I thought it was interesting because it’s an example of IH’s Schoolbus Chrome Yellow, a color that was offered through the entire run of Scout II production but a color I’ve only ever seen in these pictures and on the donor hood and hinges of my Scout.
This one looks like it was a reasonably well-optioned 1978 model for some kind of local government or school system; it’s got hubcaps and chrome trim, and was spec’d as a V-8 manual with A/C and a split bench seat (it’s from Texas). There’s some kind of strange roof rack installed—maybe for a light bar?
That’s pretty bright. I guess there’s no missing that color!
Well fuck. Mark Lanegan, of the Screaming Trees, various solo projects, and a fantastic run with Queens of the Stone Age, is dead at 57.
I took Zachary and Finley snowboarding yesterday, taking advantage of President’s Day and a rare burst of sunny 60˚ weather in our area. We got on the road as early as we could (Zachary stayed the night) and were at the ticket counter by 9:00. Waiting through a long line at the rental counter, we got sorted and were on the slope by 10AM.
Both kids picked it right back up where they left off in 2019 even though they’ve both grown a foot and their center of balance had shifted. Zachary fell a few more times than he wanted to, but I talked to him about the fundamentals and we did a couple of runs together where we just worked on control, braking, and basic steering. He made it off the hill with some bruises but talking about coming back.
Finley surprised me. She started out needing help getting on the magic carpet lift but ended the day riding it herself with no fear at all, threading through traffic easily. By 1PM we’d stripped down to long-sleeve T-shirts under the warm sun.
We left at 3PM, tired and happy, talking about returning next year—hopefully I can arrange another trip this year, before Christmas).