2022 was an odd year for a lot of reasons. World events just seemed to get stranger and stranger; 2012 Bill would have laughed at a description of the state of the world in 2022. Shit, 2021 Bill is still trying to process the last twelve months.
Most of the progress we made this year was at a house we don’t live in. Having spent every weekend between the end of March to the beginning of November and my father in law’s, I’m proud of the work the three of us did to improve his quality of life, as much as it took out of us. That meant that there’s little to show for our efforts here at the house. Our vacation to Austin was fantastic; everything about the trip was better than I could have hoped. We all got COVID at different times of the year, and apart from Jen’s missing taste and smell we came through OK. There have been a lot of challenges over the last twelve months, some of which we overcame and some of which we’re still working through.
Over here at the weblog, I’ve kept busy; the frequency of posts has fallen off slightly, but I’m averaging about 20 a month.
Lining up the category counts, it’s interesting to see what’s been focused on and what hasn’t. Clearly I’m not using some of the categories, so I’m going to consolidate some and add some new ones. Some of these categories are artificially inflated—everything posted on the Scout blog gets cross-posted here, and every post with a photo linked from Flickr gets tagged “photo”. I think categories like Album of the Week and Favorite Things will be decommissioned and I’ll find new homes for those few posts.
A number of months ago, I placed a large order for replacement windows. We finally got the shipment in a week or two before Christmas, and I’ve been using the break to get them installed. Because there’s no better time to replace an entire floor of 100-year-old windows than during a historic cold snap.
Having done this for the downstairs I knew what I was getting into and I had a pretty good plan for how I was going to tackle each one. First, remove the inner stops with a prybar all the way around, and then pull out the metal guides for the lower sash. Cut the weight cords and pull the lower sash out. Then remove the metal guide for the top sash, wiggle those out, cut the cords and remove the top sash. Pull out any remaining stops, clean the frame up, and get out the big screwdriver. With this, hammer each weight pulley inward so that it falls backwards into the pocket. Fill each pocket with spray foam. Then pull the storm windows out, unscrew the storm window frames, and pull them off the outside of the house. Unwrap the new windows, hoist them into place, and set them level into the frame. Screw the sides in, shim it all, and then mill, cut and nail new stops around the inner edges. Simple, right?
It took me an afternoon to do the two front windows in Finley’s room on Monday, because I spent a lot of time gathering the tools I’d need, buying the supplies I needed, and getting the method down.
On Tuesday I did the side window in her room and the one on the stairway landing.
Today, having nailed the method down and starting earlier in the day, I got the two windows in the blue room up front done and the two in the southwest bedroom.
There’s one window left, in the southeast bedroom. I’ve still got to caulk and paint them all, but my caulk gun is in Lexington Park and I refuse to buy a new one when we’ll be down there on Friday to oversee a bathroom installation. With that final window installed, the only circa 1925 windows left in the house will be two in the basement—one with a dryer vent and one leading out to the crawlspace under the porch, and one in the pantry. I will look at replacements for the upstairs bathroom and the kitchen window in the spring; they were relatively new replacements when we moved into the house but they’re both cheap garbage and need to be replaced. But that’s for warmer weather.
(Image: David Tracy)
One of the authors over at the Autopian, my favorite car site, bought a car sight unseen from a field in Australia, then flew there and spent five weeks rebuilding it out of rusty parts with a group of local car nuts. The goal was to then drive it 400 miles to a car meetup. When I say that I was skeptical of his ability to succeed, I’m not kidding; in the previous installment of the story, things were looking grim—the third engine they’d sourced was garbage, so they dragged one out of a chicken barn and threw it in the car. He posted the final chapter of the story, and it is as inspiring and awesome as I was hoping it would be. They got it running, passed the inspection, drove all 400 miles to the show, and then drove back home.
Something I learned: in Australia, they market and sell a brand of starting fluid called “Start Ya Bastard”. I sense an import opportunity and the promise of big dollars here…
It’s five degrees outside, but with the wind the temperature is negative ten. Hazel got up with Finley and wanted to go outside, so I put on a pair of bike tights under my jeans, bundled in my puffy down coat, and took her for a walk around the school. After about ten minutes I couldn’t feel my face, even though the sun was out and shining. We did a short loop, only 1/3 our normal route, and headed back inside for warm coffee and warmer paws.
Apart from the wind taking the power down for about five minutes and a brief hiccup without FIOS until I reset the battery, we made it through the storm just fine. Down the street there’s a tree that’s been dead for years, rotten from the inside and with a hole in its trunk that we pass daily on our walk; it finally blew over in the storm and out onto Frederick Road.
I took the girls out for a fancy Christmas dinner at the Milton Inn on Thursday evening as part of our advent activities. The Milton Inn was a famous restaurant for years and recently closed its doors during COVID, but was reopened by the Foreman Group as part of their portfolio. We were treated to a fantastic meal: Jen had a griled venison leg in cognac and peppercorn sauce, Finn had the duck leg confit, and I had a prix fixe menu with a plate of oysters to start and seared veal in a wine reduction for my main course. They paired two excellent glasses of wine with our meals and made Finn a delicious virgin cocktail. We ate every bite, left happy and stuffed, and I think we all went straight to bed when we got home.
Fucking fantastic. We have a chunk of savings set aside for Finn’s education in something called the Maryland Prepaid College Trust. It’s a vehicle that lets us lock tuition costs in at the time of contribution, with the state basically assuming any risk of inflation. Sounds good, right?
Turns out there’s been some shenanigans with the system, and a bunch of people haven’t been able to access their funds:
According to the Maryland Prepaid College Trust, trouble in the prepaid plan surfaced shortly after the trust transitioned program management from an in-house team to a third-party vendor, Intuition College Savings Solutions, in November 2021.
They held a board meeting that went extremely poorly last night, where they were required by law to tell the public and let us attend, but basically called roll and then went into a closed session without providing any update. They’ve been evasive and shitty about this for months, apparently, and this erodes all of the trust I have in the program. I had to look at our account two weeks ago for something unrelated, and all of the money we invested was there at that point, but fuck’s sake, this is scary. That money is a sizeable investment for our family. If it were to disappear for some reason, that would set us back years.
Our friend Dr. Ty Matejowsky is a cultural anthropologist at the University of Central Florida. Years ago, when we visited with he and his wife Lorie, they showed us a pair of fascinating documentaries, one about the Dancing Outlaw and the other about a contest to win a pickup, called Hands on a Hardbody. I didn’t really pick up on it then, but he’s super fascinated with human behavior (duh, Bill). He’s written a new book about the American instutution known as Waffle House, and it’s getting good reviews! I’m adding this to our Amazon list for post-Christmas reading. And in related news, Hands on a Hardbody is available again for streaming!
One of the things Jen has had on her bucket list is to go see the lights in New York City during Christmastime. We decided we’d make this one of our advent activities this year before time gets away from us and Finn grows out of it entirely. We boarded an early-morning train on Sunday and got up to the new Moynihan Train Hall by 11AM. I was so happy to climb out of the track areas into a beautiful new station with soaring ceilings and modern amenities, and happier still that Finn didn’t have to experience shitty old Penn Station as her first introduction to New York.
After sorting out the breakfast and bathroom situation we walked out into the sunshine and headed east on 34th until we hit 7th Avenue, turned north to 34th and then walked east again past Macy’s and through Herald Square up to the Empire State Building. We couldn’t seem to buy tickets to go up to the observatory level, so we punted and kept walking to 5th Avenue where we turned north and walked to the lions in front of the Public Library. Pausing to take some pictures, Jen had to clear something from her eye so Finn and I browsed through the vendors in Bryant Park until she was able to find a mirror.
From there we continued north up Fifth Avenue, hoping to take in the windows; things have changed a lot since I’ve been in the city. It’s essentially one big mall connected by sidewalks and construction; every store available is someplace we can go at a local mall. It wasn’t until we got closer to the park and the high-high-high-dollar stores until we started seeing good window displays.
5th Avenue before Rockefeller Center was closed off to traffic and there were food trucks and performers parked outside. We peeked down through the plaza at the tree and decided we’d wait until dark to explore it further. The windows of Saks were done up with some EXTRA clothing and shoes, and it was super fun to look them all over. Right up the street we climbed the stairs to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and walked inside with a throng of other people. I found a $5 bill and we walked up the aisle until we found a saint we all liked, and then lit candles for Jen’s mom and my Dad. It was a lovely break from all of the crush of people and noise and cold to sit on a bench with my girls across from the votive stand and listen to the hymns and hush of people out in the pews.
Back outside in the fresh air, we walked up 5th Avenue and around the corner to the Tiffany storefront, where, disappointingly, there was nothing in the window. We crossed back over 5th Avenue and through Grand Army Plaza into Central Park, where we took a left at the Zoo and walked to Gapstow Bridge so Finn could see the true scale of New York City.
Walking back up 5th Avenue on the other side of the street, we paused in front of Bergdorf Goodman, whose windows were by far the best of any of the luxury stores. At the top of the hill the street was still cordoned off so we stopped for some mocha lattes to power back up, then plunged back into the crowds forming in front of Saks for the display. They have the lights on the front of the store keyed to different music, sort of a luxury-goods version of the Metallica House, and we enjoyed a quick medely of Elton John before heading down into the plaza to look at the skaters and the tree. I told Finn about the Christmas tree that came from Mahopac after we explained that it was a real tree, and tried to move closer to the edge to look down on the rink.
We kept heading down 50th Street past 30 Rock, and stopped inside to show Finn the murals in the lobby, which remain amazing. Noticing they’ve added a big arcade with food in the basement, we headed downstairs to find bathrooms and some food.
Once we were fed and watered, we continued west on 50th until we hit 7th Avenue and walked south to Times Square, which was probably even more crowded than Rockefeller Center had been. It was, we explained to Finn, the closest to Tokyo she’d probably find in the U.S. and she was suitably impressed (if not overwhelmed).
At this point it was cold and we were all tired, so we continued south to 34th Street and back to the train station, where we posted up on some comfortable chairs and warmed up with some drinks until our train arrived.
We walked back in the door at about 1:30AM and went directly to bed; I don’t think any of us got a decent night’s sleep. Jen’s watch said we walked about 9 miles in total and over 20,000 steps, which is pretty respectable, I think. I was happy to have worn Smartwool socks and an UnderArmour Cold Gear shirt; the only parts of me that were cold were my hands. All that being said I was happy to be in a warm bed.
There was a point when we were walking back up 5th Avenue towards people and Christmas music and lights and dusk was just beginning to set in, and I was happy to be in the Big City with my girls, enjoying the feeling of sharing the season with thousands of strangers.
One of the guys I met in Austin has a beautiful red Scout 800 that’s been featured in ads for Stetson and some other large brands; he told me he was using an online service to rent it out, which I thought was pretty cool. He told me the name of the site and I soon forgot it in the rush of meeting new people. Fast forward to last week when I was looking for photo reference for a new illustration, and stumbled across Sam’s Scout on a site called Vinty, where he’s been listing it. I don’t know if Peer Pressure is clean enough or stock enough to feature correctly in advertising, but I’m thinking it might be worth a shot. I think I’ll have to shoot a series of clean pictures of her in the spring and get her listed.
Meanwhile, the Threadless storefront has been slowly generating sales; the first deposit came into my long-dormant PayPal account over the weekend from November sales, and soon after that somebody bought two more shirts. At this rate I’ll have made my hourly rate back by the time I’m 73, but I’m not in a huge hurry right now.
A couple of weeks ago, Bennett let the local Scout group know that there was a celebration of life scheduled for our friend Alan, and I was sure to put it on the calendar. We met up at a seafood restaurant outside of Laurel and I walked in about two minutes before him. Alan’s family had a private room set up in back and we introduced ourselves to his sister and brother in law, who were lovely and introduced us around. We were joined by John B. and his wife, and later Ray and his family stopped in; we spent the next two hours swapping stories and catching up. I met Alan’s dad and told him the story of when I first got Peer Pressure and couldn’t sort out the throttle linkage: Alan immediately contacted me to tell me the part I had was for an automatic, and sent me the correct part that week. I said that only Alan would know that, and only Alan would have the part sitting in his stash. His dad seemed to appreciate that story, because he got a little misty. On the wall behind us a slideshow was playing, full of pictures from his early life and a bunch of scouting adventures. There were a few pictures where we realized that several of the subjects were gone, and that was a little sobering. We’re not getting any younger.
As usual, the Scout guys were the last to leave. I said my goodbyes and fired up the truck; the heat blew warm and the engine was full of life. I said some quiet thanks to the Sky Pilot and pointed toward home.