The Maryland 529 plan seems to still be in turmoil; apparently they did some miscalculating and are claiming that some people have too much money in their accounts.

Maryland 529 told families two years ago they would earn 6 percent on balances held before Oct. 31, 2021, because of excess earnings from the trust. But the agency said it erroneously applied the formula in a way that inflated the values of accounts between November 2021 and April 2022.

There isn’t a whole lot of information coming from the Plan, which has made some lawmakers very upset.

A spokesperson for the AG’s office said it was “currently advising the 529 plan in addressing the challenges they are facing.” State auditors were already set to examine whether the agency had addressed management problems raised in a 2019 report, and said the latest calculation issue would also be part of the review.

Date posted: January 30, 2023 | Filed under money, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Here’s where the bathroom at Bob’s stands. To recap, the Thompson Creek guys came and replaced the whole tub/shower section after I did all of the demo. I patched up the subfloor and put in 1/2″ tile backer board on the bare section last week, and we sourced and ordered new tile. I rented a tile saw up here and brought it with us to get the cuts done. I had to work fast to beat the clock due to a late start and Lowe’s getting the tile order wrong; After going back to exchange three boxes of the wrong tile with the right stuff, I got the floor marked off, some mastic mixed, and started laying it down. The tile saw wasn’t aligned properly so the first three cuts I made were off by 1/8″ over each foot, but once I sorted out the angle I made the cuts freehand and got it done. The other MVP was a little tile blade I bought when I did the backsplashes in the kitchen: they helped with the cuts around the toilet flange and small trim cuts elsewhere.

So the floor is in and curing. Next up will be floating all the grout to get things sealed in place. That shouldn’t take too long; following that I’ll set a vanity in place and putting some kind of moulding around the floor edge.

Date posted: January 29, 2023 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

Chronophoto is a game where you have to examine a series of 5 photos and guess when each was taken. I love this kind of stuff.
(via Kottke)

Date posted: January 27, 2023 | Filed under photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Well, this week has been a real test of my sanity; there were points when I felt like I was doing OK and at other times I was a terrible husband, father, and Co-Acting-Director-whatever. I’m not used to the sheer amount of meetings coming at us now, and the immediate need to be caught up with all of the inside information we don’t know is overwhelming. My friend Lauren comiserated with me last week, saying, one day you’re looking around for the adult in the room to make a decision, and you suddenly realize that’s you. So much truth in that observation.

Stories to Watch launched on time after an intense three weeks of shooting, editing, organizing, and producing. This year’s production was, in a lot of ways, easier than last year’s (and I wasn’t trapped in my bedroom with COVID, which was nice) but other stressors were still front and center up until the morning of the event. The video portion, if I do say so, looked fantastic. We got a lot of great feedback on the presentation, and when I was in the office later that day, my CEO found me and shook my hand to thank me and the team for all our work. That felt very good.

I was in the office not for the event, but because I had to help another team mix epoxy and glue laser-etched plaques to the front of five trophies that had been 3D printed with sand and shipped from Germany. Don’t let ’em tell you different: the life of a Co-Acting-Director-whatever is full of glamour. Due to some internal production confusion we had to source the plaques and some laser-cut felt to complete the pieces in-house, so I brought tools and a pile of nitrile gloves and we got down to business. They made me glue and set the plaques: no pressure. This coming Tuesday I’m headed up to New York City to help produce the awards event itself, where I’ll be shooting video. Two nights in Manhattan ain’t so bad, I guess.

Meanwhile we visited with Jen’s Dad last Saturday, and I got to work setting a subfloor in the common bathroom. This involved cutting and fitting two sheets of waterproof hardi-board, mixing a bed of thinset, and setting them in place before screwing everything down. It went in with only a few small hitches, and should be good to go for the next step: this coming weekend I’m renting a wet saw and laying the tile. It did involve a ton of work on my knees, cutting, fitting, troweling, and screwing, and I felt it in my back that evening. Between that and 9-hour days at my desk my whole body is pretty pissed at me right now. Hazel got her first walk in 5 days this afternoon; it was like we’d sprung her from Solitary.

And the built-in project is moving along. I found a decent 12′ board for the top shelf and cut it into place. Then I cut and fit small insets under each of the shelves that dress up the horizontals and give them a little visual weight. Jen and I discussed how to finish off the top and after some negotiation we agreed upon a solution to box in and frame out the top shelf with a section of moulding that matches the stuff above all our windows. So I’ve got to get a 12′ piece of that from the mill in Glen Burnie on a dry sunny day ’cause it won’t fit inside the car.

Date posted: January 27, 2023 | Filed under family, house, WRI | Leave a Comment »

Here’s an excellent take on the current round of tech layoffs which categorizes the psychological toll in two groups: Corporate and Worker. Corporate minimizes layoffs, usually because the people in that strata can land a similar job relatively easily through their networks.

Then there’s Corporate Layoff Brain. This Layoff Brain mistakes their own experience of layoffs (good! generative!) as everyone else’s, regardless of their field or position. It casualizes layoffs, categorizes it as a “management tool,” and underlines employees’ status as disposable, disempowered widgets — instead of humans with rights and responsibilities to others outside of the work environment.

While Worker is a whole different way of thinking: it’s a culture of intimidation designed to keep those of us with jobs cowed and productive:

This is the second iteration of Layoff Brain. The first is the Layoff Brain I have, the one I share with millions of other millennials and Gen-Xers. It’s a defensive crouch masquerading as “smart saving habits.” It’s a thrum of fear and student debt default and medical bankruptcy rebranded as “hustle culture.”

Technically I’m management, but having been laid off twice, I will always think and plan and worry like a worker.

Date posted: January 26, 2023 | Filed under general, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Old office shelves

Wow, look at that. Fifteen years ago this week I started demoing the old exam room in preparation for a renovation; I think it was this same day Jen came in and told me she’d just gotten a positive result on a pregnancy test.

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I’ve been using a cast-off MacBook Pro from work for email since before the pandemic; I have one good machine cobbled together from multiple out-of-service 2013 Retina models—this one has a drive from one machine, a replacement battery from another, and a screen from a third. It’s serviceable for what I’m doing on it, mainly email, photo selection/cataloguing, and other basics. But I’m stuck at OS 10.14 on this machine and I’d really like to upgrade to the latest version for security and modern features. It can’t talk to my iPad, which kind of sucks. It suffers from random 1-5 second freezes. There are some applications I can’t run anymore.

I think it’s time to upgrade my personal system here, given that the last truly new MacBook I bought was back in 2011, funded partially by the sale of my previous laptop. I’m looking at something ligher and slimmer (and cheaper) than a true MacBook Pro, which points at a MacBook Air: They’ve just updated the model to the new M2 chip and it goes head-to-head with the 13″ MBP with only a few minor omissions that I don’t care about at all. I’m waiting for a large expense report check to come in from work, and when that does, I’m going to pull the trigger.

Date posted: January 24, 2023 | Filed under apple, family, finn, history, photo | 1 Comment »

2022 didn’t go quite as we planned, but I got a remarkable number of things on the list accomplished. The replacement windshield is installed and makes a world of difference. the turn signal is fixed. The spare heater core is finished. And the heater valve is working! With that in mind, here’s the list of goals for 2023, in order of importance and realistic accomplishment:

  • Fix the goddamn wipers. (2019) I still don’t know what the deal is with the wipers or why the motor works but the switch doesn’t, but I’ve now got a third switch to swap in and see if I can get things to work behind the dashboard. If it’s not that, there has to be a melted wire somewhere that I’ll have to chase down in the rat’s nest back there. I can’t spend another year dealing with this dumb situation.
  • Move the rearview mirror up the A pillar. I keep knocking into it when I open the door. it needs to move up and out of the way. This is just drilling and tapping new holes, and sealing up the old ones.
  • Rotate the tires. (2022) This is pretty self-explanatory, and should be easy once I get a decent floor jack.
  • Fix the battery tray. (2021) 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.
  • Replace the wing window seals and spring hinge. My wing windows are leaky and loose. The gaskets are dry and brittle, and the spring hinges inside the door are both broken. I need to replace the rubber and re-weld the springs so that the windows will stabilize.
  • Swap the gas tanks. I have the original steel tank Peer Pressure came with, and I’ve heard from several places that poly tanks will never seal at the sender properly. I’m inclined to believe this after eight years of suffering through gas fumes and leaks. Having looked at the inside of the tank and cleaned up the outside, there’s a new sender mounted and ready to go. The next step is grounding the tank and checking the wiring before it goes onto the truck, and then actually swapping it out.
  • Get the spare engine on a proper engine stand. The problem isn’t the stand, but how I can lift the engine up onto it. My garage is in no shape to support a chain hoist or any kind of overhead block and tackle, so I’ll have to borrow an engine hoist from somewhere for a 15-minute operation.
  • Buy a Scout Shed. (2022) I spent a bunch of time this fall emptying out my garage attic and moving big bulky parts up there; a lot of my space issues have since been solved. So this might actually move to the completed list…

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

Date posted: January 23, 2023 | Filed under Scout, To-Do List | Comments Off on 2023 To-Do List

Here’s a great recap of how Netscape begat Mozilla and Shepard Fairey created a dinosaur logo based on Russian Futurism with roots in the 1987 movie They Live. I look back on those wild days of the web with fondness.

Date posted: January 23, 2023 | Filed under geek, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I got a call out of the blue from the seller of Barn Find 2 on Wednesday night as I was about to walk in the door of my boss’ departure party; he said he’d found the VIN on the door of the truck and wanted to know if I was still interested. Given the fact that I’d looked at it quickly on a cloudy, cold day in December where I lost all sensation in my extremities five minutes after I got out of the car, I figured I’d take another look. Brian was available to join me so we set something up for this morning and drove out there in his shiny new hybrid F150 (the verdict: SWEET).

This time I had two sets of eyeballs on the truck, and what looked passable during the Big Chill looked worse the more we dug into it. The floorpans were welded in place on top, but underneath there was a gap of about 1/8″ between the bottom of the pans and the remainder of the floor. The body was not mounted to the frame; there were no pucks or bolts touching the tub. The welds themselves were garbage. There was more rust all over the body than I remember, and as I got underneath to really look at the frame and undercarriage I realized the rockers weren’t as solid as they’d first looked and that the rear fenders on both sides were worse than I recalled. Brian and I talked it over privately and I decided to walk away again. It’s a $2000 truck at best, and with the extra parts maybe $2500 but nowhere near what he’s asking—and a hell of a lot more work than I’m willing to take on.

So I took the four of us out for brunch, and we had a great time catching up.


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

Date posted: January 21, 2023 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off on Barn Find 2 Update

Long ago in 1995 I was watching MTV while making my dinner and saw a clip featuring a scruffy-looking Portland band playing a killer song. I just happened to have a copy of the City Paper and saw that they were playing the 8×10 on a weeknight, so naturally I roped my roommates into going down and seeing the show, where we all had a great time and I bought a copy of the CD and a T-shirt. Any resemblance to my dog’s current name is purely coincidental. But this song rips.

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My friend Rosie, who I hired at WRI and subsequently got hired away by the Wall Street Journal, had her very first byline last week, a story on coaching trees in the NFL. Yay Rosie!

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Here’s some new tasty font goodness from an old-school design/web hero of mine: Dan Cederholm put up a storefront with some excellent display fonts and design-nerd merch.

Date posted: January 18, 2023 | Filed under art/design, friends, music | Leave a Comment »