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Saturday morning the family rose, grabbed a quick meal, and put on warm clothes so that we could help organize and distribute Thanksgiving meals for a church in our neighborhood. As part of the food drive we did a couple of weeks ago, our church partners with others to collect and donate food, and we signed up for another morning of service. We parked front of a long line of idling cars, then walked to the back of the church house where tables were set up and people were busily building boxes of cans and bags of dry goods. Jen and Finn dove into the tent and got to work, and I made myself useful at a pile of boxes along the driveway, stacking and moving things from one place to the next. When the cars started coming in, we all hustled to fill them with food. It was a bit chaotic at the beginning, but the joyful congregation and good cheer kept the mood light and the work easy. The last of 200 turkeys was loaded in a car at 10:40, and the final car drove through at 11:30. We helped clean up as much as we possibly could, then had a slice of homemade cake and some hot chocolate and said our good-byes, happy we’d been able to do some good.

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I headed over the bridge on Sunday morning to put a day’s worth of work in on the schoolbus, which has been sitting patiently in the shed since we stopped work in October. The first job was to unpack the bench seats and do a test fitting to see how they looked. We unpacked one and set it up on the floor of the garage, finally figuring out how the folding mechanism worked so that we could convert it into a seat (they ship flat). We used an angle grinder to take a third folding section of the bed off the back—there isn’t enough room to include it, and they don’t need it with the way we’re organizing the space. Then we hauled it into the bus and sat it in place, making some test holes to figure out where the seat bases will land. When that was done we unpacked the single seat and put that in place to test the pass-through space. It’ll be tight, but it should work.

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Repacking the seats, we sanded the high edges of the floor down, put about a thousand flooring nails in place, and applied leveling mud to the surface to smooth it all out. By the time that dried it was getting dark, so we set up a light and got to work laying floor tile. We started up front and worked our way back, and with Brian prepping the floor and laying tile and me cutting tiles to fit, we cranked it out pretty quickly. Even so, by the time we finished it was 7:30 and while he cleaned up the surface I ran around and threw all the tools in the truck. We then had a minor hiccup when the battery on the bus decided it was too weak to turn the motor over, so we found some jumper cables and started it from Brian’s truck. It was 8PM when we left Rock Hall and 9:30 by the time I made it home to the girls.

Meanwhile, Jen had been at the ER with Hazel for four hours, who had been acting strangely all morning. They were swamped so it took a long time to be seen, but when she was examined and an X-ray was taken, it turned out she is backed up worse than the Long Beach dockyards. They did some, uh, work to help the situation but it’s going to take more long walks and some time to clear out her pipes. So she’s moping around the house with her bonnet and a disturbed look on her face. Here’s to hoping the deliveries start back up again.

Date posted: November 22, 2021 | Filed under family, friends, hazel | 1 Comment »

I was beginning to wonder if I was going to hear back from Kodak about the 8mm reels I’d sent off for digitizing in early July, and while I was sweating my nuts off in a tent in Southern Maryland, I got an email from them. They sent me links to download all four videos, which were all between 500-600MB in size. I was pleasantly surprised with all four of the videos.

Dad had issues with his Super-8 camera back in the day where the light meter didn’t expose the film correctly, so some of the footage is dark, but the folks at Kodak did their best to work with what they were given, and they actually pulled a lot of the detail back out. I think my biggest criticism would be the sharpness of the footage—I wonder if there’s a way I can take the footage I’ve got and put it through some kind of enhancement to pull more detail out.

For the price, it’s fantastic, and when I get these reels back I’ll have to figure out what the next four will be.

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I’ve mentioned my disappearing sunglasses previously, so when my brown pair went missing again earlier this spring, I figured they were gone for good this time and it wasn’t worth writing about. I got along fine with the black pair and actually grew to like them just as much as the brown ones. Yesterday as I was cleaning sand out of the Scout I found the brown ones, having fallen in between the passenger seat and the transmission tunnel; they’d gone unnoticed all summer, even as I was cutting and installing heat matting, thankfully landing lenses up so that the glass wasn’t scratched.

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Jen and I pulled the trigger on a closet organization system a while back, and it was delivered several weeks ago. The boxes are piled up in the bathroom waiting for me to get started assembling. One of the first things I needed to do was address the outlet left in the closet, which was still hanging out of the wall. It was old enough to date back to the Doctor, and I used that box to jump a line out to install a spotlight over the driveway. During demo I found that it had just been attached to the paneling and nothing behind that, so it was left hanging out of the wall. I found a blue plastic new work box and cut the drywall wider on one side until I could tuck the box flap between the drywall and the wood sheathing behind it, then screwed it in place. Then I did a drywall repair job on the remainder of the opening. With that complete, I can now start measuring and installing racks and MDF for the closet system.

Date posted: August 30, 2021 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

Last night I filled a box with four carefully wrapped, priceless reels of our family history and got it ready to ship to Kodak for transfer to digital video. In all, there’s about 100-110 minutes of footage spread across each of them. They’re going to return a couple of thumb drives and a download link along with my reels, and I’m hoping the money spent will be worth it. I have no idea what quality to expect, but I’m hoping the result will be better than anything I can do myself. Dad tried transferring stuff to VHS back in the day but we all know how that technology made out; I’d rather have this digital so I can update the format if I ever need to.

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After busting my ass in the heat painting the house, I did some organizing on Sunday to go through all of my camping gear and figure out what we’ve got and what we might need. It’s all been spread out across the basement and garage since we went last time, so I feel a lot better about having most of it in one place, ready to go. This time I’m dealing with teens who have been glued to their screens for two years, so it’s going to be a much trickier situation to navigate. Just as I’ve gotten them to detox and see the beauty of real world, it’ll be time to throw all our shit back in the truck and head home. I hope they don’t band together and kill me; my safety is dependent on the fact that they can’t drive a stick.

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As I was working all weekend, I found that I needed to keep pulling my glasses on and off to focus on small details, and I finally got fed up with it. It’s been an issue more and more, and while part of me is still too vain to admit I need bifocals, the time has come. When I do the bus renovation with Brian, I’m going to need a set of safety glasses, so I thought I’d be smart and have a set of progressive lenses built in to them to avoid this issue. But that means I need a prescription. I’ve got an appointment today to have an eye doctor test my reading vision, and I’ve found a place online that will cut me safety glasses for less than a fancy set of designer frames. So we’ll see if I can wear a set of bifocals without throwing up all over myself.

 

Date posted: July 13, 2021 | Filed under family, photography | Leave a Comment »

I took advantage of a break in the hot weather on Saturday to continue painting the house and got a lot more done than I thought I would. First I had to build a leveling platform for the front porch roof, as it slopes down from the front and from both sides, which makes reaching the edges of the second story eaves difficult. I knocked together some scrap wood in the garage, hauled the ladders, compressor, and platform around to the front of the house, and had both edges of the second story knocked out by about 2PM. This included a second (third, actually) coat of white paint on all of the eaves across the front of the house.

Then I moved everything to the back corner and started the complicated ladderwork to get the siding painted there. As mentioned before it’s very tricky because there are three wires that reach the house on that corner, no level ground to place a ladder, and no easy flat surfaces to lean a ladder on. I got most of the siding done with some careful placement before the compressor tripped the circuit for the third time, and I finally realized it was overloaded when the connection between the cord and the extension cord started throwing smoke (and it burned my finger). I’ll have to temporarily unplug the refrigerator and some other small stuff and see if that helps make the compressor any happier.

By the time I finished I was absolutely exhausted. The weather had been nice but all that ladderwork took it out of me, and I was moving a lot of heavy stuff around all day. We ate a quick dinner and then went over to the Gebler’s house for a birthday party for Ruby, who turned 4 (she shares a birthday with Aunt Renie!) where we let Hazel run free in the backyard while the kids played and we drank beer and relaxed. It was after 10:30 and a set of skinned knees when we packed up the car and returned home.

Date posted: July 11, 2021 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

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Date posted: July 4, 2021 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

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Date posted: June 29, 2021 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

I’m up at my Mom’s house this weekend for the first time in a year, and it’s been a great visit so far. We haven’t done much other than visit and eat, and frankly, that’s OK with me.

I went into the basement to move some stuff around and look over the back corner where some water had been collecting. When I’d cleared everything away and sprayed the cinderblock down with bleach, I started sorting through stuff and making a dump pile. One of the things that I was interested in looking over were a box full of 8mm film reels that date back from before I was born. Dad left two projectors behind, a Bell & Howell and an Argus, and chances were 50/50 that one of them still had a functioning bulb. I spent some time before dinner learning how to load the Argus properly, and within about 20 minutes had a reel of our family trip across the country projected on the wall of the living room. He shot a fair bit of movie film: there are  about 20 reels in total, a mixture of 7″, 6″, 5″ and one 3″, which equals out to about eight hours of movies in total.

There are several digitization services out there, one of which is Kodak, who will convert two reels for $70. I think I might send two of the 7″ reels (roughly 28 minutes of footage) out to them and see how good things look.

Date posted: June 26, 2021 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

When I first started playing video games back in 1997 with a demo copy of Marathon, I played by myself on story mode and got into a habit of avoiding multiplayer games that stuck with me for decades. Partially because I always had Macs, and even though Marathon offered a co-op mode, it was only for LAN and nobody else I knew had a Mac to play on. When I worked at the game company I played HALO at the office in co-op mode and enjoyed it immensely, but that was at a time when I didn’t own a console myself and wasn’t really interested in purchasing a gaming PC good enough to join my co-workers in overnight games of Counterstrike or Dark Age of Camelot. It wasn’t until much later that I found a cast-off Xbox at a yard sale but most of  the games were so old the servers had been shut down.

When my family sent me the new Xbox to help get me through chemotherapy I avoided online games because I really didn’t want to talk to anybody at that point and I also wanted to avoid a monthly subscription—I am, after all, a cheap bastard. But most modern games require a game pass of some kind, and when I sprung for Fallout 76 I had to bite the bullet. I’ve avoided all multiplayer until recently, but in The Division 2 I’ve reached the limit of what I can do solo before running up against missions which require a team effort to overcome.

So, on Friday afternoon I joined a mission with another player to test the waters, was matched with someone who had their microphone on. I was treated to a one-sided discussion punctuated with wet coughing while their in game character stood motionless facing a wall. I disconnected to go eat dinner but after the girls went to bed I tried again and had more success. I was  paired with two players at my level and we ran through several missions successfully. Despite all my misgivings, I had a great time. Nobody had their mic on so I didn’t need to talk to anybody, but we communicated well enough to make short work of the enemies we faced. I put the controller down at midnight, my right thumb sore, and went to bed happy that I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and didn’t get fragged by a 12-year-old named DaRk_SlAyEr_2121.

This game is really amazing to look at. It’s set in Washington, D.C. and while I know they’ve taken liberties with the scale of the city, I’ve been able to Google Streetview some of the places I’m exploring and see a pretty close  1-to-1 with real life. I’m dying to go to the block where my office is, but it’s inside a Dark Zone where players can kill each other and loot their gear, so I’m a little hesitant. Maybe at 1PM on a Tuesday before school lets out I’ll give it a try.

As of Saturday, all but four bays of the eaves are scraped and painted on the front of the house. As of Sunday, the east side peak above the new bathroom is 4/5 scraped, sprayed and painted. It was mostly direct sun all day so I couldn’t sit on the exposed roof for long, and I wasn’t interested in hanging my ass out over the backyard like Tom Cruise on the Burj Kalifa, so there are sections at either end that need to be finished. But the majority of it is done, and it looks 100% better from the road, which is what I care about the most. It’s not visible from the road but the roof up there looks like it snowed for a couple of hours. I came inside covered with a layer of paint chips an inch thick.

I need to use the roller to reach a tiny spot on the east side over the driveway but the west side of the front facade requires some more planning and construction—I’ll need to build a sturdy platform to level off the slope on that side so that I can put up a ladder and reach the last couple of bays. Pretty much everything else is done other than the shutters, and there’s no decision on color for those yet. If the weather would only cooperate…

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Things in the greenhouse are going reasonably well, although the first couple of Purple Cherokees coming in have blossom end rot. I bought bonide spray at the hardware store yesterday and sprayed the leaves down in the hopes that the rest of the plants don’t suffer the same problem. Outside, the trees have been dropping tons of sap on the plastic, which has been getting filthier by the day. I put a ladder up and washed both sides, first with a mop and then with a rag to get the dirt off. The south side cleaned up better than the north, and now everything in there will get better sunlight for growing.

Date posted: June 20, 2021 | Filed under family, general, house | Leave a Comment »

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To the women in my life who do the hardest work of all, I love you.

Date posted: May 9, 2021 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

Cousin Matt texted me a picture of a pretty black 1965 Mustang on Sunday, nonchalantly asked me if Henderson Maryland was close by, and if I’d be interested in driving out there to pick it up for him, drive it back to the house, and hang on to it while he arranged for transport. I told him it would be a major inconvenience, but I’d do it anyway. Actually, I jumped at the chance. He’s getting the insurance and other legal stuff taken care of, and then we’ll drive out there later this week to grab it up—probably Thursday (which works best, as it’s going to be raining until then anyway). I’m going to load up a bunch of GoPros and make a fun afternoon out of it. I’ve driven a lot of different cars in my life, but never a ’65 Mustang; taking it back across the bridge is going to be a treat. I don’t know what driving condition it’s in, and I’ll have to do a pre-drive inspection before I get it on the road, but this should be fun!

Date posted: May 4, 2021 | Filed under cars, family | Leave a Comment »