Jen has been bugging me to try smoking some meat since my first abortive attempt in June of 2015, when I turned a chicken into a block of cement. The smoker has been sitting in the garage since then, taking up space, silently mocking me. Fed up with waiting, Jen found a recipe, drove us to the butcher, and kicked me out of the car to go buy some meat. Sunday morning I cleaned out the smoker, lit some charcoal, and rubbed spices into two cuts of tri-tip. Throwing some wet mesquite onto the fire, I put thermometers into each cut, laid them on the grill, and said a prayer.
It’s pretty obvious in hindsight, but cooking meat with a good thermometer changes the game entirely. The smoker did a great job and I was able to get the meat up to temperature right on schedule. I ran out of charcoal so Hazel and I ran to the 7-11 to pick up another bag. They had no matchlite, so I had to resort to lighter fluid. Because I was in a hurry and not thinking, I didn’t set up the new charcoal the way I should have, and I wound up flash-burning my hand pretty good when the chamber full of vapor lit off, as well as ruining a good fleece jacket. Lesson learned.
After four hours smoking, I wrapped the meat in foil and let them get up to final temperature, which took less time than the recipe called for. We had an early dinner at the table with coleslaw and French fries, and the meat tasted absolutely fantastic. I made a Manhattan to go with it. We all ate until we were stuffed, and decided there will be more smoked meals in our future.
After some hesitation, I put Finley’s blue bike up on Craigslist this afternoon. in hindsight I should have done it last year, when people were desperate to get bikes, but for some reason I waited. Ever the sentimental fool, I’m sad to see this one go. It’s the one she learned how to ride on, the one Santa brought her. It’s even the same color as Ox (this was not coincidence). But her legs are almost as long as mine now, and it’s time to find a new rider. I hope it makes good memories for the next little girl who climbs aboard..
On Saturday I re-organized the greenhouse so that the spare table is up front where most of the light will be, and prepared a bunch of bins with soil and fertilizer. The seedlings are on their second day of hardening, so by next Saturday they should be ready to plant. There are seedlings on one tray that are 8″ tall at this point, which is fantastic; I’m much further along this spring than I was last year.
Twenty years ago today, I opened up a text editor and wrote a little bit about what I saw around me as I commuted to work. I styled some HTML by hand, stuck it in a subdirectory of my website, and began a habit I would stick with until the present day.
Unknowingly I was one of the early attendees to the party, and if I hadn’t been quite so cheap—I was getting my hosting for free through a friend and didn’t buy proper webhosting until 2005, after all the cool kids had staked out space in the ecosphere—I might have had a higher profile in the strange world of weblogs. Because I didn’t use weblog software, I was late to the blogroll and the trackback and software wars, which sidelined me from people discovering what I was writing about for years. And as much as I wanted for people to read what I was writing and comment, I was never one of the try-hards who begged for traffic. I’m not much of a joiner, so I only attended a few blogger meetups, and those were usually hosted by people I already knew, but it was nice to meet other folks who were doing it for as long as it lasted. There was always a tension between the promise of internet fame and the terror of internet infamy. I’m probably not tough enough to weather either of those storms, so I continue to fly under the radar. As it was, I never kept a weblog for the same reasons other people did anyway; while some folks were happy to document their every emotion and feeling, my weblog was more a record of my own headspace at any given moment.
Besides keeping a log of what I was doing for my own purposes, I also wrote this as a way to update my friends and parents. Mostly my parents; I was a little embarrassed to share this with friends directly: “I have a blog” sounds pretty dorky. It sounds dorkier now that it’s a decade past being a fad. Upon reflection, I think I wrote most of it with my Dad in mind—here’s what’s been happening—whom I found hard to talk to through normal channels. We’d talk on the phone, yes, but as I’ve gotten older I realize how much of his approval I was always seeking, and possibly how this was my weird way of reaching out. He didn’t comment on here as far as I can remember; comments only go back to the switch to WordPress. Most of our electronic communication was stereotypical Dad ALL CAPS EMAILS or forwards of annoying chain mails. Mom did tell me he read the site, but I tend to think she is the regular subscriber and he was a casual visitor.
As I look back over the body of work here it makes me think about all of the things I never asked him before he passed. There’s a black and white picture of him laying on the roof of his first car in front of Grandpa’s farm—how did he buy it? How long did he have it? There’s another of younger Bill holding a rope around the neck of a cow in shirtsleeves and a tie—where was that? What was he doing there? How about the picture above of him standing next to Mom, who is holding Renie as an infant. What was going through his mind? I would like to know who he was as a man of 30, raising a young family, and what his hopes and dreams were—but I realize know nothing about him. I have boxes of his slides, decades of memories, with no context or reference to who is pictured or what they are doing beyond what little I’ve been told. As I tried to do with my grandfather, I lost the chance to do with him, to get him to talk about those experiences and his memories and hear about his life and learn from him. Mom, get yourself ready.
Someday I hope that Finley will be able to read this and know a little more about who her parents were, what we were doing, and what we were thinking before she blew up our world in the best way possible. In that way, this weblog is more a gift to her than anything else, an annotated photo album of where she came from and the people that made her.
In that way, it’s documented the last twenty years faithfully, through one house to the second, through a wedding and honeymoon to various foreign vacations, home projects, employment shifts, a pregnancy and birth, BABY, another employment shift, more vacations, friends coming and going, cancer, death, and now the pandemic. It will continue as long as I am able to put fingers to keyboard. Maybe Finley will even take up the mantle someday, if there is still a text-based internet where people can write about their dishwasher breaking or post endless blurry pictures of their dog.
The family is enjoying a couple of days at an AirBnB out in Western Maryland, away from responsibilities and neighbors and the house we’ve been trapped in for a solid year. Jen began following a lady on Instagram who has a lovely cottage perched on the side of a hill, and they struck up a conversation. We booked it for a couple of days in the middle of my birthday week, and we settled in last night.
Hazel spent the entire evening pacing around the house, peering out the windows and BUFFING at the chickens next door, who don’t give a crap about her, and BUFFING at noises she’s not used to, and whining at the door to go out but THERE ARE CHUPACABRAS OUT THERE so she whines to come in, and paces around, and whines to go back outside again. I grabbed her up and bear-hugged her on the couch until she calmed down and napped for a while, and that seemed to help.
This area of Maryland is beautiful. It’s basically old-school farmland, dotted with red-brick barns and lots of old houses that look like they’ve been kept up really well. It’s hard to tell what the main crops are out here but we’ve seen a lot of sheep and goats munching idly in the fields. However, the specter of our former president haunts us, waving at passers by from atop a boom lift in the middle of town.
This is a lovely way to spend a birthday. When Jen proposed we get out of town back in January I was hesitant, but I’m glad she talked me into it. I’ve been getting more and more stir-crazy being trapped in our house as the winter has dragged on, and my mood has not improved with the promise of spring around the corner. We have a day of exploration planned, and hopefully Western Maryland will provide some sights and sounds to lighten the mood and calm Hazel’s nerves.
Aw, man. Nimona, a comic book written and published while the author was a student at MICA, was released and earned rave reviews, multiple awards, and sold a ton of copies. Blue Sky Studios, the folks responsible for the Ice Age series and some other excellent animated movies, picked up the story and have been in serious production on the movie adaptation since 2015.
Well, Blue Sky just got bought by Disney, and announced that they are killing the movie entirely. Reasons given abound, but the reality is that the story features two gay men as main characters. I can easily imagine the suits at the Mouse spending maybe three minutes tops discussing how damaging the story would be to their lily-white heteronormative brand before greenlighting Toy Story 17 for immediate production. Fuck the Mouse.
As an extremely educated man, my grandfather had all kinds of books in his house. Because there wasn’t much else to do there when we visited, my sister and I read everything that was halfway interesting and a lot of stuff that wasn’t; that’s where I read Profiles in Courage and learned about JFK, and then read all about his assassination conspiracies in The Book of Lists. Grandpa had a bunch of books about 20’s era automobiles and World War I planes, but I was much more interested in World War II and that era, probably because my Dad had a bunch of books about it. I never really got why Grandpa liked that stuff, but given the age difference and his upbringing, I see how the cycle continues: His Great War was my Dad’s Korea to my Gulf War. Either way, I find military history fascinating.
The Naval History and Heritage Command is an incredible repository of information. I often will kill time in a waiting room or on the train looking at the history of an obscure warship or campaign, but often the easily available history will have only the basic information. In a series of articles, the director digs deeper into the histories of people, events and warships and provides a jumping-off point for further research. I could lose days in here.
I was planning to drive out to Flintstone, MD to pick more parts off a Scout on the side of a mountain today, but rain in the forecast here means snow on the ground there—Flintstone is only miles away from aptly named Frostburg, MD, where yearly average snowfall is more than five feet. Dave, the seller, is a nice fellow, and talking to him on the phone this morning, he assures me he’s still got the truck and it isn’t going anywhere. I think I’ll bring him some warm coffee and a bagel (if I can find one) when I do make it out there.
I’m really struggling with the need to be doing something with my hands. The whole point of going to find parts is so that I can A. get out of the house and B. work on something on the bench downstairs while it’s still so damn cold outside; I’d love to have the sandblaster or sander out and be working on panels in the driveway, but I can’t spray anything with primer at this temperature. I’m also aware that this could all just be rationalization for hoarding behavior, which I have been known to exhibit from time to time.
I’d packed a recovery kit and tools for the trip, and knew I needed an impact driver to coax rusty bolts off the hulk, so I drove to the Harbor Freight and grabbed one yesterday. In the parking lot the battery in the Accord told me in a louder voice what it had been whispering for weeks: it was just about dead. I wiggled the connectors just enough to get it to crank over and drove immediately to Advance Auto for a new battery, which I swapped out in the parking lot: an immediate improvement. I was planning on taking the Accord out west, as Jen needs the CR-V to take her father to get his COVID shot on Sunday and I didn’t want to dirty it up with rusty parts.
Jen and her sister have spent the last couple of weeks navigating bureaucracy to schedule a shot for him, and were finally able to get an appointment for him at the Six Flags drive-through location down in Bowie. She’s driving down to pick him up, drive him to the site, and then drive him home, partially to make sure it goes smoothly, and mostly to try and manage his anxiety.
According to this site, Maryland is 48th in number of doses administered—they’ve only given 67% of the doses distributed as of February 26. At this rate I’m not getting my shot until June.
Meanwhile, I’m making slow progress on manually pulling entries from the .SQL file backup we saved of Jen’s Thatgirl blog from back in the day. WordPress is excellent in that it saves entries every couple of minutes as you’re composing them, but what that means is there can be 10+ duplicates of one post and they are not in order in the file. My Perl skills have atrophied to mush so it’s improbable I would be able to write something to help sort through all 1400 entries; this means I’m taking it slowly in chunks when I have downtime. Cleaning up the entries is pretty easy with GREP; when that’s done I have to figure out how and where we’re going to publish it—one long HTML file might make the most sense…
Wow. If Dad were still alive, I would buy this and offer to fly out to the West Coast to drive it back with him: a 1968 Ford Country Squire wagon, the spitting image of the wagon he had when Renie and I were little kids. This one has a couple of dents and dings, but overall looks like it’s in good shape. Of course, a 390 under the hood means we’d be filling it up every 15 miles, but that would be an epic trip.
I would do some light modification to this wagon—I’d repaint it in the original Ford green, find a roof rack (or the equivalent Thule roof basket) and lift it slightly for some better tires—but keep the stock hubcaps. Refresh the engine, suspension and brakes, sort out the interior, and drive the piss out of it.
So Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday after a bout of lung cancer. Cancer does suck, but seriously, fuck that guy. He and his kind are a cancer on our democracy; maybe that’s a sign of cosmic justice out there somewhere.
Good grief. One of my go-to podcasts, Reply All, did a series on the racism scandal at Bon Appétit, a very popular magazine and online property which has been accused of keeping people of color out of the spotlight. That exposed an identical problem at Gimlet Media, the podcast channel that publishes Reply All. What a mess.
I went back and looked at the Reverb listing for my bass after having forgotten it for a couple of weeks; it’s been viewed 8,000 times but there are still no concrete offers. Meanwhile there are a couple of others listed for more money elsewhere; I’d love to know if anything is moving right now. Here’s to hoping an offer comes out of the blue.
Every year growing up my aunt sent Christmas presents to be opened under our tree. She was good at sending us thoughtful gifts every year, wrapped neatly and with precise bows. When I was in the 9th grade she sent me a small box that contained a marvel of engineering: a Windsor & Newton portable watercolor set. My aunt was a watercolor artist, and when she heard I was interested in going to art school, she sent me as many supplies as possible. I wasn’t interested in being a watercolor artist but I did use watercolor as part of my process, and the fact that she was a working professional was inspirational to me (and probably helped convince my Dad that paying for art college was not a waste of time). She passed this week after a short illness; she was in her 90s. She raised two boys and multiple grandchildren and remained a working artist up until she died; I have her watercolor of Finley as a baby on our mantle.
This kit is pretty incredible; it’s a small box a little larger than a pack of cigarettes. It folds open into a well of sixteen colors and three mixing trays, holds a reservoir of water and a cup, and contains an incredibly versatile collapsible brush. I used it through the art program at high school, took it with me to college, and used it through years of illustration freelance work. It’s currently tucked into my drawing bag, waiting for post-pandemic figure drawing studio to commence. It was invaluable for years, I think of her whenever I open it, and I treasure it. Thanks, Aunt Lois.
- December 26: playing Fallout 76, watching The Professor and the Madman (verdict: not bad! ), bingeing the first episodes of True Detective season 3 (verdict: SO MUCH BETTER than Season 2)
- Dec. 27: Bingeing the first episodes of His Dark Materials season 2 (verdict: good, and they’ve tightened up some of my issues with the second book), Taco Bell for dinner. NACHO FRIES! (verdict: disappointing. The Dorito-taco-thing was very good. The resulting Run For The Border was as urgent I remember it from 20 years ago. Some things never change)
- Dec. 28: Working on the workbench, burgers for dinner, finishing True Detective Season 3 (verdict: I highly recommend this series.)
- Dec. 29: Working on the workbench, His Dark Materials season ender (verdict: I’m very curious to see how they approach the third season, as everything in that book goes off the fucking rails. And I wonder if they will give the main character any agency of her own, as it all disappears midway through the second book)
- Dec. 30: Finishing the workbench, Onward (verdict: that’s the hardest I’ve laughed during a movie in a long time. Not quite standard Pixar-level, but recommended.)
So far there have been no bites on the Steinberger; the listing has gotten 800+ views and 4 watchers but no offers. I’m not paying anything to leave it up there, so I’ll just sit on it and see what happens. Update: I got one offer this morning from a guy who wants to trade it for a Rickenbacker 4003 Pearlstar—something I might have been interested in back in my Geddy Lee worship days, but at this point I’d rather have the cash.
At work, I finally completed a torturous process that began two months ago to design and publish a digital report. The report itself launched last month but due to various editorial and review issues I had to update the PDF and then build the digital report. It’s a high-level view of the state of climate action with an eye towards the next 20 years, and it was a challenge to bring together all of the text, graphics, and digital assets. Even though the process is automated, I found myself diving into code at the tail end and fixing a ton of issues by hand, which was a pleasant surprise.
We’ve now made two different batches of Bailey’s, one from the recipe I posted earlier in the week and one from the Betty Crocker cookbook. Before you get the idea we’ve just been pouring cups of it over our cornflakes every morning, we’ve been sipping on each one slowly—the online recipe is lighter and very almondy and the Betty Crocker recipe is much heavier with more chocolate—but neither are a 100% stand-in for the real thing. So we’ll make our way through these and then we’ll try another recipe.
Jen did break out and use the galette iron on Tuesday, filling the house with the smell of Belgian dessert waffles and making it impossible to concentrate on work. There’s now a full batch sitting on the counter ready to eat when the urge to snack hits. She’s not as pleased with this batch compared to the previous one, so the search for the right modifications to that recipe continues as well.
And the duck boots that I ordered over a month ago finally arrived the other day: they are 1 size too small for my feet, which means I’m going to have to brave the crowds at Nordstrom Rack to return them sometime next week (depending on what the return window is). That was a bummer.
Jen started a Lockardugan family tradition after Finn was born, something I’d never seen until she explained it to me: an advent calendar. She spends a ton of time searching out fun activities and traditions for our family to enjoy together, and I’ve written about some of them in years past. This year proved to be an extreme challenge.
We spent a quiet weekend together continuing the calendar events, starting with a Friday night ride through the area to find the best Christmas lights with some hot chocolate. Some of the old favorites weren’t set up this year. There’s a house with music-keyed lights and a working, lighted disco stage that gets tons of visitors every year who put a sign up saying, in effect, “thanks for coming, we’ll see you next year.” But the good news is that most other houses that that have been historically dark are covered in lights: evidence of Jen’s theory that we’re all trying to find cheer where we can, and one way to show it is to clean out the Target decoration aisle.
On Saturday we got a lazy start and then got down to business making Christmas cookies: first we made a batch of molasses and then mint dark chocolate dough, and then baked both of them. We’d talked about making galettes after the cookies but I think everyone was tired after being on our feet into the afternoon so we took the rest of the day off.
After dinner, we went out to check out a new house that Jen had heard about, which by itself made up for all of the lame Christmas house displays of the past: a lone house up in Security that had an incredible display keyed to a metal Christmas playlist.
On Sunday we all had different things going on, so I cleaned out the kegerator and did some puttering in the basement before we went out for a ride to the store. When we got home I worked on the engine in the garage and then came in to watch some football in the warmth until it was time for our Sunday activity: a dinner picnic under the tree. Because we didn’t feel like making anything, we got chicken from Popeye’s, made a fire in the fireplace, and finished playing the rest of Thursday’s activity: a homemade game of Christmas Who Am I.
Jen spent a lot of time organizing the advent calendar this year, and really filled it with fun things for the three of us to do together. Despite all of the bullshit going on beyond the borders of our house, I feel like we’ve spent the best holiday time with each other this year than ever, and I feel more cheerful about this season than I have in a long time—even though we can’t see family or friends.