For the last year or so we’ve been working on finding a good school to get Finn into so that she’s got the best possible chances in 9 through 12th grade. We looked at a couple of very pricy private schools, one of which seemed to be a factory for Stepford Aryan lacrosse players. She also tested for the local magnet school, which has a very good reputation in this area. We’d done a tour last fall and came away extremely impressed by all the programs we saw. Their graphic arts program was staffed and set up better than the facilities I taught at over at UMBC. Their Environmental Science programs all looked fascinating, all the technology programs were sharp, and even the cosmetology program was legit. Jen arranged for Finn to take the various tests and we waited nervously for the results. She didn’t wind up being accepted to the other expensive private school we looked at, but we found out this week she was accepted into the magnet for Environmental Science and she’s low on the wait list for the Graphic Arts program. I can’t express what a huge relief that was for our whole family.

Our local high school isn’t terrible—it’s rated #5,920 out of all of the high schools in the country, #104 in Maryland, with a 92% graduation rate. But in contrast, Western Tech is rated #366 in the country, and the #6 school in Maryland according to the US News & World Report ratings. And according to the Baltimore County report card, it has a 98.6% graduation rate. It’s set up to be a lot more rigorous, with a lower teacher-to-student ratio than the others, and the facilities and curriculum all look solid.

I’m so proud of her for working hard to get in. She deserves a program that will challenge her; I hope she digs in and makes the most of it.

Date posted: March 10, 2023 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

I haven’t taken many pictures in the last year—something I’ve been thinking about is looking over the number of files in my Lightroom library to see what the falloff has been—but we had to take a picture of Finn for a church thing yesterday and I thought I’d post it here too.

Date posted: February 14, 2023 | Filed under finn | 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.

* * *

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 »

warming tray 2

Happy Birthday, monkey.

Date posted: September 21, 2022 | Filed under finn, photo | Leave a Comment »


This is the first weekend in a long time where we’ve been home. Like, in our own house for two days. Jen has been socked in with work for several weeks, and a lot of it has come to a head, so we thought we’d take a break from driving south to Lexington Park and stay around the homestead. I’ve had a lot of things around the house piling up in our absence, so I took the opportunity to knock a couple of them out.

The first thing was replacing two basement windows that were original to the house. I’d ordered replacements back in March and they finally arrived about a month ago; I’ve been waiting for a solid weekend to tackle the project. Pulling the old windows was pretty quick work—they were only held in by two sets of ancient brass hinges and a hook and eye latch. I cleaned up the wooden surrounds, cut and installed baffles, and slotted them into place. With some careful carpentry the inside baffles got nailed into place, and they got caulked tight. Now we can have open windows and enjoy fresh air in the basement! A miracle.

The second project is one Jen has been asking about since last year: painting the garage to match the house. I started out by scraping the west side and got it ready for paint. After cleaning both my guns and consolidating the remaining paint, I filled the compressor and sprayed out the west side and half of the driveway side before running out. I’m going to have to repair some of the plywood on the front side and do a lot more scraping overall, but it looks pretty good so far.

* * *

Finn has been binging a new videogame for the past month, and has been asking me to play with her. It’s a survival/exploration game called Ark, where you land on an island teeming with dinosaurs and have to learn how to gather food, build tools and shelter, and tame those same dinosaurs to help you advance. She’s been playing on her iPad, but I can’t load it on my phone and squint at tiny menus. I saw that it was available for the Xbox so I ordered a used copy on Amazon and installed it on the console. From there it demanded a 100GB update, so we waited days for the console to choke that down (it puts itself to sleep after an hour, so I had to constantly keep it awake) and then two more updates before we could play.

Once that was done, we picked up our controllers and started a new world together. And found, very quickly, that it was almost impossible to navigate in 2-player mode. They split the screen horizontally, so the top half is one character view and the bottom half is another, but they didn’t change the menu system to fit that resolution. So when you go into the menu system (and half the game is spent here) it’s still the size and shape of an iPad and you have to squint at tiny little icons smushed into the narrow space given. It’s like looking at the menu bar of Word 97 through a peephole: impossible unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I tried for several nights but found it almost unusable.

She then found a new game called Albion and started playing that. Seeing that it was available for the Mac, I downloaded a copy and tried it on my 8-year-old laptop, which slowed to a gelatinous crawl, cooling fans struggling to keep the processor from melting. I thought about it for a day or so and decided I’d pull the trigger and finally buy the iPad Pro I’ve been looking at since they were released. Playing games with Finn was a big part of the decision, but the other reason was that I want to work in Procreate with the Apple Pencil and learn how to illustrate with the system. I bought a new 11″ unit with the Pencil and picked it up at the local Apple Store this past week. The early review is very favorable: playing Albion on it is easy and fun! We spent a couple of hours on Friday getting me set up in the game and understanding how not to die. Now I have to catch up to her character level.

This is the first device I’ve owned with Face ID, and it’s very slick. The Pencil is fast and responsive. I bought Procreate and started fooling around in the program but it’s going to take a lot of time to sort out how I use it and get the most out of it. Getting used to the way the brushes and pressure work is an uphill battle, especially for someone as picky about the tactile feel and orientation of scratchboard tools as I am. I’m going to start out trying to mimic what I know and love, and then see where the app takes me.

Date posted: July 11, 2022 | Filed under apple, finn, house | Leave a Comment »


Too much going on for updates today, so here’s a picture of my girl from 10 years ago when the weather was warm.

Date posted: April 5, 2022 | Filed under finn, photo | Leave a Comment »

Finn and I are sitting at the dining room table. She’s reading her D&D Player’s Handbook in preparation for the first meeting of the D&D club at school; she just made a new character specifically for the dungeon. I helped her step through the process using an Instructables post that helps one step through the process. The 1st edition Player’s Handbook was pretty terrible back in 1981 about this, and I’m afraid the 5th edition is no better. There should be, as part of the first chapter, a step-by-step explanation of what all the numbers and modifiers and dice rolls and checkboxes are. But no.

I’m still in my pajamas because it’s March 12 and there’s a snowstorm blowing outside, gusting at 50mph. I don’t particularly feel like going outside in that. Thus, I can’t do anything with the Scout, I don’t feel like going out for parts, or really anything else to do with putting real clothes on.

I’ve pretty much reached the end of The Division, my shooter game on the Xbox, so this morning I switched back over to The Division 2 (the one I played first). I’d come to the end of that game as well, but there’s an expansion pack that I’ll probably buy sometime this week to finish it out. I haven’t bothered to go back to my $1.50 copy of Red Dead Redemption after I kept failing the horse-riding tutorial at the beginning, so I’m hoping the D2 expansion pack has a bunch of new content to play.

Date posted: March 12, 2022 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »


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).


Date posted: February 22, 2022 | Filed under family, finn | Leave a Comment »

Finley has been going to karate since she was 9. When she was little, we did all the things parents are supposed to do: we enrolled her in dance class, in soccer, and karate. Dance flamed out pretty early; there was an episode where her dance shoes got moved backstage, her anxiety boiled over, and she spent the entire performance crying on the stage, frozen. Thankfully, they say a child’s brain completely resets itself a couple of times before they hit puberty, so I’m glad she doesn’t remember that afternoon; it scarred me for life.


She stuck with soccer for several years, and showed flashes of inspiration while playing defense—playing offense meant she had to run more, and that was not OK. She met some new girls on those teams and did her best to make friends, but those friendships—and soccer—didn’t last. We figured OK, perhaps she’s more motivated by the pursuit of individual excellence, as I was at that age: doing something I could fail at by myself, vs. letting the whole team down by my incompetence and abysmal hand-eye coordination.

So we enrolled her in karate at a fantastic family-oriented dojo in Columbia, where the owners start out teaching kids about concepts like discipline and integrity before the Crane Kick and Sweeping The Leg. She began with a large cohort of kids which slowly winnowed down due to life, lack of interest, and COVID; all through the pandemic we paid our fees and brought her to masked summer workouts in the parking lot. After teens were cleared for vaccinations they went back to in-person training but most of the other kids from her cohort were already gone: they’d all advanced past her, up into the Advanced group. She was with kids who were a foot shorter and four years younger. And she was still avoiding any kind of practice outside of the dojo so all of her forms were terrible. The other part of the test—running a timed mile and a half—has been her cross to bear.

We’ve had multiple conversations with the Master about her situation, and he’s been absolutely understanding. He’s gone so far as to talk with her during and outside of class about her motivation and goals, but as with our family discussions, it hasn’t ever stuck. She’s huffed and puffed through her laps around the building while younger and older kids zip past her. The Master offered her a chance to be a helper during practices, which was meant to inspire her to action, but that didn’t have any effect. Jen started waking her earlier in the morning to get up and run first thing, and after I got over my stay in quarantine I took over escort duty: following her in the car and reminding her to keep running when she stops to walk.

This actually went well for a couple of weeks—there were days where she was able to run almost the entire way without stopping. But there have been setbacks as well. Last week was pretty bad, and she didn’t run over the weekend so I figured Monday would be terrible. I was right.

I’d gone out to clean snow off the car and warm it up, and when I finished I realized she had been standing in front of the house procrastinating. When I asked her why she wasn’t running, she claimed it was too cold and she didn’t want to. I told her to start running or I’d kick her ass down the street (this is not the first time I’ve told her I’d kick her ass, and I was already annoyed that she’d ignored her alarm going off for 15 minutes before getting up). She tested me by looking at me as she walked away down the street, the I’m thirteen, what are you gonna do look on her face we’re seeing more of these days. I walked up and kicked her ass, and she started running.

About an eighth of a mile down the road she’d stopped to walk again, and when I pulled up next to her, she refused to run again. I warned her a second time, and when she kept walking I got out of the car, walked up behind her and kicked her ass again—twice. She just kept walking.

For a moment, I weighed my options. I really wanted to just keep kicking her ass all the way down and back home; nothing would have given me more satisfaction than a tired leg and sore toes from that exercise. I also would have been thrown directly in jail for child abuse. If we lived out in the country with no houses around,  my shoe would still be embedded up her ass. But at the risk of doing her real bodily harm, I got in the car, turned around and drove home.

I’m at my wits’ end and supremely, monumentally frustrated with my daughter, for this and many other reasons I won’t get into here. There was a time, not too long ago, when I felt like a good dad. I could, with a glance, read her face and have better than a 90% chance of knowing what she wanted, how she was feeling, or if she just needed a hug. I spent hours with her, trusting my instincts and learning about myself and my own limitations while she taught me how to be a better human—just by being herself. I saw the kind, intelligent, curious little girl she was and my heart swelled with pride just to be with her, just to be her father.

I’ve lost all of that. I’m backed into a corner where I can’t reason with, motivate, inspire, or get this teenager to see common sense. She’s a stubborn mule who gets fixated on particular things to the detriment of herself and all of her relationships. She has absolutely no executive functioning abilities whatsoever. She is pure id and no ego: all cake and no cooking. While I see so much of myself in her every day (and always have, and have always admitted this) I still can’t break through to her. I don’t know how to help her. At some point when I was around her current age I started understanding and accepting the concept of larger responsibilities, and while I grumbled about them and fucked them up, I started doing them. She’s nowhere near this yet—when faced with responsibility she chooses to argue inane logic or feign serious injury and fall asleep on the couch. She can’t learn from her mistakes because she forgets the mistakes and refuses to do things over. We can’t get through to her because she hasn’t realized she needs to be responsible for herself in any way.

This evening, after Jen made us a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner and some homemade dessert, Finn walked behind my chair and put her arms around my shoulders and hugged me tight. I love her so much it hurts, but the line between love and ass-kicking is very thin right now.

Date posted: February 15, 2022 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

We’ve been keeping Finn up to date with world events as much as possible, which can be tricky because we don’t watch network news as a family. I mentioned the Tennessee school district recently banning Maus to her over dinner, and we explained a little bit about what the book was, then asked her to think about why they might be doing that. We had a pretty good family talk. I mentioned something Stephen King said about books being banned—when “they” start deciding what books we can’t read, it’s our job to go right out and read them and decide for ourselves what’s so bad about them. I reached behind me to the library behind our dining room table, pulled out our copy of Maus, and gave it to her to read. She’s currently on page 62.

Date posted: February 10, 2022 | Filed under finn, politics | Leave a Comment »