We had our first real snowfall in something like 700 days, so naturally we had to get out there and get some sledding in. I sanded and waxed the rails on our wooden sled, dug out the car, and we headed over to the local community college to meet up with the Geblers and get some runs in.
Greased Lightning did not disappoint. I had an envious kid ask me if our fast wooden sled steered; I told him to hit an antique store and get one for cheap.
On my third run or so I ran into a jump someone made, and the sled stopped while I kept on going. Laughing, I picked myself back up and walked back up the hill. Later I realized that landing on the snow had broken the zipper on my jacket and shredded several of the down pockets at the bottom, as well as popped one of the lenses out of my glasses that were in the pocket.
A few runs later, Finn drove our plastic sled directly into a tree and gave herself some mild abrasions on her chin. We returned home to get some hot chocolate and attend to the patient. I went online and found The North Face Renewed, where they repair and re-home used gear. I got a replacement jacket for $100, which is half of what a new Patagonia is going for (and from what I’ve read those don’t hold up very well). I’ve had this jacket for (5? 6?) seasons and it’s been great, so I figure it will be the new work jacket.
We went out for brunch the day before Christmas and had a wonderful time at a new restaurant.
Today we went to Annapolis to have tea. It’s pretty amazing how full you can be from a tray of sweet and savory treats.
Finn has been without her iPhone for a month or so now, on account of 9th grade being a degree of difficulty harder than 8th grade was. We’ve got an agreement that she needs to keep her grades above a certain level to have access to her phone, and currently that threshold has not been met. (It’s also much harder to get grades back up quickly in 9th grade than it was last year). Without entertainment, her life has been dull. She was given money for her birthday present this year and wisely picked out an inexpensive knockoff iPod Fun Time! Music MP3 All Day Player Box from Amazon. When it arrived I intercepted it and loaded a bunch of music on a sidecar MiniSD card, as it wouldn’t mount to any of our Macs. I’m giving it some grief because clearly it’s a very basic knockoff of an iPod, but for $40, it’s a color touchscreen music player/radio/video player with 64GB of space; this same thing would have been worth ten times this amount five years ago. Anyway, I stuffed it with music and gave it to her over breakfast the next morning.
I tried to find the sweet spot between loading music I know she likes and stuff I think she might like based on previous conversations. The biggest problem is that I haven’t bought new music in years. We used to get CD’s from the library down the street but they’ve been closed for renovations since January (opening Spring 2024!) so everything I have on the server is at least a year old or more. That being said, she’s now got the classics she enjoys with Mom: Erasure, Duran Duran, the Cure, George Michael, Prince, etc. From my side I put some assorted stuff on there: Silversun Pickups, M83, Beck, and The White Stripes, as well as classic albums from Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Clash, and others.
We drove out to the Lowe’s to pick up some wood this evening and I asked her what she listened to. She said she made a playlist with a couple of Silversun Pickups songs, a few Beach House tunes, and one from Cut Copy that she really liked. I did my best not to be Ken from the scene in Barbie where he starts lecturing about what made Pavement so important and stuck to asking her what she liked and didn’t like so I can find her more music. We had a good conversation about it, and she seems real happy. We were able to hook it up to the deck in the Scout and rock out, and it put a smile on her face, which is all I’m asking for these days.
Saturday morning, the family rose early and walked down the street to help sort and assemble boxes of foot for two local food pantries. We’ve done this for a couple of years now, and we’re getting to be pros at it; this year’s date was a month or so early, so the amount of food donated wasn’t as large as we were used to. But we all pitched in and made ourselves as useful as possible. At events like this, with decentralized leadership, we’ve found it’s always best to stand back and let someone else explain how things are going to work and what needs to be done, and I think we’re all very good at staying out of the way but pitching in where needed.
We walked back home, let the dog out, and then drove into the city for a tasty sushi lunch in my old neighborhood at the foot of Boston street. It’s boring and repetitive to write about how much things have changed down there, but it’s good to see some things are still similar. After filling ourselves on lunch I bought the girls our first PSLs of the season at the Starbucks up the street, which were…underwhelming. For $16 I was really expecting a lot more flavor. Then we drove up to my other old neighborhood and stopped in to the MICA bookstore for Finn to find some art supplies. I picked up a new watercolor pad and some window stickers to replace the one that crumbled on the Accord, and while I was there I spied a big retrospective book they produced a couple of years ago:
Thumbing back through the years I stumbled on a page about Portfolio Review day, which is (in an oft-told tale here at Lockardugan Central) where Mom and I drove down to Baltimore, I showed them my work, and was offered admission to the school on the spot. I took a picture of the page because this is exactly how I remember it—sitting on the steps in the Main Building to visit the various desks. Thankfully my friend Jeff and I had already attended a series of other Review days at Pratt and Cooper Union so we knew what to expect and how to set up our work.
On Sunday I got up and drove over to Columbia, where I met up with Scout friends and helped Bennett get the Hudson off the trailer and moving under its own power. We really didn’t have to do much, other than unstrap it and get it started; the accelerator pump is shot so it bogged down when he got on the gas, but it ran enough for us to take a few short drives up and down the lane.
Then we headed back to Bennett’s house to help demo a trellis on his back deck, which has been leaning drunkenly under the weight of a 20-year-old wisteria. We strapped it to an adjacent tree and used various power and levering instruments to remove most of the wood and stacked in in the back of his truck. Then we paused for some lunch and cold beer, and by 3PM were packing up for home. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed and we were all tucked into bed by 9:30.
I get infrequent updates from the Maryland 529 Plan about Finn’s college fund, usually in the form of an email that contains a link to a “secure” PDF I have to download to read. I’m still puzzling over this farkakte security strategy; the school district does the same thing. It’s sort of like hitching a team of oxen up to your car to drive out to the store. Anyway, there has been a bunch of controversy over the earnings rate of Prepaid Trust accounts, which is what we set up for Finn. Somehow the administration of the accounts got all fucked up and they’re in the middle of sorting that mess out, and have predictably been doing an abysmal job of communicating about it, going so far as to re-hiring the guy who oversaw the train wreck to continue overseeing it. The message I got yesterday from the state treasurer was attached to a 40-page document outlining the beginnings of the program, a timeline of issues, decisions, and events that led up to the current situation, and a not-so-intuitive explanation of what they’re doing moving forward. I’m still processing all the information to try and make an informed decision as to what we’ll do with Finn’s account (keep it in the Prepaid plan, or roll it over into a standard 529 plan), and I requested a manual calculation of our current balance with interest based on this new number.
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.
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.
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.
Happy Birthday, monkey.