Thanksgiving morning is here, and this is the first year in a long time that we’re not with family. Finn started with a cold early last week and coughed on Jen several times; this developed into COVID, which was helpfully confirmed by a note from the school two days after we quarantined Finn. Thanks for that speedy notification, guys. They’ve both been squirreled away in separate bedrooms since last Thursday, depending on Captain Chaos here to keep them fed. Overall it’s been OK; Finn seems to be on the mend  but Jen lost her sense of taste and smell several days ago and keeps spiking a fever, so there’s no end in sight for her. I’ve been running up and down the stairs and washing my hands constantly trying to avoid the ‘Rona again—we’ve all been boosted, but ‘Rona don’t care—hopefully at least Finn can join me today for a Thanksgiving feast downstairs.

I’ve cooked many a turkey dinner myself over the years, starting in 1996 when I’d bought my house in Canton, but I had no desire to do it this year. Wisely I punted and ordered a dinner for 4 from the restaurant down the street where we get coffee and breakfast. It’s all packed neatly in the IH fridge in the garage waiting to be heated and served. Running errands yesterday, I stumbled upon two 12-packs of Founder’s All-Day Hazy IPA, something I’ve only seen once before. I drink their regular All-Day, well, regularly, but this is only made in small batches so it’s wise to jump on when you see it. I hemmed and hawed and then bought the only two cases they had, feeling smug with myself.

With the spare time I had at the end of the day Tuesday, I finally got off my ass and did something with some designs I’d built last year: I put up ten Scout shirt designs on Threadless, announced it through Instagram, and pointed it back to the Old Line State Binders site I’ve had live for a year but never done anything with. The legalities of using the IH logo are tricky, and I don’t want to make anyone mad, so I’m not using it or the logo script anywhere. I’ve been nervous about sharing these but I figure what the hell; I’m not doing anything else with them and it’s about time they made me a little money. I’ve made a couple of orders already; we’ll see if anything happens. Now that I’ve begun, I’ve got some ideas for other shirts in the works.

Update 5PM: Finn is officially clear, but Jen is still positive. We busted into our premade holiday meal and everyone demolished their plates; the only thing that went untouched was something called “sauerkraut with apples”, which smelled about as bad as you might imagine from that description.

Date posted: November 24, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

Saturday was almost 70˚ here in Maryland, a rare treat for November, and the last warm day forecasted for a while. So I got outside and made the most of it. The first task of the day was to help move frozen turkeys from our church to another one down the street for their Thanksgiving food giveaway. I got the Scout gassed up, bought some coffee, and pulled up to the house behind the church just in time to throw 15 frozen birds in the back. The destination church was the one we volunteered at last year, spending the whole morning to help sort and organize meals in bags and then hand them out as cars drove through the parking lot. This year they’d presorted everything so I dropped the birds off and wished everyone a happy holiday; they had things well in hand without me getting in the way.

From there I stopped at home to see the girls, and then loaded the truck up with the girl, the dog, and a load of crap for the dump. After pitching a bunch of garbage, we stopped at the bakery up the street for donuts, then hit the Home Depot for a ceiling fan to be installed in the hallway upstairs.

I didn’t want to miss out on the weather, so I went out to the garage and started organizing. Years ago, when we were trying to insulate the front porch, I wound up with about thirty sheets of unfaced insulation that I couldn’t use elsewhere so I stored it up in the attic of the garage. I’ve been meaning to get up there and clean it out for years, but working with insulation is one of my least favorite jobs so I’ve been putting it off. I’m also at the point where my available space in the garage is at its lowest point ever, so something had to give. With mask and gloves I pulled all the bales down and bagged them up for disposal, then hauled both Scout windshields, the spare gas tank, and several other bulky items up and out of the way. I have to go up and organize things better, but it’s a good start and it frees up a lot of space on the floor.

Before the sun went down, I threw the breaker for the vestigial knob-and-tube wires on the second floor and disassembled the ceiling fan left over from the Doctor’s ownership. When I repainted the hallway up there last summer I hit it with the ladder and cracked one of the blades; no great loss there. The new fan is a three-blade unit with a remote control but the genius engineers didn’t build the remote circuitry inside the fan housing—it’s a separate box that gets wired in between the fan and the power line. Because this house is 100 years old and it’s all plaster and lathe, I have no way of stuffing the box up into the eaves without doing major surgery, something I’d like to avoid for now. So it’s hung and wired until I can get back up there in more daylight and cut a fucking hole in my ceiling to make it work properly.

Date posted: November 13, 2022 | Filed under general, house | Leave a Comment »

The plan for this Sunday was to clear a bunch of small items off the to-do list; thankfully the weather was sunny so it wasn’t a chilly chore day. We started out with a walk downtown for coffee and empanadas with Hazel, who had been denied a morning walk for multiple reasons most of the week. After pulling the Scout out and taking care of some business there, I culled through a bunch of old computer and electronic gear to figure out what needs to go and what can stay. Then I replaced the taillight bulb in the Accord, which attracted a cop and a repair order last week, and put the storm windows in on the porch. Pretty standard stuff.  I’m trying to be OK with a slow day because yesterday I drove down to Bob’s house to continue work on the upstairs hallway, where the rest of the wallpaper needed to come down and I had to smooth out the giant canyons in the drywall left behind. Between the gallons of wallpaper paste used and the temperature Bob had his thermostat set at, I was dehydrated and sore by the time I was ready to leave.

Date posted: October 30, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

I went in and got my dual booster/flu shot yesterday afternoon, after weeks of thinking about it, putting it off, and getting mad at myself for having procrastinated. My flu shot is in the left arm, and the booster is in the right, so I fully suspect I’ll be unable to eat food with my own arms tomorrow and possibly down with a reaction. We’ll see how I respond to the double-whammy.

Update: 99 degree fever and a headache. I’m sitting in on some meetings from bed but feeling pretty lousy.

* * *

Three years into COVID, I remain thankful we bought this house and rehabbed the front porch into a home office; I would have gone crazy working from the dining room table for this long. One slight drawback to this room is that it was built from an outdoor porch, and despite all of my efforts to weatherproof and insulate it, it remains about 5˚ cooler than the rest of the house. As a human being who is always cold, this sucks for me in the wintertime. As a result, I’ve spent the last couple of days wearing a pair of sweats Jen got for me last Christmas. They’re black and are lined with faux-sheepskin fleece, so they keep my legs warm at all times. I think I need to go back to Amazon and order five more pair: If I keep wearing these every day they’re going to stand up on their own.

Date posted: October 26, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

We did a very unusual thing on Wednesday, and enjoyed ourselves immensely: we traveled to Virginia to meet up with Jen’s childhood friend Raquel and her family to tour Mount Vernon, George Washington’s family home. The weather was gray and gloomy for most of the morning, but as the day unfolded and as we walked the grounds the sky cleared up and we got to really soak in the beauty of the location. I’d never been there before, so it was a new experience for me, and I enjoyed being with Finn to see it with her. From there we headed into D.C. for dinner with their family; they are lovely people and we would definitely like to see them again when they’re in town.

Saturday we traveled down to Bob’s house to keep things moving forward for him; while Jen cleaned the kitchen cabinets I rebuilt the surround to his bedroom door, sorted out a pile of random keys, finished his Ring doorbell install, and made a bunch of other improvements around the house. Having the Ring hooked up is another way for us to keep track of what’s going on, and it’ll be good to be able to check in when we need to.

* * *

This morning the ladies got themselves cleaned up for church and I got dressed to take Hazel out for a long walk. Our first stop was at the farmer’s market, where I stocked up on empanadas and found Jen some fresh yellow peaches; while I was there I ran into an old friend from my gaming days and walked the neighborhood for an hour or so in the sunshine, catching up. From there I headed back home to catch up on some housework. I’ve spent all spring and summer hauling tools to Bob’s house to complete long-delayed work at his place, and each project is involved enough that I’m pretty worn out by Sunday morning. That means our house is suffering from neglect and there are projects around here that I haven’t tackled at all.

At some point in the last six months, one of our wood cradles had a little too much to drink and leaned over onto its neighbor for support. I looked out there last weekend and realized the whole thing had tipped over into the neighbor’s yard, so I knew I was going to have to do something before the snow started falling.

After putting the hardtop on the Scout, I wheeled a bunch of tools over and started throwing wood into a pile on the lawn. When the cradles were empty, I rebuilt one and attached them both to a long set of feet, then screwed braces into each of the endcaps so that they have lateral and vertical support. Finn arrived home just in time to help me reload each cradle with wood, and when that was complete we put the tarp back on top to keep things dry. It looks janky but I’m not interested in aesthetics; I just want dry wood for the winter.

Date posted: October 9, 2022 | Filed under general, house | Leave a Comment »

Earlier this year, we took Jen’s Dad to his local Verizon store to buy an iPhone and an Apple Watch. The phone is nice to have, but the watch was the important part; we wanted to be able to track his heart, blood pressure, and have some kind of fall monitor for when he’s home by himself. We sat in the store for what felt like way too much time, double-checked all of the information, and walked out with the hardware. It worked fine for a couple of weeks, but I started getting worried when I didn’t see any bills coming to the house. When I reviewed his bills at the beginning of September, we found out that the statements were going to the wrong address and Verizon had shut the phone off for nonpayment. Thus began a truly Kafkaesque descent into customer service hell.

Because they’d never given us a customer PIN number, we couldn’t handle anything over the phone, so Jen had to take him in to a local store. They spent four hours watching the CSR there bounce from department to department on the phone, disappear repeatedly into the back room to talk to a manager, but were only able to walk out with an updated address, zero balance, and a customer PIN. The phone was still deactivated and couldn’t be reset.

I brought all of the paperwork down to his house yesterday, drank a cup of coffee, plugged in my Airpods, and got on the phone to try and sort things out. For the first two hours I went through four CSRs until I was handed off to a nice man named Del, who kindly and patiently walked me through resetting the phone and then the watch for another hour and a half. Thankfully, he’s now got a phone, a watch that works, and I can see account statements online. If his Ring battery had charged properly, I could have gotten that set up as well, but it’s going to have to wait until next week.

* * *

The CR-V had a bit of an adventure on Thursday, where it slipped out of gear in a parking lot, rolled down a hill, and backed itself into another car. Nobody was hurt, and the car is still driveable, but the rear hatch is severely dented where it hit the other vehicle. I opened it in our driveway, after removing the spare tire, and tried to close it, but either the hinge or the door is bent and it needs to be lifted slightly to latch properly. I found another silver CR-V in a pick-your-own yard about twenty minutes away and tried to run out there this morning to grab the hatch, but Hurricane Whatever has been dumping water on us for the second straight day. Walking through a muddy junkyard in a rainstorm is unpleasant; walking through a muddy junkyard carrying 80 lbs. of hatch is just stupid. My upcoming week is pretty nuts but I’m going to try to get out there next week to grab it before they crush the car.

Date posted: October 2, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

On or about Jen’s birthday we had a big storm blow through Maryland, and as it left, it took the scorching heat with it. Since Thursday it’s been averaging a beautiful 80˚, with sunshine and a light breeze pretty much all day. Poor Jen has been cranking on work for the last two weeks so we didn’t really get to do much on the day; I did get the family some delicious Indian food from Ananda and a slice of Smith Island Cake from the market down the street, which we enjoyed by candlelight at the table.

On Saturday we had a fun activity planned: Karean and Zachary drove over from Easton and we went to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone live. They project the movie on a huge screen over the stage, minus the music track, and the symphony plays along in time. The effect is stunning. So much fun! And the audience is into it. We had a blast seeing it again—so much so that I want to read the books again.

Sunday we packed up the CR-V (I got the A/C fixed just in time for the heat to break, but that’s timing for you) and headed to Bob’s house to visit and make some more repairs; I got the front hedges trimmed and swapped in a new sink faucet in the powder room. The hot water shutoff is leaking, so I had to crawl under the house to the main water shutoff (I’d like to punch whoever designed that house right in the dick) and then try to unscrew the valve from the pipe, but a combination of the angle, size of the cabinet, the wrong tools, and lack of patience got the better of me. I hung up my monkey wrench and made a note of what I’ll need for the next attempt.

Jen and I boxed up three cabinets’ worth of glasses in the kitchen so that I can pull them off the wall. Two of them have separated at the back, so they’re hanging precariously over the counter. My plan is to get them down onto the floor, rebuild the boxes, and make them sturdier than before. Then we can rehang them and make them useful again (it’s much cheaper than all-new cabinets).

I also tried to get the Chrysler started again, but for some reason that was being balky too. Spraying half a can of starter fluid into the carb got it close but not running, but I don’t know exactly why. I tested it for spark again, and that was fine, but it won’t catch. I think I’ve got to pull the carb off again and see if anything is wrong inside.

Date posted: August 15, 2022 | Filed under Baltimore, family, friends, general | Leave a Comment »

I’m on Week 8 of my Invisalign trays, and I’m noticing the first real change since I started this thing: my top front teeth are much less overlapped then they were when I started. After eight weeks I can confidently say something is happening. I put these trays in and I can also feel them pulling my rear molars outward, which means everything is proceeding to plan. Basically we’re trying to get the molars and bicuspids to spread out so that everything up front has more room; when that’s done everything up front will get pulled forward and realigned. Next December (no, not this December) can’t come soon enough.

* * *

I spent the whole trip in Austin fighting my farsightedness, which got very frustrating by the time we left. I’ve avoided wearing my readers due to the disorientation the secondary lenses add to my vision, but I think I’m at the point now where I can’t put it off anymore. I spent the plane ride home trying to find the proper distance to read a secondhand copy of Ready Player One, and by the time I was done I was annoyed with the book and had a medium-sized headache. (The book is built around an interesting concept, but is way too try-hard at “geek culture”. ) I’ve been wearing readers since I got back, and while it makes some things easier, I can’t say my quality of life is better.

Having worn them pretty much every day since we got back, I noticed this afternoon that I was getting an ocular migraine, which feels a bit like a panic attack, a caffeine overdose, and an LSD trip all in one. It’s the second one I’ve had—right before we left for Austin I had another—and I read that one of the triggers is strained eyesight and staring at screens for too long. I took the readers off and put my normal glasses back on, and I feel much better now.

* * *

I’ve had the iPad Pro for several weeks now, and while I love the utility of it, I’m still not using it to its full potential. I’ve spent some good hours playing around in Procreate, and while I can quickly accomplish a lot of things in there that would take me days in Illustrator or Photoshop, I haven’t found the right workflow for the first project I’m trying to accomplish. The test I did took me about 4 hours, while the versions I did the old-school way took me probably three times that amount. A helpful addition would be to use Sidecar, Apple’s built in monitor functionality, where one can use the iPad as an additional monitor, but that requires a more modern machine that I currently own.

Date posted: August 2, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

I think we all had a great time in Texas, even if it was an unorthodox vacation for us. Normally we go someplace and there’s a mission or an activity to be accomplished; this can be anything as stupid as get to the beach before noon or as complex as be in the lobby by 8 for the bus to St. Peter’s Square. There’s a plan, and we try to follow the plan. For this vacation, we had a destination, we had friends to see, and we had a vague notion of things to do, but most of the enjoyment for me was just coasting from day to day. As such, this review is going to wander all over the place, because I don’t remember exactly what happened when, and that’s kind of a good thing.

The house Jen found for us was absolutely perfect. Set on the east side of the city, we rented a mod little cottage set back from the road in a stand of trees. It was cool, quiet, decorated tastefully, and within walking distance of several restaurants that served great coffee. I made it my job to rise early and bring back breakfast for the three of us to slowly get our days started. We had the luxury of having the house to relax in, and actually spent a fair bit of time there just enjoying the cool quiet by ourselves. It was clear they’d spent time designing it with sunlight in mind; each wall was sprinkled with small windows set high off the ground for maximum privacy. All the surfaces were reclaimed wood, and the floor was poured concrete.

Jen had ideas sketched out for each day. Our first day on the ground, we pulled beach towels and swimsuits out of our suitcases and drove to Deep Eddy, a cold spring-fed community pool that was very quiet for such a hot day. We lucked out and found a parking spot right out front, paid our tickets, and were able to immediately wade into refreshing water with a very slippery bottom. Being spring-fed, it took me a while to get up to my waist, but it was worth it to see Finn wade right in and make some new friends.

We spent Friday hitting some of Austin’s best thrift/vintage stores; they take their thrifting seriously down there. We started at a place called the Leopard Exchange, where I found a vintage Budweiser delivery shirt that fit like a glove. Around that shop were about five others, each with their own vibe. The level of curation at these places is beyond anything I’ve seen in Baltimore—there are a few vintage clothing stores I’ve been to here but nothing like the selection and pricing we found there. I looked long and hard for a good western pearlsnap shirt but came away empty handed—the closest I got was made of heavy polyester and wouldn’t be comfortable for a day’s wear. Finn took us to an alternative store and picked out a corset with Jen’s help; she found a way to relace it and wore it for the next couple of days.

On Friday I posted a picture of a Scout I saw on Congress Street to Instagram and the local IH community said hello; I’ll write more about that elsewhere. We walked the length of the street and found some great artwork, as well as spending time in a store called Lucy In Disguise with Diamonds, which was full to the rafters with interesting costumes for Halloween and from feature films. After stopping at Guero’s Taco Bar for some dinner, we hiked down the hill to the Congress Street Bridge, where a crowd had gathered to watch the bats fly out to hunt at dusk. It was incredible; thousands of bats following in trail down the river and out over the city, enough to show up as a dark blot on the horizon.

When the main swarm had left, we rented scooters and rode them back up the hill to our car, which was one of the better ideas we had all week.

We spent Saturday and Sunday hanging out with Linda and Cam at their house, and they took us to a couple of their favorite restaurants in the area. It was great to catch up with them and relax.

Monday we drove to Barton Springs, another naturally-fed community pool, and spent a good bit of the day swimming in the cool water under the skyline of the city. It was a perfect way to spend the day—just wading in and out of the water, with noplace to get to and nothing else to do. When we started getting hungry, we reluctantly dried off and drove to a restaurant called Chi’lantro, where Jen and I ordered Kimchi Fries, a dish Linda has been talking about for years. We were not disappointed. Then we checked out some more stores featuring local art, hoping we’d find something good. It was hit and miss.

On Tuesday we did some shopping for our neighbors, who helped us with housesitting, and who always bring back interesting things from their travels. We hit a store called Uncommon Objects, which featured an incredible collection of curated antiques and oddities, including some artwork we loved but couldn’t afford.

We don’t have an Alamo Drafthouse by us, so we thought we’d take in Thor: Love and Thunder on our last night in town. We had a lot of fun, and Finn loved the movie. I think the thing I remember most about that experience was a music video they played before the show which was equally disturbing and hilarious.

Wednesday morning we hustled back to the airport, turned in our little Buick (review: nice little car, but abysmal visibility past the B-pillar) and sailed through security in record time. The flight was uneventful, and we got back to our house by 4PM. All of the pets were happy to greet us except for Bella, who remained asleep on my pillow, and we collapsed into chairs, tired from the trip.

I would happily return to Austin anytime as long as they can stave off Gilead; it was a great city filled with great people and a vibe I remember from the early 90’s in Baltimore when it was weird and full of artists. I’d love to transplant a bunch of that energy here.

Date posted: July 29, 2022 | Filed under general, photo, travel | Leave a Comment »

Jen and I took some well-deserved time together to watch the new season of Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and while we had some problems with each of them, I enjoyed them both very much.

Spoilers ahead!

Stranger Things took a long time to get things going over the first bunch of episodes, and there were several plotlines I could easily have done without. Everytime the action moved to Russia I looked at my watch and reached for my beer. My irrational dislike of Matthew Modine continues—how did that guy get cast by Kubrick? Oh, right, he’s a blank piece of wallpaper. They sidelined Maya Hawke into a caricature of anxieties, when she was the deepest character from last season. But the last two episodes paid off handsomely, and just to have a character play Master of Puppets on a trailer roof in the middle of Hell was worth the wait. When the other characters were bumbling around in the dark, Max took center stage and carried most of the show—and it worked. P.S. I’ve had enough Kate Bush, thank you.

Obi Wan Kenobi was also a fun ride, if you’re willing to look past the obvious plot holes (and as a superfan of the original Star Wars, I knew they would be Death Star-sized.) Yeah, it’s another “save the kid” setup—this, after the Mandalorian spent two seasons showing us how it’s done properly—but it was great to see these characters in a different, non-Lucas situation where a director understands how to engage with people. Ewan McGregor killed it. There’s a scene where he’s got to bust out the lightsaber and take out some Stormtroopers in a hallway, and after he’s dropped the last one, he does the badass twirl-lightsaber-and-return-to-ready-position thing from the Phantom Menace, and that’s when we know Shit Just Got Real. I about fell off the couch. The duel he has with Vader is probably one of the best swordfights in the whole series—Rey and Kylo going through the Red Guards might be the top of that list—but it had me on the edge of my seat, even though I know how the whole thing is going to end. My guess is that Ewan McGregor was thrilled to return to this simply for the opportunity to revisit the character and show what could have been possible twenty years ago. It’s not often in life we are offered a do-over; I’d say he made the best of it.

Date posted: July 14, 2022 | Filed under entertainment, general | Leave a Comment »