Today’s forecast called for snow starting in the early afternoon, going until early Monday morning. It’s currently 29˚ with the wind howling outside our windows. I worked on an editing project for WRI for most of the day through Zoom, where two editors shared their screens with me and we made real-time edits to 3+ hours of a 4-camera shoot virtually. I have to thank whoever is responsible for the technological advances that made it possible for me to avoid driving to DC in this weather to sit in an editing bay until the weather got truly miserable for the drive home.
Working on the bus this summer with Brian, I realized pretty quickly that my welding “skills” are terrible. If I’m going to get any better at welding, either for the Scout or for working on projects with him, I need to learn how to do it properly. There’s a Fundamentals of Welding class taught at a welding supply and distributor here in Baltimore. This isn’t a 2-hour teaser; it’s twelve 3-hour sessions in April and May that goes through the basic principles, teaches gas-tungsten, gas-metal and shielded metal arc welding, plasma cutting, weld inspection, and basic metallurgy. It’s exactly what I need to learn what I don’t know, practice what I should, and be prepared for whatever trouble we get ourselves into with Brian’s next project. I don’t think we’re going back to full-time office work anytime soon, so I don’t think a Tuesday/Thursday evening class should be a problem.
The first day I noticed symptoms of COVID was Thursday the 30th, right before New Year’s. I took the first OTC test on Sunday the 2nd, and I had my PCR on Wednesday the 5th, making it official. The CDC’s redundant, confusing, and overcomplicated quarantine guidelines specify keeping separate for 10 days after the first symptoms appear. I’ve been stuck in this fucking room for nine days now, and it’s been fourteen days since the first symptoms. I’m coming out tomorrow.
One thing to be thankful for is my Mom’s old TV, which I dragged home after we replaced it with a better one at Thanksgiving. It works, but the backlight died at some point so there’s a blue cast across most of the picture. Right before I sealed myself in this room I brought it up and stuck it on the dresser, figuring I’d need some kind of entertainment. I only get local channels, so I was able to watch football on the weekends, and crappy reruns for the rest of the week. So I’ve had my fill of CSI:Miami, CSI:NY, CHiPS, and most comfortingly, Emergency! (We used to watch Emergency! as kids with Mom and Dad before bedtime).
Jen has been taking excellent care of the invalid in the bedroom this whole time, and I’ve tried to be as easy on her as possible. She’s been doing double duty dealing with Finn home from school and Being A Teenager and our dopey dog, who can’t understand why I haven’t come out of this room. I don’t know who will be more excited for me to leave this room, Jen or Hazel.
In a Slack chat before Christmas, my colleague mentioned that her Dad restores and sells antique fountain pens. We talked about how awesome that was, and the fact that he’d replaced the furniture in her childhood bedroom with an industrial lathe so that he can manufacture new parts for them; I spent the next five minutes swooning over the pictures of the refurbished lathe and some of the pens on his website.
She surprised me with a small package right after Christmas from her Dad, containing two beautiful matching Esterbrook pens: a fountain pen and a mechanical pencil. They feel wonderful in my hand. The lead in the pencil is thick and smooth and is the exact opposite of everything I hate about mechanical pencils; it actually feels like a pen instead of dragging a wire across sandpaper. I can’t wait to put some ink in the pen and try it out.
I’m currently down to ~986 broken links on the site; in my spare time I’ve been cleaning things up, and I feel like I’m finally turning the corner. There are now a TON of outgoing links that point to the Wayback Archive; I’m going to have to make another donation to them this year. The Verge wrote about link rot last year, citing a study that used the New York Times as a test case; since 1996, over a quarter of the links within a 550,000-article test study were broken. As the articles got older, predictably the number went up: 72% of the links from 1998 were dead. Another thing I wasn’t aware of is an underground economy where people can pay to have broken links redirect to their sites; I guess any traffic is good traffic?
So I had an appointment for a PCR test at Hopkins yesterday through my oncologist, who I’d contacted as soon as I knew I had COVID. He basically told me they don’t consider me immunocompromised at this point even though my white blood cell count is still lousy, but got me an appointment for the PCR to check. For the first time since Sunday I left the
cell room and went straight to the car, which the ladies had shoveled out, and drove myself to Columbia. I sat on line behind about eight other cars and waited until a nice lady in a spacesuit stuck a swab clear to the back of my skull and twirled it around for 10 seconds. Then I drove home and went right back up to my room. The results came back about four hours later: still positive.
I’ve been working hard on this presentation for work, and with that test it’s pretty much certain I’m not going to be going to DC to participate in the fun stuff (a live TED-style taping I helped organize) and possibly not the editing process either. We thought the issue might be that the PCR is super-sensitive and picked up the last 10% of the virus in my system, so I took an OTC test this evening and waited nervously for the results: still firmly negative. Not a hint of a line, not a blur, but a solid line. Fuck.
I woke up on Friday with a sore throat and shrugged it off, thinking I’d spent the night snoring and had simply dried my sinuses out. It stuck around through the day—usually not a good sign—and on Saturday morning it was a bit worse. I began to get a bad feeling about it, and began thinking I should take the spare COVID test we had left from one of my trips over to see Brian. But all I had was the sore throat; I could taste and smell, I had no fever, or any other symptoms. Jen and I talked it over and we figured it was just allergies. I took allergy meds and made my way through the day as my nose started to run. On Sunday my my nose was constantly running, so I took some cold medicine and pulled the COVID test out of the box. Facing down a busy week of work and an on-site shoot next Tuesday, I wanted to be sure I was clear.
That second line on the bottom means oh shit. I immediately grabbed a couple of things and headed up to the spare bedroom to quarantine for the next eight days. My brother and sister-in-law dropped off spare OTC tests for Jen and Finn, and a pulse/ox meter to check my levels. Jen immediately began taking excellent care of me. It reminds me a little bit of the cancer days when I was knocked out by radiation and chemo, but at least then I wasn’t stuck talking to the girls through the door.
Finn went out and did battle with the snow, shoveling the front walk and the sidewalk all the way past the neighbors’ house. She’s going to be home for this week while we all quarantine, which also sucks. Jen set to work making food, and soon the lovely smell of chili wafted up through the floorboards into my room; when she brought a bowl up to me I gobbled the whole thing right up.
All things considered, I’m very lucky. Again, I have none of the other symptoms often mentioned. So far my oxygen levels haven’t been below 95% and I’ve only run a slight fever for a brief while. I’ve got my work laptop up here on the bed and I’ve been able to do everything remotely from my room. I’ve got Mom’s giant TV up on the dresser hooked up to a digital antenna, so I had reruns of Adam-12 on mute for part of the afternoon while I worked (broadcast TV is a fucking wasteland). I’m lucky to have gotten my booster when I did, and I’m super happy Jen got hers last week; the CDC just opened things up for 12-15 year olds so when we’re out of the clink we’ll get Finn her shot as well.
I didn’t expect to be one of the folks with COVID, but here we are. Once again, thank god for modern medicine.
December is winding down, and I’m looking through the various streams of data to see what I can learn from my online activities this year. I have WordPress configured to keep track of how many posts I’m writing per month and by which category. The yearly post count average looks like it’s holding steady over the last ten years, shallowing out the trend line that skewed from a flurry of activity in 2005:
The category data gets a little more complicated to parse, because my syndication system pulls in posts from the Scout blog and that data shows up in the category count. I used a GREP script to filter that out and updated the spreadsheet I used from last year, keeping 2020’s data and adding the new numbers to see what’s gotten the most attention. I pulled two categories from the count—Shortlinks (this category is just a flag for sidebar posts) and Photo (a flag for any post with an embedded Flickr photo) because they skew the data. Orange is 2020, red is 2021:
The Finn, Family, House, Politics (ugh) and Scout categories all bumped up a lot this year, which is what I’d expect. And clearly there are some categories that don’t get any love—maybe I retire and reclassify some of those in 2022?
My site stats tell me that May 2 was the busiest day of the year, and that posts I wrote about iPhone calendar battery drain and my Subaru GL wagon are by far the most heavily traveled pages on the site. That tracks; This site is more for me than it is for you, but I’m happy all three of you have read this far.
I got a text Christmas afternoon from Brian, who had been browsing Marketplace and found a 31′ Airstream Sovereign for a ridiculously low price and mentioned he was going to look at it at 8AM the next morning. Being an enabler, I invited myself along and promised I’d arrive at his doorstep at 7:30. Which meant I had to get up and out the door by 5:45.
Having successfully roused myself, I did in fact make it to his house by 7:30 with a fresh Boston kreme donut. We loaded up his truck and struck out for the border of Delaware, where we found the Airstream docked next to a large garage.
Waiting for the owner to come outside, we looked over the exterior and found it to be in excellent shape. The aluminum siding wasn’t too oxidized, and the tires held air (but definitely need to be replaced). All of the access doors were present. The glass looked OK, and while crazed from the UV coating having delaminated, wasn’t cracked. When the owner came outside he told us to have at the interior, and we stepped inside and backwards into 1974. 90% of the original cabinetry is still there. He’d ripped out all of the carpet so we could see the floor was in rough shape around the edges—a common problem with all Airstreams. The beds were present, and the rear bathroom fittings are all still in place, but spotted with mold and dirt. I poked around other areas and found a lot more rot in the floors, but agreed with Brian that the bones were in good shape. He ran back outside to do the deal, and within a half an hour we had it hitched to his truck and were on the way out the driveway.
Taking the back roads home we avoided the 5-0 and made it safely to his house without intervention or tire blowouts. We then surveyed what he’d just bought and came up with some plans.
Plan One is to sit on it for a few months and flip it when the weather gets warmer. The seller claimed he’d had people from all over calling him about it; Brian got it for a stupidly low price. I have no doubt he could resell it for more money. And some of the interior parts might fetch good money on the classifieds market; there are curtain fittings and appliances that would be impossible to fabricate today.
Plan Two is to gut the interior and replace the wooden floor. We’ve found several how-to sites with advice on how to do it in sections without lifting the whole shell off the frame. With that done, we could fix up the outer shell (fix the windows, etc). and sell it as an empty project.
Plan Three is to fix the floors and build out the interior with the basics—a working kitchen, bathroom, beds, etc., and keep it as inexpensive as possible to maximize the profit.
Plan Four is do do Plan Three and then install custom accessories for the buyer—upgrades to the kitchen, add solar power, or other high-end options.
The important thing is that we’ve got to finish the bus by late spring, so the Airstream will be parked for a while waiting on that to finish and a new garage to be erected at Brian’s house. When that’s done we can get it inside and really start tearing into the project to see what’s there.
I’ve been getting to sleep at 9PM for the past couple of days in an effort to get over this cold. This morning was the first time I woke up with a clearer head and sinus system, although the tickle in my throat is still present. Another day of cold medicine and hot tea, and another good evening’s rest and I think I might be able to kick this thing. I don’t want to bring a cold up to Mom’s house for the holiday, and I would like to get some work done on the bus this weekend. Plus the family is volunteering for another food drive tomorrow morning, and I want to give 100% while I’m there.
It was 70˚ yesterday before the storm blew through so I took a quick break at lunchtime to hose the used CR-V floor mat down with Simple Green and blast it with the pressure washer. It’s definitely cleaner, but the smell of that car air freshener stuff is still present. I think
it’s going to sit outside for a couple of weeks to let the air and UV rays burn off the smell, I’ll wait for another warm day and try this trick, and then it should be ready for the car.
On Saturday morning we all got up early, dressed in warm clothes, and walked to the Knights of Columbus building down the street (semi-famously the site of the Catonsville Nine burning draft cards in 1968) to volunteer for a Thanksgiving food drive. There were three areas set up to receive, sort, and then box incoming food, manned by a swarm of older women confidently moving and arranging and directing. Cars drove up, the KoC guys would unload, and a group of volunteers would sort by expiration date. They brought the sorted food to one of two tables and a third group would move it to another long set of tables covered in labeled boxes: this is where it got sorted by type. I picked up a milk crate, joined the third group, and got to work. It was a cold morning that warmed up as the sun rose over the trees, and everyone was in a friendly, cheerful mood. I bonded quickly with my fellow runners, and we made light of jostling for “the good stuff” at the pickup table. Jen manned the first sorting table and had to deal with some strange donations—a bag of old duck sauce, an individually wrapped slice of birthday cake, opened boxes of food, ancient canned goods—and Finley worked as a runner with me. By 11AM we’d cleared the donations, and the dropoff line was quiet. A group of high school students appeared, looking to fulfill some of their mandatory public service time, so we walked back home in the sunlight and hunted for some lunch.
After several years willfully ignoring the mess that our woodpiles have become, I took advantage of the afternoon and started cleaning it up. We’ve burned through a little less than two cradles since I split everything before the Year of Cancer and they’ve sat empty since then, surrounded by weeds and the large rounds that were still too wet to split. I pulled everything off the mostly empty cradles and moved them out of the way, then got the Hi-Lift off the Scout and used that to jack up the sinking sides of the remaining cradles so that I could level them off again. I used my new impact driver to break down the older of the two empty cradles and got that out of the way. All of the good wood got restocked and buttoned up under tarps. Then I broke out the maul and took a couple of whacks at the big round on the lawn; one half of it blew apart easily, rotted from being exposed for so long. The other half—the knotted crook half—refused to give up, so I rolled that into the neighbors’ ivy patch (they never look back there) and raked up the lawn. I still have to break down the other cradle, but it’s nice to have a clean lawn and a tidy woodpile again.