Saturday we decided to get out of Dodge and do something fun as a family. I’ve had the green couch in the living room since my house in the city, and it’s served us faithfully through the years in the living room as our main seating area, but it’s super long in the tooth and doesn’t fit our style anymore. It’s been under a brown cover for years because the original IKEA upholstery is stained and torn. Jen bought new legs for it and had me put them on last fall, and that made a visual difference but raised it up off the ground too much to be comfortable. So we started looking around for alternatives.

There are several wholesalers online that have generous return policies but we really wanted to be able to sit on something and look at it before we bought it, so we drove down to DC to 14th Street and hit up a long line of houseware and furnishing stores. Used to be you’d go to the mall for that kind of thing; funny how those stores have all closed. It was lovely to go back to the Big City and walk down the block to see the sights.

We started at a place called Joybird, who have beautiful Midcentury Modern designs with contemporary fabrics, and tested out a couple of couches with a salesman who was extremely helpful and patient. When we’d settled on a loveseat that we liked, we then spent about a half an hour worrying over fabrics. Deciding to think it over, we got our salesman’s card and continued up the street. There were a bunch of homeware stores available, and after some Shake Shack for lunch we hit the West Elm, where shades of white or off-white seem to be the only color choices. After looking on both floors, we came down to where Finn was waiting for us, Jen sat in a leather chair next to her and immediately said, “Ooooh! This is comfortable!” Looking it over, we both tried it out and realized it was pretty perfect for what we want to do with our room. So we took notes on that and continued on our way.

After stopping for a drink at a beautiful bar/restaurant, we crossed the street and hit a small shop next to the Black Cat called the Outrage, which is a combination storefront and meeting space for social justice/racial/feminist events. So many cool things there. Jen bought a couple of T-shirts and Finn got a ring from some local artists. By that point it was getting late and we needed to get back to the dog, so we hit the road and headed home.

This morning we both took advantage of the President’s Day sales and we’ve got a couch and two chairs coming; this marks the first time we’ve bought major furniture for the inside of the house since the yellow couch in the den. It will be great to make big changes to the living room—more on that to come.

On that note, I think the built-in shelves are done. Well, there are two small areas along the bottoms that need to get patched up. And then it’s done. I spent most of Sunday actually finishing the install process; I’d started screwing the two side units into the wall on Thursday night but had to place the two top shelves, mill down the side pieces, tack in the moulding, and then nail everything into place on Saturday. With that done, it was a lot of caulking and painting and painting and adjusting and painting; then I had to run out to Columbia to the only Lowe’s in the area that sells the toekick moulding I needed to finish off the edges. But that was just an excuse to get a couple of good hours in the Scout, which ran like a top and put a smile on my face.

Date posted: February 20, 2023 | Filed under family, general | Leave a Comment »

Here’s an excellent take on the current round of tech layoffs which categorizes the psychological toll in two groups: Corporate and Worker. Corporate minimizes layoffs, usually because the people in that strata can land a similar job relatively easily through their networks.

Then there’s Corporate Layoff Brain. This Layoff Brain mistakes their own experience of layoffs (good! generative!) as everyone else’s, regardless of their field or position. It casualizes layoffs, categorizes it as a “management tool,” and underlines employees’ status as disposable, disempowered widgets — instead of humans with rights and responsibilities to others outside of the work environment.

While Worker is a whole different way of thinking: it’s a culture of intimidation designed to keep those of us with jobs cowed and productive:

This is the second iteration of Layoff Brain. The first is the Layoff Brain I have, the one I share with millions of other millennials and Gen-Xers. It’s a defensive crouch masquerading as “smart saving habits.” It’s a thrum of fear and student debt default and medical bankruptcy rebranded as “hustle culture.”

Technically I’m management, but having been laid off twice, I will always think and plan and worry like a worker.

Date posted: January 26, 2023 | Filed under general, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

It’s been a minute since I posted; it’s been a busy couple of weeks. We’ve been organizing for and shooting the prerecorded section of WRI’s annual Stories To Watch, which is always a huge undertaking. Every year we up our game and this year was no exception. For 2023 we found a studio facility in Chantilly to shoot at with a 40’ wide, 14’ high LED background that we had to fill with content. My video team rose to the challenge and built a looping background from an Illustrator file I made, and we produced an 80 slide, five chapter presentation from a rough deck in four days. Our CEO walked in on the first day and was amazed at the LED wall lit up and running the animations; the whole team knocked it out of the park. We booked the studio for two days, so I stayed overnight in a hotel down the street because the commute home is at least two hours—and we used every hour of those two days.

While that was happening, there have been some changes going on behind the scenes in my department. One of my oldest colleagues and current boss is moving on from the organization, and I volunteered to fill in temporarily with another colleague until they find our next VP of Communications. I’m excited to help keep things moving and slightly terrified of all of the things I don’t know, but a new challenge will be good to tackle. So for now, I’m co-Acting Head of Communications. Wish me luck.

While I’ve been scrambling at work there hasn’t been much progress on the bathroom beyond what I did last weekend. All I’ve got to do is sand the drywall and hit it with a cat of paint and then I can screw the fixtures in for good and take a picture for Cousin Margaret.

On Sunday I’m headed up to PA to look at another Scout 800 tucked in a barn; I’ll detail the details on the Scout site later. Monday I’m going to start work on the built in bookcase in the living room for a change of pace.

Date posted: January 15, 2023 | Filed under general, WRI | Leave a Comment »

The Verge did a really solid interview with Matt Mullenweg, who founded WordPress, open-sourced it and its ancillary companies, and later bought Tumblr from Verizon. The interview is framed by the parallels to Musk buying Twitter, and it’s a refreshing look at a founder/leader who isn’t a douchey techbro and who still believes in an open, safe, and inclusive web. (WordPress is the engine that runs this and over 40% of the websites on the internet.) In the article he talks about how hard it is to do content moderation well—his experience to that point had mostly been building the software, not policing the content:

I will say that it was probably the most humbling thing in my business career… Tumblr is a large-scale social network that is only a fraction of the size of Facebook, but we started encountering issues that were beyond my previous understanding of content moderation and free speech.

I think the biggest difference here, and one that most people are only beginning to realize, is that Musk bought Twitter to control what people are saying about him, not to preserve or protect its users. He’s now in a race to monetize this millstone as fast as he can before it flames out due to his terrible leadership; as he kicks journalists off the platform (one of its key audiences) I wonder if it will die back to Truth Social or Parler size.

To Mullenweg’s credit, he’s spent several years trying to sort Tumblr out, losing money the whole time, but he’s committed to rebuilding it in some shadow of its former self.

Twitter became a lot more about arguing, Instagram became about showing off, and Facebook became about weird people you went to school with saying weird things. Tumblr always had this frisson, this magic.

I think most people agree that Tumblr was mostly for porn, but there were a lot of communities and sub-groups active on there that left when it was bought by Verizon.  It was a handy platform to stand up a blog and share things quickly, and the repost function became its superpower.  We’ll see how it shakes out with a new focus and some careful management. And based on this interview, I’m optimistic for them.

Date posted: December 16, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

I brought this up in 2005 and I think it bears repeating, especially as I hear it more and more from insanely intelligent people I work with on a daily basis: Please quit using the phrase “your guys’s” in any context or situation possible. e.g., “I want to send your guys’s information via email.” FUCK YOU. I’m currently sitting in an Asana training course and the woman leading the session has used it twice in five minutes. I might have to murder someone; it’s like someone is shoving a chainsaw in my ear.

Date posted: December 8, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

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 »