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 »

This weekend Jen and I decided we needed a break. We’ve been running nonstop for three months; between sorting out her Dad’s situation, the end of school for Finn, work and other obligations, we’re  all worn down to nubs. Finley got sick last weekend, coughed in Jen’s face a couple of times on Monday (thanks, Finn) and got her sick too. We were at her Dad’s house all day Sunday and I came home right into three days of travel to D.C. for video shoots while Jen took on a mountain of short-notice design work.

Video shoots are fun, for the most part; there’s a lot of technical stuff I have had to dig back up and remember, especially because I’m training a full-time video producer and a video intern as we go. But it’s a lot of running and setting up and testing and checking and then there’s the waiting and then there’s shooting and reshooting and staying on top of the technical stuff while also listenting to the content because that sentence was just a little too long, could you please go back and try it again? Then we have to break it all down and either move somewhere else or at least organize the footage and get it ready for production. By the time Friday rolled around I was wrung out.

We begged off on all responsibilities and slept in both days this weekend, which was heavenly. Hazel read the room correctly and allowed us to doze in bed until 8 both mornings, which was awesome; I crept out of the house on Saturday and took her on a long neighborhood loop—a 2 mile walk she desperately needed. On my return I got Finn involved in some long-delayed yard work: She broke down one of the empty wood cradles while I sprayed Roundup on the weeds behind the greenhouse and cut the brush back along the garage. We made a dump run and did some other errands, and then we both cleaned the house while Jen had brunch with a friend. It’s amazing how much a clean bathroom is good for mental health.

Sunday was even slower; Jen and I crawled out of bed at 8:30 and rallied to walk down to the coffee shop by 9. We hit the farmer’s market for some empanadas and wore Hazel out on the long loop, then futzed around the house until Finn woke up. We had some errands to run so we dropped her off in Ellicott City to walk around while we hit the Ace hardware for some stuff, and then the liquor store for supplies (Baltimore County is still under Prohibition-era blue laws) before heading for home.

I ordered a boat tank from West Marine along with some fittings last week, and it showed up on Sunday morning: it’s a sturdy 3-gallon jerry can with a no-spray lid, a built-on gauge, and a feed fitting. I’ve got fresh fuel hose but had to look for a brass fitting to screw into the carb itself, and Amazon will deliver a 4psi fuel pump this week. With all of that assembled, I can bypass the mechanical fuel pump on the Chrysler and hopefully get her running steadily the next time we visit. I also have to break the brakes down and see what that situation looks like—but for now a couple of 2×4’s in the driveway will prevent us from coasting off into the woods.

I’m writing this now from the comfort of our front porch: the fan above us is moving the air briskly while rain patters the windows outside. We’re sipping on our second mix of Suburban Anxiety, and they’re going down smoothly. Jen has another mountain of work to tackle, and I go back to D.C. for another video shoot tomorrow—but right now, we’re relaxed.

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

We returned to Lexington Park this weekend to keep things moving at Jen’s Dad’s house, and I think we made some excellent progress on a couple of fronts. I packed our pressure washer in the Honda and used it to clean off the front porch and walkway, which was very much overdue and very satisfying. As I sprayed the ceiling I was flashing back to my freshman-sophomore college summer job, when I spent a fair bit of time running a commercial pressure washer off the back of a flatbed ford, spraying horse barns, pavilions, houses, boats, trailers, and miles of fence on the days I wasn’t painting. Good times.

I brought a box of new plug wires for the Chrysler and installed them, then pulled the cap off the distributor and cleaned the points and breaker with some sandpaper. After all of that, I’m still not having luck getting her started, and I’m running out of ideas as to what the problem is. I have to do some more research into how to test for spark and what the failure points could be before I throw in the towel and arrange for a tow to a shop.

This is a mix someone put together of a bunch of obscure Boards of Canada tracks that I always forget about; I’ve got their entire discography on the music server and always forget to spin the lesser-known EPs and demos. Excellent working music. Hiscores is a standout track.

* * *

Jen and I finished the first half of the new Stranger Things season, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it so far. I have minor quibbles with the direction they took some of the characters, and I could do without several of the B stories, but overall I’m happy with where it’s going and I can’t wait for the second half.

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

IMG_0182

It occurs to me I’ve not mentioned how the deer skull turned out since I boiled it last month; it’s been mounted to the side of the garage since then. I think it came out pretty good! I didn’t use a ton of hydrogen peroxide to bleach it, but I like the way it came out, and for a grand total of maybe $10 it’s a nice piece to decorate the yard.

* * *

I’ve had Invisalign in for a couple of days now, and I guess I’m getting more used to them. As much as I can get used to having plastic sofa covers on my teeth all day, every day. Overnights are the easiest, because by now my palate has gotten used to the position the trays have pushed it into. I’m supposed to change them every week, so the first day of the change is going to be a total drag.

It’s shifted a lot of my daily habits, which is for the better, I think. For example, I obviously have to take them out each time I want to eat something. Sounds easy, right? Well, because my teeth are aligned so poorly, it takes a bit of work to get the trays out—and it’s not very comfortable. I have to start with one side way in the back and work my way around. The plastic can hurt my gums if I do it wrong, and my whole jaw is sore to begin with, so chewing is a delicate matter. And because I’ve got all these nubs glued to my teeth, the inside of my mouth is tender from them rubbing so much.

I had to find a way to surreptitiously pull them out at a company meeting on Thursday before lunch, then quietly run to the bathroom to wash them out and pop them back in. The next step is to set up a tiny travel kit for them with a mini toothbrush and toothpaste that’ll fit in a pocket.

Invisalign would actually be a great way to aid a diet, because it makes grabbing a quick snack an investment of time and effort: take the trays out, wash them, gently chew something, brush teeth, brush trays, reinsert. Where I used to graze a lot during the afternoon now I’m strategically planning what to eat and when. It’s also good for brushing habits: if I’m brushing at least three times a day after each meal, I’m finally fulfilling the wishes of all of the dentists I’ve ever seen, 40 years too late.

Date posted: June 11, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

Yeah, pretty much want to rip my own face off.

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

I have crooked teeth. They’ve been slightly crooked for years—I never received orthodontia as a kid, and my teeth were straight enough then to avoid picket fencing and headgear and palate keys and all the other hellish shit my sister had to endure. She got the business while I sat in the waiting room for hours reading Archie comics as they jabbed hot pokers at her face behind the partition. I’d say I won that particular battle. Mom says they couldn’t follow up on me because they had other bills to pay, and I don’t fault them. Thirty years later, insurance still barely covers any of this shit, and it’s expensive.

As I’ve gotten older my teeth have gotten more summer—summer here, summer there—to the point where my lower incisors are pointed backwards and overlapping each other, like a fence about to fall down. My molars have all turned inward, and my top incisors have slowly followed the lower ones in alignment. My whole palate has shrunk, actually. I’ve always been self-conscious about my teeth, but having a teenage daughter who needed braces put any notion of self-care on the back burner until those bills got paid. Finn’s still got the braces, but the monthly payments are behind us so I figured I’d finally step up and get my shit fixed.

I talked to her orthodontist about Invisalign and he set up an appointment to have my mouth scanned, after which he showed me terrifying 3D models of my face and assured me we could straighten things out. That was three weeks ago. Today I went in and they attached small plastic nubs to my teeth with some stinky glue, and then popped a pair of clear plastic trays over top of it all. I left with a box of thirty new trays and the maddening urge to peel at the plastic off with my tongue.

All afternoon I’ve been trying to stop myself from futzing with them, and I’m losing. I can feel the pull of the trays pretty much across my whole palate, but the strongest right now is my right upper canine area, which feels like someone’s pushing on my face from the outside. Taking them out to eat is worse—I can feel all the nubs sticking out on my teeth, like barnacles on a tramp steamer.

Yeah, I signed up (and paid for) something like seventy weeks of this shit. If I don’t tear the skin off my own face by the Fourth of July, it’ll be a miracle.

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

I spent a good bit of the day out in the garage with a couple of podcasts and a bottle of Simple Green scrubbing the dirt out of the new fridge. It was a nice quiet way to spend the day before going back to work, and none of the 30 other things I meant to get to really mattered. I pulled the shelves off the inside of the door and wound up having to unscrew the whole perimeter to recover six mounting plates that fell into the door as a result; not really a big deal.

It’s impressively built. Most of the parts are metal—the drawers are enameled steel—and the plastic pieces there are all in really good shape. It cleaned up really well but needs a lot more love both inside and out. I have a lot of research to do on methods and advice, but I’m happy to dive down this rabbit hole.

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

TIG

Extremely satisfying. I’m still working on consistency from one weld to the next, but I was pretty proud of this one. Tomorrow night we start hands-on stick welding, which is supposed to be harder than TIG but much more flexible.

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