Craigslist can be hit or miss for selling gear these days. I’ve posted things that have sold in hours, and I’ve reposted certain items month over month with absolutely no response. Sometimes the time of year factors in, but I can never tell when some stuff is going to be hot. I’ve had a Yakima bike rack posted since I bought its replacement, on and off this summer with little interest. Sunday morning I got an email from a woman who just bought a Jeep Wrangler and needed this very rack. Within 24 hours I was showing her how to strap it to her spare tire. She drove away smiling and I walked away $50 richer. The same morning I got an email asking about a camera lens I’ve posted since 2019, and I’ve got a time set up to meet her on Saturday. I’ll be happy to send that one off to a good home, and happier still to pocket the cash.
Life has been pretty quiet around here otherwise. I get up and take Hazel for a walk in the morning, trying to find a different version of the same route to keep things interesting. We then take a short walk with the neighbor to give her some controlled proximity to other dogs. After making coffee and rustling up some breakfast, I start my workday, and I don’t move much until dinnertime.
I have been so thankful since the pandemic started for having built out the front porch into an office with its own bathroom back in 2008. Having seen some of my co-workers’ office situations—people still working from bedrooms, kitchens, closets, and basements a year and a half after the lockdown—we are blessed to have a dedicated space away from the noise of the house with desks and power and storage. It’s looking like we’ll be remote until at least the end of the year, so I’m going to hunt for a better desk chair when I go on sabbatical at the end of this month. There’s a guy on CL who has a bunch of Mirra chairs for a good price; I’ll see if any of them are worth buying, and finally retire my $70 IKEA chair. I think my lower back will thank me.
Meanwhile, the Scout is parked in a driveway in Annapolis waiting on some bearing work. I caught up with Erick and gave him the scoop on the truck, and hopefully he can get her sorted out in time for the big trip west next week. Otherwise I’m going to have to hitch a ride with Bennett or Brian…
I got a package in the mail last night that I’ve been waiting for awhile. Inside were a set of
goggles glasses that look decidedly utilitarian, and also kind of like someone forgot to tint the lenses on a pair of Oakleys. They’re actually a pair of safety glasses, and I had them ground with progressive lenses to help me when I’m out in the shop working. It’s a drag to continually be taking my glasses off to see something up close, and it’s even more of a drag to get shit stuck in my eyes. These were inexpensive to have made, compared to other services, so I’m using this as a test run for upgrading my every-day glasses.
The verdict: not bad! They’re comfortable and they stay on my head really well. The lenses are curved to fit my face, so there’s some distortion as I move my head side to side—there’s a sweet spot at the center of the lenses for distance, and it falls off around the edges. But the up-down difference between distance and reading is really smooth. And I can read easily with them at normal reading distance. It’s going to take some training to move my head so that my eyes are looking at the right thing through the right part of the glass.
My buddy Rob, who I’ve written about before, is only partially to blame for me being interested in watches. Back when I only had one, he was already into modding big Seiko models from the 90’s, which are gigantic metal beasts. He was working on one he wanted to give me, but all of the custom models he’d designed (he had impeccable taste) looked like I was wearing a hubcap on my wrist. He laughed and said they were called tuna cans, which seems to be a trend in watches right now.
I’m a small guy, so tuna cans only accentuate that fact. It was years before I realized big baggy clothes (which were, admittedly, the style in the late 80’s-early 90’s) made me look like a skeleton wearing a pup tent. Once Jen and Karean convinced me to wear tailored clothes that fit my frame the way God intended, I changed up my style completely and embraced what worked. Big watches are not on that list.
Timex has been releasing new watches based on old designs for the last couple of years, and there was one that caught my eye early last year: the Navi Harbor 38mm, which looked like a nice mixture of the Ollech & Wajs diving watch I got from the Mildew House and the field watches I tend to favor. 38mm is the right case size—not too large and usually pretty thin. Most of the watches I own are 38mm or smaller, save my Hamilton and a Todd Snyder Timex I bought on discount early this year. The Navi Harbor was sold out for about a year until a few weeks ago when I got an alert that they were back in stock. With a holiday discount I got a good deal on one, and I ordered it.
While I liked the way it looked on the website, in reality it was a lot different. It’s much bigger and thicker than in the photos. More troubling, the proportions are all wrong. The bezel of the watch is very high and the crystal is raised off the watch face a lot more than I like. The lugs are placed too close together, making the strap look extra thin, and that plus the overall height makes it look even fatter than it is. I love the look of the dial and the hands, but the whole package just didn’t work for me. And the band it came with was too long for my wrist, so I’d need to swap that out almost immediately. Using the classic proportions of my current diver as a baseline, this fell completely short. So after wearing it for an hour, I boxed it up and got it ready to send back.
When I first started playing video games back in 1997 with a demo copy of Marathon, I played by myself on story mode and got into a habit of avoiding multiplayer games that stuck with me for decades. Partially because I always had Macs, and even though Marathon offered a co-op mode, it was only for LAN and nobody else I knew had a Mac to play on. When I worked at the game company I played HALO at the office in co-op mode and enjoyed it immensely, but that was at a time when I didn’t own a console myself and wasn’t really interested in purchasing a gaming PC good enough to join my co-workers in overnight games of Counterstrike or Dark Age of Camelot. It wasn’t until much later that I found a cast-off Xbox at a yard sale but most of the games were so old the servers had been shut down.
When my family sent me the new Xbox to help get me through chemotherapy I avoided online games because I really didn’t want to talk to anybody at that point and I also wanted to avoid a monthly subscription—I am, after all, a cheap bastard. But most modern games require a game pass of some kind, and when I sprung for Fallout 76 I had to bite the bullet. I’ve avoided all multiplayer until recently, but in The Division 2 I’ve reached the limit of what I can do solo before running up against missions which require a team effort to overcome.
So, on Friday afternoon I joined a mission with another player to test the waters, was matched with someone who had their microphone on. I was treated to a one-sided discussion punctuated with wet coughing while their in game character stood motionless facing a wall. I disconnected to go eat dinner but after the girls went to bed I tried again and had more success. I was paired with two players at my level and we ran through several missions successfully. Despite all my misgivings, I had a great time. Nobody had their mic on so I didn’t need to talk to anybody, but we communicated well enough to make short work of the enemies we faced. I put the controller down at midnight, my right thumb sore, and went to bed happy that I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and didn’t get fragged by a 12-year-old named DaRk_SlAyEr_2121.
This game is really amazing to look at. It’s set in Washington, D.C. and while I know they’ve taken liberties with the scale of the city, I’ve been able to Google Streetview some of the places I’m exploring and see a pretty close 1-to-1 with real life. I’m dying to go to the block where my office is, but it’s inside a Dark Zone where players can kill each other and loot their gear, so I’m a little hesitant. Maybe at 1PM on a Tuesday before school lets out I’ll give it a try.
As of Saturday, all but four bays of the eaves are scraped and painted on the front of the house. As of Sunday, the east side peak above the new bathroom is 4/5 scraped, sprayed and painted. It was mostly direct sun all day so I couldn’t sit on the exposed roof for long, and I wasn’t interested in hanging my ass out over the backyard like Tom Cruise on the Burj Kalifa, so there are sections at either end that need to be finished. But the majority of it is done, and it looks 100% better from the road, which is what I care about the most. It’s not visible from the road but the roof up there looks like it snowed for a couple of hours. I came inside covered with a layer of paint chips an inch thick.
I need to use the roller to reach a tiny spot on the east side over the driveway but the west side of the front facade requires some more planning and construction—I’ll need to build a sturdy platform to level off the slope on that side so that I can put up a ladder and reach the last couple of bays. Pretty much everything else is done other than the shutters, and there’s no decision on color for those yet. If the weather would only cooperate…
Things in the greenhouse are going reasonably well, although the first couple of Purple Cherokees coming in have blossom end rot. I bought bonide spray at the hardware store yesterday and sprayed the leaves down in the hopes that the rest of the plants don’t suffer the same problem. Outside, the trees have been dropping tons of sap on the plastic, which has been getting filthier by the day. I put a ladder up and washed both sides, first with a mop and then with a rag to get the dirt off. The south side cleaned up better than the north, and now everything in there will get better sunlight for growing.
Here’s about two minutes of cicadas droning in the backyard yesterday. The birds are louder because they’re closer, but you get the idea.
The morning started pretty well. Jen convinced me to keep the lift in the driveway and take time to re-spray the large sections where we could see uneven coverage on that side, and because she is smarter than I am, I listened to her. That took less time that I figured it might, so by 11AM I was driving the front wheels of the lift up over the curb and onto the front lawn. Once I convinced it that it wasn’t going to tip over, it was happy, and I drove it over the front walk, through the holly tree, and into the side yard.
Starting with the front of the house, I sprayed out a bunch of the siding next to Finley’s window until I was used to the height, and then extended the boom higher so that I was level with the eaves. Some scraping and cleaning got years of flaking paint off the wood, and two coats of exterior paint later it looks a lot better. I scraped Finn’s window and 1/2 of the dining room window, and sprayed out as much as I could on that side.
The sun was much brighter and hotter today. It got up to 90˚ with full humidity, so by 2PM I was melting. I rigged up our table umbrella to the side of the basket and that made a huge difference in the afternoon, but I’m still sunburned and drinking lots of water to recover. The system I’ve got set up—a $30 latex sprayer from Home Depot, a full-size compressor, and the boom lift—makes short work of this.
Tomorrow is my least favorite part of this whole project: the peak of the west side. It’s where the boom will get the squirreliest, as it’s nearing its full extension, and it’ll be the highest I go in this contraption. As it is I’ve got some serious sea legs when I come down off the boom, as my inner ear expects every one of my movements to send the couch or my bed swaying underneath me.
Hopefully I can finish most of the west side tomorrow, and then we move around to the back, just in time for three days of rain.
Over the last couple of weeks, Jen and I have pored over three pages of calendar printouts—the next six months—penciling in plans and family events and trips. We’ve got a lot of it hammered out, some of it is still in flux, and other things are dependent on timing and circumstance. One of the things on the list is a camping trip I’ve been wanting to organize with Finn and Zachary for the last two years following our excellent trip in 2018. I’m a little nervous now that they’ve both fully embraced video games, and especially after a year and a half of COVID schooling, that they won’t be able to leave screens behind. Or that just as they are getting past that stuff and into being away, we’ll have to pack up and head home. I’ve got a reservation set up in late August to a state campground on the Eastern Shore for three days and two nights which should be a lot of fun; it’s near the water, has fishing and kayaking, and now that I’ve got a good hitch for the bikes we can take those along too. Now I’m thinking I should add another night to the trip so we’ve got a little more time to rough it. I also need to sort through the camping gear and make some upgrades and additions, especially around food planning and storage.
I think I’ve mentioned the Coffee Walk at some point: essentially an excuse to buy coffee and muffins, we walk downtown to the bakery and then make a long loop around the neighborhood before heading home. It’s about two miles and gives us an excuse to get more exercise, catch up with each other, tire out the dog, and most importantly, get muffins. Our local bakery makes what they call Triple Ginger muffins, which are fucking delicious, and uncharacteristic of all of their other dry, crumbly pastries. We’ve been hooked on these since they started making them, and this spring they’ve been especially good—we can often time it so that they’re still hot from the oven.
Well, all good things come to an end; the bakery makes “seasonal” pastries, and only offers two types of muffin at a time; they’ve now switched to chocolate chip-almond (not as good as it sounds and crumbly at the lightest touch) and strawberry cheesecake, which sounds like it might be good until it suddenly makes one feel sick.
Continuing around the corner, we came upon the Farmer’s Market, which looks to be busier than it’s ever been; I think they’ve been preparing for people to come crawling out of their homes looking for human contact and artisanal pickles since COVID began. One thing I was happy to see was a mobile knife sharpening van, and while we tried to scope out the rest of the offerings Hazel completely lost her mind in the presence of all the other dogs out for a walk, so we noped out of there and headed home. I grabbed up a handful of knives and headed back down there with Finn: two Schrade pocketknives I’ve had on my workbench—one 3″ I’ve had since high school, from a repo’d car, and a smaller 2″ blade that was Dad’s. I brought our Wusthof hollow edge from the kitchen, which has needed attention for the last couple of years, and finally Dad’s 6″ Dexter skinning knife from his days at Cornell when they taught him how to dress meat as part of the Agriculture program. For a total of $25 all four are back in shape and ready to be used again. He took a little more off the blades than I liked to see, but they were all in pretty rough shape. Sadly he doesn’t do chainsaw blades but I’ve got a couple of other knives around here that will need attention, so we’ll probably head back in two weeks.
Things in the greenhouse have slowed due to the iffy, ineffectual weather we’ve had for the last couple of weeks. Where there was a lot of growth in the hot weeks right after they got planted, they’re all stalled and are throwing out multiple suckers instead of producing flowering branches. I’ve got one Roma plant with about ten blooms but other than that it’s all show and no go. At the Farmer’s Market I saw a bunch of potted patio tomatoes that looked lush, carrying fruit, and it immediately made me feel like I was doing things wrong. But when I looked at other stands, I saw the same varieties we’ve planted for sale that were smaller than ours and had no fruit, which cheered me back up—it looks like we’re right on time.
A plan is hatching for the late summertime with Brian, who has asked me for some help with a project he’s got on his plate: he’s overhauling and outfitting a 25′ schoolbus for a family of six to drive across the country, and wanted to know if I could help him with the job. This is part of a larger plan he has to shift his business from home renovation to custom camper outfitting, and he’s asked me to join him.
There are a lot of considerations to be weighed here, and I’m taking none of them lightly. By nature and experience I’m extremely conservative when it comes to my career—having been laid off twice, I don’t like the feeling of operating without a safety net. I’m finally in a place where I’ve been able to put away solid retirement money year over year (and have it matched, no small benefit) but of course, I’d like to have more set aside. The idea of getting out from behind a computer and working with my hands and my head is extremely tempting, especially after having been stuck in one long Zoom call since last March. There are so many pros and cons to this idea that I can’t sort them all out right now, so we’re doing the smart thing: we’re going to tackle this first project, see how it goes, and reassess from that point. The basic plan is to use a bunch of my unpaid sabbatical during the month of September to work on the bus full time with Brian to see how far we can get, and surround that time with paid sabbatical vacation so I’m not wrung out when I go back to work. I’m upset our original plan to travel got completely torpedoed by COVID, but maybe we can make something good out of this.
It’s all very preliminary right now, but it should be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to a break from my desk.
I was up early to run a remote naming/identity workshop yesterday, which was a limited success. Normally I try to get everyone involved in the same room and through some moderated exercises I get them to use Post-It notes to explore options and discuss their decisions. This time I had to use a virtual tool to accomplish the same thing, and spent the first ten minutes trying to help people troubleshoot the technology. It went OK, but it’s very hard to both gauge the interest of virtual participants and keep them involved; I can run a room with my hands tied but it’s hard to do blindfolded.
In the evening, I was supposed to meet Brian in Annapolis for some dinner and a chat about a business idea he’s got, so I pulled the top down on the Scout, gassed it up, and headed out of town. I’d made it to Glen Burnie when he called and told me the Bay Bridge was closed westbound due to an accident, so I turned around and met the girls for dinner. I was bummed out because it was an absolutely beautiful day to be driving with the top down, and I was looking forward to catching up. Looks like we might be on for Friday evening, which will hopefully be just as warm and sunny.
On Friday morning I hopped in the car and drove to M&T Stadium for my second shot of Pfizer. The first one went relatively smoothly; apart from spending two hours in a long cold line inside that meat locker of a stadium, the process was painless. This time was a mixed bag. My main beef was with Baltimore City, for providing exactly zero cops out in front of the stadium, where all of the cars coming in to the parking lot were snarled at one light: five different lanes of traffic trying to merge in to a one-lane road. And before you think this was easy; let me emphasize these were citizens of Baltimore, where we treat driving like the last half hour of Mad Max: Fury Road. It took 40 minutes to get past the light and get parked. Once I got in to the stadium, the line was shorter and moved quicker than the first visit, and I had my shot done in about half the time. (The Air Force and National Guard troops, as well as the nurses and admin folks actually dosing people, are awesome and should all get paid extra).
I spent all day Saturday waiting for side effects that did not manifest, for the most part. Jen and I got up around 8 and did what we call the coffee walk, where we take Hazel down to Atwater’s, pick up two large coffees and two triple ginger muffins, and do a long circuit around the neighborhood for about 2+ miles. We got back home and shared breakfast with Finn, farted around a little, and then I went outside and cleaned up the greenhouse. All of the seedlings are doing well even though we haven’t had much direct sunlight this week. I watered everything, moved some stuff around, and then reorganized the rain barrels. One of the two homemade ex-Pepsi barrels has broken down and leaked half the collected water after several storms, so I swapped it with the other. The next rainstorm will tell us if this one is toast as well.
After I put the soft top on the Scout, we jumped in the car and drove to Home Depot so that I could get another 2″x3″ and some ratchet straps. The plan was to build a third cradle bar for the hard top, slide the whole thing backward, and hoist it up into the ceiling. See, in years past I’ve just hoisted it up where it came off the truck, which meant the truck could only back up a certain amount in the garage before it bumped into the top. This left me with about 6″ of space between the bumper and the doors. With the new bumper I’m going to need more room, so changes needed to be made. While we were there I happened to pop into the rental center to see just offhand if they had a welder—and they did!
Back at home I laid down for a half an hour after lunch, which had made me feel sleepy, but never actually napped. So I got back up and got the top where I wanted it. From there I cleaned up the workbench and got some metal prepared for test welding on Sunday: I wanted to get it dialed in on scrap metal before I work on the real deal. This may be a futile gesture, but it also could work.
The horror stories of other folks’ reactions to the vaccine never did manifest themselves. I can’t tell if my tired was just post-cancer-low-blood-cell tired or we’re-all-busy-fighting-off-COVID tired. Either way, it didn’t slow me down that much and I’m thankful.