You know, with all of the stuff going on in the last couple of months, I completely forgot to mention the fact that this weblog, as of March 22, is 20 years old. My first post was about the choice of outerwear I was noticing in Washington, D.C. as I worked there; it wasn’t the most emotionally wrenching subject, but it kicked off an almost daily habit I’ve kept ever since then. To that date, I’d posted 5196 times, or roughly 22 times a month. Because of a huge spike in 2004, my trend line is slowly declining, but it looks like there’s been an general uptick since about 2017 or so.
In terms of content, I’ve stripped out some data that skews the average for the category counts; all of the Scout categories are out, as well as the Shortlinks category, which overlaps half the posts and skews everything else.
It’s hard to believe I’ve kept this going for 20 years, but it’s also become an invaluable tool for remembering where we’ve been, when things happened, and maybe a little bit about who we are. Here’s to another 20 years.
On Saturday Hazel had me up at 6:30 with the first rays of light over the trees, so I snuck her out of the house and we took a nice long walk around the neighborhood before anyone else was up. Our usual morning route maps out at about a mile and a quarter, and by the time she’s pulled me down the hill and back up again, she’s worked off her early morning energy and is ready for some food. After getting some breakfast and spending a little time with the girls, I brought some tools up from the basement and started demoing the half-wall on the front porch.
To recap, the front porch had been enclosed sometime in the 1940’s, and the area to the right of the front door was used as the waiting room for the doctor’s office. It was furnished with wood panel-faced drywall and a dark green carpet that was probably very fashionable during the Eisenhower administration. At one point there was a radiator out there to attempt to heat an area with little to no insulation, which the doctor had moved from the dining room. We’ve been using the space as catchall storage since we moved in, so it’s been cluttered with all kinds of crap for years. In 2005 I went out and rolled three coats of Kilz over the paneling to try and brighten things up, but the dark windows, carpet, and ceiling kept things feeling grim out there.
The half-wall was meant as a windbreak for the unfortunates sitting in the waiting room, and really did nothing but make the whole place look and feel darker. We’re looking to brighten the whole place up on the cheap, so I took it down with a crowbar and a hammer. It took only about a half an hour to pull out completely, and the debris filled two contractor’s bags. Inside the wall I found Christi’s car keys, deposited there sometime in 2011 by Finley, who, at the time, was fascinated by a hole in the wall left by the doorknob. Apparently someone in an earlier decade found it equally fascinating, because I found a second set of car keys next to hers, from a 70’s era Ford (years on the repossession lot taught me a lot about identifying keys).
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After I’d bagged the debris I cut up some leftover drywall to patch the hole in the wall, and taped and mudded it. I was trimming a second patch to cover another section of wall that had been holed and then covered in tape when the blade of the boxcutter hopped over my guide and bit into my left thumb, opening a pretty good gash below the knuckle and leaving a divot across my thumbnail.
Jen busted out the supplies and patched me up quickly, and we let it sit for a while before she convinced me to reopen it, disinfect everything, and superglue the whole thing shut. We numbed it with some lidocaine cream and then she got to work. My labors were pretty much over at that point, so we took the dog for another walk and settled in to our new book by the fireplace.
We’re finished with the Golden Compass series—overall very enjoyable, and not at all what I was expecting—and have moved on to the Alchemyst, a fantasy book about Nicholas Flamel and magic. It’s been very relaxing to sit by the fire with the menagerie around us and not have them try to kill each other; usually at reading time Hazel is winding down and the drowsy nature of the fire seems to calm her down even more.
On Sunday Jen changed my bandage and I went back out to the porch to do what I could with one hand; this basically meant I was painting all day. I washed the woodwork with warm water and TSP (commercial detergent) and then painted the outside of the front door for the first time we’ve been in the house, as well as the trim around the dining room window. Then I moved a bunch of stuff around and painted the frames surrounding the outside windows with about ten coats of Kilz, and anything else I could reach or cover. At about 6:30 we stopped for Easter dinner and some family calls, and wound our evening down early.
I decided to pull the trigger on a Home Depot delivery yesterday, after loading the cart up with 15 cubic yards of raised bed soil, five 4×8′ headboard panels, and a couple of other smaller items, and then hovering over the “BUY” button. The idea is to lay in supplies for some projects for the next month or so, as it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere soon.
The soil will replace all of the dirt I used last year, which, from what I understand, is probably infected with the pupae of those fucking caterpillars. The seedlings are coming along nicely, although they’re getting a little leggy for my liking—I’m going to have to refine my seed starting technique next year to get the light directly over top of the soil early on before they grow too tall. I figure it’ll be another week or so before it’s time to transplant them to larger pots and consider getting them outside, but I do think I’ll begin hardening them this coming week.
The beadboard will go up on the ceiling of the side porch over the (probably) asbestos ceiling tile; it’ll be a cheap way to clean up the look of that area and seal up the evil under a coat of paint.
I was a little annoyed at how H-D had organized the pickup; instead of setting things up outside the store, which would have made a ton of sense to keep us away from each other, they had us all queue up inside near each other by the Service Desk and then wheel our stuff out the entrance door (past other people walking in). Shortsighted and stupid. I was originally planning on having them deliver it, but that would have taken an extra week and a half, and I’m interested in getting started this Saturday.
In my Amazon cart is a cheap set of wire clippers for the brake lines on my road bike; I’ve been sitting on that project for a month or so until I understood what needed to be done. The big question was what to do about the brakes themselves, but in the spirit of keeping this project as cheap as possible, I’m keeping the original brakes and running new cables and guides. One question I haven’t found an answer for is why the levers don’t have a spring or a return mechanism—they aren’t spring-loaded so they don’t return to their original position, and I don’t know if the expectation is that they will use the spring on the brakes themselves or not.
A note to the Morning Mothers Hiking Group, who I see every day on my walk with Hazel: I see the five of you walking close to each other at the top end of the trolley trail, so it does absolutely no good to form into Quarantine Mode, drift apart, and pull the collar of your expensive hiking shirt up over your nose as you pass me by. Each one of your shiny families is a disease vector, and I’m positive your bratty kids are running around the neighborhood together hastening the spread of the virus from family to family. Protecting yourself from my germs won’t do you a bit of good.
I spent most of a gray rainy weekend at my desk working on WRI’s Annual Report, flowing new copy in where the old was and researching photography to place the FPO stuff I’d dumped in there last week. It all came together pretty well, and I’m hopeful the team will have only minor edits to things from this point forward. We won’t be getting a physical proof before printing for obvious reasons, so I’m a little worried about how it will print, but I’m determined to stay cautiously optimistic.
Planting update: I’ve got about 5 Chef’s Choice, 10 Cherokee, and 4 cherry tomato sprouts, as well as 10 lettuce sprouts germinating in the basement under the grow light, which is a lovely treat to watch every day. I’ve been turning the light on at 7AM when I let Hazel out for the first time, and shutting it off at 11PM, so they’re getting a full 16 hours of light daily. This evening I pulled the plastic cover off for the first time and we raised them closer to the grow light to keep them from getting too leggy. The question now is how to get them from tiny seedlings to healthy plants and then out into the greenhouse without frying or killing them. For a total investment of about $15, I’d say this is an experiment worth trying until I figure it out.
Governor Hogan says, Don’t Call It a Lockdown, but it’s pretty much a lockdown. Good to know that we can still go shopping for liquor when the stocks run low. Seriously, it’s about time the dumb fucks in our neighborhood leash their kids instead of letting them run around in packs, which I see daily from my front window. There’s no possible disease vector there, no sir. Downside: I can’t pick up the bathroom wood trim that’ll be available on Monday.
Teleworking has made me an expert on switching between seventeen different videoconferencing applications in one day. Zoom, one of the most popular, was outed as being completely scummy several years ago. It’s still pretty scummy. Apparently it likes to send data to Facebook without your consent. Unfortunately, it works better than Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams, so lots of our teams use it. I’m just thrilled to death about sharing everything with Facebook, can you tell?
I did more grocery shopping on Sunday morning for the stuff I couldn’t find/had forgotten on Saturday. I took the Scout, and it was nice to stretch her legs a little, even if it was only around the neighborhood. When I got home, I washed my hands eight times, and then did some cleanup in the basement. I set up two trays of seedlings under a grow lamp on the workbench: three varieties of tomatoes and a bunch of lettuce. Hopefully they will appreciate the light and warmth.
Then I headed upstairs to the bathroom, where I was mortified to find that a bottle of purple PVC primer had spilled on the floor, staining the grout in a saucer-sized area by the closet. I cleaned it up with some acetone but found that the chemical in the primer had made the grout pliable, so I dug the stained grout out with a putty knife and got to as much of the white as possible. I’m going to have to take a Dremel to the edges and clean things up, and then I have to call the tile distributor to find out what grout was used and how I can get some more.
Once I’d cleaned that up and calmed down, I continued with a bunch of trim and carpentry work, putting a spacer in between the left side of the sink and the wall, and then finishing off the kickplate around the perimeter of the room. I’m still waiting on the toe kick panel for the fronts of the cabinets, which I’m told will be in on April 1. Once I’ve got that in hand I can finish off all the rest of the trim and nail the thresholds in place.
I also added yeast to the beer, and by bedtime there was an inch of krauzen on the top and the airlock was burbling happily.
After dinner, we lit a fire in the living room and read four chapters of The Amber Spyglass, the final book in the Golden Compass series, while the dog snored at our feet. It was a lovely way to finish off a busy weekend, and I was happy to have my girls safe and warm with me.
At one point in time, I was really into cycling. When I lived in the city, I used my bike for everything, going so far as to commute to my first real job year-round, through heatwave and snowstorm. I started out in college with an entry-level Trek 800 mountain bike, which was heavy and inexpensive. Over time I bought a second set of rims for it and mounted city tires for my daily commute. But it was a mountain bike and no amount of upgrades would change its geometry or weight, and I was interested in something lighter and faster to dart through traffic.
In 1995, I bought a well-used Trek 360 out of the Pennysaver from a kid who was upgrading his ride. I might have paid $150 for it, but I honestly don’t remember. He’d done some small upgrades to it in terms of the gearset and the rims, swapping out the stock Sugino units for a Shimano 105 crank and derailleur, and a new front rim/hubset. I was happy to re-wrap the handlebars after adjusting them to my height and reach, and I put new tires on it, adjusted the brakes, and replaced the saddle. Other than that I left it pretty much alone, and it served me well for miles of urban exploration and work commutes until I moved out of the city for good.
Since then, it’s mostly sat in the garage or basement; it’s hard to find someplace around here that’s suited to road riding that also fits into my schedule. I’ve thought about bringing it to work and locking it in the cycle room there so that I’d have something to ride during a lunch break.
One thing I recently decided to do was rebuild the handlebars to a more modern setup after stumbling on a set of bullhorn handlebars on deep discount. It came with old-school drop bars that feel old-school, and given the riding position I favor with my mountain bike, I like the feel of bullhorns better.
This involves removing the grip tape I installed in 1995, pulling the brake levers off, and swapping pretty much everything, so I ordered a set of bar-end brake levers to complement the bars. The brake levers get re-oriented at the very ends of the bars—they use the hole at the end of the bars as their mount point. This is a 40-year-old bike, and the old-school gear shifts are mounted on the drop tube, so I don’t need to worry about shift levers anywhere (and theoretically could change the whole thing out to a fixie if I wanted to). I’d like to ride this bike a little more, and for a total of about $40 this is a very inexpensive upgrade.
In the interest of cleaning things up, I’d also like to get some clean alloy lugs for the bottle cage mounts (there’s only one present), some black tubing for the cables, and black grip tape to match the new bars.
Eventually I’d love to put some newer rims and tires on it, but for that cost (the gearset is 30 years old) I’d do better to just buy a used modern bike. Fixing this old girl up will be fun, and that’s really what I’m interested in anyway.