I got an invitation from Apple to join their new Savings account, tied to my Apple Card, and thought I’d give it a try, as it’s got a higher rate than pretty much any other account I have open besides my index funds.  I had to update my phone and then head into the Wallet app, where I was surprised to find I’d already amassed a decent amount of money through the cash back program. I read the disclosures, approved the account, and now I’ve got a savings account earning 4.5%. I’ve been very happy with my Apple Card since I opened it, using it for gas stations and larger purchases I wanted buyer protection on, and it’s been super easy to manage and use. I’m going to keep funneling the cash back balance into the savings account and see how much it grows.

* * *

I’ve gone for hours sitting through meetings as Acting Co-Director for the last few months tethered to my computer, and I figured it was time to spend $15 to be able to move around every hour or so. I bought a pair of cheap earbuds from Amazon during a lightning deal. These earbuds put into stark contrast just how good my AirPods Pro are. Just the noise pass through function alone is worth the money. Using these earbuds as a microphone is annoying after years with a more superior product; it’s like having a conversation with your hands planted over your ears. The bass response is negligible. But for the money it’s a small price to pay for the freedom to get up and stretch.

Date posted: May 4, 2023 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

When I was a kid in New Jersey we had six channels to watch: the three main networks, the Fox affiliate (FOX 5, before it was Nazis, home of the Godzilla creature feature at Halloween and It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas), Channel 29 (home of Star Blazers and M*A*S*H reruns), and PBS. One day I caught a show on PBS that had a guy dressed in odd pseudo-military clothing who taught kids how to draw, and the first time I saw it I was VERY interested in watching the rest of the shows. Unfortunately it never followed a schedule that made any sense and so I wound up only seeing a handful of episodes.

Fast forward to college, when my friend Tim and I were talking about random stuff and shared a common memory from youth: the drawing show on PBS. Turns out it was produced here in Maryland by MPT, and turns out he was a guest on the show as a kid for one of the episodes!

Fast forward to last night,when the same subject came up and I was talking about it with my sister-in-law. I had to find it, and the Internet provided: a series called Secret City, where the host tought kids to draw all kinds of different things. Enjoy:

Date posted: April 24, 2023 | Filed under art/design, entertainment, general | Leave a Comment »

The church Jen has been attending since Finn was a baby is very progressively Presbyterian, and they’ve been doing a lot of outreach with other churches and religions in the area. They recently organized an Iftar dinner with a local mosque and sent out invitations to the congregation. I haven’t been to church in a long while, as responsibilities and life have gotten in the way (and frankly, I prefer to spend my spare time elsewhere) but we were all intrigued at the idea of fellowship with members of a different religion and learning more about Ramadan.

We got cleaned up and walked across the street before sunset, and sat in the sanctuary while the Imam and our pastor gave a quick overview of Ramadan and Easter, respectively. Then we waited while the muslim congregation got up to fill their plates (as they’d been fasting since sunrise) and followed them in line. They’d set up tables with slips of colored paper next to each plate; this was designed to invite mingling of the two congregations. Jen and Finn found two seats at one table and I split off to another, where I was seated next to a couple and their brother. We listened to the call to prayer and ate delicious food. Our table got along well, and I learned about the country of Turkey, Istanbul, world architecture, and Turkish baklava—which I now prefer miles above Greek baklava—made with incredibly flavorful pistachios. I very much enjoyed our evening and we were some of the last to leave—after helping break tables and chairs down we waddled home and pretty much went right to bed.

* * *

On Saturday Jen and I ran some errands in the morning after getting breakfast with the dog, and picked up some new paint for the blue bedroom. That room has been due for a refresh for years now, and the girls picked out a shade of coral to mix things up. I put a quart up on the wall to see how it works, and everything is much brighter in there now. So I’ll finish with the wall color and then repaint all the trim, finally repair a poorly-fitted board on the threshold, and get it ready for new furniture.

Sunday I picked up my brother-in-law and drove down to Lexington Park where we were tasked with getting the bathroom closer to being finished. I brought a new medicine cabinet and light down in the car, and we installed both of those on the wall. I’d sandblasted and painted the original A/C register so we put that back in, finished off the baseplate, installed a new marble threshold, and hooked up the sink supply and drain. Both original valve bodies began leaking almost immediately, so the next time I’m down there I’ll have to replace both of those. But the whole thing is much further along and nearing completion.

Date posted: March 27, 2023 | Filed under family, general | Leave a Comment »

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 »