Twenty years ago today, I opened up a text editor and wrote a little bit about what I saw around me as I commuted to work. I styled some HTML by hand, stuck it in a subdirectory of my website, and began a habit I would stick with until the present day.

Unknowingly I was one of the early attendees to the party, and if I hadn’t been quite so cheap—I was getting my hosting for free through a friend and didn’t buy proper webhosting until 2005, after all the cool kids had staked out space in the ecosphere—I might have had a higher profile in the strange world of weblogs. Because I didn’t use weblog software, I was late to the blogroll and the trackback and software wars, which sidelined me from people discovering what I was writing about for years. And as much as I wanted for people to read what I was writing and comment, I was never one of the try-hards who begged for traffic. I’m not much of a joiner, so I only attended a few blogger meetups, and those were usually hosted by people I already knew, but it was nice to meet other folks who were doing it for as long as it lasted. There was always a tension between the promise of internet fame and the terror of internet infamy. I’m probably not tough enough to weather either of those storms, so I continue to fly under the radar. As it was, I never kept a weblog for the same reasons other people did anyway; while some folks were happy to document their every emotion and feeling, my weblog was more a record of my own headspace at any given moment.

Besides keeping a log of what I was doing for my own purposes, I also wrote this as a way to update my friends and parents. Mostly my parents; I was a little embarrassed to share this with friends directly: “I have a blog” sounds pretty dorky. It sounds dorkier now that it’s a decade past being a fad. Upon reflection, I think I wrote most of it with my Dad in mind—here’s what’s been happening—whom I found hard to talk to through normal channels. We’d talk on the phone, yes, but as I’ve gotten older I realize how much of his approval I was always seeking, and possibly how this was my weird way of reaching out. He didn’t comment on here as far as I can remember; comments only go back to the switch to WordPress. Most of our electronic communication was stereotypical Dad ALL CAPS EMAILS or forwards of annoying chain mails. Mom did tell me he read the site, but I tend to think she is the regular subscriber and he was a casual visitor.


As I look back over the body of work here it makes me think about all of the things I never asked him before he passed. There’s a black and white picture of him laying on the roof of his first car in front of Grandpa’s farm—how did he buy it? How long did he have it?  There’s another of younger Bill holding a rope around the neck of a cow in shirtsleeves and a tie—where was that? What was he doing there? How about the picture above of him standing next to Mom, who is holding Renie as an infant. What was going through his mind? I would like to know who he was as a man of 30, raising a young family, and what his hopes and dreams were—but I realize know nothing about him. I have boxes of his slides, decades of memories, with no context or reference to who is pictured or what they are doing beyond what little I’ve been told. As I tried to do with my grandfather, I lost the chance to do with him, to get him to talk about those experiences and his memories and hear about his life and learn from him. Mom, get yourself ready.

Someday I hope that Finley will be able to read this and know a little more about who her parents were, what we were doing, and what we were thinking before she blew up our world in the best way possible. In that way, this weblog is more a gift to her than anything else, an annotated photo album of where she came from and the people that made her.

In that way, it’s documented the last twenty years faithfully, through one house to the second, through a wedding and honeymoon to various foreign vacations, home projects, employment shifts, a pregnancy and birth, BABY, another employment shift, more vacations, friends coming and going, cancer, death, and now the pandemic. It will continue as long as I am able to put fingers to keyboard. Maybe Finley will even take up the mantle someday, if there is still a text-based internet where people can write about their dishwasher breaking or post endless blurry pictures of their dog.

Date posted: March 21, 2021 | Filed under family, history | Leave a Comment »

On Sunday I found myself sitting at the dining room table, surrounded by books, holding a set of battle-worn dice, and leading my daughter and her friend through a musty dungeon full of lizard-people and Orcs. I don’t know how they learned of Dungeons & Dragons, but Finley had talked about it with her friend and knew I had played it decades ago and still had some old stuff buried in the basement, so she nominated me to lead them through their first campaign. Which is fine! But it was stressful to re-read the books to try and remember how to play—and, more importantly, to remember how to lead two 12-year-olds through a dungeon.

It was created back in the ’70’s by a bunch of geeky middle-aged white guys who loved dice and math and J.R.R. Tolkien, and so everything was super-complicated and over-thought. Realizing this at some point in the early 80’s, they began to re-write the rules not one, or two, or even three, but five times to make things easier to understand and streamline them for play. All my stuff is from that first complicated edition, so I had to wrestle the rules and dice tables and backstory to make things work for the girls. Because they are both novices, I also had to create four non-player characters to assist them in their adventure—and to provide timely hints when necessary.

Overall it went really well! I was a little rusty at first but quickly caught up to things, and once I’d remembered how to get the dice tables organized we had a lot of fun going through some of the easy sections of The Keep On The Borderlands, the beginner-level module included with the starter D&D set I’d been given in 1982. We spent about three hours working through the first sections of the adventure, powered by pizza and later with an artisanal hot chocolate bar organized by Mama.

By all accounts, the girls really had fun; Finn’s friend didn’t stop talking about it for a half an hour after she got home.

* * *

On Saturday I focused on the other side of the ice room, and built a set of shelves on the west side to get all of that stuff organized. It went in pretty easily, and all of the Dugan family slides are now up off the concrete. I also put in a rack for our storm windows and culled out a bunch of crap we don’t need to keep.

Date posted: December 14, 2020 | Filed under history | Leave a Comment »

This nice-looking Traveler showed up on Craigslist and FB Marketplace for around $17K, which is a pretty good price for what they’re offering. What caught my eye, beyond the obvious good looks and desirable extra 18″ of wheelbase (and thus cargo space) was the location of the first staging shot:

That’s the former location of East Coast Scouts, my local IH mechanic in the early days when I had Chewbacca. He closed up shop in the early 2000’s when it got to be too much to stay on top of; he’s back in the area after moving to PA for a while and I traded emails with him last year.

East Coast Scouts, 2002

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: November 16, 2020 | Filed under Chewbacca, history, Scout | Comments Off on I See What You Did There

Hemmings has a good writeup on the Scout SSV, which was to be International’s successor to the Scout II. From what it sounds like, they were aiming for the fences at a time when they could only afford to polish what they had.

Light trucks, on the other hand, were becoming more of a bother to the company. It discontinued its Travelalls and pickups in 1975 in response to the 1973 oil crisis, had trouble meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy standards set to take effect in 1979, and faced a second oil crisis that year.

I’ve always thought the SSV was a hideously ugly design that looked more like a Tonka truck than a production vehicle; even if they’d been able to pull this out of their hat, I wonder how many of them they would have sold—it reminds me of AMC’s attempts to shake things up with the Pacer, and later the Matador. And we all know how that went.

There’s a presentation at the ACD Museum in Fort Wayne about this subject on Saturday, which I’d love to be able to listen in on—but it doesn’t look like they’ve accounted for, uh, COVID. It’s a shame, because I’d definitely log in to a ZOOM call if I could.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: October 13, 2020 | Filed under history, Scout | Comments Off on Hemmings on the SSV

A deteriorating 1942 mural entitled “Incidents in the History of Catonsville” that includes a portrayal of Black slaves pulling barrels of tobacco alongside white men on horses has quietly been covered over in plastic in the town’s post office after state and federal representatives called for its replacement.

…Slavery in the state existed “from the very beginning,” Wright said, from the 1600s until Maryland abolished slavery at the end of 1864, two months before Congress ratified the 13th amendment abolishing slavery nationwide.

We are lucky to have an example of the WPA’s portfolio in our town, but I can see why this mural is confronting. I’d prefer not to take it down (it was designed to be integral to three walls of the Post Office) but I understand if they decide to, much like Confederate statues around the country. (previously)

Date posted: October 12, 2020 | Filed under history, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I’m sad to read this morning that Ric Ocasek, frontman of the Cars, died in New York at age 75. As the author of one of the best rock songs of all time, this is a loss for humanity.

I’m also strangely excited about the news that Gary Larson may be resurrecting The Far Side after a long, dark hiatus. I don’t know if this means he’s going to be reprinting old strips or just producing new ones, but I hope it’s the latter. The world needs more weird humor. (On my desk here at work sits the Midvale School for the Gifted mug my parents bought me for my college dorm in 1989; I’ve had it with me ever since).

Date posted: September 16, 2019 | Filed under history, music | Leave a Comment »

I could read articles about the space race in the 1960’s/1970’s for the rest of my life; almost everything about this part of America’s history represents the best of who we are and what we ascribe to. Ars Technica published a great article on the tremendous gamble the Apollo 8 mission was, in the shadow of the Apollo 1 fire and the gains the Soviet space program had been making to that point. Also see the Apollo 11 mission in real time.

Date posted: July 18, 2019 | Filed under history, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

When I was a young boy, I was given this LEGO set for Christmas. I remember being fascinated with the little blocks, and for the rest of that day I put the set together and took it apart and put it back together. I loved looking at the instructions, printed in simple 3D side-view format, and I loved the ability to reform the set into some other creation that I imagined. It was the beginning of an obsession I harbored for years.

LEGO just released a new Moon Landing set, and the difference is staggering. The original was 364 parts; the new set has 1,087. I like how it’s now mostly to scale (I wondered how the giant blocky robots from the first set were supposed to fit in that weird blue capsule even as a young boy) and that they made special accessories for the minifigs. I also like that it’s more historically correct; the original landers were only made to fit two astronauts; the third orbited the moon alone in the Command Module. (previously).

Date posted: June 6, 2019 | Filed under history | Leave a Comment »

Here’s our children as of yesterday afternoon. You’ll notice some leaf discoloration on the plant closest to the camera; I think this is a bacterial infection that can be treated with a copper soap spray (ordered). The marigolds have this too, which leads me to believe it’s something bacterial. That is to say, I’m hoping it’s not Verticulum, which is untreatable and basically means you’ve got to throw the plants out.

I’ve been a lot more mercenary with these plants this year, being sure to cut back any new shoots from the main stem before they produce flowers to prevent the giant explosion of leaves and branches I had last year. Because they’re in the center of the greenhouse they can grow taller instead of wider and it’s easier to access both sides to prune them.

Meanwhile, they’re all beginning to set fruit! The romas (up front) have four, the Beefsteak have three, there are several dozen cherries starting, and I think all but two of the rest have at least one fruit. Still no love for the tomatillos yet.

* * *

I did my year-and-a-half cancer checkup yesterday, and after a sonogram, a CT scan and bloodwork, it appears the clot in my arm is gone, I’m clear of any new passengers, and my white blood cell count is low. This last bit is alarming, because we don’t know what’s causing it. I’m not run down, I’m not sick, and there’s no reason we can think of for it to be so low (it’s roughly half the count it was when I was laid up with a busted small intestine). So there will be some more tests performed in a month and we’ll wait to see what they look like before any drastic action is taken. Meanwhile, I’m cleared to have the port removed sometime in the next couple of weeks, and when that’s over with, I’ll be off blood thinners. Hooray!

* * *
So the guy who built the $20M Frank Lloyd Wright house on an island in my high school town has dropped his list price down to $12.9M. A bargain! The short story: FLW designed a house for the island but the owner couldn’t build it at that time. Later, after I’d left town, a contractor bought the island with the plans and built the house as closely to the original specs as possible. The FLW Foundation does not recognize it as a real FLW house (what a bunch of insufferable assholes) but it still looks spectacular. My friend Jon lived on the lake and we spent many an afternoon/evening motoring around Petra Island on his boat when it was mostly empty. (Previously.)
Date posted: May 21, 2019 | Filed under cancer, general, greenhouse, history | Leave a Comment »

I got the Line Set Ticket from the frame serial back from Super Scouts this morning, and, well, the mystery continues. Here’s what I know so far:

Knowing that, I have to go out and see if I can read the engine serial to see if it matches what’s on the LST (311593) for confirmation.

As is common with most Scouts of its age, it’s a jigsaw puzzle from many different trucks. Maybe someone out west put it together and then shipped it east to sell?


→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: March 11, 2019 | Filed under history, Scout | Comments Off on Decoding