The weather for the past week has been brutally hot and humid; not as bad as the west coast, but pretty miserable for an average Maryland summer. Saturday was hot enough that after a 2-mile hike with the dog, I felt like doing absolutely nothing around the house. Seeking air conditioning, I decided to try and return my Gap jeans at a Gap Factory store about 15 minutes away from here, and was annoyed to learn they don’t accept returns from the parent brand at the factory store. I’m gonna have to travel further to get my money back.

Finn was off with a friend so Jen and I spent time together with Hazel doing some light shopping. While we were in the hardware store, the first in a line of thunderstorms started hammering the roof of the building, so we took a moment to sit with our nervous dog and then hightailed it to the car during a lull. It poured on us all the way back, and at exactly the same time on the road down into Ellicott City, it dawned on us both that this might not be the safest way home. We detoured up onto Route 40 and made it home safely; Catonsville only had a light sprinkle while areas to the east and west of us were flooded. To celebrate cheating death, we binged all six episodes of Loki until bedtime.

Sunday was much cooler due to the storm, so I was a lot more motivated. After looking over the compressor and unplugging all the other items on that circuit, I fired it up, painted the shutters white, and hung them back on the house. It’s nice to have them up but I don’t think the color is working for us. We’ve ruled out red, as we don’t want this place looking like a giant USA-themed birthday cake. I suggested gray to Jen and she seemed to like the idea, so I’ll do some Photoshop renders and see if I can mock up a shade we like.

I then put a ladder up and sprayed out almost all of the rest of the siding. There’s one place at the edge of the east wall I can’t reach—my ladders aren’t tall enough—that I’ll have to hit with a roller from the roof of the bathroom. I was able to scrape and paint most of the siding on that eave with pole attachments but I have to move to the back wall to get the inside.

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This morning I got an email from UMBC that said they are going to disable my account, as I am no longer an employee of the university. I can’t say that I was hopeful they would ask me to teach a new class—or actually interested in doing so—but it’s kind of a robotic way to close that chapter of my professional career.

Date posted: July 19, 2021 | Filed under house, life | Leave a Comment »

I took advantage of a break in the hot weather on Saturday to continue painting the house and got a lot more done than I thought I would. First I had to build a leveling platform for the front porch roof, as it slopes down from the front and from both sides, which makes reaching the edges of the second story eaves difficult. I knocked together some scrap wood in the garage, hauled the ladders, compressor, and platform around to the front of the house, and had both edges of the second story knocked out by about 2PM. This included a second (third, actually) coat of white paint on all of the eaves across the front of the house.

Then I moved everything to the back corner and started the complicated ladderwork to get the siding painted there. As mentioned before it’s very tricky because there are three wires that reach the house on that corner, no level ground to place a ladder, and no easy flat surfaces to lean a ladder on. I got most of the siding done with some careful placement before the compressor tripped the circuit for the third time, and I finally realized it was overloaded when the connection between the cord and the extension cord started throwing smoke (and it burned my finger). I’ll have to temporarily unplug the refrigerator and some other small stuff and see if that helps make the compressor any happier.

By the time I finished I was absolutely exhausted. The weather had been nice but all that ladderwork took it out of me, and I was moving a lot of heavy stuff around all day. We ate a quick dinner and then went over to the Gebler’s house for a birthday party for Ruby, who turned 4 (she shares a birthday with Aunt Renie!) where we let Hazel run free in the backyard while the kids played and we drank beer and relaxed. It was after 10:30 and a set of skinned knees when we packed up the car and returned home.

Date posted: July 11, 2021 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

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…

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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.

Date posted: June 20, 2021 | Filed under family, general, house | Leave a Comment »

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Date posted: June 6, 2021 | Filed under house, photo | Leave a Comment »

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Sadly, the pretty Mustang that’s been sitting in our driveway is headed to California tomorrow. Matt organized a pickup, and while it’s been fun having it here, I can’t really drive it much due to mechanical and legal worries. It really deserves to be out of the rain and in the warm dry sunshine of Southern California. So off it will go to automotive Valhalla to make someone very happy.

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I’ve been fooling around with some illustration during my downtime, and the more I work on it the more I want to try out some methods I’ve seen online using an iPad Pro. Before I spend a shit ton of money, I’d like to test drive the process. It turns out my favorite lens rental company also rents iPads, and for about $120 I can try one out for a week to see if I like it. The idea of being able to do scratchboard-like work with an Undo button and have it go right to vector artwork is super-appealing, and the ability to change brushes and sizes on the fly is even more interesting. So when I get paid next week, I’m going to give this a try.

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Digging around in the idiotking archives I found some now outdated links to the timelapses I shot painting the house in 2004; I found the original picture sequence, built a new timelapse file, and put it up on YouTube:

Date posted: June 2, 2021 | Filed under cars, drawing, house | Leave a Comment »

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As of Monday morning, I’ve got the west, south, and east sides sprayed out. All of the eaves on the west and south sides are scraped and painted, and all of the windows save two have been cleaned up and painted. The lift is back in the driveway, waiting for pickup. I’ve used five gallons of paint so far, and forecast at least another two before the house is complete (the garage will be next). The next phases are going to be a little more complicated:

  • Crawling out onto the roof of the new bathroom to hit the peak on the east side, as well as scraping and painting the eaves up there
  • Pulling the shutters off the front of the house and spraying the siding on the second floor
  • power washing the front of the house
  • Building a platform over the front porch to make it easy to scrape and paint the eaves
  • Ladder work to spray out the first floor of the front porch
  • Finally, some creative and tricky ladder work to spray out the siding on the southeast corner, where the garage, electrical wires, and shitty geometry all conspire to make painting next to impossible.

What I Did With My Summer Vacation.
(August 2005)

I think my focus will be on the front to get things cleaned up as soon as possible before I worry about the back, and frankly I’d like to be off a swaying boom lift for as long as it takes to get my land legs back.

Date posted: June 1, 2021 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

This morning is rainy and wet, so there won’t be any painting today. All week the forecast predicted showers off and on, threatening to make our rented lift an expensive lawn ornament, but thankfully the major rain pushed back until late yesterday. I started Friday out at the peak of the west side, going over sections that needed another coat of blue. This time the lift felt a little squirrelier than last time, so I was happy to be done with that area and down on the ground.

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I drove the lift out into the yard and backed it up to the house but couldn’t get the leveling beeper to stop no matter how I oriented it. I finally scooched it as close to the garage as I could and swung the boom around to reach the sections I wanted to hit, careful to avoid both the main electrical and phone wires ever so thoughtlessly placed in the center of the back wall.

By 1PM I was able to power wash the upper center section of the back wall, blow off a bunch of white paint I couldn’t reach from the bucket, and then start spraying blue paint in patchwork fashion as I moved the bucket around. Around then it started to drizzle so I came back down, put the tools away, and napped with Hazel for a glorious two hours.

Jen let me know there was a window from 4 to about 7 where it wouldn’t rain, so I hooked the sprayer back up and shot as much as I could reach with the lift in place, and I was able to do about 80% of the back wall before it started sprinkling again.

The plan for Monday, when the weather-guessers claim it will be clear again, will be to paint as much of the eaves as I can with the lift. That will mostly be the center section and possibly some of the area over the kitchen door if I can get the lift over there comfortably. The right side is the question mark. The lift leans toward the garage, so if I swing the lift toward the driveway and extend the boom, it tilts too far for me to feel comfortable, especially at that height. I’ll scrape and paint the windows as quick as I can, but everything at stepladder height can wait for later.

The whole southeast corner of the house is the  problem due to the wires I mentioned earlier, the position of the garage, and the complicated geometry which makes it difficult to put a ladder anywhere stable. If I’ve got time on Monday I’ll see if I can orient the lift to a place where I can reach that area, but I don’t have much hope. So I think I might be doing a lot of pole work from either the roof of the new bathroom or hiring someone to hang their ass out on a ladder to finish it.

Date posted: May 29, 2021 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

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Date posted: May 27, 2021 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

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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.

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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.

Date posted: May 26, 2021 | Filed under general, house | Leave a Comment »

house day 1

Here’s the east wall of the house after one day on the boom lift. The paint is on, all the windows are scraped and painted, the eaves are scraped and painted, and the gutter is rehung and cleaned. Can I say that I love the boom lift and would like to own a boom lift?

Date posted: May 25, 2021 | Filed under house, photo | Leave a Comment »