I was bummed out to read yesterday that Panera is discontinuing its line of “charged” lemonades because two people died after drinking too much of it. Two years ago, when we were cleaning out my father-in-law’s house, we were hitting the Panera pretty regularly and I was using the strawberry mint lemonade to push through hot summer weekends humping trash into a dumpster. I liked it because it didn’t have the same laxative effect coffee does to my 50-year-old digestive system. Around here they keep it behind the counter and you have to pay for refills, but I’ve been in other stores where you can just go up and refill it yourself. I wonder if they ever considered that from a failure of design vs. a liability standpoint; I guess we’ll never know.

* * *

The YouTube channel has now gotten 110 subscribers, which is roughly 1% of what I’d actually need to monetize the thing. I made an introduction video to beef up the channel and have followed some of the Creators advice that has suddenly popped up in my feed to juice up my stats; the low-hanging fruit seems to be working, albeit slowly. The channel is designed mostly as a way to remember what it is I’ve worked on while also practicing filming and editing skills, and testing out some different methods of shooting things, much like this weblog acts as my institutional memory. Which is good, because the details get very fuzzy before COVID.

Speaking of editing, Apple just announced they’re releasing Final Cut Pro 2.0 sometime later this year, which is good news—so long as they don’t move all the furniture around again. I’m going to have the fellas at work give me a crash course in Adobe Premiere sometime soon so that we can trade files back and forth, but my heart will always live with FCP, much like it did with the dearly departed Aperture.

* * *

I’m currently feel very proud of myself; walking the dog this morning, I passed a house with a bunch of stuff out front under a big FREE sign. One of the things was a beautiful steel floor-standing cabinet with a beefy handle/lock combination, several built-in shelves and two enclosed drawers. My lizard brain screamed GO GET THE TRUCK RIGHT NOW but the smaller mammalian section  counseled me to do a mental map of the interior of the garage, which is completely full. BUT YOU COULD PUT STUFF IN THERE, lizard brain responded. Try as I might, I don’t have any room, nor do I really need a cabinet such as this with the space that I have. So I kept walking.

And on the way home I resolved to put a bunch of crap in the basement out by the curb on Saturday morning under a FREE sign. Let’s make some more room.

Date posted: May 9, 2024 | Filed under apple, life | Leave a Comment »

I have to go back to work today. I took last week off for some mental relaxation and to part out the green Travelall before the County starts leaving expensive love letters on our front porch about the abandoned junk in the driveway. I was still getting up early to help shepherd Finn to school while Jen fought off a cold, but I also used that early morning time to come up with a plan for each day. Right now my back is sore, my legs are stiff, my wrists ache, my right shoulder is throbbing, and my hands feel like sandpaper. They look like I’ve been bathing in grease even though I’ve scrubbed them with Dawn four times an hour. I was working from 9 until about 6 each day, pausing only to pick up Finn from school, yet it still felt like progress was very slow-going. I always underestimate how hard it is to get parts off an old rusty truck, and how much it kicks my ass on a good day. It’s been a challenging week, and it was Saturday when I finally got the last major piece I wanted off the truck. I took Thursday and half of Friday off to recharge my battery, but I still feel like I’ve been run over by a bus Monday morning.

Date posted: April 15, 2024 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

I’m taking the week off from work to both burn through some PTO time and to part out the green truck in the driveway to hasten its departure, and with a few setbacks I’ve made serious progress on the project. With the exception of the power steering setup I’ve gotten everything off the truck I wanted. I’m taking Thursday off from laboring in the driveway both because I’m pretty well exhausted but also because it’s going to rain from about noon today until tomorrow morning. I’ve got a list of other things I need to accomplish—mostly errands to run and some small repairs around the house.

One surprise addition to the list is diagnosing an issue with the Scout blog, where an update to WordPress has broken something in the backend of the site where it won’t load the media library and every update/refresh to a post or page is rewarded with a blank screen. I’ve narrowed it down to an incompatibility with the 10+ year-old theme I’ve been using (a slight variant of which powers this very site) which is about as bare-bones as a theme can get—and is the primary reason I’m using it. After switching to one of the pre-installed templates, the site works fine. So, I’ll have to debug that situation later today.

I’m a bit frustrated at my lack of stamina this past week, to be honest. I realize I’m coming off a cold winter where I wasn’t as active as I was last summer, but being completely worn out after four days was sobering. I powered through Wednesday with snacks and a burger for lunch but I just didn’t have the amount or duration of energy I did last year. So I’ve got to figure out how to add more high-impact exercise into my busy daily routine, I guess.

Date posted: April 11, 2024 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

I celebrated my birthday quietly at home, on a day that felt a lot like the day before it and the day before that. I walked the dog with Jen, we had coffee and breakfast, and then we went to work. I’d bought some marinaded chicken at Trader Joe’s on the weekend so I fired up the grill and cooked it,then shredded the meat and made quesadillas for the family. The girls bought chocolate cupcakes and sang happy birthday and I blew out my candle. That was a highlight, as were the many messages I got from family and friends.

Date posted: March 19, 2024 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Jen and I are gathering all of the files we need to do our taxes, and one of those is the 1099-G, which reports on our state refund from 2022. We need this for our 2023 taxes, so I did a search on the Maryland.gov website to log in and download it. The site I was presented with looks similar to stuff I built back in 1999, optimized for Netscape Navigator 4.0. Hesitantly I registered to log in to the site—which seemed to be asking for a lot more information than necessary—and after some fits and starts (anytime a website offers a field to create a new password, the rules for the password should be clearly spelled out next to that field) I hit ENTER and expected I’d be able to see my records and download them. Nope.

It then sent me an email from “Office365.messaging@microsoft.com” with a mysterious attachment named “message_v4.msg” and a button linking to a a pre-populated “protected message”.  Not dodgy at all. Knowing better, I clicked the link and was sent to a prepopulated Sharepoint page with boilerplate text requesting the state send me my record via mail and a signature field I couldn’t fill out. It took me a couple of minutes to realize I had to click a tiny button to then generate a reply window where I could enter my name, and it then required me to photograph the front and back of my driver’s license and attach them to the message. WHAT THE FUCK. At this point I knew my personal information was compromised. I hit send and was rewarded with a noncommittal screen which may or may not mean I was successful.

I’m pretty sure there’s a passport factory somewhere in Africa now pumping out dupes of my ID for doing crimes, and my SSN is all over the dark web being used to buy fentanyl and viagra. We will probably never see this 1099-G and need to file an extension for our taxes. I cannot believe this is the SOP at my state government, and that there is no portal that contains all of this information readily. But then, I also know that our local governments are being strangled by budgets and partisan fighting, so I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised.

Date posted: February 26, 2024 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Xyla Foxlin is a creator with a YouTube channel that I’ve followed for a while, and she just posted something that resonated with me—a list of the top 10 things she’s learned as an engineer, maker, creator, and human being.

The ones that really hit for me:

1. The longer you make stuff the easier it gets — mostly because you collect knowledge and tools.
I’ve been working with tools for most of my life, to the point where it’s just second nature, and it’s only been in the past ten years or so that I can afford high-dollar specialty equipment for jobs I do constantly. But there isn’t much I wouldn’t tackle—within reason.

3. Trust in yourself to figure it out. Developing the confidence to problem-solve as you take things on is invaluable.
For me, that confidence bore itself out when I took on the Travelall project, specifically the cowl vent replacement, because I had no backup plan. But believing in myself was key to going as far as I did and being able to bring it to completion. And that problem-solving is the most gratifying part of the whole process.

5. Everything is fixable.
I’m still working on this one, but my additional wisdom is: when you know something is broken or came out wrong, step back. Take an hour or a day, and have a think about it. Often I find that my first solution for fixing things isn’t the best one, and I need time and distance to come up with a better plan.

6. Build a community of friends who have knowledge and tools.
I’d say the corollary here is to then develop into the person who has the knowledge and tools. I’ve got truck friends who I would drop everything for to help, because they’ve been my mentors for more than just dumb truck stuff. One of the sayings around the antique car world is that we have to get young kids interested in our hobby to keep it from dying out; truer words have never been spoken.

7. Invest in personal protection gear that is comfortable and safe.
I did this with safety glasses and I now need to upgrade my dust mask situation.

10. Skill takes practice. Don’t compare yourself to the people you see online; just get out there and do it, and learn from your mistakes.

Date posted: January 30, 2024 | Filed under life, list | Leave a Comment »

Another chapter in this-is-why-we-can’t-have-nice-things: Fruit Stripe Gum is being discontinued. I spent many, many hours in the back seat of various large American station wagons on the way to or from my grandparents’ houses, and usually Mom or Dad would hand my sister and I a fresh pack of Fruit Stripe gum for the ride. Because it was what it was, the flavor only lasted until the end of the driveway, but damn that stuff tasted good.

Date posted: January 22, 2024 | Filed under life, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

So I got some stuff done this weekend. The weather has been brutally cold so I’m not that interested in spending time outside, but I did venture out there for some tasks. In rough order:

  • Went out for brunch at a place we’ve never been to: Kimchi fries and bulgogi on my huevos rancheros. I don’t think any of us ate again until dinner.
  • Reorganized the basement shelving (consolidated old brewing equipment, moved similar items together, swept under old shelves, generally straightened up). It’s amazing how soothing I found this.
  • Punted on dinner and ordered Indian food from down the street. This restaurant is on its 17th grand re-opening, so the food was OK—but definitely better than trying to cook something ourselves.
  • Enjoyed both Saturday playoff games, which were entertaining. The girls actually sat on the couch with me for most of Packers/49ers, which was fun!
  • Installed a replacement steam radiator valve, replacing the replacement which did not work for shit (it basically let the radiator get as hot as possible, which made the bedroom uninhabitable). Verdict: the new one is working extremely well. I will have to buy six more of these.
  • Bundled up the dog and myself for a coffee walk Sunday morning. She looks dapper in her Christmas sweater! we did a short walk because I put on one layer too many and was overheating quickly. (Jen got me a proper set of thermal leggings for Christmas, and with those, smartwool socks, and an UnderArmour ColdGear shirt, I was sweating).
  • Bundled up and headed out to the garage to finish welding in a third patch on the spare fender and ground it down to (mostly) smooth metal. It’s going to take some filler to clean up. I bought a surplus flight suit from eBay a while back which is doing an excellent job of keeping warmth in and hot metal shavings out.
  • Learned that spark plug holes in cast iron US engine blocks designed in the 1960’s are tapped metric. I would have bet my house this was not the case.
  • Dug out the garage doors and ran up the Scout. She was happy.
  • Scraped and shoveled the front walk again for the elementary kids tomorrow morning.
  • Posted a new set of designs to Threadless, made some money!
  • Realized I’d never moved any of my font collection over to the new laptop(!?); rectified that situation quickly.
Date posted: January 21, 2024 | Filed under life, list | Leave a Comment »

I hit a deer on November 21 and filed a claim with USAA that evening. It’s now December 22 and I still don’t have a payment for the car in hand. There was one lost week when the salvage yard was waiting on the lien release document I misplaced, where I had to chase down the issue myself after nobody contacted me. On the day the claim was resolved, December 15, they cut me a check instead of following my instructions and electronically transferring the funds to my bank account. The representative I spoke to this morning said it would take 5-7 business days to get that check, which means it will probably show up the day after Christmas.

I would have a hard time recommending USAA to anyone after this laborious process; the fact that I have done more work to resolve my claim than my fucking claims adjuster irritates me.

Date posted: December 22, 2023 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Steve Albini has an outsized voice in the music industry of my generation; he engineered some of the seminal albums of the 80’s and 90’s. He was/is also a notorious curmudgeon, with an almost pathological need to offend and anger anyone and everyone. He’s slowly changed a lot of his attitudes about music, people, and his place in the discourse, and most importantly, has owned up to his responsibility in all of it.

As the years wore on, his perspective started to shift. “I can’t defend any of it,” he told me. “It was all coming from a privileged position of someone who would never have to suffer any of the hatred that’s embodied in any of that language.”

It’s fascinating to read about someone who unabashedly, unashamedly owns up to his faults without the aid (or hindrance) of an army of PR flacks and crisis managers.

Date posted: October 30, 2023 | Filed under life, music, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »