It’s been quiet around here this week, as I’ve been going pretty much nonstop since last Friday and haven’t had much time to sit and think. As mentioned earlier, I spent all of last weekend chest-deep in a dumpster hauling stuff out of Jen’s father’s garage. On Monday I had to fit a week’s worth of work into eight hours and prepare for the marathon to come: I was signed up for the CreativePro conference in Arlington for three days, which meant I had to get up at 6:30 to be on the road by 7 and be parked in a hotel garage by 9. I had a day of courses focusing on new tricks and features of the design software we use daily. I had to leave at 3 on Tuesday to drive all the way back up to Baltimore for welding class at 5:30, and practiced stick welding until 8:30.

Wednesday was another conference day, and after the last track was over at 5 we walked down the street and I bought the design team dinner. It was great to sit back and hang out with them, and by the time I got on the road the evening traffic had calmed down. Thursday was a repeat of Tuesday’s schedule, and we spent the evening practicing stick welding and started learning MIG theory.

My brain is full, my body is tired, and I’ve driven in more traffic in the past week than I care to ever again. But I feel good about design and better about welding. I’m looking forward to a quiet Friday.

Date posted: May 12, 2022 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

From VICE, yet another chilling story: a data broker is collecting and selling location information of people who visited Planned Parenthood, where they came from, and where they went afterwards. I think we all need to be trained up on proper information security to circumvent the oncoming Big Brother state that’s bearing down on us. Step one: leave the phone at home.

Date posted: May 4, 2022 | Filed under life, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

For people born in the 1960s and the 1970s, when leaded gas consumption was skyrocketing, the IQ loss was estimated to be up to 6 points and for some, more than 7 points. Exposure to it came primarily from inhaling auto exhaust.

This explains a lot about me.

Date posted: March 22, 2022 | Filed under life, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Our health plan at work is good for some things and lousy for others. I had a Major Life Event strike back in 2017 and by all accounts the insurance company was exceptionally good about covering what they promised. Jen hasn’t given me any of the details—I’m sure if I saw any of the numbers my head would explode and I’d wind up right back in the hospital. But they are lousy for other things. Theoretically we enjoy dental and vision insurance but I’ve never been able to get details on exactly how the vision insurance works or where to get a card to hand someone. Given that my lenses have now tripled in price—I ordered a set of progressives a couple of weeks ago—I figured I’d put my shoulder to the wheel and try to unravel the mystery.

My first logical stop was the company intranet, which was built on top of Microsoft Sharepoint by the lowest bidding vendor, and as a result sucks worse than a trip to the DMV. Search results are comically bad; by bad I mean no search results. after digging around I found a Word document from 2019 listing benefits which gave the barest of information and referenced a table further along in the file that did not exist. You read that right: we have a website where they post unsearchable Word documents that immediately go out of date, instead of using HTML. The veteran digital strategist in me has ground my teeth to nubs over this.

I then looked on my insurance card, and figured I’d call them; hell, they employ people who are supposed to help. After sitting through the automated menu, which couldn’t identify me by the Member ID printed on my card, I talked to a cheerful CSR who sounded like she was working in the bottom of a mine shaft. She informed me that I needed to call the parent company who runs my insurance and talk to them.

Miraculously the phone transfer worked and I talked with another lady who helped me identify myself and then explained that I would have to write a letter, with paper and a pen and a stamped envelope, and send in a copy of the receipt to a post office box in Utah. I guess this is their way of making the barrier to entry high to avoid reimbursement; who writes letters and buys stamps anymore? Still, we’re talking about $400 in total so I dug out the required stationary and got it done. I expect a prompt reply by spring of 2027.

She also told me that it should be easy for any vendor to look up my vision insurance, but when I explained their repeated failures and pressed her, she gave me my Member ID. Was that so hard? 

Meanwhile, I’ve been wearing my safety glasses at my desk more and more in order to see what I’m doing; I must look pretty stupid during Zoom calls. The new readers should be here next week, and I surely hope they work for me.

* * *

I called my window vendor yesterday to get a quote on the basement windows, and for kicks I threw the measurements in for the window halfway up our stairwell, figuring it was a good place to start replacing stuff on the second floor. The numbers for each basement window came back about $20 higher than what I paid for a full-size window three years ago, and the full size window is now double that amount.

After picking myself back up off the floor, I kicked myself for not having replaced them all three years ago before the world went completely to hell.

Date posted: February 24, 2022 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been feeling pretty worthless for the past week or two. Between the weather, post-COVID energy and the comedown after a huge project at work, I’m going to bed each night with a feeling of I should have done more today, and more broadly, I should be doing more with my life. I know, minor problems, right? I think I’m dealing with some seasonal blues along with some professional blahs and a nagging feeling like I should be accomplishing more with the time I have.

This winter has been especially cold for the last month, so any desire I’ve got to be out in the garage doing something—or even down in the basement doing something—is countered by the desire to just stay warm. As I get older my tolerance for being cold decreases; I now understand why the bluehairs all run for Boca in November. Our garage is nothing better than a wooden shack, so I have no expectation it would stay warm if I tried to heat it. But our basement should by all rights be warmer. I’ve spent a considerable sum of time and money to insulate and shore it up properly, but I just can’t seem to make headway. I’ve recently decided to swap all of the circa 1925 windows down there with modern double-pane insulated replacements—in the spring, when it’s at least tolerable to be outside. In spite of this, I’ve tried to find projects I can do down there after dinner: building the mirror frame, restoring various Scout parts, organizing stuff. But I’m done with the mirror, I’m out of Scout projects that I can do indoors, and I’ve organized almost everything I feel like tackling.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten worse at just sitting and watching TV. Modern series are all episodic, and I don’t have the time, patience, or the interior calm to deal with “last week on…” Having been trapped in quarantine with nothing but local TV for two weeks, I did find that I could “watch” episodes of CSI: Miami and feel the comforting warmth of burning garbage without having to pay attention to every minute; at some point there would be a shootout, a gory reconstruction, or a crappy line delivery. If I missed it, that was fine, there’d be another along soon enough. Dealing with a modern episodic series is too much work, man. It’s all despicable antiheroes, bleak zombie scenarios, or meandering sci-fi stories that either can’t figure out what they’re saying or require their characters make choices that defy logic. I can’t get invested in that shit, with a few exceptions. I find I’m watching a lot of older movies I’ve seen before for the same experience of old broadcast TV shows: I just enough to know what’s happening without getting too invested.

Meanwhile, I started writing this five days ago, and I’ve been back to it every day since then, unable to finish the thought or wrap it up. I guess there is no clever button I can put on it; it is what it is.

Date posted: February 11, 2022 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Well, that’s just fantastic news. I had no idea about it until this evening, when the news preview came on between commercials. No arrests yet, but the injury is non-life threatening.

Date posted: February 8, 2022 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Here’s my office setup for the past week: the dresser is now a stand-up desk, and I’m juggling cords and laptops as we do conference calls producing WRI’s yearly presentation. I just ran out for an official PCA test through Hopkins, and hopefully we’ll have results back within a day or so. If they’re negative, I might be sprung from the cell this weekend…?

Date posted: January 7, 2022 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

N2969 On the ramp

Hey, look at that. A picture I took of an airplane in 2003 is now being used on Wikipedia. I wish it was for happier reasons, though.

Date posted: October 17, 2021 | Filed under life, photo | Leave a Comment »

Who found this smokin’ mid-70’s Kenworth nylon jacket at the thrift store today? This guy, that’s who. The sleeves are kind of big—apparently things were tailored for Popeye back In The Day—but otherwise it’s a good fit. It’s a replacement for, but not better than Dad’s red Ciba-Geigy jacket that got swiped by a guy who gave me and my ex a ride home from a party at Rob’s house back in the mid-90’s. I loved that jacket. Asshole.

I also found a barely-used Kelty 50l backpack at a yard sale on Saturday which I got for the low price of $20; this will be a much better bag for camping and carrying 3-4 days’ worth of stuff, and also has a laptop sleeve.

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

I’ve been at WRI for almost eight years—the longest I’ve ever been at any job in my life—and I’m about to take advantage of one of the excellent perqs of the job: a sabbatical. It’s offered after the fifth and tenth years of employment as a way to recharge, and I’ve been looking forward to taking advantage of it for a long time.

It’s been a sort of circuitous route to get to this point; my fifth year was cancer, my sixth year was recovery from cancer, and we all know what happened last year. I was lucky the HR people let me take this one before I became ineligible and had to wait for the 10-year. We had discussed going to Europe as a family in 2020, but it was difficult getting the finances organized to do so and in hindsight I’m so very glad we didn’t prepay for a bunch of tickets and hotels we wouldn’t have been able to stay at anyway. We were lucky enough to sneak down to Harry Potter minutes before they shut everything down for COVID—it’s a miracle we didn’t come home with anything worse than Finley’s flu—and counted our blessings during the lockdown.

Looking forward into 2021, all hope of a family vacation was again out the window; there was no point spending cash we don’t have on the chance things might open up in the future. When Brian asked me to help with the schoolbus, it sounded like a great idea; I’d be away from a computer, working with my hands, solving different problems, and learning some new skills.

Problem is, there are several huge projects happening at WRI that come to a head in September, and they involve my skillset and input. I’ll be checking in occasionally on some things and putting in a couple days’ work on a big report because I am responsible to my team to finish it.

And most importantly, we’re not getting away to anywhere to recharge as a family. Finley will be 15 when I’m eligible for my next sabbatical, and if I’m still at WRI we can take advantage of it with some more careful planning—and refundable tickets.


Date posted: August 19, 2021 | Filed under life, WRI | Leave a Comment »