It’s been almost two years since I sat down on a train to go to work, and I haven’t missed it at all. The MARC train is super handy and served our family extremely well in the first six years I worked at WRI, but if I don’t have to spend 2.5 hours a day commuting and $2200 a year for tickets, I’m a very happy man.

We had a happy hour scheduled after work yesterday, so I weighed the pros and cons of driving and parking vs. taking the train. Driving is a pain in the ass, it’s expensive to park in DC, and given that I’ve cut way back on drinking recently I figure my tolerance is even weaker than it was before. So I really didn’t want to drive. But the idea of sitting in a hot metal tube with a bunch of other people in recirculated farty air wasn’t that appealing either (yes, the train smells like farts in the winter). I had no idea how busy the MARC trains are these days, but I decided the latter was the better option.

The parking lot was relatively deserted when Jen and Hazel dropped me off, and the train was even emptier. Soon the familiar lull of the rails soothed me into a half-sleep. I used to fall asleep on the train all the time. A couple of times I overslept and wound up in Baltimore, and I had to jump the next southbound train. I don’t miss that either. As we got close to Union Station I was dumbfounded by the number and size of the new buildings that have gone up in the H Street area adjoining the tracks—rows and rows of shiny condo buildings in places that used to be full of weeds and homeless encampments. I’m sure that having a bedroom directly adjacent to the busiest rail corridor on the East Coast would be an excellent investment opportunity.

The station itself was dark and quiet—many of the storefronts are still empty and what remains are quiet ghosts of their former selves. I walked outside and was happy to pass Clayton, the ever-cheerful flower vendor outside the west side exit, who was accompanying a Christmas recording with sleigh bells. I’ve wondered from time to time how he was doing—the flower business was his income—so it’s good to see he’s still alive and kicking.

I did some work in the office, swapped out a backup of our family media library into a locked cabinet at my desk (always have offsite backups, kids) and then hiked down the street to the Wuntergarten, an outdoor beer garden a couple of blocks from the office. We had about 20 people show up and it was fantastic to see friends in the flesh again. I caught up with a bunch of folks, had a couple of tasty beers, and ate some farewell cake for my boss, who is stepping down this month. I said my good-byes at about 9:20 thinking I’d make the 9:40 train. When I made it to the station I realized I’d read the schedule wrong and I’d be on the last train out at 10:55, so I texted Jen and apologized for my mistake. I put on a podcast and waited for an hour in a completely deserted station until they called my train. I definitely don’t miss that.

Date posted: December 15, 2021 | Filed under WRI | 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 »

So I had something to do with this project but not as much as I might have ten years ago: after eight years, has been redesigned and modernized, from a rickety poorly-architected bunch of spare parts to a modern website befitting the largest environmental think tank in the U.S.

Also of note: a data visualization story done by my friend Rosie, who took a pile of gigantic spreadsheets and helped develop a narrative out of them.

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

We found out Monday morning that Andrew Steer, the President and CEO of WRI, is going to be leaving to run the Bezos Earth Fund, a little foundation you might have heard of that’s going to spend $10 billion dollars to fight climate change in the next 10 years. I came on board WRI roughly a year after he was hired, and in that time we’ve grown from 350 people worldwide to somewhere north of 1400, with four times the funding. In retrospect, 8+ years for someone at that level is a good run, and I can see why he wouldn’t say no to the opportunity. I can’t think of a better person to run it, honestly—he is a startlingly intelligent, humble, and generous man with a wide grasp of the issues and personal relationships with all of the key players. Our loss is Bezos’ gain.

(Moment of personal vanity: This article says WRI has a crack communications team!)

Date posted: March 11, 2021 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »

We’re done with a giant push to get this year’s Big Presentation complete, as of this morning. My job has seen me in charge of many details and responsible for lots of things I never bargained for when I agreed to it: Today I was in Virginia doing tech support and tackling Golden Retrievers barking at a deliveryman while the CEO was live in front of 1200+ attendees. Other than that hiccup, everything seemed to go off without a hitch, and I was back at home by 12:30. I’m thankful for Martin Luther King day not only because of who the man was, but because I can use Monday to reclaim 5% of the holiday calm I had before returning to work.

The girls gave me a couple of masks for Christmas, which specifically have a firm metal band so that they mold around my giant crooked nose. My beef with all 700+ masks we have is that none of them keep condensation from forming on my glasses—but these fit perfectly. I wore my new mask to the Boss’ house knowing I’d be able to see what I was doing at all times, but didn’t realize it matched my shirt. I guess if I’m going to be coordinated, I might as well do it in front of the CEO.

I’m now 0 for 3 with waterproof boots. LL Bean sent me a brand new pair of Bean Boots which I ordered a 1/2 size smaller according to their recommendations. They’re a 10 but after trying them on I’d actually need a 9 which seems pretty ridiculous—and there’s no guarantee those wouldn’t fit like a pair of Finn’s baby shoes. At this point I’m trying to decide whether I want to exchange them or just go somewhere to try boots on and get something that fits the first time. I feel like I need to plant a couple of trees or maybe sell a car to offset all the carbon I’ve now burned in deliveries.

Date posted: January 14, 2021 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »

So far there have been no bites on the Steinberger; the listing has gotten 800+ views and 4 watchers but no offers. I’m not paying anything to leave it up there, so I’ll just sit on it and see what happens. Update: I got one offer this morning from a guy who wants to trade it for a Rickenbacker 4003 Pearlstar—something I might have been interested in back in my Geddy Lee worship days, but at this point I’d rather have the cash.

* * *

At work, I finally completed a torturous process that began two months ago to design and publish a digital report. The report itself launched last month but due to various editorial and review issues I had to update the PDF and then build the digital report. It’s a high-level view of the state of climate action with an eye towards the next 20 years, and it was a challenge to bring together all of the text, graphics, and digital assets. Even though the process is automated, I found myself diving into code at the tail end and fixing a ton of issues by hand, which was a pleasant surprise.

* * *

We’ve now made two different batches of Bailey’s, one from the recipe I posted earlier in the week and one from the Betty Crocker cookbook. Before you get the idea we’ve just been pouring cups of it over our cornflakes every morning, we’ve been sipping on  each one slowly—the online recipe is lighter and very almondy and the Betty Crocker recipe is much heavier with more chocolate—but neither are a 100% stand-in for the real thing. So we’ll make our way through these and then we’ll try another recipe.

Jen did break out and use the galette iron on Tuesday, filling the house with the smell of Belgian dessert waffles and making it impossible to concentrate on work. There’s now a full batch sitting on the counter ready to eat when the urge to snack hits. She’s not as pleased with this batch compared to the previous one, so the search for the right modifications to that recipe continues as well.

And the duck boots that I ordered over a month ago finally arrived the other day: they are 1 size too small for my feet, which means I’m going to have to brave the crowds at Nordstrom Rack to return them sometime next week (depending on what the return window is). That was a bummer.

Date posted: December 24, 2020 | Filed under bass, family, WRI | 2 Comments »

I spent the last week crashing on a report layout for WRI, which took a lot of late nights and some weekend work. It’s called The State of Climate Action and it takes a deep look at five different economic sectors to see how the world is doing to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. It’s been a long time since I’ve laid out a longform print document and the process was further complicated because I’m laying it out with a new workflow so that it can be published digitally. That part hasn’t really started yet because the report was rushed and we haven’t had the time to fully build out the online report, but I’m hoping to get that done next week.

Date posted: November 19, 2020 | Filed under art/design, WRI | Leave a Comment »

Wow, The Atlantic just reported that Jeff Bezos is going to start giving considerable money to a number of environmental organizations as part of something called the Bezos Earth Fund. WRI is on that list, and according to the article, he’s giving us $100 million, a sum that eclipses the previous large single donations we’ve gotten from other philanthropists. Nice to have some good news early on Election Tuesday.

Date posted: November 3, 2020 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »

The family and I drove into D.C. today so that I could visit the office for the first time since March 9th and pick up a trunkful of technology. The building was dark and silent. The automatic lights came on as I walked through, and I began sweating because the A/C was turned off. So, I got to work.

My tower workstation has been sitting idle under the desk for 164 days, as well as a RAID array with our design archives, so I grabbed those. While I was at it I took my desk monitor, all the cables, and the keyboard and mouse. I packed a bunch of spare drives including my offsite photo backup so that I can dupe the drive on the home server. I stuck a bunch of reference books in my backpack along with the 360˚ camera, the Canon 5D and two workhorse lenses, a 24-105 f/4 and 16-35 f/2.8. And I packed a bunch of small stuff, like spare thumb drives, batteries, and cords. Carrying it out to the car, I stopped and chatted with J., the front desk security guard and asked after her family.

The girls had taken Hazel for a walk up past the Capitol and onto the Mall, so Jen texted me their location and I followed Siri to go pick them up. It was definitely strange to be down there, and as much as I was glad to get out from behind my desk for a few hours, I was also glad to leave D.C.

Now my desk is surrounded by tech gear and I have to find a place to store most of it. The home server is waiting on a bootable thumb drive with a hacked El Capitan installer—I’ve got an SSD plugged in to the spare slot over the CD burner waiting on a fresh install, which will free up the fourth bay for a data drive. I’ll tackle that task tomorrow.

* * *

I dry-hopped the beer this evening, about four days late, but that shouldn’t make a difference in flavor. Two ounces of hops go in for a week, and then I rack it into the kegerator. Here’s to hoping this batch is a keeper.

Date posted: August 20, 2020 | Filed under brewing, WRI | Leave a Comment »

I was on a work call other day talking about infographics, and one of my colleagues in London sent a link in the chat to an article called 40 of the Best Infographics to Inspire You. As I scrolled down I was shocked and flattered to see the the first example was one I did for WRI back in 2014 when longform infographics were all the rage, something I sweated over with the Climate team for weeks until we got it right.

Date posted: July 31, 2020 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »