It was with great delight that I read Disney was producing a streaming series based on the Mysterious Benedict Society, a series of novels we read as a family after we finished the Harry Potter books. It’s the story of four gifted children with different skills who come together to solve a mystery. We started it during my stint in chemotherapy, so I have memories of falling asleep on the bed as Jen or Finn read their chapter, lulled peacefully into oblivion by the gentle story and the sound of their voices. The series is excellent so far. Although several of the adult cast were not who I saw in my head, I like them more and more. They’re doing a great job with production design and story, and I hope it maintains its quality until the end of this series.
Another new favorite: Clarkson’s Farm, on Amazon Prime. Most people write off Jeremy Clarkson as a blowhard English television presenter (and to be fair he’s said his share of stupid and racist things) but, as with Howard Stern, I think he’s mellowed and matured as he’s aged. The new series began filming in 2019, right before COVID, showing how he took over management of his huge farm in rural England. As with a lot of his best work on Top Gear, it’s less about poking fun at the subject and more about skewering himself—here showing his audience just how hard farming is, and just how little he knows about any of it, even though he’s owned one for over ten years. It’s a wonderful window into rural England—and fun to watch.
Yesterday, July 4, was a beautiful day. The weather was in the mid 80’s, the humidity was low, and I was exhausted from a very small parade party we hosted, where I drank more than my usual amount of beer and saw more than my usual amount of people. I was prepared to sit on the couch and play The Division 2 all afternoon but realized a perfect opportunity was escaping me, so I went out and started cutting heat matting down on the Scout.
First I put a section on the inside of the passenger door, which has always sounded like a dumpster being dropped off a bridge when it closes. I’m a pro at breaking down Scout doors so this took little time, and after I’d wiped the interior down with acetone the heat matting went on very quickly.
Then I started working on the driver’s firewall in sections. It took some time and some trimming, but I got the main section of the vertical rise done all the way down to the high beam switch over to the rise under the gas pedal.
On Monday I got back at it, beginning with the passenger’s side. First I ripped out all the vestigial IH padding I could reach and first washed the firewall, then rubbed it down with acetone before spraying the rusty areas with Eastwood encapsulator. It looks like the welds going up the side are a little crusty, and I think there’s probably more where the windshield meets the firewall—but that’s for another day.
While I was in there I pulled the passenger vent out, cleaned it up, sprayed the backside with encapsulator, and left it to cure.
While that was drying I unscrewed the transfer case knob and pulled the trans tunnel cover off, giving it the same treatment: a scrub with some Simple Green, a rubdown with acetone, and drying in the sun.
Then I used the outline of the case to cut a section of mat and applied it to the underside of the cover, cutting out the holes with a sharp boxcutter. It’s always looked like shit—it’s not the standard International green they used on base-model trucks but some kind of baby-poop brown, so I sprayed it with black paint and let it cure.
Back in the truck I started cutting sections of mat out and matching them to the geometry, working from the outside inward. It all went pretty smoothly, and when I’d covered the front section I was faced with the side of the trans tunnel. Should I cover it? Looking inside the trans tunnel, I saw that the previous owner had carefully undercoated as much of the underside as possible, which meant I wouldn’t be able to get the matting to stick under there. I decided that comfort outweighed aesthetics for the time being and cut a section for the interior to keep passengers from burning their legs.
And, because I didn’t really want to burn my legs, I put a matching section on the driver’s side. Finally, I cut a section for the area over the top of the tunnel, and put the remainder of the matting away.
Replacing the trans cover was a great moment, because after I’d washed the shift boots and put new stainless screws in, the cabin of the truck looked completely different.
It’s good to have that done, and I’m hoping it’ll make a big difference when it comes time to drive to Ohio. I don’t know how I’m going to hide all of the foil, but I’m hopeful it will beat back the heat.
My buddy Rob, who I’ve written about before, is only partially to blame for me being interested in watches. Back when I only had one, he was already into modding big Seiko models from the 90’s, which are gigantic metal beasts. He was working on one he wanted to give me, but all of the custom models he’d designed (he had impeccable taste) looked like I was wearing a hubcap on my wrist. He laughed and said they were called tuna cans, which seems to be a trend in watches right now.
I’m a small guy, so tuna cans only accentuate that fact. It was years before I realized big baggy clothes (which were, admittedly, the style in the late 80’s-early 90’s) made me look like a skeleton wearing a pup tent. Once Jen and Karean convinced me to wear tailored clothes that fit my frame the way God intended, I changed up my style completely and embraced what worked. Big watches are not on that list.
Timex has been releasing new watches based on old designs for the last couple of years, and there was one that caught my eye early last year: the Navi Harbor 38mm, which looked like a nice mixture of the Ollech & Wajs diving watch I got from the Mildew House and the field watches I tend to favor. 38mm is the right case size—not too large and usually pretty thin. Most of the watches I own are 38mm or smaller, save my Hamilton and a Todd Snyder Timex I bought on discount early this year. The Navi Harbor was sold out for about a year until a few weeks ago when I got an alert that they were back in stock. With a holiday discount I got a good deal on one, and I ordered it.
While I liked the way it looked on the website, in reality it was a lot different. It’s much bigger and thicker than in the photos. More troubling, the proportions are all wrong. The bezel of the watch is very high and the crystal is raised off the watch face a lot more than I like. The lugs are placed too close together, making the strap look extra thin, and that plus the overall height makes it look even fatter than it is. I love the look of the dial and the hands, but the whole package just didn’t work for me. And the band it came with was too long for my wrist, so I’d need to swap that out almost immediately. Using the classic proportions of my current diver as a baseline, this fell completely short. So after wearing it for an hour, I boxed it up and got it ready to send back.
I saw an ad pop up on Facebook Marketplace for some parts a few weeks ago and filed it away for future reference; as our trip to Mom’s got closer I reached out to the seller. He was in Pine City, a little south and west of Cayuga Lake, so I scheduled a visit on our way home.
The trip from Mom’s house was very pretty and one I’d never made before. We drove down the west side of the lake, parallel to the shore for 2/3 of its length. It was wild to see Aurora from across the water even if I couldn’t make anything out at that distance. We also saw several old Internationals along the way, something I rarely experience, especially up that far north.
The seller lived out in the middle of nowhere, and as I pulled up he already had the fender on the lawn and was coming around the house with a Dana 20 on the lift of a small tractor. We shot the breeze for a while, and I eventually talked him down a little on the condition of the fender; it’s got some bondo on the front edge (and a new dent, yay) and pinholes around the lip of the wheel arch. I can definitely work with it, though, and after a chemical stripping and some sanding I think I can weld the pinholes and clean it up.
The Dana 20 was less of a priority but was something I was interested in just to have a spare sitting in the garage; at some point I’ll take it to be rebuilt and sealed up but for now it’s quietly leaking gear oil on the floor of the garage. He also had a tailgate with the cleanest interior sheetmetal I’ve ever seen. Usually it looks like someone was hauling boulders around in the back of the truck, but there was hardly a scratch on the inside of this one. The outside had some rust-through though, and I’ve already got a spare in the garage, so I passed.
So now I’ve got two solid replacement front fenders, which makes me feel pretty good. Clean fenders are pretty rare on the ground so I’m happy to stock up on spares if the price is right—and they’re getting more expensive.
I’m up at my Mom’s house this weekend for the first time in a year, and it’s been a great visit so far. We haven’t done much other than visit and eat, and frankly, that’s OK with me.
I went into the basement to move some stuff around and look over the back corner where some water had been collecting. When I’d cleared everything away and sprayed the cinderblock down with bleach, I started sorting through stuff and making a dump pile. One of the things that I was interested in looking over were a box full of 8mm film reels that date back from before I was born. Dad left two projectors behind, a Bell & Howell and an Argus, and chances were 50/50 that one of them still had a functioning bulb. I spent some time before dinner learning how to load the Argus properly, and within about 20 minutes had a reel of our family trip across the country projected on the wall of the living room. He shot a fair bit of movie film: there are about 20 reels in total, a mixture of 7″, 6″, 5″ and one 3″, which equals out to about eight hours of movies in total.
There are several digitization services out there, one of which is Kodak, who will convert two reels for $70. I think I might send two of the 7″ reels (roughly 28 minutes of footage) out to them and see how good things look.
I was in D.C. today and figured I’d try to line up a shot as close to my office as I could with an in-game screenshot from The Division 2. I can’t go anywhere beyond the wall you see down the street, which is a bummer. They did an amazing job of getting the details as close as they could. I can’t imagine how long it took to build this game.