I’ve been playing Fallout 76 for about four months now. After spending roughly 2.5 years playing through Fallout 4 and its various expansion packs, I was bored. When it became clear COVID would shut things down for a while, I found a cheap used copy online and bought an Xbox Live Pass, which it requires in order to run. It’s designed entirely around cooperative play but they do make allowances for solo players like me, and with a series of updates and patches they’ve made the game much better in that regard. Since booting it up for the first time, I’ve been sneaking around the map by myself, hiding from other players, slowly leveling up, and mostly enjoying myself. The few times I’ve encountered other players have been pretty amicable. But early in the game a high-level player jumped into the middle of a fight I was in with multiple enemies and I twitch-shot him once. He turned around and wasted me pretty quickly, which I didn’t think was very nice; it was an honest accident.

Last night I was finishing up in a particular area, eliminating the last couple of enemies. I’d just cornered a final ghoul to finish him off when an online player hopped over a fence and shot me. He paused; I was annoyed but finished off my kill when the guy shot me again, and then a third time. I stood up, aimed my rifle at him and took a few steps forward: knock it off. He was at a level 5 while I’m a level 32; his little popgun wasn’t actually doing much. Before I could call up a quick menu and flash him the “mad” sign, he fucking shot me again. So I blew his head off with a shotgun. Chuckling to myself, I continued on my way.

About five minutes later, he showed up again in my general area, and I was invited to join a party with he and another player. I thought about it for a minute. He was a level 5, the other a 7. These were two guys who probably know less about team playing than I do; why the hell not?

The controls in Fallout 76 are still somewhat confusing. I’m still half used to two years’ muscle memory from Fallout 4 but they’ve added a ton of other features so it takes a while to understand where they’ve moved things. The first join request timed out, but they sent a second request and I was able to sort out the issue.

At this point it’s helpful to understand how teams work (as I understand them): We’re supposed to be able to chat with one another within a team, while you can’t just talk to randos you meet out in the world. Thus, I couldn’t tell the guy to quit shooting at me. I ran to get my headphones and plugged them in; if anyone was going to talk I’d be able to reply. But I didn’t hear anything. We spent some time standing around. I waited for them to do something, got bored, continued on my original path and they tagged along behind me. I used the in-game gestures to tell them to follow me into a structure I’d already been to, and we cleaned it out pretty quickly. When we were done, I got an alert that one of the players had sent me an audio message through the Xbox. It took me a few moments to figure out how to access it. A voice no older than Finley’s asked me, “Do you have any fusion cells to trade? I need one for my laser pistol.”

Laughing, I gave up on trying to figure out how to trade—it’s even more confusing than the Join mechanics—and continued on my way. They followed me for a while and then one player dropped out. A little while later, my would-be assassin’s player froze in place in a basement. He probably had to go take out the garbage. By that time it was 11:30 so I dropped out of the game and went to bed.

Date posted: October 11, 2020 | Filed under geek | Leave a Comment »

There are several tomatoes coloring in the greenhouse, and I am READY for them. The cherry plants are still producing fruit randomly; every week I go out and bring a handful in for the girls. I’m going to have to go out and consolidate a bunch of stuff this weekend and finally put the panel in the back wall to keep things warm overnight. Winter is coming…

* * *

Here in the office I finally took the time to go through some drawers and bins and boxes full of old computer gear and set aside a bunch of crap to get rid of: ancient CD-RW drives I scavenged from old towers, a pair of AirPort Base Stations that date back 15 years, miles of old Cat-5 network cabling, first-gen iPod FireWire wall warts, old manuals…there’s certainly more to get rid of, but I’ve found that if I’m going to keep old machinery it’s critical to have the gear to support it. So I’ll still hang on to the AirPort Express that will talk to the G3 Powerbooks that will still run OS9 so that I can access design files from 1997…

One of the things I dug out of the archives is a Sony Watchman MD-10, something that came out of the unclaimed personal property of a repo when I was in college. I took it back with me junior year and it allowed us all to stay current on Seinfeld episodes when we were on break during late night classes. For its time it was an amazing little device, and I wish it had DC input, because as I recall it ate AA batteries pretty fast. It’s useless these days with the advent of digital broadcasting; I could theoretically hook a digital antenna up to an RF modulator and broadcast local analog signal to it, but it’s really not worth the trouble. Interestingly, Gizmodo just did an article on this very model a few months ago; I share the author’s hesitation to get rid of his.

Date posted: October 9, 2020 | Filed under apple, geek, greenhouse | Leave a Comment »

Flies are attracted to shit.

Date posted: October 7, 2020 | Filed under politics | Leave a Comment »

Shit. Eddie Van Halen is dead of cancer at 65. I’d say “fuck cancer” here but the guy had a smoking habit that should have killed him 20 years ago, and that’s after he kicked a titanic coke habit. Still, a peerless musician, and from the sounds of it, a peerless asshole. I’ve written often about my love for this band; this is another sign that 2020 is the shit year of shit years.

Date posted: October 6, 2020 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »

Your correspondent, in 1994-5 or so, with my friend Logan Hicks at the Sowebo Festival. Over Logan’s right shoulder is a sunflower design I did with the words “fuck you” on either side. We sold out of them. (Photo by Bridget Griffith Evans, stolen from Facebook)

Date posted: October 5, 2020 | Filed under friends | 1 Comment »

Some things I got done this weekend, in no particular order:

  • Mowed the lawn myself for the first time all summer: our lawn guy comes intermittently toward the end of summer when he’s gearing up on his fall landscaping work, and the yard was looking shaggy. It was satisfying but I’m happy to do it only twice a year.
  • Attempted to get the gas weedwhacker running reliably; and gave up in disgust. Fuck it. I took some pictures and posted the damn thing to Craigslist.
  • Posted my unused brew kettle to Craigslist.
  • Used the electric weedwhacker to work on the back half of the yard, around the woodpile and behind the greenhouse, which had become overrun with vegetation. Cut back giant bushes behind the woodpile and lots of tall weeds around the property line.
  • Climbed the telephone pole by the driveway and disconnected one of two stabilizing wires which had been uprooted by the driveway crew and was hanging loose. Also cut a random telephone wire that was hanging loose and looped around the fence.
  • Powerwashed the front stairs, three motel chairs, and two rain barrels to get them ready for storage.
  •  Bought the girls our first Pumpkin Spice Lattes of the 2020 season.
  • Reorganized the garage, again, to fit more of the shit in there comfortably.
  • Cut a set of 3/4″ plywood baffles for the back two basement windows from scrap wood and prepped them for quick installation. I’ve still got to do the two side windows and make something for the basement door. When the End Times come, I’d like to be prepared.
  • Reinstalled the printer software on Finn’s Chromebook, Jen’s MacBook, my work MacBook and my work tower so that we don’t have to continuously turn the printer on and off in order to get it to fucking print something. Worst $100 I’ve ever spent on computer hardware.
  • Repackaged the Anker sound buds I bought last week and set them up for a return to Amazon. I now have two choices: I can buy a pricy set of AirPods Pro, or I can buy a second set of the original Anker sound buds I had originally, which worked fine on their own, but did not work for taking phone calls.
Date posted: October 5, 2020 | Filed under house, list | Leave a Comment »

I’m writing this covered in baking soda, waiting for the rest of the family to finish showering so that I can wash it off, and feeling pretty good about things. On Sunday afternoon I bought a $70 Harbor Freight sandblasting kit and a $40 bag of blasting media so that I could continue cleaning off the windshields. It took about 3/4 of a beer to get everything assembled; the directions are mostly pictures and designed by drunks with limited understanding of a 30-year-old Xerox machine. Using the pictures in the instructions, the picture on the cover of the box and a lot of common sense I was able to figure out how to put everything together, and after masking up I dumped some media in the tank and had at it. Once I dialed the flow coming from the bottom of the tank in, I was able to get the maximum effect with the minimum amount of media.

Soda doesn’t do much for rust but it sure takes the paint off quickly and well. I put about 1/2 the bag through the tank and worked over both windshields, focusing on places around obvious rust and scratches. I guess I’ll have to switch over to actual sand or maybe walnut shells to get the heavy rust off. I did find that the second windshield has one pinhole area on the top flat surface, which I hadn’t noticed before.

When I was done I realized the entire driveway was covered in blasting media, and I freaked out a little bit. But then I hit it with the hose and it all melted away. Clearly I need to build a cheapo plastic blasting cabinet so that I can reclaim the media and use it again, especially when I’m blasting small parts.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: October 5, 2020 | Filed under Purchasing, Scout | Comments Off on Further Exploration


On Monday, we took advantage of warm weather, sunny skies, and a day off from school to hike in Gambrill State Park north of Frederick, which features an incredible 360˚ view of northern Maryland. We’re about 3 weeks too early to see trees changing color, but it was still fantastic to get outside.

Date posted: October 1, 2020 | Filed under family, finn | Leave a Comment »

Well, we got through about 30 minutes of that hot mess before I had to leave the room, and Jen turned it off after that. I don’t know what to make of it other than that I don’t believe the pundits who say that Biden won, but neither do I believe that the Great Pumpkin won either. It was just an embarrassment. And Chris Wallace couldn’t keep order in a morgue.

Date posted: September 30, 2020 | Filed under politics | Leave a Comment »

I took advantage of a lazy Sunday afternoon to pull one of my two spare windshields out of the garage and throw it on some sawhorses. I’ve been hesitating on really digging in to the paint on the Scout until I get a firm date and commitment from my neighbor’s dad, so I thought I’d start on a windshield as a testing ground for new tools and my metal shaping skills until I can pin him down.

The tan windshield is the first one I bought, waaaaay back when I had Chewbacca, and I’ve been dragging it around with me ever since then. It came to me with no glass and a fair bit of rust, but the main panels weren’t in bad shape. I’d done some very light sanding years ago but stopped before I went farther than I was comfortable with. Today I put the flap wheel on an angle grinder, plugged into a podcast, and went to town on it.

The bottom edge is in much worse shape than the top, which I’d expect on any used windshield. Water collects inside the rubber gasket and eats away at the paint. There’s also rust on the bottom edges of the cowl where it sits on the top of the fender.

I went all the way around the edge of the windshield opening and cleaned both inside and out, and exposed as much of the bad metal as possible. Then I cleaned every other place I saw rust and was able to get about 90% of what I saw.

There are sections near the mounting bolts that I can’t get without a sandblaster, so that will probably be next on the list of tools to be purchased.

I covered everything visible with etching primer to keep it from flash rusting, and dragged windshield 2 out of the corner. This one came to me about 8 years ago, and it came with glass included.

On the surface it’s in better shape than the tan unit, but when you start looking closer, it gets ugly. A utility knife made short work of the windshield  gasket, and once I’d made my way through that, the glass popped right out.

Both of the cowl edges are crispy.

When I move them both around, I hear the sound of rust and metal rattling around inside, so I know they’re both crispy inside as well; I’ve got a can of Eastwood Chassis encapsulator on deck for them both but I want to do some more investigation to see if I can access all of the interior through the holes I see.

So, next on the to-do list is to figure out what steel thickness I need for patch panels, summon my courage, and break out the cutting wheel on the tan windshield.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: September 28, 2020 | Filed under Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on Exploration