Finley was assigned a book to read over the quarantine, John Christopher’s The White Mountains. Grudgingly, she picked it up yesterday and started reading it after she’d slogged through a pile of homework. By dinnertime she was on the last five pages, and had a giant smile on her face. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her sit with a book—a story, and not a book of lists or facts—and devour it with singular focus; she’s been too obsessed with Gacha videos and her iPad to want to read anything. The Tripods trilogy is a gripping series of books. I remember reading it after I’d caught the BBC series when it played on public television in the mid 80’s. Hoping to keep her interest in the series, I wiped her old Kindle of games and installed Overcast, the library eBook sharing app, then downloaded the second and third books using her library card. She’s currently laying on the couch digging in to Book 2.

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The tulip tree in front of the house is in full bloom right now, and my desk at the porch window faces it. I’ve been watching people walk, run, ride, and mosey by the house for the past two weeks, and it’s amazing how many people are pausing underneath the bright pink leaves to look up at the canopy in awe. It makes me wish I’d set up a camera to capture pictures of everyone that’s stopped; I’d have at least 10 from today alone.

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With three weeks in the rear view mirror, it looks like I’ve got idiotking moved completely from my old webhost to new, and it seems to be a bit zippier in terms of pageloads and updates. It took some digging to understand what the new hosts’ migration directions were, and a couple of pokes to their customer service desk to get what I wanted, but everything is where it should be and working faster than it did before.

Date posted: March 24, 2020 | Filed under finn, house | Leave a Comment »

I drove to the Howard County General Hospital yesterday for a CT scan and  my regularly scheduled cancer checkup. I was, understandably, nervous about driving downtown to the main Hopkins campus, so I’d been in contact with my oncologist the previous week about where to meet. We shifted everything to our local hospital and scheduled a video chat for the consult. The CT went fine but neither of the labs had any record of my paperwork, so I couldn’t have any bloodwork done. However, the scans all came back negative for any new passengers, and the video conference went pretty well other than video issues on his end.

Date posted: March 24, 2020 | Filed under cancer | Leave a Comment »

I’d started planning for a spring workday here at the house a few weeks ago. I sent out an email with a calendar poll for weekends in April and had pretty much settled on a day—then the virus hit. So I sent a follow-up email to postpone until May, in the hopes that things will have blown over by then.

In the meantime it looks like I’ll have some time on the weekends to get things done, and I’ll need to get outside for sunshine every day. So I ordered a part for the truck: a new (remanufactured) starter motor to replace the used unit Bennett and I installed in 2011. Mine has been grinding intermittently for years now, and I’d like to get ahead of it before it craps out completely at an inconvenient time and place.

Next, I’d like to fix my turn signal cancel cam, which has been broken since the day I bought the truck, and while I’ve (theoretically) got the wheel off, I can replace the ignition key cylinder with a new unit and new key. I’ve got a wheel puller I bought at Carlisle years ago ready to go, so it’s just a matter of setting up the puller correctly and taking things apart.

Finally, I can take some time to reroute the speaker wire that’s been hanging down below my dashboard and stuck under the transmission tunnel cover and properly send it out through the firewall and down the frame rail. It’s a small thing to clean up an ugly truck, but every little bit helps.

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

Date posted: March 23, 2020 | Filed under Future Plans, Purchasing, Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on Postponements and Plans

I did more grocery shopping on Sunday morning for the stuff I couldn’t find/had forgotten on Saturday. I took the Scout, and it was nice to stretch her legs a little, even if it was only around the neighborhood. When I got home, I washed my hands eight times, and then did some cleanup in the basement. I set up two trays of seedlings under a grow lamp on the workbench: three varieties of tomatoes and a bunch of lettuce. Hopefully they will appreciate the light and warmth.

Then I headed upstairs to the bathroom, where I was mortified to find that a bottle of purple PVC primer had spilled on the floor, staining the grout in a saucer-sized area by the closet. I cleaned it up with some acetone but found that the chemical in the primer had made the grout pliable, so I dug the stained grout out with a putty knife and got to as much of the white as possible. I’m going to have to take a Dremel to the edges and clean things up, and then I have to call the tile distributor to find out what grout was used and how I can get some more.

Once I’d cleaned that up and calmed down, I continued with a bunch of trim and carpentry work, putting a spacer in between the left side of the sink and the wall, and then finishing off the kickplate around the perimeter of the room. I’m still waiting on the toe kick panel for the fronts of the cabinets, which I’m told will be in on April 1. Once I’ve got that in hand I can finish off all the rest of the trim and nail the thresholds in place.

I also added yeast to the beer, and by bedtime there was an inch of krauzen on the top and the airlock was burbling happily.

After dinner, we lit a fire in the living room and read four chapters of The Amber Spyglass, the final book in the Golden Compass series, while the dog snored at our feet. It was a lovely way to finish off a busy weekend, and I was happy to have my girls safe and warm with me.

Date posted: March 23, 2020 | Filed under bathroom, general | Leave a Comment »

Hazel

Date posted: March 22, 2020 | Filed under hazel, photo | Leave a Comment »

Hazel was up to pee at about 7:10 so I put on some warm clothes and snuck her out of the house to let the girls sleep in. It was brisk outside. Yesterday was 80˚ but overnight it dropped into the 30s and it was only just beginning to warm up as the sun rose. Hazel and I wandered over behind the school and down the hill to the Junction, where I tied her up in front of the local café and ordered some breakfast and a coffee. I was the second person in the door this morning. Usually there are a crowd of eight or ten people at the tables on their second cup discussing the paper or news on the TV, but today it was empty. It was strange.

We walked back home up the trolley trail and by the time we got home the girls were awake, so we all ate breakfast in the living room and played with the dog for a little while. I then went downstairs and set up a seed starter for three varieties of tomatoes in the hopes that I’ll have more luck this year than I did a decade ago when I tried it on the workbench. I’m going to build a platform for them under one of the basement windows so that they’ll get daily sunlight and hope that a warming pad will regulate the temperature under the plastic properly.

Then I went outside and assembled our new pressure washer, 1/2 of which is my birthday present from Jen. I got a Craftsman gas model on sale—electric pressure washers are crap—and had it clearing green mildew from the garage doors in about a half an hour. I went around to the front steps and cleaned all the green off the Trex, rinsed the siding, and anything else that needed a wash. We get mildew on the front of the house yearly because it faces north, so I’ve rented or borrowed a pressure washer for the past five or six years to clean things up. After I’ve put this one to use this year cleaning the rest of the siding, washing the engine and undercarriage of the Scout, cleaning the back deck, lawn furniture and Finley’s playset, I think it will have paid for itself.

I’ve had trim for the bathroom waiting to be picked up for a week, so I headed into Columbia to grab that before they closed and then circled up to the gucci Giant to stock up on some essentials—a little bird told us that statewide lockdown is imminent. I was able to get most of what we needed, but the paper product and soap shelves were empty (we could use more hand soap but we’re generally OK for now) and the frozen breakfast aisle was wiped out along with all the ice cream. Then I stopped at the liquor store and stocked up some extra beer.

At home we set to work putting it away; one of the first things I did was go to the garage and plug in our old fridge. It took a little to get going, but began cooling itself down quickly after that. Then I stuffed the extra beer and groceries inside. It’s been a pain to fit in the limited space available, but now I’m glad I didn’t Craigslist it like the last one.

After a quick break, I broke out all of my brewing equipment and fired up the burner in the backyard. I’ve had a Shiner Bock knockoff kit sitting in the basement since last fall, and I got tired of waiting for my neighbor to get his act together to brew with me. By 7PM I had it in the carboy and all of the dishes piled on the back porch, but it was time for dinner by that point.

Now I’m settled on the couch in the den with a cold beer in hand, Hazel snoring at my feet—the first time she’s been calm all day—and Fallout 4 loading on the Xbox. Time to relax.

Date posted: March 21, 2020 | Filed under brewing, house, tools | Leave a Comment »

If you didn’t see Shaun of the Dead, you won’t get it but this is genius.

Date posted: March 20, 2020 | Filed under humor | Leave a Comment »

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As of tonight I’ve got a total of 560 slides processed from a scanned pool of 877, and I scanned another 195 this evening. I pushed through and made it to the end of the carousels, so I can send the scanning equipment back without late charges and store the slides away. It’s been a slog but I feel good about getting it all done, and I’ll have plenty of time to go back and clean up the scans that aren’t perfect.

Oh, and it was my birthday. It was a quiet one. We took a family walk at noon to the local café to get some takeout lunch, and promised we’d be back to support them. It was a brisk but sunny day, and it felt great to be outside with the girls. At dinner, Jen cooked a delicious roast with mashed potatoes (I had seconds) and then we had a flourless torte with three candles for dessert. Finn was worried that I wouldn’t be happy with my birthday, but I told her I had everything I wanted: we’re together, we’re all healthy, and things are OK.

Date posted: March 18, 2020 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

I scanned about 300 slides last night after the girls went to bed. I have no idea if this sounds easy or not, but it’s definitely a pain in the lower back. Doing the math, I was averaging 2 slides a minute, with two quick breaks along the way. What I’ve got to do is pull each individual slide out of the carousel and hold it up to see if it’s something worth scanning. Is it people? Is it people we know? Is it a landscape shot? Is it a picture of cars or lawnmowers or random flowers? Is it a duplicate shot of something I’ve seen before—and if so, is it better or worse? When I’ve found two I like, I put them in the carrier, put that on the adapter mounted to the front of the camera, and zoom in to the first slide to adjust the focus. When it looks sharp, I shoot the picture and repeat for the second slide. Then I pull it all apart, turn off Live View on the camera, put the slides back, and repeat the process, going all the way around the carousel.

At the rate I’m going I don’t think I’ll make it through all of the carousels. There are just too many of them and a lot of them are double-capacity, meaning they hold 140 slides instead of the standard 70—Dad used to curse these larger trays because half the time they wouldn’t work in his projectors and get all jammed up. Two trays a night is about all my lower back can handle.

He made some Greatest Hits carousels over the years where he’d pull one or two good shots from an event and put them in a new carousel, so things have slowly been mixed up over time. I’m running into photos that belong in a carousel I’ve already put back somewhere and thus are out of sync; the OCD part of me wants to organize them all and the practical side of me says fuck that, keep scanning, you only have the gear until Friday.

I know I won’t be able to post-process them all before the gear goes back, and that’s fine, because I’ll have plenty of time here at the house to do that. As mentioned before, there are so many variations on film stock and exposure settings that I’m constantly shifting settings around, but Lightroom has some nifty tools to apply settings to a batch of photos (a series of shots taken with the same film stock on the same day in the same conditions, can, with a few slight tweaks, all benefit from the same base adjustments).

I think what’s required is some triage of the last box-and-a-half of carousels to see what’s there and what demands archiving; if the number of carousels is high I might extend the rental for a few days, but if I can jam through the rest in the next three nights, I’ll do that instead.

And in the future, there are a bunch of pictures that are definitely worth doing some precision dust and scratch removal on—today I sent Renie a link to a portrait when she was maybe four; her hair is a beautiful curly mess, Dad got the focus and exposure right, the depth of field is perfect, the light is perfect, and she looks like an angel.

Date posted: March 17, 2020 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

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See that truck parked behind us? We drove all the way across the country in that, with no air conditioning, in August.

Date posted: March 16, 2020 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »