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This is the first weekend in a long time where we’ve been home. Like, in our own house for two days. Jen has been socked in with work for several weeks, and a lot of it has come to a head, so we thought we’d take a break from driving south to Lexington Park and stay around the homestead. I’ve had a lot of things around the house piling up in our absence, so I took the opportunity to knock a couple of them out.

The first thing was replacing two basement windows that were original to the house. I’d ordered replacements back in March and they finally arrived about a month ago; I’ve been waiting for a solid weekend to tackle the project. Pulling the old windows was pretty quick work—they were only held in by two sets of ancient brass hinges and a hook and eye latch. I cleaned up the wooden surrounds, cut and installed baffles, and slotted them into place. With some careful carpentry the inside baffles got nailed into place, and they got caulked tight. Now we can have open windows and enjoy fresh air in the basement! A miracle.

The second project is one Jen has been asking about since last year: painting the garage to match the house. I started out by scraping the west side and got it ready for paint. After cleaning both my guns and consolidating the remaining paint, I filled the compressor and sprayed out the west side and half of the driveway side before running out. I’m going to have to repair some of the plywood on the front side and do a lot more scraping overall, but it looks pretty good so far.

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Finn has been binging a new videogame for the past month, and has been asking me to play with her. It’s a survival/exploration game called Ark, where you land on an island teeming with dinosaurs and have to learn how to gather food, build tools and shelter, and tame those same dinosaurs to help you advance. She’s been playing on her iPad, but I can’t load it on my phone and squint at tiny menus. I saw that it was available for the Xbox so I ordered a used copy on Amazon and installed it on the console. From there it demanded a 100GB update, so we waited days for the console to choke that down (it puts itself to sleep after an hour, so I had to constantly keep it awake) and then two more updates before we could play.

Once that was done, we picked up our controllers and started a new world together. And found, very quickly, that it was almost impossible to navigate in 2-player mode. They split the screen horizontally, so the top half is one character view and the bottom half is another, but they didn’t change the menu system to fit that resolution. So when you go into the menu system (and half the game is spent here) it’s still the size and shape of an iPad and you have to squint at tiny little icons smushed into the narrow space given. It’s like looking at the menu bar of Word 97 through a peephole: impossible unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I tried for several nights but found it almost unusable.

She then found a new game called Albion and started playing that. Seeing that it was available for the Mac, I downloaded a copy and tried it on my 8-year-old laptop, which slowed to a gelatinous crawl, cooling fans struggling to keep the processor from melting. I thought about it for a day or so and decided I’d pull the trigger and finally buy the iPad Pro I’ve been looking at since they were released. Playing games with Finn was a big part of the decision, but the other reason was that I want to work in Procreate with the Apple Pencil and learn how to illustrate with the system. I bought a new 11″ unit with the Pencil and picked it up at the local Apple Store this past week. The early review is very favorable: playing Albion on it is easy and fun! We spent a couple of hours on Friday getting me set up in the game and understanding how not to die. Now I have to catch up to her character level.

This is the first device I’ve owned with Face ID, and it’s very slick. The Pencil is fast and responsive. I bought Procreate and started fooling around in the program but it’s going to take a lot of time to sort out how I use it and get the most out of it. Getting used to the way the brushes and pressure work is an uphill battle, especially for someone as picky about the tactile feel and orientation of scratchboard tools as I am. I’m going to start out trying to mimic what I know and love, and then see where the app takes me.

Date posted: July 11, 2022 | Filed under apple, finn, house | Leave a Comment »

I’ve been noticing the stitching on my $50 soft top coming apart above the rear flap for a couple of weeks now, and it’s been accelerating. Where it started out at an inch long, it’s now about  a foot and a half long and getting worse. Some of the threads have rotted and are giving way, but some of the canvas is ripping as well. I decided to pull the whole thing off and switch it out for the dark brown top from Chewbacca for the rest of the summer until I figure out a way to repair it.

This is the first time I’ve had this top on this truck. It’s a snap model like the tan top, so it’s a simple switch. But there are differences in the design—this one is clearly an early production version while the tan top is  newer. The main differences are around the front windows; on the tan model they sewed a set of padded baffles over the top of the windows so that rain wouldn’t drip inside the cab. The flaps that fold under the window frames are smaller and have less velcro surface area. And there aren’t any straps built into the back corners to hold the top down to the body.

It’s not very pretty. The color combination isn’t to my taste, but the top itself is in excellent condition. I’ve got some spare nylon strap and quick-release buckles left over from my last repair job, so I’m going to make another set of straps for this one. Finn and I took it for a test run this afternoon and the velcro held up fot ten minutes at 65mph, which is more than I can say for the other two tops. But if need be, I’ve got enough mil-spec snaps to modify the flaps like I did with the other two.

It’s hard to believe I’ve gotten this much use out of these tops—all three of them are over 20 years old and showing their age. But with some careful repairs I think I can get a couple more years out of them.

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

Date posted: July 8, 2022 | Filed under Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on Threadbare

With the parade preparations basically monopolizing my time last weekend, I neglected to mention the update from Lexington Park, where we visited with Jen’s Dad and continued helping him get his affairs in order. While Jen focused on paperwork, I hooked the boat tank up to the Chrysler and primed the carburetor with fuel. I should back up here and mention how difficult it was to find the correct fitting for the carburetor fuel inlet; between three different stores, five websites, and two handfuls of brass and nylon parts, I still didn’t get the proper size or thread combination correct. Instead, I hooked the hose up to the lower section of the existing steel fuel line and called it done.

When I primed the carb it leaked out through the gasket, so I torqued the screws down good and tested it until it stopped seeping. This seems to have flooded the carb, because I couldn’t get it to start for love or money, even after letting it sit for four hours. So we’re back to square one there.

 

I went back outside to the porch ceiling, which I’d powerwashed a few weeks ago, and scraped the remainder of the flaking paint off before hitting it with two coats of white exterior latex. The door surround got two coats as well, which brightens up the front of the house immensely. Then I threw almost all of the breakers in the house until I found the one that killed the outlet on the porch. That plug was flopping loose, which made me nervous. As I unscrewed it, it disintegrated in my hands. Five minutes and a new plug from my electrical stash, and it’s good as new.

Date posted: July 7, 2022 | Filed under cars, family | Leave a Comment »

There was a time when Jen and I could organize, prepare for, and host a parade party for 100+ people on our own. It was several days’ worth of preparation, purchasing and manual labor. By the time the last float passed the house and people were picking up their chairs to return to the backyard, we were tired but usually had enough gas in the tank to power through until the sun went down, and at that point we closed things down to relax. We’d be tired and dirty and still a little tipsy but we could drag stuff back inside and then pass out to the sound of the Catonsville fireworks going off over the hill.

These days, I’m good until maybe an hour after the end of the parade, and then it’s go the fuck home o’clock. We hosted our sister and brother-in-law and their kids yesterday—cooking nothing crazy, just some burgers and dogs, guacamole and coleslaw, and drinking some beer—and it damn near wiped me out. Perhaps it’s also the aftermath of the six Coronas I drank through the course of the day, but this Tuesday I am a withered husk of a human being. We did have fun, and it was great to see the family, and the parade was good (although still slightly less engaging than years past) but I’m straight exhausted, and that’s after a good 10 hours’ sleep last night.

As I get older I understand more and more why my uncles all drank Coors Light out on the lake at this age. Heavy beers don’t treat me well. I enjoy the flavor but I can’t handle the headaches they give me these days, so I’m writing them out of my life. I went through the kegerator last week and consolidated a bunch of beer I’d been avoiding into a six-pack container: several heavy chocolate stouts, double IPA’s, a Troegenator, and a coupe of others that all registered over 8.5ABV. About two hours before the parade I ran them next door to my neighbor’s, who has a liver made of cast iron and hosts a party for roughly 30% of Catonsville: surely someone there could put them to better use than I.

That also means I’m going to organize and put the homebrew equipment up for sale in a week or two, as it’s just gathering dust in the basement. It’s a sad situation, but I can’t brew anything that doesn’t give me a headache anymore. I’ve got a couple of go-to commerical beers I enjoy very much, so I’ll continue drinking those and retire the homebrew hobby for good.

Date posted: July 5, 2022 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

Date posted: July 5, 2022 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

This week I built an auxilliary fuel delivery system out of a boat tank, a cheap fuel pump, some spare wire, and $25 of hose. The tank is a 3 gallon West Marine unit I got on sale, with a quick disconnect and a handy gauge built in. The pump I found on Amazon, which pushes at 2.5—4psi. Everything I’ve read about the Carter AFB says it likes up to about 6psi, so I figure we’re in good shape. I soldered clips to some extra wire I had on hand and lengthened the reach of the pump, so we can disconnect it quickly from the battery if need be. The big question now is what size the fuel inlets on the carb actually are; I’ve got three Thermoquads sitting in the basement, but none of them have a screw-in fitting so I’m taking a wild guess, and the information on AFB carbs is spotty at best.

I built this to get the Chrysler moving under her own power, but the universe seems to have further plans for us. In the last month I’ve been approached by two separate people with Scouts who need help getting them running again: I drove Finn to karate practice a couple of weeks ago and one of her instructors told me she’s got a Scout under a tarp in her backyard. Naturally I offered my help to get it running. And last week a neighbor walked up the driveway and asked me for some help: his friend has a Scout that’s been sitting in a garage for years and he wants to get it running again.

Clearly I have been noticed as the Scout Guy, and more confoundingly, the Get This Scout Running Again Guy; I’m pleasantly surprised and somewhat intimidated by this development. Hopefully I can live up to it.

 

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

Date posted: July 1, 2022 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off on Recovery Items

God, I hope this series is good; the graphic novel series this is based on was amazing. July 29 is on the calendar.

Date posted: June 29, 2022 | Filed under entertainment | Leave a Comment »

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I’ve been keeping an eye on the classifieds for months now, looking for a particular kind of truck to appear. I’ve always liked the lines of the C model IH pickups of the 60’s; there’s something very unique and interesting about the shape of the cab, how it meets with the hood, and how the lights and grille were adapted over the years to fit the lines of the truck. Both the square and stepside beds look good, and I’d be happy with either one; the longer stepside beds feature a divot in the driver’s wheel well to fit a spare—a feature that originates with roadsters of the 1920’s with spare wheels mounted behind the front fenders.

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The interiors are spartan and utilitarian, but there’s a real nice design language around the later dashboard design, and the non-linear, organic shape of the inside door cards is very 60’s. In short, I’d love to have one of these, and it’s been on my mind a lot in the last couple of months.

I wrote about the last one to catch my eye late last year, but I waited too long and the listing disappeared. On Saturday a little red 1100B appeared out in East Baltimore for a low price, and I sent Brian a text with the listing:

After some back and forth with the seller, I drove out to look at it Sunday evening.

Having really looked over some of the pictures before arranging the meet, I knew what to expect, but as always, seeing things in person is so much better. This truck actually has a lot going for it; the 6-cylinder IH engine sounded good even though the seller couldn’t keep it idling without staying on the gas. The rear bed is in decent shape except for some rust holes in the center and dinged-up rear caps. The tailgate is rusty in several places but does open and close. The back of the cab is in good shape. The doors are decent, close correctly, and the rockers and sills are in excellent shape. There’s a hole the driver’s side floor. And everything is there except for the headliner. The front of the cab is crispy, though—where the cab meets the fenders is rough and the fenders themselves are junk. The front valance is rough. It looks like someone parked it with the nose hanging outside a garage door, and all of the weathering happened in front of the windshield.

For the motivated buyer it might be a good project—but there were enough strikes against it that I decided to pass. If the cab had been solid, I could have found two replacement fenders. If it was a floor shift instead of a three-speed column I might have looked twice. If the bed and fenders were in better shape, it would have been worth buying to wait for a donor cab. But this wasn’t the truck for me. I’ll keep looking, and maybe the right one will show up.

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

Date posted: June 27, 2022 | Filed under Inspiration, Scout | Comments Off on Little Red Pickup

This weekend Jen and I decided we needed a break. We’ve been running nonstop for three months; between sorting out her Dad’s situation, the end of school for Finn, work and other obligations, we’re  all worn down to nubs. Finley got sick last weekend, coughed in Jen’s face a couple of times on Monday (thanks, Finn) and got her sick too. We were at her Dad’s house all day Sunday and I came home right into three days of travel to D.C. for video shoots while Jen took on a mountain of short-notice design work.

Video shoots are fun, for the most part; there’s a lot of technical stuff I have had to dig back up and remember, especially because I’m training a full-time video producer and a video intern as we go. But it’s a lot of running and setting up and testing and checking and then there’s the waiting and then there’s shooting and reshooting and staying on top of the technical stuff while also listenting to the content because that sentence was just a little too long, could you please go back and try it again? Then we have to break it all down and either move somewhere else or at least organize the footage and get it ready for production. By the time Friday rolled around I was wrung out.

We begged off on all responsibilities and slept in both days this weekend, which was heavenly. Hazel read the room correctly and allowed us to doze in bed until 8 both mornings, which was awesome; I crept out of the house on Saturday and took her on a long neighborhood loop—a 2 mile walk she desperately needed. On my return I got Finn involved in some long-delayed yard work: She broke down one of the empty wood cradles while I sprayed Roundup on the weeds behind the greenhouse and cut the brush back along the garage. We made a dump run and did some other errands, and then we both cleaned the house while Jen had brunch with a friend. It’s amazing how much a clean bathroom is good for mental health.

Sunday was even slower; Jen and I crawled out of bed at 8:30 and rallied to walk down to the coffee shop by 9. We hit the farmer’s market for some empanadas and wore Hazel out on the long loop, then futzed around the house until Finn woke up. We had some errands to run so we dropped her off in Ellicott City to walk around while we hit the Ace hardware for some stuff, and then the liquor store for supplies (Baltimore County is still under Prohibition-era blue laws) before heading for home.

I ordered a boat tank from West Marine along with some fittings last week, and it showed up on Sunday morning: it’s a sturdy 3-gallon jerry can with a no-spray lid, a built-on gauge, and a feed fitting. I’ve got fresh fuel hose but had to look for a brass fitting to screw into the carb itself, and Amazon will deliver a 4psi fuel pump this week. With all of that assembled, I can bypass the mechanical fuel pump on the Chrysler and hopefully get her running steadily the next time we visit. I also have to break the brakes down and see what that situation looks like—but for now a couple of 2×4’s in the driveway will prevent us from coasting off into the woods.

I’m writing this now from the comfort of our front porch: the fan above us is moving the air briskly while rain patters the windows outside. We’re sipping on our second mix of Suburban Anxiety, and they’re going down smoothly. Jen has another mountain of work to tackle, and I go back to D.C. for another video shoot tomorrow—but right now, we’re relaxed.

Date posted: June 26, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

Gas is still $5 a gallon, but that didn’t stop me from taking the Scout over the bridge to Chestertown to pick up a day’s work on the schoolbus. The forecast for the weekend was a beautiful 81˚ so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Brian has gotten a ton of work done since I saw it last—we put the battery box in all the way back in April—as Robbi and Matthew make firm travel plans for the fall. I pulled into the driveway to find a completely painted bus with scenes of kids and animals reading books from the headlights to the rear bumper.

The roof tent had also come in, and they’d put a platform down, screwed it into place, and hooked up the electrical system for the motor lifts. Inside, Brian had roughed in cabinets around the sink area and opposite the aisle for the locker fronts. Instead of using the locker cubbies they asked him to seal the doors and use the locker fronts as two swinging doors to conceal a set of sliding drawers.

We got to work trying to diagnose a faulty electrical motor on the roof tent, then moved inside to work out cabinetry. I cleaned, painted and installed a floor baffle for the heating hoses directly under the kids’ seats, and when that was done we set up an assembly line to cut and build the shelves and drawers. By 5:30 we had those in place and then installed a shelf cubby over the captain’s chair on the passenger side, which will be mirrored on the driver’s side over the kids’ seats.

I hit the road for home at about 7, driving into a beautiful setting sun over the Bay, feeling very fortunate for the ability to work with my hands and make visible progress on a project with a clear end goal.

On Sunday we packed the CR-V and headed down to Bob’s house to continue sorting things out. After eating lunch I headed out into the garage to continue working on the Chrysler. When I was there last, there was no spark at the plugs and I didn’t know why. I’d bought a $9 tool to test it conclusively, and my suspicions were correct. The next point of failure were the points and condenser inside the distributor, so I swapped those out with some new parts in about 10 minutes. With Bob behind the wheel, we tested for spark again, and there was success!

I squirted some gas down the carb and had him fire it off, and it caught and turned over for a few seconds until the gas evaporated. A couple more tries, some more gas, and she caught and ran—loudly and choppily, but she ran! The smile on Bob’s face was huge.

The next steps are to buy a boat tank—basically a small jerry can designed for a motorboat with a built in float and pump—and hook that directly to the carburetor. That will take care of providing fuel. If I can keep her running from the carb, we can test the transmission to see if she’ll pull out of the garage, and I can pull the drums off the rear wheels to diagnose the brake system. I’m sure that will be a leaky nightmare.
I’ve already cleaned the front seats off with 50/50 water and vinegar to kill the mildew growing there, but the back seats need extra love and attention. Getting it out into the driveway will also let us wash off 40 years of dust and grime and really assess the condition of the paint. There are a thousand little dings and chips from being a shelf in the garage for years, so I know it’s not going to be perfect, but I bet we can cut and buff a shine back into the paint with some work. I also want to use some engine degreaser and the pressure washer to shine up the engine bay.

If I’m completely honest, a part of me didn’t believe I would be able to pull this off; I’m mechanically adept but this project is a lot more than I’ve ever attempted, and there were many places I could have screwed it up. I like to think I’ve learned to be patient and careful as I’ve gotten older, and that approach paid off with every obstacle the car threw at me. The next couple of months will prove out the theory, I guess.

I had Monday off, so we all enjoyed sleeping in. Jen took care of some work in the morning while I pressure washed the front stairs and fooled around in the garage, and in the early afternoon we drove out to Frederick to spend a little family time together. We got some lunch at the Tasting Room, which was about ten steps up from where we took Bob for dinner (the Cracker Barrel was the only place open without a half an hour wait) where we sipped fancy coctails and ate a delicious late lunch.

From there we walked through the town, stopping in various stores for Finn to shop through. I found a cheap Django Reinhart LP at the used record store and Finn found some inexpensive jewelry. We stopped and met several dogs who all put Hazel to shame for their calm and relaxed natures. She was our alarm clock, so at about the four hour mark we headed for home. We all spent the evening quietly doing our own things, enjoying the cool breeze, happy to be together.

Date posted: June 21, 2022 | Filed under cars, family, friends | Leave a Comment »