I rented a Fuji X-Pro2 for my Mexico trip, and apart from a little bit of user error, I fell in love with it. It was bigger than the two bodies I’d previously used, the X-T1 and X-E1, but a slab form like the X-E1 and felt great in my hands.

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The thing I liked best about it was the speed and quality of the focus. It was on par with my DSLRs and is the kind of thing that would make me sell off my Nikon kit to enjoy. The camera was (relatively) lightweight–I noticed a huge difference in hauling it around vs. a Canon 7D, although that was attached to a heavy 24-105 zoom. I made the mistake of forgetting my Fuji 18-55 kit lens at the hotel on my walkaround day, so I had to compose and shoot everything with a 35mm 1.4–something that forced me to stop and compose my shots a lot more.

I’m still bumping up against DSLR habits when I shoot with the Fuji kit. I’m used to having a lens in the 24-105 range permanently mounted on whatever my walkaround is; shooting with a prime has been an education in choosing, composing, and setting up the right shot at the right time. I still do a lot of shotgun-blast shooting, but I’m more careful to set things up and be prepared for the right moment.

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A couple of weeks ago I spotted an ad on Craigslist for an X-T10 body at an extremely low price, and followed up with it. I met the guy in Chinatown and he showed me a very well-cared-for body in great shape, with all of the accessories and the original box. The X-T10 is a pared-down version of the X-T1/2 series, minus the weatherproofing and high-end features. It’s two years newer than my X-E1, so there are a lot of updates to the platform, and this body features a bunch of things the more consumer-grade E1 doesn’t have: a tilt screen, better controls, an updated interface, Wi-Fi (my first!) better focus and a faster shutter, and a host of other improvements. It’s laid out like a DSLR, in that the viewfinder is in the center of the camera–I liked the X-Pro2 and my X-E1 for the left-hand viewfinder, because my nose doesn’t get in the way–but it’s not a dealbreaker. The camera itself is smaller than the X-E1, which is a lovely bonus, and the controls, while generally similar to the E1 and T2, are just different enough to have me scratching my head.

Having used it for a couple of weeks, I’m much happier with it than the X-E1. So, I put an ad on Craigslist and within two days sold it for $50 less than what I paid for it. I made a command decision to sell it with the kit lens it came with, which helped move it along faster. I rarely used it mainly because it exists in the same focal range as my other two lenses and doesn’t add a whole lot to the kit. I’ve been looking at the 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6, which is a large, weather-sealed, do-anything lens for walking around that covers a huge focal range. It gets great reviews and would extend the range of my kit, which I like. Amazon has it on sale for $200 off the normal price, so with the sale of the X-E1 and some other gear I’ve been getting rid of (an older MacBook Pro, an older Nikon DSLR) I’m getting very close to pulling the trigger.

Date posted: December 4, 2016 | Filed under photography | Leave a Comment »

Helper

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I posted a version of this on Instagram, but I like it so much I put it here too.

* * *

My folks are in town this week so that my dad can do some testing at Johns Hopkins for his breathing. They saw him on Wednesday and then had him come right back on Thursday for observation; he’s been there ever since. They’re trying to untangle why he continues to have issues getting full lungfuls of air. So far everything is good. He’s in good hands at the hospital. They’re feeding him well, and he’s comfortable. Unfortunately, this meant he missed our Thanksgiving dinner. Due to other illness, we were down three other family members, so we had four empty seats and an 18 lb. bird to eat. Luckily, the Redmans were free, and we found a way to stuff as much food in our stomachs as possible. Finn had a friend to play with, and we adults got some time to talk amongst ourselves.

* * *

The piping in the basement is fixed. I got a plumber in the door on Wednesday and within a half an hour he had the joint sweated, sealed, and finished for only $100. So we came out about $400 ahead of the deal.

Date posted: December 3, 2016 | Filed under comparison, family, finn | Leave a Comment »

Corona Fisheye

Date posted: November 30, 2016 | Filed under photo | Leave a Comment »

Friendsgiving!

For various reasons, we took a break from our traditional Thanksgiving meal last year. This year, we offset it for a week to coincide with a visit from my folks, which left us open on the big day itself. Graciously, our friends invited us to their family celebration, which we thankfully accepted.

We’ve known the extended family for years now, so there was a lot of catching up to do, but we could not have felt more welcome and comfortable the minute we walked in the door. As always, the meal was delicious, and we left feeling stuffed with food and love and thankfulness. I would have taken more pictures but I was having too much fun talking and eating and drinking.

* * *

The water filter is installed and flowing, after a couple days of engineering challenges. The broken unit is on its way back to Amazon (looking carefully, it appeared that it had been returned once before, thanks) and the new one arrived on Friday afternoon. I spent the rest of that evening getting it set up and then held my breath while cutting the old filter assembly out of the piping. Then the new unit went in without much fuss, and I carefully filled it with water before restoring service to the rest of the house.

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Feeling triumphant, I got some leftover pumpkin pie and brought Jen down to inspect. It was then that she noticed a slow leak coming from the threaded fitting in the housing itself, and my stomach fell. All of the other connections are brazed copper, which means it might need to be cut apart to fix the threaded fitting, unless there’s another solution I’m not aware of. I’m out of time to work on it myself, so I have a second plumber’s number to call tomorrow morning who should be able to help us out.

Even so, running the numbers last night, we’re $550 ahead of the quote we got from the first plumber. Hopefully the repair won’t exceed that amount.

Santa

We took Finley to see the Festival of Trees at the state fairgrounds Saturday morning, and she got to talk to the Big Man. The Festival is a huge assortment of custom decorated trees, gingerbread houses, and vendors set up in the main hall of the fairgrounds, and they have events, a stage, games, pony rides, and other attractions for kids to play. On any given day it’s absolutely mobbed with people, but because Finn had her unscheduled trip to the hospital a couple of years ago, we get in early with other former and current patients. This meant there were only three kids in the line to see Santa in front of us and not three hundred.

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The afternoon was consumed with shopping and errands. In the evening we threw some wood in the fireplace and started burning some of the new wood, which is a lot more combustible than it should be for only seasoning six months. After eating some leftovers, we busted out the marshmallows and roasted until bedtime.

I had a total of five days off, but I don’t know where it all went. It sure did go by fast…

Date posted: November 27, 2016 | Filed under finn, friends, house | Leave a Comment »

Waaay back in the first half of the last decade, we were having problems with our water quality. The County was doing work on the water piping in our neighborhood, which had an immediate effect on our water. Everything was orange and there was visible sediment at the bottom of our glasses. We tried a sink-mounted filter I found at BJ’s but that was a plastic piece of crap. Finally we broke down and had some plumbers add a cartridge filter to our water supply line.

Over the years the sediment in our water dissipated and things cleared up, but a few weeks ago we noticed orange in our water again. On Sunday I changed the cartridge in the filter and when I opened the valve to turn the water back on, it started leaking–badly. The mechanism is mainly plastic, so I’ve been babying it over the years. Unfortunately, when it was put in, there was no bypass put in to the piping, so the only way to shut the water off to the house was to use the valve built into the housing–made of plastic.

I stuck a bucket under it and called our plumber, who came out and quoted us a pretty fair price. After thinking it over that evening, I decided I could do it myself for half the price. I did some research, ordered a heavy-duty filter from Amazon, and stocked up on supplies from Lowe’s. It’s been a long time since I’ve sweated pipes, but it’s a skill you don’t forget. By midnight last night I had about half of the piping cut and roughed out, and by the time the unit itself appeared this afternoon the rest was ready to go. Unfortunately someone had dropped the box at some point and broken the release tab off, so it’s got to be replaced with a new one on Friday.

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The drip on the filter has dwindled, so the threat of the basement flooding while we wait for the new unit has subsided. The piping is ready; we just need the new unit.

Date posted: November 23, 2016 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Saturday morning broke warm and sunny, and we all got up eager to get outside. At least, I did. After prodding the neighbor to come and split wood (he was working) I lit a fire and got busy splitting the last of the small stuff, and actually split a 30″ round by hand. I’m definitely at the point where I can’t do anything else without hydraulic assistance so I’m at his mercy in terms of scheduling.  I cleaned up the area, adjusted the tarps on the cribs, collected a wheelbarrow full of dry chips for kindling, and a bunch of other small yard tasks before the sky turned dark. In the space of about five minutes it went from sunny and 70˚ to gray and 50˚, and the wind howled in like the aftershock of a nuclear blast. I came inside and changed the cartridge on our water filter, which has needed doing for a while now, only to find that the outgoing valve (the one that keeps water on the house side from pouring back down onto the floor) is leaking uncontrollably, because it is made of plastic and is shit. The plumbers will be here Monday morning to look that situation over, and meanwhile we have a 5-gallon bucket keeping the floor dry.

That was OK though because Mama and I had a reservation at Parts & Labor, a butcher/restaurant in Remington, and it was time to get ready. After setting the babysitter up with the technology we drove into the city and found a spot across the street. Remington has changed dramatically since the last time we were up there; there’s a huge condo/workspace around the corner from the Paper Moon diner that looks like it landed from Mars.

Parts & Labor is a lovely restaurant with killer cocktails and a very courteous staff. Our meals were delicious (Jen won this time with the lambchetta) and we enjoyed every minute of our stay. Strangely, we were done in an hour and a half–usually we shut restaurants down when we’ve got a sitter–so we moseyed up to Golden West and joined the hipsters at the bar for more cocktails. There we enjoyed a couple hours of uninterrupted conversation before the CR-V turned into a pumpkin.

I’ll say that even though I was a little rocky this morning I’m gaining an appreciation for both a well-mixed Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. I don’t drink bourbon or rye as a rule (brown alcohol and I don’t mix) but these two were delicious. Jen and I discussed laying in some good bourbon, bitters, and vermouth and trying to perfect our own recipe over the winter.

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Sunday was 40˚ and windy, with gusts of 20mph or more (definitely more) and my neighbor was working again, so there was no splitting for us at all. I went down to pick up the CSA, then came back to clean the yard for winter. This included re-fastening the plastic on the far side of the greenhouse, which had come completely loose, and organizing the contents so that the rest of the chairs and hoses would fit inside. Other than that, it was a relaxed Sunday.

Date posted: November 20, 2016 | Filed under family, house, life | Leave a Comment »

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I thought I might get out and shoot a couple of pictures of the Scout with the changing leaves in the background before they all got blown away. It was a good thing I did, because they all got blown away today.

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Date posted: November 20, 2016 | Filed under Inspiration, Scout | Comments Off on Modeling Session

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Finley rocked her presentation yesterday! So much so that we went for frozen yogurt to celebrate.

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Thanks to Mama for the video.

Date posted: November 18, 2016 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

I lured my neighbor (and his splitter) over on Sunday with a warm fire and the promise of cold beer. I started alone by going through the remainder of the smaller logs by hand until about 1 and then he wandered over with his truck; we backed it up to the woodpile and filled the bed. After we dumped that in his driveway we hooked up the splitter and got to work on some of the larger rounds.

Even though the splitter is a pro-grade unit it strained to get through the first 36″ diameter round we put in it–because some of the wood is so gnarled inside. Once we split them in half we got a rhythm going, and it took about 1/2 hour to get through each one. Meanwhile Jen stacked the fourth cradle full and covered it.

Finley, who had been working on a project of her own this whole time, asked us to take a break and relax in the room she’d set up for us under the holly tree. We walked over and found two of the Adirondack chairs set up facing the road, with some shelves, a coathook, a bed (her wagon), a bathroom (a flowerpot) and two fresh beers. We rested in the shade for about ten minutes and she talked us through all of her home improvements, obviously hoping we’d appreciate them–which we did. She can be such a thoughtful child sometimes–I hope she doesn’t lose that.

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By 4:30 we’d made our way through five of the rounds and had a sizable pile stacked, but the sun was setting and we needed to clean up. We filled his truck again, then hitched the splitter up and drove it back to his house. Our yard is somewhat empty again with the split wood gone, but there are still 10-12 large rounds and miscellaneous medium logs left. Fortunately, this wood (and its bark) burns readily, there’s plenty of beer (I kegged the IPA we brewed way back in April, tired of waiting) and the weekend appears to be mostly free.

Today is Tuesday and my back and legs are still stiff, but four weekends of honest work feel righteous.

* * *

The entire Second Grade has been working on an epic project involving presidents for the past couple of weeks, and overall I’d say I’m impressed with how much detail they’re asking for and by how much time and effort Finley put into her report. Jen sat with her and provided guidance on research, drafts, writing, quality and production, and suggested I take over the visual half. Finn and I talked it over and we came up with a timeline poster, and began work on Thursday organizing and cataloging the information.

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Saturday we cleared off the dining room table and got to work with a rough draft, then a visualization, and finally the poster itself. By Saturday evening we were both tired but we had the poster mapped out and the pieces in place; Jen did a QC check and we used that feedback to tighten things up on Sunday morning. When I told Finn she’d built her first infographic (she’s been hearing us talk about infographics for two semesters now) her face broke out in a wide smile and she hugged me while sighing with relief.

Date posted: November 15, 2016 | Filed under finn, house | Leave a Comment »

Northern Brewer was the place I got my first beer kit after I started homebrewing. They have been the source of most of the recipes I’ve used, and a lot of the gear I’ve purchased. Mr. Scout told me today they’d been bought by Anheuser-Busch Inbev, which is the equivalent of having your kid’s lemonade stand bought by Pepsi.

A-B Inbev has been buying large, established breweries for years and consumers have complained that they’ve watered down the recipes and lowered the quality of the ingredients. I drink craft beer because the taste is superior to that of giant megabreweries. I brew my own beer for the same reasons. I can only hope that Inbev doesn’t use its huge market position to water down Northern Brewer’s quality as well. In the meantime, there’s always Austin Homebrew Supply or my local brewing store.

Date posted: November 12, 2016 | Filed under brewing | Leave a Comment »