The tile guy came back today and laid down the grout throughout the bathroom, and it looks great. All of the strange areas between tiles are gone completely and I don’t see any variation at all, which is a big relief. I think he was happy to get the check and get out of here.
Unfortunately I fucked things up by not specifying the right wire for the underlayment. Because of the way we originally wired the room (for just the floor heat) and the late decision to add a wall-mounted heating fan, we kept one circuit in the panel, and I was supposed to specify 240-volt wire for the floor heat. 120 is more common, so that’s what he put in. We can’t run both systems on one wire, so I’ve got to have the electrician come back out and fish wire through the walls to support the wall heater. Which is not going to be easy or cheap.
My Scout friends came back on Sunday to help me button up the rear drum brakes on Peer Pressure. When last we left off, we’d put new pads and hoses on the front discs but when we pressurized the system one of the rear cylinders blew out under the increased pressure from the hydro-boost. It was getting late, and everyone was tired, so we agreed to meet again to finish it up. In the week following I bought a new set of drums to match the shoes I got with the Scout, as well as a full spring kit and two adjustable valves.
Bennett and Dennis came by in the early afternoon, bundled up for the freakishly cold weather (the day before, it had been sunny in the high 80’s) and we set to work. First we jacked up the rear and put the axle on jack stands. Then we pulled both wheels. I told Dennis I’d never done drums before, only discs, so he sat with me on one side while Bennett had the other side to himself. We pounded and pried off the drum on the driver’s side, mangling one of the clips in the process, and tore down the drum.
Dennis stepped me through the rebuild process patiently until we got to the clip that had been mangled, and then I had to get on the phone to find a new one. Luckily a local parts store had the kit we needed in stock, so we ran out to grab it.
I had inherited a set of brake shoes when I bought the truck, so it was a bit of a toss-up whether they would fit in the drums I got from NAPA. It turned out I needn’t have worried, and they went in without a hitch. Somehow Bennett got his side’s clips, springs, notches and pins aligned correctly and installed before Dennis and I did.
The shoes on the truck were still in excellent shape (as were the drums, actually) but we replaced everything while we had it open. Bennett had to reflare both brake lines because the fittings had rusted to the cylinder, which took time. Then we bled the whole system out, reflared a leaky fitting, and bled it again. At that point everything was holding pressure so Dennis fixed the brake light switch and we opened the barn doors for a test ride.
The difference is immediate and dramatic. The pedal throw is similar but the brakes dig in and hold a lot faster than they ever did before; the whole truck comes to a stop much faster and with purpose while the old system took a lot of frantic stomping and swearing to work. It’s going to take some getting used to, but that’s the kind of progress I like. It’s great to finally have this project completed.
I’m continually amazed and humbled at the generosity and patience of my friends, and I am thankful for their time and expertise. And they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. I really don’t know how I would pursue this hobby without them.
There’s been a lot of small stuff going on around the big stuff, so I’ll just list it out here.
- Last weekend I got my first haircut since cancer. Things look MUCH better now.
- The event I shot at the National Geographic Society this past week went off without a hitch. Mae Jemison was amazing.
- I shot with a Canon 5D Mk4 at the event, and I am in love with that camera. More on that later.
- Today we washed and vacuumed both of our cars for the first time since cancer. What a difference.
- Speaking of cars, the CR-V has been off the road for weeks with sketchy brakes. It now has new calipers on the front and things are much better.
- Tomorrow my Scout friends are going to stop over and we’re going to finish up the rear drums and leak test the system. Hopefully Peer Pressure will be on the road by Sunday evening.
- I’m going in to the hospital this Wednesday for a 4-month cancer checkup, CAT scan, and general update.
- Jen is going to be my production assistant at the shoot in DC this Thursday: she’s learning how to shoot video and I will be grateful to have her there with me.
- I’m officially headed off to Colombia in two weeks to shoot video for one of the programs at WRI.
This is the first trailer for The Incredibles 2, and I can’t be more happy to look forward to seeing this in the theater.
I’ve installed a fair bit of tile in my day. At my parents’ house in New York, we inherited a giant 10-person jacuzzi that was installed on a plywood base over an unconditioned crawlspace. Heavy usage by the previous owners and basic science disintegrated the plywood holding it up, and my parents had to have it all ripped out and replaced with concrete. They kept the jacuzzi though, and the decision was made to re-tile the floor. I took it on as a project and laid out several hundred square feet of the stuff, then grouting and sealing it by myself. I was proud of this job and I look back on it with a sense of satisfaction.
Later, in college, I was hired to gut and remodel a bathroom, something I was only barely qualified to accomplish. Given my pitiable day rate at that time, the homeowners got a bargain and a half by betting on my ability to deliver on what I promised. I took the floor down to the studs, rebuilt it, and then installed period-correct hexagonal tile on the floor and square tile on the walls. It came out looking very good, if you don’t mind me being modest.
Here in the downstairs bathroom I put in a hundred or so square feet of tile on the floor myself, and after grouting it both Jen and I were horrified to see inconsistency in the spacing. It bugs her so much she can’t look down at the floor, which makes me feel awful. So we hired a professional to tile the floor in the new bathroom, looking for more precision. What we got, however, was disappointment. As soon as he left, Jen texted me and told me it was uneven in places, and my heart sank. When I got home I looked it over and at first didn’t think it was too bad, but on closer inspection it’s bothering me more and more. There are visible rivers where sheets didn’t go together with the same spacing as the layout on the sheets, and in one area there’s a visible line from the doorway where the a row of tile seems to be higher than its neighbor.
Upset, I called the installer, who deflected blame and pointed at the tile itself, without offering me any solutions or apologies. We traded some texts and phone calls, each getting irate with the situation. Jen and I called our friend Mr. Scout for some professional advice, and he immediately went into problem-solving mode, suggesting white grout to hide the sins. Because it’s a over a heated underlayment, pulling up tiles to fix problems could mean nicking the wire and breaking the system completely. Friday morning I told the installer we wanted white grout and he told me it would be $340 extra, at which time I lost it and went full asshole on him.
I don’t like being a jerk to people. It’s not natural to me, but my reticence has come to bite me in the ass with contractors, who sometimes try to get away with substandard work. For some reason I feel weird about pushing for the work to be correct, afraid that they won’t come back, or worse, when they do, they’ll fuck it up even more. Really, I just don’t want to be a dick. But this was not OK, and I wanted it fixed. I went to the tile store I trusted and asked them their opinion after showing them pictures, and they did confirm the tile sheets are inconsistent but said that white grout will hide most of the issues.
I’m texting him back today to tell him we’re going ahead with the white grout, and will finish out this part of the contract with him, but I’m going to find someone else to put in the shower tile and finish out the rest of the job.
In my line of work, I’m asked to make changes every day. I deal with people who don’t like the results of something I’ve done, and I find a way to make things work, by offering solutions and problem solving. The first part of this process is acknowledging something is wrong; it’s not that hard. If I’d gotten that as a first response I’d be a lot more likely to work with the guy. But he dug his heels in and deflected completely without trying to work with me, and that’s not acceptable.
My iPhone is now over three years old and the battery life has been getting progressively worse over the last six months. It’s included in Apple’s replacement program, so I made an appointment on Tuesday to go into the store and have it swapped out. In the meantime, I had it with me in the backyard as I was raking leaves on Saturday, and stupidly placed it on top of one of the bags while I adjusted my fleece. the bag toppled over and my phone hit the sidewalk with a crunch: the screen blew up into a million pieces. Amazingly, it still worked!
At the store they were backed up so I had to leave it overnight for a screen replacement, and now that I’ve got it back, it seems to be working well. The battery feels like it’s still draining quickly but it’s got more life than it did.
I’m working on plans for shooting lots of video and photos in the next three weeks: I’ve got a dinner photo shoot followed by an early morning event shoot next week. The week after that I’ve got a full-day video shoot designed as a follow-on to the NCE video I made in London two years ago, which Jen is going to come down and help me with. The week after that I’m in Colombia shooting more video for a bike-sharing project, which should be a real adventure. I’ll have a new Canon 5D Mk4 to work with, and I’m renting a DJI Osmo to shoot crowd scenes while we’re there, and I’ll be with a co-worker who speaks Spanish so that I’ve got help with the language barrier.
This week has been a busy one at work. I don’t think I’ve stopped to breathe in the 34 hours I’ve been there so far, and by the time I get home my brain is mush. It’s a good kind of tired because I’m completely, fully engaged in everything I’m doing, and we are flat out with about 10 major projects going on, but it’s mentally fucking taxing.
I sold the Fuji f/1.4 lens to a guy today, down $75 from my original asking price (and $50 down from the price I had it listed for this week). In the last Curbside Classic story I wrote about the Jeep, I complained about the buyer trying to knock off $25 for a new battery and how much that annoyed me–to the point where I was ready to kill the deal. A couple of commenters mentioned that I was probably unrealistic in my expectation that buyers would simply pay me my asking price, which came as kind of a shock to me. I’ve been buying and selling stuff for the asking price (generally speaking) for years, feeling weird for asking sellers to knock some cash off of something I’m interested in…but based on the responses I got, I think I have to start being OK with feeling like a dick and trying to haggle some bargains. And I’ve got to raise my pricing by 5% so that I can knock it back off and get what I originally was hoping for. Now to ditch the drone and the old XBOX in the basement. Strangely I’ve had more inquiries about the XBOX, but there was one guy who wanted to trade me a quad or an old motorcycle for it…NOT. It’s good to have that lens gone and not sitting in my camera bag, and I think I’ve got to be a little more ruthless with the equipment I’m not using.
Warby Parker update: they will cut me new lenses for my old frames, so I put the order in today and will probably have to drive downtown to their hipster storefront to have them put in. When balancing a $50 repair over a $400 set of new glasses, I think I know which way I’m going.
We have the rest of the floor tile in hand, so the tile guy will be back sometime next week to install it all. Then, we’ve got to sort out how to purchase the beautiful glass tile we chose for the bathroom and afford the installation estimate, which will wipe out the rest of our bathroom fund.
My birthday was a couple of days ago, and a bunch of people sent me congratulations on Facebook, which I missed, because I don’t visit the site anymore. Meanwhile, it was just revealed that Facebook was scraped by some company run by a bunch of right-wing fucks who used the data to weaponize political ads into echo chambers. I stepped back from Facebook couple of years ago, except to respond to a few messages and one event invitation, but increasingly I’m thinking about deleting my profile altogether. Not like it’s not been scraped and used against me anyway (and I’m on Instagram every day) but why have it out there if I’m not using it? There’s also advice on how to privatize it as much as possible (or, as much as they’ll let you without secretly rewriting the privacy settings again) to prevent third-party apps from scraping more information. It’s still up for now, but I just shut down a ton of privacy settings I wasn’t aware were on.
Back in November my sister stopped in for a visit, and while she was here dropped off two boxes of camera gear she’d accumulated over the years. Inside one was a bunch of old Kodak bellows cameras, a couple of bakelite 620 favorites, and some other oddities. In the second box was a pile of mainly 35mm gear in various makes. There was a bag of Fuji gear with several lenses, and a pair of Minoltas, one of which is a cleaner twin to my X-700. Among the treasures was a first-generation digital camera, a Sony Mavica FD-7, which is now 21 years old and used a 3.5″ floppy disk to record data. It just so happened a video popped up in one of my feeds where the author reviews three Mavicas of the same vintage, and talks about their qualities and quirks. Apparently it’s hard to find an aftermarket battery that will work correctly with these, so my momentary desire to find and order a new one will probably remain just a desire.