My neighbor, the one with the drone I borrowed to take to Paraguay, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. We’d just taken it up for a spin to sort out a camera issue; he’d flown it over the neighborhood Easter Egg hunt to shoot some pictures but when we looked at the footage afterwards, it was pictures of him–he’d mistakenly set it for Burst mode, so it took five pictures and stopped, instead of Interval mode where it would shoot continuously every couple of seconds. I walked him through getting the GoPro app sorted out on his phone and showed him how the various modes work, and it immediately clicked for him. While we were working, he mentioned that he’s been thinking about getting a new drone and selling his, and I immediately told him I’d buy it.

So it’s a DJI Phantom 2. It was upgraded by the original owner with a camera gimbal to fit a GoPro Hero 3, a long-range transmitter-receiver, and a 7″ monitor that I can’t find a manual for anywhere. The camera sends real-time video back to the monitor to make flying easier. It comes with an extra set of propellers and the two new batteries I bought for the Paraguay trip, the three original batteries, assorted parts, and a pelican-style travel case. It’s in great shape, and for the price I couldn’t pass it up (he got it for a steal and sold it to me for what he paid, which is hundreds less than the going rate).

The only way I can justify this purchase is because I spent every waking hour on the ground in Paraguay running around shooting, preparing to shoot, or organizing gear for the next shoot, and thus didn’t eat much. Besides the complimentary hotel breakfast (which was lovely to look at but not much in the way of carbs or protein) I was subsisting on bottled water, Clif Bars I’d brought with me (having learned from previous shooting trips) until dinner. I paid for my meals out of pocket, which was just easier, but when I got home the per diem that came back to me was easily four times what I’d spent–and about $50 more than what I paid for this drone.

Drone 1

What are the plans for it? Fly it, first. Learn how to keep it in the air, aim it at what I want to see, and make the movements fluid. I took it out with Finn earlier in the year and ironed some of the issues out, even though it was a windy day.

Eventually, I’ll have to see if upgrading the gimbal to a Hero4-compatible unit makes sense; the Hero4 adds a lot of extras in terms of camera angle, improved ISO and a higher frame rate. But that will only happen if I can get some paying jobs that call for a drone.

* * *

Meanwhile, I went through my old hardware box and pulled out ten old hard IDE drives that have been decommissioned for years to prepare them for disposal. First I put a rare-earth magnet over each drive platter for a couple of days to scramble the electrons. Then I broke a couple of cheap Home Depot drill bits going through each drive to render them unusable. They will get dropped off at the dump with a bunch of other large metal items I can’t put out by the curb, and hopefully be recycled into compact cars.

* * *

We had another contractor come out and look at the bathroom Thursday evening, which puts our grand total at four. One has responded with a price three times our budget, another went completely dark, we’re waiting for the third to respond, and the fourth will get back to us within the week (we hope). The last two guys are single-person operations so it may be a couple of weeks/months before they can get started, but it would be nice to get someone interested in the job for a reasonable price to sign a contract and get this thing moving.

Date posted: April 28, 2017 | Filed under house, photography | Leave a Comment »

…explained with death metal. Classic.

Date posted: April 28, 2017 | Filed under humor | Leave a Comment »

It’s not a break. The orthopedic doc said it’s a bad sprain and that I don’t need the boot anymore, so I left it off after the appointment and haven’t worn it since. Over the past week I’ve walked on it, careful not to do anything stupid, and while it’s not magically healed I’m not feeling pain during normal movement.

* * *

I’ve been afraid of switching to Lightroom for a couple of months now after an aborted attempt to switch at work; in a time-sensitive workflow I couldn’t get it to do what I needed to do and switched back to Aperture (now discontinued, but my solution for 5 years). With a little more free time this week, I moved all of the 2017 pictures I’ve taken to an external drive and built a Lightroom catalog for them after watching a couple of tutorial videos so that I knew the basics. The interface is strange and things are in different places but once I sorted out what was going where it started to make sense.

In other old photo news, I sprung for development of four rolls of film that have been knocking around the house since we moved in. I had no idea where they came from or what was on them, so I wrote a check, mailed them off, and waited. The service is really good. I got a notification email when they arrived, another with links to an online archive of images, and a third to tell me they were in the mail. One of the rolls is Jen’s from 2004 =, containing shots from Rome and a trip to Aurora. The second is 120 film shot at Finn’s birth, but unfortunately there are only three exposures. The third is color film from a trip to Monticello in 2007, and the fourth is a roll of double-exposed film from our friend Dave, which somehow found its way into our hands.

This got me thinking about the three unexposed rolls of Tri-X I’ve got sitting in the cooler downstairs, and the perfectly good film camera I have up on my shelf. I bought some new batteries for it last week and powered it up; I’m not certain but I think there might actually be film in it. That also got me thinking about film cameras within the ecosystem I’m in, and I poked around for some late-model Nikon film cameras on Craigslist as a lark. It turns out they’re available for ~$200, which means they’re something that would be fun to have but not required at this time.

* * *

The big honking TV is in the back of the CR-V waiting to be recycled this weekend; I’ve got three other computer monitors and a battery backup to join it as well as some other small appliances that have been sitting around for months. I’m waffling over getting rid of the lampshade iMac I got back in 2011, which is itself over ten years old; it’s a nice piece of history but I don’t really know what I’d use it for besides decoration.

* * *

I’m hooked on a couple of new podcasts: Crimetown is a series about crime focused in one city and its effects on the people there. The initial series is about Providence, Rhode Island, which was gripped by the Mob up until the mid 90’s. It’s an engrossing story and the narrators do an excellent job of keeping all the people and stories sorted out.

Heavyweight (now on break) tells stories about people who have unfinished business–things that happened to them in the past that could use a little revisiting. It’s handled with humanity and dignity, and also a good bit of humor.

Criminal is a podcast about, well, criminals. Criminal activity, examining crimes both famous and obscure. It chooses a wide range of topics to discuss, which keeps it interesting.

Song Exploder is a shorter podcast with interviews of musicians who take apart and explain how they’ve constructed a song they’ve written. Some of the musicians are better at doing this than others, and some of the songs are more interesting than others, but overall it’s an insightful look into who the artists are and how they make their music.

Date posted: April 21, 2017 | Filed under geek, photo, photography | Leave a Comment »

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Date posted: April 19, 2017 | Filed under finn, photography | Leave a Comment »

I visited the Orthopedic physician on Friday to get a clear diagnosis on my leg, and Finley followed me into the exam room to make sure the doctor was taking good care of me. He poked and prodded my foot, bent it in several directions, and went to look at the X-rays. When he came back, he shrugged and told us that a teeny little bit of bone was chipped off, but it was mainly a sprain and would heal up in a couple of weeks. I put the boot back on, we drove back home, I took the boot off, and I haven’t worn it since. It’s tender but if I don’t hop, pivot, or plant on it, it’s fine. Sunday I mowed the front lawn in a pair of Chuck Taylors. So with care, I’m going to keep walking on it, get it stronger, and continue with the plan.

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Our weekend was mostly quiet. Finn and I hit the neighborhood easter egg hunt on Saturday morning, where the bigger kids are outnumbering the smaller kids, and I caught up with the parents of various kids we know. I spent the first hour hiding a hangover behind sunglasses, because I’d sampled a heavy beer with my neighbor the night before. Finley found a bunch of friends and ate a lot of candy and I gradually felt more human until it was time to leave. In the evening we walked back over for a screening of Fantastic Beasts under the stars, and made it home just in time to miss a thunderstorm.

Sunday we hit church for Easter service and celebrated the resurrection with some barbecue. Our fridge is on the fritz again–it had iced itself up completely–so we stuck our food in coolers while we defrosted it overnight. But after scrubbing out the mess and turning it back on, we found that it’s not cooling down enough. This echoes a problem we had last year when the main circulating fan died, but I verified that it’s still working correctly. I did some sleuthing and futzed with the controls and the main damper valve, and we’ll see if that helps.

Date posted: April 16, 2017 | Filed under photo | Leave a Comment »

Learning about airplanes

Last Friday I took a day off work to take my folks down to the Udvar-Hazy museum outside of Dulles airport. They’ve been in town for a couple of days while my Dad gets some more testing done at Hopkins, and there are several days in between each of the appointments. We decided to have Finn join us, so she got an extra day of spring break tacked on.

My Dad hasn’t seen the museum yet, and in his mind he thought we would be walking around outside in a big field. When we pulled up to the building, he said, “That’s a big airport.” I don’t think he was prepared for the size and scope of it.

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Since the last time we were down there (about 10 years ago), it’s gotten updated and they’ve added to the collection. The restoration hangar in back is now open, so we got to see the Apollo 11 Command Module sitting down on the floor, the fuselage of the Flak Bait, and the Sikorsky JRS-1, the only remaining plane that was present at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

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The space hall has been expanded upon, and they’ve dramatically increased the exhibits on either end of the main hall with commercial aviation, rotary wing aircraft, and additions to the warbird collection. We walked for about 4 hours, taking a break in the middle for lunch, after which Finn and I tried out the simulators. She was nervous at first, so we tried the one on hydraulic jacks, and it turned out that she loved it. Then we tried a dogfight simulator that spun 360˚ horizontally to simulate rolls and flips; I think Finn had fun but she was squealing too loudly to know for sure.

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Saturday I took the family out with me on errands to get everyone out of the house, so we hit the Lowe’s, the Target, and then the runner’s store so that I could get fitted for specialized running shoes. This took about 45 minutes, as they made me run in place, checked my arches, and then showed me some sneakers. I wound up leaving with fancy insoles and a pair of Adidas running shoes, which I intended to start breaking in this week.

We came home and took advantage of the weather to get out into the backyard and clean up the leaves; Jen cleared out the driveway while we were gone and I cleaned up the woodpile area after getting home. Sunday was more of the same; we got outside and worked in the warm weather. I’ve been throwing stuff in the garage since the weather got cold, and so I haven’t been able to access anything behind the Scout for four months. A couple of hours of organization later, everything was in its right place and made more sense.

Moving some car parts around, I was carrying one of the spare Scout windshields across the open area when my right foot came down on a piece of wood the wrong way. Because I was carrying about 100 lbs. of metal and glass, the effect was magnified, and I felt a searing pain on the outside of my foot below the ankle. At first I thought it was a sprain but a spot on my foot swelled up to the size of a golf ball, so we drove out to the urgent care to have it X-rayed. They diagnosed it as a fracture and sent me home with a giant ski boot, which I am wearing until I see the orthopedist on Friday.

Date posted: April 13, 2017 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

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Date posted: April 3, 2017 | Filed under finn, photo | Leave a Comment »

It

This looks like it could be genuinely terrifying. The 90’s miniseries was utter shite; from this trailer it looks like what they may have done is split the book in two, dealing with the main characters only as kids, instead of the then/now structure of the book. I’m hooked.

Date posted: March 29, 2017 | Filed under entertainment | Leave a Comment »

Here’s the slightly shortened version of my Paraguay video. I’m not 100% happy with the voiceover; I think they could have found someone with better enunciation. Maybe I can get them to re-record it…

Date posted: March 29, 2017 | Filed under WRI | Leave a Comment »

Bel-Loc counter

I found out through a post on Instagram that the venerable Bel-Loc Diner has closed after 53 years, due to be knocked down and replaced with a fucking Starbucks of all things. I’ve loved the Bel-Loc since I moved to Baltimore 28 years ago (damn); in college we made pilgrimages up to the Parkville area for breakfast, haircuts, and the Hechinger’s when there was no diner food, weekend banking or lumberyards in the city. It’s been a landmark since I’ve been here, a shining neon constant. I think I’ve shot pictures of it with every camera I own save one. In a world of cavernous fake modern diners with no soul, it was a cozy room made of curves and angles and stainless steel. You could sit in a booth and feel the conversations around you while you ate; it had a communal sense about it. Much like the departed Forest Diner, it was an experience. And we don’t have too many authentic experiences left anymore.

Bel Loc 2

* * *

I made some updates to the backend of both this site and the Scout blog, which were both being unreliable (the Scout blog was actually going down and up for a few weeks). Shutting off all of the plugins, updating them, and selectively turning on just the crucial ones brought full functionality back, and tweaking the settings in Jetpack helped fix a couple of strange bugs (the Media library wasn’t loading, for example). I was thinking my ancient handmade template was obsolete for a while there, but everything seems to be working correctly now. Thankfully I run this blog fast and lean, because if I had to deal with multiple dependencies or outdated plugins, I’d be sunk. At one time I could make WordPress sing, but I’ve forgotten most of it in the last couple of years.

* * *

I got a freelance check in the mail for the job I did on the flight to Paraguay, so I’m researching the iPad Pro, paired with an Apple Pencil and an app called Procreate. My hope is that I can use this combination of hardware and software to emulate scratchboard and also work in Illustrator. The big question here is whether the smaller model would be big enough for my needs or if I should shell out for the larger one. Unfortunately the education discount is only $20 for the iPad, so I’ll have to consider carefully. I think a visit to the local Apple Store is in order.

Date posted: March 27, 2017 | Filed under apple, Baltimore, history, housekeeping | Leave a Comment »