On Friday, a nice man with a big truck dropped a 20 yard dumpster in our driveway. Ordinarily, this would be cause for celebration, but there was something better to look forward to that evening: an O’s game! Our friend Mr. Scout got us tickets and we met up with them in Section 66, on the third base line, about six rows off the field. The evening was damp and misty, so we hunkered down under plastic and blankets, but the game was good and the company was excellent. Finley had a great time watching the game and eating blue cotton candy, and I think she wants to go back. Plus, she got to meet the Bird!
Saturday morning, the family got to work filling the dumpster with all of the concrete, brush, yard waste, and random debris we’ve had laying around the house since last spring. With three people working we got it all moved in three hours–much quicker than the last pile. We now have our driveway back and it doesn’t look like a Superfund site anymore.
After that got done, we went downtown for some lunch, and then to Second Chance to find some brick and shutters.
Since the hedges all have come down, the front of the house looks more naked than ever and needs softening in the worst way. I started last weekend with some cardboard cutouts to see what would work best in terms of scale, held them in place while Jen looked from below, and we found a size we both agreed upon. My plan was to build something simple from scratch and fasten it to the siding permanently. Seeing me up on the roof, my neighbor brought one of the old shutters from his garage and offered them to us. We took five and used them for sizing, but it turned out they were 5″ too short and in pretty rough shape.
At Second Chance, we got super lucky and found two pair of matching white shutters at the proper size and width. They’re as close to the original louvered windows this house came with as possible, with dogging arms and hinges intact, and sturdy. After some work picking out a matching pair and scavenging a full set of hardware, we walked to the front and paid for our find–and got a discount of $35/each for being there at closing time.
The plan is to borrow our neighbor’s powerwasher and knock the flaking paint off, hit them with a belt sander, repair any cracks, and paint them black. Then I’ve got to either salvage the existing male hinge hangers from the rear of our house and pray they fit these shutters, or buy a new set of eight hinges to hang them correctly.
We were also lucky enough to find good brick to replace the exploded and cracked examples littering the end of the walk from a batch in exactly the right size and shape. When we got home Jen and I walked out front and replaced 20 of the worst ones, and the walk looks like new again.
Sunday was rainy, pretty much all day, so I spent a lot of the day getting stuff ready to toss when the weather lets up. I made all the paint in the basement inert with cat litter, put the shutter hardware into diesel fuel to clean, and organized the basement in preparation for more cleansing. I also posted the Doctor’s old wooden desk on Freecycle, but got no response–so it’s getting tossed.
We drove out to the Eastern Shore on Saturday to visit the Morrisses, and had brunch at a wonderful, quiet little spot outside of Easton. The weather was mostly lousy but the company was excellent as always, and the bloody marys were delicious.
- Pulled the rear tires off the Accord to diagnose brake squeal.
- Had the rotors and pads replaced by the pros for time’s sake.
- Fixed the hose bib on the west wall.
- Cleaned rooting cedar trees from the north side second story gutter (and then the first story too).
- Sealed the foundation around the first floor toilet cleanout.
- Cleaned black sealant goop off the spare Scout windshield.
- Put oil in the Scout, which was a quart low.
- Replaced three exploded bricks in the front walkway.
It’s the middle of April in the ‘Ville, which means telephone poles start growing yard sale signs and people get ready to deal. Finley and I woke early this morning, snuck out of the house like thieves, and hit Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Then we made it to four mostly disappointing yard sales in under an hour. She sweet-talked a lady out of a flowered ring, and I found two beginning guitar books for $1, but other than that it was pretty barren.
Because the last sale had taken us most of the way down the hill, I parked the Scout in Ellicott City and we sat next to the river to eat our donuts. While we watched the water pass by, Finley noticed several pairs of ducks nearby and then a family of goslings further upstream, so we crossed the bridge and walked to the end of the parking lot to find a mother goose preening on the rocks while twelve goslings darted across the water in front of her. Finn and I stood and watched for about ten minutes, entranced.
After bringing some food home for Mama, we moved up to the attic to straighten out the mess and get everything in the atrium up there. Now that it’s (mostly) clean I can start to wrap my head around what has to happen next in there: buttoning up the electrical work. Then, we packed a hiking bag, loaded the Scout up with recyclable metal, and drove to Elkridge.
I gutted two aluminum G5 towers about two years ago and I’ve been slowly collecting different types of recyclable metals for longer than that. All of this junk was beginning to get in the way, so I thought we’d take care of that stuff and get a hike in on the way home. The metals only brought $5 (looks like aluminum and copper is WAY down from the last time I was there) but it’s great to have that stuff out of the basement and garage. That room, plus what we got back from having the tandem gone, makes the garage look positively cavernous.
A hike was just what Finn and I both needed. The air was cool when we walked into the woods but by the time we’d reached the bottom of the trail it was perfect. The trail we followed is one I used to ride with my friend Rob 20+ years ago, one that starts at the top of Catonsville and follows a stream down a valley to meet up with a larger river in the heart of the park. I remember it as a blurry downhill with several water crossings and a few heart-stopping obstacles, but with Finn it was a quiet exploration of felled trees, burbling streambanks, and sun-dappled pathways. We stopped to look at small fish darting in the shallows of the water and greet the dogs that crossed our path, of which there were many. Finn took pleasure in finding the optimal way to cross over each water obstacle, preferring felled trees to rocks. With no heat or bugs, it was absolutely the perfect time to explore, and we both had a great time together.
We got to the bottom and broke out the snacks, and word came that our neighbors were going to the park across the street to play after some ice cream, and would Finn like to come? So we hustled our way back up the hill, picked up some lunch for Mama, then walked over to the park for some playtime. Finn’s friend stopped over for another hour’s worth of play in the yard, and by the time she left it was dinnertime.
This morning I fired up the Scout and got to work digging out the rest of the hedges in the front yard. We got sidetracked last fall after the sewer pipe incident, and so we’ve been living with half a moustache since November or so. It was pretty easy work, given we’d had rain on and off all day yesterday, turning to snow (!??!?!) and then a light frost this morning. The ground was damp and 4WD was in full effect, which meant I had them all out in about two hours.
Jen and I spent about a half an hour measuring out our yard so that she can map it out with graph paper; our lot isn’t actually a rectangle, but a parallelogram so that as you see the house from on center above, the property line shifts to the right as it goes back. We still have no real idea where the boundaries are, and we’ll need to have someone come out and mark it for us, but for this year we can get away with what we’ve guesstimated in the front yard.
I brewed my 33rd batch of beer with my neighbor last weekend. We brewed the same recipe, followed the same times, and brewed at the same temperature, but the only difference is that I poured my wort over ice to chill it while he used his copper chiller. We’re going to keep everything the same and do a taste test to see if using commercial ice to chill has any effect on the flavor. I’ve been using ice because it’s easy and cheap to do, but one of the mantras of brewing is that your beer is only as good as your water. I do have a chiller but I don’t have a pump to move water yet; a trip to Harbor Freight is in order this spring no matter what the results are.
Another quick project this weekend was to rebuild my light tent to be more portable and less of a giant pain in the ass. It’s been broken down for a couple of years now, but comes in handy every once in a while–so that it’s not worth getting rid of. It was originally set up at 4′ x 4′ but I reduced it to 3′ x 3′ and added two sets of cheap hinges to fold it into itself so that it packs away for easy travel and storage.
Uberbike has left the building. Last weekend I spent a good bit of time cleaning up the garage, which was cluttered with stuff we’d thrown in last fall. Uberbike was sitting in the back, on two flat tires, holding up the soft top for the Scout, and looking sad. We haven’t ridden it in three years, and now that Jen has a bike and Finn is supposed to learn how to ride her new bike, a tandem is pretty useless. I decided it needed a new home. On a whim, I posted it to Craigslist at best offer, and figured I’d get a random inquiry or two. What I got was multiple emails within 6 hours from several very interested parties. One guy kept at me all week until we could schedule his brother to come and pick it up, and he gave me $100 for it this evening. Goodbye Uberbike; may you ride long into the future.
On Monday I stopped into our local music store to pick up a new set of nicotine-free strings, and poked around the bass section to see what they had. Looking through the inventory there, it affirms the fact that I got a screaming good deal on this bass, even if it’s smelly, beat up, and not original; every MIM bass I’ve seen for sale on CL before and since is more than twice what I paid. I walked back to the string section and asked the dude behind the counter if he could identify what I had (he couldn’t) so I got a set of Ernie Ball medium-weight roundwounds for it. While I was there, I browsed a box of half-off bass strings and found a set of Rotosound 606s for the Steinberger. I’ve always played GHS Bass Boomers on that bass, and haven’t tried a new brand in 20 years, so I thought it was too good a deal to pass up.
The Ernie Balls are good, but they don’t have the warm, meaty tone of the unknown strings it came with, and they don’t feel as smooth to my hands. I kept the originals and I’m going to try again to find what brand they are when I have a little more time, because I like them that much.
I also got a package in the mail from Shenzhen, China, with two foldable focus adjustment tools for my lenses. There is a setting in most modern prosumer DSLRs which can fine-tune the focus point for each particular lens you mount; the camera knows which one you’re using and stores the settings for that particular lens. Last weekend I spent Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and a table full of lenses, adjusting each one with the D7000 and storing the data. It looked to me like the primes were the most out of register, especially the 50mm f/1.8, but I think I’ve got to do some more fine-tuning in direct sunlight and at a different focal distance to be sure.
Who loves sushi and knows how to use chopsticks? My daughter, that’s who.
I’ve been playing the Jazz bass for at least an hour every night I can. It’s a completely different experience from the Steinberger, something I can’t describe, but it feels faster, more precise. I can get around the frets faster, because the neck is thinner, and landing the notes with no buzz (except for the low E) is easier. I have to wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t started out with a big old funk bass and had traded up to a P-bass in high school. Would I have been discouraged less and practiced more? Possibly. This thing is crying out for a good setup, so now that this coming weekend is a little less filled, I’ll see if I can carve out some time to tune it up.
I’m starting a small side project with the dribs and drabs of free time I’ve got, which should combine an idea I’ve had for years with a new approach I hadn’t considered. Will this be another thing I mention here and never get to, or will I complete it? Let’s see.
I visited on opthamologist last Friday to look at my left eye, which has been cloudy in the center for a couple of months. Scared I might have cataracts or retina issues, I got it checked out. The eye doctor was very patient with me (I don’t like things near my eyes) and did all the normal tests. It turns out I’m dealing with posterior vitreous detachment, which basically means I’ve got a non-vision threatening change in the goo that makes up my eyeball. The opthamologist said it should work itself out in the next couple of months, but to come back in next year to check things out.