Finn and I went for ice cream last night. The light is falling behind the trees earlier now, and the air is cool. She’s starting Kindergarten tomorrow, which means fall isn’t too far off. I’m not ready for summer to end, nor am I alright with my daughter growing up so goddamn fast.
Look closely, there are two fixes in this picture. The first is the taillight, which took all of five minutes to remedy. I opened the access panel on the back of the tailgate, fed the ground wire inside, and grounded it to the handle mechanism. Problem solved! I wish it was as bright as the LEDs I used on the swing arm, but for now it’s road-legal.
Next is the soft top. See how it’s even across the top? That’s because there’s finally a second strap on the driver’s side. I used some standard polyester thread to sew the nylon I bought from Sailrite last year, and used a piece of scrap metal on the grill to melt the ends closed. Then I sewed it into the canvas of the top and looped it once around the rear hoop. It’ll probably need thicker sail-quality thread at some point (and a big fat needle) but for now it’s functional.
I took a welding class downtown on Sunday–simple stuff, a wire-fed system–but it was easy to pick up and after about ten minutes I was laying down butt and fillet welds in 1/8” box steel. I’m sure it’s more difficult with thinner metal but the concept and execution are the same.
I’m super excited about two new things this week. They both involve dusting off old skills that I’ve missed, and hopefully learning some new ones.
Here at work there’s a pickup bluegrass/cover band with some very nice folks who play guitar, mandolin, violin, piano, and viola, and after hearing them play I mentioned they made me want to pick up my bass again. This led to an invitation to sit in with them, so I’m pulling the top two strings off my guitar and sitting in with them this evening. They’ve been playing a mixture of Nickel Creek and gypsy jazz tunes, all of which are outside of my normal repertoire, but I sat down with two of them last night and had a lot of fun learning them. I have no idea how this evening will go, or how much they practice, but it would be a lot of fun to play live again, and a nice excuse to find a cheap acoustic bass guitar. We’ll see.
The second thing is an opportunity to relearn basic welding. I got a notice through Meetup about the Baltimore Foundery holding a Welding 101 class, and for $65 I’m going to re-orient myself with the basics of stick welding on Sunday afternoon. Back at MICA my roommate took sculpture classes as part of his BFA, and he got me into the metal workshop one evening where I gave the TA a six-pack of beer to give me a half an hour orientation on MIG welding. We spent a couple of evenings practicing, and I made a crude stand for my bass out of scrap metal, as well as several huge monster sculptures for our backyard. I’ve forgotten everything since then.
Recently, discussing my garage with my electrician neighbor, he pointed out that it would be easy to run power from the big circuit in the greenhouse back to the garage, so I dug a trench to run conduit–it’s still open, waiting for a free weekend afternoon where we can run the line and cover it back up. This will allow for a dedicated 110 line to the garage, and the ability to run power and, eventually, a stick welder out there.
For Christmas 1990, I asked Santa for a LL Bean Field Watch, which he kindly left under the tree for me. I’d picked it out of the mail-order catalog in those pre-Internet days, and in a rare instance of luck, it fit my rather small wrist almost perfectly. This was out of character with the rest of my wardrobe at that time, which was baggy and ill-fitting. I had it until about 1997 or so, when I put it on in haste and dropped it somewhere between my apartment and my office in Baltimore City. I’d neglected to tuck the end of the band into the loop and it slipped off my wrist during the bike ride.
Santa gave me an identical replacement that following Christmas, and I’ve had that watch ever since. It’s been with me all over the world and has the scars to prove it–the crystal is cracked, scuffed, and chipped. The nylon band is worn but functional. The battery, dutifully replaced by LL Bean every three years or so, is losing steam again, and several years ago they notified me that they have no more replacements for the crystal–their new Field Watch is a different design. It’s bigger, thicker, and uglier, actually.
I’ve been searching for a replacement for months now, and I’ve narrowed it down to a few candidates. My criteria is simple: the same classic design, a date display, stainless casing, and size. The current trend for all watches seems to be to oversize everything, so it looks like you’ve strapped a tuna can to your wrist. I look ridiculous wearing these watches; I want something that fits my arm.
The gold standard is a Hamilton Field Watch, which set the template during World War II. Unfortunately, these soar high above my price range, mainly because they have a sapphire crystal face, but they’re almost equal in dimension to my current watch. I’d like to buy one of these someday–when I have $300 in discretionary income just laying around.
Next, I looked at the Seiko 5, but ruled it out due to its thickness (13mm). It’s inexpensive but big.
The next contender is a Citizen Eco-Drive field watch, which is slightly wider than my current watch but equal thickness according to the published specs. I like it because it’s self-charging solar through the watch face, and it looks pretty good.
Given all of these choices, I’m going to buy a Citizen when I get some cash together. Not having a watch throws my ADD into chaos, and it’s become an extension of my arm over the last 20+ years.
I also have the option of replacing the crystal on my current watch myself, which I’m going to try. eBay has replacement crystal and toolkits all over the place, and I feel no fear in pulling a laptop apart in my spare time. Plus, my friend Rob has been heavily involved in the Seiko watch modding scene for several years. I may call upon his expertise to help me nurse my ailing friend back to life.
There’s not much to report on the Scout front, but I did do a little sleuthing the other day and found that the license plate light does in fact work–the ground I’d attached it to is lousy. I unscrewed the ground wire and as soon as I touched it to the release knob on the tailgate, it lit up. So I have to run the ground wire back inside the tailgate and hook it up to something more substantial. Other than that, she’s running strong.
The summer of 2014 has been relatively temperate, which means we’re able to do a lot of work in the front yard that would have melted us into blobs of flesh-colored goo in years past. I planted our third cherry laurel on Saturday, and then worked hard to dig out a dying rhododendron by the driveway. I set the sprinkler up for Finn to run through while Jen and I dug and mixed and moved decorative plants to fill the space, and we spent the bulk of the afternoon together in the sunshine.
That evening I took Jen to dinner at Wit & Wisdom in Baltimore, which has been the subject of fawning reviews. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the Four Seasons in the Inner Harbor, set right next to the water. After threading our way past drowsy Otakon and Oriole traffic downtown, we were seated next to a window and then waited about 10 minutes for a drink. After that slow start, we enjoyed stellar service and delicious food, but the atmosphere was tainted by a poor choice of music–there’s a fair amount of dissonance when ordering a $35 entrée to the soothing sounds of Welcome to the Jungle–and retail-store-bright lighting. Way to set a mood, guys. After dinner we were caught up in a choke point of traffic as three weddings, Otakon, and a Heart concert at Pier Six all converged at the same time in one small place. So: go for the nerds, stay for the wine selection, but don’t expect an intimate setting.
Sunday morning I drove over to a Lutheran church right inside the beltway to shoot photos for a web project I’m working on; this being the summer and the middle of vacation season means I labored hard to make thirty people look like three hundred. I’m going to gave to return in the fall when it fills out, but that’s OK. The bones of the site are live but I’ve got to start working on the layout to stay on schedule.
In the afternoon we went out to take advantage of tax-free shopping while it lasted; Finn got some winter boots, Mama got some rain boots, I got a cheap case for my iPad, and we all got dinner at Wegman’s before returning home to watch Nanny McPhee until bedtime.