A couple of weeks ago, Jen was working at home when the doorbell rang. An older woman stood on the porch and asked her about the house, and it came out that her grandfather was the first owner. She was in town from Florida on family business and wanted to stop by and see it. Jen, being Jen, invited her in and gave her the full tour, which she was not expecting but appreciated.

We’ve always been curious to know the history of the house, and there are no historical pictures of the place that we’ve been able to find, so it was wonderful to get some first-hand descriptions of what it was like before 1950. The woman took Jen’s business card and promised to get in touch if she was able to find any pictures from her family’s archives.

A few weeks later, Jen got a call from the woman, who had been in town to resolve her cousin’s estate. She saw from Jen’s card that she was a designer, mentioned that her cousin was a graphic artist, and did we want any of the supplies left in his studio? Well, we said, we’d sure love to take a look.

Saturday we drove up to the place, which is situated right next to the Loch Raven Reservoir and set back in the woods. It’s very run down, as there had been some delays in the legal proceedings and apparently the son of the owner was living in the house without taking care of it. In the time between his passing and discovery the pipes had frozen and burst, so the whole house was filled with mildew. We met the lawyer’s representative outside and she warned us about the conditions, so we let Finley peek inside for a few minutes before setting her up with a book and a chair out in the fresh air.

The studio was on the ground floor by the front door, and had already been picked through, but there was a whole closet full of shelves and drawers to look at. We found a stack of excellent books on type, illustration, and design. There were two oil paint kits in wooden boxes that I set aside, as well as watercolor dyes, brushes, other paints, and a linoleum cutting set that took me back to my college days. I took an old-school single slide projector (the kind our elementary schools used) but passed on an overhead duplicator that would have taken up all of the room in the CR-V. The original owner had used gray index card shelving to catalog and organize his stuff, and every new drawer brought a surprise. He was an illustrator and designer, and we stumbled across his portfolios from the 70’s and 80’s, featuring watercolor, scratchboard and linoleum cuts. I was tempted to take some of it, but most of the examples were mildewed and stained, and it wasn’t really my style.

A pair of estate sellers were going through the house at the same time, and pointed out a beautiful oak easel to us, which I took, as well as a Technics turntable and some records (wow! records!) I have to replace the stylus but the unit itself is quality and should last a long time. We scored some classic albums with the bargain (Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel, CCR, Don McLean and others) and now we have a reason to go visit Glenn’s uncle down the street in Catonsville.

As we worked our way through things we explored more of the house as the day went on. The upstairs was dark and musty and had a different, more metallic smell than the downstairs. It had clearly been a nice house at one time, and the master bedroom was gigantic. The details were not to my taste but I could see how it could easily be improved upon. Downstairs, I ventured back into the workshop and if we had more time I would have gone through it better, but we did take an old Craftsman bench grinder and some smaller hand tools, including a complete tap and die set in a metal case.

After about two hours Jen and I both had a headache (and probably tuberculosis) so we wound things down and gave our thanks. We’d passed on any remaining furniture and a lot more books, but most of the things we were interested in were already in the CR-V. Right now it’s all out in the garage airing out; after the parade we’ll haul it out into the sunshine and see if we can bake the smell out of it.

Date posted: June 28, 2017 | Filed under history, house | 1 Comment »

Finley's signature with a real quill pen and black walnut ink

This reenactor showed Finley how a real quill pen works with actual black walnut ink he made himself. He then showed us his collection of flintlock muskets and rifles, explained how he bakes bread as the pioneers did, and generally humbled us with his knowledge. I have no desire to dress in buckskins and wool in August, but I have nothing but respect for men like this. We put the paper he wrote Finley’s name on up on the fridge, and it makes me smile.

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Date posted: June 24, 2017 | Filed under finn, photography | Leave a Comment »

I’ve hated the steps of our back porch for as long as we’ve owned the house. They’re just tall enough to be hard to climb and dangerous to descend, not wide enough to be comfortable to sit on, and uglier than a mud fence. Among several other projects I started last weekend, I began scraping and repainting them.

First, though, I had to pick up my second ladder from my brother-in-law. Nothing sucks more than having to hump a single ladder back and forth while waiting for primer to dry on a second-story window. I found a way to wedge one ladder up to the windows over the garage-side porch (also with hideous steps) and washed the atrium windows before scraping them. By Friday evening I had those windows scraped and painted, the hallway window scraped and primed, and the back porch scraped and primed. Saturday I continued for as long as I could before the baby shower, and by Sunday evening I had the rest of the windows painted, washed, and ready for reassembly. I still have to hit the cream bedroom window, which, due to its location, has never been painted (the roof of the pantry makes it impossible to get a ladder on the window, and the pitch of that roof is nervous-making) and the back porch trim and ceiling.

Wednesday evening I took advantage of the break in the weather and ran out to get some deck paint, which then got brushed on to both decks and stairs. It’s amazing what a coat of paint will do to freshen things up. I followed this up each night after dinner with as much painting and scraping as I could do before it got dark.

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I have a plain-vanilla GoPro 3 Silver, which is the base model, and which (by coincidence) works perfectly with my Phantom 2. I just found out, quite by accident, that the GoPro 3+ Black will shoot 4K video or 1080p at 60FPS, and is compatible with the gimbal mount on my drone. I’ve been considering a second GoPro for backup since mine is semi-permanently mounted to the drone (two allen screws, but still) so if I could swap the original out for something that will do buttery-smooth higher-def aerial work, I gotta have that.

Date posted: June 24, 2017 | Filed under house, photography | Leave a Comment »

Date posted: June 15, 2017 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

It’s low-resolution because uploads are throttled at work for some reason. A longer version will appear later tonight.

Update: New version posted. Be sure to click anywhere in the video and move around.

Date posted: June 12, 2017 | Filed under photography | Leave a Comment »

Today I ticked off about ten things on this summer’s giant to-do list, starting with getting my ladder back from the brother-in-law. He’s had it since last fall when they were having some gutter issues, and I didn’t need it until I saw buckets of water coming down from the center section of our atrium gutter and knew I needed to get up there to clean them out.

But first, in the morning I loaded up the Scout with 6 months’ worth of crap for a dump run and got in and out of there in 20 minutes flat. This cleared out the garbage can area by the garage and a pile of brush that’s been sitting next to the driveway since last fall. Then Finley and I took a drive to the Home Depot to get a replacement canopy and some other small items for scraping windows.

Up on the ladder I got the gutters cleaned pretty quickly and then started washing and scraping the windows that are staying (5 out of 7). That got finished pretty quick, and I was about to bust out the primer when a friend stopped by so that I could shoot her headshot for LinkedIn. I’d brought home the Canon portrait rig from work and with a piece of illustration board as a light bounce we got some good shots of her, Jen and Finley in no time.

After that was done I headed over to the neighbors’ to help him finish splitting wood.  I worked for about 2 hours in the sun and we got a couple of big rounds split and stacked, then called it a day.

* * *

Having flown my Phantom 2 a bunch of times in the past couple of weeks, I can say I’m getting the hang of it, but I’m seeing some of the limitations of a 3-year-old product. The video monitor it came with is an odd variant of a DVD monitor with no inputs other than an antenna. I can’t dig up technical information on it and no manual exists online. It’s good but I’d love an HD monitor instead (this is a pitiful 800×480), with a stronger signal. The camera gimbal it came with is specific to the GoPro Hero 3, which is a fine unit, but doesn’t shoot at anything above 30FPS. I’ve read that the key to smooth video is shooting at 60FPS, which the Hero 4 will do. A new gimbal mount is $200. This is all stuff I don’t need to spend money on, but I’d love to tinker with it more.

Finley and I took it out for another spin on Sunday night and soon had attracted a crowd of local kids. Finley, who is always happy to invite total strangers to her birthday party, ran right over and told them about the drone, then started inviting the kids to fly it. Which then meant I had to break the bad news to them. I’m getting the hang of how it flies, and although I’m not Chuck Yeager I’m beginning to make it do what I want.

Meanwhile at work, my boss went to a networking function where a woman gave a presentation on 360˚ immersive video. He was enthralled, and thus I am playing with a Samsung Gear 360 this weekend. It’s a pretty nice little gadget, but because it’s Samsung and they want to try and play Apple’s game of keeping users within their ecosystem, their iOS app is isn’t as robust as the Samsung version, but I’m working out some of the bugs and learning about (if there’s a) production workflow.

* * *

I love Death Cab for Cutie, and I loved Soundgarden. Here’s a cover of Fell On Black Days by DCFC where Ben Gibbard just barely pulls off the high end of Chris Cornell’s insane high range, and their version is arranged perfectly for acoustic instruments and piano.

Date posted: June 12, 2017 | Filed under family, geek, house, photography | Leave a Comment »

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Our friend Christopher is in town this weekend, so we took a trip to the American Visionary Art Museum on Saturday afternoon for some brunch on the roof and then a tour through the exhibits. As usual, there’s an astounding selection of work there, and I think Finley enjoyed seeing the show.

We then returned home and I took the drone out for a spin in the ballfield with Chris and Finley, and got some stick time in with propeller guards installed. I wound up dumping it on its side anyway, and one of the blades hit the guard and shattered but the drone itself was fine. Then we wandered down to Jennings’ Cafe for a late dinner and called it an early night.

Date posted: June 4, 2017 | Filed under finn, photo | Leave a Comment »

In my office this afternoon, about 2/3 of my colleagues gathered in the conference center to watch a live feed of Trump announcing that he was withdrawing the US from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. I watched the first 10 minutes or so and then went back to my desk, as I’d heard enough bullshit by that point.

One of the first projects I worked on at WRI was an infographic explaining IPCC climate models and what they meant for the health of the planet; the takeaway is that we’re locked into a global 2˚ increase no matter what we do, but it’s most likely going to be 4˚ and we’ll keep getting hotter unless dramatic change is made. The Paris Agreement was the beginning of that dramatic change, and this shitstain just torpedoed it in the name of…coal? Business? I don’t even know what the fuck he was talking about because all of his talking points were half-science.

WRI was intimately involved in the Paris Agreement, from helping write the language of the actual document to shepherding individual countries through the talks to writing the actual protocol that countries use to measure greenhouse gases. We did excellent work there and it sucks to see this administration dismantle it to make a small bunch of xenophobic billionaires happy.

 

Date posted: June 1, 2017 | Filed under politics, WRI | Leave a Comment »

We have an old iPod that was working for a long time but has suddenly started displaying the sad face and refusing to boot. Because I am a nerd and I like to fix 13-year-old things, I poked around the interwebs to see if there was a replacement hard drive I could install. Apparently they stopped making hard drives for this iPod about 5 years ago, because my usual go-to parts resource had none. I then stumbled upon an Instructable which claims I can replace the drive with a Compact Flash card using a CF to SD adapter. Amazon Prime had one for $7, and I have an old 4GB CF card laying around that I can test with, so that was a no-brainer. After following the directions and adding a CF card through the adapter I’m still getting the sad folder icon–so it might be time to replace the battery.

Update: New battery, same problem. I think this thing is toast.

Date posted: May 31, 2017 | Filed under apple, geek | Leave a Comment »

This is the Mayor of New Orleans, addressing the press about his decision to remove four confederate statues in the city. This speech says so much so well.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

It’s long but I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.

Date posted: May 23, 2017 | Filed under politics | Leave a Comment »