As of this weekend, it’s official: My parents have moved from an idyllic 18th-century farmhouse on the shores of Cayuga Lake to a quiet house closer to the city of Syracuse and my sister. The new house is all the things the old one was not: It’s new(er) construction, so it’s got modern heat, windows, appliances, and air conditioning. It’s one story (with unfinished basement) so there are no more creaky stairs to navigate. It’s built on a flat piece of land, so there’s no need to brave a steep icy driveway to get the mail. It’s heated with natural gas, so there are no more astronomical oil bills. It comes with an HOA, so the lawn, plowing, and outdoor maintenance are all covered.
I’m thrilled for them, because as quirky and wonderful as that old house was, it was also sucking them dry. The new house should be much easier and inexpensive to live with, which is everything they need right now.
As a result of the move, Thanksgiving is on hold for 2015. Which, given the year we’ve had, isn’t such a bad thing. The opportunity to have four empty days with my girls is what my little family needs right now. We’re going to order Pho from a local restaurant, hole up under some blankets in our PJs, and watch lots of movies together.
Meanwhile, I’m installed in a new office at work, where we’re deep in the middle of a renovation project. Eventually, I’ll be in an open-plan office setup, with low, modern walls and lots of natural light, but I’ve got two more moves ahead of me–another temporary space, and then to my final location. For everyone else, this is relatively easy, depending on how many books they’ve collected over the years. For me, it’s a lot more complicated, as I’ve got an entire filing cabinet full of camera gear, as well as two photo suitcases and four tripods that I’m responsible for. My graphic designer needed two crates to move his office; I used twelve.
I’m going to miss having my own office; I did have the chance to request one with the move (management has its advantages) but decided I’d rather be out on the floor with my colleagues than trapped in a box, where I tend to hibernate. This way I’ll stay on my feet and keep moving, which is what I should be doing.
In 2003, Jen took me to explore a funky little settlement of buildings alongside the Patapsco River outside of Ellicott City, and we spent a couple of hours crawling around exploring them. I posted some pictures on my site, which longtime readers may remember.
Today, on our way back from a client pickup, I made a detour down that same street to see if Finn and I could find the house while the weather was warm. Nestled into the hillside under a sea of brambles, all of the structures still stand, worse for wear but intact. Finn and I climbed over nettles and under creeper vine until we were inside the main house, and her inquisitive nature took over. We started trying to figure out what the buildings were for, how long they had been there, and who had built them.
I’m still unclear myself. The buildings are too small to be inhabitable, and there’s no evidence of insulation or interior finishing. The exteriors are all constructed with a high degree of quality. And the masonry alone must have taken years to plan and complete. Sadly, it was so overgrown, we didn’t see any of the riverstone decorations that were clearly evident 12 years ago.
Finley’s pretty sure there’s a chicken house and a donkey stall and provisions for other farm animals. I’m not as convinced, but somebody obviously had a vision for the place. I’d love to dig up photos of what it looked like in its prime.
WRI is modernizing its 10-year-old offices in order to accommodate the multitude of new hires we’ve taken on. When I first came on board, I had a spacious office of my own, which I shared with a pair of file cabinets and tons of photography and video equipment. When we hired a web content manager and a graphic designer, I traded my oversized office for a smaller one so they could double up with room to spare. I’ve been in that office ever since, and I’ve grown to like it. I knew, however, it wouldn’t last forever.
Yesterday I packed all of my gear into about ten large crates, slapped labels on them, and walked out the door. On Monday they should all be stacked in a smaller office on the other side of my floor, which I’ll be sharing with my graphic designer for eight weeks. Then we move somewhere else for the next eight weeks while our new offices are completed, and we’ll finally be home–in an open floorplan. This doesn’t bother me as much as other people, who (presumably) have never worked in that environment before, but I’ll miss the ability to shut my door to shut out the people who come to bother me every fifteen minutes.
We’re all coughing here at the Lockardugan house. It seems to be something allergy related, at least for Finn, who has been on a one-two punch of Zyrtec and a nasal spray to knock back a horrible pneumatic-sounding cough. Jen started with a sore throat last week. My throat started hurting last Sunday and has developed into a serious cough and a two-octave drop in my voice. Zyrtec seems to be helping me too.
I finished the front walk last weekend, after a couple of weeks off. A quick tug with the tow strap hooked to the Scout made short work of the tall hedges on either side of the concrete, and the rest of the brick went in pretty easily. I had a bunch from this batch crack pretty easily, so I may need to make a return trip to Second Chance in the spring to replace them, or use commercial brick instead. Either way, I’m glad to have that done before the snow flies.
Last week was a blur of activity, most of which I can’t remember. I spent a lot of time putting out fires at work, staying on top of my class, and trying to get as much time in with the family as possible.
When the leaves fall and the first real frost of the season hits, I start thinking about putting the hardtop on. There’s nothing more frustrating than installing (or removing) a hardtop when it’s 30° outside; banging knuckles on cold metal is a bummer.
I’ve got the process down to a science now, and yesterday it took me about an hour to remove the soft top, fold it up, drop the hardtop down onto the rails, align the gaskets (don’t forget the windshield gasket!), drive it out of the garage, and get the bolts in place. I finger-tighten the four windshield bolts first, and then start with the two siderail bolts directly behind the doors, working my way backwards. It’s always much easier to push/pull the top in the middle to align the holes than it is at the ends. What would have been finished in an hour took an extra 15 minutes because I had to open the tailgate up to re-align the hatch mechanism–something I’ve also got down to a science, as it happens at least twice a year.
She’s been running really well this year, and apart from some basic carb adjustments, I don’t have any complaints at all. I backed her into the garage, set up the trickle charger, and let her sleep until next week with her winter coat.
I love how excited Finn gets for Halloween every year, and I hope she continues to enjoy it for as long as possible. We’ve got a nice tradition of joining some friends in Arbutus, who feed us and take us with them through their quiet little neighborhood, and we look forward to sharing it with them every year. This year Arbutus wasn’t as into the spirit as they have been in years past, but we still enjoyed ourselves, and the girls had a great time together. Finn was on her best behavior, and her careful “Thank-Yous” and “Happy Halloweens” were rewarded by several people, which made her dad super proud.
After a couple of weeks and several Craigslist repostings, the Xerox Phaser we had sitting in the home office has left the building. Ever since I got the new job, and sold the huge HP to my last employers, this one wasn’t getting any usage at all, so I cleaned it up, took some photos, and put it on the market. A nice man came on Sunday with a friend and a truck, looked at some test prints, and carted it away. This is good, because our trusty B/W printer died a few weeks ago without warning. The Wirecutter says Samsung makes a good B/W printer that will do duplex for about $100 with a per print cost of around $.02. So I’ll wait to get paid tomorrow and order that sucker right up.
Now that the sewer line has been fixed, we have no more gray water in the basement, which is a nice change. The gray water left a lot of yuck behind, though, so I picked up some bleach cleaner, a pole-mount scrub brush, and some mop heads, and got to work disinfecting the basement floor. When I was done with that, I started re-organizing stuff to go back on the shelves and off the floor, cleaned off the workbench, and made the space usable again. At some point this winter I’m going to upgrade the lighting to overhead fluorescents that come on with the switch, because there are whole sections that have no lighting at all.
What didn’t get done: Any work on the walkway, as Sunday started rainy and only cleared up after noon. There was no brewing, because I ran out of time. And the yard is still a mess; I’ll have to call my bro to come and rake some leaves.
I came to a realization early on Tuesday morning. I was in a Dupont Circle soup kitchen taking portraits with Jen for an annual report she’s been working on. I was shooting with my Nikon D7000 and she was shooting with a borrowed Canon 7D. The results I was getting were just not as clean or as sharp as hers. A big part of this, as I admitted later, was due to the skill of the photographer: Jen has an innate knack for framing and shooting people that I don’t naturally possess, and was immediately connecting with her subjects and knocking off professional shots with ease. But another big part of this was the feel of the shots I was getting and how they differ from the shots I’ve seen and taken with the Canon–they just look better to my eye in a way I can’t describe.
This could be due to several factors. The photographer, as mentioned. The glass, which is the key difference in quality: She was shooting with a full-frame f/1.4 L lens, which is a full order of magnitude better than the crop-sensor f/1.8 lens on my Nikon. Faster, sharper, and better. It also could be shiny new toy disease, wherein some small part of my lizard brain convinces the rest of it that we’d be much happier with that more expensive thing over there instead of what we’ve got in our hands.
I’m curious if the camera body is as important as the glass. I’m considering the rental of a Nikon full-frame body and FX lens to see if I like the results–I’ve always liked Nikon’s approach to ergonomics and user experience more than Canon’s annoying scroll-wheel/joystick controls, and the way things work is very important to me. I haven’t given up on Nikon yet, but I’m seriously evaluating a (costly) migration to Canon full-frame gear.
One thing I didn’t mention about last weekend was the fact that I picked up another 100+ bricks from Second Chance for the front walkway. For the grand total of $50 I got a bunch of oversized, weathered brick that then got cut down to size (adding a $45 rental fee) and stacked under the back porch. If the weather holds out this weekend, I’ll get the supplies needed, rip out the hedges on either side of the walkway, and get the last of the brick installed before the ground freezes up.
The other major project I’m hoping to tackle is getting the hardtop back on the Scout while it’s still somewhat warm. I spent a good bit of time last weekend attempting to get her started, to the point where I ran the battery down. It just wouldn’t get any gas into the carburetor. Then, after taking 10 minutes to cool off, I dumped a gallon of gas into the tank, jumped it from the Accord, and it fired right up. I must have backed it into the garage on fumes before I left for Abu Dhabi.