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.
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.
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 Thankfully I run this blog fast and lean, because if I had to deal with multiple dependencies or outdated plugins, I’d be sunk.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.
I’m sitting on the couch drinking an oatmeal stout with my brain turned almost completely off. The last week has been a blur, with family in town, a freelance gig, several appointments, and a large event happening at work all at once.
Family was the high point; my sister drove down from NY for Second Christmas and we all enjoyed opening presents in January (especially Finn, who had the lion’s share.). Renie had to bomb in and out due to work, and so only got to spend Saturday with us before heading home on Sunday. We did have a great afternoon, ate a delicious dinner, watched the playoffs, and went to bed early. Thus ends my season of holiday eating; I’m throttling way back on desserts and heavy foods because I feel like it’s gaining on me.
The kittens are settling in well with everyone; Bellatrix (hereafter known as Trixie) is chill by day but a raving terror at night. Nox will let me pick him up and lay in my arms like a drugged-out hippie for as long as I want to scratch his head. The two of them wrestle and fight and chase each other around the house, then pass out cold for hours at a time. As much as I hate cleaning a litterbox, it’s great to have the sound of paws on the floor again.
I took on a freelance gig last Wednesday, figuring I could knock it out in a couple of days, but was only able to really get to it over the weekend. The sketch went together quickly but the client asked to change the view after I’d gone to final art, so I had to redo the whole thing Monday night. It was a pretty simple job but it could finance the purchase of something I’ve been thinking about for a while–an iPad Pro. This would allow for the use of a pen and real-time drawing on the screen for illustration, something I’ve been waiting on for 10 years. One of my self-improvement goals for the year is to commit to drawing again, and find a workflow to make illustration fast and easy from sketch to screen. I think this might be the answer, and my ultimate goal would be to make it another source of income by the end of the year.
We held one of our major events at work Wednesday morning, which was the culmination of two weeks’ work for my team and about a months’ writing time for the larger group. My designers are aces and knocked together a great deck, and the system we put into place for production a few years ago helped streamline the process. Meanwhile, during production last week, I accidentally spilled coffee into my laptop, thus frying it, and had to scramble for a replacement. The IT guys gave me a castoff machine that wasn’t booting, and after some work I got it up and running, set up my workspace, and scraped the stickers off the case. It’s two years older than the dead unit but it’s the same form factor and has more memory. With a larger hard drive it should be usable, and I’m not going to complain one bit.
Using my personal laptop in the interim, it became clear how painfully slow a seven year old machine is. I can still make good use of it–so I purchased a SSD to speed up the disk. At some point this year I’m going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new machine; the question is whether I go all-in on a Thunderbolt-only MacBook Pro or get one of the last multi-port models available.
I’m tired of having to sign in to my fucking iCloud account every five fucking minutes. Fix that shit please.
Having upgraded all of our WRI work laptops to current models, I’m phasing out our older machines. This means I’m able to buy them for a nominal fee. Last week I grabbed a 15″ MBP for Finley, who has been using a tablet at school and borrowing my laptop to do schoolwork during snow days. I spent some time flattening a spare drive and installing El Capitan (I fell prey to a somewhat common bug with all of the USB installers I’d created before I got one to work) and creating a user account for her. I’m now in the process of locking it down as tightly as possible. The parental controls in OS X are a new adventure for me, but with a little research and some experimentation, I think I can make it kid-friendly and lock out all but the G-rated sites we’ll allow her to browse.
At the same time, I’ve got to rebuild my work laptop from scratch. About a month ago I had a dumb travel accident with my coffee thermos and soaked the lower half of the case, which prompted a trip to the Apple store and an emergency rebuild. They left the hard drive but replaced the lower case, display, motherboard, and several other components. When I got the machine back it booted up into an older version of my user account, but it’s been acting funky. Playing video from the internet sometimes blows up wireless connectivity and/or crashes the browser, and the Microsoft Office suite goes up and down randomly.
I grabbed a spare drive from my stash at work and cloned the drive. Over this next weekend I’m going to do a full reinstall of the OS and build it clean from the ground up.
Meanwhile, Jen’s laptop, which is newer than mine, decided it was time to throw a tantrum and blinked off. It’s doing something I’ve never seen before: the startup sequence drops out about 2/3 of the way through and blinks to a dead gray screen. Booting into Recovery Mode, the Hardware Test, or from an external recovery drive has the same result. I’m stumped, so I pulled her drive and transplanted it into Finn’s computer until I can diagnose the hardware problem. Great!
Another repair in the works is our balky plumbing system. Last fall, when I was in Abu Dhabi, our new toilet stopped flushing. Jen had plumbers come in to diagnose it, and they replaced the toilet after snaking the lines. Soon after that, the basement flooded, and they snaked the line again. That was when we found the pipe was clogged under the magnolia tree, and we dug a very expensive trench in the yard to replace it.
After Christmas, to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, the toilet clogged again.
The plumbers put a camera down in the line and diagnosed a problem with the cast iron pipe that links the second bathroom with the main waste line; when the original plumbers installed it, they didn’t add any downward angle to the last length of pipe, which runs about 2/3 of the width of the basement. This means the waste didn’t have any help moving to the main sewer line, and sat in the flat section of pipe, where it hardened and clogged. So, they replaced that entire length of iron with PVC at a proper angle on Thursday. It was expensive but if and when the upstairs bathroom ever comes into use, it’s necessary for keeping things flowing smoothly.
Friday morning, we woke to a cold house.
The boiler decided it didn’t want to stay lit, which meant we needed to call the plumbers out. Again. This time, the diagnosis is a bad spark unit, which is a module about the size of a sandwich. Unfortunately, the boiler itself dates back to Jimmy Carter’s term in office, so the part isn’t normally in stock anywhere. My plumber couldn’t source it today because his supplier is doing inventory all afternoon, so I’d have to wait until Monday. So we’re going to find a couple of space heaters, close off the outside rooms of the house, and hunker down tonight.
I made a few calls and found a different guy in town who can get the part for me by tomorrow morning; I’m going to take a $160 non-refundable chance and put it in myself (it’s three wires and two screws). If that fails, I’ll have to keep the plumbers of the world in business myself. I don’t have the money, after paying for a fancy new toilet, a trench in the front yard, two more visits to unclog the lines, and a new waste pipe, to put in a new boiler, so I really hope this works.
I’ve had my iPhone 6 for over two weeks now, and I have to say I’m impressed. It’s bigger, yes, and slipperier–the first thing I did was buy a Skech case for it, which I like–but having touch recognition is frickin’ magic. iOS 8 is much peppier on upgraded hardware, obviously. It’s amazing how much difference three years’ technology makes. The screen is huge compared to the 4s–the difference in pixel density alone is tremendous. I took some time to consolidate five screens worth of icons down to two, which meant I ditched some stuff along the way, but I haven’t bought anything new to add.
I took in the Superbowl last night at my neighbors’, in front of three widescreens. I was the only one rooting for the Seahawks, mostly because I don’t like the Patriots all that much. It turned out to be a fantastic game, and I thought the Patriots had sealed things up in the last three minutes. When the Seahawks drove down the field, I was thinking we were going to see a miraculous comeback. As it turned out, I was wrong–and I still can’t believe the play they called.