Thursday I stopped into our local Hopkins satellite location for a baseline CT scan, now that the baby is gone. This is going to be part of the new routine, a CT scan every 3 months to see if something else appears in my body, because it won’t show up in bloodwork. Overall I’m feeling much stronger this week. My arms still hurt but it’s receding slowly. I’m down to one Tylenol every eight hours, which is a relief. I haven’t used oxy in five days which is making my bottom system happy again. I don’t know how oxy junkies deal with never pooping; I’d be in the hospital with an impacted bowel the size of a subway car.
This week I tackled the issue of radiant floor heat for the new bathroom, which has been a giant question mark for months. The system I’ve been recommended is modular, incorporating a mat with molded depressions that goes down first. Then we snake a wire through those depressions in a specific pattern before laying thinset and putting tile down. The question has been how much mat, and most importantly how much wire do we need, because the wire has to be cut at the factory to fit the application–I can’t cut it once I’ve got it. I found distributors for the system, visited one on Tuesday, and was so underwhelmed by the “service” I got that I walked out of the store. The woman I talked to refused to help me figure out how much material I needed, because if she got it wrong, it would “come back on her, and there are no refunds.” Well, Fuck you very much. I found that the tile distributor we’ll be ordering our shower tile from also deals in this system, and returned there on Friday. The guy I talked to there took the time to sort through my diagram of the room, calculated the size, and set me up with the mat I need to get started. Once that’s installed, I’ll use a string to test-fit and see how much wire I need before ordering the rest of the system.
Having been stuck in the house for the past month, and while the region was trapped in record-breaking low temperatures, I got tired of always being cold and drafty. I’ve spent the last fifteen years trying anything and everything to make this house warmer, from insulation to new windows, and I don’t feel like any of it has helped. Wednesday afternoon I started paging through Angie’s List for energy auditors and found a local outfit who was offering an audit for $100 (with the other $300 being billed to BG&E). I called and set up an appointment for Friday morning. A nice man named Larry came out and walked through the house, looking over the boiler, piping, and layout, and then he hooked up a blower to the front door that provided negative air pressure. Then we walked each room with a FLIR camera and looked for leaks. Surprisingly, the blown insulation in our walls hasn’t settled too badly–just in a few locations. A big culprit for air leakage is the latex caulk I’ve used in a lot of places, which has shrunken in the cold, and allows for cold air to penetrate each room. Our ancient windows are actually holding air in pretty well, to my surprise. The preliminary findings say it’s going to be a lot of caulking with silicone, some weatherstripping around the doors, and closing up the lip of the aluminum siding/shingle where it meets the foundation outside. Larry will provide a large report with pictures and recommendations in about a week.
Saturday we jumped in the car after Finn’s soccer game and headed to the Renwick Gallery in DC to check out an exhibit of murder dioramas built by a woman in the 1940’s to further the budding science of forensics. The Nutshell Studies take actual murder cases and recreate the scene in 1′ x 1″ scale and meticulous detail. Jen saw an article about them in a magazine 20 years ago and was fascinated by the collection; last week she found an article about the exhibit and realized we needed to go see it immediately before it closed. Finn was fascinated by the displays and carefully read each of the descriptions before gazing at the dioramas, and I found myself slowly getting better at sussing out what the crime was and how it happened as we walked through the crowded exhibition.
On the front steps of the museum, we were greeted by the middle of the DC Women’s March, being down the street from the White House. After a few minutes of spectating, Jen suggested we join the march, so we walked down to the corner and slipped into the crowd. It was slow going, but the mood was upbeat and cheerful. Everyone in the crowd was smiling and laughing, and the weather was perfect for enjoying our constitutional rights. Pussy hats were everywhere, and it seemed like every hand-made sign was funnier than the last. Finley got caught up in the chants and was marching, fist raised, in a matter of minutes. We slowly made our way down the street to stand in front of the White House, where the crowd slowed, and Finley began a chant she’d heard earlier. A woman with a bullhorn walked over and handed her the mic, and she led the crowd for a minute, then stopped abruptly, shocked, I think, at her own agency. I was lucky enough to get the last two chants on video.
The White House was the endpoint for the march, so we gradually wound our way out of the crowd and headed back toward the garage. On our return home, we heated up some tea and made our way through three chapters of the Half-Blood Prince before bedtime. Overall, for a lightly planned day, we couldn’t have asked for a better one.
I have two hats to keep my bald head warm, one Renie made me, and a Carhartt cap I bought a couple of years ago. Because I’m wearing them all the time, they get funky and need to be switched out like socks, so I need more than two. I’m also looking for something that isn’t too tight or hot (Carhartt, I’m looking at you). Pulling a hat down over my ears is warm but leads to sore ears and/or a headache after an hour or so, so I’m constantly pulling it up and then back down. After a lot of searching on Amazon I found two candidates that might be the ticket; a Columbia beanie that looks pretty shallow, and a knit cap from a company that apparently caters to Japanese fashion. If they work out, I’ll have something fashionable and warm to hold me over until spring.
Otherwise, I’m still sore in all the same places. I’m still using Tylenol mostly, and supplementing with lidocaine patches at the site of the incision, but my arms are still throbbing. This could be caused by something called mechanical phlebitis, which is something where the veins get irritated by the physical lines. I’ve got to start putting warm compresses on them and using anti-inflammitories.
Here’s an interesting collection of The New York Times’ best illustration of 2017. There is a lot of excellent work in there–and it’s telling that a lot of it is animated.
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 proud to say the video I shot, illustrated, and produced for the New Climate Economy is live (as is NCE’s new report, the Sustainable Infrastructure Imperative). This is the one they flew me to London for, where I set up an interview studio both in our hotel and at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. In the time between shooting the video and the release of the report, we reshot WRI’s president here in DC to sub in some changes in the original text, reordered the 4 elements at the end, and added new illustration to reflect changes in the language. It was a huge undertaking but so much fun to produce, and I’m thrilled with the results.
The dumpster in our driveway is gone. We filled it with all of the concrete from the front walkway, all of the remaining hedges, bags of yard debris from the woodpile and behind the garage, the doctor’s desk from the attic, the old porch railings, and all sorts of other crap I can’t remember. We filled it to the edge. I hunted high and low to find more stuff to get rid of, and I’m sure I’ll trip over something in a week’s time that I should have chucked in there. The process of cleansing is a liberating feeling. Now I turn my attention to the piles of stuff I have on my desk, around my office, and on the shelves. It’s time for a cleansing of gear as well.
Now, to the next project: Our landscaper recommended we take the silver maple in the backyard down, as the trunk is being eaten by bugs, before we get started in the front yard. And then he pointed to the maple on the west side property line, which is actually in worse shape than the silver maple. The logic here is that if we spend a summer and a bag of cash fixing the front yard, we won’t be able to get a crane truck out back to deal with the trees after that’s done. The good news is that they can do them both at the same time, our neighbor is willing to let us use his driveway for access, and he’s willing to split the cost. They’re going to take the roots down as far as they will go, and I’ll have them leave the wood for me to split and stack. And all of that sun will help the oak tree next to it spread and grow taller.
So, the trees will come down and our parade party will be curtailed to the bare minimum (and the front yard) this year. Which isn’t so bad, really.
I switched back to the old headline font on the site here, because the other one just didn’t look good. This one (Museo Slab) isn’t my first choice but it’s not as heavy and blocky as Chunk, its replacement.