Last Friday I took a day off work to take my folks down to the Udvar-Hazy museum outside of Dulles airport. They’ve been in town for a couple of days while my Dad gets some more testing done at Hopkins, and there are several days in between each of the appointments. We decided to have Finn join us, so she got an extra day of spring break tacked on.
My Dad hasn’t seen the museum yet, and in his mind he thought we would be walking around outside in a big field. When we pulled up to the building, he said, “That’s a big airport.” I don’t think he was prepared for the size and scope of it.
Since the last time we were down there (about 10 years ago), it’s gotten updated and they’ve added to the collection. The restoration hangar in back is now open, so we got to see the Apollo 11 Command Module sitting down on the floor, the fuselage of the Flak Bait, and the Sikorsky JRS-1, the only remaining plane that was present at Pearl Harbor during the attack.
The space hall has been expanded upon, and they’ve dramatically increased the exhibits on either end of the main hall with commercial aviation, rotary wing aircraft, and additions to the warbird collection. We walked for about 4 hours, taking a break in the middle for lunch, after which Finn and I tried out the simulators. She was nervous at first, so we tried the one on hydraulic jacks, and it turned out that she loved it. Then we tried a dogfight simulator that spun 360˚ horizontally to simulate rolls and flips; I think Finn had fun but she was squealing too loudly to know for sure.
Saturday I took the family out with me on errands to get everyone out of the house, so we hit the Lowe’s, the Target, and then the runner’s store so that I could get fitted for specialized running shoes. This took about 45 minutes, as they made me run in place, checked my arches, and then showed me some sneakers. I wound up leaving with fancy insoles and a pair of Adidas running shoes, which I intended to start breaking in this week.
We came home and took advantage of the weather to get out into the backyard and clean up the leaves; Jen cleared out the driveway while we were gone and I cleaned up the woodpile area after getting home. Sunday was more of the same; we got outside and worked in the warm weather. I’ve been throwing stuff in the garage since the weather got cold, and so I haven’t been able to access anything behind the Scout for four months. A couple of hours of organization later, everything was in its right place and made more sense.
Moving some car parts around, I was carrying one of the spare Scout windshields across the open area when my right foot came down on a piece of wood the wrong way. Because I was carrying about 100 lbs. of metal and glass, the effect was magnified, and I felt a searing pain on the outside of my foot below the ankle. At first I thought it was a sprain but a spot on my foot swelled up to the size of a golf ball, so we drove out to the urgent care to have it X-rayed. They diagnosed it as a fracture and sent me home with a giant ski boot, which I am wearing until I see the orthopedist on Friday.
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.
Jen traveled to Southern Maryland to attend a funeral on Saturday, which meant Finley and I were on our own for the majority of the day. I told her ahead of time that we were going to be handling a lot of errands, and asked her to be my co-pilot.
We started out with some breakfast after seeing Jen off. Down the street we got some BE&C and then completed that day’s Advent activity: reindeer droppings for breakfast. This was more delicious than it sounds–a bagful of chocolate munchkins at Dunkin Donuts look suspiciously like the real thing. Next, we hit the bank. From there, we drove into the city to go pick up a company lens I had dropped off for repair at the camera store a few weeks back.
While we were there I looked at a couple of used Fuji lenses and then asked if I could see the 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 zoom. I’ve been looking at this lens online for weeks. I’m committing to building a Fuji kit that spans a wide range of focal lengths, and this lens fills the middle to long-range gap. I hemmed and I hawed, but the focus speed and range sold me, so I put the money down for it.
Finn and I returned home and took a short break before going back out again, which was fortunate because just then I got a call from the contractor, who wanted to come by and see the bathroom space. I walked him through the area and he took measurements on windows and square footage, and hopefully we’ll get an estimate in hand sometime this week.
Then we warmed up the Scout and went out Christmas shopping for Jen. After taking care of that task, we hit the Panera on our way back for a late lunch. As we looked at the menu, a nice man told me I’d left our headlights on, so we went out and checked. This was a false alarm (the sun’s reflection sure did look like it) but we struck up a conversation as Finn and I came back inside. It turns out he’s got a diesel Scout he rescued from a barn, and Peer Pressure is the first Scout he’s seen around these parts. I wrote my email on a napkin and told him to get in touch so that we can set up a day to meet up and talk Scouts.
Back home, Finn and I put the lights on the porch and then I put the candles in the windows to make the house look cheerier. We then made some warm milk with cardamom and watched Rudolph before bundling up for bed.
I posted a version of this on Instagram, but I like it so much I put it here too.
My folks are in town this week so that my dad can do some testing at Johns Hopkins for his breathing. They saw him on Wednesday and then had him come right back on Thursday for observation; he’s been there ever since. They’re trying to untangle why he continues to have issues getting full lungfuls of air. So far everything is good. He’s in good hands at the hospital. They’re feeding him well, and he’s comfortable. Unfortunately, this meant he missed our Thanksgiving dinner. Due to other illness, we were down three other family members, so we had four empty seats and an 18 lb. bird to eat. Luckily, the Redmans were free, and we found a way to stuff as much food in our stomachs as possible. Finn had a friend to play with, and we adults got some time to talk amongst ourselves.
The piping in the basement is fixed. I got a plumber in the door on Wednesday and within a half an hour he had the joint sweated, sealed, and finished for only $100. So we came out about $400 ahead of the deal.
Saturday morning broke warm and sunny, and we all got up eager to get outside. At least, I did. After prodding the neighbor to come and split wood (he was working) I lit a fire and got busy splitting the last of the small stuff, and actually split a 30″ round by hand. I’m definitely at the point where I can’t do anything else without hydraulic assistance so I’m at his mercy in terms of scheduling. I cleaned up the area, adjusted the tarps on the cribs, collected a wheelbarrow full of dry chips for kindling, and a bunch of other small yard tasks before the sky turned dark. In the space of about five minutes it went from sunny and 70˚ to gray and 50˚, and the wind howled in like the aftershock of a nuclear blast. I came inside and changed the cartridge on our water filter, which has needed doing for a while now, only to find that the outgoing valve (the one that keeps water on the house side from pouring back down onto the floor) is leaking uncontrollably, because it is made of plastic and is shit. The plumbers will be here Monday morning to look that situation over, and meanwhile we have a 5-gallon bucket keeping the floor dry.
That was OK though because Mama and I had a reservation at Parts & Labor, a butcher/restaurant in Remington, and it was time to get ready. After setting the babysitter up with the technology we drove into the city and found a spot across the street. Remington has changed dramatically since the last time we were up there; there’s a huge condo/workspace around the corner from the Paper Moon diner that looks like it landed from Mars.
Parts & Labor is a lovely restaurant with killer cocktails and a very courteous staff. Our meals were delicious (Jen won this time with the lambchetta) and we enjoyed every minute of our stay. Strangely, we were done in an hour and a half–usually we shut restaurants down when we’ve got a sitter–so we moseyed up to Golden West and joined the hipsters at the bar for more cocktails. There we enjoyed a couple hours of uninterrupted conversation before the CR-V turned into a pumpkin.
I’ll say that even though I was a little rocky this morning I’m gaining an appreciation for both a well-mixed Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. I don’t drink bourbon or rye as a rule (brown alcohol and I don’t mix) but these two were delicious. Jen and I discussed laying in some good bourbon, bitters, and vermouth and trying to perfect our own recipe over the winter.
Sunday was 40˚ and windy, with gusts of 20mph or more (definitely more) and my neighbor was working again, so there was no splitting for us at all. I went down to pick up the CSA, then came back to clean the yard for winter. This included re-fastening the plastic on the far side of the greenhouse, which had come completely loose, and organizing the contents so that the rest of the chairs and hoses would fit inside. Other than that, it was a relaxed Sunday.
This weekend was long and productive. It started out with a spectacle: Cinderella the musical was playing at the Hippodrome in Baltimore. All three of us got churched up in our fancy clothes and we drove into town for the evening. The show was fantastic–the script was updated for modern audiences, but Rodgers & Hammerstein is timeless. The cast was outstanding and the whole production was fun and energetic. At several points during the show I looked over at Finn, who was on the edge of her seat, eyes filled with awe, and knew that Mama had done right by getting tickets.
Saturday morning we rose and cleaned the house in preparation for a sleepover with one of Finn’s friends, for which she was very excited. Beds were made, toilets scrubbed, rugs vacuumed, and rooms straightened. Finn had a soccer game at noon, so we worked up until it was time to leave and then got her to the field with minutes to spare. She worked really hard during the game and even though her team lost by a goal, she played ace defense and ran her legs off on offense. We stopped for some groceries, grabbed a celebratory donut and headed back home. From there I took the Scout to Lowe’s to load up on lumber while the girls went shopping for some new fish.
Back at the house I unloaded the truck and lit a fire in the pit, then got to work building a third firewood cradle. By dinnertime I had it in place and filled with another half cord of wood while the girls played in the yard. Around dinnertime the Geblers stopped over with Bear. We all hung out in the backyard as the sun went down, and I loaded up the grill with dinner. We all ate our fill and stayed up way past our bedtimes; the girls went down with only a peep at 11PM.
Sunday morning we rose early and I helped put a pancake breakfast together with Jen, then headed back outside to put a fourth cradle together and stack the remaining wood. After I finished that task, I turned the Ravens game on the radio through the garage speakers, dragged my brewing equipment outside, and put a grapefruit IPA recipe on the burner that I’ve had sitting around since June. It was the perfect weather for being outside with a fire; 60˚ and sunny all weekend. I’ve got piles of bark from the split wood laying around that I thought I’d never find anything to do with, but it turns out bark burns pretty well–and fast. I made the first pile disappear by Sunday afternoon, and made a dent in the second pile at nightfall. I doubt it will be that comfortable outside again this year, but I’m glad I took full advantage of it.
From the Asbury Park Press:
Thomas J. Dugan, 97 of Toms River, was born on October 10, 1919 and peacefully passed on October 27, 2016 with his wife by his side.
Tom moved to Toms River in 1953 where he settled to raise his family. Tom worked as a supervisor in the Powerhouse at Ciba Giegy, retiring in 1982. Tom was an active member in his community and was a parishioner of Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church.
Tom Dugan was a huge man with striking blue eyes. He lived up the street from my Uncle Tom (my Dad’s cousin), who I visited often as a boy. He always had time to stop and talk to my cousin TJ and I, and their door was always open to us during the summers I visited there. He drive a gigantic yellow Cadillac, which I thought was the essence of cool, and he always dressed sharp–I remember him as a man with style. He inspired a life of community service in his family; his son served in Vietnam and later became a police officer, as did his two grandsons.
As I grew up I was fascinated with the history of World War II, and one day he told me the story of his service on the USS Borie, a 4-stack destroyer that hunted, depth-charged, and rammed the U-405, a German U-boat in the North Atlantic. The Borie wound up high-centered on the U-405’s hull and the two ships were locked together for an extended period of time, during which the two crews fought with deck guns, sidearms, and cooking utensils until they separated in the heavy seas. The U-405 sank shortly afterwards, having sustained heavy damage, and the Borie limped away into the fog, to be scuttled by friendly fire the next day.
Tom Brokaw made a big deal about the Greatest Generation, which always sounded trite to me, but Tom Dugan was the real deal. Godspeed.
This picture approximates how I feel after having signed the refi paperwork today. I’m glad to have that behind us, and hopeful that we can get started on our stalled bathroom sometime in the next month.
The picture above was taken at the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, our annual pilgrimage to the Ass End of Maryland to sample tasty shellfish and stuffed ham. We were accompanied by our friend Chris, who was in town visiting, and we sampled the culinary delights of the fair while people-watching and enjoying the weather.
Finley tried stuffed ham and was not impressed:
However, a man with a tiny monkey was entertaining the crowds, and for a dollar he sat on Finn’s shoulder and stuck his tongue out for us. I’d consider that a dollar well spent!
As the photos from Saturday suggest, I was at Jalopyrama for most of the morning. The show was huge and apparently is getting bigger every year. The cars shown were beautiful, even the rough ones. I find myself drawn to the rough ones, actually, as they’ve got better stories to tell. There were scores of deuce coupes, both surgically clean and clapped out. There were a lot of gassers, which I was never really a fan of, but have grown to respect. There was lots of original or near-original Detroit iron. And then there were the garish modifieds, usually painted a bright color, with all of the interesting stuff chopped off and a small-block Chevy under the hood. I would be happy if these all just stayed home in the garage. The main exhibition hall was curated carefully with period-era hot rods, which I appreciated, because that’s my reason for going to the show.
After walking the grounds, I found myself desiring a large early 60’s sedan of some kind, preferably with a bubble window and miles of chrome. There was an Edsel Ranger for sale, for $6500, which might have been fun, or a flawless Impala with an Inquire Within sign on the dash. My dream garage is not big enough.
After about three hours I was pretty burnt out, though; much like going to Carlisle for the truck show, I needed some quiet time by myself to recharge. This I did by taking the CR-V to get four new tires installed, something that has been necessary for months now. The tires it was wearing were two pairs of different brands, showing signs of caster imbalance, and balding heavily. The new tires feel tight and solid, and the car tracks smooth and straight. Now, to find a used hood to replace the original, which is suffering from unsightly clearcoat peeling…
We’re back from Ohio and a family wedding where all of the grandchildren on Jen’s side were together in the same place for the first time. The wedding was lovely and we all had a great time watching the kids interact together.
I set the X-E1 up for black and white, figuring I’d be fighting low light and fast subjects for the whole night. I used the standard B/W preset, bumped ISO up to ~1250, increased the highlight and shadow settings, and opened the lens wide to f/1.4. Even though the hunt for focus is maddeningly slow, I managed to get some nice shots that are different from the color pictures I got on the D7000.
I fought with the settings a little bit, but after a while I got it dialed in and was enjoying the results I got. Eventually, when I get a Fuji body with faster focus, this will be easier. I’m also finding I like the position of the viewfinder on the left of the body as opposed to a center-mounted VF. Which is unfortunate, because the replacement Fuji body I’m considering (the X-T1) has a center-mounted VF.
Still, I like the results I got, and I’ve programmed one of the presets for this kind of shooting. I want a camera that will point and shoot as fast as possible with the f/1.4 lens I’m using here. I just need to be patient and jump on the right body when it comes along.