My birthday was a couple of days ago, and a bunch of people sent me congratulations on Facebook, which I missed, because I don’t visit the site anymore. Meanwhile, it was just revealed that Facebook was scraped by some company run by a bunch of right-wing fucks who used the data to weaponize political ads into echo chambers. I stepped back from Facebook couple of years ago, except to respond to a few messages and one event invitation, but increasingly I’m thinking about deleting my profile altogether. Not like it’s not been scraped and used against me anyway (and I’m on Instagram every day) but why have it out there if I’m not using it? There’s also advice on how to privatize it as much as possible (or, as much as they’ll let you without secretly rewriting the privacy settings again) to prevent third-party apps from scraping more information. It’s still up for now, but I just shut down a ton of privacy settings I wasn’t aware were on.
Back in November my sister stopped in for a visit, and while she was here dropped off two boxes of camera gear she’d accumulated over the years. Inside one was a bunch of old Kodak bellows cameras, a couple of bakelite 620 favorites, and some other oddities. In the second box was a pile of mainly 35mm gear in various makes. There was a bag of Fuji gear with several lenses, and a pair of Minoltas, one of which is a cleaner twin to my X-700. Among the treasures was a first-generation digital camera, a Sony Mavica FD-7, which is now 21 years old and used a 3.5″ floppy disk to record data. It just so happened a video popped up in one of my feeds where the author reviews three Mavicas of the same vintage, and talks about their qualities and quirks. Apparently it’s hard to find an aftermarket battery that will work correctly with these, so my momentary desire to find and order a new one will probably remain just a desire.
In 1986, I was a young lad in Junior High School and beginning to look around at the fashions of people around me. One of the things I saw other people wearing (Renie, you had a pair of these, right?) and got stuck on was a model of white tennis shoes made by Adidas, called the Stan Smith. I don’t recall if I saved up money or asked my parents to buy them for me, but at some point I got a pair and wore them. Very preppy, I know. As with many other capricious purchases I made at that time, I was immediately unhappy with them. They were painful to wear, leaving the arches of my feet aching at the end of the day, and they pinched my toes. For shoes made to play tennis in, I didn’t understand how they could be worn for more than 5 minutes on a court, and this is coming from a guy who has worn Chuck Taylors for 30 years. They wound up in the back of my closet, unworn.
They have made a comeback in the last year, and as I see people wearing them around DC every day, all I can think is, I bet your feet hurt.
How happy am I that the Eagles won the Super Bowl and the Patriots didn’t? Very happy.
Finn played soccer on Saturday and the coach put her in at goalie for the first half. I was initially worried, thinking that she might get bored and distracted if the majority of the play was far away from her and then suddenly right on top of her, but she did really well. The coach gave her five minutes of good advice, told her what to look for and how to set herself up, and she listened to every word. She was focused for the whole game, stopped multiple shots on goal, and by the half her team was up 4-0. The smile on her face as she walked off the field made my heart explode with pride. For the second half she played defense and did well, but I think I’ve got to work on ball-handling skills and her aggressiveness on taking shots. She treats the ball very gingerly and needs to get comfortable with hitting it hard and knowing where she wants it to go.
Afterwards we celebrated with a donut and then headed over the bridge to Easton for Zachary’s birthday, a Nerf dart war themed party held at the YMCA. The staff set up a room with obstacles and the kids chose weapons from a bucket of Zachary’s collection (Rob went a little crazy with buying and upgrading the Nerf gun collection; Zachary probably has 15 guns in various sizes and shapes) and they threw the kids in there for a half an hour to duke it out. By the time the staff blew the whistle the floor was covered in Nerf darts and jammed weapons. LJ and I loaded magazines and cleared jams and got things ready for the post-pizza rematch and I spent most of the second half in the room with the kids, fixing and loading guns for the kids. I might have taken a shot or twelve while I was there too…
Afterward, we went back to Karean’s house and let the kids play downstairs while the adults chatted over wine and snacks. By the time we got on the road, it was 8PM and Finn was beat.
A few months ago I switched DSLRs with Jen so that she would have the best one we own. The D90 I have is still a very good camera, but I haven’t used it much because I was shooting the Fuji almost exclusively in 2017. I charged it up today to carry it with me this week. When I turned it on, I got an error on the LCD reading r09, which means various things according to the Internet. It won’t autofocus or trip the shutter, which means something is wrong with the autofocus system. Either I have to clean the contacts on the lens and the body, swap lenses, format the memory card, reset the whole camera, or sacrifice a live chicken. None of the solutions online helped, so it might be that I’ve got to bring it in for servicing.
I’ve been wrestling with management ever since I started being responsible for people. I’ve never had good mentors in my professional career. I’ve learned by watching my superiors and emulating their behaviors as well as avoiding the things I didn’t like, which is sort of like learning how to be a lawyer by watching Law & Order reruns.
I’ve found that it’s a lot more busywork than actually making the sausage, which is a huge shift in mindset for a person like me; I tend to work better on large linear projects instead of multiple streams of work. In my current role I’m juggling email, a complicated meeting schedule, multiple large initiatives that span weeks, and project management, as well as one-off requests for technical help on things like video editing, illustration, and design. Oh, and also: managing people. As I started hiring, I was able to find two very good designers who quickly stepped in and took over responsibility and management of their work.
Backing off and letting them do their thing was difficult at first but when I knew they could handle themselves I stayed out of their way. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked for micromanagers in the past, and I know how demoralizing that can be for an employee. I realized that my role should be to give them the tools they need, direction and advice when they ask for it, and the support to insulate them from bullshit.
In my daily travels around the web yesterday I stumbled on something that made me stop and reevaluate my approach, and made me feel better about my somewhat laissez-faire methodology:
Delegate more than is comfortable. The complete delegation of work to someone else on the team is a vote of confidence in their ability, which is one essential way the trust forms within a team. Letting go of doing the work is tricky, but the gig as a manager isn’t doing quality work, it’s building a healthy team that does quality work at scale.
I’m always worrying that I’m not doing enough to help my team, but as with everything else, it’s all about the balance.
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.
There’s not much to write about around here, really. I’ve spent the last two weeks getting as much exercise as my body will tolerate, sleeping a lot, playing Fallout 4, eating, and trying to stay warm in this frozen hellscape we call Maryland. Today I’m gingerly working from home to prepare for next week, when I physically shuffle back in to the office. Yesterday we played an extended game of hooky for MLK day and saw Coco in the theater. I would recommend it to anyone; it was another great Pixar movie.
Today I ordered a shitload of tile for the upstairs bathroom. Now I have to figure out how to order the heating system we need. This will probably involve me driving to one of their dealers to advise me on the correct amount of materials; the heating unit uses one cable that snakes under the floor which has to be the correct length: it can’t be cut if it’s too long.
Yesterday morning, we watched via FaceTime as my sister married her fiancee. They did a small ceremony with my Uncle Brian as officiant, which was full of laughter and love. There isn’t much more I can say about it other than congratulations!
Jen convinced me to visit the ER yesterday afternoon to have my arms looked at. The earliest my GP could see me was Monday at 5:20 and that just seemed too long to wait. We went to our local Hopkins affiliate hospital and were greeted with a small temporary waiting room jam-packed with people. They got me in for triage pretty quickly and signed me up for a sonogram, and then we waited for about four hours to have that done. That experience reminded me a lot of watching Jen get sonograms with Finley, except for the fact that it was me on the table and the nurse had the wand jammed up my armpit. She took a lot of pictures of my left arm (even though I’d told the nurse it was both arms they only wrote up the order for my left) and then they sent me back to the waiting room. We’d gotten there at 1:30 and it was almost 9:30 before we made it to the ER itself; at 10 a doctor appeared. Apparently there’s a bloodclot up in my neck that’s putting back pressure on the veins in my arms.
I’ve been using a blood thinner they gave me on discharge, but because it’s a subcutaneous shot I’ve had little luck administering it to myself. I go in at an angle with the needle and it fills a pocket of my skin up with medicine and then starts to hurt. I pull the needle out and all the medicine shoots out of my skin like a faucet. Rinse, repeat. It’s a pretty good bet none of the blood thinner was getting to me, but I was complaining about this in the hospital before they discharged me. They switched me over to an oral medication to get away from the needles and sent us on our way at 11PM.
Amazing how the overnight appearance of 1″ of snow can shut schools down here in Maryland. All three of us are home in our PJs trying not to go insane. I’m happy to be home, of course, but I want to get the fuck out of this house. Jen and I have been making trips to the local mall and Target to walk around during the day, which has been good for me, just in terms of getting out and moving around, but after three weeks of inactivity, I feel like an eel trying to stand itself up straight.
My arms hurt more now than they did before.
New Years Day: I woke up at 8, and made eggs, bacon, and toast at 9:30 for the family. By 11:30 I was laying in bed again and napped for an hour. I had some lunch and then sat on the couch, sore, tired, and unmotivated. I don’t feel like doing a fucking thing. It’s too cold, I’m too sore, and I can’t really get up to much anyway. I’m not supposed to lift anything over 10 lbs., which is pretty much anything but a glass of water. Jen found a rice compress for my arms yesterday and I used that multiple times. It felt good for a while and then whatever was going on with my arms basically started ignoring it. More Tylenol, please. I have resolved that I will bundle up and get outside for a daily walk around the block or two, simply because laying around is just making me sore and bored.
We finished The Order of The Phoenix yesterday and celebrated by watching the movie over dinner. It’s amazing how much of the books had to be removed from the movies to speed things along, but I get it. 800+ pages of stuff isn’t going to condense neatly into a two hour movie. I ordered The Half Blood Prince from Amazon last night, as it’s the only one we don’t own, and we’re all itching to see what happens next. Meanwhile, the Ravens gave away their playoff hopes to the fucking Bengals. I’m glad I didn’t watch the whole game, honestly. I haven’t seen that many dropped balls since I taught Finley how to catch.
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.