This morning we woke to a coat of ice over everything in sight. School was canceled, but I had a ton of things to do and meetings at work, so we bundled up, braved the slick steps, and made it down to an empty train station. While we were gone one of the trees in the backyard snapped a branch and took out a power line, so we’re dark but not cold. No word on when we’ll get power back yet. Jen took a bunch of pictures of our overgrown treeline in the hopes that BGE will finally come out and chop it back, but I’m not holding my breath.
I took an early train into work today to make sure I’d get a parking spot close to the platform, and got into work by 8:15. By noon Jen texted me to say snow was drifting on the front steps and that Frederick Road wasn’t plowed, so I ran to catch the 12:20 before MARC shut everything down. I’m now sitting at my desk with a warm heater by my feet, enjoying a liberal work policy, the convenience of telecommuting, and a low stress level. What a difference a year makes.
I haven’t updated much here lately, due to the fact that there hasn’t been much time. Last weekend Finn and I made the Christmas pilgrimage to upstate New York, leaving Mama behind to try and catch up on a backlog of work and proposals. The girl and I had a great time, but we were both exhausted upon our return. I think it’s taken up until today for me to get caught up on sleep. The girls were able to deconstruct the christmas tree and haul the carcass out to the curb the other day, so this may mark the first time the county will have hauled it away as opposed to me throwing it next to the garage and dragging it to the dump in March. This weekend is earmarked for grocery shopping, cleaning, catching up on house maintenance, and two playoff games on Sunday.
I read up on some reviews of the new Mac Pro the other day, and an alternative solution to our storage problem presented itself: a Drobo is basically a 5-bay networked carriage for hard drives, which comes in at a much lower price point than a used Mac Pro on Craigslist. I’m ready to ditch the G5 in our basement, which has been balky and only offers two drive bays; Drobo offers Plex and FireFly compatibility so we can share our media to the AppleTV and to my shiny new Christmas present, a Roku3. Sometime in the spring, I’m going to pull the trigger and consolidate everything.
Life with the iPad has been tricky but workable; I’ve left my laptop home for the last week and a half, and there doesn’t seem to be too much I can’t accomplish on the iPad. Reading books is much nicer than the first gen Kindle. Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are slick; the fact that Spotify is now streaming to mobile devices for free is awesome. I’ve got a great VNC client for remoting to client machines, and Mint’s app is a bit oblique but usable. My big beef is with Yahoo for not offering a full-size Flickr app for the iPad, which feels like I’m still looking at tintypes by candlelight. WTF, Yahoo?
The biggest issue I have now is what my new photo workflow should be. I’m not taking a ton of pictures, but I’d like to take and post more as the weather warms up. With my laptop at home, there’s no easy way to edit and post DSLR pictures until I get home unless I do it on a work machine, which I’m trying to avoid.
I’ve had The Bones of What You Believe by CVRCHES and Days Are Gone by Haim on infinite repeat the last three weeks; obviously my tastes are changing again, in the absence of any good new rock or ambient albums.
- More creating. Less documenting, less consuming.
- Spend less time filling time, and more time enjoying it.
- Commit 100% to each effort.
- Spend more time on the plan, less time on the scramble.
- Organize. Then find a way to organize the organization.
What better way to start the day than to be woken by breakfast in bed? Finn and Mama surprised me with a tray of warm food to kick off a day outside amongst the leaves and sun and wind. Even though we raked the front yard last weekend, the incessant wind has covered it back over, and the backyard was beginning to collect great mountains of maple, oak, and sycamore leaves. I got to work building Finn a great twig-free pile and she jumped in it while I kept moving.
We made a brief trip to the store to collect more bags, and stopped at the dump to drop off some old electronics. While we were there I spied a Polk subwoofer sitting in the recycle bin. Now, I work for a good company and I get paid a great salary, but when I see something I can repair (and that I’ve been mulling the purchase of for years), I’m grabbing it. So in the back of the Scout it went. Then we stopped for a photo op on the way home.
Then I treated her to lunch down the street, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. She talked me into a double-chocolate cupcake for dessert, because I’m a sucker.
Then we got back to work. By this time the sun was behind a low layer of gray clouds, so I brought out the firepit and loaded it with some dry elm. With a pile of recently collected twigs, I had a blazing fire going in minutes.
After filling about 20 bags, it was getting colder and Finn was bored, so Mama and I enjoyed the fire for a few minutes before loading up some forks with hot dogs so that Finn and I could roast them for dinner. Then we hit the den for movie night: Monsters University was funny and scary and just what we all needed.
And, guess what: The subwoofer works!
Busy week here. We took Finn to some friends’ for a Halloween straight from a greeting card: well-lit streets full of happy children, friendly houses, and great costumes. It made me proud to see my girl walk down the street holding hands with one of her best friends.
Leaves are in full swing here in the ‘Ville, and the streets are beautiful. It’ll take a week or so for all of them to drop and collect on our front lawn, clogging up the downspouts and rustling underfoot.
I got my final paycheck from idfive with an added quarterly bonus, so I splurged a little on some kegging equipment; a new gas block has replaced the two-way brass splitter I inherited, and now I’ve got a dedicated third line for carbonation installed with a one-way valve to prevent any backflow. The valve body is bolted to the edge of the surround and the gas lines are all cleaned up and out of the way.
I also picked up three sheets of 3/4 MDF board in preparation for building new speaker enclosures. I’ve run my woofer specs through some new online tools (I was using a poorly printed graph in a book in 1991) and it looks like my original calculations were pretty close. The tweeter I used in one of the two speakers seems to be on the fritz, so I’ve got to track down the issue and see if it needs to be replaced. The new speakers will also get different porting tubes and hookups, but the next big thing to source is a way to cut a clean circle for the woofers.
One of the items I inherited with the new job is a GoPro Hero 3, essentially a tiny HD videocam with a wide-angle lens and a waterproof housing, bolted to a giant suction cup. I tried it out on Sunday in some different situations, outside and inside the Scout as I drove out into Ellicott City and back. The built-in editing software is intuitive and powerful, but it’s going to take some more time to sort out how to get the best possible footage encoded in the right way.
Working in D.C. again is much different without the lousy commute. We’re only on our second day, and the scheduling hasn’t been sorted out yet, but I’ll gladly take 45 minutes on the train vs. 2 hours each way. And I haven’t sorted out the best way to take advantage of the train time yet, but getting through a back-issue pile of New Yorkers isn’t a bad way to start.
Everyone at my new office is so ridiculously nice. I got into Union Station on Monday at 8:45, stopped for a muffin, and walked into the office at 9:01. I was greeted by the Communications Coordinator, who gave me a tour, got me hooked up with email, oriented me with the basic office layout, and left me a welcome card on my desk. I met everyone else as they came in and they couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly. My office is cozy and warm, a welcome break from the meat-locker warehouse I was in before, although I miss my old office chair very much.
There’s a program staff to meet, 20 years of materials to review, a handful of ongoing projects to catch up on, a stack of HR paperwork to complete, a workflow to set up, and an entire shelf full of gear to be inventoried. I can’t wait to get started.
I’ve been spending the last two weeks on eggshells, because a huge decision has been made and the wheels are in motion but I wasn’t allowed to say anything until now. I gave my notice at idfive a week and a half ago, and my last day of employment there will fall one week shy of five full years, the longest I’ve ever served one company.
It’s been a very industrious, educational, and rewarding five years. In that time, I’ve seen friends come and go, survived a round of layoffs, watched the design and printing industry contract around me, watched as my production skills were eclipsed by two and three generations of new technology, and seen the whole web industry turned on its head by mobile-centered design. There was a time when, during the recession in 2009, I was certain I would be out on the bricks looking for work as a day laborer. Luckily, the company dug in its heels and consistently found challenging work to keep the lights on, and as I depart, they are hiring new staff to keep up with incoming work.
I’m stepping into a new role as Visual Communications Manager for the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. My purpose is to help WRI’s External Relations team develop the brand through online and print design, storytelling, infographics, and data visualization (that last bit is almost verbatim from the job description). What it means for the day to day is that I’ll be coordinating all manner of projects with development teams locally and globally, managing in-house staff and freelancers, scripting video production, and possibly even shooting some photography. WRI’s mission is to find ways to sustain the world’s natural resources, focusing on six main issues: climate, energy, food, forests, water, and cities and transport. It’s privately funded, so every time Congress decides to shut the country down it won’t impact me directly. It’s an organization and a mission I can definitely get behind–instead of selling dish soap, I’ll be selling important ideas, and that feels good.
It’s going to be a huge challenge, and I’ll admit I’m very nervous. Nervous but excited. Jen and I hit the Columbus Day sales to stock up on new work clothing, which has been a long time coming (no more cargo shorts for the Idiotking) and we got one of just about everything, minus a pair of casual black dress shoes. I even found another suit that fits me, which is about as rare as hen’s teeth.
I’ve repeatedly said I would never commute to D.C. again since I worked for Supon, but I think this experience will be different. In 2000, I was driving a car to Savage from Canton, taking the train to Union Station, taking the Metro to the closest stop, and then walking six blocks to the office, which took an hour and a half each way. WRI’s office is within spitting distance of Union Station, so the total trip should be about 40 minutes plus a little platform time. Given that I currently drive 30 minutes each way through the West Side of Baltimore, I’d much rather have that time to work, read, or decompress, instead of avoiding potholes and traffic.
I’ve been dreading the change and the feeling of uncertainty for the last month–leaving my comfort zone and taking a leap of faith–but the simple exercise of writing this post has me excited for the future.
Finn and I have been beating the heatwave by sneaking next door to the neighbors’ pool. The house is empty while they sort out the estate, but the daughters told me we can hop in whenever we like. I’m trying to keep it very low-key and keep it to when I know they’re not visiting. I think all those mornings of shoveling snow from the walk paid for themselves. Finn takes to the water like a duck, and I have to drag her out after the sun has dropped behind the trees. Thankfully the water is balmy and warm and comfortable at dusk.
I used some copper wire to separate the coiling on my new wort chiller, and bought some new hardware to connect it up; now all I need is an inexpensive pump to recirculate water and I’ll have the entire rig ready for use. I’ve ordered a Shiner Bock recipe from Austin Homebrew to get something in the kettle before I kick the parade kegs.