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.
Nothing better than driving the Scout home topless from work in 80° sunshine, an impromptu ride to the Home Depot in a stinkingly fast Corvette, multiple beers in the twilight, kids playing happily on the swings, and an early night to bed for a busy Saturday ahead.
This represents what I’ve been up to for the past five days or so. Long nights, little sleep, and lots of coffee.
Monday I spent the morning at the Baltimore County courthouse as a witness against the fellow who broke into the Honda and stole my iPod. The subpoena said 8:30 so I got there on time, but then realized half the shit in my backpack would set every alarm in the building off, so I had to run back and empty it in my trunk. (in hindsight, I should have just left the whole thing there). The courtrooms have as much personality as a sheet of drywall. Apart from the judge’s perch, hard wooden pew-like benches, and all-weather carpeting, there is nothing else to look at; no windows, artwork, or embellishment. I sat and waited through a dozen or so cases: A father of three had been in jail for 40 days for stealing four newspapers. A kid from Essex was popped for driving on a suspended license for the fourth time. A confused man who spoke no english listened as the proceedings went on around him. As far as I could gather, he had touched a 15-year-old girl inappropriately. He muttered to the DA through an interpreter as the girl and her family glared at him from the far side of the room.
I spent the first half hour wondering which of the rough-looking gentlemen they brought in would be my nemesis. It turned out it was none of them; I had to wait until the third batch filed in sullenly before he was called. It turned out he is a schizophrenic who hasn’t had a job in twelve years, who lives with his mother, and who has a rap sheet longer than my arm. The judge patiently listened to the case, was made aware there was a witness in the room, and then offered him a choice: three years in prison or admittance to a program for mentally ill recidivists. While I wasn’t happy the guy had stolen stuff from my neighbors, I was glad they didn’t just throw him in the clink and forget about him. I hope he and his mother get some help.
We said goodbye to Teller this evening. Monday’s X-rays showed a blockage narrowing his trachea to the size of a stirring straw. He spent much of yesterday in the basement, in a back corner away from the light, trying to get comfortable while fighting to breathe. At midnight, I carried him upstairs and placed him gently on the end of our bed, but after a while he hopped down and laid next to the bed until morning, wheezing softly.
He would compress himself into the smallest ball possible on my lap and pass out for hours, and I would stroke his soft fur and feel my blood pressure sink to the single digits. I got home from work this afternoon, found him, and gently sat him on my lap, careful not to compress his windpipe. We stayed like that for about five minutes, and he purred involuntarily when he could draw a full breath, but it got to be too much and he hopped down to recover in the other room.
I will miss his odd meow, his soft, downy fur, his comforting heat and bulk on drafty winter afternoons, and his atrocious breath. Most of all, I will miss his beautiful green eyes, imploring me to pick him up, rub behind his ears, and curl him up in the crook of my arm for a long nap.