As much as I love the smell, feeling, warmth, and challenge of building and tending a fire in our fireplace, the vortex-like draw from the flue chills the rest of the house down to subzero temperatures. This will change, possibly, after we replace our windows and plug drafty holes, but that’s a long way off.
Pique The Incontinent has been pissing on the front porch carpet to register his displeasure with the litter cleaning schedule. While I’m pleased it wasn’t on my bead, it got to the point where opening up the front door unleashed an almost physical wave of cat stink, like being punched in the face with a boxwood plant. We adjusted the cleaning schedule and decided to pull up the carpet for good, as no amount of remover would actually remove the smell. The carpet came up easily, and the padding underneath did too, but then we were faced with lovely white and green adhesive tile, which is almost certainly held together with asbestos, hantavirus, and lead-based glue. I put an order in on Amazon for toxic particle filters for my mask, and will resume careful demolition next weekend. Under the tile is some kind of useless fiber-based sheeting, and below that is the original grey deck planking. Hopefully the wood isn’t swiss cheese under the sandwich of cancerous building materials.
Saturday evening we attended a beer-pairing potluck dinner with friends. Jen accepted the challenge and made a delicious lemongrass soup (tom kha) to pair with a wheat beer, and the rest of the meal finished up with provencal chicken and roasted lamb. We drank lots of fantastic beer, ate wonderful food, and returned home completely stuffed.
Sunday we were invited to an afternoon party at one of Finn’s new schoolmates’ house, where we found ourselves outnumbered by Irish expatriates handing us fresh Bloody Marys–THESE ARE OUR PEOPLE. Within about ten minutes we felt completely at home among their friends, who could not have been more welcoming, and after our host busted out fresh brisket (from his backyard smoker, naturally), we knew we would be fast friends. Finn was tired out from Saturday night but rallied and played among the other kids; I had to pry her hands off the side of the car to get her to come home.
I’ve had another Session IPA kit in the basement for two and a half months, and haven’t had anything new in the kegs since right after the Fourth of July, so I carved a couple hours out on Saturday to brew it up on the burner outside. Everything went smoothly, and I got it in the fermenter cleanly but about 20° below optimal temperature, so I waited until Sunday evening to add the yeast. I may have heated it up a little too high when I activated it, but we’ll see if it starts working this evening. Next up, I think I’m going to do an Irish Stout to replace the last batch I did (which is down to a six-pack) and then maybe an ale of some kind to get through the winter.
Friday evening we went directly from the train station to dinner, and then to the pharmacy to pick up pills for the cat. On our way out of there we got a text from our neighbor, who invited us to a friends-only showing of Frozen in Ellicott City. There’s a wine store right on Main Street who hosts a movie night in the summertime, projected onto a screen hung from the side of the building. The weather was perfect so we picked up a fleece blanket and some snacks at the store, and got there just in time for the movie. It was late by the time we got Finn into bed, but definitely worth it.
Sunday was Mother’s Day, and Jen wanted to tackle the garden. We raked, trimmed, and cleared out the vegetable garden, moved some netting around, and dropped straw on this year’s crop. Then we cleaned out the other beds, bought some mulch, and straightened up the rest of the backyard. It’s always amazing what an afternoon of solid work can accomplish.
In the interest of getting rid of some shit, I’ve been looking around the house at potential sale items with a mercenary eye. As mentioned before, I got rid of an engine stand that was taking up garage space, and today I sold an unused camera bag to a guy in D.C. I’ve got some other camera equipment on CL for sale, and I’m going to expand the list to some computer gear and some unused tools. Along with Craigslist, we have an epic yard sale planned, which means we have to find time to hump five years of baby gear out of the attic to prep for display.
Don’t show up to meet me with $32 in your pocket when I clearly stated the price was $40 firm, and then tell me your wife has your bankcard. You had the opportunity to tell me that via text before you wasted my time. Douche.
Even though it was gray and rainy, I left work today feeling energized. During the course of the day, I organized my own schedule, engaged a freelance artist I hired on a project I concepted and wrote, art directed a designer I hired on two internal projects, and sat in on a conference with the president of the institution. I began sketching a brand strategy for our mapping products, coordinating a video project with a multimedia firm in London, and was consulted on a Director-level hire by two different people.
It’s amazing the difference a couple of months can make.
“Al, at the wheel, his face purposeful, his whole body listening to the car, his restless eyes jumping from the road to the instrument panel. Al was one with his engine, every nerve listening for weaknesses, for the thumps or squeals, hums and chattering that indicate a change that may cause a breakdown. He had become the soul of the car. ”
-John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Driving an antique car is often an act of faith. Unless one is an ASE certified mechanic, every mile put on a historic vehicle is a leap into the unknown, carrying one further away from help and closer to an expensive problem. It forces one to become intimately familiar with all of the complicated moving parts that make things work, if for no other reason than to be able to tell a mechanic what to look at first.
Peer Pressure has spent the majority of the winter slumbering like a bear in her cave, waiting out fierce December winds and wet March snows. Winters are always hard when starting carbureted engines. I don’t have a trickle charger yet, which means I’ve got about five good tries in the battery before I have to bust out jumper cables. Usually I pour a little gas in the carburetor to get the fuel system moving, and that does the trick. Whenever the roads are dry and salt-free, I let her idle in the driveway for ten minutes, then get her out for a trip around the block to spin the tires and get fluids moving through everything. Then she goes right back in the garage.
Meanwhile, I’ve been driving modern, fuel injected vehicles which start instantly and glide over the road at lightning speeds. They have clean carpeting, clear glass, warm heat, and soundproofing. I’m removed from all of the smelly mechanical bits that make things work; modern cars have been engineered to make me forget there’s even an engine attached to the vehicle: This vehicle is powered by unicorn farts. They are appliances, and we take their very existence for granted. And we become ignorant of the clanking, whirring, gnashing machinery that makes it all possible.
When spring comes, I pull the Scout out onto the road, wind up the engine on longer trips and listen intently to multiple different noises. That tapping–are those lifters starving for oil? I gauge the familiar droning of Mud Terrains on pavement. I parse squeaks from the rear of the chassis. Is the exhaust sounding a newer, deeper note this year?
Other cues I pick up from the vibrations through my feet and hands. How does the clutch feel? Is that wobble a flat spot in the tire, or is that just an oscillation at speed? Is the engine straining above 50mph? The brakes are wearing unevenly. Does the shift point feel different this year? It feels like the steering is wandering more today.
All of these reactions change my relationship with the road. Every trip I take in the Scout at the beginning of the year is carefully considered. Do I have enough gas to make it there and back? Do I have a backup plan if I break down? What’s the number for towing and recovery? All of these questions make me appreciate the ride a lot more; I’m in tune with the machine and the road, instead of just gliding over it, there and back.
I bought my first Scout used, 20 years after it was built, and drove it 75+ miles home the same day, on faith that the seller was honest (he was) and the truck was in good shape (it was). One month later I drove it 2 miles down an empty beach at Assateague, an empty corner of the earth where AAA does not make house calls. It got me home. Ten years later I put even more faith in an older truck bought at auction with absolutely no provenance, using the 5-50-100 rule to shake out the kinks (500 miles is a long trip on those tires), and it’s run strongly ever since. I’ve had my issues, and it’s given me problems, but most of those were due to my own stupidity, and I’ve been able to make it home without calling in a tow truck.
I don’t know if Steinbeck had it right or not. Rarely do I feel like I’m the soul of the machine; more often I feel like my truck helps me rediscover my sense of adventure. Will I make it there and back? Maybe not, but it’ll sure be an interesting story.
Some kind of crazy front is blowing through this evening, sending the temperatures down from an agreeable 65˚to somewhere in the low 30s. What the hell, man? Just when I was thinking I could leave my winter coat on the rack. We went from having the windows open to shutting the storms down to keep the heat inside. Oh, well.
Grandma and Renie are coming down this weekend to visit, which has us running around cleaning the house in preparation. It will be great to see them for the first time since Christmas, and I know Grandma is probably levitating off the floor with excitement. Hopefully the weather will warm back up so they don’t have to suffer a wet March weekend in Maryland.
The CR-V is at the shop with new ceramic brake pads waiting to be picked up tomorrow morning; I bought rotors and pads last weekend with the intention of changing them, but when I got the grindy side up on the jack, I couldn’t get the caliper to release the rotor. Instead of bashing it with a BFH, I wisely decided on calling in the pros, and they got it done today, no muss, no fuss. Certain things I’m willing to take on myself, but any monkey business with important systems like brakes I’ll happily farm out.
I kegged my latest batch of IPA, called Sinistral Warrior, on Sunday, and it’s carbing in the cooler this week. I’ve pulled two glasses from it so far, and it’s tasty–and strong. I have to remember to throttle back my intake because it tends to hit me rather quickly. Next up is getting some time to bottle the pumpkin, which has been sitting patiently since the end of December, and ordering a session IPA from Northern Brewer for the next batch. I also cut my 4″ shank down to 3″ last weekend. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be–maybe 5 seconds with a metal blade on the miter saw, and 2 minutes with a file to clean up the threads. Now, when I install tap handles in the front of the kegerator, the tubing and inlets won’t be in the way. Half the fun of owning a kegerator seems to be hose management.
I haven’t looked at Facebook in about two weeks. I popped on there this evening to answer a question (I get alerts in my mailbox, but rarely respond to them) and lost a half an hour; nothing much has changed. I talked about creating more and consuming less at the beginning of this year, and haven’t done much to change that yet. I could come up with lots of reasons why, but the truth is I just haven’t.
I have a lot of things to work on this spring; that is only one of them, and the least important.
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.