Date posted: June 19, 2016 | Filed under finn, photography | Leave a Comment »

Long-time readers here at IdiotCentral know I take a lot of pictures. Some of these photos show up on my Flickr feed, and a subset of those show up here. The rest are sitting on my server in the basement and also on a backup drive in my cabinet at work. As part of our Prime membership we get free photo storage too, so I started uploading the contents of my photo archive to Amazon in the spring.

Why is this worth mentioning? Well, I knew I’d taken pictures of the front of the house in the first years we lived here, but the idea of going through thousands of subfolders on the server to find them was unappealing. With Amazon, they’re all cataloged and displayed with low-res thumbnails, so I spent a total of 10 minutes paging back from 2008 or so to find a shot from 2004 on the day I painted the front of the house. This would be helpful to display a lineup of the progression of the house from the early days to this year. Behold:




Date posted: June 16, 2016 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Sunday morning, I accepted an invitation to go biking with my neighbors, who are both in much better shape than I. We did a combination of road and trail riding down the hill into Elicott City and through Patapsco State Park, and I kept up, mostly, until the last half an hour or so.


I am not ashamed to say I had to bail and walk for portions of the trail, because I haven’t done any serious biking in years. But it felt great to get out in the woods, and the promise of a cold Bloody Mary at the end of the ride is an added bonus.

Date posted: June 15, 2016 | Filed under life | Leave a Comment »

Driving back from a yard sale on Saturday morning, the accelerator pedal dropped to the floor, again. Since I’ve owned Peer Pressure, I’ve had intermittent problems with the throttle cable, which was originally jury-rigged to the engine block with an automatic cable bracket. My friend Alan swapped me that for a manual bracket, but the cable itself was held to the bracket with a rubber-grommeted clip. When the engine heats up, the grommet gets slippery and the cable slips out of it. Usually this is a 5-minute fix, but on Saturday the grommet disintegrated in my hand as I was refastening it. With Finn waiting in the back seat, I jury-rigged the cable with some zip ties and we made it home under our own power.

A photo posted by @idiotking on

On the phone with Super Scout Specialists, I learned that I have the wrong cable completely. The one I’m supposed to have is manufactured with a loop that goes around the bracket and held in place by the clip, so I ordered the correct part last night after investigating. I’ll have to carve out time to install it, based on when it gets here.

And I was thrilled last week when Bill Caswell started following me on Instagram!

Date posted: June 15, 2016 | Filed under Purchasing, Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on Throttled




Date posted: June 7, 2016 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

I got an email late Tuesday with the subject line “Grab your umbrella and a dour attitude”, which meant that the stars have aligned for me to travel to London at the end of this month on business. I’m going to be shooting video for a series of interviews about the New Climate Economy. We’re planning on a 3-camera shoot in front of a backdrop, and then adding animation in post-production. I’m a wee bit nervous because I’m going to rent a bunch of gear in London and handle the logistics myself, and I have no idea what the inside of the venue looks like (so there’s no advance scouting). It could mean that I’m recording the former President of Mexico in a coat closet. But, London! Video production! I can’t wait.

Friday evening we were invited to a friends’ birthday party with a standing invitation to bring an instrument and jam with the host. I’d known about this party for a couple of weeks, and I was nervous to join in, especially after we arrived and I heard the guys playing. There was an older guy playing drums in a flailing Buddy Rich style, an excellent keyboardist who was doing double duty holding the bass line down, a guitarist, and a saxophone player who was staggeringly good. I hung out for a while, drank a few beers, and when I had my liquid courage, I got my bass and amp from the car and set up.

They were taking a short break, but everybody assembled again and the drummer asked me to lay something down. Nervously, I started a very basic figure and the whole band picked it up. From then on out, we played whatever anyone could think of, from improv noodling to a couple of songs– Sympathy for the Devil was fun as hell to play, and I was just locking into the groove of Stevie Wonder’s I Wish when it wound down. It was exhilarating, and when another guy sat down at the drums, I found his style easier to lock in with. Three hours later, by the time we had to leave, my right index and pointer fingers were numb but I had so much fun I didn’t care. A bunch of the players walked up and thanked me for sitting in, something I wasn’t expecting but very much appreciated, and all I did was gush back at them in awe. I don’t know if he’s thinking of doing that as a regular event, but I’d love to learn some standards and go back to play again. And I’m definitely going to pick up the Stevie Wonder songbook, because that was fun as hell to play.



The shutters are now installed on our front windows. The only thing left to do after priming and painting them was to get full sets of hinges, and I’d pulled four off of our existing windows. Not looking forward to another day on the ladder, we took a drive back down to Second Chance and I dug through their boxes to find only one complete shutter hinge. On a hunch, I walked back to the shutter section and hunted around until I found a pair of shutters with the hinges I needed (male hinges with intact pins) and bought them both. By 5:30 that evening all four shutters were hung, and the house looks much better, if I do admit.

Because we got a late start Saturday morning, Finley and I missed most of the yard sales in the neighborhood, but we did look at one that was right down the street. Sitting on a barstool I saw a beat up Emerson 544 radio and offered the lady $10 for it, which she took.  The woodwork on the face is in rough shape, but the rounded shell is still OK, and I think I can find a way to make a new dial cover for it. So, for the first time in years, I’ve got another radio to work on.

In other musical news, Finn had her second piano recital on Sunday afternoon in the church across the street. She did really well as the 4th of about twelve kids to play, and Bear brought Auntie Christi to listen as well.

Date posted: June 6, 2016 | Filed under house, music, WRI | Leave a Comment »

This weekend’s big projects involved lots of paint. I ordered a new sprayer from Amazon last week and picked up paint for the front door and the shutters early Sunday morning, and got to work. First the front door came off, got cleaned, taped, and dried in preparation for several coats of red. Our last door was brush-painted, and being a metal-jacketed door, the paint showed every brushstroke. This is no fault of the painter, because red paint is pigment-heavy. The new door was just as difficult to paint: I couldn’t get the red to aerosolize enough to go on smoothly, so it looks like I painted the door with bedliner. Sigh.


Next up were the shutters. Exterior primer goes on a lot smoother, and all four shutters got two coats of it and dried in the sun. In between coats, I started scraping and priming the back windowframes, which haven’t been touched in 10 years. Then I started pulling the storm windowframes out so that I could access legacy shutter hinges left behind in all of the second-story windows. As it turns out, a set of hinges for each shutter would cost more than we paid for the shutters themselves. (For the record, they are known either as Bermuda or Parliament lift-off hinges).The frames angle outwards, making it impossible to get a screwdriver straight on the screws, so it took time to pull the windows out, unscrew the frames, get the hinges out, and screw everything back in. I got all but two left-hand hinges out, and as it turns out there are only two left on the house. It’s also a minor miracle the hinge pins even fit the hinges that came with the shutters–even though the house hinges are 1/2″ smaller on both sides.

Painted shutters

Monday I got back outside and coated the shutters with black paint, which went on smooth but thick. There doesn’t seem to be any flow control on my sprayer, unlike the old one I had, but I cleaned up the drips with a brush and covered them over carefully with the finish coat. From the road nobody will see the imperfections.

In the meantime, all of the hardware has been soaking in diesel fuel in the garage, and years of lead paint sloughed off with a few shakes. I need to find a way to soak the shutter hooks–the arms mounted to the bottom that swing out and drop into a metal pocket on the sill–to get them as clean as the hinges.

Date posted: June 1, 2016 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Finley and I joined some friends to explore Rocks State Park in northeast Maryland over the long weekend. Mama had to stay home due to her toe, which made us sad, but this hike would have been impossible for her. The first trail we hit was almost straight up, and wound up the side of a mountain (or tall hill, really) until we found the King and Queen Seat, a promontory of rock facing a large valley. Finn and the other kids immediately started exploring, and made their way out to the edge of a 300-foot drop before we reined them back in.




Then we hopped back in the car to visit the other half of the park, which features a natural waterfall and wading pool. The kids were in heaven, and we explored the upper and lower section of the river while other people splashed and played.

DSCF2957 (1)


Date posted: May 31, 2016 | Filed under finn, friends, photo | Leave a Comment »

We went up to Syracuse to visit my folks last weekend and check out their new house, which is lovely. It’s the first time we’ve seen them since Finn’s christening. They bought in a 20-year-old development, so everything is modern, well-kept, and easily accessible, both in the house and in the town. The house itself isn’t huge but the floorplan makes it larger than it is. The basement is easily twice the size of ours. They are happy and comfortable, and that’s the best thing that could have ever happened to them.


The weather has finally broken from Seattle-like rainfall and temperatures to a balmy mid-80’s heat, and the Mid-Atlantic humidity is creeping in as I write this. I’ve got a list of summer prep chores to get to over the long weekend–A/C units in the windows, humping summer clothes around the house, setting up an attic fan–and pulling the top off the truck, which I’m looking forward to.


I’m about 300+ pages into The City Of Mirrors, the final book in the Passage trilogy, and I’m enjoying it so far. The first two books were engrossing and written much better than the standard post-apocalyptic/vampire novel, and I savored re-reading them slowly last month to prepare for this book. That’s about all I’ll say without getting spoilery.

I’m beginning to write down syllabus ideas for next semester’s class, and basing the structure on a couple of books: Alina Wheeler’s Brand Identity, David Airey’s Logo Design Love, and Debbie Millman’s Brand Bible. I’ve got a couple of old syllabi from previous classes and a handful of notes and ideas I’ve written down during the last year. This semester is going to involve a lot more workshop-style learning and hands-on work, which seemed to be the thing that made the light bulbs go on.

Date posted: May 26, 2016 | Filed under books, family, teaching | Leave a Comment »

A photo posted by @idiotking on

Date posted: May 17, 2016 | Filed under Inspiration, Scout | Comments Off on Secret Admirer