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.
We took Finn out for pizza and ice cream this evening after another great week of reports from school. She’s doing great and seems to be settling in very well. We have plans, actually, for Sunday afternoon with one of her schoolmates’ families—a family we’ve not met before. Fingers crossed.
I got the sick iMac up and running with the help of some tools and a new hard drive. After some research, I did my first migration from a Time Machine backup, which seems to have been successful. Being able to help friends save money makes me feel good.
Meanwhile, at work on Thursday, I set up and shot a single-camera interview on a Canon 5D with lavalier mics, and after reviewing the footage, I think it went really well. Later that day I shot an event on the roof of our office (we have a swank living roof with tables and chairs and trees) with the same camera and a high-powered 70-200 lens, which worked out great. After getting used to the differences between the 5D MII and the 7D, I was able to quietly move around and capture some great candids as well as the entire shot list. I had a great review this afternoon (it’s actually coming up on one year at WRI) and I left the office feeling really good.
I also successfully made the case for hiring a junior designer for my department based on some rough numbers from the past three years, which will help our productivity and internal capacity greatly. As my role shifts from designer to manager, I’m having problems letting the joy of digging into a single project go (I am never happier than when I’m focused on a task and in the zone) and shifting to head juggler. But thinking in broader terms is something I’ve been itching to do for years now. It’s great to be empowered, trusted, and listened to.
I got a hair up my behind the other day and started adding old content from 2001 into the site, the only months left from my original weblog. I got May in last night, which leaves about two months to go. It’s funny how much I used to post about random stuff and how similar the stuff I was posting about is to the modern day: tech stuff, news, repairs to the house, friends. The big difference is the lack of photos.
The weekend was great. We started out with a showing of Frozen at the neighbors’ house on Friday night. Saturday morning I took Finn to her soccer game. She was nervous at first, like she normally is, but the coach coaxed her out into one of the defensive positions, and there she did great. By the end of the first half she was going after the ball when it came to her side of the field, and actually chasing it back downfield to help her teammates! I think, much like her old man, she likes to get comfortable with things first before she dives in all the way.
After the game we came home and geared up for her birthday party. This year’s theme was apples, and our approach was one of simplicity. A homemade cake, some drinks, pizza delivery, and simple games with friends. As the sun set, I built a fire in the firepit and we sat outside enjoying it until everyone went home and it was time for her to go to bed.
One of her big requests this year were more chapter books, which warms my heart more than I can explain. Finn and I have had a ritual since she was a toddler: Daddy is in charge of bathtime. After we get PJs on and teeth brushed, we jump on the bed and crack open a book. For the last couple of months we’ve been reading from two series–Ivy & Bean and the Never Girls. We started by reading alternate pages aloud. Finn would take time to sound out certain words and I helped her with the phonetics, and she’s been getting better and faster every day. It’s to the point now where we burn through a 15-page chapter in about ten minutes, and it’s my favorite time of the day. I tuck her into bed and hootch up next to her to get the bed warm, and we pass the book back and forth.
The new album by Royal Blood got panned by Pitchfork, but I have to say I’m enjoying it. It’s amazing what you can do with a drumkit, a bass, and a shitload of effects pedals.
Huh, I didn’t realize I’d checked the “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” setting in WordPress, which may have stopped commenting on the site cold. It’s now open for business, which means commenting should be a lot easier again. I hadn’t noticed it until I checked the site in Chrome, where I wasn’t logged in.
I’m casually looking at Micro 4/3 cameras as an alternative to carrying a huge DSLR to and from work every day. Even though I see exactly the same things every day in my commute, I’d like to get back in the habit of shooting something regularly. As my recent Flickr feed indicates, I haven’t been shooting anything at all during the week other than the odd Instagram picture, which is sad. I’d like to keep things light and simple if possible. The hipsters are all about the smaller format mirrorless cameras right now, and I’m intrigued by the combination of small size and lens interchangability.
The biggest question is which brand I would start with. Olympus and Panasonic were the originators of the M4/3 format, and from all I’ve read their cameras are very good (Leica digitals are just rebadged Panasonic units, after all). I’ve also heard that Fuji’s cameras are very good from a first-hand source, so I started looking into their product offerings. However, they don’t use the M4/3 lens format–so they’re out. Most of the reviews I’ve read say Sony is making the best mirrorless cameras right now, but they’re not M4/3, and I’ve been on a Sony boycott for 20 years due to repetitive burns with expensive A/V equipment and some substandard video gear in the early 2000s.
So, back to Olympus and Panasonic. The Olympus E-P5 is a beautiful camera with a lot of the features I want, and a nice retro look I appreciate. The E-PL7 is a variant of the same basic model. Panasonic has the DMC-GX7 which tracks almost exactly to the specifications of the Olympus, plus or minus a few features.
Then, there are the lenses. The Wirecutter did a great writeup on M4/3 lenses that explains a lot of the details between price, performance, and flexibility. Lenses are the expensive and important part of photography, because a good lens can make a bad camera better. I’ve been using Nikon DX lenses with my first DSLR, and I’ve been happy with their performance, but having used pro-level Canon lenses at work I’m seeing the benefits of better glass. If I was to buy a M4/3 rig, I’d probably buy an adapter to use my DX lenses with the new camera and slowly invest in M4/3 glass. But I’m also seriously considering the purchase of a full-frame Canon DSLR to take advantage of the excellent lenses I have access to at work.
All of this is pipe dreaming right now. I don’t have the cash to drop on a new M4/3 camera or even a mid-level Canon DSLR. I’d have to line up some kind of photography job to help pay for that. I think what I’ll do is take a weekend to rent a M4/3 camera–Lensrentals has the Panasonic GX7 and an Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 for $60; a test drive is in order before I make any kind of major purchase.
One of the dreams I’ve had for the Lockardugan estates since the day we moved in has been to
level and replace upgrade the garage to make it easier to use. Since moving in, I’ve put doors back on the front and carved a hole out of the floor for the Scout to sit inside, but it’s still very ghetto in there. When we first looked at the house, there were three insulated knob and tube wires running from the back porch to ceramic insulators on the side of the garage, which fed it power from an already overtaxed interior circuit. The inspector told us the jimmy-rigged electrical wiring would have to be disconnected before the house could be sold, so out went the lights. I’ve had an extension cord running from the greenhouse through a hole in the back of the garage since 2007, which has slowly been covered over by grass and has missed whirring lawnmower blades by the grace of God.
My neighbor, an electrician, recently suggested running a subpanel from the circuit in the greenhouse, which is fat enough to support a 220 industrial heater, and I jumped on the idea. (The greenhouse was installed with proper wiring, but nobody thought to make a left turn and upgrade the garage while they were doing so). This weekend I finally pinned him down, and we ran conduit in a trench I’d dug weeks ago from inside the greenhouse to the back of the garage wall. Then we covered that over, fed 8-3 wire inside, and connected the panels up. Five minutes later, we had an outlet installed, and I pulled the extension cord up off the lawn forever. Progress!
Now I’m going to pick up a few more breakers and set up a real, functioning light switch and about eight outlets around the perimeter. Then I can start looking for a full-size air compressor and a decent stick welder. It’s not my dream garage, but it’s better than it was!
Sunday we disassembled our IKEA bookshelf in Phase One of Project: Living Room Overhaul. I bought four cans of white plastic spraypaint and we set up an assembly line on the back lawn to cover every square inch of faux birch with white. Later in the day Mr. Scout stopped by to discuss plans to replace our janky front steps. The plan is to extend the landing at the top of the stairs outward so there’s more room to work at the front door, widen them so that they cover 6″ of un-stuccoed foundation that was formerly hidden by huge shrubs, and add architecturally pleasing railings to soften the front of the house. While he’s in there we’re going to replace the front door with a brighter 8/1 security door, which will bring light into the front porch and make the place a little less severe-looking. It’s going to be a month or so before he can get started, but we’re VERY excited to get moving.