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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Date posted: May 16, 2016 | Filed under family, photo | Leave a Comment »

The dumpster in our driveway is gone. We filled it with all of the concrete from the front walkway, all of the remaining hedges, bags of yard debris from the woodpile and behind the garage, the doctor’s desk from the attic, the old porch railings, and all sorts of other crap I can’t remember. We filled it to the edge. I hunted high and low to find more stuff to get rid of, and I’m sure I’ll trip over something in a week’s time that I should have chucked in there. The process of cleansing is a liberating feeling. Now I turn my attention to the piles of stuff I have on my desk, around my office, and on the shelves. It’s time for a cleansing of gear as well.

Now, to the next project: Our landscaper recommended we take the silver maple in the backyard down, as the trunk is being eaten by bugs, before we get started in the front yard. And then he pointed to the maple on the west side property line, which is actually in worse shape than the silver maple. The logic here is that if we spend a summer and a bag of cash fixing the front yard, we won’t be able to get a crane truck out back to deal with the trees after that’s done. The good news is that they can do them both at the same time, our neighbor is willing to let us use his driveway for access, and he’s willing to split the cost. They’re going to take the roots down as far as they will go, and I’ll have them leave the wood for me to split and stack. And all of that sun will help the oak tree next to it spread and grow taller.

So, the trees will come down and our parade party will be curtailed to the bare minimum (and the front yard) this year. Which isn’t so bad, really.


I switched back to the old headline font on the site here, because the other one just didn’t look good. This one (Museo Slab) isn’t my first choice but it’s not as heavy and blocky as Chunk, its replacement.

Date posted: May 13, 2016 | Filed under art/design, house | Leave a Comment »

Jen and I are at the end of our semester, and making plans for the fall term. The final crit went well, and the work everyone showed was strong compared to where we started. We had a good discussion at the end on how to make the syllabus better for the next class, and I got a lot of good general feedback that will help in the future.

The syllabus we developed was very strong, but we’ve found places where we can make it better and add detail. Through the course of the term, we found our students need more background on conceptual thinking and a refresher on how to write. Conceptual thinking is a hard thing to describe and an even harder thing to teach. Knowing what not to say is more important than giving specific directions in order to point a student in the right direction. It came as a surprise to everyone in the classroom that the outline we had them develop was the single most important part of their assignment, and the process of  synthesizing and organizing information was met with resistance at first. Jen and I developed a workshop where we split the class into groups and had them develop outlines together, which helped them deconstruct the problem and arrive at solutions together.

I was scheduled to teach the same class again, at the same time, until last week, when they offered to switch it with a senior level branding and identity class. Jen and I talked it over, and I accepted. It’s offered once a week on Wednesdays for four hours, which could be a nice change in schedule from the previous three semesters. The syllabus is very old, apparently, so I’ll be spending time updating it over the summer to include modern requirements and concepts.


Meanwhile, I’ve been focused on launching the first online report for WRI, which has spent a long time gestating and a short time birthing. I’ve been working on the template since last fall and revising the online workflow to complement our print workflow, but actually building something always highlights the flaws. It goes live tomorrow, and I’m pretty confident in the state it’s in.

Date posted: May 10, 2016 | Filed under teaching, WRI | Leave a Comment »

watching the game

On Friday, a nice man with a big truck dropped a 20 yard dumpster in our driveway. Ordinarily, this would be cause for celebration, but there was something better to look forward to that evening: an O’s game! Our friend Mr. Scout got us tickets and we met up with them in Section 66, on the third base line, about six rows off the field. The evening was damp and misty, so we hunkered down under plastic and blankets, but the game was good and the company was excellent. Finley had a great time watching the game and eating blue cotton candy, and I think she wants to go back. Plus, she got to meet the Bird!

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Saturday morning, the family got to work filling the dumpster with all of the concrete, brush, yard waste, and random debris we’ve had laying around the house since last spring. With three people working we got it all moved in three hours–much quicker than the last pile. We now have our driveway back and it doesn’t look like a Superfund site anymore.

After that got done, we went downtown for some lunch, and then to Second Chance to find some brick and shutters.

Since the hedges all have come down, the front of the house looks more naked than ever and needs softening in the worst way. I started last weekend with some cardboard cutouts to see what would work best in terms of scale, held them in place while Jen looked from below, and we found a size we both agreed upon. My plan was to build something simple from scratch and fasten it to the siding permanently. Seeing me up on the roof, my neighbor brought one of the old shutters from his garage and offered them to us. We took five and used them for sizing, but it turned out they were 5″ too short and in pretty rough shape.

At Second Chance, we got super lucky and found two pair of matching white shutters at the proper size and width. They’re as close to the original louvered windows this house came with as possible, with dogging arms and hinges intact, and sturdy. After some work picking out a matching pair and scavenging a full set of hardware, we walked to the front and paid for our find–and got a discount of $35/each for being there at closing time.

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The plan is to borrow our neighbor’s powerwasher and knock the flaking paint off, hit them with a belt sander, repair any cracks, and paint them black. Then I’ve got to either salvage the existing male hinge hangers from the rear of our house and pray they fit these shutters, or buy a new set of eight hinges to hang them correctly.

We were also lucky enough to find good brick to replace the exploded and cracked examples littering the end of the walk from a batch in exactly the right size and shape. When we got home Jen and I walked out front and replaced 20 of the worst ones, and the walk looks like new again.

Sunday was rainy, pretty much all day, so I spent a lot of the day getting stuff ready to toss when the weather lets up. I made all the paint in the basement inert with cat litter, put the shutter hardware into diesel fuel to clean, and organized the basement in preparation for more cleansing. I also posted the Doctor’s old wooden desk on Freecycle, but got no response–so it’s getting tossed.

Date posted: May 2, 2016 | Filed under family, finn, friends, house | Leave a Comment »

waiting for brunch

We drove out to the Eastern Shore on Saturday to visit the Morrisses, and had brunch at a wonderful, quiet little spot outside of Easton. The weather was mostly lousy but the company was excellent as always, and the bloody marys were delicious.

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Date posted: April 25, 2016 | Filed under friends, photo | Leave a Comment »

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