image: a succulent houseplant, genus unknown, in a decorative pot on a windowsill

I really thought this little guy was a goner. He was all shriveled up, most of his leaves had gone limp, some had even blackened, and I had no clue what was wrong. I usually kill houseplants by forgetting to water them, but I’d been watering this guy about every ten days, which ought to be enough for a succulent.

In desperation, I bought a bag of potting soil and repotted him in fresh soil. That was about three weeks ago. Before the first week was over he was no longer dying. He didn’t look great, but he wasn’t dying. By the end of the second week he was looking a little better. Still not great, but better. And this week he virtually sprung back to life. His stems and leaves are plump and green and he’s standing up proudly, reaching for the sunlight. I trimmed off all his dead leaves and he looks almost like he was never on the verge of death. There are a few iffy patches on a couple of his leaves but if you didn’t know he’d been almost dead you wouldn’t know what the patches were from.

the camping thing – progress 5/6/23

Every day I try to do at least one thing to make continual progress getting The Camping Thing ready for the season. Some days it doesn’t seem like much, but on a day like today when I can see what the end product is going to look like, the feeling of satisfaction is pretty great.

Today I hung the overhead storage lockers — I’m not sure what else to call them. They’re the open-faced wooden boxes on either side of the van near the ceiling. I stuff clothes and towels and a few books in them, and they’re handy for keeping odds & ends like flashlights handy when I need them for something I’m working on.

They used to stand on poles that were attached to the bed but that’s not practical now, so after lots of head-scratching I figured out how to hang them from the grab handles built into the van. I’m not sure how much weight the grab handles will bear but I’m not all that worried. All I ever put in them is clothing and towels, so they don’t have to bear much weight.

I still have to connect the wiring that you can see dangling from the bottoms for the lights and charging ports but that should be fairly easy. And someday soon I want to add doors. The open front doesn’t work for me as well as I thought it would.

Yesterday I brushed a coat of poly on the plywood sheets that will bridge the gap between the boxes up front, and the day before that I installed two gooseneck lamps up front — you can see them just inside the archway — and wired them. If the gooseneck lamps seem like overkill, that’s what I thought, too. I wasn’t going to install any lights at all. I figured I could use flashlights for the few times I might need a light in the van at night, but I added the two gooseneck lamps at the rear because I was copying a design I saw on YouTube and it turned out that was the best feature I could’ve copied. I use those lamps all the time: not just when I’m reading after dark, but when I’m rummaging around in the fridge or searching in the storage boxes for a knife.

Two or three days ago, I’m not sure which now, I installed the battery and wired up the circuitry that connects the battery to the charging box and to the bus bar that distributes power to the various accessories in the van. Moment of panic, there, when I connected the battery and got a warning light on the charger. I don’t know what that was from, because it went away after I started the van to see if it charged the battery. Everything worked fine, and the error light went away. Anxiety averted.

I also made the electrical connection to the arch, so all the lights up there work, and today I connected the circuit to the fridge, so in theory I could jump in the van today and drive away for a weekend, but I won’t be doing that this weekend. In reality, there are still quite a few things I want to do to finish getting the van ready, so I won’t be going anywhere for a few weeks yet.


Lead paragraph of a story in The Irish Times: "Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who's really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it's like having a neighbour who's really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown."

For as long as I’ll live, I’ll never understand why Americans are so ga-ga over British royalty. I know people who set their alarms to wake up early so they could watch the coronation of King Charles today. I suppose it’s the same as being all wrapped up in celebrities like the Kardashians, but frankly I don’t understand that obsession, either.

Some people would point out that it’s the same as the way I’m obsessed with astronauts, to which I would rebut, uh, no, it isn’t, because astronauts actually do something. You may not be interested in what they do, you may actively dislike what they do, but they’re not getting paid just to be famous, which the royals certainly are.

Wisconsin weekend

Ah, April in Wisconsin, where every weekday is sunny and warm, and every weekend is rainy and cold.

Makes me kind of miss February a little bit. It sucked, but it never teased you with false promises of warm weather.

night out

There was a special at the Muskellounge and Sporting Club last night: Meat People was selling three kinds of burritos out of a food truck in the parking lot and My Darling B wanted to eat at least one of them, so off we went. She had the beef burrito, I had the chorizo, and they were both delicious. So was the beer I drank, a double IPA from Great Lakes Brewing called Vibacious. I am not being paid to say that, I just thought it was really tasty beer that I would recommend without hesitation. My Darling B tried two different cocktails, the names of which escape me now, and loved them both. We managed to score a table outside so we were able to enjoy our dinner al fresco while kids and doggies played all around us. It was a grand night out.


“How did Tim guess ‘guppy’ on the second try with just one letter?” B wondered aloud in the car on the way home from work today.

“Well I guess I won’t be playing Wordle today,” I responded dryly.


I can’t be trusted to dress myself any longer. When I do, chaos ensues.

After my morning shower, I threw on a pair of pants — just pulled them up to my hips and only buttoned the waist to keep them from falling down because I had already begun to hunt for a shirt.

When I found a shirt, I shrugged into it without buttoning it or tucking it in because I had already gone looking for socks next.

Found socks, sat down on the sofa to put them on, stuffed my feet into shoes and tied them up, then immediately went to pack my bags to go to work — fully intending to do up the rest of the buttons and belts and zips and whatever else I’d left open.

Guess what I looked like when I got to work?

a) an unbuttoned, untucked, unzupped ragamuffin

b) a guy closing in on retirement without a single fuck to give

c) an absent-minded professor

d) a raving lunatic

e) all of the above

progress – the camping thing – 043023

Ah yes, the now-familiar photo of a nondescript plywood box propped on sawhorses in a spectacularly filthy garage. How predictable am I?

Today’s goal was to unship the battery box from its position in the back of the van where it was bolted down; give the outside front and back a quick but reasonably good sanding; then slap on a generous coating of polyurethane. I’m happy to report one-hundred percent completion of this goal.

More accurately, I achieved something over one-hundred percent, because I did not intend to sand the outside ends nor the insides of the box, but in the end I did because it didn’t take long, so why not? Further, I intended to coat the outside front and back with poly but I wasn’t all that concerned about coating the ends or the insides. Once again, I did it anyway because I was already doing it and I had just enough poly in the bottom of the can to slap on a thick coating inside and out.

I wasn’t too concerned about sanding nor sealing because I intend to rebuild the battery box in half-inch plywood soon, so sinking more labor than absolutely necessary into finishing this box was not desirable. My original plan for all the boxes was to build them in three-quarter-inch plywood but when I found out how heavy they would be, I built a couple boxes using half-inch ply as a test and found that not only were they lighter, they were just as sturdy. All four of the boxes up front are half-inch ply and, as soon as I can get around to it, the battery box will be, too. But the original will be just fine for now.

Next step: mount the lid on the battery box, then reinstall it in the van.

After that, build the chuck box. More boxes, ohboyohboyohboy!


The hamburgers My Darling B bought for our first cookout of the season were the size of manhole covers and were at least eighty-five percent fat, which means that before I could finish slapping all eight of them on the grill they erupted into the biggest grease fire we’ve ever seen. I had to keep the cover on the Weber when I wasn’t actively flipping them, and when I did take the cover off, I could flip two, maybe three before the flames forced me to clamp the cover down over the grill again to smother the conflagration that reared up high enough to reach my face. This is not hyperbole. At one point, My Darling B came to the door to ask if there was anything she could do to help. She didn’t have a fire extinguisher so I said no, but I thought it was amusing that the flames were so impressively aggressive they were drawing a crowd. She told me after that she and Tim had been watching from the window.

When I finished cooking them, the manhole-sized patties had shrunk to a little smaller than a beer coaster. We’re probably not getting those again.

camping thing progress 4/29/23

It’s all little steps these days.

I had just two goals yesterday after work: put the bottoms in the two boxes I built last week, and cut a lid for the battery box. They weren’t big goals, so it’s no big surprise I managed to reach them both. That’s how I keep projects moving: break them down into teeny-tiny baby steps, then do at least one step every day.

Putting the bottoms in the boxes was easy. I had already coated them in poly and sanded them smooth. One of the bottoms was a little tight so I trimmed an eighth-inch or so from one corner to improve the fit. All that was left after that was to cut a pair of rails to hold each bottom in place, drill out holes for screws, insert the bottoms and screw the rails in place. I didn’t glue them because I want to be able to take the bottoms out so cleaning the boxes is easier.

Cutting the lid for the battery box wasn’t hard, either. My goal for today was only to cut it to size but I went a step further because I was already in the garage, I was covered in sawdust, and everything was going smoothly, so why not? I trimmed the lids with pine cut in quarter-inch strips, to cover the end grain of the plywood. I wheeled out the table saw, ripped a handful of quarter-inch strips, then glued them to the edges of the box lid and fastened them in place with 18-gauge brads, just to be sure. Then I left the glue all night to set.

Today’s goals were similarly simple: Sand the lid and slap on a coat of polyurethane. I really hate sanding, so that was no small step, but I motivated myself with the reminder that I was only sanding the lid. Took about a half-hour to get it nice and smooth. Brushing on a coat of poly took even less time. And I got that all done before nine o’clock, so I treated myself to a second cup of coffee and then, a walk around the arboretum after the rain stopped. Not a bad morning at all.