Category: Fixing Stuff

So a couple weeks ago I had routine AC maintenance done on the house.  During that work it was brought to my attention that the blower in my air handler was covered in mold.  I am sure it is related to when the overflow kill switch was defective, allowing water to puddle in the bottom of the system last year.  So anyway, it was recommended that the blower is pulled, completely disassembled, and cleaned thoroughly.  They also mentioned that a UV light kit could prevent this scenario from happening in the future as it blasts the entire air handler with UV light which kills microorganisms like mold.  The idea of mold existing in my AC system made the decision easy, even though it wouldn’t be cheap.

The work was done today so I just took the day off, giving me an odd 1-3 work week.  The tech showed me the inside of the blower assembly before it was cleaned, it was totally black.  To think that shit was getting circulated in the system is pretty gross and potentially hazardous to your health.  They also showed me the same parts after the cleaning and it was night and day.  In total the work took about two hours and even though I am out about $700 I feel better knowing my HVAC system is not a petri dish any longer.

After the tech left I loaded Sadie and Elsa up in the Prius to take Sadie home and return Ali’s computer to her which I finally got working again.  Ali’s boyfriends dogs were excited for the unexpected visit.  Elsa was scared, submissive, and excited all at the same time, it was very funny to watch.  All four of them slept up in Ali’s office as I completed the work, it was very cute.

I plan to veg out most of the rest of the day, an appropriate course of action since we are mired in a several day rain event.  I started leveling a new character in WoW so that can keep me entertained for as long as I need.

Yesterday was a good one in my preparations for the building move.  I was able to take a laptop over to the temporary building and successfully connect to our network.  That was really the biggest concern in my mind, now that the two areas are connected it is just a matter of moving equipment and changing a few numbers around.  The only other thing I am looking to do is increase the link between the two networks from 100 mb to 1000 mb which will be handled by adding two 1000 TX SFP transceivers into two Cisco switches along the way.

I am also prepping for my upcoming Tacoma project which will lift the truck roughly 3 inches in the front and around two in the rear.  I bought a set of ratcheting wrenches last week and a 22MM impact socket last night which is necessary for some of the big bolts and nuts involved in suspension work.  Just like any project, I have some anxiety about ripping into my new Tacoma in the most extensive way so far.  However I have watched the install video for the kit twice so far and I don’t think it will be too bad as long as I take my time.  Having Chuck, who installed a much more involved 4″ lift on his Tacoma , help me do the work makes the probability of success very high.  The nice thing about this set up is it is totally reversible, just in case.

 

I have been in one of those periods of time where I feel like there are so many little things that need to be taken care of and I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere.  It’s not a feeling I enjoy.  The funny thing is feeling that way despite getting a decent amount of things done over the weekend.

It started out early Saturday with me getting outside to work on weeding a little after 7:30.  That rolled almost immediately into doing the oil and filter change that was due on the Prius.  Cindy and I headed out to do a Rural King run, something I hadn’t done in a couple weeks, a long time for me.  We brought Elsa along for the ride and she once again oscillated between being ok one moment and terrified the next.

We stopped at Home Depot on the way home.  We picked up some more vegetables for the garden including tomatoes, something we historically have a horrible time getting anywhere with.  If first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  I also picked up a new LED floodlight for the other side of the house, similar to the awesome stadium style bright unit I installed on the other side a couple months ago.

When we got home we made plans to go with Katie to go look at rvs/trailers/park homes.  She is looking to move ahead with having a place to call her own and wanted to get a first hand look at some options.  The first place we went surprised the hell out of me, they sold Airstreams.  For some reason I had it in my head that Airstream was no longer in business.  I am not sure where that notion came from.

Not only did they not go out of business, they make some of the highest quality trailers on the market we came to discover.  Katie loved the stainless steel shells that wrapped around highly functional living spaces.  We looked at models that ranged from 16 feet to 30.  Regardless of the size, every single model we checked out was really, really nice.  Of course top of the line comes with a price tag, they are far from cheap.

I talked a bit with the sales manager at the location.  He used to work at the Airstream factory store in Ohio for a long time.  He really stressed how well made they were and how they steered clear of shitty Chinese components as much as possible.  He also told me that depending on the price of he unit, they can be financed for as long as 20 years, making one affordable even for someone just getting started like Katie.  The last interesting fact was they are just over 8 feet wide, meaning in theory one could be driven into our wide open backyard through the 10 foot gate with little fuss.

In addition to the Airstreams we looked at more traditional trailers as well as “park homes”, another thing I wasn’t aware of.  These were apartment/condo sized homes on wheels.  When you were inside it looked like conventional construction.  When you were outside you saw the big trailer it was built on and would be a permanent part of it’s structure.  I guess the name comes from the idea that typically you park these once and leave them there, unlike an Airstream-like trailer which could be relocated pretty easily.

Out of everything we saw Katie definitely liked the Airstream option the best.  The ability to pick up and move while having all the basic necessities to live day to day was very appealing to her.  The design of them was really interesting to Katie and she spent a good portion of the drive home researching the hell out of them on her phone.

When we got back we didn’t waste much time before we headed over to the school to ride our wheels.  I also brought my Mavic with as I wanted to see how it did tracking Katie and I as we rode around.  Well the drone did pretty damn well.  Even with sunset approaching rapidly the Mavic did a good job of following us around autonomously , keeping us in it’s field of view.

Cindy was doing more of her fence EUC training and did well again.  I think all she needs to do is get more frequent training sessions under her belt so she can keep building where she left off instead of having to refamiliarize herself when 10 or 14 days have passed.

 

 

Saturday night Cindy called in a food order that I picked up.  We had a Netflix rental in an envelope, a movie called Memento that Cindy picked out, some murder mystery flick.  Well we gave it a solid 15-20 minutes to spark our interest before all three of us gave it the gong.  I pulled out the dvd and instead rented Deepwater Horizon on X1.  The movie reenforced why fossil fuels and the companies that provide them need to be put out to pasture.  The recreation of the disaster on film was incredibly realistic and impressive.  I’d give it a B+.

I felt guilty when I didn’t start my Sunday morning off with a run.  The reality is my knee/hip/IT band on my right side is still messed up and running would just amplify it.  That didn’t make me feel any less guilty however.  I did however get busy once again outside, tending to the chickens, planting the vegetables I bought Saturday and starting the work to replace the floodlight.

Installing that floodlight was one of the very early home projects I took on after we built the place in 2001.  As I ripped down the old beat up light I realized that back then I did some pretty shoddy work.  I had the old light sloppily and loosely attached to the aluminum flashing, it wasn’t very solid at all.  I got the old light ripped out but realized if I wanted to install the new one correctly I was going to need a proper electrical fixture mounting box, which I didn’t have.

The three of us went to Dunkin Donuts and followed up with another ride into the Esplanade development.  It was SUPER windy during the ride.  At times if the wind hit us dead on it felt like it almost brought us to a standstill.  It was nuts.

 

After the ride we made a couple stops, including the hardware store so I could get the mounting box I needed.  When I got home I got to work.  Instead of mounting the light to the aluminum I attached the box to the concrete wall with tapcons, a much sturdier solution.  Once that was in place the rest of the light install went pretty easily.  It looks a lot better and lights up that area of the yard in a much more efficient manner.

I had a few other projects/chores keeping me busy during the afternoon.  Late in the day Cindy mentioned that Katie was interested in going over to the nearby Bird Rookery Swamp to walk with Elsa.  We came up with a plan where I would leave ahead of them on my Msuper and they would drive there with Elsa in the Prius.  With the ability to cruise comfortably at 18-20 mph, I got there pretty fast, fast enough that I had time to ride the length of the boardwalk and back before they got there.

Katie had never been to the swamp so it was cool for her to see.  We ran into a decent sized gator shortly after getting onto the grass path.  Cindy was scared, Katie was concerned, I just sort of shrugged.  I have seen so many gators at this location it just doesn’t affect me much.  Elsa seemed to like the hike as well although she got scared by random people along the way.  We stayed later than I ever had before, getting back to the parking lot a few minutes after the sun had set.

I told Cindy I wanted to ride the wheel back to the house as well instead of hitching a ride with her.  She was not thrilled with the idea but knew I was going to do it regardless.  The ride back was fine, possibly even faster than the ride there.  The headlight on the Msuper was definitely necessary as it was almost pitch black by the time I pulled back into the driveway.

I have a work week that is going to be very meeting heavy so don’t be surprised by short and sweet entries as standard practice.

So yesterday was Chapter 2 in my SQL corruption trial by fire experience.  Early in the morning we saw the document imaging system generated an error importing a single file overnight.  When we looked in the Windows application log we saw the SQL server generated a 824 error which is bad news.  It basically means for some reason it was unable to write data.   I ran a dbcheck on the database and was not happy to see around 150 “inconsistencies” reported.  I was actually surprised the DB was still online and functioning as this was similar to the errors I saw when the DB went offline 10 days prior.

So I spent the rest of the day trying to determine my best course of action.  Contacting the application vendor last time proved to be pretty worthless but we placed a call with them anyway, which didnt get returned until later in the day, after I already decided on a new course of action. In my research I determined I was missing an important part of a good SQL management plan, regular dbchecks.  By running these checks you can catch inconsistencies early, making it easier to recover from them with minimal data loss.  The only time I ran these was after a problem already existed.

So it seemed like my best option was to pay for a Microsoft professional services incident where you pay $499 and they have a high level tech contact you to remedy the issue.  I placed the ticket around 3PM.  They had a four hour response window.  When I closed my door shortly before 5 I assumed we would be tackling the problem in depth the following day.  Well as I took a couple steps down the hall I heard my phone ring in the office.  I instantly wondered if it was Microsoft calling.  I ran back into my office and picked up the phone.  It was indeed Paul from SQL support group.

We embarked on a roughly three hour trouble shooting session that involved restoring back ups and testing their integrity.  We determined that even the back ups had the same inconsistencies as the production database.  The plan then shifted where the tech ran a repair on one of the backed up DB’s which fixed the inconsistencies by deleting the records that contained them.  The downside of this was a handful of data was deleted but in the big picture in a DB containing millions of images, losing a few is not really a concern.

My main concern was that the application still ran correctly after the clean up.  The tech swapped in the repaired DB and I brought the application back up.  I was able to test various aspects of the document imaging process, it all seemed to be working fine.  I thanked the tech for all of his help.  It was great to deal with someone so knowledgeable and even better that he was not from India.

I didn’t leave the office until a little before 8.  I felt badly because we made plans go riding the PTV’s with Katie and Daniel to look at more Christmas lights.  I was happy that even though I got home late they were still there and ready to ride.  Instead of going to Ave Maria as originally planned we went to the nearby Waterways development which had some very pretty lights as well.

It was a bit chilly with temps in the mid 60’s when combined with the wind from rolling around at 10+ mph.  Even so we had fun and were out there longer than we originally planned.  We made plans to meet up again Friday evening and head out to Ave Maria on the wheels, it should be a very festive and fun way to start off Christmas weekend.

I have known for awhile that the struts on the Prius have not been in good shape which probably helped accelerate the wear of the tires that were just replaced.  It sort of hammers over bumps.  I have now watched the replacement process for the front and rear struts/shocks.  It involved taking a LOT of stuff off just to access to the parts I want to replace.  So although it is involved I would not call it difficult work.  I think I will buy myself a Haynes repair manual shortly and tackle the job as an early 2017 challenge.

This will be my last working day until next Tuesday.  I am looking forward to a great four days with lots of giving peppered with some receiving.

 

 

Yesterday was one of those text book miserable IT Mondays where something breaks over the weekend and your first task of the day is to fix it.  Well this was a rather huge break, the database of our document imaging server became corrupted somehow on Friday evening, before any back ups had run of course.

I spent the first half of the day working with the vendor for the imaging system.  It became apparent very quickly this guy really had no idea what to do.  I was clinging to repairing the DB and bringing it back online to eliminate any data loss.   When it was apparent this guy was just spinning his wheels I moved on to plan two, database restore from our back up appliance.

We had a full database back up from Tuesday night and a differential backup from Thursday so if all went as planned I could at least only lose one day of work.  Well of course that plan didn’t work out either.  For some reason, unknown to the back up vendor as well, the differential restore would fail at the end, leaving the DB stuck in a “Restoring” state.  However the full back up from Tuesday restored fine.  I went through at least a half dozen attempts of restoring the massive 90 gig DB until I had to make another command decision.

It was now 3pm.  If I just restored Tuesdays back up the system would be back online and allow the clerks to process their daily work they have been sitting on.  However I was then going to be losing three days of processing from last week.  I decided it was more important to get the wheels turning again and restored Tuesdays back up.

The way this system works is once a document is pulled into the system it is converted to a pdf which is placed in a folder broken down logically by date.  So any work from those three days was already sitting out there in pdf form, the problem is it no longer was linked to the database.  The rather klutzy fix is to re-import these pdfs into the system manually, a pain in the ass but doable.

I stated the process with my asst net admin late in the day, staying until a little after 5:30.  I did some more work from home last night and was into the office early this morning to continue the process.  For an IT job, things are abnormally stable with my current environment compared to what I was used to in previous jobs.  However days like yesterday were a reminder of the feet to the fire environment that can always be lurking around any corner.

14610955_1309904019022849_4634427452754950937_nLast night my dad and step mom took Cindy, myself and Katie out to dinner at the Watermark Grille, a place that I had not been to since I went with my mom on our last Mother’s Day together. It felt a little weird/sad as I walked inside.  The feelings passed and all five of us had an enjoyable meal with good food, laughs, and flowing conversations.  Cindy and Teresa had a lot to talk about from their two day adventure down in Key West.  They saw a ton of cool things and got to experience the “unique” culture quite a bit.

After dinner we headed home and just hung out for awhile.  Of course it was sad that dad and Teresa’s visit was coming to an end.  Of course we also were sad to be losing the company of Maggie and Clara who provided all of us with tons of smiles along the way.  The dog/chicken issue was never a big deal.  We mostly walked the dogs in the front yard and allowed them in the back yard a few times while the chickens were in their coop.

Despite all of us not being late night people I found that pretty much every night of their visit I was up later than normal, hence why I feel rather sleepy today.  This morning the Outback was loaded up so they could get an early start on the first leg of their journey home.  They are planning to get to Brunswick Georgia.

14590315_10154898975577841_8384213929028082936_nEveryone handed out the hugs and well wishes.  Clara really did not seem to want to hit the road.  After she had been loaded in the car once she hopped back out to me and stood between my legs where I gave her one more pet and kiss on the head.  It was very sweet.  As they backed out of the driveway and slowly pulled away I had a small tear in my eye as I saw Maggie looking back at me from the back window and Clara doing the same perched on Teresa’s lap.

Since our family became geographically diverse years ago this scenario has played out many times so I should be used to it by now but it never feels good.  I spent much more time chilling during their visit than I did my first staycation three weeks ago so I guess that’s a good thing.

Of course I have not wasted any time placing my nose back to the grindstone.  I showered and headed into work to do prep for our Office 365 migration that I will be tackling over the weekend.  I am hoping that most of the in office work can be handled this evening with doing more remotely over the remainder of the weekend.  It’s a tricky process but I am hoping I have all my ducks lined up in a row.

I am hoping to have enough free time over the weekend to fix the tractor which appears to have one or more defective idler pulleys in the transmission drive assembly.  It is also Cindy’s birthday weekend so I am sure she would rather have me be around if at all possible.

Last night my dad and I went to Pelican Larry’s to grab dinner.  It seemed like there were a lot of people there for a Wednesday night but luckily since they have a ton of seating we had no problem.  We sat at the bar and ate there.  Our bartender was a young girl that seemed a bit distracted but bartending while taking food orders I guess lends itself to that.  The couple beers and food I ordered went down easy.

Last night Dad and I watched  a movie he recommended I rent from Netflix, The Lobster.  It was definitely one of the strangest movies I ever saw.  I told dad it seemed like it was one long Monty Python skit.  My eyes closed a few times, making an already confusing experience, more so.  I think this movie would be fantastic to watch if you were really drunk or high.  Unfortunately I was neither so I can only give it a C.

Today was dad’s last full one in Naples.  My step mom and Cindy were still down in Key West.  The reports we got from last night were they were having a lot of fun so far.  During the early morning I cleaned the coop and started to do more trouble shooting on the coop dvr.  I had received a replacement for the dead unit, another likely casualty of the lightning strike last week.  However when I hooked up the new unit, 3 of the 8 cameras were not working.  Through some troubleshooting I determined it wasn’t the new dvr or the cables, the actual cameras had stopped working.  Of course I assume this is more shrapnel from the power hit.  Later in the day I was able to replace 2 of the 3 dead cameras with lower resolution models I had laying around.  Yea the feed from them won’t be HD quality but they don’t really need to be.

14650357_10154901513987841_6399532201519563946_nI told dad we should go walk the dogs at North Collier Park, a place he had never visited.  Dad was very impressed with how nice the place was.  We had fun watching the collection of old retired RC sail boaters maneuver their ships around the lake as we started the walk.  Most of the walk was on the elevated, mostly shaded boardwalk which was perfect for the dogs.  We had a great couple miles.

After the park we headed to Pet Supermarket to grab some food and other stuff for the dogs.  Maggie and Clara had fun exploring the store and observing the small animals they had for sale.  We then made one final stop at Naples Cyclery.  Dad was interested in looking at some hybrid bikes as he has some ideas about doing more biking back home which would be good.  Dad isn’t all that mobile at this point so anything that gets him moving more is a good thing.

Later in the afternoon I headed out for a EUC ride.  The nearly 7 mile ride was good but tough because of strong wind.  It included a funny and unexpected political message when I rode past an intersection that somebody spray painted in large letters FCK TRUMP.  It seemed like an odd place to express those feelings but it will certainly get the point across to any oncoming motorists.

Tonight we are going out to a farewell dinner.  Cindy and Teresa pulled in less than an hour ago after a very fun two days in the Keys.  It has been a relaxing visit.  It’s a shame that geography dictates we don’t get together more often but when we do it always leaves positive memories.

So I left work early to meet the Comcast repair guy at home.  Once again to their credit, by utilizing the Comcast account app I was able to get an arrival window that was within 15 minutes of being accurate.  The Haitian repair tech didn’t seem to be in a great mood from the start.  When I opened the attic crawl space he wasn’t happy it was so hot.  When he saw the way the original installers handled the wiring he was really unhappy.  He was complaining nearly non-stop about how lazy they were and how they don’t do things as they are supposed to.

Eventually he settled down.  He determined that what I suspected was the case, the powered splitter in the attic was defective.  In addition to replacing the splitter he also changed the wiring around to whatever the proper configuration is supposed to be.  In total he was there for less than an hour.  It was nice to have cable tv up and running although we could have survived with streaming content indefinitely.

So I did some more investigation of my AV equipment after the guy left.  As I feared, EVERYTHING that was connected to the tv via HDMI was f’d up.  That list includes the blu-ray player, the satellite receiver, the Xbox 360, an HDMI hub, the X1 DVR and the tv itself.  I was able to get a free replacement DirecTV satellite receiver without even picking up the phone, able to complete the transaction via online chat session.  The satellite box was actually unplugged from power at the time of the incident but got smoked anyway via the HDMI cable.  The blu-ray will come out of my pocket.  The Phillips unit that I had hooked up was sort of shitty anyway so it doesn’t break my heart to replace it.  The 360 has not been used this year so I just ripped it all out with no plans to replace it.  My days of console gaming are pretty far behind me at this point.

Cindy had to grab some groceries.  She came up with a good idea where I would go with her out to the Ave Maria Publix where I could ride my Ninebot while she shopped.  I had a good time putting more than four and a half miles on the wheel around the town/campus.  I explored areas I had never seen before.  As usual I got a large amount of head turns and confused looks from bystanders that never saw a person riding an electric unicycle before.

On the ride home from the grocery store Cindy commented on the unusual amount of road noise coming from what appeared to be the front passenger side of the car.  I had noticed the noise for the last few days.  I had actually taken a look at that tire to see if it was abnormally worn or if it had something stuck in it that could possibly make the noise.  The tire looked fine.  My next idea was the wheel bearing was going bad, something that would make sense considering the Prius is rapidly closing in on 200,000 miles.

When I got home I looked online and saw front wheel bearings going bad on a Prius are not an unusual thing.  I also watched a video of a home mechanic outlining the replacement procedure.  It is in my wheel house of capability except that the bearing/hub assembly needs to be pressed on/off in some cases which would require a garage anyway.  I would feel better having an actual mechanic doing the work.  I called the garage I have used for some other repairs.  They said I could buy the part and they would do the work for about $200 which isn’t bad.  I did a somewhat risky move, buying the part online this morning, gambling that my diagnosis is correct.

Cindy and I watched some of the VP debate last night.  There was a lot of interrupting of each other, not only by the two candidates but also by the attractive female moderator who was trying very hard to keep the candidates in line and on topic.  Despite her attempts, most of what I saw was the two men stepping all over each other.  Of course I thought Tim Kaine came off better with Mike Pence repeatedly not directly answering most questions presented to him and trying to redirect away from any questions asking him to defend various Trump statements and actions.  I doubt the VP debate ever makes up a voter’s mind on their ultimate decision but I guess it’s a necessary evil.

So the east coast of Florida is now moving into full fledged panic mode with the prospect of Hurricane Matthew swinging right by the coastline.  You would think that staying just off the coast would be a good thing but that allows the eye of the storm to stay over it’s power source, warm water which is not a good thing.  Our area is right outside the edge of the danger zone although we certainly will see considerable effects from the storm.  Even a slight shift to the west could make the impact to Florida much, much worse.  I am not the panicking type so I will be monitoring the storm but not obsessing over it.  I do have some east cost friends that I of course hope come out of the storm with minimal impact.

 

Last night Cindy was teaching a class so I used the time to start working on level 2 skills on the Ninebot One.  I am now fairly confident in my ability to handle basic control fundamentals in a more or less safe manner.  I can start, stop, and turn consistently.  However there are more advanced things to learn like riding backwards, jumping small objects, and simply getting on and off the wheel in a more controlled manner.  I practiced all three of these things to varying degrees in the driveway and as expected, going backwards was the least successful of the three.  I did manage to avoid any awful wipeouts, a testament to my ability to maintain balance, awkwardly, even in more demanding situations.  Take a look if you have 19 minutes to kill.

I had another mess of a day at work yesterday, still related to the larger mess from last week.  Before I rebuilt our main domain controller, I transferred all the FMSO roles to another DC that was a VM.  Yesterday the phone started ringing from people saying the time on their pc’s was off like 6 or 7 minutes.  A quick glance confirmed this.  Domain time is normally handled by the DC that holds the PDC Emulator role.

So I did some digging and found out that when you have a DC in a Hyper-V environment you need to disable the default behavior of a virtual machine to set it’s time based on the Hyper-V host.  I went a step further, transferring the PDC Emulator role back to the original domain controller which is a physical server.  I then ran the regedit command on both virtual DC’s to get them back in sync.

Even after this change I was chasing down rogue time problems during the day as a few servers did not want to grab the change until I forced them to do so.  I finally got everything back on the same page at the end.  Having varying system times on a Windows domain can cause all sorts of weird problems. I hope I can now move forward with getting our office fully moved over to Office 365.  I keep running into roadblocks that are making the progress on that goal very slow.

Somehow I managed to spend the vast majority of my weekend working on crap ranging from chores to race timing to remote office things.  I got some fun time in but found myself last night feeling like the two days were too task heavy.  Saturday I weeded the property and then followed up with the gas weed whacker, knocking down the growth accelerated by the unrelenting rain.

Late in the morning I thought I would be proactive and call DirecTV a day early to make sure my Sunday Ticket was working so I could watch the Eagles game the following day.  Because of the non-standard configuration I have where I JUST have the Sunday Ticket and no other programming package I have to call them each year after my account comes off the 6 month service suspension.  I have had this set up for close to 10 years and every year it is a pain in the ass to get it working.  This year set the bar to a new high of frustration.

So I call up and get a woman that sounds like she is from the US.  When I explain what I need she indicates I need to talk to tech support.  She said she would transfer me.  Within the first 3 seconds after being transferred I felt my blood pressure rising as I heard the very thick foreign accent on the other end.  Despite the headaches I have had in the past getting my service working, I always at least dealt with US based support staff.  Evidently part of ATT acquiring DirecTV last year was establishing some cheap foreign call centers, awesome move.

So I literally spent 60 minutes on the phone with a level 1 guy and then his supervisor, with me getting more frustrated by the minute as he kept putting me on hold since he had no idea what to do.  At one point I asked him if he was located in India.  He seemed a bit put off by my question and told me he was not Indian, he was located in the Phillipines.  Sorry, my bad, I still can hardly understand you.  I went through a maddening circus of reboots and being put on hold, despite me telling them that normal corrective actions would not work.

So at the end of the 60 minute circus the supervisor said he was going to transfer me to the Sunday Ticket department.  He had exhausted his ability to correct my problem.  He said please hold and I was promptly disconnected.  Of course I was beyond furious.  I called back ready to destroy whoever was unlucky enough to answer the phone.  The 18 minutes I had to wait for someone to pick up the phone the second time did nothing to help that anger.

So an english speaking woman answered.  I explained the hour plus I had just wasted with the Philippine help desk.  I asked her when Directv implemented foreign tech support centers.  She said it was part of the ATT acquisition.  She apologized for the run around and told me that in the future if I would be connected overseas I can request to be transferred to the US group, supposedly they have to honor that request.  I went through another very lengthy phone call with repeated long hold times.  At the end of it I still was getting 721 errors (not authorized) on the Sunday Ticket channels in the 700 channel range but I was getting channel 212, which she said indicates I was good to go.  She said the other channels should work on Sunday once the game content starts.  I was very skeptical of this and told her as much.  She reiterated it should work fine.  (it actually did work on Sunday)  By the time I hung up I had wasted two hours of my weekend on the phone with DirecTv, thanks!!

So as I was waiting on hold I was flipping through other menus on my satellite receiver, one of which was signal strength.  I noticed the average level was in the mid 70’s (out of 100) which is less than it used to be.  The satellite dish is on the west side of the house and unfortunately is aimed right through one of our oak trees.  Years ago I cut out a bunch of branches in the middle to give me a clearer view of the sky with the dish.  It appeared I needed to do so once again.

In the past I did this work with a pole saw which was a pain in the ass.  I decided to get up close and personal this time, grabbing a ladder and my battery powered reciprocating saw.  I used the ladder to just get me up into the main body of the tree, after that it was me just climbing around, reliving my childhood tree climbing days, something I used to do extensively.  An oak tree body is sort of a gnarled mess with lots of tiny, crisscrossing small branches.  It didn’t take long until one of them ripped open one of the brush burns on my knee, unknowingly sending a stream of blood down my leg.

I first cut away some of the small stuff to give me more room to stand and work without getting scraped/impaled.  I then started working on the large branches that were in the dish line of sight.  I had to be careful with the angles I cut, making sure they made the branches fall in a  way that would not clip the house roof or gutters.  A couple of the branches were sizeable, easily 10-12 feet long.  I diligently hacked away, doing my best to estimate the invisible beam the dish uses to grab signal.  By the time I was done there were over a half dozen large branches on the ground.  When I got down I walked over to the dish to take another look.  The center of the tree had been thinned out considerably.  I verified the success of the work inside, seeing the average signal strength had jumped up to the upper 80’s, good enough.

I then had to dispose of all of the discarded branches.  I pulled the tractor out of the shed and used it to drag the branches to the rear pit one at a time.  I would drive up to a branch, reach down with my hand and grab it, trying to wedge it against the side of the tractor body the best I could.  The branch dragging put my grip strength to the test as some created a lot of ground resistance as I pulled them along.   Eventually I got the mess cleaned up.  Between the nightmare phone calls and tree trimming I have put a lot of effort getting my 2016 Sunday Ticket up and running.  I hope the Eagles are worth it this year.

Saturday night we stayed home and watched Black Mass, a real life story of a Boston based crime group, the head of which is portrayed by Johnny Depp.  The movie gave a very brutal view into the organized crime scene and pulled no punches in depicting the violence involved.  It had a pretty well known cast that helped the level of the film.  Despite it’s very dark background, the movie was  a quality B+ flick in the end.

Sunday morning I once again had the 6AM alarm set so I could get out and run.  This time there was no bald eagle on the light tower to cheer me on but I still covered the four miles at a recent personal best pace of 8:52 per mile.  I again stuck with the shorter stride, faster cadence strategy and it again seemed to work for me.

For the past three weeks I have been the first to show up at the track.  I had been always running in a clockwise direction.  Each week a group of walkers show up later and each time they decided to walk the opposite direction I was running which I found annoying.  I didn’t want to be running at people twice per lap.  So on Sunday I thought if you can’t beat em, join em, I ran counter clockwise.  Once again the group showed up and you guessed it, they decide to now walk around clockwise.  WTF …..

Later in the morning Cindy and I took out the Minipro and the Ninebot One.  We went to a new spot, the Naples Greenway, a beautiful walking/running/trail that was opened up in 2014.   It was the PERFECT spot to ride.  The wide walking paths were great for buzzing along on the Minipros.  We put in over 4 miles on the Minipro.  I then pulled out my EUC and rode another 5 miles while Cindy chilled and read a book.  It was quite the nice way to spend a couple hours in the morning.

We got home shortly before the kickoff for the Eagles game.  Like I said I was pleasantly surprised that the game came through on my receiver without a third call to DirecTv.  I really had no idea what to expect, despite the Eagles 4-0 preseason record.  The surprise trade of Sam Bradford and equally surprising naming of the rookie, Carson Wentz as the day one starter left a whole lot of things up in the air.

Well it didn’t take long for me to start feeling better about things.  Carson Wentz lead the Eagles down the field quickly for the first touchdown pass of his NFL career.  I immediately got a good feeling from the rookie QB.  Despite his lack of playing time in the NFL, I never got a deer in the headlights sense about him.  He seemed calm and in control.  It was also a breath of fresh air to see such a balanced running and passing attack from the Eagles, which resulted in monster time of possession dominance, something that NEVER happened under Chip Kelly courtesy of his hurry up offense.

The defense gave me a really good feeling as well.  Much like Wentz, they just seemed in control.  At no point, even when they were up by 19 points did I get the feeling the Browns had a chance to come back.  The D just seemed to do everything fundamentally well.  During the last decade whenever the Eagles were up by more than two touchdowns it was almost automatic that they would roll into a soft prevent, giving up yards and points by the bushel, not yesterday.

It was one of the best feeling opening day games I can recall in the last 15 years of Eagles football.  Of course this is tempered by the fact that the Browns are not a good football team but even so, the Eagles many. many times have found ways to lose to bad teams.  On Sunday they got ahead and then slammed the door, just like good teams often do.  Of course this doesn’t mean the team is going to excel over the course of the season but I will take it one game at a time.  Based on what I have seen from this one game, I am optimistic.

I usually like to wind down my weekends just relaxing or screwing off.  Instead I followed the Eagles game up with paying my bills followed by mowing the yard, finishing up just as the sun was setting towards the horizon.  When I started mowing I felt grumpy about having to end the weekend with yet another house chore.  By the time I was done my mood was elevated from watching the chickens following me around on the tractor, hoping to devour any bugs the freshly cut grass exposed.  Chickens are funny.