Category: Home Improvements

So I went into my four day weekend with a desire to accomplish certain things so I went back to my reliable paper motivator, writing these items down on a list.  The plan was to start things off Friday by changing the pads on the front brakes of the Prius.  Well that project got sidetracked a bit when I woke up to a mess in the hobby room.

I had glanced in the room to check on the progress of a roughly two day long print of one of my WoW characters.  I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw pure chaos instead.  One of the shelves that was above two of my 3D printers, including the CR-10 in the middle of the two day print had collapsed, falling on top of the printers and spilling the contents of the shelf all over the room.  Of course my print was ruined as the shelf obstructed the CR-10.  I actually felt lucky that the printer didn’t seem to be all that screwed up.  Both Cindy and I were amazed that we did not hear the shelf break and crash during the night.  Based on my security DVR camera it went down around 3:30AM.

I looked at the shelf to see what happened.  I didn’t think I had that much weight on it.  It appeared that the clips that secure it to the wall had failed.  When I looked at the shelf above the failed one I saw one of those two wall clips was starting to pull out as well so I obviously had some work to do.  After I cleaned up the considerable mess I made note of what I would need to redo/strengthen the shelves.  I bought the parts later which included metal clips instead of plastic and I increased the amount of supports and clips by a factor of two.

So I finally got to turn my attention to the Prius mid-morning.  I had changed the pads and rotors on a number of vehicles in the last 10 years so I wasn’t too worried about the technical aspect of it.  I had no pulsation or pulling so I just got the pads, assuming the rotors were fine. (they were)  I went a different route with the pads, paying more than double the price of third party prices to get a hold of a pair of OEM Toyota brake pads.  I am hoping the 200,000+ mile Prius lasts me a another few years so I made the extra investment in parts.

The new pads ironically were the reason for my only real hiccup during the work.  With aftermarket pads you just take them out of the box and slap them in.  With the OEM pads you have to move the metal shields on the back of the pads from the old set to the new, something I did not realize until I already had one side done.  Other than that the job went well although to be honest, the old pads still had about half of their life left.  I’m not sure if it is the regenerative braking a hybrid does or what, but brakes seem to last forever on them.

So the rest of Friday was spent mostly dealing with more aftermath from the shelf collapse.  I ran to Home Depot not once but twice in total.  The first time to get shelf hardware, the second was to pick up ANOTHER six foot workbench.  After talking with Cindy, who had suggested another bench already, we came up with a plan that involved adding a bench to the hobby room and re-utilizing the desk in there for Cindy for her Cameo work.  It a domino affect that had her old smaller desk relocated to the master bedroom where it will be used as a sewing station.  It was funny how the collapse of the shelf lead to this series of events but Cindy and I really like the end result.

Saturday morning I got up and got my run in.  There was another cold front approaching but the temps in the upper 50’s felt comfortable to run in.  After I returned I didn’t waste much time before digging into more of my list, targeting the weeding, weedwhacking, and mowing portion of it.  I had an interruption as I kept fighting with the weed whacker, it would only run in the choke position, which is too fast.  If I used normal throttle it would sputter and die.  I gave up on it and switched to my DeWalt battery powered whacker which is ok but doesn’t have nearly the same power and speed.  I later discovered that one of the fuel lines had a crack in it, giving me something else to add to the list.

I kept busy right up until kickoff time of the Eagles playoff game. I was worried that the Eagles, who posted their best season in a decade or more was going to fall into a one and done scenario, despite being the number one seed in the NFC.  The Falcons actually came into the Linc being the favorites, despite being the number six seed.  Unlike the Eagles that sort of sputtered towards the finish of the year, the Falcons were improving.

The game was very frustrating as turnovers and mistakes were coming at a steady pace.  It felt like the Falcons were more in control for a good portion of the game but even so, the score remained close.  The Eagles slowly clawed their way back from a small deficit but found themselves up by 5 with time running out but the Falcons having the ball.  When the Eagles allowed the Falcons to get a first down on a 4th and 6 I thought to myself, “Here we go again, another year of having our hearts ripped out with a playoff collapse”  It felt that way all the way till the very end when the Falcons were 1st and goal with plenty of time on the clock.  However somehow the Birds managed to keep them out of the endzone, capped off by a dramatic fourth down when Julio Jones, who was killing the Eagles time and again could not come down with a high pass after he had slipped down a moment before.  I clapped my hands and yelled loudly, scaring Elsa whom came over for comfort and to help me celebrate.  It was the most emotion I have felt from football in a long, long time, dating back to the Andy Reid era.

It was a great win and a very exciting way to end my Saturday.  The Vikings, who had an even more dramatic win will be coming into town next week.  I can only hope the Eagles keep finding a way to grind out a win despite less than ideal circumstances.

So Sunday came and I only had one item left on my to do list, “Test Tow”.  For quite awhile I wanted to hook Cindy’s RV up to the Tacoma and tow it around to make sure it was viable.  When Cindy bought the RV I spent $1000 to get a 10,000 pound stabilizing hitch installed on the truck but I had not used it yet, the RV was delivered by the dealership.

During the morning I attended to a few small things around the house like replacing the fuel lines in the weed whacker, a first time thing for me.  It was a bit challenging feeding tube from the inside of the gas tank up to the carb but I figured it out.  The whacker fired up and ran like a champ afterward, better than it has for awhile so I have a feeling the crack was there for awhile.

So after lunch we turned our attention to the RV.  Cindy was obviously nervous about towing her trailer since we have not done so with the Tacoma.  I too had anxiety about the process, not only because I knew that Cindy was worried about her RV but I was worried about my truck and how it would do towing something close to 6000 pounds.  I also had never hooked up the hitch myself, I only watched it being done at the dealership for the test fit.

Cindy headed out before me and made sure the RV was tow ready, putting away loose items and securing other things.  We also figured it would be smart to drain the gray and fresh water tanks as much as possible to cut down on weight.  I then pulled the Tacoma into the yard and backed towards the hitch on the the trailer.  It took a couple tries to get the ball of the hitch lined up with the receiver but it wasn’t quite as precise as I thought it may have had to be.  Because of the design of the receiver, close is normally good enough as it will slide down over the ball once weight is applied.

So after getting the ball secured we had to get the stabilizer bars locked in.  The joints for the bars were very stiff, so stiff that I asked Cindy to go grab some WD-40.  Even with using it I had to use all of my weight to push the bars on either side into place.  The last parts of the process was hooking up the safety chains and then cranking the handle of the receiver jack so that all of the weight of the front of the trailer was supported by the Tacoma.  The back end of the truck dropped a little but not horribly from the load.

So we decided we first would do some test laps around the back of the yard.  I pulled ahead slowly and heard a lot of noise behind me.  Cindy was really concerned but it was just normal noises of the hitch dealing with the very uneven terrain in the yard.  I did a big slow loop and then let Cindy take the truck around as well for a lap.  The Tacoma seemed up to the task so now it was time for stage two, a road test.

This was one of the things I was most nervous about.  The path out of the back yard is tight and the opening in the gate is even tighter.   With Cindy acting as a spotter I slowly pulled the truck and 26 foot trailer out of the backyard with literally an inch or two to spare.  With Elsa in the back seat the three of us headed out onto open road with Cindy’s RV.  She was VERY nervous.

So I had never towed anything nearly this substantial before.  It felt strange as I could feel the truck dealing with the weight of the trailer and the back and forth physics of it.  It also required a realignment of your normal driving position on the road as the trailer is much wider than my Tacoma.  However as the miles passed I got more and more accustomed to the feeling.  We did a big square that included getting up onto the interstate for approximately 5 miles.  That was the only time the truck was not very happy, keeping a pretty steady 4500 RPM to maintain roughly 65 mph.  Even so, it felt capable and pretty stable.

On the way back I surprised Cindy by offering to let her drive the truck.  I actually was surprised as well but my time driving was uneventful enough that I felt Cindy would be fine as well.  She went through much of the same early adjustment weirdness that I did but she drove us all the way home and even drove it back into the driveway and into the backyard.  It was a much more stressful process at the beginning than the end.  We both felt good to know that the mid-size Tacoma, a truck you will hardly ever see towing something that big, is up to the task.  We also felt happy that we were able to complete a 30 mile trip without incident.

Last night we watched the latest Transformers movie.  I’m not sure why I keep hoping that the next Transformer movie will be something different than all the prior sequels, dumb.  Yea there are cool visuals but they only get you so far.  The dialogue, plot, and overall feel of the series just is lame.  I drifted in and out somewhat so maybe that was part of my lack of understanding but I doubt it.  It was one of those movies that I tell Cindy I am glad we didn’t pay $30 to see in a theater to see a B at best flick.

Today is my last day of my extended weekend.  I am hoping to finally overdose on fun things I want to do instead of things I feel I need to do.  3D printing, WoW, and EUCing all should be in the picture in some degree.

 

So I inadvertently opened a very large can of worms yesterday when I tried adding a new wifi range extender to my network.  The purpose was to give my Ring Spotlight Cam a stronger signal.  With my current set up connection to that device was inconsistent and the video stream wasn’t great.  The Netgear repeater is supposed to act as a middleman, you connect it to your existing WiFi and plug it in somewhere in between where your router is and where you want to reach.

So without boring you with the technical details, while I was in my wifi router admin interface I applied the latest and greatest firmware update.  Well the end result of this was my wifi config getting wiped out.  Even though I went back in and changed things back to how they were, as far as my huge collection of wifi enabled devices are concerned, the network they were connected to no longer existed.

It was too late for me to fix it all by the time I realized that pretty much EVERYTHING in my smart home was now dumb.  Unfortunately tonight, which I hoped to spend working on assembling my 3D printer kit will instead be filled with going around the house and reconfiguring wifi on a couple dozen devices. It’s sort of crazy that there is not an easier way to address this but it surely makes me very hesitant to want to swap out my wifi router anytime soon.

Last night I did my second YouTube live stream.  Cindy was home so she jumped in as well during parts of the broadcast.  It’s sort of fun directly interacting with some of my channel subscribers from all over the world.  I hope to do it more often.

 

The four day holiday weekend truly rolled by in a flash, filled with lots of good times.  It was a near perfect conclusion to what may be some of my most memorable 10 day spans as an adult.    Friday morning my goal was to try to attend to most of the must do’s so the majority of the weekend was clear.  I weeded the yard, repaired the automatic chicken coop door, and replaced the section of screen on the one lanai door that Sadie tore through a few days prior.

Randall was also due to arrive Friday around 5 for a brief visit. The main focus of his visit was for us to finally get out to see Star Wars which I bought reserved seats for at Prado, our new favorite theater.  We decided to eat dinner there as well since they have a pretty robust menu.  Cindy and I never took the time to eat there but we were pleasantly surprised, the food was pretty outstanding.  I also was pretty surprised when the bartender said the tab for Randall and my beer was $20.  My Miller Lite was $5 but they evidently yank you for $15 for a draft IPA, geezus.

This was the first time we took Randall to this theater and it seemed like he approved.  The good food combined with the reclining leather seats are a hard combo to beat.  SPOILER, skip ahead a couple paragraphs if you don’t want any Star Wars commentary.  So anyway Randall approved of the theater but I wouldn’t say he approved of the movie, a sentiment all three of us shared.  It just was dumb in so many ways.  Visually of course it was superb and one of my favorite parts of the movie were the alien wildlife that was injected into the film.  Of course if that is a highlight of a movie, that isn’t saying a lot about the plot, dialogue, and acting.

I really don’t get it.  It’s my understanding that they shot all three of the movies from the reboot at the same time.  I thought The Force Awakens was GREAT and did a fine job of capturing the essence of the original three Star Wars movies from the 70’s-80’s.  I thought Rogue One stepped down a few notches and unfortunately The Last Jedi drops all the way down to a B level movie for me.  I just don’t understand how a similar group of people could produce movies that to me, vary drastically in quality.  If I was only allowed one word to describe The Last Jedi it would be, disappointing.

Even with the less than fulfilling movie we all had fun going out.  When we got home we made Randall open his gifts from us which included a national sarcasm society t-shirt, a funny coffee connoisseur mug (Randall is The Coffee Avenger), and an EUC stand that I 3D printed for him.  Cindy had to teach class on Saturday morning so Randall and I laid out a tentative game plan where I would get up early and run and then he and I could push out for Ave Maria with he on two wheels while I made due with only one.

The Saturday run went fine.  The temps in the low 60’s were nice but because of the thick fog I still was soaked from condensation by the time I was finished.  When I got home I tended to the chickens before Randall had emerged from the bedroom.  Some of the chickens have been acting odd recently.  Each night we always have to place a few of them up on the perch.  Some of them instead decide to stand on the nesting box area while some have even been on the floor.

I’m not sure what is going on but my first guess is maybe the effort to get up on the perch is starting to be too much for some.  Lucy, our oldest chicken has been on the floor the last few days.  To hopefully address the problem I modified the ladder position so there is less of a final jump required for them to get onto the main perch.  If certain hens keep struggling we may have to do further alterations. I was really worried about Peaches over the weekend because she was acting very low energy.  She seemed to rebound somewhat yesterday but with chickens you just never know, they can go downhill suddenly and quickly.

So anyway, it was still quite foggy when Randall came out.  We decided we should go grab some DD coffee with the dogs to allow the fog to burn off.  Elsa and Sadie were quite excited by our choice.  Our plan worked out well, by the time we got back it was sunny and clear.

I had once before done an EUC/Road Bike thing when Randall and I did the 20 mile DD ride.  At that time I used my Msuper to tackle the distance.  The Ave Maria ride is a full 10 miles farther so my only viable option was the big 22″ Monster that sports a 1600wh battery.  For the first 5 miles of the ride Randall was in the lead of our two vehicle pelaton however there was a pretty nasty headwind.  I suggested to Randall that I pull in front since being the wind breaker only consumed battery power for me instead of calories.  He welcomed the switch.

The Monster did surprisingly well, Randall said for a good portion of the ride out we were pacing 20+ mph INTO the wind, something I could never do on a road bike.  My upright body on the wheel also made for a nice air pocket Randall could draft inside of, making his ride more tolerable.  We made good time out to Ave Maria and enjoyed a drink at the local coffee shop.  On the way back that headwind transformed into a tail wind which helped us keep up the speed.  During the last couple miles Randall dropped the hammer to finish the strong.  No matter how hard he pushed I was able to keep up on the Monster.  He showed his top speed as being over 23mph.

Cindy picked up Publix subs that we enjoyed for lunch.  Mid-afternoon Randall and I headed out again, this time with HIS Ninebot EUC to go ride at the greenway.  My feet and calves were extremely sore from running followed by the Ave Maria ride but I would had to be crippled to not go out again.  I brought my Mten3 this time.  Randall and I had a good time cruising around there, a spot I never took him to before.  At the end of the ride I suggested a small change he could make in his riding style to give him better agility and control.  He practiced in the parking lot and by the end of the ride was doing much better.

When we got home the three of us had a rather funny photo shoot out by Cindy’s RV.  Randall had his redneck costume in the car that he used for my birthday video and suggested we utilize it.  Cindy loves to dress up and I threw on my camo t-shirt from 7th grade to go along with camo shorts and Crocs.  We took several very funny shots that became instant classics.  Randall headed out shortly after the photo shoot as we had a holiday party to attend held by Cindy’s work.  It was a short visit but jam packed with memories which is all you can want.

So Christmas Eve once again was pretty busy, well more so for Cindy than for me as she had a lot of meal prep to do.  I had just a couple of loose ends to tie up for my holiday shopping needs which I did in the morning.  Later in the afternoon Cindy dropped me off at Vineyards Park to ride the Mten while she dropped some stuff off at her mom’s place.

I spent over an hour tooling around the park practicing various skills on the small but powerful wheel.  My lower body was still hurting from all the riding the day before but I didn’t care.  It’s such a fun wheel to ride.

Another thing I spent considerable time on over the weekend was extracting the video Cindy produced and getting them on YouTube.  It was hard for people to pay much attention to or hear the video at the party itself.  I made two versions, one is the original version from the party and the second is shorter with some cleaned up audio and some footage from the party itself.

We spent Christmas Eve watching the live broadcast of A Christmas Story, the broadway adaptation of the popular Christmas movie.  I normally cringe at musicals but I found the show fun, entertaining and a nice way to spend the last few hours before the big day.

I have never been good at sleeping in on Christmas Day and despite now being a half century old, that tradition continued on.  I was up and out of bed by 5:30.  By the time Cindy got up at 7 I had already done some more video editing and played some WoW.  Before we started opening presents I got the chicken coop cleaning out of the way.  I gave the hens Xmas gifts they always appreciate, greens from the garden, cracked corn, and some dried mealworms.

As is the case every year, the Christmas tree was decked out with ample presents, although the presents only appeared the night before.  Because of Elsa potentially digging into things the presents have been living in the hobby room and the tree has spent most of the season encased in a chair barrier which I have not been thrilled about.  It was nice to finally see the tree as it should be.

Cindy and I had good time opening presents to each other and from my family.  I made out well scoring clothing, power tools, gadgets, books and 3D printer filament and lots of it.  I think in total I now have 7 or 8 fresh rolls which will keep my printers chugging along for the foreseeable future.

Cindy was happy and surprised by her gifts, the biggest of which was a Silhouette Cameo 3, a craft “printer” that will allow Cindy to do some extremely cool things once she learns how to use it.  Another noteworthy item was an Amazon Echo Show that adds a video screen to the already impressive Echo features.  I wasted little time before configuring it.  We both noticed immediately that the speaker in the Show sounded noticeable better than the original Echo.

Once the opening extravaganza was done Cindy had to dive back into meal prep while I started working on post Xmas clean up duties.  It can be a lengthy process that includes finding a home for all the new items as well as disposing of all the wrapping paper and cardboard.  By the time I was done the dining room was pretty clear.

Cindy’s daughter and her boyfriend showed up late in the morning to open gifts.  Once again this year I went a little crazy and bought Katie her second EUC as in many years, a Mten3.  She has loved mine since I first let her try it and I knew she would get so much enjoyment bang for the buck from the gift.  It made me happy to see the big smile on her face as she unwrapped it.

Cindy and I did some rearranging of the great room for the family meal.  Instead of eating at the big dining table like years past we ate in the great room and sort of arranged things like we do for the fantasy football draft party.  Cindy’s family started showing up around 2:30.  It was her brother, sister-in-law, two nieces, nephew, mom and Katie that showed up in total.  There was a TON of food as you would expect and everything was delicious although I of course ate more than my recommended caloric intake.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, the house felt warm and “Christmasy”, a feeling I always hope for.  After the meal gifts were exchanged and we even had everyone outside riding around on the Segways while Katie, Cindy, and I rode our EUCs.  There were smiles and laughter throughout the entire get together which is all you can hope for.

Most of the crew left by 6.  Cindy’s other neice Taylor wasn’t able to get out there until closer to 7-7:30 but we had a nice time with her as well.  She is one of the most put together 17 year olds I have known.  She has a bright future ahead of her for sure.

Cindy and I both worked diligently on clean up, striving to get the house somewhat close to normal before heading to bed.  I took a shower and flipped on the bedroom tv to watch the Eagles game.  Starting out in bed was a mistake, I began dozing off before the second quarter started and I was out like a light before the end of the first half.  I was glad to see the Eagles pulled off what seemed to be an ugly win in the end, securing a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  I can only hope they take advantage of it in the end.

I awoke today feeling a bit of my normal post Christmas sadness.  It happens every year but felt a bit stronger this time around.  Not only did today mark the end of Christmas but it also was the culmination of a very special period of time that started with my birthday trip north and the incredible surprise party that I was treated to.  This holiday season has been the best one I have experienced in a long time and to see it pass is a bummer.  I will do my best to keep the Christmas good energy going all year around.

 

 

 

So my crazy short two day work week concludes today.  This time of year not a whole lot of work gets done so being in the office is not much of a chore.  The way Christmas falls this year we wind up having to go back to work the day after Christmas which is a bit of a bummer.  I always like having the day after Christmas off to clean up and play with my new toys. 🙂

So slowly but surely I have been building my YouTube channel which is creeping towards a 1000 video library.  In addition to getting paid ad revenue directly via YouTube I have been working other revenue streams that content creators can utilize.  One of those has been my becoming an Amazon Affiliate which is basically a referral program.  What I do is if a video has items I bought from Amazon I mention it in the video and include a special link directly to the item in the video description.  If a viewer uses that link to go to the product and buys it I get a small spiff.  Well evidently a LOT of people have used those links recently.  My last spiff from Amazon was over $180 for the last 30 days, wow.

I also was recently contacted by a very large Chinese electronics retailer, GearBest.  They are the company I bought my CR-10 from.  They offered me to be an affiliate as well which can result in more dollars if people buy from their links.  In addition, they often send content creators items to review on video.  They are sending me a couple things to review already and yes, you get to keep them.  The direct and indirect money flowing in from my YouTube channel has grown drastically in the last year, more than doubling.  I can hardly wait to see what I can do in 2018.

I’m looking forward to an enjoyable four day weekend.  Randall is shooting over for a quick visit tomorrow where we will finally get out to see Star Wars.  The rest of the weekend should be conventional family holiday activity with smiles, fun, and food.  Of course there will be chores to be done, headlined by fixing the screen panel that Sadie decided to turn into a door yesterday.  Merry Christmas everyone.

 

So I took off Friday to give me an extra day to get stuff done as my mental list was feeling too large for a conventional two day weekend.  I got a headstart on the list Thursday when I got home from work.  I dug into replacing all three internal fans on my CR-10 as they were extremely noisy and known to be of subpar quality.  As usual I ran into snags along the way and as usual I eventually found a way to circumvent them, although not necessarily in the best way.

A good portion of my Friday was consumed doing full grass maintenance.  I weeded, weed whacked, and mowed the yard for hopefully the last time before Christmas.  It felt odd that I was hot and sweaty in the 85 degree weather, knowing the drastic reversal in temperature that was forecast to blow in.  I brought Elsa along with me to go pick up the replacement lanai screen door at Home Depot.  You know, the door that a sixth of a price of what the screen contractor wanted to charge me?  On the way home I picked up Sadie for another weekend visit, something Elsa was beyond excited about.

So early Saturday morning Cindy and I were awakened by lightning, rain, and thunder from the cold front that was sweeping through the area.  The storms were approaching summer-like severity.  I had originally planned to get up and run Saturday morning but the cold rain killed that plan rather quickly.  I decided to substitute a 30 minute session on the rower which brings a different sort of pain than running.

Cindy was teaching classes Saturday morning so I kept myself busy around the house tending to more of my to do list.  Part of that list was having my 3D printers working overtime.  There are TONS of awesome 3D modeled Christmas items out there and I was printing a bunch of them, reindeer, Xmas trees, ornaments, you name it, I was trying to print it.  Later in the weekend Cindy hand painted a bunch of what I printed making it’s coolness level go up another few notches.

Once the rain slowed down mid-morning I took the dogs outside.  I saw Elsa shoot off behind the garden.  She was drawn to something moving on the ground.  I immediately called her off and went closer to investigate.  I stood there in amazement for a sec when I saw it was a catfish.  However a second later I remembered that this has happened several times since I have lived in Florida.

I remember the first time I saw this phenomenon I thought that somehow the fish got sucked up into the clouds and came down with the rain.  I later found out that these are “walking catfish”, a non-native species that has the ability to actually “walk” and breathe air for a short period of time as long as their gills stay wet.  They will leave water to relocate if they deem it necessary.

My quick thought was because of all the rain this catfish decided it was a good chance to pick up and move although I wondered where he was moving from since he was about 20 feet behind the garden when I spotted him.  Well of course I couldn’t let him flopping around out there so I went and grabbed a small plastic container and scooped him up, figuring I would put him in the fill pit in the rear of the property which has a ton of water still in it.

So as I walked towards the back fence line I spotted another catfish, and another, and another.  Evidently they all had the same idea.  By the time I was done, I had collected and transported about 20 of the fish back to water.  Most of them went in the fill pit but I also put a handful into the small pond near the house.  If you never have seen walking fish before, it should be on your bucket list.

On Saturday afternoon Cindy and I were back at Home Depot.  Last week on the way out we had spotted this nice pre-assembled wood workbench that we commented about how it might be a nice addition to the hobby room.  I measured a space on the wall I saw I had exactly six feet, the length of the bench.  After we got back I immediately dug into getting the room rearranged.  In the process I knocked the EUC shelf down which in turn broke one of my 3D printed stands.  Of course I simply reprinted the broken piece.

It took awhile to get things shuffled around but the end result was worth the effort.  The room feels much less crowded.  Everything has a space and the one hobby desk that used to be consumed by two printers now is clean and open to be used as needed.  Cindy was very happy with the end result as well.

On Sunday morning it was cold, very cold with temps in the mid 40’s.  Despite substituting a hard rower session for running on Saturday, my inner taskmaster said I still needed to get out and run.  I did not dress for the temps, adorning a short and t-shirt, just like any other day, figuring my internal engine would keep me warm.

Well the first mile or so was miserable.  Not only was it cold, it was windy making a half of each lap extra frigid as the cold air pushed against my exposed skin.  Even as I finished the 13th lap I was still yet to break a sweat.  It felt good to push through the weather and complete my second endurance training in as many days.  With my trip to PA this upcoming weekend I won’t get a run in so that was part of my motivation to get out there, no matter what.

So even though it was cold, I wanted to get a ride in.  I came up with the idea of doing a one way ride to Dunkin Donuts on my Msuper where I could meet Cindy so she could go run some errands.  When I left the thermometer at the house read 49 degrees which I believe is the coldest air I have ever one wheeled in.  I was bundled up with three layers up top although I still had on my trusted camo shorts.  At first it didn’t feel too bad but by the time I pulled into DD it felt like rigamortis was settling in, I was frozen.  I’m not sure if Dunkin Donuts coffee every tasted better as it helped thaw me from the inside.

Cold was the word of the day.  The temp never got out of the 50’s which is highly unusual.  I kept those same three layers on all day long, indoors and out, and still felt chilled.  Despite the temps I had one last major to do on my mental list, installing the new screen door.

Installation took longer than expected.  I had to make a run to the hardware store midway to buy a new set of hinges as well since the old pair was bent from the force of Irma, which was causing the door to not close properly.  The frame of the cage surrounding the door has a lean to it as well which I really can’t do much about but the door at least closes and latches securely, something that has not been the case for the last three months.

I finished up just as the Eagles came started up.  It was a great and exciting game with a favorable Eagles outcome on the scoreboard but not in the big picture.  Carson Wentz went out in the second half with a potentially serious knee injury.  Nick Foles came in and was competent in running the team which doesn’t surprise me.  I always liked Nick and he has that one MONSTER year in Philly so I know he has the ability to play well.  However losing Wentz for the rest of the season would still be a huge blow to the Eagles long term chances during a year where it seemed like they just may have what it takes to finally bring home the ultimate prize.

I can only hope it isn’t the ACL tear that many news outlets are speculating this morning.  When I saw the hit that caused the injury real time I immediately winced as it looked like Carson went from full speed to zero when he hit the defender.  It almost looked like his body hit a brick wall.

So the rest of my 2017 is going to be abbreviated as I won’t have a full work week until 2018 rolls around.  There will be much to attend to, to celebrate, and reflect upon for sure.

 

 

 

This time of year it is normal for every evening to be accompanied with a pile of boxes at the door, either gifts we bought for others or something that was sent for us.  Last night was no different except one box didn’t have anything present related it was projects for me to work on.

One of the annoying things about the CR-10 is it is extremely noisy.  One big contributor to that noise are the fans in the control box.  One in particular sounds like it has spun it’s bearing and is about to blow apart. In total there are three fans in the case so I plan to replace all three of them while I am in there as it is well documented the fans in the CR-10 are very low quality.

I also received a replacement battery kit for an iPhone 6. I ordered it when Cindy’s phone apparently died over the weekend as a possible solution.  Her phone has since resuscitated itself but I am considering just doing the replacement on my 2-3 year old iPhone 6.  The battery life on my phone has gone down significantly in recent months so I figured replacing mine would be a way to address it and practice on my phone so if I need to do something on Cindy’s the bumps in the road should be identified and smoothed out.  I’ve watched a video on the process and read the included directions.  It’s delicate work but but not significantly harder than the many laptops I have ripped into during my hardware repair career.

Yesterday I took a big chunk out of my Xmas shopping requirements which is always a good feeling, until I start totaling up my spending during my weekly bill reconciliation session.  The one thing that makes Xmas spending more tolerable is years ago when Ali and I were still married, we implemented a “Gifts” budget column which gets contributed to every pay period.  The end result is when the holidays come around I have a decent chunk of change already set aside to help offset Xmas spending.

So my mental list of things I want to work on this weekend is pretty swollen.  Since I will be gone the following weekend, in my mind it adds to the priority of getting shit done.  On top of the normal chores which will include full grass maintenance, I want to do things like get the fans installed, the replacement screen door from Home Depot, more pool cage fastener/bracket replacement, and maybe take a whack at iPhone battery replacement.  Instead of trying to wedge all that into a normal weekend I am planning to take tomorrow off to give myself a nice head start on the list. Should be fun.

 

 

Saturday morning I got up before my 5:45 alarm to get out and get my run in.  The air again was pleasantly cool which made for a more tolerable running experience.  The 13 laps went by fine and as has been the case for the last few months it was just me and the crickets out there on the track.

Cindy was teaching classes Saturday morning which meant I was left to my own taskmaster vices.  I buzzed around the house, inside and out tending to various things on my mental to do list.  When Cindy got home we piled into the Tacoma with Sadie and Elsa to head to Home Depot.  One of the things I wanted to look at there was screen doors, the type used on our pool cage.  I was unsure if Home Depot would carry them or not.

Well I may have mentioned, the screen contractor that I terminated my relationship with quoted a price of $500 to replace the door on the east side of the cage that was bent and twisted from Irma.  Of course I thought this was high but I did not get a true appreciation for just how outrageous it was until Saturday. A brand new door was less than $80.  I knew I didn’t have the time to install the door this past weekend so I didn’t grab it right away but you can be assured I will be doing so shortly.  I likely may replace the other door as well so I have a new matching set.  Even with replacing two I’ll still be miles ahead of the quote for a single door replacement.  I feel badly for people that don’t do any legwork to confirm if a contractor is being straight up with you or just feeding you a mountain of bullshit to justify overpriced goods and services.

Late Saturday afternoon I decided to take my Mten over to the school, the perfect place to practice and experiment with the little, yet powerful wheel.  I had a lot of fun attempting and being successful with tricks/moves that I wouldn’t even dare to try with my larger conventional EUC’s.  I was glad I got to ride Saturday because we didn’t have time on Sunday to get out.

During the day I had the 3D printers working hard.  I printed another geometric Xmas tree, in a more festive green.  I also printed a bunch of gifts for Cindy’s nephew Owen including Harry Potter glasses, a wand, Minecraft keychains, and a cool target for Nerf guns.

Saturday night Cindy and I watched King Arthur, our latest Netflix rental.  The movie put a hip, modern spin on a very old story.  I found it entertaining but not mind blowing.  It was a solid B rental for me.

So Sunday was going to be a very busy day.  We were going to the Miami area to attend Owen’s birthday party.  Cindy had a mini-emergency when her Iphone 6 appeared to go DOA, only showing the red battery indicator and little else, despite being on the charger all night.  We tried a number of tricks found on the internet to revive it, including heating the back of the phone with a hair dryer, which worked briefly.  However we were unsuccessful.  Oddly when we returned from the east coast the phone magically started working again but it clearly has some sort of battery related issue.

I did my weekly bill paying session and then we quickly ran to the pool store and Dunkin Donuts before we had to get ready to leave.  We picked up Cindy’s niece Taylor on the way whom we don’t get to see that much of.  It was nice to have her along to keep us company.  Taylor is extremely intelligent and should have a very bright future in front of her.

The drive across state took a little less than two hours and was uneventful.  The most challenging part of it was staying awake as I had a very poor night of sleep on Saturday.  When we approached Cindy’s sister-in-law and brother’s place we were astonished that the street in front of their house was barricaded off because a HUGE inflatable obstacle course that was in middle of the road.  Both Cindy and I wondered if they had to get a permit for that or if the rental company just does it first and begs for forgiveness later.

I really had no idea of what to expect of the party.  It turned out to be quite large with a couple dozen kids running around like crazy.  The obstacle course got used heavily.  I hadn’t eaten lunch so I quickly started chowing down on chips and caramel corn, not my normal diet.  I soon felt gross for consuming so much fat, salt, and sugar in a short period of time.

I didn’t know 90% of the people there but I still did an ok job being somewhat social.  I was talking to one guy who seemed very nice but I had to do my best to conceal my inner cringe and disapproval of how much he loved duck and quail hunting.  He said his son loves it too.

I understand that people are a product of their environment.  If you were brought up in a family where hunting is just another activity I understand why the act of killing an animal may seem insignificant to you.  However the same applies to someone like me who never hunted, and never even fired a real gun.  To me, the act of willingly ending the life of an animal in a first person manner is pretty horrible.  However, the reasonable adult in me realizes that the right/wrong gauge for everyone is personalized and I do my best to let “to each its own” be the motto I generally try to live by.

I had a good time at the party watching all the young energy running rampant among us.  Owen seemed to really like the 3D stuff we made for him as he is currently a huge Harry Potter fan.  We left shortly after the pinata smashing festivities concluded with Owen’s half brother Ryan exploding the pinata with one hard swing.

On the ride back to the west coast we picked up another passenger, Cindy’s other niece Stephanie.  The girls kept the roughly 100 mile ride home entertaining.  We rolled back into the driveway about 6:30 or so.

My poor night of sleep combined with going to one side of the state to the other and back again in a little more than six hours was going to make watching the Eagles game challenging.  I actually fell asleep on the couch from early in the second quarter until about 11 minutes left in the third quarter.

If you read the scores today you see the 24-10 loss posted by the Birds.  It was a disappointing effort for sure but really from what I saw, there were a few key things that could have easily changed that outcome.  The Eagles were called on a TON of penalties, many of which came at the worst time, allowing the Seahawks to extend drives, drives that eventually lead to scores, instead of punting the ball away. Carson made some great plays but also some bad ones.  He continued his rather worrisome trait of randomly overthrowing wide open receivers and committed a soul crushing fumble at the 10 inch line, robbing the Eagles of another scoring opportunity.   The coaching staff seemed asleep at the wheel as well at times, failing to throw a red flag on an attempted lateral that clearly was a forward pass, once again allowing the Seahawks to drive down the field and score.  It seemed to be an equal opportunity case of sloppiness.

To the Seahawks credit, Russell Wilson had an outstanding game.  The Eagles got pressure on the pocket consistently most of the night but his elusiveness made it very difficult to pin him down.  Seattle also seemed very adept at running pick plays that had the Eagles d-backs running into each other all night long. In the big picture it might be a good thing for the Birds to have an ugly game at this point in the season.  The hope is it will wake them up a bit and bring the type of focus that is needed to really do something big this year.

Elsa is still cute, in case you were wondering.

 

So yesterday I finally started moving forward with hurricane repairs after being in a circling pattern for two and a half months trying to get a check in my hand from my homeowner’s insurance.  I contacted the roofing company and officially booked the work which likely won’t happen until June. I now have the joy of sending them a $5000 deposit for the work.

I also had a back and forth email discussion/argument with the contractor that gave me the estimate for pool cage work.  I asked if the quote he gave included replacing the pool fasteners since an article on his website said the job normally would be about $3400, including the fasteners.  He said the $4600 quote did not include that, to do the fasteners would be an additional $2400.  I lol’d at my screen when I saw that.  The guys argument is their costs have escalated dramatically since the storm for materials and labor hence the dramatic price increases.

I do realize the costs of screening has gone up just based on what I have seen in my efforts to temporarily fix our screen.  But to expect me to pay double the going rate 8 months ago just doesn’t fly with me.  I told the guy thanks but no thanks.  The bottom line is I have the lanai area more or less sealed in from my efforts.  I am going to try to find a replacement screen door on my own.  As far as the screen repair/replacement goes I have several ideas.

I can simply wait it out so the prices can eventually normalize.  I can have some less established outfit rescreen the cage for less money or I can replace just the damaged panels myself.  The majority of the four year old screen is ok albeit a bit stretched.  I could just repair the 10 or less sections that were gone/damaged and let the rest ride as is.  I’m not sure what route I will wind up taking but I don’t feel any time crunch to get it done asap.

So as much of the country, I was shocked to see the firing of Matt Lauer yesterday, an iconic figurehead in NBC’s morning news team.  Like most people, to me Matt always had a pretty squeaky clean persona.  It is becoming clear that that was more of a facade.  Off camera he apparently was a horny, aggressive, and inappropriate hound with women.

This phenomenon of EVERYONE stepping forward to out inappropriate/unwanted sexual behavior has a little too much “me too-ism” in it.  There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder why this behavior was not flagged when it happened if it was truly seen as offensive by the accuser.  Only stepping out under this umbrella of literally dozens of high profile accusations that in some cases points back to something decades ago just strikes me as more opportunistic than oppression in some examples.

Don’t misunderstand my skepticism regarding the intention of certain accusers as condoning anything these men have been accused of.  It’s never acceptable for “locker room talk” to be carried out in execution nor is it cool for a person in a position of power to use it to coerce the opposite sex into sexual situations or assuming they will tolerate sexual  advances/statements.

It will be interesting to see who is next on the hit list.  I bet Bill Cosby is smiling ear to ear nowadays.

So I left a little early from work so I could get to the credit union before it closed.  I wanted to try to get my check from the insurance company deposited.  I went in there ready for battle based on my experience in 2005 when the bank refused to let me deposit the check into my account and instead would only authorize cutting another check in the contractor’s name.  I did not like that arrangement at all as I felt like I was the one paying the mortgage, I was the one paying for homeowners insurance, I should be the one to control how those funds are dispersed.

The credit union was standing room only, all of the chairs were filled by other people waiting for bank services.  I took up residence in a corner until a chair came open.  My name was called maybe 15 minutes later by a nice young woman.  I already was imagining how it would be difficult for me to flip on “dick mode” on someone with such a pleasant disposition.  I explained to her what I wanted to do, just deposit the check in my account.  I was surprised when I was not presented with an immediate red flag.  Instead she asked me a few questions like if I had the work done yet and when I told her no, she asked if I picked out contractors yet.  I answered her questions but was worrying they were going to lead up to the “sorry the checks have to go in the contractors name” response.

Instead several more questions were asked and it seemed like I was in the clear.  She said all she had to do was to get her manager’s ok and I should be good to go.  I held my breath one last time, hoping she would not return with her manager in tow to tell me, “Sorry you can’t just deposit the check”.  Instead the clerk returned with a smile on her face and asked which account I wanted the funds deposited to, sweet! I’m not sure why I didn’t have the same issues as before, my best guess is because I paid off my main mortgage already the bank exposure is now significantly less than 12 years ago.

I left there relieved that the battle I prepared for never came to be.  Having the funds in my account will allow me to disperse them as needed.  I may actually be using a different contractor to do the pool screen work as it has become obvious the place that quoted me is price gouging the f out of me based on their own website.  On that site it talks about how the average cost to recreen AND replace all the fasteners on a 20′ x 40′ pool enclosure (about my size) is roughly $3400.  They quoted me $4600 to replace one door and just rescreen with no fastener replacement.  So I emailed this contractor this morning to verify the quote included full fastener replacement as well.  If the answer is no then they can go f themselves instead of trying to f me.

I also reached out to the roofing contractor this morning and sent in a signed contract.  Unfortunately right now it looks like the earliest roof work can begin is June, which does not surprise me.  Our neighbor has opted to have one of the out of town roofers that have been flooding our area do their roof.  They are scheduled to start very soon on their house. I just would not feel warm and fuzzy about handing that amount of money over to an out of state business who will likely be invisible/unreachable once the work is complete.  Their quote was cheap, cheaper than any I have seen but when it comes to core components of my house I am willing to pay a little extra for piece of mind.

I fell asleep like a rock last night but unfortunately awoke like a feather at roughly 4AM this morning.  I rolled around a bit trying to force myself back to sleep but gave up about 4:45.  I got up and played some WoW, luckily no matter what time of day there is always someone in there from around the world, ready to engage.

So as Cindy and I were watching this week’s episode of the Walking Dead on X1 the house suddenly went black.  When it stayed that way for more than 10 seconds I knew it meant there was something more than the occasional power burp going on.  We sat tight and actually finished watching Walking Dead as the power in the UPS was enough to drive the AV set up for about 45 minutes.  Normally I would have stopped the show and turned everything off but X1 has this annoying glitch, without internet connection you can basically do nothing on the box, not even pause a recorded show.  I shit you not.

So we verified our entire surrounding area was dark.  After a half hour of darkness we decided to take some action.  I told Cindy I could easily set up the generator to power the RV.  I was due to run the generator for a period of time anyway as preventative maintenance so it was an easy decision.  With Cindy handling a flashlight so I could see I gassed up the tank maybe a quarter of the way and started it up, on the first pull no less.

The RV makes for a very comfortable no house power retreat since it is easily powered by a single extension cord.  With the cool air no AC was needed and everything else in there worked, including TV.  While Cindy got situated in the RV I grabbed my Mten to ride around out front a bit to survey the situation.  I verified our entire road looked dark.  I rode down to Immokalee and saw the street lights were on which is right about where FPL service picks up, we have LCEC.

When I joined Cindy in the RV I went on the LCEC outage map and saw a HUGE area in red.  I read later that somewhere around 90,000 homes were affected.  We chilled out in the RV for probably another half hour until I saw our Xmas lights click back on by the house indicating utility power had returned.  I was totally comfortable hanging out there, with the slide out living room combined with the copious amount of windows in the RV, you never get the feel of being confined. I headed back towards the house and undid all of the temporary provisions, glad the 90 minute outage didn’t turn into something longer that would have required additional power wrangling.

Yesterday in the mail I finally received my second check from my insurance company which was for the revised amount I had been fighting for.  I was glad that what they originally told me, that I would be getting three checks with two of them having contractor names as co-signers was not the case.  It’s just one check for the entire amount with my name and my credit union’s name on it.  I am glad because I am leaning towards not using the contractor that gave the screen estimate as it appears that they have more than doubled what they would normally charge for the job based on my research.

I have one more potential hassle to deal with.  When I got the check for damages after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 again the check was made out to my name and the banks name.  When I took it in to get it deposited/endorsed the bank gave me a big hassle and would not let me deposit the funds, they would only allow a new check to be cut in the contractors name that was rebuilding the pool cage.  I suppose it was their way of ensuring the work was done, protecting THEIR investment.  Of course this strong arm tactic didn’t sit well with me then.

Well this time it is more complicated since I have two contractors involved and the way it works is you pay them a percentage of the overall work when the job is contracted, partially done and then the balance on completion.  If the bank thinks I am going to go to them to cut a check for each time this is necessary they are going to have a big fight on their hands.  I understand their intent but as a customer who has already satisfied the primary mortgage on the property, has a stellar credit score, and has done nothing but exhibit responsible home owner behavior over the last 16 years, I am going to push that a little common sense is applied on their part and they just sign the check, let me deposit the funds and draw from it as I need to fund the repairs.  The fact that I am actually going to be upgrading the roof beyond it’s original construction hopefully will be another chip in my favor.

This morning when I let Elsa out she made a bee line towards the back of the shed which was unusual.  Once she got there she froze and was  staring at the fence line.  I had no idea what she was doing.  All of a sudden she bolted towards the fence and I heard a noise.  As I focused I saw a large racoon scurrying up one of the palm trees on the other side of the fence, apparently scared of Elsa even though she was on the other side of the four foot fence.  When I walked towards the tree the racoon scurried down and disappeared into the brush.  I was surprised a raccoon, the killer of three of our chickens, would be out and about as daylight broke.  Elsa seemed quite proud of her guard dog abilities afterward.