Category: Home Improvements

On Saturday Cindy and I drug ourselves out of bed with a 6AM alarm to go run at the track.  I ran the track last week solo and wound up averaging a very pedestrian 10 min mile pace according to my Garmin 301 watch.  In the span of  a week that pace dropped to 9:10 according to the same watch, the only difference being that I had a running partner this time.

From all my years in the running club I guess I always knew that running with others makes a difference but this made that point crystal clear.  When you do endurance training with someone else you both push each other, without even trying.  I’ve talked several times about what being in a race does to me.  You almost feed off the energy of others around you and the end result is you perform better than you would by yourself.  It’s a simple truth.

When we got home I immediately rolled into chores, completing the weeding and weed whacking before eating the omelet Cindy had prepared for me.  We had to stick around the house during the morning so I could meet up with the project manager from the roofing company.  The finish mismatch on the one side of the roof I complained about had already pretty much disappeared .

There was another thing I complained about that I didn’t think they would resolve, the hump.  Ever since the house was built in 2001 there has been a hump on the front facing section of the roof.  It’s something I didn’t notice during construction but became apparent soon afterward.  It was just another example of the half assed way the builder constructed the house.

Well anyway, I assumed when the roof was redone the hump would be addressed although I did not explicitly point it out.  I thought it was rather obvious.  Well it wasn’t addressed as you can see in the picture.  However I did mention it to my PM, saying I assumed they would fix this during the reroof.  I said this figuring it was sort of pointless since the metal was already down in this section.

Well I only realized on Friday that the hump was gone.  The PM actually had them fix it which I assume meant removing the roof panel and underlayment in that section and fixing whatever was causing the hump.  All I know is the front of the roof of the house for the first time in 17 years no longer has an unsightly bulge in it.  I was very pleasantly surprised.

The only other item we were concerned with was a dirt/grease mark on the back of the roof.  Mark climbed up there with a rag and was easily able to wipe it off, he said it looked like a footprint.  Why the roofers wouldn’t have wiped that up themselves is a question mark but it looks good now which is all that matters.

Mark gave me some tips for the new roof that has a 5 year workmanship warranty and a 25 year warranty on the metal.  I was afraid I couldn’t walk on it without leaving dents in the metal.  He said walking on it is fine but you have to be extremely careful because if the roof is wet at all it will be like ice.  He said the way to walk on it is to step on the screws to keep your feet secure, which surprised me.  He also warned me about not letting the branches from the nearby oak tree touch the roof.  He said if that happens for any length of time the roof will turn black in that spot and it’s nearly impossible to reverse once it happens.  There were a few branches within a couple feet of the roof which lead to the afternoon’s most exciting project.

Before that project began we took Sadie and Elsa along with us to Tractor Supply.  We love Rural King but I actually prefer the chicken feed that TS sells.  It’s higher quality and organic.  We wound up buying a bunch of other stuff while we were there.  We had fun perusing.  We dropped Sadie back off at Ali’s place on the way home after a week long visit.  We hung and talked to Shug’s for a little while before departing.

One of the things I bought at Tractor Supply was another electrical switch.  My hope was the old switch for the pool light was defective since it no longer worked after I tried to install the WeMo replacement.  When I took the box back apart some of the guts of the old switch spilled out, confirming my hunch.  The new switch brought the pool light back to life, not that I ever get to use it.

So, Mark’s advice regarding branches not hitting the roof inspired me to take action.  I identified several oak tree branches that were either a short term or mid-term problem.  Of course the solution is to cut down the branches with the caveat being doing so in a manner that would not send them crashing on to our new $20,000 roof.

My plan required Cindy’s assistance.  I needed her on the ground manning a strap that was looped around each branch to pull them away as I cut from up in the tree.  This project required me to fall back on my expert tree climbing skills I honed as a child at our Gouglersville farm house.  I can not tell you how many hundreds of times I climbed trees on our property as a kid.  It was one of the main sources of outdoor entertainment we had.

So I did not dress appropriately for this work.  I had safety glasses and leather gloves on but I also was wearing shorts and Crocs which was rather moronic.  An oak tree branch system is a gnarled mess which left me with a couple dozen scratches and scrapes all over my exposed lower body.  My weapon of choice to drop the limbs was my cordless Sawzall.  I figured it was a much more manageable and safer tool to use 15 feet in the air than my gas powered chain saw.

Our tether to the branch was actually my gymnastic ring set up which has long woven straps.  The ring itself made for a good weighted object to throw over the branches.  Getting the three roof threatening branches down went pretty smoothly.  I would cut just until I saw some movement and then Cindy would pull away from the house so I could finish the cut.  The roof escaped impact although the fence below did not.  It got bent from the falling debris but I was able to straighten it out  most of the way afterward.  I put myself in a few precarious positions doing the work but my 40 year old tree climbing reflexes kicked in.

After dropping the branches I climbed down to chop up the branches for disposal in the fill pit.  I fired up my chainsaw while Cindy hacked away on the smaller sections with the Sawzall as you can see below.  It was tough work but we were both glad to get it down so the roof is not impacted down the road.

Sunday morning the skies were overcast, an indicator of the substantial rain that followed later in the day.  It was Mother’s Day so I wanted to make sure Cindy got to do whatever she wanted to do.  I tended to the chickens and offered to make her breakfast which she declined.  She just loves to cook.  Because of the rainy looking skies and other needs we didn’t do any EUC riding this weekend. Instead late in the morning we headed over to Cindy’s mom’s place to install the Ring doorbell she bought for Mother’s Day.  Her mom was at church so we had a window to install it secretly.  There was no existing hard wired doorbell so I dropped four holes into the stucco to mount it by the door.  The install went fine but there is a possibility the Ring is actually defective.  You can hear the audio of someone by the doorbell but the audio from your phone is not being heard back.

During the afternoon the rain started but I still had a project I wanted to start on.  With a brand new roof and brand new gutters arriving in about a month I felt like I needed to clean the gray/green eaves.   We have cleaned this using various techniques over the years, most of which involved pressure washing but I decided to take a very manual approach this time.  I used a cleaner/degreaser that I sprayed on generously one three foot section at a time and then wiped it down using a couple big microfiber cloths.

It is a slow and somewhat arduous process as I moved the ladder down the wall, working around various obstacles along the way.  The last third of the one side that I finished was done in a steady rain, adding to the misery.  I’m happy with the end result as it has been far too long since this had been done.  I hope to possibly knock out the other three sides of the house by the end of next weekend.

Around six we met back up with Cindy’s mom, Katie, and Daniel for dinner at a mexican restaurant.  The food was good but ridiculous in portion size.  I always feel like an absolute pig after eating mexican.  In addition to the huge portions you normally warm up by eating a ton of nachos as well.  Anyway, it was a fun time.  Cindy told me repeatedly she had a great day, which was the goal all along.

As the roof project has been progressing I have been trying to get my drone in the air after each day to see the progress from above.  Last night after work I did my final fly over of the completed project.  I am happy about the overall outcome and I am looking forward to reflecting tons of heat in the future compared to the heat absorbing dark shingles the house used to have.  It should make a BIG difference based on my experimentation in the chicken coop with a light roof versus dark.

Besides the new roof, the video also depicts just how dry and arid our property is right now.  Despite using the sprinklers regularly the grass is just dying everywhere.  It’s amazing that within three months the same property will look like a pond in spots from all the rain.

Last night Cindy surprised me with a project she has been working on in secrecy, a custom made Zima t-shirt.  At first glance you would think she found the Zima logo online, blew it up and ironed it on the shirt.   Well you would be mistaken.  She actually used a logo as a visual aid but she created this piece by piece, using various geometric shapes to create the visually impactful shirt.   I was quite surprised by the gift and appreciated the latest example of her creativity and thoughtfulness.  I wasted little time before posting the picture of the shirt on the #zimapermanent group on FB.

This weekend I have a pretty healthy list of things I’d like to get done.  One of the things I want to do is clean the flashing on the roof overhang before gutters get installed in a month.  They are gray and dingy.  My plan, at least initially, is to hit it with some good old elbow grease using a brush, soap and rags.  We’ll see how long that plan lasts.  I also need to figure out if I broke my pool light or not with my failed WeMo switch implementation.

So they finished up installing the metal roof yesterday, applying the panels to the front of the house and capping off all of the seams.  I feel less stress about the panel inconsistency I saw on the west side as after a day the contrast already seems to be lessening, making me think it was just some panels being directly exposed to the elements while others weren’t for three weeks.

I did not see the same variation in the panels across the front of the house which was good.  I think everything will be fine.  I am looking forward to the first decent rain to get a sense of how it will sound in the house.  I expect it to be a sound I will enjoy.

I had a long day of work yesterday, having to do some work down at our Marco Island office after business hours.  If things went well I would have been done in 15 minutes.  It took me 90 minutes so you can draw your own conclusions.

So as high tech as our chicken coop is a couple days ago I ordered something to make it even more cutting edge.  The chickens are early risers.  Usually when we get up in the morning we see the hens bunched up in the corner looking at the house for any movement.  They want to be let out of the run and into their fenced area.

The other day I got an idea in my head that I floated past Cindy.  When we built the coop we incorporated an automatic door to the coop itself, allowing the chickens to escape in the morning while closing automatically at night to keep them safe.  My idea was to buy a SECOND unit and build it into the fenced in run, allowing the chickens to go out into the yard as early as they want without any interaction from us.  Ditto for securing them at night.  It could allow us to not require as much help if we are away as the chickens could have secured access in and out of the coop without us lifting a finger.

The unit should arrive early next week, I look forward to the next step in building the most futuristic chicken coop in southwest Florida.

 

 

Yesterday I left work early to meet up with a rep from the company that did my neighbor’s gutters to get an estimate to have ours redone.  I had the roofers rip off the 4 inch gutters that I installed myself, poorly, a long, long time ago.  The replacement gutters will be the bigger 6 inch variety and seamless which will be a welcome change as the joints in my install were a constant source of leaks as they aged.

I was surprised the amount of downspouts I need are about half of what I have currently.  The guy said with 6 inch gutters you only need one downspout for every roughly 40 feet of gutter.  The price quote was good, a little less than I was braced for.  Their lead time is 4-5 weeks which isn’t horrible and should have gutters back on the house before rainy season arrives in force.

The work on the metal roof continued yesterday.  It looks like it is about 75% done at this point.  I have somewhat mixed feelings about the result so far.  It seems like the shingles that the house came with covered up a lot of warts with the decking below it. With the smooth metal panels on there you see every bump and undulation in the surface.  I also noticed last night when I was back a distance looking at the west side of the house the metal finish looked inconsistent.  It almost looked like three different types of metal were being used.

I sent a picture and a text message to the project manager, expressing my concern.  He said that all of the panels come from the same run of metal.  I couldn’t get him to acknowledge the mismatch on the phone but I plan to follow up again today.  I am dropping a lot of money on a new roof, I’m not going to be very agreeable to letting things slide although I realize it could possibly be a big undertaking to replace mismatched metal. The other issue is the silver metal is not a great match with the existing house color, which we already knew.  I can definitely see a house repaint down the road that is more complimentary to the metal roof but that won’t be happening this calendar year.

As I was typing this entry I came up with a possible reason for the apparent difference in the panels currently.  The metal has been sitting in multiple stacks in my front yard for over three weeks.  My theory is the panels that were on the top of the stacks are more dull in appearance due to exposure to the elements where as the panels below are untouched.  If that’s the case, I would hope natural weathering would even out the appearance rather quickly.

So I eat my lunch at my desk everyday.  That lunch is always the same, which Cindy lovingly packs for me each morning.  Part of that lunch is a pint of almond milk which I pour into a plastic cup. I normally pour the milk into the cup and sit it on the top portion of my stand up desk.

Another cog in lunch is my cottage cheese mix which has a foil lid. Yesterday after pouring my milk I turned my attention to taking the lid off the cottage cheese.  The adhesive was being a bit stubborn so I had to apply extra force to remove it.  As my strength finally overcame the glue the foil tore off suddenly, leaving the remaining force to send my hand flying towards the desk, and the full cup of milk.

I have very quick hands, perhaps a byproduct of juggling.  Without thinking I quickly grabbed at the cup to hopefully avoid disaster.  Unfortunately my hand grabbed low on the cup, the weight of the tipping milk had already set the disaster in motion.  I had a tsunami of almond milk spill all over my desk as well as my keyboard and phone which got knocked down in the flurry of movement. I also had milk soaked pants and shoes.

I sat there stunned for a few moments at the mess before I quickly started moving things out of the way of the almond milk waterfall.  I was most worried about the phone and keyboard as you can imagine.  As I tipped the keyboard upside down a steady stream of milk flowed out of it.  Clean up of the area consumed at least a half roll of paper towels, first to absorb the milk, then a second set soaked with water to do a preliminary cleaning, and then a final round, using Windex to make sure the residue was gone.

The keyboard also got blown out with compressed air as further remediation.  Surprisingly it still appears to work although the keys definitely have a bit more resistance in their feel than normal.  Rest assured I will be much more careful with my milk placement from here on out.

This morning walking up the steps to the back door of the office I had another case of the dropsies.  As I was fiddling with the key to the door somehow my lunch box fell out of my left hand and proceeded to roll down 5 stairs, losing it’s lid in the process.  Luckily all of the food and almond milk managed to stay sealed and intact.  Sure the spoon got ejected into the mulch but I picked it up before 5 seconds expired, meaning it is good to go.

Last night I finally successfully printed a phone case out of flexible filament, something I had been trying to do since very early in my 3D printing hobby.  The print turned out well.  I need to test fit it on my phone although I don’t plan to use it full time.  I paid a lot of money for the Mous case I have on my Iphone 6 and it does a great job.  However I still want to verify that what I printed actually works as I hope.

A buddy of mine from high school posted a picture of some farmland with real estate signs lined up in front of it.  Evidently the farm has been sold to a developer for houses.  When I looked at the picture further it looked very familiar.  Then it clicked, this was the farm on Hampshire Road, the road I grew up on.

I immediately felt a sense of remorse and nostalgia sweep over me.  This farm was something I rode my bike past countless times as a child during my endless rides to Gouglersville and Colonial Hills bowling alley.  It always looked old and somewhat dilapidated but there were always animals in the fenced in field.  Seeing that property destined to become another victim of suburban sprawl is sad but not unexpected.  The road I grew up on has transformed incredibly over the last four decades but I guess that can be said of just about anywhere. Still, it makes me sad to see this staple of my childhood fade away.

The metal started getting affixed to the roof yesterday.  Unlike the rip off which had more than dozen people involved, installing the metal is a much smaller crew of only a handful of guys.  They got maybe a third of the roof covered which I documented with a drone flight after work last night.  I am hoping to see a lot more covered tonight.

 

 

So Friday evening I hung out with Shugs and the dogs at Ali’s place for a few hours.  We drank a couple beers, ate pizza, and watched some baseball on the big 73 inch DLP tv that just had a new lamp installed into it by Shugs.  It really brightened up the pic on the set.  It was nice to just chill and shoot the shit.

Running the next morning was a challenge after drinking a few beers the night before.  I wore my new (to me) Forerunner 301 GPS that I bought off Ebay.  It has the same bulky form factor as my prior Forerunners but with updated electronics.  The GPS seems more accurate and as a result it confirmed I am slower than my old Forerunner said I was.  It’s ok.

So Cindy was over on the east coast participating in what was up until this point a secret activity.  She was competing in a bikini/fitness competition in Boca Raton.  She agreed to do it after encouragement from her friend who had done her first competition in November.  She has been working hard for a couple months training, dieting, and doing all of the other unfun stuff required for such an endeavor.

Of course she was apprehensive about getting on a stage to be judged wearing next to nothing but I was confident she would do well as her fitness level is great and her personality shines through.  When she sent me a picture after her heavy spray tan was applied and her make up was done it was a pretty shocking transformation, she looked great.

The actual judging occurred Saturday morning but the “show” in front of an audience was not until Saturday night.  During the show is when you actually find out how you did.  Later in the night I received a text from Cindy with a pic of her holding three trophies.  She placed in three different categories which is amazing for a first time participant.  I told her I was very proud of her.  She couldn’t believe it.

I tried to stay up until she came home.  I was up playing WoW until 1:30 AM.  She rolled in the door a little after 2 AM.  I awoke and gave her sleepy congrats.  Of course she was beyond excited, even with being exhausted. It was quite the accomplishment.

Despite going to bed so late my body awoke about 7:15 Sunday morning.  I closed the curtains to let Cindy sleep as I went out and tended to the chickens and a few other to do’s.  She slept until after nine which is unheard of in Cindy’s world.  One of the things I did was undo a smart switch install I did on the pool light.  I NEVER use the pool light, I thought if I installed a smart Wemo switch I could put it on a schedule so we get cool pool lighting in the evening for an hour or two.

Well when I wired the switch in I didn’t read the instructions. The old switch had a black wire, a white wire, and a green ground wire.  The Wemo had a green, a white and TWO black wires.  I made an on the fly decision to simply connect the two black wires to the black house wire and match up the other colors.  The switch appeared to have power and I was even able to configure it through the app.  I assumed the pool light was working but it was hard to confirm in daylight.  After the sun had set I hit the switch and was disappointed to see the pool was dark.

I did some digging and evidently for proper operation the switch needs a second black wire which is how most normal switch circuits are configured.  I am not sure why the pool light deviated from this.  I read online about people with similar set ups getting around it by wiring the white neutral wire directly to ground which evidently is a big no no.  It may get the switch working but it also has ther potential to cause other safety issues elsewhere.  So anyway the end result was me putting the old switch back in.  Imagine my thrill when I went to test it last night and it still didn’t work…

So for a few weeks I have been gathering intel regarding when Zima was going to be released for another limited production run.  They brought back my favorite alcoholic beverage last year over the summer and it sold out very quickly.  Evidently I am not alone in my love of this great tasting beverage with a 5% alcohol content, which makes it go down very easily.  Anyway, I found out that they were releasing it again this year with an official launch date of today, May 7th.

I am part of Facebook group called Zima Permanent.  As the name implies, the desire of the group is to bring back Zima as a full time offering instead of seasonally.  I would think the sales would dictate that.  On this group I saw that some locations were getting their Zima shipments early.  I used a site called brickseek.com to search local Walmarts for Zima.  I found ONE location that supposedly had 114 units.  It was in Cape Coral, almost an hour drive away but I didn’t care.  Cindy was down to take the dogs on a Zima treasure hunting trip.

So after the hour drive I entered the store with a short grocery list in hand that Cindy made which was in addition to Zima.  She stayed put with the dogs in the Prius.  I grabbed a cart and walked towards the beer and wine aisle with great expectation.  As I made my first pass down the refrigerated aisle I saw no Zima.  I didn’t panic, it must be on an endcap or perhaps stacked in one of the main aisles.  I slowly circled around seeing other alcoholic items on display but no Zima.  I went back to the refrigerated aisle, three times, hoping I just didn’t see the distinctive packaging, somehow.  Nope, no Zima….

I was dejected as I went around the store and grabbed the handful of other non-Zima items on the list.  After doing so I made one more return run towards the beer, but from a different side.  I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.  There it was, a full five shelves of Zima 6 packs, in an aisle three our four away from the beer aisle.  Why it was there I don’t know but I didn’t care, I had found it.

Now I have seen pictures of people doing ridiculous hoarding of Zima, one guy had 10 CASES in the back of his truck.  I was much more conservative, grabbing 12 six packs or three cases.  Yes it was a lot, especially when you factor in that each six pack was just under 10 bucks.  But again I didn’t care, I found my quest item.

I was a little self conscious as I pushed my shopping cart full of Zima towards check out.  The clerk that assisted me in self check out said she used to drink Zima when she lived in New Jersey 20 years ago.  She had no idea they brought it back.  I told her she better get some while she can.

I returned to the Prius triumphantly.  I took up a good portion of normal dog laying real estate in the back as well as putting a couple six packs on the floor.  I drove with extra caution on the way home, conscious of the value of the cargo I was carrying.  Once we made it home I scattered my Zima around the house making sure I had various sources to pull from.  I am hoping three cases is enough to get me through this calendar year as I normally only drink them occasionally.  Cindy is a fan as well.  I look forward to many good Zima times during the rest of 2018.

On Sunday I had my first ever successful 3D print with TPU which is rubber like, flexible filament.  I have tried printing the stuff multiple times on several printers with little to no success.  This time I tried on the Ender 2 which has a very short Bowden tube which I thought may work great with TPU.  My hunch was right as I printed a flexible cap for the charging port of my EUC.  I later printed a flexible Benchy boat which came out very well.  I am now thinking about what sort of projects would benefit from being able to print in this new flexible material.

Our roof is supposed to start having the metal installed today which should take a total of no more than three days.  Cindy and I are both looking forward to it all being completed.  I have one more related task to be contracted out, new gutters all the way around.  I hopefully have an estimate for that being done tomorrow.

 

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.