So my three day New Year’s weekend has come and gone, just like the year it marks. Cindy and I crammed a lot of things into that 72 hours, let’s see if I can remember them.

Friday night we watched Alien Covenant, a movie Cindy was less than thrilled with seeing going in.  It turned out to be B+ good in my book.  Even Cindy said she sort of liked it, except for the being scared shitless part.

Saturday morning I got up and got my run out of the way.  The cool December air makes the experience much better for me compared to July/August.  It always has it’s mental struggles regardless as I countdown the 13 laps in my head but I completed them in a workman-like fashion.

When I got home Cindy had a present sitting on the fence post of the chicken area for me. I caught another mouse in my live trap I had set up in the coop run.  I wasted little time before I transported the unwelcome coop inhabitant to the same general area I let the last mouse go several days earlier.  Maybe, just maybe they will meet up somehow.

On Saturday I also did something earlier than I have done probably since moving to Florida, took down the Christmas lights, trees and decorations.  I NEVER do this in December, I typically enjoy the Christmas lights well into January.  I remember one year I think I didn’t take them down until the third week in January.

You would think this year would once again be the case.  I really liked the 2017 version of Xmas both visually and emotionally, it was one of the best I have had in awhile, hence you would think I again would leave the stuff out for an extended period of time.  Well for whatever reason I was just ready, something in my head clicked and once it did it was time to de-Christmas.  Cindy was teaching class Friday morning so I pulled down all of the exterior decorations myself.  When she got home we were able to restore normalcy inside the house in 90 minutes or so.  There always is a sense of sadness for me when putting the holiday stuff away but there also is a comforting feeling when things are back to normal.  Once we finished it felt good that we got that task knocked out at the front of the three day weekend instead of waiting to do it later. I did decide to leave the lights up on the chicken coop, the chickens told me they really liked them.

On Saturday night we were going to a party held at a friend from the running club’s house.  Technically it was supposed to be a cornhole tournament although Cindy and I were not participants in that aspect of the party. Well an hour or so before the party was supposed to start our friend sends out a message on Facebook that they just lost power and it wasn’t due to be restored for a few hours.  She asked if anyone had generators, especially one that can do 220.  We told her we did and could bring it.  All of a sudden showing up casually late was not an option, they asked if we could get there asap.

So things got thrown into fast forward mode.  I loaded BOTH of my generators into the back of the Tacoma along with a gas can and extension cords, unsure of what the needs would be.  When we got there we just unloaded the big generator.  I used it to power their well equipment and some of the lights in their backyard.  They had the yard decorated beautifully for the party, evidently a holdover from their daughters wedding a week or two prior.  Luckily power was restored after around an hour so it wasn’t a huge problem.

At the party were a bunch of people that I have not seen for a long time, some of them dating back to when I stopped race timing two years ago.  It was nice to see old familiar faces, many of whom were surprised to see me since I have pretty much steered clear of any and all running club activities since I left.  The spread of food and drink was impressive as well, I indulged in it.

The party was held outdoors and the outdoors were feeling quite chilly as the air temp dropped into the upper 50’s.  We were planning to head out soon.  I was sitting on a cooler by the pool edge talking to Mark, whose dog Petunia was nearby.  Petunia is rather old and looked a bit unsteady as she walked.  All of a sudden I heard a splash and saw the dog had fallen into the pool.  I immediately sprang to the edge of the pool.  She was not coming up on her own so I dunked my left arm into the pool and pulled her out.  As soon as I sat her on the deck she ran away, scared, cold and very, very wet.  Mark thanked me for my efforts but it was really not that big of a deal.  If I didn’t do it there were probably another half dozen around the pool that would have acted the same, I just happened to be closest.

We headed out around 8:30, we were both freezing by that point.  Even though I was lukewarm about going to the party in the first place I wound up having a nice time and it had the bonus of counting as our NYE celebration, at least in my book.

Sunday morning after cleaning the coop and paying the bills Cindy and I headed over to the school to ride some more.  Cindy wanted to do some more practice on the Mten3 and I just wanted to practice in general.  I brought three wheels along to do so.  We had a fun little session that Katie and Daniel dropped into at the end of.  It’s cool that Cindy is working at getting better at riding.

I had some mild urgency to get home to watch the final Eagles regular season game against the Cowboys.  The game was meaningless in the big picture since the Cowboys were out of the playoffs and the Eagles had their spot locked up.  Still it was Eagles/Cowboys….  Well the game was in a word, awful.  The Eagles sat many of their starters and it showed.  Even with back ups the Cowboys did not fare well with the game remaining scoreless into the fourth quarter.  The Cowboys wound up winning 6-0.  I am not sure how or why I even sat through the entire game.

After the game Cindy and I did a late run to Home Depot.  I wanted to get parts to make the electrical box under the sink useful.  The unterminated box was put there in case I ever wanted to add a garbage disposal to the sink.  Well I never did that but I recently got inspired to turn it into a regular power outlet.  The reason was so we could move the brand new Echo Show to the kitchen counter and supply power from under the sink.  Installing the outlet was a bit of a struggle as working on the back wall under a sink tends to be less than ideal.  In addition to supplying the power for the new location I also 3D printed a lazy susan for the Echo Show that allows us to spin the unit around as needed to see the screen.  The simple model uses airsoft BB’s to provide the rotation action.

Our NYE was tame as I preferred.  I played WoW and then during the last 20 minutes before the ball dropped I watched Ryan Seacrest freezing his ass off in NYC.  We celebrated by drinking some of the apple pie moonshine Cindy made last week.  I also drank my last Zima which I was saving in the fridge for months for the occasion.  Cindy was acting very silly from the couple drinks, it was entertaining.

Monday we “slept in” till 7AM or so.  After completing the chicken maintenance I asked Cindy if she was up to riding to Dunkin Donuts with me, meaning both of us on EUC’s.  She was not but actually countered with her possibly riding her road bike while I rode.  She has said for awhile she was interested in getting back on her bike to see how she feels to compare it with the spin classes she teaches several times a week. That sounded good to me.

 

Before we went Cindy wanted to redo the wrapping on her handlebars.  I bought her new tape to do so for Christmas but she had not gotten the chance to replace it yet.  I helped her a little bit, serving as an extra pair of hands during the process.  The new stuff is thicker and brighter than the boring and worn out black tape it replaced.

Early on in the ride Cindy was in the lead.  The steady headwind made her agreeable to me taking the wind breaking spot about three miles into the ride.  The air was a bit chilly but more and more comfortable as the ride progressed.  Overall Cindy did quite well despite not riding her bike in more than a year.  Hopefully we get to do more tandem riding in the future.

Monday afternoon I cranked out my second and third videos of the day.

The first video was me testing the strength of a new 3D printed EUC stand my buddy Mathias designed.  It uses a lot less plastic than the original design so I was worried it would not be strong enough to support my biggest wheels.  If you see the video you will see the new more stylish stand did indeed hold up to the 60 pound+ behemoth wheel.

I have had a replacement battery for my Iphone for a couple weeks but had not gotten around to installing it.  I had seen a couple videos on the swap process and of course they made it seem straight forward and simple.  Well of course, for me, it was not.  Getting the phone apart was not difficult however I was amazed at just how ridiculously tiny some of the screws were, they looked like little specks of metal sitting on the desk.

The real difficulty began when it came time to remove the old battery which is held on by two sided tape, extremely strong two sided tape.  The video I saw demonstrated using the attached tabs to pull out most of the adhesive strips to make battery removal easier.  In my case, the tape ripped almost immediately, leaving most of the adhesive locking the battery to the case.  To get the old battery out I had to use the heat gun to heat the adhesive and then use some ugly prying that left the original battery bent and mangled.

Installing the new battery itself wasn’t bad but I struggled mightily getting the rest of the phone together, specifically some of the micro connectors and the microscopic screws.  The screws were the biggest joke.  I lost two or three in the process and gave up trying to get a couple of them back in.  If you watch the video you should get a good sense of my frustration.  In the end I got the phone together and functional.  Hopefully the new battery will get me through to the point where I get a new phone.  It wasn’t an experience I am looking to repeat again anytime soon.

Monday evening was pretty chill with me WoWing again while Cindy did her thing.  Over the weekend she did a lot of playing around with her new Cameo and produced her first cut and drawn projects.  There is a lot for her to learn but once she does the things she can do are pretty endless. Today should be a huge day at the house package-wise there are no less than a half dozen items all slated to show up at the door.

 

 

 

 

Last night after work I did my first ever YouTube live streaming session, something you are seeing more and more of.  It is YT’s version of twitch.tv I guess.I went into it with no real agenda other than to express my appreciation for the support I have gotten over the past year and to talk about any topic presented to me.  It took a few minutes until things got rolling but overall I think it went surprisingly well. I will definitely be doing more sessions in the future.  Getting Cindy in on some of them would be funny I’m sure.

Today marks my last blog post of 2017, a year filled with a lot of ups and downs as I tried my best to document yesterday.  We get to enjoy our second long weekend in a row, getting off Monday for New Years Day.  We have not made any definitive plans for NYE.  Although I have gone out on NYE quite a few times I am just as content letting the year pass under my own roof.  Of course I have things I want to accomplish over these three days and I hope 2018 to be a slightly new and improved version of the year before.

Another 365 days have raced by once again which has brought my dreaded 50th birthday into the light.  I guess it’s time to recap the year and as always I start that by seeing how I did with my goals I set from last year.

Home Improvements – Address the roof maybe, resurface pool deck, replace the bathroom vanity in master bathroom. Well there was plenty done around the house but not what I expected although the roof will be redone during next summer thanks to Hurricane Irma.  Instead of the master bathroom getting a new vanity Cindy totally redid the guest bathroom including paint, wainscot and a new quartz countertop and sink which looks great.  Pool deck is still lack luster but oh well .

Financial goals – pay off primary mortgage, check!  That was a cool accomplishment that now gives me more income to apply to other bills and goals.  Getting Cindy a new Prius, well sort of.  Instead of a new Prius she bought a brand new Hyundai Ioniq and I bought her old Prius, allowing me to have a good daily commuter and giving us the luxury of a third vehicle in the household.

Fitness – Don’t die and more regular running, races.  I’m not dead and my fitness/strength has taken a slight uptick I think from last year at this time.  The aches and pains have not been quite as bad, the addition of CBD oil to my regimen certainly helped that.  I have been able to run consistently pretty much all year which is cool.

Travel – Do a road trip again, yep we did our first Florida to Maine road trip which was really awesome in some ways and terrible in others.  We rode our EUC’s up and down the east coast as I hoped.

Interest in buying a Jeep Wrangler – nope the 2007 Prius filled that spot, not as much fun but surely much more functional.

Growing my YouTube channel – YES.  I am now just shy of 3000 subscribers and have over two million views.  In addition to monthly ad revenue which is currently in the neighborhood of $250, I am also getting spiff’s via my affiliation with an EUC store, an electronics store (GearBest), and through my Amazon Affiliate links.  I am now damn close to bringing the same if not more extra income as when I was doing race timing which is pretty awesome and a lot more fun.

Ok so what else happened….

Well let’s get material objects out of the way.  In addition to the home improvement projects mentioned I also built a new fenced in area for the chickens around their coop.  The initial reason was because of Katie living with us with her dog Bowser whom could not be trusted with the chickens.  The fence had the side benefit of containing the chickens destructive powers to a small portion of the property.  During the wet season it was not ideal as the back part of their area was flooded out more often than not which sucked for all parties involved.  We also added an expensive whole house RO system which provides super clean water to every outlet in the house.  It was a very pricey upgrade but something I decided to do when our six your old system started to leak.

Cindy had a big year in ownership, not only buying the Ioniq but ALSO a new 26 foot Coleman trailer that is residing in our backyard.  The primary intent of the trailer is to serve as Cindy’s “she shed”, a space that is entirely her own to do whatever she wants with, something she has wanted for almost as long as she has lived with me.  She has tried to convert the small shed and spare bedroom into such spaces in the past but it never was that great.  Of course she wants us to try to take the trailer out on the road for some conventional RV camping which is not high on my priority list but I paid almost a thousand bucks to equip the Tacoma with the hitch and electric brake controller which is required to do so.

I once again spent heavily on my electric unicycle hobby, buying three more wheels in 2017, the Gotway Monster, Mten3, and Segway S1.  I still LOVE riding and added the ability to ride backwards to my skillset this past year which was a physical and mental challenge.  I have not gotten to ride as much as 2016 but still love getting out there as much as possible.  Cindy actually finally learned to ride an EUC this year as well after getting scared off from a bad fall when we first got the Ninebot One.  As you can tell from the video I posted last night of her starting to ride backwards, she has made some great progress.

2017 was a year where I picked up ANOTHER major hobby, 3D printing.  I approached 3D printing with similar enthusiasm as I did in 2016 with EUC’s.  I started out with a FlashForge Finder which we made some amazing things on, especially considering how new we were to the hobby.  The most notable was the Widowmaker rifle that consisted of 30 something parts that Cindy carefully assembled and painted, resulting in a pretty amazing end result.

Since then I have added two more 3D printers to the collection, a Creality CR-10 and Dagoma Neva.  I have something being printed most of the time.  I have had my fair amount of frustration with the hobby, especially with my CR-10 that frustrated me for awhile with several issues, some of which I created myself.  There is just something very cool about being able to create physical objects,  often quite useful ones out of nothing.

There was a very sad tragedy in the household this year where my stupidity caused the death of Tuki, our long time Senegal Parrot.  I thought I was doing him a favor not making him stay in his cage the entire time we were dog sitting my buddy’s dog.  Instead that decision resulted in the dog killing Tuki when both Cindy and I were in another room.  I still regularly feel great guilt and sorrow when I think about how it all went down.

One of the biggest events of 2017 was of course Hurricane Irma, the massive storm whose eyewall literally passed right along our house, resulting in significant damage and a lot of fear as we sat bottled up in the house with the sounds of horrific wind battering the house for hours.  The 10 days of no power that followed were a test of patience and ingenuity.  Two hour gas lines became a regular everyday thing and dealing with the widespread carnage was something we don’t care to revisit anytime soon.  I mentioned the roof damage but there was also a lot screen damage to the pool cage that is yet to be repaired as well as a lot of landscape that was torn up.

The most miraculous thing was the chicken coop survived the storm more or less intact despite the structure only being rated for a max of 75 mph winds. (we hit somewhere around 130)  I spent copious amounts of time reinforcing the coop and surprisingly it worked.  The chickens were unhappy but safe in the garage during the storm.  Riding out a direct hit hurricane is not something you really want to do, I’ve now done it twice.

I haven’t done as much ranting this year but one of them again has been hurricane related.  Dealing with my insurance company on storm remediation was painful and frustrating as hell.  The experience was filled with weeks between call backs and tons of outright apathy by the insurance sub-contracted claim adjusters towards returning my requests for information.  It took me between two and three months until I got a check in my hand that was for an amount that was reasonable for my damages.  I am going to be eating the difference in price to go for a metal roof this time, something that should outlast me and save us a lot of energy costs due to the reflective properties versus heat absorbing asphalt shingles.

Sure I could rant for days about the first year of Trump’s presidency.  I didn’t think it was possible but it has (to use one of his favorite words) been more of a disaster than I ever imagined it could be.  He has made us the laughing stock of the global community, put us on the brink of armed conflict, and dimmed our future in so many ways.  However at this point I mostly just shoulder shrug to it all and just hope we survive until 2020.

2017 was our last year as Florida Tarpons fans as they decided to pack up and move to Lakeland in the off season.  Even though the games have always been sort of a joke, it’s where Cindy and I had our first “date” so seeing the team vacate the area was sort of sad.

There continued to be significant mods done to the Tacoma in 2017, the biggest of which was the installation of a 3-1 leveling kit on the truck.  I love the higher stance which will eventually allow me to equip the truck with larger/cooler wheels and tires once my factory tires wear out.  Installation of the kit was special as Chuck, a fellow YouTuber and Tacoma enthusiast actually drove down from Maryland and helped me do the install, it was epic.

I felt like I had to pinch myself when they announced that Zima, my all time favorite alcoholic drink was back for a limited time.  Cindy grabbed as much of it as she could and she actually became a fan of the beverage as well.  I sadly only have one bottle remaining, which I have been keeping for months in the fridge to crack open on New Year’s Eve.

2017 was our first full year with Elsa.  It’s funny how I went to being more or less opposed to having a full time dog in the house again to where I am today.  Elsa is such a huge source of fun and joy in our lives.  Her quirky personalty where she can be so shy and scared one second to crazy and affectionate the next is endearing. Cindy and I both love her so much.

This was likely the most challenging year I have had at my job, ever.  We initiated a full office renovation project that presented me with endless challenges as we moved our staff out of our building to temporary office space and back again.  I had my hands in so many things at once it made my head spin at times.  To make things more challenging we had Hurricane Irma thrown into the mix which closed our office for over a week and severely damaged our Everglades City office which I had to get up and running in a trailer until repairs can be completed.  This year was a tough one for sure at work but we have now emerged from the other side and are enjoying our significantly modernized and updated work space.  2018 is going to have a different set of demands on me as we will be ripping out our back end systems and migrating to a cloud based solution, fun.

My year wound up with a whirlwind trip to PA for my 50th birthday which included a surprise party with an even more surprising appearance by Cindy, whom I thought was in Florida tending to things.  It really was an amazing trip and likely the most memorable birthday of my life.  I guess being old as dirt has it’s advantages.

Alright that is enough recapping, let me quickly see if I can come up with 2018 goals.

Home improvements – As I mentioned by this time next year I should have a shiny new metal roof on the house.  I also will eventually find someone willing to rescreen the pool cage without drastically overcharging me for their services.  I don’t have other big projects in my head but surely there will be plenty of little ones to keep me occupied.

Fitness is sort of THE goal as opposed to setting numeric milestones at this point for me.  My direction is always to press on with consistency which hopefully results in incremental gains while avoiding serious injury.  I want to keep running, not because I like it but because it’s challenging.

I am hoping to keep expanding my YouTube efforts.  I have grown my income stream more than double in the last year.  I am looking forward to see if I can keep building on that momentum.

I expect my hobbies to continue to grow although I don’t know that I will need to buy any more EUC’s in 2018.  I think five is enough.  I do expect to get more 3D printers and I MAY actually start creating some objects that could be sold on a limited basis if demand is there.  Cindy is hoping to dive deep into crafting, learning how to use the Silhouette Cameo 3 I got her for Christmas.

I don’t have a lot of specific financial goals outside of now working to pay down the home equity line of credit so the house is truly free and clear of debt which would be amazing.  I am thinking of opening a Roth IRA as well even though I already have two retirement accounts through work I am funding.

I would expect Cindy and I get out for some sort of road trip this year although I am unsure what exactly that may be.  My work schedule this year is not going to be amenable to prolonged time off this summer.  At some point we will need to get the RV out on the road to see how viable the Tacoma is as a tow vehicle.

As always I have internal goals to keep trying to do my best to shape my decisions in a way that continues to lead to happiness.  I have a long history of sometimes reacting to things strongly, unnecessarily so at times.  As I get older I realize that although it may feel good for a few moments to just unleash energy the moment something that annoys me happens, the reality is that in the big picture, I am often much better served to reflect, think and choose differently.  Many battles I thought were worth fighting in my youth just do not seem remotely worth it anymore.  Briefly reading my book of 2007 blog entries made that more clear than ever.

I hope your 2017 was equally memorable and 2018 holds promise, joy, and possibilities for you.  If you aren’t always working towards something, what’s the point….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cindy surprised me by suggesting we get out and ride a little bit after work last night.  Of course I was down with the plan.  We loaded up the three smallest wheels, the S1, Mten3, and Inmotion V5F and headed over to the school.  Cindy had not done much EUC riding recently because of some foot and ankle issues, most of the time she has been riding her Segway MiniPro.  She was a little shaky at first but got re-accustomed to one wheeling pretty quickly.

Cindy took turns riding all three wheels but it wasn’t until she got on the Mten3 for the second time that the magic happened.  From watching and hearing Katie and I talk about how much fun the Mten3 is to ride, Cindy wanted to really try to get the hang of the tiny 10″ wheel that felt very awkward to her initially.

She was doing significantly better, able to control the Mten, riding slow, and even doing S turns back and forth.  All of a sudden I glance up and she had stopped and reversed directions for a short distance, wtf?  Yep evidently Cindy decided she was going to experiment with backwards riding, another thing that to me seems much easier on the little wheel.  Over the next 5-10 minutes she kept trying and was doing incredibly well as she got more confident.  Quite a few times she was able to change directions repeatedly without stepping off the wheel.  She was all laughs and smiles, proud of her progress and rightfully so.  Shortly before we finished she went close to 20 feet backwards, it was awesome.  Cindy officially loves the Mten3, that makes three of us.

So I need to start working on the year end recap blog which is always somewhat arduous although I don’t sweat the details as much as I used to.  If I leave out a few things, oh well.

 

 

I have printed a lot of items on my 3D printers since I got them.  One of the things I have printed the most of are electric unicycle stands. I bet in total I have printed close to 10 of them. I just gave Katie one of my stands for her new Mten3 so it was time for me to print another.

This print takes a lot of plastic and time.  In total for all of the parts I bet it takes a full 24 hours of print time.  I try to do each new stand in a different color.  For Christmas I got hooked up with a TON of new filament so I decided to make the new stand out of orange PLA, one of my favorite colors.

Despite making a ton of these stands I really have never documented the process of putting it together and what hardware I use.  I decided to remedy that last night when I saw the print had finished during the day.  If you are just dying to know how it all goes together, click above.

I’m in holiday recovery mode, mentally, physically, and verbally.

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 my flight out of Pittsburgh wound up being delayed over two hours which was unfortunate.  I heard from airline staff that early dense fog in Florida caused a flight to have to land at a different airport.  The end result was cascading delays throughout the rest of the day, resulting in our snafu.  I didn’t mind all that much as I spent the time creating the next blog entry and just people watching. Unlike my flight to Pittsburgh that was only maybe 2/3 full, the flight to Florida was packed.  Even with an exit row seat I still found myself being uncomfortable, not due to leg room but shitty seats with minimal padding.  During the last half of the flight I felt like I was shifting around almost constantly. Other than the delay and discomfort, the flight was without incident.  Cindy was very happy to have me back in Florida as was I.

For most of the flight I kept myself occupied by reading part of my THIRD book, Volume III of Inside Out.  I think I mentioned this unique book series awhile ago.  A few years back my dad had the idea of turning my blog entries into a book.  Well I didn’t quite realize just how much content I have put out.  We are three books in and have only gotten up to 2007.  The first two books actually combined several years together (I started blogging in late 2003) but evidently in 2007 I was more verbose and that single year had enough for an entire book.

Reading the words of me minus 10 years was interesting and somewhat eye opening.  Without a doubt I was much less tactful back then, using words and descriptions that I would somewhat cringe at now.  I also seemed VERY angry most of the time which I am sure was a byproduct of some of the frustrations I was feeling at the time with my marriage and life in general.

Speaking of my marriage, without a doubt the way I chose to routinely write about things that Ali did or situations that arose during our marriage was clearly destructive looking at it back through a 10 year time machine.  At the time it felt like it was just a way to vent and didn’t really think about it much beyond that.  In retrospect what it really did was put my one view of the situation out for public display without much opportunity for Ali to offer her viewpoint which I am sure was hurtful.

I only came to realize the problem with this behavior after the marriage was well on it’s way to dissolution.  You will notice that once we became separated and to this day, I have pretty much kept any personal relationship issues out of the blog.  Of course there are still urges to vent now and then but the more mature, 10 year older version of myself now knows that in the big picture, it makes little sense and serves little purpose to go there.  I was reading the book for almost a solid two hours and only covered the first MONTH AND A HALF of 2017.  For someone who prefers to talk so little, I sure do type a lot.

When I finally got home Monday night we enjoyed dinner and the chocolate birthday cake Cindy made for me.  She had been a very busy baker making a ton of Christmas cookies in addition to the cake.  It felt so nice to finally sleep in my own bed after getting less than solid sleep for the entire trip.  As you can imagine Sadie and Elsa were quite excited to see me.

I took Tuesday off as a day of recovery.  Early in the morning I headed out to the barpark to fulfill a promise.  My buddy Max said for my 50th birthday I needed to do an exercise circuit that included 50 pull ups, 50 dips, and 50 push ups.  I have not done much circuit calisthenics in a long time so I knew it would be challenging, especially coming off a northern trip that included lots of eating and drinking.  I broke the movements into a decreasing pyramid of reps that went 15, 10, 10, 8, 7 to keep it manageable.  During my prime I may have been able to do the 150 reps in half the amount of sets but I am 50 now after all.

My activities during the rest of the day were mixed between work and play as I had some things to do after being away for four days but I also got to chill out later in the day and even get some WoW time in.  Last night Cindy and I threw the wheels in the back of the Prius to ride around the Victoria Park development to check out their incredibly ornate Xmas decorations.  Luckily a Tuesday night apparently was not a bad time to do it.  There was a still a lot of cars snaking around the neighborhood but nothing like the gridlock we experienced last year when we went on Christmas Eve.  I rode the new Segway S1 around to get more of a feel for it.  It’s a fun little wheel that is great for lower speed, shorter distance journeys.

I have a lightning quick two day work week followed by four days off for Christmas.  You can’t get much better than that.

 

My sleep last night went surprisingly ok.  Sixer the cat was perched on my chest as I was dozing off and I expected that to continue throughout the night.  However for the most part I slept straight through from 11-6 , I can’t complain.

I was the first one up so I worked on repacking my bag.  Luggage space has been at an absolute premium.  I needed to ensure I stayed under 40 pounds so I brought one of our smaller bags.  Unfortunately big and bulky winter clothes eat up a lot of space rather quickly.  Dirty and clean clothing is neatly folded, comingled and compressed to the max so I could barely close the zipper.  I had so much stuff that this morning we stopped at the post office to mail the DeWalt batteries and charger Todd bought me for my birthday.  I just have no room for even another sock.

Patrick had taken all of the parts out of the box the 3D printer came in and had them laid out on a desk.  Wow, it was a lot of parts.  I have read that generally speaking, a 3D printer in kit form will take the greater part of a weekend to assemble.  It would probably push the limits of my patience but I have no doubt Patrick will be able to buzz through the assembly without major issue.

I walked the dogs with dad to the nearby Unimart so he could grab a cup of coffee which apparently is a daily tradition when he is visiting Patrick.  Clara took a dump by the sidewalk on the way.  Dad conveniently didn’t bring any poop bags, he basically never cleans up after the dogs.  However I anticipated this and had a couple in my pocket.  I took care of Clara’s early Christmas gift so we could be responsible Troy Hill visitors.

Walking through the old hill top Pittsburgh suburb is truly stepping back in time a century or more which is the age of most of the buildings you pass.  I find it sort of fascinating that these structures are for the most part still intact and used heavily.  Coming from Naples, where the majority of the buildings were built in the last 10-20 years, seeing all of this old classic architecture up close is a pleasant change, although I can’t say I would ever look to live in such a building personally.

When we got back we got ready to go out to breakfast at Kelly-O, a place I ate with Patrick last year when I visited.  All five of us jammed into the Subaru, I drove with dad and Patrick as my navigators.  The breakfast just like last year was very good.  I felt fortunate I ordered something that had a reasonable portion size.  Everybody else’s plates had massive amounts of tasty goodness piled on.

After the breakfast we headed towards Patrick’s SECOND place, a building he bought over the summer.  He has been working on the renovation and hopes to be moved in there early next year and then rent where he is living to someone else.  Pat warned me ahead of time that the place needed a lot of work.  He certainly was telling the truth.  It was hard to turn anywhere in the end unit row home and not see something that needed to be fixed or done.

Patrick has already done a ton of work doing demo and first level repairs.  He is about ready to start doing more building and less ripping out.  When you look around the place you see potential everywhere.  It is huge compared to his current place.  I was truly amazed how much he has done so far and what he plans to yet accomplish.  The degree and amount of work he is tackling is light years beyond anything I would consider taking on myself.  The fact that he is willing to take this on does not surprise me though.  Pat is one of the most determined people I have ever known.  I look forward to seeing how the renovation matures.  I have no doubt it will be amazing when completed.

After getting back from the house number two tour we loaded up the car with luggage, dogs, and stuff to get ready to push out.  I said goodbye to Pat and Nico.  It’s always good to see both of them.  They are both such good people with good intentions.  You just feel better about the world after being in their sphere of influence for a period of time.

I once again took the wheel for the drive to the airport.  Despite not knowing the area we figured I would be better suited for the demands of city driving.  Dad and Teresa directed us to the airport with no incident.  I hugged them both and thanked them again for a GREAT weekend.  I told dad I loved him but I think neglected to say it loud enough that he could hear me with his reduced hearing.  It’s all good, both my dad and stepmom know I love them and appreciate everything they do to make their kids lives better.

So as I was pulling out my phone to pull up my electronic boarding pass I saw an email from Spirit notifying me of a nearly two hour delay.  Bad timing for sure but if that is the worst part of this otherwise unforgettable long weekend I am ok with it.  I am looking forward to rolling back into warmer temperatures and familiar surroundings.  This really has been an early Christmas gift that I will be able to appreciate and cherish for many years to follow.  See you all on the flip side.

 

This is the first chance I have had to recap the rather epic Saturday that I experienced last night.  We pulled out of Marienville somewhere around noon.  I felt sort of badly saying goodbye to the sheep and llama after only two days however that is the way the schedule worked out this time as I am now sitting in Pittsburgh instead of Marienville, staged for my flight home tomorrow.

But anyway, I volunteered to drive dad and Teresa’s Subaru cross state for the dinner with Todd and his family.  Dad’s eyesight is pretty awful at this point and Teresa was really the only one of us three that could fit somewhat comfortably with Maggie and Clara in the back seat who were along for the ride.

When we got going I was concerned that the driving would be rather treacherous as it had been snowing steadily all morning.  Luckily only the side roads were snow covered, once we got onto the main thoroughfares they were plowed and salted.  The Subaru is AWD so even with snowy roads we would have been ok.

The drive over to the Reading area was long, very long, taking somewhere in the neighborhood of five hours.  By the time we got to the hotel my dad and step mom were staying at (I was going to stay with my brother), it was about an hour before we were supposed to meet up for dinner.  I quickly took a shower to wash off the day of travel grime and we were soon back on the road after making sure Maggie and Clara had a good channel playing on the TV to entertain them.

I drove to the dinner venue as well.  The area around Berkshire Mall has changed drastically since I lived in Reading, so much so that I felt rather disoriented, especially with it being dark outside.  We wound up driving through the heart of Wyomissing so we could see some of the Christmas lights on the various mansions.  When we turned towards Shillington my dad suggested that we take a less direct route to Flanagan’s the restaurant we were having dinner at.  It was my first hmmmm, moment as it seemed like an attempt to delay our arrival time.

So there was no parking in the lot so we wound up parking a couple blocks down the street.  As we opened the door to the downstairs entrance I heard a pseudo-hush quickly come over what was a pretty loud environment.  I popped my head in, knowing there were far more people in the room than my family.

So I step in and am greeted with a thunderous HAPPY BIRTHDAY which brought a smile to my face.  However very quickly that smile turned into a look of disbelief as I saw some woman that looked like Cindy filming my entrance on her phone.  As I focused more my shock grew as I realized it actually was Cindy, whom I just had texted a few minutes earlier telling her I would let he know how the dinner went as she was taking care of the house and animals in Florida, or so I believed.

She came running over as I still could not wrap my head around how she was standing there.  Evidently she secretly flew up earlier in the morning and stayed with Todd before the party.  She was flying back early Sunday morning.  This evidently all came together in the last week or so.  I couldn’t believe how bamboozled I was and the efforts to put this all together.

After I was able to close my widely open mouth I tried to focus on some of the other familiar faces in the room and there were a ton of them.  I didn’t do a headcount but I bet there were around 30 people there.  The guest list included a bunch of my old volleyball friends, co-workers, classmates, and of course my immediate family members outside of my sister who lives out in Colorado.  I did my best to roll with the moment but I just felt overwhelmed with the impact of it all.  All of these people came out there to help me, the guy that hates birthdays, celebrate turning 50.  It warmed my heart in a way few things have.

I of course wasted no time downing Miller Lites to help me feel more at ease as being the subject matter for such a large celebration.  I tried to do my best to interact with everyone that was there as much as I could.  The food that was being served was just fantastic.  Everyone could have likely been satisfied on the appetizers alone, they were so plentiful and delicious.

I was very touched when my buddy Rich, one of my friends whom I spent some of my best volleyball moments with and whom I respect very much stopped in for a short period of time.  He was limited in how long he could stay but I enjoyed every minute he was there.  When our old triples partner Jim came down to join the conversation we immediately could fall into the back and forth banter that made our time together so much fun.

The majority of the planning for the party was done by Todd which was pretty amazing.  He researched and reached out to a bunch of these people personally to invite them.  I told him repeatedly how much I appreciated his efforts but in true Todd fashion he just shrugged it off like it was no big deal.  It was a big deal.

The cake they brought for the party was beautiful and delicious.  I almost felt guilty eating it but damn did it taste good.  The cake and other solid food was in the minority of things I consumed, I did a lot more drinking than eating.  I drank four or five regular Miller Lites but then also managed to finish off a Grotto’s Big Beer sized mug.  I was definitely drunk but not as much as you would expect after that much alcohol.  Perhaps the excitement helped offset the beer.

I’m not normally the type that is into parties and social events and even more uncomfortable if I am the focal point to any major degree.  Despite those normal hesitations, I felt I fully embraced the moment and did my best to let those in attendance know how much I appreciated them being a part of it.  The party started breaking up somewhere between 9 and 10.  Even as pretty much everything was cleaned up I was still in the far corner drinking and hanging with a few of the remaining guests.  I have said many, many times that I have not ever regretted moving to Florida 17 years ago, not even for a second.  Well that statement may not actually be true anymore.  Saturday night I definitely had some regret that I don’t get to see most of these people anymore.  One thing that did not move with me was a large circle of friends.  I really hope I can get some of them to come visit us more, Charlie already said he was down for a visit next year which would be an awesome start.

All through the night Cindy was by my side and I told her repeatedly how amazing this all was and how I couldn’t believe she managed to be there.  One of the things that was also at the party was a looping projected video.  It was something Cindy made with the help of Todd.  The video included a ton of pictures of me in various stages of life as well as videos that a bunch of people made wishing me happy birthday.  I couldn’t really pay attention to or hear the video at the party but I did so at Todd’s house before bed.

As I watched the 38 minute plus compilation that Cindy worked hard on in iMovie it didn’t take long for tears to start flowing down my face for several reasons.  The pictures of me and my mom hit me hard.  It seemed like I could remember her 50th birthday celebration like it was yesterday yet here we are with her being gone for three years already.  I thought about how happy she would have been to see how my 50th birthday party played out. That thought was warm but hurt at the same time.

More of the tears were from thinking about how amazing it was that Cindy did what she did and how lucky I was to have someone who is willing to work so hard to show her love to someone who is not the easiest recipient.  The videos that people recorded ran the gambit from thoughtful, deep, and serious to outright hilarious.  I laughed out loud a lot, despite the wet eyes.

Another benefit of staying at Todd’s was I got to meet his two dogs, Oakley and Bailey, both HUGE malamutes whom are brother and sister.  I have seen big dogs before but Oakley especially was just massive.  Despite their size, they are super friendly, perhaps too friendly as they love to show their love by standing up and jumping on you.  Oakley can easily knock you down if you are not braced for impact as he weighs something like 130-140 pounds.  The dogs are adorable.

Cindy had to get up early for her flight back, setting an alarm for 6:30.  I was awake way before that getting another poor night of sleep, something that has been the case the entire trip.  Cindy was nervous having to drive back to the Philly airport herself in the rental car and I felt guilty for not being able to somehow do it for her.  However she texted back later that all was well and she was back in Naples in a little more than 24 hours after leaving it, an amazing whirlwind trip, just to make my day special, wow.

When Todd got up I offered to help him take the dogs on a walk, a challenging activity.  Due to their size, strength and lack of proper leash training, I felt like I was doing a heavy sled pull exercise, in reverse.  I was constantly trying to restrain Bailey who despite being the smaller of the two siblings, can pull like a bull.  I had to be applying massive braking force for almost the entire walk around the neighborhood.  The dogs don’t get to walk much so I didn’t mind the effort of doing it, I could tell they both love to walk.

My dad and Teresa came by mid-morning to pick me up after we all hung out for awhile.  Much like Cindy, we were heading back to where we came from in roughly a 24 hour timespan.  After saying our goodbyes and again thanking Todd for the massive time and effort he spent on making my 50th birthday awesome, we were back in the Subaru heading westward.

I didn’t think it was possible but the drive back sucked more than the drive to Reading.  Because we were going to Pittsburgh and not Marienville almost the entire drive was spent on the turnpike, an incredibly boring and monotonous way to travel.  We at least utilized a few more roadways coming from Marienville.

I was extremely happy to pull up to Patrick’s place, even though he wasn’t home yet.  We unloaded the car and quickly turned on the Steeler’s game.  I had monitored the Eagles score during the drive and was happy to see they pulled out a win which included a strong performance by Nick Foles in his first game since taking over the reins from Wentz.

During the first half Patrick and his girlfriend Nico arrived with pizza in hand which we enjoyed as we watched the very tightly contested game.  My dad, Nico, Todd, and Patrick to a lesser degree are all Steeler fans.  To see the Steelers lose the way they did, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory was not enjoyed by anyone in the room.  The way that game shifted back and forth in the last quarter was compelling stuff.

I sit here punching out these last few words in bed, hopeful that I somehow manage to squeeze out a night of quality sleep to fuel me for my last day tomorrow.  My flight does not take off until early afternoon so I plan to spend the remaining time with Pat, my dad and step mom, wrapping up what has been the most memorable birthday of my lifetime.  If you are reading this and contributed in any way, thank you so much for bringing a bright, warm light to an event that normally holds a dark gloomy place in my mind.