This weekend I kept hopping.  I started off with a row after work instead of a run.  When teamed with the 400 reps of calisthenics exercises I did at lunch I felt I met my exercise quota for the day.  I spent a good portion of the night processing orders from the 3D print store.  My EUC buddy Marty posted a video about the stand I sent him to use and the end result was a rush of people buying more stands, cleaning out my store of several categories.  I sold something like 10 stands, making for my biggest drop off at the post office at one time, ever.

It was off and on raining most of the day Saturday, I still went outside and handled my normal chores outside of mowing which I didn’t wind up doing until late afternoon on Sunday.  Cindy and I did our errands run with Elsa, a favorite Saturday morning tradition with us.  One of our stops was at the medical marijuana dispensary, Cindy had run out of the stuff that helps her sleep.  After waiting awhile she came out empty handed and upset because she wasn’t allowed to buy more until her doctor reauthorizes it.

The medical mmj implementation is a cash cow for everyone involved, including doctors.  In order to keep getting stuff Cindy has to schedule visits with the doctor every several months and pay a couple hundred dollars for him to sign his name on a piece of paper.  It’s quite frankly, stupid and a blatant money grab.  If someone has a long term condition that isn’t going to go away like MS, the patient shouldn’t need to keep handing over Franklins to the doctor to get the stuff.

I also took the time to make the famous chocolate cake for Cindy as a belated birthday celebration. The cake turned out great but I feel fatter with each slice I eat.  The recipe includes three or four cups of sugar and a half pound of butter but damn it tastes good.

Saturday night we watched BumbleBee, the most recent Transformers movie.  I didn’t realize it was actually a prequel to the movie series.  Cindy and I both really liked it more than the last several Transformer movies.  Less Marky Mark equals better movie.  I’d give it A-.

Sunday morning it was again very rainy which in the big picture is a good thing since we have had an unprecedented early end to wet season which has thrown us into an early H2O deficit.  I got a small break in the rain late morning which I targeted for a local ride.  It didn’t take long for the rain to return, soaking me in the process but I kept rolling along.

Cindy spent a lot of time doing initial clean up for the room clearing we have to do next weekend for the carpet restretch.  It will be a good way for us to cleanse, organize and purge.  I spent most of that time outside mowing grass during a break in the rain.

I watched the atrocious Eagles/Cowboys game last night, it was in a word, pathetic.  The team looked over matched in EVERY category.  I was just disgusted.  The defense was like a an open door, unable to stop the Cowboys on the ground or through the air.  After getting destroyed two weeks in a row and now heading to Buffalo to play the 5-1 Bills, the Eagles have a very real chance of reaching the halfway point of the season 3-5.  That is is sad when before the season the Birds were touted as one of the most talented teams in the NFC.  Carson Wentz, I just don’t know if he has “it”.  He isn’t alone, the team is underperforming in pretty much every facet of the game.

 

I went straight from work to Outback to meet up with Cindy, Katie, DJ, our friend Deb, Cindy’s mom and her niece.  We have celebrated many of Cindy and Katie’s birthdays there, it’s one of their favorites places to eat.  Of course baby DJ was the main star of the show but I think everyone had a good time and an enjoyable meal.  When we got home I gave Cindy her card and her last gift, a nice set of earrings which she was definitely not expecting.

Hopefully the roughly week long birthday festivities will be a lasting and positive memory for Cindy of her 50th year on the planet, just like mine is.

I have a feeling like there are so many things that need tending to at the house.  We are approaching the time of year that a full pressure washing needs to occur, the hated tree trimming project needs to happen, and a number of other smaller clean ups and projects are piled on as well.  We also need to start thinking about a plan for clearing the rooms for the carpet restretch that is due to happen on the 28th. It’s going to be a massive chore but hopefully it gives us a chance to clean up, throw out, and organize along the way.

My first day back at work consisted of me spending most of the day troubleshooting and monitoring a server that developed mystery performance issues suddenly.  It was the same server I was on the phone with the office for on Monday and Tuesday.  I have dug through endless pages on the internet trying to get a handle on what is going on but have not yet received a concrete answer.  Instead I have been doing the network equivalent of shotgunning parts as I disable or change things to see what sort of affect it has.  In a nutshell the problem causes slow performance for a number of systems at our main office so it’s a real issue.

The issue persisted all morning yesterday, despite changes I made.  Then all of a sudden right around lunch time things went back to normal and stayed that way the rest of the day.  This made me think that possibly the cause is something external of the server I had been working on.  I spent the rest of the day looking for unusual activity inside or outside of the network but again found no conclusive answers.  One side effect of this is I am working on building a second server to perform the same functions as the first so we have a way to recover quicker if need be in the future.

Today is Cindy’s 50th birthday, a big one by anybody’s standards.  The cruise was the big celebration of the event, I had hoped it actually would have occurred on her actual birthday.  Now, going out to dinner tonight seems a little anti-climactic.  We are going to Outback per Cindy’s request with her family and a good friend.    I always want Cindy’s birthdays to be special and of course a 50th requires more attention than most.

Despite how much I lamented turning 50, I’ll never forget the effort Cindy and the rest of my family and friends put into making it a special time.  I hope the last week or so does the same for Cindy as she deserves it.  I have never known someone so willing to invest herself into the happiness of those around her as Cindy does and I love her for it.

 

Here is my cruise recap, most of it being written while on ship!

Friday/Saturday

Friday morning we let our normal 6AM alarm fire off despite us not having to leave the house until 8:45 or so.  We had most of our things packed and ready to go.  Cindy handled doing the chicken chores one last time before we left, meaning on the first night Katie only had to make sure the birds got back inside safely.  Elsa and I hopped in the truck to get coffee and drop off a couple more 3D store sales for shipping at the post office.

When we got back we did our final loading, including loading Elsa into the Ioniq to drop her off at Katie’s place.  It was sad for me leaving Elsa there but we were only going to be gone a handful of days and Elsa generally has fun with Katie’s dogs.

The drive over in the Ioniq was ok, only getting hairy traffic-wise until the last 30 minutes or so.  Even though the Ioniq is a great car I found myself missing Tesla autopilot and how effortless it makes this type of driving. When we parked in the garage we saw yet another ancillary expense we would be posting, the $22 a day parking fee.  Ancillary fees has been a very common theme in my cruise experience so far, which is not unexpected.

The terminal for Royal Caribbean was beautiful and filled with happy, helpful employees.  I swear every 25 feet there was an employee smiling and directing us exactly where we needed to go.  It was a level of service I am not accustomed to. When we finally got a good view of the side of the ship it was visually impactful.  The length and height of The Navigator of the Seas was just massive and disorienting if you cruise as infrequently as I have.

Once we got on the ship we could not get access to our room right away so we lugged our carry ons into one of the free dining areas.  The food spread was diverse and plentiful.  I tried my best to not be overly gluttonous right off the bat.  By the time we finished up eating we still had some time to kill so Cindy, who is a nine cruise veteran took me through the ship to check out some of the amenities.

At 1PM we were allowed in the room which seemed pretty nice, especially compared to the room I had years ago on Carnival.  This time we were on the 9th floor deck with a balcony which was awesome.  We unpacked and enjoyed the view out on our deck.

Before we could depart we had to do the muster drill where they go over emergency procedures with all passengers out on the deck.  It was sort of a pain in the ass but we wound up passing a good portion of the time talking to some interesting and funny people.  The one cruise line employee even entertained us briefly by singing some Ave Maria. It was hot as we stood out there for the drill.  When it finally finished there was an older woman that was sitting against the wall.  I guess the heat really got to her.

We pushed off the dock around 4:30, I was out on the balcony for a good portion of the departure, it was just cool to be out there in the middle of the ocean, something I don’t get to experience often. I was probably out there a good 30 minutes plus just taking it all in, feeling appreciative of the quiet and beauty around me.

We had our dinner reservation at 5:45 and we could get a table just for two, an impossibility when I last cruised.  Back then they had assigned seating where you were stuck with the same 6-8 people at the table every night, if you like it or not.  Instead Cindy and I enjoyed a quiet table for two while we enjoyed a three course dinner which we both enjoyed.

Most of the night we could feel the ship rocking back and forth, a rarity with a ship of this size.  When we went up on the top deck later it was VERY windy and the sea looked very choppy.  It made more sense why we felt the movement.

During the afternoon I took my first ever shot at a rock climbing wall, a big one, that they have on the upper deck.  I figured with my calisthenic and specifically pull up training that I should do ok with it.  I completed the easy and medium difficulty course back to back.  By the time I was done I was pretty beat and the difficult course looked like more than I wanted to attempt at the moment. We spent a lot of time just walking around and checking out attractions and a few small shows.  I happened to run into a guy that I work with who is on the cruise with a bunch of his friends/family.  It was very funny to see him here.

Cindy was very excited to attend the 70’s party that was not scheduled to start until 11PM.  Let’s just say I did not share her enthusiasm but I told her whatever she wanted I would do since the cruise is for her.  She had packed 70’s costumes for both of us.  Mine include a big black wig, sunglasses, a tie die shirt, and bandana.  It looked silly as you can imagine.  Cindy looked better in her outfit.

She was visibly upset when we went down and basically no one else, outside of a group of four or five women actually dressed up.  Instead we felt like monkeys in the cage as everyone looked at the big dorky guy in a hippie costume.  Once the 70’s music started however it didn’t matter, everyone got into the genre and it was a lot of fun for all.

One thing that was not fun was when I saw a text message pop up on my phone saying that I had over $100 in international roaming charges with a number to call.  I had done absolutely nothing with my phone but I noticed that it had automatically connected to the cruise ship’s 3G service.  Evidently it did this and continued gobbling data which costs a FORTUNE, in my case $6 per MEGABYTE.  The rep told me my phone consumed about 16 megs of data over the cruise ship network which must have been just mindless background activity the phone was performing.

I was pissed, at the situation and at myself.  I assumed if I took no action I would simply not have service so there be no issue.  So my only option was to buy $100 ATT international plan that is good for 30 days.  It included unlimited calls and texting as well as 200 MB of data usage.  Doing this would negate the per mb charges I was racking up and at least give me a flat rate to pay for.  The entire thing still burns me up.  To pay $100 for phone use on a three day cruise is just stupid, in any scenario.

We got to bed late and neither of us fell asleep quickly.  The queen bad accommodations are tighter than either of us is accustomed to.  We still woke up pretty early, somewhere around 7:30AM.  By the time we opened the curtain we were pulling into Coco Cay.

After eating breakfast we though it might be smart to hang on the ship for a bit to just chill out.  We went to the upper deck and did just that, playing some ping pong, shooting some basketball and then doing something neither of us expected, riding the Flow Rider.

The Flow Rider is basically a never ending wave.  At the front of it there is a high power stream of water that shoots up and over a hill.  The objective is to ride a miniature version of a skim/surfboard like a surfer. We sat there watching several people go.  Some were experts, some were trying for the first time.

I could tell Cindy was entertaining the idea of trying it and she was bugging me to do it as well.  I have never surfed and I had no idea how much my One Wheel and Esk8 experience would help me.  After a lot of prodding Cindy agreed to try it.  After signing the waiver she had to first do a session on a boogie board.  Once you do the boogie board they allow you to try going on the normal upright board. She did fine on the boogie board and got back in line to try the real deal.

She did great on her feet, staying upright for a good 10 seconds before wiping out.  She got back in line and did it one more time before it was my turn.  I felt like I had no choice since Cindy put it out there.  The boogie board part of it was not hard for me, I could have stayed on that forever, the most challenging issue is not being able to see well from the water blinding you.

So now it was time to get on my feet.  I felt wobbly of course but I definitely think my PEV riding helped some.  I stayed up somewhere between 10-15 seconds before wiping out.  Once was enough for me, I just wanted to be able to say I did it.

After a fun morning we headed to the room to get ready to go to Coco Cay, the massive adventure island that Royal Caribbean built.  This was another ala carte pay to play item, costing Cindy and I roughly $45 each to get access.

The first thing we did once we hopped off the tram was find a place to sit down and eat.  I was feeling pretty beat from the late night, alcohol, light sleep, and our active morning.  The sun, despite temps only in the low 80’s, felt intense, I was looking to escape it.  I thought I was going to have to toss my no beef, chicken, or poultry diet out the window.  I almost grabbed a burger but instead found a portobello and parmesan sandwich that fit the bill.

The first water slide we did we waited forever for, at least a half hour , maybe closer to 45 minutes.  It was a unique slide where 2-4 people got into an oversized inner tube.  It’s highlight is at the end where after dropping down a very steep incline you go up a big ramp as far as your momentum will carry you before reversing directions and sliding into the splashdown area.  It was fun for sure.

Cindy and I did the other two water slide types on that platform.  They were more what you expect but still a good time.  Earlier we also waded about waist deep into the wave pool, something I never experienced before.  The water was pretty chilly and the waves were not that impressive so we didn’t stay in there very long.

There was one other massive water slide platform.  Cindy climbed the steps with me to the tallest slide which supposedly was the tallest in North America.  It took a solid four minutes of climbing to reach the top.  The ride down was fast and disorienting.  I had so much water hitting me in the face I couldn’t see a thing the last 10 seconds of the ride.  The slides on the big platform are the type you go down on your bare back.  I’m not a big fan as I still seem to feel all of the seams on the way down, it’s not a comfortable feeling.

I was going to do another slide on the platform where you get in a capsule and all of a sudden the floor drops out from under you, sending you crashing down a very steep tube.  I was one person away from getting my turn when something broke on the one side that evidently wasn’t allowing it to work.  We waited awhile but when the guy said it was going to take another 20 minutes to fix after we waited almost 15 minutes already I bagged it and walked down the platform to another slide, oh well.  Cindy and I were pretty beat so we came back to the ship about 3PM.  We have taken the time to just unwind or in my case, time to punch this entry out.

Tonight we are doing another formal dinner. Followed by I am not sure what.  There are supposedly big parties going on over at Coco Cay.  Tomorrow we land in Nassau where I believe we spend most of the day just sight seeing.  I think Cindy is most interested in getting some time in the Straw Market, a place I experienced once before.  I don’t like the feeling of being cattle fed to the wolves which tourists with cash are.  Cindy likes the interaction a lot more.

It’s been a good trip so far with a lot of unique and long lasting memories.  Cindy appears to be having a lot of fun which is the ultimate goal at the end of the day.

Saturday/Sunday

Last night we totally ditched on activities on Coco Cay.  After dinner I just couldn’t get this chill off my body, likely from a lot of sun exposure during the day.  Cindy was wiped out as well.  After dinner we retreated to the room, the hot shower I took felt good.  We rented the latest Men in Black movie and zonked out in bed.  Too be quite honest I dozed off for probably half of the movie, I was just tired, but what I saw didn’t impress me.

In a way I felt bad that we spent last night in such a mundane way.  I told Cindy repeatedly I was ok with doing whatever she wanted.  She just happened to want to relax as well.  That is the cool thing about a cruise, you can make it as busy or not as you want.

I had another pretty spotty night of sleep.  The boat was again bouncing and groaning most of the night as we traveled from Coco Cay to the Bahamas.  Cindy described how she wanted to see various sites on the island and the ship had an excursion that covered most of those spots.  Of course waiting until last minute meant the ship arranged excursion was already fully booked.  Cindy and I planned to just wing it, getting to these spots via a taxi or some other form of transportation.

When we got off the ship we walked through a welcome center.  We talked to a nice young guy that told us we could do the very same trip that the ship did not have available.  It was almost half of the price of what the ship was going to charge, not a surprise.

Before the tour bus departed we actually found a Dunkin Donuts which was a minor miracle.  It was nice to have some coffee that didn’t taste like armpit for the first time in three days.  On the walk to and back we were accosted every 20 feet by someone else wanting us to buy something.  My method to handle these requests normally is just to ignore them.  Cindy tries to be more polite which is nice.

The tour was actually quite fun.  It was enhanced greatly by our tour guide “Queen Bee”.  She was funny and very entertaining.  Cindy and I really enjoyed the roughly two and a half tour.  Bee shared a lot of cool information along the way that we would have never have gotten or known about if we ventured out on our own.

After the tour we found a small, authentic Bahama style hole in the wall to eat at.  We both ordered conch tacos.  I don’t think I ever had conch before but it was good.  I also had two Presidente beers that weren’t awful.  While we ate we sat outside and talked to a 75 year old woman that owned the place, I think.  It was the type of unexpected interaction that makes traveling fun. It was a good thing I had enough cash on hand to pay for the bill, which was scribbled on a lined notepad.  They did not take credit cards, something I didn’t discover until we finished.  The bathroom also didn’t have running water, instead they had a pack of baby wipes on a shelf.

Next up was shopping in and around the Straw Market, something Cindy really likes.  Haggling with people over souvenirs isn’t something I have any interest in.  Cindy is good at it however.  She scored some deals  that were impressive, getting 50% off the first price more than once.  My primary role was to be the bag carrying mule, something I excel at.

We got back on the ship somewhere around 2:30.  We wanted to ride the two big water slides on the ship.  We wound up riding only one after waiting something like 45 minutes for a 45 second ride, it was fun while it lasted.  Neither of us felt badly about not waiting to do the other single person slide (ours was a double rider slide)

It seemed like a lot of people bailed on Nassau early.  We thought the boat would not be very busy yet, we were wrong.  The pool deck was the most crowded we have seen it since departing.  We grabbed some soft serve ice cream and watched a belly flop competition before returning to the room to prep for dinner.

Oh speaking of dinner, last night’s dinner was not great.  I ordered tiger shrimp that came butterflied.  Evidently they are designed to have the meat scraped out of the shell.  Every shrimp dish I ever ate at the most required me to break off the tail, which is what I did for the three of the first four shrimp.  These shrimp were small, no bigger than normal.  When I told Cindy that it felt like I was eating tail we examined the shrimp more closely and discovered the shell was on all of them.

We confirmed with staff that the shell was supposed to be on there.  The thing is, these shrimp were small so there was very little to be eaten.  The meal also supposedly came with asparagus.  Instead of stalks of asparagus they have about a half dozen little slices of it.  It was a real pitiful amount of food. To make things worse the service was slow as molasses.  We had huge delays between courses.  Hopefully our last dinner tonight is better.

There are a few shows tonight that Cindy is interested in, I told her whatever she wants to do is fine which has been the general theme of the trip.  Tomorrow morning we hopefully will grab one more cruise meal for breakfast before heading back across the state.

The trip has been fun as I hoped it would be.  Overall I would say the Royal Caribbean experience has been a step up from what I recall compared to Carnival.   Although road trips will likely remain my vacation experience of choice I would definitely do more cruises with Cindy, especially the short variety like this.  They don’t require much planning and deliver as many experiences as you can handle.  My intent was for this to be a memorable and fun way for Cindy to celebrate her half century on the planet.  Hopefully I was successful.

Sunday/Monday/Tuesday

Welcome back to live blogging.

Late afternoon we watched a belly flop competition which got delayed for awhile because they hardly had any contestants.  I was half considering entering despite not having a typical belly flop build just to get the contest started.  Eventually they got six people to enter.  It was fun to watch.

Our last night on the ship we had our best dinner.  They originally wanted to seat us at the same tables as we had the night before with food that was not great and wait staff that was slow.  Instead we requested to go to adjacent table which was manned by Eka and Akilesh, who we had Friday night, we both liked them a lot. We were glad we made the change, we had a much better experience,  The meal wound up with staff singing an early Happy Birthday rendition to Cindy which she enjoyed.

After dinner we went to Showgirls which was in the main theater.  I was quite impressed with the production quality of the show, it was top notch.  The guy that ran our muster station on day one was one of the main singers, and a damn good one at that.  Even though musical/dance productions aren’t my thing I didn’t have a problem sitting through the roughly 45 minutes, it was entertaining for sure.

There was an 80’s party late Sunday night that originally Cindy was interested in but she later changed her mind.  She had been getting pretty horrific sleep on the ship and was very tired.  So after Showgirls we just walked the perimeter of the ship and enjoyed the beautiful vista of the open sea being lit up by the full moon.  When we got back to the room we got our bags almost totally packed so we would be able to roll out EARLY Monday morning after eating breakfast onboard.

We set a 6:10 alarm for Monday.  I slept a little better than the prior nights but not great, especially when there were four announcements over the PA between 4 and 5AM looking for a passenger.  We hopped out of bed and were at the cafe where breakfast was served just before they opened the doors.  The buffet style breakfast on the ship is well organized chaos.  You are constantly swerving through human beings, most carrying plates of food.  Within 30 seconds of getting up cruise staff swoops in to clear the way for another guest to slide in.  The ship staff really was fantastic.  Everyone goes out of there way to show you a smile, even if inside they are hating life.

We got off the ship promptly at 7:30 and got to the car incredibly fast.  The most impressive/scary thing was how you didn’t even have to present your passport.  All you did was look at a camera and you were matched up through image recognition compared to what the government has on you.  Yes it was very Big Brother but it also made the line go very fast.

We had one final cruise related bill to pay on the way out, the $66 dollar parking bill.  The money we spent beyond paying for the accommodations was not horrific because we didn’t buy drink packages or pay for excursions outside of Coco Cay. I stayed within the boundaries of the mental budget I created when I first thought of this idea.

The drive home was fast, we pulled into the driveway before 10AM which is pretty amazing.  During the rest of Monday we tended to a few simple to do’s but I spent most of my time trying to edit the massive amount of footage I had from the trip.  I also found myself more than once just thinking about how just 24 hours prior Cindy and I were 200 miles out in the ocean walking around Nassau.  I get similar feelings whenever we go away on a trip.

I am off today as well.  I spent my second phone session with work in as many days.  There was a rather disruptive issue with a server that I think we finally got addressed with the call today.  I also called and made arrangements to get our carpet restretched.  We had Home Depot install the carpet in 2015.  Within a couple years ridges started to form in the rooms.  For a long time I just shoulder shrugged but recently after Cindy was complaining about the ridges I looked deeper into the Home Depot installation warranty, which is supposedly lifetime.

Based on what I saw, they should come out and make the problem right, despite the carpet now being four years old.  That turned out to be true, they are scheduled to come out to restretch the carpet on the 28th which is cool.  What isn’t cool is we are going to have to move a TON of shit to make the rooms prepared for the work.  Sure the installers will move up to six pieces of furniture per room but those pieces have to be empty/clear and everything has to be off the floor.  The bedroom will be relatively easy to clear but the other three rooms have hours of work to do the same.  Hopefully the effort results in the carpet looking decent for several more years.

I may get out to ride later, maybe not. Below is the video outlining the trip.  I think it does a decent job of capturing the fun we had.

 

 

 

 

I figured the swelling from the wasp sting on Tuesday evening would be a short lived thing.  Instead it has slowly propagated, first inflating my hand and now even my wrist is one notch fatter on my watch band.  My dad has an established bee allergy but I always thought I did not share that trait.  I don’t think I have a severe allergy but this reaction is way more than I recall experiencing in the past.

So Cindy and I are working on tying up loose ends before we head out on our cruise tomorrow.  I was on the tractor last night mowing the chicken area, Cindy had mowed the rest of the yard for me which was great.  Cindy has lots of to do’s on her prep list that she has been working on and the trip itself should be a simple one since we leave tomorrow and should be back by mid-day Monday.  Even with the short duration I still find myself having anxiety about leaving the household and especially the chickens.  I am sure they will be ok but I can’t shake the worry off my back.

This should be an interesting experience.  I have only gone on one other cruise in my life, probably 15 years ago with Ali on Carnival.  I recall more or less enjoying myself although being in a finite space with lots of other human beings is never anything I look for.  It’s Cindy’s 50th birthday present so it’s all about her enjoying herself.  I have already felt some frustration with the bait and switch methodology that cruise lines seem to employ where they offer attractive rates to get onboard but then they ala carte you to death with inflated charges for anything and everything under the sun once you are there.

I am hoping to have the time to just chill out, read, and not be beholden to my task list for at least a couple days.  We will see how that works out in practice.

 

Last week when I was at Planet Fitness I decided to use the leg press sled instead of doing squats which have been aggravating my lower back recently.  When I did my first set with light weight I noticed that the foot platform was incredibly loose, rocking back and forth.  I got up and took a look at the back of it and found that two of the four bolts that hold it on were missing and the two that remained were not tight.  I immediately went to the front desk and pulled one of the staff back there to show him.  I told him that was a real hazard.  He agreed and said he had more bolts up front that he would use to fix it. Ok fine, I went and used a Cybex leg press instead.

So yesterday I was back at PF for leg day and I again opted to do the leg press sled.  It felt even looser than the week before.  I take a look and the same two bolts remained.  The one top bolt was so loose I could spin it by hand.  Keep in mind a leg press sled can have five or six 45 pound plates on each side.  Having half of the bolts it is supposed to have and those two being loose is a huge danger.  They could easily sheer off from the strain.  When that happens a weighted sled could come crashing down potentially on a customer.

I found the same guy I talked to the week prior and marched him back over to the equipment.  I reminded him that last week I told him about the problem and he said he was going to address it.  He said he didn’t have any bolts that actually fit.  After looking at him in disbelief for a few seconds, I said “Listen, I am trying to save this place from getting sued when the equipment fails while someone is under it”  I demonstrated to him how loose the sled was and how I was able to spin the bolt with my hand.  My demonstration was enough for him to go grab an “equipment is out of order” sign.  I mean hey, I realize Planet Fitness is a shit hole job but that isn’t an excuse for not doing the basics to make sure your customers aren’t maimed while using your facility. Idiots.

So we have had issues with wasps in the chicken coop for awhile, evidently they view it as a prime spot to build a nest.  I removed a smaller nest on the roof a couple months ago.  Well there has been another nest forming under the stand I built for the solar generator, a large one.  Up until this point I have let it be as I generally hate killing other living creatures, outside of fire ants or mosquitoes.  The wasps have not attacked me but they evidently have buzzed Cindy quite often.  Evidently yesterday a whole bunch of them came at Cindy so she really wanted me to get rid of the nest.

My plan was to do it in a nice way.  I was going to use the hose to blast the nest off the structure, hopefully getting the wasps to relocate to another area.  Well the second I got the hose in position I got stung on the ring finger of my right hand which of course burned.  The sting also flipped the switch in my head.  This was no longer a relocation effort but an eradication exercise.  I am very much a counter puncher.  I don’t want to hurt anything but if something hurts me the gloves are off.

I went up to the garage and got some wasp killer.  Even with vengeance on my mind, I felt badly as I shot the nest, watching all of the wasps drop off and die quickly.  After spraying I had to do clean up as I didn’t want wasp killer on surfaces the chickens would touch and of course all of the dead wasps and the nest had to be removed as well.

So as I am cleaning up and pulling paper towels I notice a couple more wasps in that area.  I look under the shelf where the paper towel holder is mounted and find ANOTHER nest, about four inches to the left.  It’s amazing we haven’t been attacked from that group yet.  In my experience when the wasp nest is small they mind their own business but once it gets to a certain size the insects are more aggressive regarding protection of the nest.  This second wasp nest was smaller than the first but still had 7 or 8 of them on it.

So even though this group had not attacked me they met the same fate as the first group.  I blasted them with the spray with the same feelings of guilt.  As I cleaned up the remains of the second nest I felt like shit.  As the night progressed the swelling in my right hand spread from the finger to the entire appendage.  Today I can’t even see my knuckles.  It’s crazy that was from one sting.  Imagine if a few of them hit me at the same time.  I told Cindy we need to be on constant lookout for new nests so we can knock them down before we get to the point where mass extermination is needed.

Yesterday I sold not one but two EUC stands to people in the UK.  It costs them almost $23 to just ship it over there but they were willing to dish out the bucks to do so.

The commute last night was rather frustrating, especially when I later realized the Tesla was trying to help me avoid that frustration.   I normally have the navigation system on during my commutes not because I forget how to get to work or how to get home but to give me ETAs of my arrival.  Last night as I was about halfway home I noticed the car was telling me to go a different route which was odd.  I ignored the advice and continued home as I always do.  Wow did I ever pay for it.

Even though my SR+ model does not show real time traffic information like more expensive models do, it does take traffic information into account when planning a route.  Last night it saw the incredible quagmire on Immokalee Road and it was trying to steer me around it.  The end result of my actions was my commute taking an hour and a half.

Sitting in traffic is never fun but when you just slammed an afternoon large coffee expecting your commute to take a normal amount of time it can be almost tortuous.  By the time I got home it felt like my bladder was going to explode.  On the positive side, there is not a better vehicle to be stuck in 3-4mph traffic in.  With the car in autopilot mode it will deal with all of the endless stopping and starting without intervention, allowing you to focus on being pissed off.

The most aggravating thing was I NEVER saw a cause for the traffic disaster.  I saw a single ambulance go past us and then go back the other way.  Other than that all I saw was a community patrol car that had a Maxima pulled over in a turning lane.  It was not a fun commute whatsoever.  You can be assured the next time the car suggests an alternate route out of the blue, I will take it.

The headline yesterday was how Trump decided to pull US special forces out of Syria which supposedly will lend itself to more instability in that particular region.  I won’t pretend that I know anything about the situation in that area but I can tell you I was surprised by the bi-partisan backlash about it.  It pissed off pretty much everybody because it negates a clear commitment that was made.  I really can give you no logical explanation for much that Trump has done over the last three years but somehow it manages to keep sitting the lunacy bar higher and higher.  Hell paying 140k to keep a stripper quiet about your affair seems like just another normal day in the DC.  Please, end the embarrassment, just resign.

 

Let’s see how quick I can recap the weekend.

Friday night instead of running or rowing, we went riding.  We dusted off our road bikes and did a 10 mile ride.  Neither of us are in good biking condition.  Hopefully Cindy is up for doing this sort of Friday cardio workout more often, it’s a good way to start the weekend.

Saturday was busy as I needed to keep in mind we would be out of town next weekend.  In addition to normal weeding I got on the tractor and mowed the back yard.  Some day this week we will mow the front part of the property.  I also got the weed whacking done Sunday evening.

I got out and did some testing of the Tesla smart summon feature.  In my six tests it got to me four of those times.  It’s definitely not a polished feature yet.

Saturday night Cindy and I got out to see the Joker movie.  Wow, it was totally different than any comic book related movie I have ever seen.  The Christian Bale Batman movies had been heralded as some of the darkest comic films ever.  Joker now has that crown.  Jacquin Phoenix is incredible in the movie.  I originally thought there was absolutely no tie in to Batman in the film.  I was wrong.  It’s rated R and deservedly so.  Don’t expect to come out of there feeling good about the world but you will know you just saw an incredible acting performance. It gets a dark A.

Sunday I did work on Cindy’s MiniPro, installing a new system board that unlocks 30% more speed in the device.  We always said it needed to be just 2 or 3 mph faster.  Our wish now has come true.  I made two sort of funny videos about the process,

I watched the Eagles beat the shit out of the Jets.  It’s a rare thing to have the Eagles dominate an entire 60 minutes but that was the case Sunday.  it was a nice change of pace.

A busy week ahead as we prep for our quick cruise to celebrate Cindy’s birthday!

 

 

On Wednesday evening Bryan stopped back at the house for me to sign the documents for the solar installation.  It was a lot of paperwork, requiring not only the contract with them, the loan paperwork, and the connection agreements with the electric company.  I did actually take the time to read the documents I was signing.  Doing so caught a few things that were not as they should be which I had him notate and fix.  Bryan told me that they would have a guy out the NEXT morning to do a site survey, wow.

I met the guy at home Thursday.  We walked the yard while he measured distances with his wheel.  He said the 48 panels will go on one massive rack that is 65 feet wide.  The panels will be mounted in landscape fashion and will have four rows of 12 panels each.  It will be quite the structure.  It is going to get installed on the higher ground in the back yard, behind the chicken coop.  The cable run to the house will be a very lengthy 250 feet but the guy said they would just up the wire size to accommodate the distance.  He marked the corners of where the structure would go with some spray paint.  After taking a few pictures of the yard, electric meter and breaker box he was good to go.

The speed that the install happens seems to be completely governed by how long it takes for the permitting process to occur.  Hopefully the delay is minimal.  Cindy and I are both excited about the prospect of installing a self sustaining energy solution.  Hopefully it lives up to our expectations.  Yesterday I handled the one requirement I had, securing a one million dollar umbrella liability policy which is a requirement by the electric company to hook up to the grid with a “tier 2” system like mine.  Originally I was scared this was going to be a massive expense.  It turned out to be less than $300 a year.

Earlier in the week I made a video complaining about how the much anticipated Version 10 software update for my Tesla was not getting installed on my car.  The full self driving cars such as mine were supposed to be at the front of the line to receive the update.  Twice the car said it downloaded the update and twice it failed to install for some odd reason.  Yesterday I took the step of contacting Tesla support to see what they could do.  Through some back end magic they were able to force the update down to the car which I installed last night.

This morning it was like mini-Christmas as I dug through the tons of new features with the release.  One of the cool things is now my car, which did not have streaming music as part of it’s options package, now does.  I have three different streaming services, the web browser, YouTube, and Netflix apps.  Now of course you can’t watch movies while driving, at least not yet, but it is something to pass the time if you are on the road hooked up to a supercharger.  There are tweaks to auto pilot and the long awaited release of enhanced summon, a feature that I thought I already had when I bought the car.

Enhanced summon allows your car to come to you in a parking lot.  Basically you activate it on your phone app and the car will intelligently navigate it’s way to you, avoiding obstacles along the way.  Already the internet has been flooded by idiots using the feature in unsafe situations and documenting how it can be potentially dangerous.  The car does not have the ability to see another drivers eyes to ascertain if they see you or not so it is a feature best used in open, lightly traveled lots.  To be quite honest it is a feature that I will likely never use in a practical manner, to me it is just a cool card trick that will be fun to show to others.  The only real viable use I could see is if I was in the middle of a torrential rainstorm and had a choice between running a couple hundred feet to the car in a deluge or having it drive to me.  Yes that would be cool indeed.  Otherwise I am quite fine walking my ass to the car as usual.

I shot another video this morning on the way to work documenting some of the features.  I expect to be shooting a couple more over the weekend diving deeper into the stuff that interests me the most.

It’s hard to believe but by this time next week Cindy and I may be driving to the east coast to depart on Cindy’s short four day birthday cruise.  I always have anxiety about leaving the animals and the household in general.  However we will be back Monday, a much more manageable absence than when we go on 10-14 day road trips.  Cindy is very excited about the trip.

This weekend has lots to do including more Tesla testing, upgrades on the Segway Mini-Pro, getting out to the see the Joker movie, and much, much more.

Does it seem to anyone else like Trump is actually trying to get impeached at this point?  I said to my buddy Matt yesterday that it’s almost like Donald finally woke up and realized that it is more fun just being filthy rich than being the laughing stock of the rest of the world.  It’s a good scenario for him, he gets pushed out but he can lay all the blame on treasonous Democrats and the fake news losers.

 

Yesterday I met another solar salesman at the house named Troy.  Troy had sold a solar/roof combo to my buddy Matt and was referred to me.  We walked the property and surveyed the install.  Much like the first company, the news that I wanted to do a ground install was not a good thing in his eyes because of the extra expense and from what I discovered later, some technical challenges with their system.

Before long we went inside where I presented him with my electric bill so he could run the numbers, even though I sort of already knew the numbers from the day before.  Troy was a very likeable guy but also a very obvious salesman as opposed to a technical person.  There were several times where I corrected him on some technical details that I should not have had to.  At one point I asked him a somewhat technical question and instead of answering it he had me watch a YouTube video that explained it.

There was also an awkward 15 minutes or more where he could not get into some website that he uses to generate quotes.  Evidently he forgot his password and then for some reason had incredible difficulty resetting it.  It got to the point where I started to unload the dishwasher while he futzed around with his account credentials.

With the first sales guy he had a formal proposal that laid out all of the equipment, installation outline, warranties, specs, and more.  Troy had none of that, all he basically had was numbers calculating the loan details which was a bit of a turn off.  When I later asked for information on the hardware he texted me links on the internet.  I really sort of felt a bit like I was in a car sales scenario where the main concern was making the monthly payment work and little else.

So like I said there were some technical differences with this second system that made it seem less suited for a backyard install with a long run to the house.  This system uses “power optimizers” on each panel which allow you to monitor the output and health of each panel but they are DC-DC devices, meaning they output DC power.  DC power does not travel well over distance, hence why our power grid runs on AC power.  Putting the array in the backyard with this config would be problematic. The system from the first company uses a “micro-inverter” on each panel.  These devices also allow you to monitor each panel but more importantly they convert the DC coming off the panels to AC, which makes a long run to the house not a big deal.   This was an important difference for me.

There were some positives for Troy’s equipment.  Supposedly the panels were higher capacity, 360 watts versus 300 watts so it would require less panels for the same production.  Also in the final quote Troy included a few extra panels that would negate the small output degradation that can occur over years and years.  They had the same financing rate as the first company which was lower than what I get on my home equity line of credit so that was a wash.

Troy was quite the talker, he spent something like two and a half hours at the house, which is probably more than double what I expected.  Like I said, he was definitely a salesman.  I thanked him for all of his info and he said he would follow up with me on Friday to see if he could get an agreement out of me.

After Troy left I looked at some of the links he had sent on the equipment used.  It all looked fine if I was doing a roof install but both Cindy and I really prefer having the solar array in the back yard which is mostly just wide open, unused space anyway.  I also was a bit turned off when I looked at the the website for Troy’s company which was on his business card, which look like he designed himself.  The website had basically no information on it and looked like a template that was thrown online rapidly, again a huge contrast to the professional site and presentation I got from the first company.

I emailed the sales guy from the first company and told him I have another quote for about the same money with slightly higher output.  However I told him that if he would agree to include a backyard install for a number about $2500 less than his initial  quote, I would be agreeable to doing business with them.  I got a response back within the hour that said they could do that, which made me feel like I should have asked for more, lol.

I also talked to my dad last night since he went through the solar process at his house in Marienville, again with a ground mount array that was a massive 300 feet from the house.  He had some tips and advice based on his experience which was helpful to hear.  He seemed genuinely excited about the idea of me going solar, following in his footsteps, even though since he moved he is no longer harvesting the sun.

So anyway, much like my Telsa purchase that rapidly went from a fleeting idea to reality in a few days, it is looking whole house solar might be following the same path.  The more I think about it the more comfortable I am with the idea.  Being able to simply redirect money I am already spending with the utility company to a solar system without forcing me to alter my budget one penny really seems like a no brainer.  Electric company rates are only going to rise over the next two decades while my solar system payment will not.  Once I pay it off in around 10 years the rest is gravy.