2019 the end of a year and a decade

This annual recap seems to come around quicker and quicker, a side effect of my advanced age.  This is the first time a full decade of blogging is happening as I started this journey back in 2003.  Let’s see what my hopes were for this past year and how it all shook out.

Home Improvements

Replacing all of the pool fasteners, nope.  I started but quickly stopped after discovering many of the old fasteners were disintegrating, making replacement arduous.  I’d still like to get it done if I can find someone to do it for a reasonable number.

Raising ground in chicken area.  I did do work on this, bringing in a bunch of bags of top soil and pieces of sod.  However to do it right is going to require a dump truck or two of fill and a pallet or two of sod.  I am targeting having this done this winter by someone.  I also need to look at replacing the shitty welded wire fencing I used on the chicken area with higher quality woven wire.  The welded wire is rusting and falling apart in the areas that are underwater for months at a time during the summer.

Vehicles

Get better wheels and tires on the Tacoma. Nope, the Taco has gotten minimal driving miles in 2019 from daily driving the Prius and then the Tesla.  When the tires need to be replaced is more than likely when I will look to upgrade the wheels as well.  I talked about replacing the Prius with a pure EV however I was looking at a Chevy Bolt or a Hyundai Kona.  Obviously I chose to buy something else which I am glad of in retrospect.  The Tesla may be the favorite vehicle I have ever owned.

Health

No real goals were mentioned but the mystery fatigue plagued me for most of the year, only seeming to get better in the last couple months.  Oh I had that Bells Palsy thing, which I will talk about more in depth later…

Vacation

We never did a real road trip like I hoped but we did get to go on a cruise and long weekend to Disney which was fun.

Financial Goals

Selling the RV.  CHECK, albeit doing so at a massive loss which I try to not think about, much like my Lehigh Acres land purchases of 2003. Paying down the HELOC, well not really since I used it to pay off the RV.  I didn’t do much more in stocks like I planned, my portfolio is less than $1500.  I did however start doing designated savings accounts instead of having all of my liquid dollars sitting in a checking account.  Every pay I just funnel some minor bucks into these accounts so the impact feels small but over time it adds up to a decent chunk of change.

I didn’t see any need to buy any more PEVs or 3D printers this time last year.  I did buy a PEV or two but 3D printers is where my spending exploded which I will talk more about later.

Finally I aspired to be more patient and less reactive to agitation.  That has had moments of success and failure.  It’s tough to circumvent hard coding of your personality. Ok let me try to dig into some detail on some of the high and low lights of 2019.

I normally prefer to get the really bad parts of the year out of the way first.  Nothing is worse for me than losing animals.  In July Kristen, one of the sweetest chickens we ever had got sick and passed away.  Her loss really hit me hard.  We also had another bird leave the flock but not by death.  Daelin, the hen that turned into a rooster was rehomed after he raised absolute hell with the rest of the flock, relentless pursuing and attacking them to assert dominance.  His inclusion in the flock made chicken care miserable for me.  Most of time I spent in that area was spent chasing him around and controlling the urge to break his neck.  Despite the aggravation he caused me, I still felt badly about him leaving the flock as whatever new situation he was put in, it was unlikely to offer anywhere near the same level of accommodations.

My health has been a negative for much of 2019.  The odd right side pain along with off and on abnormal fatigue was an issue for most of the year, resulting in a battery of further testing which for the most part turned up nothing except high co-pays and deductibles.  However a few months ago I asked for a heavy metals test which surprisingly turned up a high level of thallium, a substance if you research can wreak havoc on your body over time.  It used to be a prime ingredient in rat poison and was used by evil spouses to slowly poison their insignificant others.

One of the many symptoms mentioned was facial palsy which stuck with me because of the other major medical issue of the year, what at first looked like a stroke that turned out to be Bells palsy.  This condition is scary, at first I thought I was actually having a stroke.  It started with a loss of taste followed by my right eye not being able to close followed by loss of control of the right side of my mouth.  When Cindy took me to the ER they rushed me in for a head CT which thankfully ruled out the stroke.

Bells Palsy is depressing on it’s own because there is very little known about why it starts and even less about predicting how long it could last.  For some people it lasts a few days, for others months, and for an unlucky few it sometimes never goes away completely.  It is a condition where the facial nerve on one side of the face gets inflamed or aggravated which causes the symptoms.  In my case I was rather lucky, after 10 days of steroids my symptoms started to lessen and by two weeks they were totally gone.

It wasn’t a fun two weeks, looking like you are stroked out isn’t a picnic.  I tried to head off confusion about why I looked the way I did by saying it upfront so others knew what the deal was and that hopefully it was not a permanent face adjustment.  The resulting medical charges from my two hour ER visit was something I fought heavily, especially them wanting me to pay over $700 for a pill that I could have gotten a week prescription for $20.  After several angry phone calls to the hospital billing department the end result was them finally agreeing to drop that charge.

I had more skin cancer cut out this year, this time on my forehead.  Still to this day I find it suspicious that my bells palsy symptoms started the day after my stitches were removed. Ok let’s talk about the rest.

So I said at the top that I didn’t buy that many PEVs this past year but now as I do research I find that not many equals three, or maybe four depending on your interpretation.  Early in the year I bought a cheap but powerful Ultron scooter. My thought at the time was it would be a way for both Cindy and I to be able to ride at higher speeds on two wheels instead of one since I already bought Cindy a Dualtron scooter in 2018.  After no more than three months I was looking to sell it.  It was not a high quality scooter and I just didn’t enjoy riding a scooter nearly as much as any of my other PEVs.  I wound up selling it at maybe a $400 loss.

I bought a One Wheel Pint as well, a smaller version of the One Wheel XR that I loved so much.  I found that even though the Pint is smaller, has less range and speed than the XR, in many ways I enjoyed riding it more.  It felt more nimble and responsive. The final PEV I bought was a Gotway Nikola Plus, a high speed EUC that I liked.  However during the year I got to test a KingSong 16X wheel and realized I liked that wheel even more.  Instead of buying one I found someone willing to trade their 16X for my Nikola.  It’s odd that four new PEVs coming into the household is viewed as insignificant in our world.

My other hobby, 3D printing saw a LOT more spending this year, driven by a steep escalation of interest and sales of my 3D printed stands for electric unicycles, something I started doing back in 2018.  Through word of mouth the amount of sales has skyrocketed and the amount of 3D printers I own have increased accordingly.  I have bought and given away a number of printers so they can be replaced by better printers, it’s sort of nuts.  Right now I have eight printers for home, another two at work and one more on back order.  The good news with these purchases is they are almost entirely paid for by proceeds from store sales.  EUC sales are increasing over time so I am not expecting this growth trend to reverse anytime soon. I have shipped stands all over the world including France, Germany, UK, Japan, and even Australia, among others.

We might as well continue the spending story of 2019 which was in a word, massive.  Twice this year ideas that were just whims, very expensive whims, became reality in very short order.  The first case was my purchase of the Tesla.  Originally my plan was to only get an EV once the 2016 Tacoma was paid off so I only was dealing with one car payment at a time.  However my buddy Matt talking up how much he loved his new Model 3 combined with the federal tax credit going away motivated me to take action.  In the span of a few days an idea I mentioned casually to Cindy became reality.

For a long time I was negative about the idea of buying a Tesla based on numerous reports of poor build quality, difficulty obtaining service when needed, and the roller coaster stock price where some people predicted the company would go bankrupt before the year expired.  My initial few weeks of ownership were a bit rocky when a paint defect and a crooked steering wheel took me multiple attempts to get fixed which it finally was.  However since then my experience has been almost entirely positive.  The car is a blast to drive and you never know when Telsa Christmas is going to pop up where new features are added with a simple software download to the car, it’s pretty amazing.  The impact to my electric bill was less than I expected as well, bumping up my average bill by about $30 which equated to driving around 1100 miles a month.

The other knee jerk reaction was getting full house solar installed at the house recently, another expense that rivaled the Tesla in cost.  This decision again came very quickly and once again I was somewhat motivated by Matt who also got full house solar this year.  Tax credits were a factor again as the 30% federal tax credit was targeted to be reduced after this year.  From idea to signing a contract took maybe a week.  It’s a big commitment which will cost me more than my power bill did for the next decade or more with the upside of increasing the value of our home significantly in the end.   Between the Tesla and whole house solar we are talking damn close to six figures, before the tax credits come back to me.

There have been other smaller projects I took on this year as well.  I installed a small off grid solar set up for the chicken coop consisting of three panels and a solar generator battery bank.  This combo can bank enough power during the day to run most of the coop equipment all night long.  However for cloudy days I still need the AC power I already had out there to supplement as needed.

The west side of our roof got replaced.  For some reason the metal that was used was mismatched so you saw different shades from different sections.  I noticed it and pointed it out shortly after the roof was redone but I was told it should all weather to a similar look over time.  Well that never happened.  I complained and they pulled up the old metal and replaced it with panels that all matched.  I recently contacted them again indicating I wanted the rest of the metal swapped out as it too has mismatched sections.  For 20K I shouldn’t have to be annoyed when I look at my roof.

We had our carpet restretched this year which was a huge pain in the ass.  In every room with carpet ridges had developed as it loosened up.  Home Depot was willing to come out an restretch it for free but the gotcha is you have to clear all the rooms out yourself which took us a couple days to complete and a day or two to reverse.  It’s nice to not have the waves in the carpet anymore but I’m not quite sure it was worth all the hassle we endured temporarily relocating all of the room contents.

The last home improvement project that comes to mind is rebuilding the step landings on either side of the pool deck.  It’s something I thought about doing at least three years ago, it took me that long to finally pull the trigger.  The new steps are much more solid and topped with Trex lumber which should outlast me.

I  had some other difficult projects I trudged through this year.  When I got the Tesla, instead of selling the 2007 Prius I was daily driving I offered it up to Katie as she needed a reasonable vehicle to drive a baby around in.  Her full sized Dodge Ram was not such a vehicle.  A few months after she had the car the ominous red triangle of death returned, indicating the rebuilt battery pack that I had replaced three or four times was once again going bad.

Paying for a new hybrid battery didn’t work well into Katie’s budget so I agreed to take a stab at fixing the pack myself.  Doing this involves determining which of the 28 cells is bad, pulling the huge battery from the car, cracking it open, and replacing the cell, and afterward reversing the process.  It’s a shit ton of work and not much fun but after watching some videos of the process I agreed to give it a shot.

It was as arduous as I expected but I did get the pack running again.  This sort of repair is always a game of whack a mole where after replacing one bad cell another bad one will pop up sooner or later.  She has been driving around on my repaired pack for several more months and it is still working, albeit with a few red triangle false alarms that I was able to clear.  The long term fix is replacing ALL of the cells with new ones which obviously costs a lot more.  Hopefully the car keeps going until they are better suited to address their transportation needs conventionally with a car payment.

Building my one Prusa printer from a kit was the other major headache of the year.  It was tedious slow work that consumed somewhere around a dozen hours of my time.  I was slightly surprised that the printer worked correctly at the end of the seemingly endless build steps.  I had a similar experience when I ordered the MMU2S add on for my Prusa, which supposedly added the ability to use multiple filament colors/types in one print.  That build was much more of a pain in the ass than I expected, consuming way more time than it should have.

I did get to travel more this year than in 2018.  I had two work conferences that took me to Orlando.  Then in October to celebrate Cindy’s 50th birthday we took a four day cruise to the Bahamas.  Going in I had only gone on a cruise once before and I didn’t recall being a huge fan of the experience.

This time I had a lot more fun, so much so that when it came time to talk about what we would do for my birthday, another cruise was something I was considering.  However instead of cruising we instead decided to go to Disney Hollywood Studios to see the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge park which was indeed amazing.  Sure dealing with the mobs of humanity made me not eager to go back to Disney anytime soon but overall it was a unique and memorable way to celebrate my 52nd birthday.

This year my dad and step mom moved to eastern PA after selling their place in Marienville, something they were trying to do last year when I wrote last years recap.  I thought they might really struggle selling their place but it worked out.  They are now living much closer to my sister and her two kids which I know my step mom loves.  All of the farm animals moved across state with them.

I think my dad is struggling with living in a house that he hasn’t dropped a small fortune into. Normally the process has been gutting it and then rebuilding and adding to the home to make it more or less exactly how he wants.  He has followed that format with almost every other place he has lived in my lifetime and spent a fortune in the process.  He has already started dumping money into this new place but hopefully it won’t escalate into the money pits he has a been involved with in the past.  He is going to be 73 in a couple weeks, at some point you just have to be happy where you are at.  If I make it to that age, I certainly will not be looking to renovate whatever my surroundings may be at that time.

One of the biggest changes of this year of course has been Katie giving birth to baby DJ. I admittedly was a bit sketchy about the whole pregnancy/birth process.  However as time has gone on things have changed. Cindy rearranged her schedule to be part time daycare for DJ.  As a result I have had a lot of time with a baby under the roof, an experience I have not had in my adult life.

Although when I was younger I always assumed I would have kids, the lack of that coming to be never bothered me much.  However interacting with DJ and seeing him smile and bounce around when he sees me makes me feel good.  The innocence and joy of being around a baby so much is something new to me.  Despite my aversion to all things old age, being referred to as “grandpa” when DJ is around doesn’t bother me at all for some reason. The love I see Katie and Cindy pour into this little guy is something special indeed.

It will be interesting to see what the recap looks like next year as by then DJ will be a walking/talking toddler.  It should be a learning experience, for both him and me.

This is the end of a decade so if I really wanted to tax my brain I could try to summarize 10 years in a meaningful way.  I just don’t have the energy to go into detail but 10 years ago some of things were still the same.  I lived in the same house and I worked at the same job.  The decade has seen a lot of changes of course like the ending of my second marriage, my escaping the nightmare of race timing, the shifting of hobbies and interests, my over six year relationship with Cindy, and the addition of Elsa, whom I cherish like my own child.

This seems wordy enough, I think I covered most of the highlights and low lights long enough for you to finish your cup of coffee. All that remains is setting some 2020 goals.

Physically I am hoping to continue my upswing in well being I have experienced in the last couple months of 2019.  I’d like to be able to continue to run without the misery penalty I was paying for most of the past year.  Fitness-wise I hope to keep pushing myself and tapping into whatever it is that motivates me to keep up the work required to make life in my 50’s as healthy as possible.

Projects for 2020 hopefully are not massive.  Like I mentioned I would like to get the chicken area elevated and enclosed with better fencing.  The pool area will need to be redone at some point but it is not high on my priority list.  I did mention the possibility to Cindy of us paying someone to enclose the covered area of the pool deck, giving us either a conventional or sun room out there.  It’s dependent on what sort of numbers we get.  The windows need to be replaced at some point as well, hopefully we can slide by a little longer with that.

Financially I hope to keep building on the momentum I have been building both with 3D store sales and my YouTube channel revenue, both of which grew by impressive numbers this year.  Like I mentioned before I am trying to focus more on savings.  Hell by the time this next decade clicks over I will be on the cusp of retirement, now that is rather eye opening to me. I did officially switch my retirement plan over to a pension this year, another sure sign of being an old fart.

I still would love to do a conventional road trip in 2020, if not another cruise would be a welcome alternative for me.  Hopefully we have ample opportunities to do so.

As far as flat out buying stuff I think I am all set with vehicles for the foreseeable future, although I did put a deposit on a Tesla CyberTruck (due out in 2022, maybe) Instead of buying a PEV I may buy a TV (tractor vehicle).  My Craftsman tractor is soon going to require a large investment to replace/rebuild the mower deck.  I’d rather spend that money on a tractor with a welded deck that lasts more or less forever.  I am sure the 3D store will generate additional 3D equipment purchases but if growth pays for growth that is a positive situation.

Personal goals for me always seem to come back to trying to navigate the fine line between wanting to get stuff done and needing to get stuff done.  I have an odd dynamic where I get stressed out if I feel overloaded with tasks to do but at the same time if I don’t do tasks I feel worthless and grumpy.  I definitely am more successful at dulling the edge of my personality which can be dark and biting at times than I used to be.  Still there is many things I could be better at and I am always reexamining situations, trying to figure out how to get through them without collateral damage.  This is not a task that has a definitive beginning or end, it’s a lifetime effort.

I hope I didn’t bore you too badly with the recap.  May the decade ahead hold happiness, excitement and promise.  Happy New Year and thanks for taking the time to digest my thoughts on my existence in this loosely organized chaos of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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