Category: Anything and Everything

As expected our New Years Eve lacked the traditional elements most associate with the event, big crowds, wild parties, and excessive drinking.  Instead Cindy worked on cake crafting while I played a lot of WoW, trying to get my last few virtual replicas to max level in the game.  We watched the last few minutes of New Year’s Rocking eve to see the ball drop.  Every year it blows my mind that a million people are willing to be corralled in Times Square for 12-18 hours, waiting for the ball to drop.  It just does not sound appealing to me in the least.  As the clock struck midnight we finished off the small glasses of wine that Cindy had poured us and then watched a little more of the broadcast before drifting off to sleep.  Despite it being the end of the decade it felt like most other NYE’s, meaning uneventful.

I have never been the type to make resolutions.  I always have felt that if you need a date on a calendar to start making a change, you aren’t serious about making the change.  Instead I plan to just continue grinding along, hoping that my actions always will carry more weight than my words.  I just find nothing but frustration in individuals that endlessly talk about getting stuff done but actually accomplish very little if anything at all.  It’s almost like in some twisted way some people think that expressing intent is the same as acting on that intent.

Speaking of acting on intent, New Years Day contained a lot of that.  Cindy and I worked on putting away all of the decorations both indoor and out.  When I pulled the empty storage bins out of the shed I was amazed and angered at what I saw.  You may recall that I had a long running rodent problem in the coop area last year.  They were chewing things up outside and inside the coop including wires, cables, plastic food buckets and even the walls themselves.  We finally got the rodents out through a combo of trapping, putting the food away at night inside a metal trashcan, and installing several of those ultrasonic pest repellers.

Well for quite awhile there have been signs that the mice now have relocated to the big storage shed.  Mouse shit is rampant and I have found various things like fertilizer and plant food containers chewed apart and destroyed.  Well what I saw yesterday were holes, lots of holes in the lids of the plastic storage bins.  These were empty bins, there was nothing to tempt them inside yet they chewed their way through just for fun.  I was pissed.  I had contemplated action before but this escalated it’s priority.

While I went to get coffee and some new bins at Home Depot Cindy continued working on taking down the decorations inside.  When I got back she had made amazing progress, having the one tree already bagged up and the second completely cleaned off and ready to pack away.  I headed outside to work on the exterior decorations which were plentiful but not as extravagant as some prior years.  The temperatures outside were pleasant which was a help.  As usual I felt some sense of sadness as I did the work but at the same time there is also a sense of relief when the task is completed.  Getting the house back to normal always feels good too.

When I was at Home Depot I picked up some electric cord splitters as well as another ultrasonic repeller.  I connected extension cords to the power at the pond and ran it haphazardly across the grass into the large shed.  I then connected not one but two of the ultrasonic devices, hoping it annoys the mice enough for them to take up residence elsewhere.  We also need to clean out the big shed entirely as I assume there are items in there that they have turned into nesting areas.  I will bury the extension cord soon to make the situation cleaner.

Our friend Deb came over yesterday afternoon to hang out for awhile.  Her birthday is today, her cake was what Cindy was working on the night before.  She had fun hanging out.  We went on a brief PEV ride so she could try out our Dualtron scooter.  She ordered a Segway scooter for herself that shows up in a few days so she wanted to get a feel for the experience.  She loved riding, we hope once she gets her scooter we can team up for some small group rides.

My feeling of illness continues but it feels less impactful than it had been previously.  I am hoping the ascent to wellness occurs faster than the molasses-like descent to non-wellness has been.

I had a dentist appointment at 8AM this morning.  I arrived a couple minutes early as I normally do.  Imagine my surprise when I pulled on the door and it was locked with no lights on.  I paced around for about 15 minutes until the receptionist arrived.  I told her I had an 8 o’clock appointment and asked what was up.  She confirmed my appointment was in the book but evidently there was a mistake and no hygienists were even there yet.

The receptionist said none would be there for another half hour or so.  I told her I couldn’t wait around so I just rescheduled for the end of the month.  I was of course frustrated with the situation but chalked it up with a shit happens attitude.  This is the first time I have had an issue like this in the nearly 20 years I have been going there, I’ll give them a pass, this time.

Yes there is long year end recap to read but I thought I would drop this in as well.  Yesterday I sat down to eat my traditional breakfast of eggs, toast and orange juice, just like do every morning of a workday.  I took a sip of the OJ and cringed, it tasted odd, almost like orange flavored water.  I took another sip to verify it tasted odd.  I went a step further, dumping the OJ, shaking up the bottle better and pouring myself some more.  It still tasted the same.  I told Cindy that I thought there was something wrong with the OJ.  She said she would return it later.  She didn’t want to taste out of my glass because of my illness coodies.

So I thought nothing further of it until I ate my packed lunch.  Again, everything tasted odd, almost like it had no taste at all.  It then hit me, my sense of taste is messed up again.  The night before when I was sucking on a cough drop I recall thinking it didn’t really taste like anything as well.  When I told Cindy this she said that both her and Katie tasted the OJ and it was normal, confirming my taste buds are on the fritz.

This concerned me somewhat as the only other time I lost my sense of taste was prior to the onset of Bell Palsy in April.  I certainly did not want to be going down that road again.  As a precaution I did a couple eye closing and smile tests during the day to ensure my face is still functioning otherwise.  This feeling of illness is now crossing the one week mark and unfortunately today I probably feel the worst so far.

Cindy and I have no NYE plans, despite it being the end of the decade.  I can probably count the amount of times I have gone out on New Years since moving to Florida on one hand, I just don’t find it that appealing.  Not feeling well  pretty much puts the nail in the party coffin.  Luckily Cindy is not real big on NYE celebrations either so she is fine with us doing whatever.  I woke up over an hour early this morning from coughing so I will be more tired than usual anyway.

Like I mentioned in the year end recap, if I make it to the end of the next decade I would be on the cusp of retirement.  That fact is a bit shocking to me, considering how quickly the last 10 years have transpired.  Have fun tonight, regardless of what fun means to you.  For me it may mean getting another  couple levels on one of my WoW characters.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friday evening run streak was snapped this past week due to the continuation of this extremely slow progressing illness that affects me just enough to be annoying but is not debilitating like a normal cold/flu.  I would much prefer to get smacked in the face for a couple days and then feel better than to have this weekend slog with no end in sight.

Saturday morning I left the house a little after 7 to head to the office to do off hours work.  I was migrating our internet firewall which was running on a 6 or 7 year old piece of server hardware to a dedicated 1U appliance running the same software.  Migration was much easier than I first thought it might be.  I was able to back up the config from the old hardware and move it across to the new box, only having to make a few minor tweaks to make it work.   After that all that had to be done was move the network cables from the old box to the new and we were up and running.

We also bought a second identical appliance whose job it is to just sit in the rack, unused.  If there was a hardware failure on the production box, recovery could be accomplished in a matter of minutes by moving the connections over to the backup box and firing it up.  With so much of our operation being moved to the cloud in the last few years our internet connection is crucial and has to be available.  That is the reason that in addition to the dual firewalls we also have three different paths out to the internet.

The firewall migration went so smoothly that we decided to also swap out our two main backbone switches, something I was going to plan to do another time.  Much like the old firewall, those switches were at least six years old.  Although they still worked fine I ordered new ones just to take advantage of newer and faster hardware.  Swapping the switches out in the tight confines of the network equipment rack was a bit tedious but not difficult.  I was all wrapped up by 10:30 and left feeling a small sense of amazement that things went as smoothly as they did as it is most often not the case.

When I got home I dug into weeding the property albeit three or four hours later than I normally do. I also finished up organizing my new workbench which included adding a top shelf to it.  I still have a lot of open drawer real estate which is a nice feeling to have.

After lunch Cindy and I took Elsa out to run a number of errands, stopping at DD, the post office, Rural King, Harbor Freight, and Home Depot.  I went to Harbor Freight to get a low profile floor jack.  My Tesla is approaching 10,000 miles, the point where the tires should be rotated.  The cars low stance would be a tough fit for my old floor jack.  At Home Depot I got a number of things but the main focus was top soil and some sod to back fill and cover the area that was trenched out for solar by the house which had eroded away after some hard rains.  By the time we got home I only had about an hour of daylight remaining so I hauled ass to get everything in place.

Saturday night Cindy and I sat down to watch The Irishmen which is out in theaters but also streaming on Netflix, a trend I think will continue in the future as a way to drive subscriptions.  The all star cast which included Pacino, De Niro, and Pesci among others was a huge draw as they looked to recapture some of the magic from movies like Godfather and Good fellas.

I thought the movie was very interesting as it told the story of Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino.  DeNiro plays the role of the main hit man and does a great job in doing so.  The acting in the movie was fantastic.  The only problem I had was the length at an astronomical three and a half hours long.  It seemed like parts of the story could have been told more concisely at times.  It’s a big ask to have viewers sit there that long for a non-Marvel film that is filled with action and excitement.  This movie is filled with dialogue and nuance which is very cool but still tough to stay focused in on for so long.  I’d still give it an A but you should definitely prepare yourself for the mental time commitment going in.

Sunday morning I went out on a solo ride on my One Wheel XR.  I hadn’t been on the board for awhile but once I got rolling I realized how much I missed it.  I just don’t make enough saddle time to accommodate the number of PEVs I have, riding once a week just doesn’t cut it.

After editing this video I went right into another short video talking once again about the rash of people doing foolish/dangerous/illegal things on their PEVs to cultivate social media views.  It was spurred by a video of a guy playing “chicken” with a car on his electric unicycle.  This sort of stuff is increasing in frequency, despite the risk of injury to the rider, bystanders, and the potential impact on PEVs getting banned altogether.

I settled in for the Eagles/Giants game, hoping the Eagles would not rely on an unlikely Cowboys loss to the Redskins to get into the playoffs.  Despite three consecutive big wins, I still had my doubts that the Eagles could pull it off, not just because of my hard wired pessimism but also because of the incredible amount of injuries the team has.  In retrospect, it is pretty incredible the Eagles could even sniff the playoffs with the amount of starters that have gone out.  For this game Zac Ertz was also down, making their razor thin receiving options even thinner.   Things went from bad to worse when Miles Sanders, the rookie running back that has stepped up the last month or two went down as well in the first half.

The game was making me nervous.  Despite dominating in time of possession, the Birds kept sputtering on the Giants side of the field, posting only a handful of points.  In the second half after Barkely ran for an almost 70 yard TD to tie the game I thought that finally, the ultimate unraveling of the Eagles 2019 season was upon us.  The Cowboys were crushing the Redskins so I started coming to grips with the possibility that the Birds would be going down in a ball of flames.

Instead the opposite happened.  The defense made some plays and the Eagles went on to score the last 17 points of the game, turning a closely contested game into what looked like a laugher from the final result.  Boston Scott and Greg Ward, two no name practice squad players at the start of the season have become big producers in this injury depleted line up.  It’s a cool thing to see players that would normally not ever be given much of a chance to prove themselves do so in a huge way.

I am happy to eat crow about Carson Wentz as well.  After the Miami game I was really down on him and his lack of ability to make plays when the game outcome depended on them.  Since then he has performed well in the fourth quarter of all of these wins, proving he does indeed have the ability to get it done when it matters the most.  I am always the type that is impressed by action instead of words so kudos to Carson for making me eat my own words.  He has a very tall order trying to lead the patchwork roster against the Seahawks next weekend in the playoffs.  To be honest just making the playoffs exceeds where I thought this team was going a month and a half ago so regardless of outcome, I’m good with it.

I guess I need to gather my thoughts and exercise my old memory to recap 2019.  I can tell you two main themes already, spending a lot of money and the change of life perspective a baby brings.

 

 

I have been doing my best to try to ignore the post Xmas blues that have affected me most of my life.  I have plenty of things to grab my attention plus I can focus on the slow but persistent sense of illness that has affected me most of the week.  The symptoms are still a mild cough, a mild runny nose, and feeling a couple ticks below normal energy-wise.  My hope is it never progresses beyond this stage however my track record with this sort of thing is less than stellar.

To make things more fun, I get to start off my weekend with a visit to the office to do an internet firewall upgrade Saturday morning.  If things work as I envision it should be a pretty simple and painless process.  The bad thing is not many projects of mine go as I envision.  At least we got the new workbench shuffle out of the way on Christmas so it’s one less thing to do around the house.  There is still some smaller scale sorting and organizing that remains.

Our chicken Kathy has been having a rough go of it lately, she can hardly stand and or walk.  Katie, her barred rock sister has had difficulty walking for over a year but at this point gets around better than Kathy does.  We have been trying to make sure to take Kathy off and place her on the perch manually. We also keep food and water near her at ground level during the day to minimize how much she needs to move.  This just sort of came out of the blue 2-3 weeks ago without a known cause.  She almost acts like her one leg is broken, it’s that bad.  I wonder if somehow she hurt herself coming off the perch one morning, which the hens do kamikaze style most of the time.  She still seems pretty normal otherwise with a good appetite and drinking water.  I’m hoping if we keep babying her, whatever it is that is injured slowly heals over time.

 

With Christmas Eve off and my shopping complete I had the day mostly to myself since Cindy had to teach some classes.   There are surprisingly few times that I find myself alone at the house which is when I can typically be most productive so it was a nice change up.  I went out and shot a video regarding the big new software release Tesla pushed for the holidays.  It has a lot of cool features but the coolest to me was additional full self driving visualizations.  Now the car shows stop signs, traffic lights, road markings and even trash cans on the screen.  Slowly they are pulling the curtain back on what FSD will look like. For whatever reason the video got a lot of traction on YouTube as it already has over 3500 views in three days.

We got a new Ring doorbell for our front door on Black Friday.  The end result was we had a spare one.  I came up with a plan to utilize it as well as enhance the doorbell at the coop.  I bought two AC adapters for the Ring devices. This not only allows you to no longer have to worry about charging the doorbells periodically. It also allows you to turn on “Live View” which allows you to watch the live video feed at anytime, something we could not do on the coop Ring since it has been out there.

The other Ring doorbell got mounted on the west side of the house, a spot where we have no camera coverage.  Since the bear often visits from that side I thought it would be cool to have a way to see very clearly when he decides to come visit.  Both installs had their own set of challenges I had to address but in the end I was successful in getting the end goal accomplished.

Tuesday was also our first day that was almost entirely sunny.  The solar system showed just how robust it can be in those conditions, pumping out nearly 75kwh of power during the day.  Considering we are at the time of year where solar production is at it’s absolute minimum with short days and the sun being low in the sky, I can’t wait to see what kind of numbers we achieve during the summer.

Christmas Eve Cindy’s mom, her boyfriend, Katie, the baby, and our friend Deb were over.  Cindy created a giant spread of food that could have fed four times that amount of people.  I enjoyed having people over the night before Christmas.  It somewhat reminded me of my childhood when we would host Mom’s family at the old farmhouse in Gouglersville.

Our Christmas got started at a very gradual pace.  Before a single present was touched I did the morning chicken duties and we ate breakfast.  This would have been blasphemous in the past.  Well into adulthood I would be up and ready to rip into presents well before 7AM.  Yesterday it may have been after 8:30 until we started.

We always have a lot of presents under the tree but this year was a new record.  Cindy went absolutely nuts buying stuff for baby DJ.  It’s his first Christmas so it’s to be expected.  I stuck mostly to Cindy’s wish list for her gifts with a few exceptions.  My big gift had been sitting in our garage for a couple weeks so it wasn’t a surprise, a huge nine drawer mechanic style tool chest.  It’s designed to replace the work bench I have had out there almost since the house was built.

I liked my stuff for sure but I didn’t really have anything to “play” with so I turned my attention to what else, work.  The new chest/bench triggered a cascade of shuffling.  The old bench had to be moved to the big shed, a large shelf in the big shed had to be moved to the little shed to make room for the bench, a smaller shelf from the small shed went into the a garage to replace the old wood shelf, which got relocated to the curb.

That was a long list of actions to type out, you can imagine how long it took to accomplish.  The upside was it gave another opportunity to clean and purge.  A bunch of stuff got thrown out or curbed to be given away.  Cindy helped me do a lot of it along with her building some of the toys for DJ, who got to open his mountain of gifts a little after lunch with Katie and Daniel.  I was quite tired after all of the work, but I still got that little burst of satisfaction for getting all of that shuffling completed.

Christmas evening the kids came back over.  Katie and Daniel went with me to Ave Maria to ride EUCs around while Cindy watched the baby.  Neither Katie or Daniel have ridden in quite awhile.  We round around for 30-45 minutes checking out Christmas lights although there were not as many displays as you would anticipate in a community that is built around Christianity.  It still was enjoyable and a good way to put a finishing bow on my 2019 Christmas experience.

One experience that has not been great is a very slow progressing sense of illness that has been creeping over me since early this week.  The coughing and nose blowing has been ramping up along with a diminishing feeling of wellness.  I am hoping a long onset doesn’t translate into a prolonged sickness.  I just don’t need it.

As always I feel a sense of mild depression which seemingly always follows the day after Xmas.  All the anticipation and preparation always seems to lead to feeling somewhat bummed out on the 26th, no matter how many good things the Christmas season contained.

 

Friday evening I hit the track for a run.  Cindy was able to join me for the run for the first time since our long Thanksgiving session.  My body definitely has felt better in the last month or so.  Although it is never fun running, it didn’t feel like the near death experience as it has most of 2019.  Cindy did very well keeping pace with me despite doing even less running than I have this year.

Despite menacing grey skies I wanted to get the property mowed and weed whacked on Saturday.  It had not been touched in at least a month and was looking pretty ragged.  Before being able to do this I had to fix the mower.  The blades needed to be replaced and the one idler pulley had a bad bearing.  I had to remove the deck to do the work.  It gave me a good idea of the poor condition the deck is in just like every other mower I have had with shitty stamped mow decks.  They wear out way too quick and develop holes.  I have one big hole on the deck patched already but the way it is rusting, I no doubt will have more popping up soon.

I am going to have to decide pretty soon if I want to spend $500-$600 to replace the deck or finally get the mower I have been considering for awhile, a Husqervana with a fabricated (welded) deck.  These type of decks use much thicker metal and will likely last the lifetime of the tractor.  Every tractor I have bought since living at the house has had a stamped deck and every single one of them fell apart.

After successfully completing the work I embarked on 3-4 hour session that included doing all the mowing as well as the weed whacking.  Some of it was completed in a light rain which was certainly not going to stop me.

On Saturday the solar company was also sending a guy to complete the hook up of the solar array to the grid.   Eric was a very polite guy that had to drive down from Bradenton to do the work.  He said they just had their office Xmas party the night before so he drew the short straw, he said there was a lot of drinking going on.  The overcast skies made the process take longer according to him, I’m not sure why.  It took over an hour but he got me connected.  By the end of the day I saw my new bi-directional meter indicate that a total of 3kwh had been sent back to the grid (not much)  but I guess with no direct sun that can happen.

Saturday night Cindy and I went out to see the final installment of the Star Wars series, wrapping up the story lime that started unbelievably over 40 YEARS ago.  The prior movie in the series was disappointing so I had my fingers crossed they would pull the nose up for the finale.  They did exactly that, the movie did a good job of rebounding and putting an exciting and mostly well done bow on the epic series.  Cindy and I both enjoyed it.  I walked out feeling like I received an early Christmas present.  It would have been depressing if the last movie sucked.  I’d give it an A.

Sunday was a miserable day with rain basically all day long.  Cindy was busy baking so I got the bright idea to do a water resistance test ride on my Kingsong 18XL.  I originally had the idea to do a 30+ mile ride to North Collier Park and back.  It took less than a mile of riding in the conditions to change that goal.  I then thought about riding to Dunkin Donuts to grab coffee.  That goal got trashed as well because an exposed face would be a very wet face.  In the end I wound up doing a 10-12 mile ride, that was plenty for me to become absolutely drenched.  The EUC held up better than I did.

The Eagles/Cowboys game wasn’t until 4:30.  I didn’t have much anticipation as I sort of figured the Cowboys were going to roll.  Dallas was coming off a big win against the Rams the week before where they looked like world beaters.  The Eagles just barely squeezed by two of the worst teams in the NFC the last two weeks and were racked with injuries.

Very early on the Eagles seemed solid, more solid than expected.  Statistically they were far ahead but the score did not reflect it.  As the second half began it seemed the Cowboys were getting momentum and were setting up the Birds for yet another disappointing defeat after leading the game, something the Eagles have done numerous times this year.  Instead the defense made stops when it had to and for the third game in a row Carson Wentz did what was needed at the end to get a W on the board.  He has recently done what I called him out for not being able to do, perform in pressure situations.  I will be thrilled to have to admit I was wrong if the trend continues.  The reality is the injuries that have stacked up make any prolonged success very unlikely.  However if they can complete the clean sweep for December and beat the Giants, they will secure the NFC East title and get into the playoffs, a scenario I did not expect to be possible after losing to Miami.

I have one day of work to get through today before getting off for Xmas Eve and Xmas.  I hope you and yours has a great Christmas holiday.  I am hoping to do the same.

 

While I was on vacation Planet Fitness, the gym I love to hate got some long overdue new equipment, they replaced about 75% of their stuff.  Some of the equipment they had previously was very old and downright dangerous like that leg press that was falling apart.  So when I walked back into the place on Wednesday I saw the new equipment but I also saw that they rearranged everything.  Most of the new equipment I liked, the new arrangement I did not.

The free weight area which already was overcrowded many days was moved to an even smaller space which was absolutely moronic.  It’s like they keep making moves to push wannabe “lunks” out of the gym.  They removed the one piece of equipment that allowed me to do pull ups in a fully extended position.  Now my remaining options require me to do the movement with my knees at a near 90 degree angle which sucks and is inefficient.  The two pec dec machines they had before used to be almost always in use.  The replaced them with one, meaning a take a number system will be needed if you want to use it.

In general it seemed like whomever there engineered this new layout did very little thinking.  There are huge wasted areas of unused space throughout the gym while in other areas the equipment is slammed together so close it makes it tough to walk between it.  Of course I would expect nothing less of the worst gym chain in America.  All I want for Christmas is for the on campus fitness center to get a smith machine so I never have to step foot in Planet Fitness again.

Yesterday morning I sent an email to my electric company asking for a status of getting the two way meter installed which is required for solar.  The response I got was it should be done by the end of next week.  It wasn’t the timeline I wanted to hear but at least I had a time frame now.  Imagine my surprise when Cindy told me that it looked like someone had been out to the house today.  I asked her to take a picture of the electric meter.  I was happily surprised to see that somehow the end of next week turned into same day service, I now had a two way meter hanging off the house.

I contacted the solar contractor and let them know.  They said that was great news and all they needed now was official permission from LCEC to connect the system.  Based on my experience so far I was not going to passively wait for that to happen.  I sent another email to LCEC asking how that permission is granted and how long does it take.  My reward for being proactive was a response in my email this morning with the acceptance letter.  I forwarded the letter to the solar contractor and BAM, they are supposed to be out tomorrow to throw the switch.

It has been nearly a three month process with the solar install.  It could have been less if I would have babysat the permitting process closer but all in all I am happy with the end result.  Well I shouldn’t say that until I see just how much juice the system cranks out.  Unlike our federal budget, I hope to be running at a steady surplus from here on out.

This weekend I have a handful of holiday tasks but I also have good old fashioned things to do and/or fix.  Doing stuff keeps me going.  People that are content with just existing in a passive manner just don’t compute to me.

 

Last night after dinner I struggled in the hobby room with both of my Prusa printers.  They both had a similar issue, filament was stuck in the throat of the hot end.  One of the printers wasn’t too bad to correct, I was able to push the broken filament out the bottom with a small alan key.  The other printer I worked on for a half hour trying to push the filament out the bottom from the top using various methods and was unsuccessful.  The way I finally got the filament out was to remove printer nozzle and shove from the bottom up which popped the broken piece of filament out like a piece of popcorn.  I started prints on both printers just to make sure all was well.  Both prints were finished up this morning without issue.

I watched a little of the impeachment vote madness last night and came away from it disgusted.  The partisan politics that have now become a staple of our country on both sides is toxic, debilitating, and depressing.  I see Trump and his defenders spewing absolute nonsense that gets gobbled up by their supporters like a baby bird getting food from it’s mother.  I see democrats clumsily trying to navigate the impeachment process that at best will just be a footnote on Trump’s presidency due to the Senate already declaring their NOT GUILTY verdict, despite their trial not even starting.  What would you think if somebody went up on charges and before the trial began the jury said “we don’t need to hear any evidence we already made our mind up”  It’s insane, but that is what is happening.

Hanging the impeachment scarlet letter around Donald’s neck is nice, but if the end result is not a change in leadership in 2020 it is a very hollow and near meaningless victory.

When you step back and look at the absurdity of the current state of our country that allowed a egomaniacal, corrupt billionaire reality tv personality to become the leader of the free world, it really makes you wonder if we are not really getting what we deserve.  If the masses are unable to discern real from fake, good from bad, or short term gains from long term prosperity, perhaps this is the PERFECT president for us all.  See you at the bottom of the toilet bowl.

 

On Friday evening I hit the track once again to get a run in.  Most of 2019 has seen my running program derailed so it has been nice to be able to get back into the swing of things as the year is closing out.  As I have mentioned previously, the energy ailment that has been affecting me off and on for well over a year definitely seems to be subsiding recently.  Friday’s run was further proof with me maintaining what may have been my fastest pace of the year.   It was nearly a minute per mile faster than my pace on Thanksgiving.

Saturday I had a lot on the plate both because we were leaving Sunday and, it was Saturday, which normally means get shit done.  The biggest task was ripping out and rebuilding the second set of pool deck landing steps.    I definitely benefited from doing a similar task a week prior.  Hopefully these new landings outlast me.

I dropped off Elsa Saturday evening at Ali’s place.  She was insanely excited when we went inside seeing Sadie and Shug’s two dogs.  Within a minute she had made herself at home snuggled up on the furniture.  It felt weird leaving her there but I knew she was in good hands.

Sunday morning we were able to not rush out the door.  We got our normal AM stuff done, ate breakfast and pulled out in the Tesla Msomewhere around 9:30AM  As in my past Orlando road trips we stopped to recharge in Sarasota.  It is the fastest and most convenient supercharger I have found so far.  In the span of around 30 minutes we went from a charge level in the 30’s to the high 80’s, enough to get us to Orlando.  We spent that time grabbing lunch at the Whole Foods right across the street.

When we arrived at our hotel about 2:15 we were told the king size bed room we reserved was not available yet.  They said it would be ready by the official check in time of 3PM.  No big deal, it gave us time to go hook up to the supercharger which was only a couple miles away.  As we charged I listened to the Eagles game.  We got up to 80% charge before returning to the hotel.

I wanted to do two things, ride our PEVs and listen to the Eagles/Redskins game.  We were able to combine the two.  By connecting my phone to the bluetooth speakers in my 16X I was able to hear Merle’s play by play call of the game as we rode a few miles.  For the third week in a row the Eagles struggled against a team with a dismal win/loss record.  Luckily, for the second week in a row they were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a late touchdown.  The season will basically be decided with this week’s game against the Cowboys.

Our hotel room was fine, nothing fancy but clean enough.  It was located ideally, only a few miles from the Disney parks.  We decided to go to what I knew as Downtown Disney 10 years ago.  It has since been renamed to Disney Springs and has expanded greatly since I remembered it.  There were at least four or five massive parking garages and these structures were extremely high tech.  As you entered the garage there was a digital sign board that told you how many empty parking spots were available on each level.  Then as you pass each row there was another sign board that told you how many spaces were open in that row. And THEN there were little LEDs above every parking spot, if you saw a green LED that meant the spot was open.  It was an amazing example of how technology can expedite anything, even parking garages.

I hardly recognized the Downtown Disney I experienced, it has been expanded drastically in the last decade.  Our hopes of the area being less crowded on a Sunday night were immediately smashed.  In some spots it looked like rivers of people.  You had to jump into the current and jump out when you could, which sometimes was not where you actually wanted to be.  It was nuts.  I did my best to keep patient and go with the flow, literally.  Cindy and I enjoyed the Christmas decorations throughout the park and got to check out a number of interesting stores.  Our dinner of brauts (vegetarian for me) was not glamorous but got the job done.

We were both glad we decided to bundle up.  If I didn’t have my hooded sweatshirt on I would have been shivering. We spent 2-3 hours in Disney Springs, most of it was enjoyable.  If I allowed myself to get sidetracked by the reality of being in closed areas with thousands of other human beings I shouldn’t come to Disney in the first place, that’s just what it is.

We heard that Hollywood Studios was opening early, as early as 6AM.  I told Cindy I didn’t need to get there that stupid early but we still arrived before sunrise, getting to the front gate around 7AM.  Despite the early arrival time the area was already flooded with people.  Once again our idea that a Monday would be less busy seemed to be fake news.

We wasted little time signing into the app to join a “boarding group” for the Rise of Resistance attraction that just opened last week.  Despite doing this within the first 15 minutes of being in the park we were assigned to group 117.  For reference sake on a normal day they will assign 121 boarding groups, total, for the entire day.  That means that if we waited another 5-10 minutes we would have totally missed even getting into a group for the ride.  There will be much more said about our RotR experience as the blog continues.

We had not had breakfast yet so we stopped at a stand and ordered a healthy combo of coffee and a chocolate muffin.  This established the baseline for what was a full day of very unhealthy eating. After downing our breakfast we headed straight into the Galaxy’s Edge area.  It was in a word, amazing.

I had heard others describe the experience but to step into the park was like stepping onto the movie itself.  The scale, scope and detail of everything was beyond what even what my high expectations were.  Everywhere my eyes landed there was another example of amazing craftsmanship and artwork.  I just could not fathom how they were able to bring the Star Wars universe together in such a perfect manner.

One of the reasons we wanted to arrive early was to get in the Galaxy Edge ride lines before they got out of hand.  Well that plan fell through as well.  The line for the Millennium Falcon snaked way back out of the immediate ride area and into the park.  Despite the length the sign said the estimated wait was something like 75 or 85 minutes which honestly seemed optimistic based on the amount of people we saw. The picture below is us shortly after entering the line, the actual attraction entrance was located by the far mountains. It was pretty crazy.

I have to admit, despite the incredible length of the line, I was surprised at how consistently it kept moving.  Within the first 5 minutes or so we had traversed at least 150 feet.  The decent pace of movement couple with the incredible sights and sounds around us made the wait less grueling.  The life size Millennium Falcon they have in front of the attraction provides endless visual interest, every pipe, dial and valve seems like it came straight from the movies.

It’s incredible how much line length they can jam into a relatively small space once you are inside the building.  The line constantly doubles back on itself.  I wish I knew the actual length of distance we traveled before getting to ride but I would estimate it was at least a half mile.

So the Millennium Falcon is a simulator.  Each flight consists of six people, two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers.  Cindy and I were both assigned the pilot role. One of us controlled up down movement and the other controlled left right.  The experience is totally immersive with wrap around video screens and movement that really felt realistic.  Both Cindy and I struggled at getting a feel for piloting the ship as it was difficult to figure out how much stick movement you needed to apply to get the direction change you needed.

Luckily even if you crash through or into objects the ride continues on.  Each role has their own objective to complete as the 5 minute experience unfolds.  It was fun and the sort of thing you wish you could do more than once to get better at it however neither of us was interested in investing another 60-90 minutes in line to do so.

After the ride we spent time just exploring the park, the shops and food experiences were amazingly authentic.  We poked into the droid building experience, saw storm troopers wandering around, and even briefly saw Chewbacca interacting with some kids.  I was quite content to just exist in this section of the park to take it all in.  Just looking around brought me a weird sense of contentment and enjoyment.

So when I imagined this trip I thought that we would be basically staying in Galaxy’s Edge all day long.  The reality was the area overall is not huge with only two actual rides and awesome but limited real estate.  We had a very long wait until our boarding party was going to be called, sometime that evening so we moved into other areas of the park.

The first ride outside we did was the Tower of Terror, something Cindy did before but I had never experienced.  The line for this was another 90 minute drag and a far less entertaining one than the Star Wars wait.  As we stood there I felt envy as I saw the Fast Pass people blowing by us, waiting a fraction of the time.  I had not even considered buying a Fast Pass since Galaxy’s Edge didn’t allow them yet.  As you will hear later, my understanding of the Fast Pass system was based on what I experienced over a decade ago.  It turns out that too has changed, which I will talk about in depth later.

So anyway this ride is a drop style where it bounces you up and down so you experience brief periods of weightlessness.  It was ok but unlike Millennium Falcon, I did not leave the ride feeling like it was almost worth the amount of time standing in line.  We still had a lot of time to kill so Cindy suggested we do some Aerosmith roller coaster ride.  I was feeling a bit motion sick but she said the coaster, which she evidently did before was “not bad” in terms of how much it throws you around.  The wait for this attraction once again was very long and had absolutely nothing of interest to look at except other park patrons that looked equally tired of waiting.

So after at least 75 minutes we finally get inside where you load up.  I saw other people taking off and I’m immediately shocked by the just how hard the initial acceleration looks.  I mean seriously, it looked like they were shot off by a huge rubber band.  As soon as I saw this I started to question the validity of the “not bad” description Cindy gave to this coaster which turned out to be entirely indoors, like Space Mountain.

So we load up and I brace for launch.  They remind you to keep your head against the pad for launch.  Failure to do so could be very dangerous from the G forces I felt.  The launch was violent and things only got more so as you were thrown into multiple upside down loops, corkscrews, and all sorts of crazy maneuvers.  It was the most motion sickness inducing ride of the day for me.  Obviously I questioned Cindy’s use of “not bad” when describing the ride afterwards.

So after we finished that ride we were talking to a park employee.  Somehow the FastPass system came up and we realized that we just spent probably two to three hours in lines unnecessarily.  Disney changed the Fast Pass system since I was last there where you don’t pay anything for a Fast Pass.  Instead through the app you can pick up to three rides that are open for Fast Pass, it will then assign you an available time slot and you simply show up then.  You flash your card or wristband and you get dumped into the Fast Pass line. Son of a bitch…

Both Cindy and I were frustrated that we both somehow were unaware of this very important change which would have made our ride experience infinitely better with short Fast Pass lines.  Unfortunately we had already done all of the rides with long wait times that we wanted to do so this information did us no good by the time we realized it.

So we had been keeping an eye on the boarding group progress throughout the day.  It had been incrementing slowly but steadily until mid-afternoon where the numbers stopped.  We heard that the ride has been plagued with problems since it opened last week and evidently another one popped up.  We were further told that because of the way the ride is designed, “resetting it” takes a ridiculous amount of time.  The delay took over two hours until the numbers started moving again.  We thought that we might not even get on at all because of the hold up.

We kept circling the park taking stuff in to consume time as we waiting for our group to pop.  All of that time resulted in me doing something I initially had no intention of doing, buying an expensive replica light saber.  All day I had seen people walking around wielding them and I found myself wanting to join the Jedi club for some reason, despite no real world need for such an expensive toy.  When I told Cindy about my desire to suddenly get one she encouraged it since it was my birthday.

Getting a custom build your own lightsaber was out of the question as it required reservations weeks in advance.  However there was also a shop that sold the pre-configured sabers that were replicas of the various models used by famous characters in the Star Wars universe.  I of course opted for Luke’s weapon as I always seem to identify myself as being one of the good guys.  We verified we were allowed to take the saber on the Rise of the Resistance ride we were waiting for, just to be sure.

So finally our boarding group was called, almost 13 hours after we signed up.  I had the stupid idea that waiting all day meant you had a relatively short line to wait in once you are called.  Instead we were treated to the longest wait in line of the day, somewhere around two hours.  By this point almost every single person you saw in line looked various shades of miserable, beaten down by a full day of immersion into Disney madness.  My body felt terrible by this point in the day, every step sent waves of discomfort, my back and IT bands were especially painful.  I almost felt like I was at the end of a half marathon, you just want to stop but you have come so far you press on.

Finally we arrived at the launching area for the ride.  The line had been moving at a decent pace but all of a sudden when it was our turn we stood there for at least 15 minutes, waiting to get let inside.  I said to Cindy that maybe they had another issue half joking.  Unfortunately I was right, they announced they had to shut down the ride temporarily.  Neither of us could believe that after 16 hours at that point, we hit another wait.

One of the cool things we heard about this attraction was it was long, somewhere around 20 minutes.  When we finally got into the ride there was an awkward delay when we were inside a huge space with a hundred animatronic storm troopers.  It didn’t seem like we were supposed to be there yet.  The weirdness continued when we were lead through a door labeled NO EXIT, outside the ride and then back in another door.  This was obviously not the way the ride was supposed to go.

We did get put onto a vehicle that rolled through some really cool action packed simulation/animatronics.  However the entire ride lasted maybe 5 minutes, far short of what we were expecting.  What we experienced was great but to wait all day long for the boarding group and then another two hours in line only to get the ride chopped due to trouble was frustrating for sure.  However by this point we were both exhausted and ready to pack it in.

It wasn’t like we had a choice in the matter, the park actually officially closed at 9PM 45 minutes prior to us exiting the ride.  We headed towards the exit, thinking there would only be a few stragglers remaining.  Instead we merged into another river of people exiting another area of the park.  I fully expected getting out of the parking lot to be a nightmare but again thanks to Disney’s logistical mastery we were back out on the highway in 5 minutes or less.

We were both thoroughly exhausted from the long day, the longest day I have ever spent in a theme park in my lifetime.  Despite the drag of standing in those hideous lines, missing out on FastPass benefits, and dealing with the quagmire of people, overall it was still a very special day and helped make my 52nd birthday a memorable one.  Having Cindy along as my partner makes these experiences that are best when shared, possible.

On Monday we didn’t waste much time before heading out.  We ate breakfast at DD while the car took another shot of supercharging juice.  The ride home was uneventful.  I would say in total, I let the car drive itself (with my hand on the wheel) for close to 75% of the drive.  Auto Pilot excels in open highway situations.  We got back to the house around 12:30.  I immediately had stuff to do, including packing a few 3D stand orders that came in while we were away.  I then dropped them off on the way to pick up Elsa who jumped out of her fur when she saw me, it was very cute.

I was busy for the remainder of Tuesday tending to stuff around the house, in the hobby room, and washing the crud off the Tesla after a 400 mile road trip.  I only have four more days of work before Christmas.  It will be here in a blink.    Here are the videos I made connected to the experience.