greatbear: (old graybeard)
So, frustration has been the key work in recent days. No real improvement in pain levels or mobility, so it looks like this week I push on to the next level. One thing for certain, between pain and pills, my body chemistry and rhythm are fucked up again, I can't sleep at night, and I try going through the day until I start dozing off in the middle of whatever I'm doing. The narcotic pain killers help me to get some sleep beyond what is comfortable or sensible. Not getting a lot of exercise day in and day out leaves me with lots of unusable energy. Rather than climb the walls, I find little things to pass the time and feel useful. Even this has a special little bothersome horror for my brain. You guessed it, it makes me want to do more stuff. lol

I've been taking some time to organize video and music I have stored on the servers here. Keeping with a method I've had for decades, a drive on the server acts as a repository for all my digital music. About 8 years ago when I built the current server, I loaded it with a half dozen 1 terabyte drives. Seemingly huge at the time, most of them are now at or near capacity. The drive containing the well-sorted music held on the longest, but last night while adding several dozen more albums and artists into the heap, I finally get a notice from the server saying the drive only has about 50GB left. I anticipated this about a year ago, I bought a 2TB drive as a replacement. The current drive is being backed up as I write this, then all the data from the current drive will be copied onto the new drive, I will then swap the drives and put the old one in a safe place as a backup. It will take me what will hopefully be a long time to fill the new drive, after all, it's only music. Granted, I am dropping bigger and bigger files on it, everything is high bitrate mp3 or better, with lots of lossless and high res 24 bit/192kHz these days, the latter being a few gigs just for one album at times. When the new drive gets to be too small, I repeat the process. There's no practical way to make offline backups for a terabyte or more of data other than stockpiling drives. I have a separate server that is tasked solely with automatic backups of data stored on most of the PCs here, and I have begun the rely on two NAS units with lots of capacity to hold online backups of the backups as well.

As I was sitting uncomfortably in the Mayhem Lab where all this IT infrastructure quietly hides, I've also realized that I am maxing out some of the electrical circuits I put into the space. This was inevitable too. When I built La Casa back in '88, I slightly raised eyebrows at the electric company when I specified a 400 amp service for the house and garage. This is split between the house and garage, with each having a 200 amp, 42-slot breaker panel. Before the house was completed, because of the all-electric nature of the house (no gas, water or sewer were available) the breaker panel in the house was not enough to hold all the circuits, so an additional subpanel was needed. As I added more goodies to the house and built the workshop in the basement as well as the lab, I tore out the little box that held ten circuits and put in a 20 space panel. The workshop, with the woodworking machines and lots of outlets and other goodies got its own dedicated 20 slot box as well. My plans are to add two more 20amp circuits to the lab, plus a new lighting circuit for the basement. Problem is, I have only two spaces left for three circuits in the main house panels. Soooo, my little lab wiring update will force me to pull out the 20 slot panel and install a second 42 slot in its place. There is a method to this madness as well, since I plan on installing a backup generator as well as solar electric panels in the not too distant future. By juggling the electrical loads between the panels, I can segregate the critical loads (lighting, water pumps, fridges and freezers, the lab and the like from the unnecessary heavy draw items like the heat pumps & A/C, electric heaters and other things that don't need to be run off the generator. This, along with other means of performing "load shedding" lets me have better control of what gets critical power in order to make the best use of it and lower costs. This sort of thing is actually fun for me, and despite having an electrical service more befitting small industry, our electric bills are not that outrageous as one would think. It also adds to my sense of security in cases of emergencies and really bad weather. Like all too many things, I take the electrical installations here very seriously. I use commercial/industrial rated components, and the seemingly excessive numbers of individual electric circuits is done in order to prevent any possible overloading of the individual branches, and to prevent a tripped circuit from causing an unexpected issue. For one example, the branch circuit the feeds the two freezers in the basement was also shared with a pair of infrared heaters in the bathrooms. The branch was sized accordingly, and was never going to be overloaded even if both freezers were running along with the heaters. One day the bulb burned out, and given the bulb's 250 watt rating, it went with a huge flash. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it also tripped the breaker. It took me a while until I found water on the floor in front of the freezers and the food in danger of soon thawing out. Luckily I saw this in time, reset the breaker, then eventually moved the heaters and freezers to their own dedicated branches. In the case of the lab, the computers, servers, etc are on one of two dedicated lab circuits I put in, along with a separate lighting circuit, a shared electric heating circuit and a 120/240 volt special purpose outlet. As my relatively tiny 10x12ft lab accumulated more and more test equipment and other goodies, the two branches have become maxed out. I have some specialized soldering equipment that takes a lot of power when in use, an infrared heating table takes 16 amps just by itself, the hot air reflow unit is 7 amps, a heat gun I use along with all that is 13 amps, and this isn't counting all the test equipment, extra lighting and the surround sound system with subwoofer that is often playing while I am working. The little room gets hot in a hurry, so fans are needed. I am trying to figure out how to install some sort of air conditioning to all of this as well. As you can see, when I get into something, I go all out. :)

Maybe I am just more than a little bit strange, but this is also my way of building a nice place for the two of us to enjoy our myriad pursuits as we close in on retirement age. I want a lot of this done so I can cruise along and not have to worry about anything done half-assed. I've done a lot of involved work over the years, with the eventual result being able to forget about the work and just use it in day to day life. For example, I did a large amount of plumbing upgrades a few years back. I "built in" many means for any future updates if needed. Adding solar water heat, for example, is all about installing the system and connecting two pipes to what currently exists. If a filter, water heater, softener or other major component needs to be replaced or worked on, flipping a few valve levers lets the water stay on and uninterrupted while the problem piece gets removed. The modular nature of a lot of the work I did over the years has been paying off later on. All the climbing around now will make life easier when I am older and unable to deal with it like in my younger days. Sadly, I've been getting a lot of previews as to what that sort of life is going to be like. I just wish my body would stay together to let me get the work done so I can have my enjoyment later. One big plan that vein is an extension of the deck by the sunroom and the installation of a hot tub/spa, something I was hoping to complete in the next couple years. The funny thing is, technology and materials are finally catching up to a lot of the ideas I had many years ago. I never finished the sunroom remodel due to health reasons. Part of that involved hidden lighting and automatic shades. Back then it was not easily done, but now it will be something that will integrate perfectly into bits and pieces I've been adding this year. It's also more efficient and connected than ever. The geek in me is having a lot of fun with it all.

I sometimes feel as if I am in some sort of race, one to make life simple later on with some concerted effort now. These health/injury setbacks become extremely frustrating. I am getting a taste of the payoff, but the goal isn't reached yet. Life keeps teasing and testing me at the wrong time.
greatbear: (static)
Well, at least I had a pretty decent run since around the time of our wedding til a couple days ago. Once again, my lower back decided to crumble from beneath me and I am again a hunched-over invalid in lots of pain, needing a cane to get around and no longer leaving the house. While it is not nearly as bad as my situation last year at about this time, it's similar to my original symptoms that eventually needed surgery to fix, and after that first surgery I was left permanently affected with nerve troubles. At least I can sleep mostly normally this time, unlike last year where laying down was impossible in any form. I am hoping this is a temporary setback that won't require trips to the doctors or worse. This all flared up late last week while I was doing the last bit of electrical work on the house. I was installing an electrical outlet in the entryway in order to plug in an illuminated console cabinet, a task I've been wanting to get to for over twenty years (I definitely put the "pro" in procrastination). This involved walking back and forth from one room to another, squatting or sitting on the floor, making holes in walls and fishing cable, among other involved tasks. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if I had noticed before that the wiring in the wall was 12gauge instead of the 14guage I had assumed, and needed to start over. Halfway through the work and with live wires sticking out from the wall and many of the remaining outlets in the living room dead, I couldn't stop, so I finished everything and cleaned up despite the increasing, excruciating pain. If there's a bright spot in any of this, I had gotten most of my numerous current projects and tasks completed, save for taping/spackling/sanding the reconfigured wall between the entryway and living room, and the paint and trim work. Jeff's excitement of me also finally finishing the skylight project I began 4 years ago will be dashed once again. As usual, I feel like I let him down, which I feel is often the case. I just can't catch a break anymore.

We were set to go watch Penn State play Maryland up in PA, but I sent him up along with Snickles, with Kodi and I staying behind to rest. Snickles likes to take the long walks at least twice a day in order to do his doggie business, and those walks were a big part of my exercise routine, many times 5 miles or more. Those are definitely out, and while I can simply let Kodi out of the house by himself to do his thing, Snickles needs to be leashed and walked lest he take off to points unknown, his only issue remaining since we've had him in training. We have also some shows/concerts in the works, and I'm afraid I will lose out on those too. If there is a silver lining in the cloud this weekend, there was more family drama that erupted during my absence, and this is one thing I want no parts of. I am no longer technically an outsider and will hold not one damn thing when it comes to the intra-family drama, feuding and attitude problems. Seriously, there are Jerry Springer levels of lying, thieving, homophobia, bigotry, closet cases, mental illness, addiction and more in the extended family, and both of us are glad to be far enough from it not to deal with it on a daily basis. Still, it creeps in over the phone, emails and text messages, and it makes stress levels go up. If it weren't for his mom and dad, we both would remove ourselves from any further contact. It's nearly always some stupid issue whenever the siblings call. This is why I 1) am so glad I am an only child with no other family and 2) I refuse to be dragged into this nonsense. I have no problem telling them where to go, nor with the amount of broken noses I might leave in my wake.

As my dear readers can probably imagine, I am going stir crazy already, I hate laying about doing nothing. I was like a smiling pig in a big puddle of slop doing all these projects and more, and setting up ideas and supplies for the next thing on the evolving list. Lots of momentum was brought to a complete halt now, and while I might not be literally climbing the walls, I am bracing myself against them as I move about. I just gotta focus my energies on things that don't require much movement. The one thing I have managed to avoid so far in all of this is a return to taking the narcotic pain killers I had needed the last time. The side effects are something I just don't want to deal with unless the pain becomes totally unbearable, and I definitely don't want to go through the detox process again either.

Finally, I consider this the "third strike." Since I initially was beset with these back problems and the lingering damage and disability afterward, I could not bring myself to file for permanent disability. I figured I would be able to pull myself out of it all eventually and head back to the workforce until my official retirement date (or even after), but I am beginning to face the fact that that day does not appear to be coming anymore. This is the biggest hit to my pride that I can think of besides the disability itself, as I have always, always been proud of my independent nature, my ability to literally lift myself from poverty to living in what is currently the second-richest county in the US, and to be able to handle whatever might come my way. My ego didn't want to face this day, and it's looming larger than ever. I feel I am giving up. I have run out of options by all measures, and it kills me t think about it.

*sigh*
greatbear: (me and mom)
For someone who has problems getting around and has to work on anything that involves standing or exertion on a 15 minute on/15 minute off work cycle, I seem to have quite a few irons in the fire. The door project spawned several concurrent sub-projects, which was actually planned for the most part. What wasn't necessarily planned was how many sub-projects ended up being spawned from this main one. The good news is I am finally putting to use a lot of the supplies I had gotten in the past. The only thing I could say that is bad about it is slows down the individual pieces of the puzzle as a whole. I don't mind this in the least, because the concurrent bits are taking less time by far than if they were done piecemeal. I brainstorm along the way, and discover ways to make things work better and build-in paths for future upgrades and easier maintenance. For example, I've had an alarm system for the house I bought all the way back around 1995. I'm finally installing it. I hid the sensor for the door in the frame, and ran the cabling for it since I had the wall apart. Yesterday I hid a conduit in the closet so I had an easy way to run wiring from the basement (where all the brains are) into the attic. So today I was able to connect the little dome camera above the door into the switches in the basement in record time. I should've done this years ago. I gave it a test run tonight, and I am beyond pleased. I have full-HD, 3-megapixel, bulbous video:



The camera does not have "night vision" using infrared LEDs as an invisible floodlight. But the automation system will turn on the light above the door as someone approaches, and if things are set to do so, a pic can be taken and sent to wherever I am, and this also starts a video recording. If it's someone I know, and they need to get into the house, I can unlock the door from across the country (or planet, for that matter, wherever I can get interwebs) and lock it when they leave. It has been a lot of fun messing with this stuff. I do the noisy work during the day, and when Jeff hits the sack early in order to get up a 0dark30, I can quietly fiddle with the electronic end of it. While everything does tie together in one way or another, if the automation were to go on the fritz, everything can work manually, and life is the same as it usually is. Having had unfortunate delays for years that kept me from doing these things earlier meant that technology has improved immensely, and not only is this sort of stuff mure capable and reliable, it's much easier to install and integrate.

Things weren't all peaches and cream, though. I hopped into the MINI to run a couple errands and I noticed the passenger's seat was wet. I then noticed the window was slightly open. Okay, no biggie, it's been raining like crazy lately, close the window. All it did was squeak and move a a fraction of an inch. I tried to lower it, and it went maybe an inch at best. Then it wouldn't go back up. Even wrestling with the glass didn't help much. So, now I have an unexpected little project. Strange that it's the passenger's side, which doesn't get used nearly as much. This also makes i the first real problem I've had with that car in over 11 years. I did have some minor problems when I first got the car that were taken care of under warranty, and last year I replaced the speakers because the ones in front failed. So today I have been drying out the car and will look into it during the weekend. Most likely it's the window lift mechanism. I would have simply parked the car on the carport where it normally sits off season to keep the rain out until I can fix it later, but the trailer is parked in the way. I'd rather fix it and be done with it.

The one thing that really took the wind out of my sails happened the other day. Since I needed to get into the entryway closet to not only install the conduit, but also do some serious cleaning and prep for the new floor. Inside the closet was a few of Mom's coats, most of which ones that I had yet to find a good home for. One of them was one I was keeping, it was a mink-trimmed coat she had gotten around 1970. She was very proud of this coat, since we were not well-to-do in my earlier years, she had scrimped and saved to buy this one thing to make her feel a bit more elegant. When I pulled the coat out, I noticed a hole. My first thought was that moths had gotten in and chewed on it. Upon further inspection I found the right sleeve has been totally destroyed by a mouse, who nested in it and chewed away the better part of the sleeve and even some of the fur trim. I completely lost it. I wanted to just throw everything away at that point. After a while I regained a bit of composure, but my will was shot and my enthusiasm for the projects was dashed. There is absolutely no hope for the old coat now, so I will cut off the remaining fur trimmings and toss the rest. I've had a fair share of "physical memories" like this ruined over the years, mostly from outside forces. And it reopens old wounds, puts me mentally is a dark, cold place, and my willingness to be outgoing and to do things becomes impossible. I eventually recover, but momentum is slow to build once again.

I am hoping that progress and my limited mobility keep improving, or at least maintain their current state. We have a lot of plans and trips for the very near future, and Jeff needs a huge break too. My work is giving me pleasure for the most part, and we could use some downtime fun.

In the spirit of my 2.8mm wiiide-angle view, it seems ol' Homestarrunner and gang are back for the first time since 2008 with a new cartoon.

Happy weekend, everyone!
greatbear: (tools)
I've been scarce around these parts. I've been preoccupied with a lot of different things lately. When I last left LJ-land, I had posted how I had finally brought my new front door home after weeks of waiting for it to be built and shipped. I was anxious to start the installation, but rather than putting on my tool belt and kicking butt, instead we took some time off for much needed rest and headed out to the Eastern Shore of MD and did some camping at Elk Neck State Park, along with some friends we had made this year in PTown. We got two adjoining campsites so we could be neighbors. While they had camped at the site before (and recommended it to us), we hadn't, and were very pleasantly surprised at the calm beauty of the area, despite there being a lot of families camping that weekend. The sites had lots of space between, and the area was wonderfully wooded with tall trees, with the whole shebang nestled along the Chesapeake Bay. Camping in this sort of setting takes me back to my early childhood, and I feel a warm comfort in that environment. Couple that with our friends and some of the most perfect weather and you have the recipe for pure relaxation. The pooches loved it, and they too had their own four-legged friends to socialize with, as our camping buds brought along their two Italian Greyhounds. We went for a little excursion to the adjoining little town of North East on Saturday, where we found delightful little artsy shops, antique stores and quirky eateries (I know, how gay) among the friendly locals and visitors. Jeff and I decided to put our newly discovered campgrounds on the short list of ideal getaway places. At about 80 miles from home, it's far enough to feel like we had traveled a good bit, yet not so far that too much of the event is taken up by driving. We will be be doing a bit more "vacationing locally" as a means of getting to know the more immediate areas and what they had to offer, with the added bonus of being a cheap means to have fun.

The week that followed I had gone out for the rest of the supplies needed to install the door, and I also ordered more of the pieces to build the home automation system. I began removing trim and other parts to take out the old door and frame, then with the help of our local friend, Wednesday when Jeff came home I tore out the old door and the three of us maneuvered the old one out and muscled the (much heavier) new assembly in. I temporarily affixed it in place to keep the weather out and the dogs in, we enjoyed some dinner later in the evening. The following days I positioned, shimmed and adjusted the door to close and seal properly, trimmed the door out on the exterior, sealed and caulked and installed the keyless lockset. That weekend we went to PA for our monthly visit to Jeff's parents. This week I began the electric work, installing a new inside lighting fixture in the style of the new door glass, and installing the devices for the automation and control. Part of this involved tearing apart a portion of a wall next to the door and reworking some of the electrical wiring inside. That wall hid something that had been bothering me for 25 years. When the electricians that initially wired the house before the drywallers closed everything up, they had forgotten a short run of cable between to electric boxes. This resulted in the forward part of the living room having no power to the outlets. To fix this, they had popped holes in the two adjoining boxes and fished a cable between them. I never knew how they had fixed the issue until several years later when I had taken out a light switch to install a dimmer and found a huge chunk of the plastic electric box missing and a cable spliced inside. While I had the wall open I replaced the boxes, the hacked-in wiring and added space for three controls. Two of them directly control the light outside the door and the inside light in the entryway. The third space in the box will have a "scene controller" that will operate several outside lights located all around the house from one location. Pressing a single button begins a programmed process that can, say, turn all the outside lights on at full brightness, useful if we have company or we are doing work outside at night. Other buttons can turn on and off various combinations of inside and outside lights before leaving the house or returning, or turning all the outside lights off and setting the one outside the front door to a very dim setting before going to bed. All of this is part of a Z-Wave remote control protocol that integrates with the home automation system. It's already programmed to turn on a few inside lights at a low setting early in the morning when Jeff is getting ready and leaves for work, whereupon it shuts them all off until the next weekday. Now the outside lights can come on as well, since he leaves when it's still dark. The system can control existing remotely operated lights and appliances here, along with the Nest thermostats, the home theater receivers, alarm system, and lots of future items I have planned. Best of all, I can control it all remotely via the internet either with a PC or smartphone from anywhere. I can make sure the door is locked, open it if a friend needs to be let in while we are away, turn lights on and off, you name it. The system can grow as I need it to. It's a very practical system, and all the devices and appliances can work manually as if there was no profound technology behind it all. It's also a fun way to seriously get my geek on.

In coming days I will close the wall back up, spackle and finish the drywall, then install the interior trim around the door. I also want to take out the 25+ year old vinyl floor and put in some nice ceramic or marble tile. After that is done, I will move onto the living room, finally creating the light shafts for the skylights I installed in the roof four years ago, then begin the somewhat major reworking of the living room and dining room areas. I want to split the living room into two separate areas rather than the oddly shaped, somewhat amorphous "great room" it is currently. New carpeting and flooring will go in at this point. Then onto the sunroom, where I can finally finish the relatively small amount of work left over from where I started on that room about ten years ago. All of this will be a good winter/indoor project as the seasons change.

Those that know me well are quite aware of the wildcard in all of this, and that's my overall health and my back and nerve issues I am constantly dealing with. While I have been busting all manner of ass lately, it has been far slower than I am usually able to do such work. I can get maybe a half hour of good working time before I have to stop, sit down, and take the load off my lower back and recover. If I go for longer than that amount of time, or I have to do much in the way of twisting, or standing in one spot, the pain begins to appear then fogs my concentration. I get angry, the quality begins to suffer, and I will go totally aggro if things are not coming together as I want them to. Tools get tossed about, cursing begins, dogs hide under beds, and progress becomes more halting and drawn out. So far I've managed to keep up pace, but I have to force myself to quit while I'm ahead, as it were, before things start to crumble. So far, I've been lucky that I haven't had any major setbacks (yet) and I've learned to stop work despite the urge to keep going when things are going well. That last part is a doozy for me.



This is what the entryway looks like currently. If I manage to get all the other work done I described above without (much) incident, and some other, more pressing things get done, I want to take out the aluminum vertical siding that is currently there and replace it with some form of brick, slate or stone. but for now, I am happy, hell, giddy that I got this far. It's taking more time and much more effort than I am used to, but it's still me doing all the work and doing what I love to do. Now, if my increasingly old body can keep from falling apart at the same increasing pace, I will be a rather happy dude.
greatbear: (tools)
Finally. After postponing this for years due to health issues, money issues, time issues, timing issues or just plain procrastination, I finally ordered up a new front door for La Casa Mayhem, and I picked it up today. I had to convince the people at Homo Despot that I had a nice big truck, and the wonderful shipping pallet it was delivered to the store on was ideal for me to get it home with the least chance of additional damage. The material handlers, obviously walking around with "Loading..." graphics floating over their heads were having problems processing this. The forklift drivers were out to lunch, and the guys rolling the door around the store seemed to be colloquially in the same place. Both me and the cool gal in the millwork department I had been dealing with were basically saying the same thing. Finally one of the forklift operators returned and all of us humped the thing onto the truck, where I tied it all down and headed home. Jeff came home soon after I did, and the two of us wrangled it off the truck and onto the carport where it will sit safely until I begin work. I'm glad I had the pallet to keep the thing safe and upright, if anything were to knock it over before I installed it I would be fit to be tied. I took a couple quick shots of the thing still cloaked in plastic.



Another one with glass detail )

In addition to taking out the original door/sidelight assembly, I might have to resize the rough opening slightly for best fit, plus reroute the doorbell wiring. I also plan to affix a hidden alarm switch as well as I am doing the work. This should complete the basic door installation. While I am focused on that part of the house, I will also take out a small section of an adjacent wall where the light switches are in order to consolidate some of the outdoor lighting controls as well as prep it all for ongoing home automation. ALso, for over 25 hears, my OCD has been bugging me because of a small electrical hack hidden in that wall. After the house was built and all the electric hooked up, I found there was no power to the outlets in the front part of the living room. Turns out the electricians who wired the house forgot to run a branch to the five outlets there. To fix it, they popped a hole in the one living room outlet box and the outside lightswitch box in the entryway, and connected the two with a piece of ratty UF cable. I discovered this when I changed a light switch in the entry years ago. It's been bugging me since, because the composite boxes have large pieces missing, and this also puts those outlets in a lighting circuit. While I have the wall apart I will replace the boxes, reroute the branch feeder to a different circuit, and put in a larger device box for added controls for the outside lighting along the walkways and the two post lights. All four of these circuits will have automation-/remote control-ready switches installed. My janky motion sensor setup for the outside front door light will be replaced with a setup that integrates with the lighting control system. I will also install the little dome camera in the ceiling outside the front door, part of an extended remote monitoring system I am putting together.

If my body survives the exertion and labor needed for these projects, I will hopefully be able to complete the living room skylight project that's going on four years now, and the sunroom, which, sad to say, been on hold for eight years. Neither of these are really backbreaking work, but involve working overhead for extended periods, something that was impossible for me for a long time. Not too long ago, I refitted several light fixtures in the Mayhem Lab with new ballasts and bulbs, and I found I didn't have a single problem or flash of pain during or after. The lighting project was a test for this, as I could've simply done one fixture at a time or dropped that project temporarily had it become an issue. Go me!

When I headed outside to snap the pics of the door, I discovered Jeff had quietly come home and was sitting in his new car, airconditioning on, grooving to Pink Floyd and answering messages on his phone. I realized I didn't take any pictures of the car for LJ, so I did, and also snapped one of Jeff in his work duds, hat, and his beard, which I remodeled a little while ago. :)

More pictures and text behind the cut, since everyone seems to surf LJ on tiny things anymore )

Looking up

Jun. 26th, 2014 10:54 pm
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Good news! I found my wallet. Bad news, I lost my beard. Well, a good bit of it, at least.

By tomorrow evening the yard will have more tents in it than if Cirque du Soleil were performing here.

The front door here at La Casa Mayhem is a rusty, ugly disaster. I had hoped to replace it before the big day, but I had to postpone that project a multitude of times due mostly to physical health issues. When I finally decided I was in good enough shape to tackle the project, when I tried to order it up, the lead time was too long. So, I bagged that project. Instead, I did a quick and dirty paint job to the door itself, the frame and sidelight. It took about half the day, since the paint was peeling furiously and it needed a lot of sanding and other prep work, but for a door assembly I plan on ripping out in a couple months, it looks damn good, better than I expected. I had to *try* not to obsess over the details like I am prone to do, just slap the paint on and be done. Now I won't have to be ashamed, and the rest of the outside entryway which I fixed up a couple years ago doesn't look shamed by the last remaining part that was to be replaced. It was embarrassing to see that pitiful entry to the house we've been working so hard on lately.

Right before I had found my wallet the other day, we were running errands (one of which was getting a replacement driver's license). We stopped at the dry cleaners to pick up Jeff's work duds and I walked over to the suspiciously quiet area which is our favorite local restaurant. It's a little Chinese place called Hunan House, it has been there for close to 30 years. I've eaten countless meals from there, everything from a lunch grabbed to eat while building the house here to sit-down meals with friends. Never had a bad meal in all that time. The staff got to know us by name, knew our favorites, always asked about how we were doing and what was going on in our lives, etc. To my utter dismay a sheet of paper was taped to the glass saying they were regretfully closing after all these years and thanked everyone for their years of patronage. I drove home sobbing. In fact, though finding my wallet did cheer me up somewhat (it was more like a big relief), losing our favorite haunt was like a kick in the groin.

Our friends that are joining us for our wedding begin to arrive tomorrow from out of state. We still have a lot of work to do, but it is now mostly the setting up and getting ready variety. Tomorrow morning I will put the final touches on the cleanup before putting away the pressure washers. A bit if the walks up front need to be cleaned, as do the two long asphalt drives. The carport is spotless; this is where the caterer will be set up. The Garage of Mayhem is looking beauteous, and the big concrete area in front is clean enough to eat off of. The trailer is in its rightful parking spot as well. I have to cram all the big equipment into the building tomorrow when I'm done, that should be a chore just by itself.

My back has been mostly holding up, but I have been trying my best not to overdo the exertion and whatnot, and sometimes failing that I get a not-so-gentle reminder that I am still a feeble old man. All I am hoping for is it holds up for our big day and for our PTown trip next month. After all that, I can truly take it easy. We need this vacation badly, and more than ever, it seems.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel, and this time it's not a speeding freight train.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today Jeff and I had one of our most productive errand-based type of day. He started earlier than I, going to work as usual while the sun itself was still snoring away. I got up before the dogs bothered to squirm about in the bed to get me up, whereupon Jeff came home and took me to one of my myriad doctors for more jamming of needles and chemicals into my spinal column. After that, we headed up to the auxiliary courthouse building to get our marriage license. We got a bit confused because the building didn't look right, and I tried in vain to get my now-worthless smartphone (Thanks, Obama Verizon!) to work, making me frustrated and beating it on the dash. We stopped at Wendy's for a breakfast/lunch (it was lunch as far as food type) while I waited for the several reboots of the phone in order to get more details of where to go. After the meal, we headed back to the sprawling government building, where we found the marriage license department first off. The process was remarkably easy and quick, aided by every one of the office staff genuinely happy and congratulatory over and above courteous and helpful the entire time. As we finished up in the last minute, and gave our thank-yous among the well wishing, it really started to hit us. Both of us were trying and failing to hold back happy tears as we left the building.

From there, it was to the Mall in Columbia (Don't call it The Columbia Mall), for wedding and vacation clothing. I'm not fond of clothes shopping at all, but today, buoyed by our almost giddiness, we had fun with it. Bonus points for both of us getting smaller clothes this time as well (I haven't worn a 34 waist in probably 34 years). I managed to get some loud shirts and shorts for vacation(s) among more sensible stuff, and had an uncharacteristically good time doing so. We were also there for giftage for the wedding "crew", but our initial idea had gotten way too expensive and impractical when we inquired about the personalization. I'm way too practical, and our initial idea did kinda fly in the face of the practicality, and it hit with the force of a slushball in a heavy winter snow when we got specifics. We discovered that several very unique stores had opened in an outside area next to the mall and we went exploring. We hit the jackpot. I told Jeff that I think we just found our "practical gifts" and his face lit up like mine. The deal was done, and we pick up the goodies tomorrow. I have a neat idea for personalization too.

From there we put the final monies down on the wedding cake and cupcakes, plus another gift addition for the "crew." The bakery came up while I was making small talk on the operating table at the doctor's, as the x-ray tech and the doctor were familiar with the place, and the tech told me of the little, slightly run-down little convenience grocer in the same area that had good deli salads. So, I wrapped up the day by picking up some of the homemade macaroni and potato salad before heading home. The salads accompanied some mega tuna melts I made on the panini grill/press in an effort to give Jeff a break from cooking. We ate our dinner on the deck, continuing the nearly non-stop talking and planning and still frustrating things that still need taking care of. The next couple weeks will be insanely busy. I hope my back can withstand the rather serious labor I'm about to put it through (hence the trip to the doc today) as the deck, house and gazebo get pressure washed, the front door, frame and sidelights replaced, deck repairs, house and yard cleaning, landscaping and other stuff to make our paradise just that for our big, big day.

Outside the courthouse I attempted a selfie of us. I botched it in my nervous glee, and a couple going in for their license, despite taking our pic with the phone, didn't manage to do it right. so this is what we have.



As the cool kids say, shit just got real.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today is Jeff's birthday. Together we are over 104 years old. I feel every bit of those years too. To celebrate, I took Jeff to Outback Steakhouse (g'day, crikey, fair dinkum, crocs, you call that a knife and all that stuff). On our way home he got a call out of the blue from a former coworker he was very good friends with. Hearing them catching up and recollecting old times and seeing the smile on his face was a treat. I seriously ate too much, and in the last few days, I've been eating more beef than in a long time.

I had gotten him a new bicycle as a birthday gift, his old one was never fun for him to ride, as the frame size was too small. I took him to a "real" bicycle shop where I had gotten mine and we looked at a few and tried a couple out. He came back from a test drive of the one I picked out after a very short ride and said he loved it. It's a GT "comfort" or "hybrid" bike, essentially the frame, gearing and components of a mountain bike, but with less knobby and overall softer tires. It also has 29" wheels, better able to deal with bumps and other hazards. I got a pannier rack delivered today for it as well, and put that on while Jeff was talking to his dad. Our bikes will be the primary mode of transportation when we head up to PTown in July. I can't walk for any distance at all in my condition, but as has been the case with this back ordeal, I can get around quite well on a bike. Jeff's old ride was not comfortable for him, this time I think we'll truly be set.

I've been offline as far as social media goes while I tend to personal issues as well as computer troubles. the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that powers my primary computer went bonkers a while back. The malfunction made everything plugged into it go on and off like a car's turn signal. Other than perhaps dropping a computer into sea water or hurling it from a cliff, cycling the power is one of the worst things that you can do to it. Consequently, the hard drives were scrambled, the BIOS corrupted, and a few other minor bits of hardware were hosed. While I had mostly current backups of files, all of my current work, saved web pages, and the like were all unavailable. So I had to stumble around on one of the other PCs for a while as I worked on the beast machine in the studio. It's back, but it has some corrupted registry entries and other annoying problems (Photoshop registration got borked, Windows update doesn't function, some other software is screwed up in odd ways, and the like). A while back I had taken the original main hard drive out and replaced it with a nice, big 1TB SSD. This SSD is what got beat up by the UPS, but it was not physically damaged. The original drive has been hiding safely in the Underground Lab of Mayhem, I can simply make a copy of it again, but only after I get through some stuff. The copy would put the PC back to December of last year, when I did the upgrade. There are more computer stories to tell, but I'll save that for some other time.

Jeff has been busting his ass doing work in the yard, and it shows. The flower beds, rose garden and other areas are looking better than they have in years. I wish I could be more help with that, but the required stopping and bending is just too painful. I managed to do some serious suspension work and other maintenance on Jeff's truck last weekend, a friend came over and basically gophered tools and parts while I did the work. This saved me from having to constantly get up and down. I have to do the same on my old Stratus, but I will wait until after the wedding. It does need rear brakes, so those will most likely get done this weekend, it's only about a 45 minute job. Safety first.

As more aspects of our big wedding day begin to coalesce, the two of us are excited as well as still in a bit of a panic mode. It's less than a month away, and there's still a ton of stuff to get done. This is where I'm glad I'm stuck at home. I just wish I was able to do more. Having my back fail again was the worst thing to happen that I was worrying about, and loading up with narcotics to control the pain has the unfortunate side effect of scrambling my thoughts much like the hard drives in that PC. I lose track of time, forget what day it is, and forget things while I am having conversations. Even writing this entry is a chore, and this is one of the prime reasons for me hiding from the world. I just hope this is not a sign of something more serous. Given my luck of late, it's quite possible. But I refuse to let anything get in the way of our big day.
greatbear: (forearms)
You might've noticed a bit of quiet around here. This is mostly because I've still being Mr. Crankypants due to an ongoing cold-like thing that both Jeff and I have shared in. Jeff got it first (he probably got it as a free gift from the hospital) and I got the BOGO deal a bit later. Needless to say, days since last week have been a coughy, phlegmy, hacky joyfest, and the absolutely bipolar Maryland weather isn't helping either. Last weekend was nice, practically t-shirt 'n' jeans-like. Monday I awoke to a foot of snow. I grumbled out of bed, opened the door to let By-Tor and the Snow Dog outside to make yellow snow, snapped a couple front door glamor shots of the snow (it was very pretty), then slammed the door on the outside world once the dogs returned. I was in no mood to go and deal with the stuff, and I knew it would be short-lived anyway. With no help from me, by Wednesday afternoon the snow had practically vanished and the more typical March weather had returned. Me and the pooches enjoyed a nice long walk that we hadn't had in a few days and were better off because of it. Today Jeff had come home early due to rejiggering his schedules and we took the time to do some shopping and get some lunch at the Columbia Mall ("Mass-murder free for 53 days!") and run some needed errands. He has to work for some time on Saturday, and possibly next weekend as well, but we can deal with that for the most part. We are moving ahead with wedding plans and prep as well, and both of us are getting excited as the day approaches.

I am almost finished with the computer/network overhaul here, only a few hundred more feet of cable needs to be run as I am able to wrangle my assistant into visiting. The most difficult parts, running cat-6 cabling from the Mayhem Bunker into the attic (two runs) and several runs along with some RG6 and wiring for the security/home automation through the underground conduits to the garage remain, and I hope to get these done sooner rather than later. The garage wiring runs were put off since my initial back issues and surgery in 2010. I have all the supplies, the switch and other sundries needed for the job, I just need a bit of warmer weather and an extra pair of hands. I am hoping the conduit is not broken or flooded. It currently has old phone lines which are still in use and the remains of the original thin-net LAN I set up about 25 years ago that were abandoned once I switched to Fast Ethernet in the house. I just want to finally finish this project so I can completely forget about it for about the next ten or fifteen years. Only some hardware needs to be changed over to upgrade the mess to 10GBEthernet, and beyond that I don't see too much of a need for much more bandwidth in the foreseeable future. I laid enough cabling from various points in the house to be able to trunk them together for higher bandwidth, and the big Synology NAS is already using four cables to hook into the backbone, with four for the main server, two for the small server, and two each for two workstations so far, with more planned. La Casa has intranet bandwidth that rivals what I had when I worked for Northrop Grumman by far.

Another reason I want this computer crap over and done with is because spring is when I turn my attention outdoors. I have a shit-tonne of work to do in the yard as well as some house repairs I need to finish before the wedding. I got sidelined and didn't do a damn lick of any work needed outside since last September, and that includes cleaning up a huge toppled tree taken down during Sandy, lots of general cleaning, and finally erecting the greenhouse in the garden that has otherwise been hogging up space in the garage with all its parts. La Casa will have a new entryway and lots of other goodies. I need to pressure-wash the gazebo as well as apply some stain/sealer to make it look spiffy, since that's where the actual ceremony will be taking place. I hope I can get all of this done. In the middle of all of this, I still have unfinished work on the vehicle fleet, serious cleaning up of the garage, yard beautification, the veggie garden, etc, etc. I sincerely hope I don't have any more health/physical troubles in the meantime, or I will be seriously fucked and moody, not the sort that anyone would want to marry.

Finally, the wedding. If you are reading this and want to be a part of the festivities, which are shaping up to be totes awesomesauce, btw, drop me a line with your mailing addy, and I will send out one of the truly neat invitations we had made up. I want to share my happiness with all my friends.
greatbear: (forearms)
As most of you who read my posts know, I have been dealing with serious, debilitating back issues for several years, the latest episode starting last September. As a result, I can't do most of the things I am able to do. This has me falling behind in house repairs and projects, for one. I just can't do these things, or it's now a long, often painful process. Imagine my utter frustration while taking a shower Monday night and finding the water backing up around my feet. Then finding the toilets completely backing up too. The "old" (read: young, able) me would've simply jumped right in, pulling up toilets or cutting pipes in order to get rid of the blockage. No can do, so I called on a plumber (never did that before, unless I was subcontracting them for a job) on Tuesday, which didn't show until today. I was a tad skeeved at this, but as long as he could do the job, I didn't care. Besides, I was holding it in for a couple days now. Imagine my dismay when the plumber dispatches a guy that has similar back issues as I am currently dealing with. The two of us were hobbling like two broken old men (though he was considerably younger than me) surveying the problem and what to do. I even did the work of disconnecting and removing the toilet to help out, he machine-snaked the drain, clearing the blockage and we were done in a little over an hour. He was barely making it back out to his truck with his supplies. Me being me, I felt bad for the scrawny guy, as I was bracing my own broken body against the door as I let him out.

Irony is so much interwoven with my life, I should open up a foundry business.
greatbear: (forearms)
A lot has been happening up at Jeff's dad's place, since the fire. He's got a new house.

IMG_1195


Things are about 80% complete at this point, the basement stairs both inside and outside need to be made and installed, some final plumbing, and the electrical service needs to be connected, the latter being the only holdup at this point. If enough people can get the local utility supervisor to get off his ass and not needlessly delay the task for a few more weeks, we'll be golden. The walkways, front porch and landscaping/cleanup are all that will be left in order to be move-in ready. Eventually a deck will be built out back as well, in the meantime some temporary steps will be put in for egress. Not bad progress at all, from the fire to a new house in the same spot in less than two months time.

Talking with Jeff's dad today was nice. He's practically giddy with excitement. He can't wait to have his own place once again, and we'll have our travel trailer back in time for our trip to P-Town in July. There's still the question of having the minor heat damage repaired on the trailer. If the RV shop doesn't get the parts in before a certain time window, we'll forgo the repairs until after the vacation. We are not very pleased with this outfit that we tasked to do the repairs, and there's a good chance we'll be having some issues with them. They've been given the money from the insurance company to do the repairs, and if they stall or otherwise misbehave, we can have the insurance company itself breathing down their neck.

Dad has furniture already picked out and bought, once the green light is given, stuff will be delivered. I have a list of all the light bulbs needed in all the rooms, there are lots of built-in fixtures. Everything will be getting high-efficiency LED lighting. Couple this with the decent insulation and the high-efficiency heat pump, the electric bill should be enviable.

Oh, those big gable-end windows? This is what they overlook:

IMG_1234


More pics, inside and out, are here.

I still have to get busy with some Photoshoppin'. I have a lot more surprise family pictures to restore and print, now that there is a place to hang and place them. I want another one of those hugs. ;-)
greatbear: (facebook indicator)
Best, to-the-point analogy that depicts where the users of Facebook (and most other social media setups for that matter, even LJ) rank in the grand scheme of things:



In other news, I am sick of the cold, wet and dreary weather that has befallen Mayhem Acres in the last few weeks. While I have been making the best of it by doing inside stuff (a major cleaning, painting and upgrading of one bedroom took place this last week and weekends), it does not do much for my well being. Said extreme bedroom makeover was extended in duration by almost double simply because I was not able to move like I would normally. I still have a whole list of chores, fixes and duties to perform in and around the house and garage before winter sets in, and some things are just not doable in the rain. Jeff and I will make the best of things, I guess. It's hell when no one is around to help, or has excuses not to.
greatbear: (Default)
Okay, after an extended period of radio silence, I guess I should post something.

Life here at Mayhem Acres has been busy for both of us. And this is not such a good thing for Jeff. Unfortunately, it seems his work has turned into non-stop 12+ hour days of doing the work of four or more people at a time. A new facility with mostly all-new staff who don't value work ethic and call out or fail to perform as required leaves Jeff as well as the general manager juggling too many tasks as well as terminating the malcontents, making the short-staffed situation even worse. The result? I end up with a totally exhausted mound of cubbage who comes home and often collapses into a short nap before anything else. Remember, this is a guy who had a severe heart attack in December, right before Xmas. You now know why I am worried sick myself, and try to do as much as I can to make his evenings a bit easier.

I am back on meds meant to help with my spinal nerve reconstruction and rehab. I almost forgot how dazed and loopy this makes me feel at times. I walk around like Captain Jack Sparrow in all those Pirates of the Caribbean movies and sometimes feel like a spinning top with insufficient rotational momentum to remain solidly upright. Give me a bump and I will stumble and stagger like a hopeless drunkard.

Despite all of this, our weekends have been productive and sometimes quite fun. We've been finally taking on the yard in all of its overgrown bluster, trimming and cutting down wayward and damaged trees thanks to the bad weather of the last couple winters. Prior to restarting the nerve meds I managed to climb up ladders to cut branches, work on the buildings and install the pile of various LED outdoor light fixtures that have been sitting around the house for the last couple years. Things are starting to shape up, and we can admire our handiwork for a change. There are lots of plants to go in the gardens as well. I still have to do summer maintenance on vehicles as well as pull all the wheels off the travel trailer to check brakes and repack bearings, not to mention de-winterizing all the plumbing and minor fixes and cleanup before vacation season. Kodi had a Saturday trip to the groomer for his out-of-control hair, and came back rocking his new summer 'do. It's a new look for him, and all of us like it.

As a reward to all our hard work and resulting piles of wood chips, last night we had tix to see Sugarland with Little Big Town and Matt Nathanson here at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Jeff was unsure about going, since it was going to end late on a Sunday night and he had to go to work super-early the next morning. He actually tried to sell our tickets but the deal had fallen through, and we pondered leaving early from the show if we actually did go at all. Well, the event came, and we had a blast. This unknown (to us) new guy Matt Nathanson was really good, more indie folk than "country." He is touring with Sugarland because of their cooperation in Matt's upcoming CD. He opened up for Little Big Town, who rocked the house. Their high-energy set was spot on, but their most country-fied piece was an unplugged, accordion with big bass fiddle version of... "Born This Way." Yeah, Lady Gaga is everywhere, and LBT's "G" was a foot-stompin' romp that had everyone moving. Sugarland took the stage and expanded their "Incredible Machine" tour set we saw last year. Jeff was sad "(Why Don't You) Stay" was missing from the set list last year, this time, when I heard the opening notes I nudged Jeff in the side as his face lit up. I also passed him a napkin, knowing Jennifer Nettles' emotional delivery would have an impact. Sugarland kept up the entire set with tons of energy and a roaring good time. For an encore, in honor of the (failed) Rapture nonsense of a day before, they closed with REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" with Matt Nathanson on lead vocals, and Little Big Town on stage joining in. As you noticed, every band/performer did at least one song not of their own. Sugarland nailed Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and C-Lo Green's "F You" among others, and even Matt Nathanson's set closer was Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." Unlike last year, we managed to get off the parking lot in record time (only about 5 minutes), getting home to pour Jeff into bed for a couple hours sleep before his big Monday hell. As I have been told, this Hell was not as bad as expected, so, cool bonus and happy cubbage this evening! I'm glad we did not miss out on this show.

I've got more time on my hands and hope to make use of it finishing up some much needed work on the house as long as my nerves allow it. I hope that does not impact our rather small vacation plans for PTown in July.

So, how has your days been?
greatbear: (Default)
The last few days have been rather productive given the circumstances I guess. I spent a good amount of New Year's Day and the day after in a buddy's garage (call it Mayhem South) working of Jeff's truck doing some tasks I put off due to both our physical conditions. I had replaced the leaky intake manifold gaskets AGAIN (the 4.3l Vortec engine the truck has is prone to water leaks from the intake manifold, it's a design flaw in the gaskets and the aftermarket redesigned versions were completely out of stock when I first did the repair) as well as a few other tasks. As it turns out, not only do I have to take it slow and easy attempting work while hunched over under a hod these days, my long-time buddy had just been beset by the same sciatic nerve pain that I had been dealing with and ultimately became major surgery to fix. This made a few hour job span two days because of this as well as wanting to spend more time at our respective homes for the weekend. I drove Jeff's now nicely-performing truck home, then noticed in the last mile or so the heat started to disappear and the temp gauge rising. Not good, but I figured there still might be air in the coolant cavitating the water pump or something. Coming home I added more than a gallon of extra coolant. NOT GOOD. No leak to be found in the work area, and nothing going inside the engine. Putting the pressure tester on the engine I discovered a huge leak at the water pump. Cthulhu dammit. I installed this water pump early last year and had fits with the included gaskets. Apparently the alternate ones I installed were no better, one just blew out, apparently from the engine's regained ability to build up proper cooling system pressure. Oh well, that project will be tackled in a few minutes. A couple hours to replace a fifty cent part. Two, actually.

Jeff is back at work since Monday, and doing okay so far. Despite the organization's reworking of his duties to be in an office mostly solo doing less-stressful work, he still came home very tired the last couple days. I hope he does not overstress things while there. Try as I might, I hope his life at home is not such a bother. We both have doctor's appointments on Thursday for our respective ills.

I had put some of the house upgrades on hold for the time being. The very cold and windy weather we were saddled with over the past several weeks was not conducive to cutting two large, 2ft by 6ft holes in my living room ceiling (Ceiling Bear can see Russia from here!) to finish off the skylights only to have frigid air from the attic howling into the house until I get the framing and drywall into place. No fun there. No hurry there, I will do this in the spring when I can also do some painting and other upgrades/repairs as well. Since I have to reframe and replace two exterior doors, I'd prefer there to be warmer weather for exposing the indoors for hours at a time. in the meantime, I am doing small stuff like installing and upgrading the outside fixtures to LED versions. I also have a lot of work to do on other vehicles in the Fleet of Mayhem. The Stratus needs an oil change, new shocks and struts, new plugs and wires and timing belt, the old truck needs a ton of work, and the new truck gets minor attention. Not enough "me" to go around.

My garage buddy showed me his MRI pix. I told him to get ready for the same sort of surgery I had in all likelihood. This is going to be rough on him, as he's the sole breadwinner in the family who runs his own business, and is having mortgage problems as well. I hope he gets through his ordeal a lot faster than I did.

I found this astonishing video via Bearbook. I always found that radio personalities never look like what you imagine from their voices. Also, knowing a few people in the radio biz, I've come up with a not-exactly-kind term of "radio face" to describe people who would not generally be considered anywhere near the vicinity of gorgeous. Here's a case where the face and the voice do not match, yet make for a very uplifting story:



I am always amazed when someone's voice does not "fit in" with their personality or other perceived traits. Look at Susan Boyle, for example, who waddled onto the Britain's Got Talent stage to dismissive words from the judges, only to totally floor them and win not only the audience's hearts, but those of entire countries. It seems Ted's rather unique request for money has paid off too. Expand the comments on the YouTube page for more info. He has the perfect face, and the perfect voice, for radio. I wish him well in his turnaround of life.
greatbear: (mad rushin')
So I am puttering around here between my little breaks, listening to Rush Radio. Lots of my faves had been running concurrently. "Xanadu" comes on, so I drop what I am doing at the moment, and do something I had not done in ages.

I played some fucking fierce air guitar.

Mind you, when A Farewell to Kings came out in '77, I had figured out all the guitar parts of that song and was pretty good at it. But, my playing has lapsed big time, sad to say. But that did not stop me from suddenly getting lost in the moment, going over to the killer home theater system and cranking about a kilowatt of sound into the room from no less than 19 individual speaker cones and letting loose. Usually sudden blasting of music here at La Casa Mayhem sends Kodi (or Jeff for that matter) scurrying into some far corner of the house. No, instead I turn to see him sitting there in the recliner, his ears pulled down tightly, watching me with a silly dog-smile on his face. I pointed at him in pure rock star fashion. My biggest fan! Yeeeeeaaaaahhh!

Whew.

I now return y'all (and myself) to your regularly scheduled weekday.
greatbear: (Default)
I got zero sleep last night. I started to feel a bit drowsy around midnight, so I called it a day, hoping to get some decent rest. Well, that was not gonna happen. My legs became a firestorm of pins and needles and half my joints ached like hell. I ended up rolling around uncomfortably in bed until 4am, when Jeff went to work. I got up, made a tiny breakfast, and began unpacking some of the skylight pieces. I did some reading and sorting through parts, getting stuff ready for installation. My body was such a mess, I gave into the pain, popped a painkiller and went out to the sofa and laid down. I had put on some spacey prog rock and set the Winamp visualizer to give me a continuous psychedelic light show At roughly between 9:30 and 10am, I finally drifted off into dreamland via The Court of the Crimson King. Alas, my screwed up slumber was not to last, the phone started ringing and people started showing up at the house. I then decided to go ahead and begin installing the sun tunnel skylight interior bits.

I kept a poky pace resting between trips into the attic and running around below, cutting the ceiling out as well as the attic flooring and framing and eventually had all the inside work done. Not difficult, but kinda dragging simply because I did not want to overdo things. In the midst of it all, however, I figured I could get silly.



The interior skylight pieces are all in. By Sunday, appropriately, daylight should be shining through it. I'll be taking pictures and stuffing them into a Flickr set as I go along.

I'm gonna try to get to bed early, with luck, I'll get some sleep, if not, I'm gonna be a zombiefied mess for sure.
greatbear: (Default)
Today I groggily stumbled out of bed after a night before of too many trips to the bathroom and some very strange and severe weather in the middle of the night. It was a gloomy, rainy day before, and by the time evening rolled around, it got very rainy. After midnight, the thunder and lighting started. but it was the unbelievable blast of wind that came up from nowhere that started blowing stuff around outside that worried me. It roared in almost instantly, lasted for no more than about ten minutes and was gone. There was not much damage here, aside from a huge, dead branch torn from my giant silver maple (and one of the tasks I was unable to deal with this year anyway). Further towards Baltimore was a different story. Roofs were torn from buildings, huge trees uprooted, cars thrown about, houses destroyed, all the signs of a tornado. While I've never experienced a tornado firsthand, the roar of the wind last night was unlike anything I heard before, and nothing at all what would happen in the middle of November! The weather is changing, for sure.

Today's PT session went well, but instead of e-stim, I was put in traction as my last phase of therapy. While I doubt I am any taller, it did feel like I was definitely stretched out. Another good sign is that any time I had such a pulling force imparted on my back in the past, I would be in some pretty serious pain afterward. Not today, though, as I shuffle-plodded back to the truck, it felt kinda nice. I have another session on Friday, then I see the doc to either stop, continue or change courses of treatments if necessary. My only real concern at this point is the dead feeling in my feet, and the still occasional spasms and short moments of "disconnecting" feelings in my legs, most often the right.

One more area of concern has been pain management. I've been using oxycodone (Percoset) as my main means of controlling the severe pain I was saddled with both before the surgery and, especially, right after. It has been a big help, but, as I had feared, I had become "accustomed" to the medication over time. I've been using less and less, but in my attempt to switch to plain old acetaminophen or aspirin, I started having withdrawal symptoms, especially at bedtime. Unable to relax, pain surging in and out, nauseous feelings, etc. Last night I made do with half a pill, and all of today I only needed a couple acetaminophen in the beginning of the day. Tonight I will see if I am freed of my back monkey. If not, there's the other half of the pill from the night before. The last thing I need is to be a druggie like Rush Limbaugh.

My order of skylights, the sun tunnel and a large assortment of necessary parts and accessories can in today, a day later than promised. We went out for a quick bite before picking these items up. It was all nicely wrapped up on a pallet, which I had forklifted into the truck for the trip home. Now my living room looks (once again) like a warehouse. Tomorrow I will head up into the attic with the measurements and dimensions, where I will start framing the stuff up. I might even install the sun tunnel on the inside as well, so when the roof is being done, I can have one of the skylights completed right away. The two living room skylights will be installed on the roof, but I will wait until another time to cut out the ceiling from the inside and fab up the shafts. I'd like to take care of a lot of long-overdue painting and finish carpentry work around the same time. So much to do, and it's looking more doable than recent times.

The roofer says he will begin work on Sunday, which is fine with me. I hope to get this all taken care of once and for all, it will be a huge relief for me, I can think about other, better things instead.

Cheers!
greatbear: (Default)
Things have been slowly returning to the normalcy of such happenstance here at Chez Mayhem. Note that I did not use the word "normal" as it generally never applies. =)

I had to reschedule my PT from Friday to Saturday when the folks at G.E. decided to move their warranty repair visit from the morning to the afternoon. Me and the tech had a good talk about what was wrong, how it can be fixed, etc. It also became evident that not only am I on par with his abilities, I might be doing some of the repair work myself. I don't mind a bit.

Speaking of repairs, more and more little things have been breaking down here at the homestead. One of the two wi-fi access points bit the dust, as well as one of several digital TV converter boxes I have attached to perfectly good television sets that I refuse to simply throw away. Also, one of the power supplies used to charge a jump-start battery pack conked out. The problem with all three? Bad capacitors in the power supplies. Each of these seemingly unrelated items use a switch-mode power supply, either internally or as a plug-in box (wall-wart), made in China. The poor quality Chinese electrolytic capacitors literally blow their tops, venting electrolyte gas pressure and die. These items are not too difficult to fix, I have a stock of compatible, high-grade replacement capacitors, and a few minutes spent with a soldering iron generally not only brings whatever the device is back to life, it will not have a recurrence of that problem in the future. In the case of the wifi access point, the wall-wart was not only solidly sealed shut, it also had been potted with silicone rubber as well. Trying to scoop out that mess is not worth the hassle, I can find a compatible power supply as a replacement. In most cases of modern electronic gear that has suddenly quit working entirely or has constant erratic operation, the trouble can be traced to a low-grade, Chinese-made capacitor (or several) in the power supply that has failed in this exact same fashion. Most people will simply throw out the device because the repair, despite being easy and cheap parts-wise (the typical failed cap only costs a couple bucks at best) is too expensive. DIY rules here.

In a related note, I had predicted that DTV converter boxes would become scarce soon after the transition from analog to digital TV. I am surprised at exactly how scarce these boxes have become. No local retails stock them anymore, and can't even order them. Name-brand units are nowhere to be found for the most part online, with a smattering of totally unfamiliar brands to be had otherwise. These off-branded units often come with very low user reviews. I need a couple more of these for two more sets, plus a spare, but I am ready to throw in the towel here. Those days I have gone to the local landfill/recycling center, the 20 foot dumpsters have been brimming with analog television sets, CRT, projection and LCD/plasma. I am willing to bet that 95% of those sets have not a thing wrong with them aside from the lack of digital reception. Such a waste. I refuse to participate.

On the health front, I've been enjoying the physical therapy, along with the e-stim session at the end of the visit. The therapist has realized he needs to set the initial stim level higher for me than most people, and he also gives me control of the box. As I grow accustomed to the level, I ramp up the output to keep the feeling strong. It feels good, of course, but also jump starts (no pun intended) the nerve mending process. This has good and bad points. The good, obviously, means returning to the old me if all goes well. The bad, however, has been a bit more insidious. Since about two seeks from surgery, I've been experiencing strange, involuntary artifacts of the healing process. Just as I begin to relax and fall asleep, my body's IT department decides that since campus is closed, it's time to start fixing the network cabling. I feel little twitches in random areas from the waist down. Odd sensations out of nowhere. The worst are the sudden jumps, kicks and spasms that not only wake me up, but can hurt like hell. My left foot as of Friday has a constant bzzzzZZZZZzzzz, bzzzzZZZZzzzz, bzzzzZZZZzzzz not unlike standing in a motorboat or bus with a raucous diesel engine. I'm taking this as a good sign that the IT department is getting things done, as there is less actual numbness now on that side. So far, an occasional, sudden inability to control my right leg pops up out of nowhere for a few seconds makes life a tad dangerous. I've stumbled and lost my balance a couple times, but nothing bad as of yet. The numbness in my feet is still there, making my walking gait more like a stoner wandering outside a Phish concert.

Jeff and I were walking through Home Depot yesterday as I was picking up more stuff to use on the house fixits. A youngish, bearded guy behind the counter in the door and window section called out to us in praise of our beards and how he no longer feels out of place in the store. Beards seem all the rage these days. Not necessarily a bad thing.

I met today with the roofer to begin work on (FINALLY!) replacing the roofing on the various building that make up Mayhem Headquarters. I have to clamber up into the attic space and frame up the openings under the roof for the skylights and the sun tunnel. This is not strenuous work, but I do need to gently contort myself between the trusses and make myself comfortable for a little while to measure up the spaces, leave the attic to cut the various lumber and plywood bits that make up the framing, then head back up to screw it all into place. There is a huge advantage to this being with the framing in place, I can drill a hole in each corner once the roofing is stripped off, the draw lines on the top of the roof decking once the roof is stripped bare. The resulting rectangles are the rough-in cuts to be made for the skylights. Five minutes with a circular saw and the openings are perfectly made and the skylights only need to be fastened down and the underlayment and flashing installed as the new shingles go back down.

My interactions with the roofer, the guy from GE and the salesmen at Lowes where I bought the skylights and accessories highlight how smoothly things go when I educate myself ahead of time and have all my information ready. The salesdude at Lowes had an easy time with me (and kept reminding me of that fact) because I knew exactly what I needed beforehand and did not have to constantly ask for his opinions or help. Zip, zap, boom it was all done, all the pieces were accounted for and properly sized. My bit of OCD researching and the wonderfulness of the internet in providing all the literature, specs and relevant info instantly made life infinitely easier than the days before when I had to seek out information from distributors, salespeople and manufacturers in person or over the phone, collect all this together to make a decision then still need to get more information regarding my selections to make sure everything is kosher. With all the proper blueprints, specs, installation information and required supplies right in front of me whenever I need it, things have gotten almost too easy. I also minimize interactions with people who might not be in the best of moods, or just plain surly and stupid. But one of the best results from being well prepared is the instant respect I get from the people I am dealing with. I'm less likely to be taken for a ride, or ripped off, and the people doing the work for me don't have to contend with a ditz.

Tomorrow is Jeff's last vacation day out of the last four (excluding Wednesday) he took from work to get away from the hectic nature of his business being an UberChef. I'll miss spending the time at home with him. While we had planned to possibly go somewhere like the beach for a day, we decided just taking time off at home, doing some cool things and just taking it easy was a vacation enough for him. I just hope this week does not turn out to be hell for him. You know how it is when you go back to work after an extended absence. When I finally return in a month or so, it will be a shocker in so many ways. My department has been moved off-campus, no one like it except for the delusional upper management, and my complete loss of respect for everyone there that became cemented during my disability will make returning very difficult, and I will more than likely seek a transfer out of that completely failed hell before it gets outsourced. Won't be easy, but, hey, I've been through worse lately.

Here's hoping for a good week for everyone out there.
greatbear: (Default)
Okay, I admit to some OCD kicking in. I needed to make up a pipe for the temp & pressure relief valve that was inconveniently on the opposite side of the water heater from where it needed to go. No biggie. I made up the pipes and put them in place, and figured I would zip-tie the little condensation tubing alongside the pipes to hold the tubing in position. Well, the zip ties weren't cutting it. Too loose, and the tubing would shift and curl up. Too tight, and the ties would kink the vinyl tubing. I had some leftover pipe, so I removed the drain line and soldered some little collars made from the 1/2" pipe to the drain assembly, then slid the tubing in place.

IMG_2200


Not a bad use of scraps and 20 minutes of time if I do say so myself.

I added more pics to the Flickr Photo Set page.
greatbear: (tools)
A couple of youse guys wanted to see what I was up to with the water heater project. I remembered to take some pictures during this project to share. There are a lot more and they will also get uploaded, but in the meantime, I put a select few in my Flickr account.

This should actually be called "Beware The Crazed, Obsessed Engineer When He Gets Started On A Normal Task, For It Will Take On Brobdingnagian Proportions". Or something like that.

IMG_2185


More (and more to come) at the Flickr Photo Set page.

The user interface on the water heater is a delight. I call it H2OS X. :)

I figured out the issue with the SDHC cards. The PC refused to read them as long as I had a PCMCIA hard drive inserted in another reader. Yeah, strange.

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Phil

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