greatbear: (forearms)
I guess it is that time once again. Another year drawing to a close, taking me with it to places unknown. I have to say that this year has been one of my best, despite having a great deal of medical issues. The highlight, of course, was getting married. I keep replaying snippets in my head of that wonderful day. So much love, happiness and warm feelings condensed into a single day that the effects keep lingering. I got to meet people I haven't seen in way too many years, and yet we picked up right where we left off. There was so much worry about making sure everything was right, that all melted away on that lovely Saturday in late June. As quick as it all came together, it faded away, though, yet left us both giddy and excited and, well, "different." Hard to describe, but it's a real feeling.

We had already planned our vacation to PTown last year, and we used that as our honeymoon of sorts. We had our usual good time, and the two of us felt refreshed in the way a proper vacation should, with maybe a bit extra. We had a lot of momentum and enthusiasm. Life felt worth living.

As some of you who read this on a regular basis, you know I began the year with health-related issues centering on my deteriorating back, with the year before leaving me in the worst condition yet. I metered my abilities and worked toward the big wedding day as best I could, and I did have a few setbacks. Once the ball was rolling, though, we busted ass. Mayhem Acres, rather neglected over the past few years because of my problems, became a beautiful garden once again, one that would've made my Mom proud. People who didn't attend the wedding who saw photos would wonder which park or resort we had used for our big day, and were astonished when we'd say it's our home. Those were words which made me smile every time. I've worked hard over the years, building this place from an overgrown vacant lot into a home where we can do whatever we want. Both of us vowed to be a lot more social/sociable and share in our good fortunes more often, inviting friends over for parties and other activities, as long as my health kept up.

I began making up for lost time by doing needed upgrades on the house, with a number of renovations, from a new front door and entryway, to new kitchen lighting, home automation, enterprise-grade networking, security and alarm systems and a number of other bit meant for making life easier and more comfortable in the future. Jeff decided it was time for a new car, and he got himself a nice Subaru Forester with all the goodies. This has been perfect for extended trips needing a lot of room as well as good gas mileage. I indulged my geeky kid side with a quadrotor drone and some other toys because I deserved it. Life was pretty damn good.

As that old saying goes, everything good must come to an end. Or, in my life these days, I can only get so far before my degenerative disc disease rears its ugly head once again and shuts me down in my tracks. In September, much like last year, I went from flying high to once again hunched over in lots of pain, unable to move without a cane, and in need of nasty painkillers to survive. I began the usual easy treatments with no success, then had the corticosteroid injections in my back before the holidays. This left me slightly better off, but still unable to get far without the cane, and with continuing atrophy in my legs making me weaker with every passing week. I guess I am used to this, I lived each day in a slow fog, with few accomplishments. It was also looking like I just might make it though the holidays without getting my usual cold/bug/flu/seasonal malady, but right before Xmas the two of us got a nasty lower GI bug, with mine being outright nasty. We made it past the worst of it by Christmas day, but our original dinner plans of a nice ham and trimmings with other goodies gave way to frozen French bread pizzas, potato chips and holiday cookies for dessert. Christmas day itself was almost surreal for me, after waking up I meandered into the living room and stayed there the entire day. We exchanged gifts we said we didn't want but we got anyway, we managed our little dinner after a week of gastrointestinal apocalypse, and the day closed with the ISS making an appearance in the night sky above the house. I stood outside, watching the flyover for the first time, smiling and misty-eyed, waving at the little dot fading over the horizon as it helped carry my hopes and dreams given to me as a kid with my love of science at a very early age.

Last night we wondered about what to eat, and I told Jeff I was in the mood for lasagna, though we had nothing of the sort, nor the wherewithal to make it after Jeff's long day at work, so we decided to get take-away from our local favorite Italian place. I should've known that thing were not quite on track, as it took Jeff longer than expected to return with the food. Apparently they messed up our order, gave part of it to someone else, then Jeff finally returned home exasperated with our dinner, minus some. That experience alone was making us rethink our patronage, but it wasn't until we sat down and I began eating the lasagna that the other shoe dropped. My lasagna was bad. Not improperly cooked, but spoiled. Like most restaurants, certain dishes are made ahead of time and refrigerated, and cooked when ordered. Well, apparently my lasagna carryout was made about a month and a half ago, and when I got far enough into it, my stomach turned. I endured another night of intestinal distress as a result. I've still not fully recovered.

I've had a lot of ups and downs in the past few years, and despite the setbacks this year, this one was overwhelmingly positive. The first week in January I will head back to the doc once again, for a second booster shot in my spine. As had happened with a setback in May that had me crawling back to the doc for those frighteningly long needles in my back, the second time did the charm, so I am hoping this time the double shot does the trick. I know my time hiding from the knife is fading, and one of these days I have to decide if I want to fuse my back with plates and screws giving me permanent limitations for the rest of my life is the thing to do, or keep going as I have been, hoping for the best. The other thing is the ultimate realization that I can no longer function as I have for my first 50-some years, and finally apply for disability assistance. My savings are running thin, and I'm too far away from collecting my pension. My ego keeps me from doing this, because, despite knowing and being told differently, I feel this is giving up. I've been too independent in my years, and I am used to doing things my way, on my own terms, to build and maintain my existence. Mom and I were practically dirt poor, and I did my best to use all my abilities to change that completely. Those abilities did well for me, Mom, Jeff and many others through the years, and I hate seeing them fade. I'm hoping this new year brings some surprises of the pleasant type rather than an early gateway into assisted living.

May you all have a fantastic 2015!
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: (forearms)
So much has been happening around these parts since last week, most of which has been continuing work on the house, of course. There have also been some nice diversions, some with their own surprises. Those of you following baseball would know that the Baltimore Orioles made it into the playoff series, first among their own American League division, and more recently moved into the league champion series. If they win this (hopefully), they move onto the World Series. While not a big sports guy, I always had a fondness for baseball, since Jeff is the sports guy of the family (and we are an honest-to-goodness family now), he always had the desire to go see a championship game if not a World Series game. Through some searching he came upon a reasonably priced pair of tickets, and on Friday morning, we headed into the big city to spend the day at the ballpark. We headed out about two hours before the game, since it was a sellout and they were expecting a lot of crowds, traffic and general bustle. Couple that with this all occurring during working hours, I expected pure hell. Imagine our complete surprise when we rolled into town and got parked in about five minutes! Granted, my handicapped parking plaque helped shave a couple minutes from the parking search at best, but once we got parked, I told Jeff, "I think something is wrong." But we happily trotted out of the parking garage and spent a bit of time strolling the Inner Harbor to use up some of the time before the ballpark opens. After warming a bench but the water, we headed up to the park, had our tickets scanned, and off we went to find our seats. Quite often we are anxious when we buy tickets from a third party, not knowing for certain if everything is legit. We both breathed a sign of relief when we heard the happy beeps from the barcode scanners. So far, we haven't had any trouble of this sort, but we we worry just the same. We had a bit of a issue finding the seats, and being that we passed the escalators a while back, I headed up the stairs though Jeff was unsure of my success. We climbed and climbed, and as I neared the very top, I felt an uneasy feeling of weakness in my legs and some dizziness. I sat on the steps as this passed, and upon getting up to the highest level, we still couldn't find the proper gateway. We asked a staff member, and they said we had to go back down to the green doors that we passed on the way up. To our surprise, we had scored club-level seats! Things kept getting better! It's been years since we had club seats, and in the past it was from work connections. We grabbed a nice lunch from the more upscale concessions on the level and headed to our seats.

We had a fantastic view near the left field foul post. The game started, with the O's picking up two points in the bottom of the 3rd, then the Tigers got 5 at the top of the 4th inning, and the Orioles one more in the 4th. Then... nothing. The game went on with no more points and looking bad for the home team. At the top of the 8th, the Tigers got another run, bringing the score to 6-3. Then the Detroit pitching staff began to fall apart. The fans got loud again. The bases got loaded and the Orioles get a grand slam homer that could not happen at a better time. When the Orioles took out the Tigers at the top of the ninth, the sound in that ballpark was deafening. I've never been to such a squeaker win before, and it was a sweet victory. The cheering kept on even as 50,000 peop0le were heading out of the ballpark.

While I've never put a lot of thought into sports in general over the years, and I tend not to get much excitement watching on television, there's something to be said being a part of a crowd rooting for their team. It becomes downright exciting, especially in these high-stakes games, and a win is a complete thrill. There is palpable positive energy in the air, and Baltimore takes their wins and losses in stride. Baltimore hasn't been in a playoff position in a long time, and the entire state gets a nice little bump in happiness along with everything that goes with it. It genuinely feels good.

However, our day wasn't over yet. It was closing in on rush hour, on a Friday afternoon. Rather than trying to beat the traffic out of town, we toddled back down to the Inner Harbor, hoping to get a table at Bubba Gump's for dinner. With a lot of people streaming toward our destination, I worried we'd be suck waiting. After all, I can't walk very fast anymore. But we got a nice table, picked a nice dinner from the menu (they have fried shrimp, baked shrimp, shrimp sandwiches, shrimp creole, shrimp scampi, shrimp gumbo, shrimp kabob, shrimp...) and even met up with a guy that Jeff had been talking to on Growlr. We made a new friend while enjoying dinner and dessert, and we got out of town just as fast as we had got in. The day couldn't have turned out any better. Jeff had to work this past weekend, and I went to visit and have dinner with him on Sunday night. He was upset that he couldn't watch the game, but had a live game score update running on his PC. Nearing the end of the game, Jeff had to leave his desk to finish business for the night. I watched the screen for him as the numbers changed. Wouldn't you know it, it was a last minute 8th inning charge much like Friday! There I was, alone in the office, getting excited as some numbers changed on a screen. Even cheering. Jeff then came back, looked at the screen and cheered too.

I did a lot of work on Saturday and Sunday on the house, and the home team bookended a practically perfect weekend.
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: (forearms)
Being a professional crastinator of epic proportions at times, I waited until the last minute to file my taxes, given that I have had to pay sizable amounts in the past since being off work and pulling funds from locked-away accounts. Because of some changes, plus the expensive surgeries and other medical bills from last year, I instead found I am getting a sizable refund. I would've so turned that shit in back in January had I known. That's a w00t.

I finished up more network cabling and installed the super-duper wi-fi access point tonight after climbing about in the attic, lifting the floor up there to run the remaining cabling (the AP needs two Cat6 runs just for it's own bandwidth) and it is now in place with the potential for gigabit-plus speeds wirelessly. That's a w00t.

Jeff and I had a nice steak dinner tonight. So far, my tummy troubles of late have eased enough for me to enjoy a meal with some substantial red meat for a change. That's a w00t.

The weather looks to be on track to be nice enough to finally get some work done outside. I got yard work to continue with, plus the usual springtime maintenance of the vehicle fleet and outdoor equipment, and a heavily laden trip to the landfill/recycling center that was put off since before last September. That's a w00t.

The aforementioned tax refund will be put toward the new front door and entryway renovation/upgrade, plus a business class color laser printer/copier/scanner/fax, as well as costs for the upcoming wedding. I hope my back and general health hold out. I guess that's a w00t too.
greatbear: (walken)
I'm currently sitting in the bowels of Ice Station Mayhem watching the temperature outside drop with every glance at the thermometer. It's currently 4 degrees F, and still steadily dropping. The house is toasty warm, with the woodstove working at near blast furnace levels thanks to the howling winds outside causing the flue to draw like crazy and fanning the fire. I have the electric heater on in the basement workshop where I was prior, and here in the infrastructure bunker the computers alone have the otherwise unheated room at a balmy 84. I don't envy Jeff having to head out in the crackling cold at 5am, the temperature being predicted into the negatives possibly by then, and a high of a steamy 17 for our Tuesday. Brrr! My Russian heritage normally has me tolerating even rather extreme cold, but ever since my first back surgery, it's taken a while for me to regain that tolerance while recovering. Add in creeping old age, and I prefer warmth more than ever. I have another round of PT tomorrow afternoon, so I can shake my cane at Old Man Winter if necessary.

Warning, extreme geekery ahead! Danger! Introspection! )
greatbear: (forearms)
Yesterday, Mayhem Acres dodged a couple tornadoes. Ended up with lots of wind and buckets of rain, no damage. I have to clear a downspout on the house and two on the garage, they were waterfalls during the deluge. Time to head up on the roof with the pressure washer. Mother Nature is rather overbearing lately, but I still love her.

Jeff's pop is settling into the new place. The additional pictures were well received, and the lot covers the top of a big bedroom dresser. Suddenly the new room in the new house with the new furniture looked and felt more like home. Mission accomplished.

I tasked myself with buying and installing the myriad lighting devices needed for the new place. Except for some high-efficacy halogen bulbs, everything was either LED or CFL. The electric bill should reflect (heh) this. I was also (painfully) reminded how much my back dislikes me doing overhead work on ladders, unfortunate, since I have a lot of unfinished business here with the same need for climbing ladders.

I need to make a trip to the local junkyards again for project parts, but I am not relishing the thought of trudging through the inevitable sea of oily mud puddles left over from the storm. Maybe tomorrow. I also want to haul a whole lotta stuff to the landfill/recycling center. Out with the old, in with the new.

How has your week been? And what's up for the weekend?
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today is Jeff's 49th birthday! Like I have, he begins his last year in his 40s. We celebrated by going out to dinner, I took him to a newish Japanese place called Sake House in nearby Laurel. He had learned about this place on one of those local television station "things to do around town" sort of programs. While running errands some days ago, I found the place, so I knew where we were off to. I made reservations for seats at the hibachi (of course), and we enjoyed a terrific, if rather pricey (but he's worth it, and more) dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the chef's theatrics. We opened with traditional soup and a salad with an unusual dressing, then some amazing sushi and our main courses. Jeff had a combo of shrimp, chicken and beef off the grill, I had lobster and beef which was very good. We then staggered out of the joint rather stuffed to the gills and came home and took it easy. The weather today was in the mid-90s, and it sapped most of our energy once the afternoon rolled around.

On our way out the door to the restaurant, Jeff walks out ahead of me as I am gathering up my keys, glasses, phone and such. I then hear "HONEY?! HONEY?! HONEY?! HONEY?!" from the front walkway. My response? "Okay, where's the snake?" and sure enough he points right at our front step, where the tail of a black snake is, well, snaking its way from the brick step then under the dwarf Alberta spruce planted next to the front door. Walking around the tree to fetch the snake, I see it sliding underneath the concrete stoop. Ah hah! I now know the source and entry point of the truly bizarre hanging death snakes in the basement (of Mayhem). Jeff will of course be treading warily around that area until I wrangle that wreptile and carry it off somewhere.

Speaking of Mutual of Mayhem's wild kingdom, we had finally gotten into the veggie garden and cleaned up, tilled and planted. This morning Jeff unearthed a nest of rabbits. We kept them secret from Kodi and covered them back up, as much as I know they will probably wreak wrabbit havoc on the veggies, neither of us had the heart to do anything else with the critters. The wildlife far outnumber us here (one time while having a cookout with friends, a total of 19 deer trotted through the yard after being spooked from a nearby field by some sort of very loud motorized vehicles), and my nature is to, well, live with nature. When pruning bushes by the garage that had gotten way overgrown, I discovered a bird nest in one of the branches I was removing. I was hoping it was empty, but when I looked in, there was a clutch of three aqua-blue eggs. I set the branch aside until I could finish up, and noticed a grey wren or mockingbird hanging around. I put the cut branch back in place and secured it, later on in the day I see the bird flying in and out of the nest. The leaves are all wilted on that branch now, and once there is no more nest-y activity, I will remove it.

This weekend was very productive, busy, but still fun. We have our pride of accomplishment, and, most importantly, Jeff had three days away from work. He came home, switched off his PC and cell phone, and enjoyed his much needed time off. I enjoyed my much needed time with him. Old man that he is.

Happy birthday, Jeff!
greatbear: (Default)
The repair guy from G.E. came by to perform the warranty work on my GeoSpring heat pump-based water heater. He was not the same guy that showed up a couple weeks ago, I figured he chickened out, and from what the guy (his name is Bruce) told me, I was right. That makes two correct diagnoses regarding this repair, the first finding a leaky evaporator core. The guy was cool, and did not seem to feel out of place asking me for help with the repair. He even left all the covers removed so I can check on it over the next couple days using my leak detectors and such. X-D Since these high efficiency water heaters are a new thing, this was his first time digging into one, and apparently won't be his last. Last week he had attended a meeting for the repair crews to be expecting service calls for the heaters, it appears the evaporator coils are prone to leaking. I HOPE the one that was installed this afternoon was a redesign, but to my eyes the thing looks identical. Ah, well, the repair has it's own five year warranty. I'll help out the next time. LOL

Today was also the first day of full sunlight that tested the new skylights. Since the two in the living room have not been cut through into the ceiling yet, the only bright spot was in the attic. But the "sun tunnel" skylight in the bathroom will take some getting used to. It's every bit as bright as with the lights on, and my urge is to turn off the lights when leaving the room. I love lots of daylight in a space, and this took care of the only area upstairs that did not have it's own window. I love it. It was also my first chance to see the roof completed as well, and it looks mighty nice. Now I am hoping for a bigass rainstorm so I can check around for any leaks.

Tomorrow I am going to attempt to take it easy. No strenuous activity, no hardcore hell on my recently repaired spine. I'm just as sore and tired as I had expected to be, but it's not a "bad" pain. It feels like accomplishment, and feels like healing. I have at least one more session of physical therapy, and I will probably have another week or two added on, since it does seem to be helping me. If I could only get the feeling back in my lower legs and feet, I'd be a happy chappy.

I have a pile of photos to toss up to Flickr, showing the house projects of late and other stuff, perhaps I'll do that tomorrow. That shouldn't be too strenuous. :)
greatbear: (Default)
I'm exhausted. Yesterday Jeff had tix for the Indiana U-Penn State game played here at FedEx Field, that was the major event of the day. We enjoyed ourselves, Penn State won handily. The thing that got to me was the walking. The exercise was welcome, but couple that with crawling in the attic the day before. This morning, I was a sore, tired old man. I had wanted to finish up the rough framing for the skylights after the game, but my heart wasn't in it.

Today totally kicked my ass though. The crew showed up to do the roof, I installed the skylights and spent most of the day clambering under and on the roof getting things installed. Both the house and the garage have completely new roofs on them, in a single day! Jeff the Chef kept the guys on site by putting out one hell of a spread for lunch, which made for very appreciative workers. The only sidetrack ended up being the dump truck that was used to haul away the old roofing, trash and junk left from the work. The house was done first, then the dump truck was moved down the second driveway to the garage. Well, the weight of the old, heavy roofing from a 2500 sq ft house and a 900 sq ft garage proved a bit too much for the dump truck, which could not make it back up the steep driveway from the garage. I dropped what I was doing to haul the dump truck out with the Silverado after disconnecting the trailer and reconnecting it afterward. The only remaining tasks involving the hired crew is replacement of all the guttering and downspouts. The gutters have long been in need of replacement, and since this guy has a means to make continuous length guttering, I jumped at the chance to have the entire thing done and not have to worry about roofs, leaks and failed guttering for a couple more decades. I completed the sun tunnel as well, and will build the light shafts for the living room skylights after T-Day.

I have finally taken care of this project which started before Mom got sick, and was delayed again and again due to my own health issues. This time was do or die, and I had only a small window of opportunity to complete this before the weather got bad. I might be paying for my effort with some soreness for a couple days, but I think I managed to find the right time to do it all. This is a major accomplishment for me, and the satisfaction I feel for getting it done pales in comparison to the lifting of the burdens, direct and indirect, physical and mental, that have been on my mind for all these years. I can sleep peacefully now, especially if it is raining.

It's time for me to haul my spent body into bed. It's gonna be a busy week.



Nov. 18th, 2010 01:34 pm
greatbear: (Default)
The new shingles have arrived for the roof, and the bundles are all stacked on the roofs ready for the work to begin. And, no, I did not lift a single one of them. I did, however, have to move several vehicles as well as drag the trailer out onto the street to make room for the conveyor boom truck used to offload the supplies onto the roofs. Progress is being made!

The parts to repair the water heater also arrived, the repair dude is supposed to show up tomorrow. How much ya wanna bet I'll be doing some of that work too, even though it's warranty repairs! lol

I know, it sounds like I have a strange life, but it's who I am. Makes me happy.
greatbear: (Default)
The cursed tree is no more. Jeff and I dispatched it this morning in a couple hours time. And I'm not even the worse for wear to boot. So, it's not just one glaring reminder of events from the past that has been eliminated, but a hopeful sign that I am going to return to my old self once more.

I have still a lot of cleaning up to do in the area where the tree fell. It broke up or damaged several bushes and small trees when it came down, plus there is a lot of weeds and brush that came up around the neglected area all spring and summer. There is also the huge root and base that will have to be dealt with in the future. I can handle that later by renting a stump grinder. I have to cut down some other damaged or dead trees as well, so I will do that before dealing with the stumps.

I'm looking forward to the me that I used to be. :)
greatbear: (blackness)
Since last night, our area is being socked with tropical storm-like conditions, with tornado warnings earlier in the day, and generally is a super-soaked mess outside. No damage out there to report, other than some early dropping of leaves.

Inside, however, is another matter. My health issues as well as my financial situation of late has put the brakes on getting the house and garage roofs done. I figured I'd see how things held up during the deluge. Well, there's now wet spots in places on the house ceilings, and there are puddles inside the garage from the roof leaking there as well. In other words, it's gotten much worse. With my surgery date looming in a week and a half and the fact that I have become essentially immobile now, there's little I can do at this point. My involvement in the actual work is minimal, I just have to crawl up into the attic space and frame the areas in the roof for the three skylights, and pick up the actual skylights from the building supplier. There's no way I'll get that done beforehand, and there has to be a substantial wait time after my surgery where I plan to do little but sit around the house as I recover. I'm not taking any chances there, I don't need to be a permanent cripple.

Needless to say, I am upset as hell. More work needs to be done, and more money spent. Part of it is my fault for not getting things done sooner, but it seems just as things are going my way, something trips me up and I have to put things on hold. I was doing remarkably good at the beginning of the year and figured things would have all been taken care of by now, but you know how that story went.

I'm seriously screwed now. And I am a bundle of nerve and anger as a result.
greatbear: (half awake)
I've been rather quiet on the ol' LJ lately, it mostly mirrors how I've been feeling lately.

On Sunday I went to the memorial service for my best friend's mother. I dont know why I am so apprehensive of these things. Yeah, all the churchy stuff and sadness, but in most cases they are all about resolution, comfort and, well, love. It also became a mini-reunion of our high school group of friends, some I havent seen in 29 (!!! It's been that long?!) years, other for more than ten. Funny thing is, they are exactly as I would have imagined them to look with the added years. We talked about our current situations, reminisced of the past, complained about getting old, and renewed our connections. I took a cell-phone shot of most of us, but I misplaced the confounded adapter for the MicroSD card and I am not reconnecting the monster PC with the native reader tonight. I'll post the shot of me and my inseparable cohorts soon enough.

As is typical when I need to keep my mind off of depressing thoughts, I tinker. The weather threw me a curve these past few days with promises of rain and nastiness which did not really materialize. I knew that as soon as I set up the sawbucks and the big miter saw setup outside to do more trim work on the garage, I'd have a downpour to contend with. So instead I have been doing myriad little projects and such that have been on back burners for years. Some minor rewiring of circuits in the basement woodshop/workshop, as well as changing lighting circuits that slowly became overloaded as I added lights. Since I have four more quad fixtures to install and wore and the original circuit shares the lighting with the kitchen and bathrooms, I am installing a separate branch just for the shop lights. I replaced the emergency lighting fixture tonight as well, replaced the temporary lighting setup in a storage area with a pair of two bulb fluorescents and got rid of all the janky extension cords and such. Rewired some of the shop machinery as well, the machine lights I added to the band saw and big drill press got wired into the machine wiring itself instead of having their own separate cords, cutting down on clutter and the need for so many outlets. When the weather is more conducive to such things, I will make several more hauls to the landfill/recycling center to get rid of lots of cruft clogging the basement.

I have an area next to the Lab Of Mayhem currently used for storage. I want to finish it off and make it into an office. I'm tired of having paperwork strewn on the dining room table and want to finally have a dedicated office setup. That will go a long way in making the upstairs more livable and easier to keep neat. It has the advantage of being separated from the house by ten inches of solid concrete, making it ideal for storage of important paperwork and such in case the unthinkable should happen. When completed I will fit the room with a fire-rated steel door and a decent lock as well.

I need this short week coming up. So much in my head that I've been tending to. A nice helping of reality should do the trick, but not all at once.
greatbear: (Default)
Winter around these parts kinda got an early start these last few days. Weather at night in the mid 20s, lots of wind, snow flurries, bleak skies, the whole thing. But while dealing with being ill, it had slipped my mind that the garden hoses were still attached. Well, chalk up one hose nozzle to Old Man Winter. Jeff found the equivalent of the Bellagio Fountains on the carport Saturday morning on his way to work. I disconnected everything, and still need to winterize the trailer and the pressure washers. The garage door openers, being nearly 20 years old and heavily used, no longer tolerate the cold. One in particular binds badly, so tonight I bought it's replacement. If this one works well (a Chamberlain with a DC motor and battery backup) I will get another one for not-yet-dead opener's replacement. It's getting sluggish, but not as bad.

One thing I have noticed in my trips to the home centers and such are somewhat lowered prices on a lot of items, such as this opener. An 18V cordless grinder I picked up was a good 40 bucks off of the original price (which kept putting me off of it prior). Lots of yellow tags abound. And not many people in the stores. Though my own outlook is not too bad in the near term, I gotta watch going overboard in spending. The dropping prices make it a buyer's market, but no one is buying. The 30 bucks saved on the opener helps me shop with some relief. I am hoping the trend continues while I catch up on necessary projects around the homestead.

Short week ahead with Tday in the offing, and though we'll be home during the big day, the weekend will hopefully be spent up in PA. Tomorrow Jeff's sis flies in from TX (her arms sure to be tired), we will take her about halfway into PA where his brother will pick her up and take her the rest of the way. She's all excited, as are Jeff's parents. I gotta do some car work before enjoying the long weekend, nothing major.

Here's to the next seven days without issues. Hopefully. Please.


greatbear: (Default)

December 2016



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