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: (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: (jeff and me)
Despite my working in aerospace for over 30 years, and my childhood years on being a bit of an aircraft aficionado, I never tire of seeing promotional and action photography depicting what the aircraft are capable of. Being that I worked with warplanes and military craft the closest, our promo video showed a lot of really cool planes being totally awesome. I'm no warmonger, and I didn't like what some of these bits of handiwork would be involved in, but the flip side being many were used to protect our own people and allies. A good amount were also used in science, research and civilian fields. And there were the boring, workaday commercial aircraft that many mostly ignored. What is rarely seen outside of industry people and enthusiasts are promo films and video of those big commercial beasts outside the workaday world. Many people know of the Boeing (Boo! Our competitor!) 787, aka the Dreamliner. This in the newest, most technologically advanced commercial airliner ever built to date. Advanced materials, computer systems, powerful and efficient engines, it's got it all. While it's had some growing pains (pesky fires, structural issues, etc) not unlike any new plane, it's still one of the most anticipated and talked about airplane in years. Boeing is bringing the Dreamliner to the Farnborough Air Show in the U.K.. Before this big event, pilots gave the 787-9 a few test flights. This Boeing promo shows what the big gal is a capable of, without even breaking a sweat.



Amazing how something so big and otherwise utilitarian can look like it's light as a feather and maneuverable as a Cessna. I think it's one of the sleekest metal tubes in the air these days. Nice to see this bird with a chance to play before it begins its daily grind.

As for us? Well, we're off. Not flying, unfortunately, but instead, we're dragging the Travel Trailer of Mayhem up the coast to PTown for about a week and a half. This trip, planned last year, was so close to our wedding day that we are considering it as a honeymoon of sorts, but not the only one. Not sure yet what the real deal is, but I'm happy for this one. This time, I'm heading up in the middle of the night, with the traffic being lighter and, hopefully, little or no construction. Unlike our trips departing from Pennsyltucky, this is the first time in years we are heading up straight from MD. This should, with luck, get us up to Provincetown in the fairly early morning, were we then can set up, take disco naps and enjoy the afternoon in style.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
My how time flies when you are having fun. And it flies even faster it seems when one is very busy and there seems not enough time in a day to get everything done. My apologies for not updating everyone since our big day. It's almost two weeks ago, and yet it seems like just yesterday. We've had some time for things to "soak in" and to get a feel for any "changes." Well, in so many ways the days after don't appear any different. But for the two of us, there's a new feeling of belonging, of protecting, of being closer. Hard to describe, but it's definitely something. The days just after the wedding seem to be a blur. The cleaning up, the opening of gifts, the catching up on work set aside while we were tying the knot. The following weekend was July 4th/Independence Day. To beat the holiday traffic, we headed up to PA at zero dark-thirty Friday morning for our monthly visit with family there, despite many of them coming down the week before. Jeff really wanted to visit with his mom at the nursing home. We got there early to find her in good spirits. Since we got there earlier than we usually do, we spent our time with her before lunch, and we hung around as she had her meal. With Jeff's help, she ate heartily. He and I along with Dad concluded our visit as mom began to fall asleep, looking quite contented. Some of our visits in the past were quite depressing. This one was different. We hung out longer than we usually do. Everything seemed more upbeat, especially after Jeff told her that we had gotten married. Somehow, I have a feeling she understood.

Later that day we had a chance to meet the newest addition to my family. There, I said it. My family. With the loss of my mother, I had no more family I could truly call my own. No longer cast adrift, I now am part of a growing family. I guess that is one of those "different" feelings I have now that me and Jeff are married. No family is perfect, and mine (I said it again! Wow...) has some fraying at the fringes, but the core is solid, and I have more relatives than I ever had in my life. Anyway, sorry for the aside, but, well, something hit me as I was putting these words down. I also needed a couple tissues. Where was I... Ah, the new addition. Jeff's oldest niece, her husband and their adorable daughter (who was to be our flower girl) had been slated to join us for the wedding, but had to bow out, as she had just given birth to a beautiful little girl. The many pictures being sent and shared through Facebook can only go so far. We finally got to set eyes on the little gal, and she stole our hearts in an instant.

Meet Brooke:



Once again, Jeff and I are grand-uncles. Only a bit off from being grandpas. I have the perfect bald head and white beard for the role too, I suppose. But here we now have another focus for our love and attention. I couldn't be happier. Brooke is a delight and full of facial expressions. She's so tiny, barely more than a handful for me. But she snuggled in my arms and fell asleep, a contented look on her face not unlike we had seen earlier in the day. Our spirits lifted high, we headed back to dad's with smiles on our faces that I don't think have worn off completely even now.

We scooted home on Saturday afternoon, traffic-free and started bringing things back to normal at La Casa Mayhem. I've been sorting through pictures, wrestling with a new VPN/firewall/router as well as the (hopefully) final work on the LAN and PC upgrades for a while. Vehicles needed tending to, as well as some of the outdoor/garden equipment and the trailer. We finally got new cell phones, and Jeff finally meets the '10s head on as the proud owner of a smartphone. The rush begins anew as we get things done and ready for vacation. Yeah, PTown again, during Bear Week, but due to work constraints with Jeff, we won't get there until Thursday. We'll be saying through the week after, and we'll be running into quite a few of the folks who were down here with us on our big day. I keep saying we do PTown "in spite of" Bear Week, instead enjoying running across our extended friends and "family" during the days. I have a feeling we'll be enjoying ourself like we usually do, but with a little something extra. I won't know it until I sense it, and I'll try my best to share. It might be a bit late, but, well, that's me I guess. ;)
greatbear: (fucking painting trees)
Here's a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the underground bunker at La Casa Mayhem. What am I doing, you might ask? Well, once again I am directing the full power of my fully operational battle station awesome IT infrastructure to bear on an innocent old man in hopes of making him cry again. In other words, I am fixing and printing more family photos lost to the fire at Jeff's parents' place.



He has "officially" moved in today, getting his permits signed off. Jeff's phone rang this evening, announcing the number as originating from the landline rather than dad's cell, something that made us both smile. There are some relatively minor tasks that need tending there, railings for the stairs into the basement, walkways and landscaping, some of which I will help with this weekend. The trailer gets moved back to its storage space in the driveway so the yard can be repaired and grass planted in remaining areas. Right now it's raining, and the yard is pretty much a mud bog. This is typical during construction. By mid summer, the place should be looking mighty fine. Dad can finally begin to relax and start making the new house a home.

I spent a bit of a beautiful yesterday trudging around in a junkyard auto dismantling and recycling facility yesterday helping a friend collect parts for one of his cars that recently got wrecked. I managed to find a rare item, a compass/mini trip computer out of a 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible. This is the same JA body series as my '00 Stratus, and I had wanted to hack the computer into the Strat, as it was never offered as an option. Today I took some time to tear into the dash and wiring, splicing wires and modifying the dash to accept the computer. Success! I also lucked out in that the yard also had a section which had tractors and other outdoor equipment, and I found a steering wheel that I could adapt to my old Gravely garden tractor. The original wheel is still available from Gravely, but it goes for a downright silly $160. 12 bucks later I had a perfect replacement which also got installed today while I did yearly maintenance on the tractor. So, garage duties today were productive.

My aforementioned friend and I go way back, to the 6th grade. For years he had operated his own auto repair shop, but hard times as well as disability forced him to close down. I took a lot of the equipment off his hands and set it up here at Mayhem, and there's still more to get as I make room for it. Sadly, he's not going to be in the business anymore, even the relatively short walk through the junkyard wore him out. His health has never been stellar, at 6'8" and 400-something pounds, all that weight finally is taking a toll on his well-being. While he has tried to address some issues, old habits (and a healthy appetite) are hard to break, and the lack of income and job opportunities keep him from obtaining medical help that could help. He says he is not going to undergo surgery on his back that is the major issue. I am far from a glowing example of successful back surgery, and I am one of the many examples of people he knows that are no better if not worse off after surgery. Still, he could be better off losing the ample belly he's had ever since I've known him. I've suggested it many times with no success. I worry about his future.

A week ago Jeff and I roused the pooches before the crack of dawn and took a weekday trip to the beach. We wanted to get Snickles accustomed to crowds, walking, other pets and the beach. Well, we hit on all points but the last. As it turned out, Rehoboth beach no longer allows dogs on the beach or boardwalks between Memorial Day and Labor day, and we missed the opportunity. We could've taken a trip north to the state park where the dogs are welcome, but that is a pretty quiet area and we wanted immersion education for da Snick. We were disappointed, but rather than waste the two-and-a-half hour trip, we hung out downtown and walked the dogs while doing some shopping and eating. Snickles did pretty good once he got acclimated to the surroundings. He's naturally very friendly with people, and surprisingly good with kids. He barks loudly at anyone on a bicycle. Little does he know the next step in his preparation for a Big Gay Life with us will involve not only getting used to Jeff and I on bikes, but riding along as well. I got a new pannier carrier for my bike as well as a made-for-the-purpose pet carrier which attaches. Kodi has his front-mounted carrier on Jeff's bike, with mine being a full suspension bike the best I could do is a rear mount. I will soon be taking the little guy for rides in the neighborhood. If that is a success, he and the rest of us will be ready to ride through the streets of PTown together, where the dogs are certain to be rock stars. People got a kick out of Kodi riding with Jeff, a pair of pedaled pooches is certain to bring out the smiles of passerby. Not to mention hunk/babe magnets deluxe. ;-)
greatbear: (Default)
This morning I wanted on teh intarwebz, but my computer awoke to a black screen. There was audio when mashing keys, but I figure, being a PC and not the perfection that is Apple, it just needed a reboot after being on for weeks. A reboot did nothing, but I noticed a curious behavior with the display. Usually the power light blinks when in between video modes or the PC is rebooting, instead, it was solidly on. I cycled the power and expected the little on-screen menu to pop up. Instead, there was fire. Actual fire, with the acrid smell of burning solid state deices and smoke. I dropped the backup display in its place and now am looking for a replacement. I'm jonesing for something larger than the 24" Samsung that stunk up the room, and something that will play nice with the new replacement PC that I built about a year ago. A bit of unexpected research and shopping is in order, as well as an unneeded expense.

I have a batch of photos to upload for LJ posts and such, but my Flickr Pro account lapsed and it's nothing but wonky now with the limited features and groups, so that will have to wait as well. My time has been taken up with outdoor projects and our rekindled efforts to put in a decent vegetable garden. My attitudes towards gardening have been guarded at best since losing Mom, being that it was her primary and ultimate passion. Just looking at the various beds makes me sad and uneasy, so for the past several years the gardens received minimal care is any. Jeff tried to take the mantle of suburban farmer, but his time is limited. This year, however, I am finally getting a bit over my apprehension (and outright breakdowns) when faced with Mom's favorite activity and the memories it brings flooding in. This year, if I can keep the critters out of it, we should have the most productive garden ever. I'll be installing the various electronic countermeasures to protect our crops.

You can probably guess already that it's gonna be called... The Garden of Mayhem. Hey, I have branding continuity to consider, after all. ;-)

Last week I had pulled all the wheels off the trailer, checked and adjusted the brakes and regreased the bearings as well as other mechanical checks, then hauled it up to Pennsylvania and Jeff's parents' driveway. I took along lots cleaning supplies and the bigass pressure washer which we used Saturday and Sunday to clean up our vacation home in preparation of our upcoming trips. I just hope my health issues don't ruin things like late last year.

Speaking of vacations and trips, who's gonna be in Provincetown for Bear Week (or in spite of, for all you post-whatevers)?
greatbear: (Default)
Despite the last couple days of mid-90s heat, I wanted to cut the grass, finishing up what I started the other day. Well, the tractor was balking at that because of a bad electrical connection. Me being me, well, I decided to rewire the better part of the thing. I replaced a couple switches, and updated the electrical system to use modern blade type fuses in a centralized block rather than a bunch of random fuse holders and glass fuses. This was not to be finished before I had to move my project inside the garage amid the rumble of thunder and EAS warnings on the radio. So, my hot weather project is done, and the old beast works better than new. And the grass is soaked and will have to wait.

Bob Mould showed up on the Scruff grid, I guess there's a Blowoff in town for DC Pride. While these bear-heavy dance events had their genesis many years ago almost right in my back yard, it was not until last summer in P-Town that Jeff and I finally went to one. We had a blast, despite my inability to stand without extreme pain. I guess watching Jeff having so much needed fun was enough for me. We plan on doing it again this year. And just maybe I will enjoy it more as well.

Speaking of Jeff, the poor man is being overworked like never before, and it's due to some rather sad circumstances. His general manager is out until further notice because his mother has leukemia, and does not have much time left. She is leaving the hospital and coming home, hospice care has been set up, and the waiting begins. These are the folks who had us over in April for the Passover Seder. His boss' mom is a wonderful person, quick witted and quite progressive for her years. Kinda like my mom was. Unfortunately, things have taken a rather quick turn for the worse. I just hope she won't endure severe pain.

My health has been stalled a bit on the upswing, I get a nagging cough at night when I am trying to sleep, the remnants of the sore throat I had a bit over a week ago. Just once I would like to fall into bed at night and get a good night's rest without some part of my body wanting to keep me awake in some fashion. It's hell getting old, but I guess it could be worse.

Finally, in a rather excellent nod to Les Paul's 96th birthday, the folks at Google have one of their awesome "Doodles" on their homepage for the occasion. Not only cool in that you can "play" this one, but you can actually record and save your "jams" as well. Go check it out.
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: (forearms)
I know I have not been posting a lot here. Been instead sequestering myself in the basement doing electrical and lighting work, fixing up some of my old machinery and generally being a hermit. It's what I do best. Since signing up for Facebook I have found instead of giving myself another outlet for my thoughts, it seems to have put me off on posting things anywhere, be it FB, LJ, various forums I linger on, etc. Perhaps this is just a phase, bit I will sequester myself mostly in LJ as if it were my basement. Complete with the sawdust and upgrades.

Some updates I guess are in order. Jeff and I have nailed down our Hillside camping dates, so as it has been for a while now, Bear weekends 2 and 3 and Wrestling/Car Show weekends are a go. We have our favorite site for all of them, which is really only one of a couple available that can accommodate our trailer setup plus any friends we manage to have on the site. So, that fills out our planned camping excursions for this year. Deep Creek Lake, MD at the end of May, Hillside for July and August, and P-Town for July for Bear Week. Anything else is going to be a surprise for us.

Cut down yet another tree over at Jeff's parent's place. While I am not fond at all to his dad's scorched-earth clearing of trees in the yard, I can see what he's up to. These are trees along the creek that divides their lot from the farm behind, and opening this up allows a rather awesome view of the farm and the buffalo being raised there (they are delicious, btw). It's getting tougher for him to deal with the yard and the leaves, so this also helps in that respect. Still, I dont like seeing healthy, viable trees taken down. It's my nature. There are some dead and dying stuff that will come down as well. Of course, the bonus here is that I get to bring home all sorts of good firewood gratis. The lower part of this tree filled my truck up, with the remaining wood needing two or three more trips to being home.

While bucking the tree into stove-length logs, one of the roughly 30-inch diameter logs slammed onto my foot, leaving me with a nasty bruise and a woeful limp. I am hoping nothing serious has happened, I am going by the assumption that a break would hurt a helluva lot more. I've busted toes before, so I know the pain.

While Jeff's dad and I were at the hardware store, his mom took a bad tumble and broke her arm. I feel awful about this, since it's affecting the last family I know. She took it in stride, and will be seeing a specialist tomorrow to determine a course of action. Hopefully it's not involving of surgery, screws, pins and brackets.

It's snowing it's ass off outside at the moment. On tap to receive 3-6 inches and possibly more, I am sort of skeeved at March coming in like a crazed lion after a relatively snow-free winter so far. Nothing I can do about it other than wake up tomorrow morning, haul the snow blowers out and deal. The aforementioned firewood, roughly 1000lbs, will give the truck that much more added traction.

The last of hopefully any more hard drives have been acquired and installed into some enclosures I have here, plus one more enclosure bought for the occasion. These will be near-line regular backups that get connected every week or so to back everything up and taken off line and put in safe keeping. A pair of 1.5TB drives, a second pair of 1TBs, plus a third TB drive set aside as a spare for the servers. If this does not make things all set and wonderful, I dont know what will.

I have a feeling my hermit-like behavior will be around for a while. So if there's a lack of online activity from me, that's why. It's not like I am terribly missed anyhow. I still manage to make my usual comments that are often misunderstood and taken as the opposite as the obscure humor I intend. You've been forewarned.
greatbear: (face)
I was absent from LJ for the past few days, and with good reason. It was Jeff's birthday on Friday, and to celebrate, we hauled the trailer up to western Maryland to Deep Creek Lake. Once again we set up the trailer at Deep Creek Lake State Park, an area with deep personal meaning to me, as it was my first place I ever went camping, probably at 6 years old, with Mom. The place has changed very little in those 40 years, and as such, I feel a warm comfort there. That only added to our relaxing weekend.

Jeff was enjoying the weekend away from the hassles of work (as was I, of course), and Kodi got to spend nearly every waking moment in some new adventure or just being 'part of the pack'. The weather on Friday and Sunday was fantastic, but Saturday brought heavy thunderstorms as well as possible tornado touchdown in the surrounding area. No such worries here, and the rain gave us a chance to sleep in, cuddle and relax. It cleared up by mid afternoon and all was right with the world.

We were here last year at the same time, which was the weekend after Memorial Day weekend. As such, the place was sparsely populated, very quiet and private. In short, just perfect for our needs. It was great to just unwind and enjoy ourselves.

deepcreek01

A full Flickr Set here, with more pictures.


This is our first camping trip of the season, which has us confirmed at Hillside for three weekend, and a week at P-Town. Other than forgetting to pack some food items, the entire weekend went off just about perfectly. The rig got a whopping 11.2mpg in the ride there and back, which has several pretty long and steep mountain passes. While not stellar by any means, it aint bad considering the size and weight of the whole setup. Just have to budget a bit more for fuel costs. Hopefully we can squeeze in some more camping in different places this year. If they all turn out as nice as this one, all three of us will be happy campers indeed.
greatbear: (well hello there cthulhu)
It's been a while, not a whole lot of note to report.

I've been doing some minor mods to the MINI in prep for the Tail Of The Dragon run next month. New SSR Type C-RS wheels, the previous tires, some adjusting and tuning, new Optima battery and an armrest so far. Still awaiting a replacement rim for the Strat, which has been on back order since early last month. Seeing my luck with rims and tires havent been that great, I will be buying a spare rim for each car to have on hand. Sure, this will make it such that I'll never use the wheels and they will only cost me a bunch of money, but that's what insurance is like, no?

I've been pretty busy. With the (sluggish) arrival of Spring, my attention has to turn now to outdoor projects, house fixing and yardwark. The yardwork, though, is heartbreaking. Tulips, daffodils, narcissus and a bunch of other spring flowers are popping up all over. It's a beautiful sight, but this time I stare at it all and start crying. All these flowers, mostly planted by Mom over the years have marked that time over and over where Mom would get out in the yard with the excitement of doing that which she loved. All the plants seemingly responded accordingly. Cheerful colors, intoxicating scents, beauty everywhere. This year the flowers have come up in anticipation of their keeper's care only to find nothing. I feel like whatever green thumb I had is now amputated and I dont know what to do. The stuff is not rocket science. It's like I am intruding in a place that I dont belong. I'm becoming overwhelmed with feeling lost and alone once again and there is no escaping it.

I will have to try my best at carrying on the horticultural traditions around here.

The house and garage need new roofs this year come Cthulhu or high water. The sunroom gets finished, new downstairs door gets put in, and a new water heater. And LOTS of cleaning and purging of 'stuff' and junk.

This year is one for some fun stuff too. On tap are three weekends at Hillside, Bear Week in Provincetown and Rush at the Nissan Pavilion on June 29. Hopefully there will be more such things. These happenings are key to getting on with my life. Mom was insistent in that respect.

Well, I've rambled on enough for one night. Cheers.

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Phil

December 2016

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