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Archive for the ‘Life in general’ Category

They say that change is the only constant in life and that is becoming more apparent as the calendar changes to 60 for me in a few weeks.

I started noticing it when I turned 45 and couldn’t find my cologne, British Sterling, in stores any more. At my then wife’s suggestion, I switched to Paul Sebastian.

But when I turned 55, and newly divorced, I couldn’t find a bottle of Paul Sebastian for less than $60 in stores. eBay came to the rescue and thankfully, I can still find a bottle of Paul Sebastian after shave for under $15.

Charmin was my toilet paper of choice since I was a teen and my dad started bringing home multipacks from work. It was the simple, 1-ply style, which served me well. I’m not sure when, but they stopped making 1-ply, or at least the stores I used quit stocking it, and I found I was using way more 2-ply than I did one ply.

That’s when Cottonelle came into my life after I moved to the ridge. Cheaper than Charmin but as good as Charmin ever was.

It’s the same with paper towels. Dad brought an obscene number of rolls of Bounty home from work when I was a kid and I became loyal to that brand.

As my life simplified after the divorce, I found the large multipacks offered at grocers and discount stores impractical because I had a smaller amount of storage space. At about the same time, stores started stocking single or double packs, so I would just buy one roll and make sure I always had a spare in the pantry.

Now that I live in the country and my shopping options are more limited, I have found it impossible to locate a single roll of Bounty that isn’t that aggravating “select-a-size” type.

The local independent grocer in Charlotte has come to my rescue with a “premium” option for its store brand paper towels, though. It’s 70 cents cheaper than a roll of Bounty, has no feminine floral print on it and works as a sufficient substitute for the rare times when I run out of Kleenex or toilet paper.

Adaptation. Its a great tool to develop as you get older.

I think I’m ready to be 60.

 

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I drive an 18 year-old car because it’s paid for and it still runs great.

It’s a Toyota, of course, and has more than 276,000 miles on it. I bought it 6 years ago with 150,000 miles on it and my goal is to get at least 300,000 or more miles on it before I buy another car.

It’s a good car, but it does have its quirks.

Like the driver’s window. It stopped working three years ago. Just refused to roll down. A month later, it started working again. I never found out why. But it worked like a charm until six months ago, when it up and quit again.

My plan was to take it to a shop to get it fixed, but something always came up that required my attention (and my cash).

I’m working really hard to pay off my house, so cash is always tight. Replacing the window motor or carriage could cost anywhere from $200 to $1,200 depending on the shop. (I’ve called several.)

A new transmission (technically, it’s a used transmission) was the the first thing that bumped the window from my priority list. New tires for my dad’s truck, a gift when he decided not to drive any more last spring, were next.

Then there were new tires for the car, skirting for the house, new steps on the deck to pass codes, dues for the half dozen Masonic organizations I belong to, topped off by a busted water pipe and my attempts to better weatherize my water system.

It’s been really cold this week, with snow added as an accent. I drove the truck on the long holiday weekend and again on Tuesday and Wednesday in part because the roads were slick and because the driver’s window rolls down which makes getting in the parking garage for work much easier. (I had to unbuckle the seat belt, open the door and lean back to use my access card with the car.)

Today, with the temperature below freezing for two days in a row and fears that letting the car sit idle for the better part of a week, I used my car. Besides, its heater works better than the truck’s.

As the side window fogged up during the early part of my drive , I hit the window down button to clear the moisture and lo and behold, the window rolled down. And then it rolled back up.

A miracle, no doubt.

It worked great as I entered and left the garage, too.

God only knows how long it will continue to work this time, but now I can spend my cash on other things — like my water system, which froze again today.

I’m hoping for a burst-free thaw.

Stop laughing. Miracles do happen. Just ask my car.

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Tank you

If it’s possible to love an appliance, I never really cared much for my washing machine.

The washer came with a dryer in a package deal that fit my budget at the time five years ago when I was focused on paying off my debt. But it didn’t do a good job of getting stains out of my shirts, so I put a thermometer to the water when it was on the Warm setting. 72 degrees.

The repair guy who came out the next day said that’s how they build them these days. It runs the cold water for a bit and then a short run with hot water.

Hot water at my apartment was too hot for my shirts and pants, and the heater was behind a locked door that I didn’t have a key that would allow me to adjust it, so there were times after I dribbled soy sauce or salad dressing on me, that some shirts had to be washed two or three times.

I opted for a tankless water heater in my house, but the cold water problem was even worse since there was a 20-second lag from the time the washer switched to hot and hot water arrived at the washer. I started looking for money in the budget for a better model, but the budget was tight.

Then one day, while looking at the red glow of the temperature readout on the tank, it hit me. I can adjust the temperature down to 98 degrees, which is what most consider warm water.

So now, when I wash my permanent press, I set the washer temp setting to Hot and the water tank to 98 and you never see the remnants of soy sauce or salad dressing on my shirts any more.

I like my cheap washer now.

 

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Out of memory error

Dear IT security people,

I am at my limit for passwords. I am no longer able to have a different password for each thing I need to have a password for.

There is only so much the human mind can hold, then it starts dumping old things like names of my elementary school teachers to make room for yet another new word that’s at least 8 characters long, contains a mixture of upper and lowercase letters along with at least one number and a special character that isn’t a period.

There is only one thing left for you to do – hunt down the hackers and make them stop.

I’ve seen some of your budgets. You can do this.

Just don’t buy the latest upgrades and new technology this year. Focus your IT resources into finding the hackers who would steal my passwords and make an offer they can’t refuse.

I know it can be done. I watch The Blacklist and The Blind Spot.

Hackers are evil. Make them stop it.

Then again, you might be the evil ones for making me, who has no living pets, come up with a unique password every other fortnight. If you stopped that, I might think better about hackers as human beings.

Any way, whatever you decide, please do it now. I’m out of memory.

Sincerely,

Th4tGuY!

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Bug out

Gnats love the ridge.

Gnats also love vinegar.

Fill a jar lid with vinegar, add a drop of dish-washing liquid and stir.

Ridge 19, Gnats 0.

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It turns out my youth wasn’t wasted after all.

I was on the interstate entrance ramp when a taxi cut me off and then hit its brakes. I slammed on mine and avoided rear-ending him, but when traffic started moving again, my car wouldn’t go.

It was dead. No power. No clock. The transmission wouldn’t shift to park so I could try to restart it.

Shit, I muttered, forgetting my anger at the taxi and concentrating on my car.

I can’t afford to buy a new car right now. So I had to think.

Transmission won’t shift. I pulled out my pocket knife and popped the tab off on the console, depressed the button underneath with my knife and moved the shifter to park.

How’d I know to do that? 1982. My 1981 T-Bird. I ran over a school crossing sign with it in the middle of the night, back in the day when mothers weren’t mad and I thought I was about the best drunk driver on the planet.

The tow truck driver showed me how to make a transmission shift when it doesn’t want to.

Back on the interstate ramp, I tried to start the car now that the transmission was in park. Nothing. I pressed the button again and pushed the shifter to neutral, opened the door and pushed the car to the left side of the road.

As I was bending down to pull the hood latch, a police officer rolled up and asked if I was OK. I recounted the story of the taxi and the sudden death of my car.

“I need to look under the hood. I think my battery is messed up,” I told him.

How’d I know that? 1976. My ’69 Ford station wagon.

I was paying for college and working part time but my money wouldn’t stretch like I needed it to. The battery died and I needed a new one, so I bought the cheapest, not knowing they come in different sizes.

The battery I bought was too small for my car. So I looped some scrap wire from work around it to hold it into place and headed to school. It worked great until I turned from Menard Street onto Audubon Drive. The wire broke in the turn, the battery shifted and shorted out on an engine bracket.

The car died in mid turn and white smoke started to pour out from under the hood.

It looked like a new pope was elected, only I’m not Catholic or a cardinal, so I couldn’t vote.

I threw open the hood and yanked the battery from the bracket. The smoke stopped. I used my pocket knife and some electricians’ tape (this was before the advent of duct tape) and put the battery back in place (and extra tape on those engine brackets).

I eventually figured out I could use the scrap wire to replace the wires that fried when the battery shorted out. Once I was done, I went back to the fraternity house for a drink. It was 10 a.m.

Back on the interstate ramp, the officer told me I needed to get to the right shoulder since there was more room to work and it was safer. He stopped traffic and told me to drive while he pushed.

Thankfully, the ramp was downhill. In short order, I was on the right shoulder and I let it coast to the bottom of the hill.

The officer had to be in court, so once he helped me get to safety, he was on his way, telling me to call the station if I needed a tow truck and dispatch was waiting to help.

I thanked him again and as he drove away, I popped the hood open and saw right away that the battery had shifted when I slammed on the brakes. The positive wire had pulled loose from the battery terminal.

I grabbed some wooden paint stirrers I keep in my car and a scrap piece of 1×4 lumber from the back seat floor board. I used the stirrers to put the connector back on top of the post and drove it in place with the 1 x 4.

The car started and I was on my way. To work. I wasn’t even late because it took less than 5 minutes for me to figure out the problem and fix it since I’d been there before when I was younger and somewhat dumber.

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Timing is everything

I haven’t posted this year because the year has been full of a flurry of activity and then long waits.

The house flunked the frame inspection for a variety of issues, ranging from the builder not using metal plates between wood and cinder blocks, to the wrong nail plate on a drain, to the porch rail being an inch and a half short for its distance off the ground.

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The interior walls are installed and coated with polyurethane.

In all, that took three weeks to fix, and involved me taking a day off of work to change the nail plate because my plumber decided to quit returning my calls. (That’s another story.)

The porch still doesn’t meet codes. The builder wanted me to spend about $400 on trucking in dirt to raise the level of the land under the porch so that the porch is less than 30 inches from it and then the porch meets codes.

I agreed at first, but once I thought about it, I decided to just add a 2×4 to the top of the rail and small spindles between the big ones so that there’s no more than a 4-inch space. I don’t have children, but my nephews and nieces have children and I don’t want them getting between the spindles and hurting themselves when they visit. My plan costs $30.

So the interior walls are complete now. I thought the flooring would be a breeze. I want wood laminate and when I went to order it last week from a box store, I discovered it’s not a simple matter at all.

The sales person called me after I ordered a measurement and asked if there was electricity in the house.

Me: “There’s an extension cord from the power pole that the carpenter, plumber, electrician and mechanical contractor used without issue.”

Salesperson: “The installers won’t work without power actually in the house.”

Me: “Why the hell not? Everyone else has.”

Salesperson: “It’s their policy.”

Me: “Thanks. I’ll find another store where the installers are a little more hardy and don’t run the show. How do I get my deposit back?”

So the store refunded my money and I hightailed it to their competition during lunch. The guys there were great. They couldn’t see why working with an extension cord would be a problem. As one guy wrote up my order, another guy called the installer.

New sales guy: “Is your house heated?”

Me: “No. Is that a problem? If it is, I have a portable heater I’ve used with the extension cord. It can make the house comfortable for them.”

New sales guy after talking with installer: “The house needs to have a working HVAC before we can install wood laminate. It has to sit in the house for a couple of days to acclimate. It can’t acclimate without a working HVAC.”

Me: “Shit.”

I walked out of that store dazed, my mind running through hundreds of scenarios, most of which included me spending extra months living in a $400 a week hotel.

I have a contractor who is planning to work on the drainage between the house and the hill as soon as the weather clears. But the weather hasn’t really cleared since before Christmas and the forecast was for more rain this week.

That’s important because the power pole is on top of the hill and to get power to the house, we have to dig a trench and bury the wire in it.

We can’t dig the trench until the drainage work between the hill and the house is done. And I can’t install the kitchen cabinets and appliances until I have the floor installed.

And now I can’t have the floor installed until the HVAC is up and running and that’s being held hostage by the weather which is holding up the drainage work.

Shit.

I called the first salesperson back.

I told her that from what I understand, it’s not so much an electricity issue as it is an HVAC issue. I asked if we could get the house measured and the flooring ordered so we have it ready to go while we work on getting the HVAC running.

She agreed and I had to pay the deposit again, since she refunded it to me earlier in the day. The installer called me on Thursday and asked which room I wanted to have the flooring installed.

Me: “The whole house. If it has a floor in it, I want wood laminate on top of it.”

Installer: “We don’t install wood laminate in bathrooms.”

Me: “I’m living in a hotel that has wood laminate in the bathroom. If they can do it we can do it, humor me.”

The conversation ended and life went on.

Today I was looking at lavatories and kitchen cabinets at the same store when the flooring salesperson called to tell me the quote was ready.

Me: “I’m in the store. I’ll be right there.”

It turns out my house is a little bigger than I thought. But the bathroom issue came up again.

Salesperson: “We won’t install wood laminate in bathrooms.”

Me: “Why the hell not? If my hotel has it, I don’t think there’s a problem.”

Salesperson: “It’s our policy and the manufacturer’s policy. If its installed in the bathroom, it voids your entire warranty.”

Me: “Why in the hell is that?”

We went back and forth and finally it became apparent — wood laminate isn’t waterproof. I could buy that much better than “just because.”

So in the end, I ordered a vinyl laminate for the bathroom, which is waterproof, but stuck with wood laminate for the rest of the house. They’re not a perfect match, but close enough. My bathroom is 6 x 7 and I have three rugs for the floor there, so it’s not like you’ll see a lot of the floor.

I paid for the flooring and they’ll be delivered to the house in two weeks.

Two weeks. Shit.

So here I sit in my extended stay hotel room (which I did not budget for in the first place) and the WiFi is finally working for the first time this week.

The landscaping is set to start Monday, but there’s snow and rain in the forecast for Monday.

I’m buying light fixtures and working on doing as much as can be done without finished floors.

Hopefully the HVAC is running on the 23rd, when the flooring is delivered. It has to sit in the house for a couple of days before it can be installed. Installation will just take a day,whenever that day comes.

So I’m looking at the early part of March now, when I had originally hoped to be in the house by Christmas. We can get the bathroom fixtures and kitchen cabinets done fairly quickly but the appliances can only be delivered on a Monday and I fear the flooring won’t be done in time for them to be delivered this month.

I still have to get the water system up and running too, but that’s for another day.

My goal now is to have a cold beer on my code-compliant porch on St. Patrick’s Day.

Time will tell.

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