Thursday, December 11, 2014

Start With The Basics

Yesterday I was working on Lucie's laptop - I made a rescue CD to use to restore her computer if something should go wrong.  I figured I better test it while things were working to be sure all was in order before I needed it.  So I put it in and rebooted the computer.  The laptop SHOULD have read the CD and booted up from that into recovery mode.  Nope - skipped right on past and booted up like normal.  Which is not what I wanted.  So I tried again.  Nope - goes right on past it.  So I checked the usual settings and the laptop was set up properly to read the CD before the hard drive in the boot up sequence, etc. etc.  I took the CD and tried it in another laptop - worked fine.  I re-made it anyway.  No better.  I put in a music CD and it played just fine.  Hmmm.  Now I am getting a bit concerned.  So I updated the BIOS and drivers and this and that.  Uninstalled and re-installed the CD drive.  Nothing.  I went onto the forums and did some research and posted my dilemma.  Others who had the same problem wound up sending in their computers for motherboard replacement.  I wound up calling the manufacturer and had to go through the usual checklist that the rep has to go through.  Bear in mind that each time I try something new, I have to re-boot the computer and wait for it to get fully operational - which takes a lot of time.  During that whole troubleshooting process, I took a look at the disk and another one I was trying.  Remember - I had tried them with success in another laptop so I was sure they worked.  But they were a bit smudged so I rinsed them off and on a whim, I took a quick swipe of the CD drive reader lens and blew out some dust.  Wouldn't you know that fixed it?!  Only took 5 hours of my time to try the basic, 3 second fix...  Then I went back to the forums and made my post of shame.  Maybe it will help someone else.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Elements of Surprise

Today is laundry day and I noticed that after one load of laundry, one bath (to soak my sore neck), and one shower, we were out of hot water.  That isn't right.  Gotta be the water heater.  A few years ago I replaced the thermostats so I figured they were OK - now it was time to check the heating elements.  There is an upper and lower element - pretty easy to get to and test with an ohm meter (YouTube is my friend).  So I tested them and one was reading on the low end of the approved range.  I figured I might as well change both if I am going to change one.  The guy on the video said there was no need to drain the water from the tank - just get your pieces ready and a towel and you can swap them out lickity split with minimal water loss.  He even showed how simple it could be.  So off I went to Home Depot and got the replacement elements ($12 each) AND I got the special element wrench to take them out.  You can see in the picture above what an element looks like (the new ones are nice and shiny).  I shut the power off and opened the panels and flipped the relief valve to let off the pressure and turned off the water supply.  All good.  I figure I would start with the top one so I would be practiced when I went to do the bottom one - which, theoretically, would have more water to drain out.  I removed two wires, put my wrench on and slid the screwdriver through (which served as wrench handle) and lifted.  Ugh.  Nothing.  Lifted and lifted.  No budgie.  Come on!!  Off to get the all purpose tool (the rubber mallet) and I proceeded to offer some persuasion.  Still wouldn't budge!  As my brother Lowell, and some guy named Archimedes once said, give me a lever big enough and I can move the world.  So I got my pry bar and started leveraging.  All that did was bend my screwdriver.  Alrighty then.  Another trip to the garage for the Liquid Wrench.  Gave the element a good hosing down of that stuff and started in on the lower one.  Same process - remove the panel, remove two wires, and start with the wrench.  But looky here - it is coming out nice and easy!  I got my replacement piece all ready and my towel and unscrewed it right on out.  And you would think I released Niagara Falls!  Water came shooting out like from a fire hose!!  So now I have to feed the new element in - against the tide!  It didn't take too long actually and it went right in.  Tightened up nicely. Put the wires back on (left the panel off to dry) and went back to the upper one.

I gave it some more encouragement with the rubber mallet, put the wrench to it, and gave it a whirl.  Loosened right up and started unscrewing!  Well isn't this nice?!  I figure most of the water was drained out from the bottom so this should be easy peasy.  Wrong again.  Had my replacement piece all lined up, pulled the old one - and the dam let loose again!  This time at chest level and she is a gushin'.  I am trying to get that new piece in but of course it won't get started on the threads!  If I cross thread the female threads inside the water heater, it will be time for a new water heater.  I am screwing and screwing and right when it is pretty finger tight - it spins free.  Uh oh  This is not good.  Backed it off, with the water jetting out, and tried it again.  And again...  Finally she took.  Tightened it up, hooked up the wires, and turned on the water.  It wasn't long after it started filling that I see it was leaking...  Dang!!  Ran upstairs for some Teflon tape fearing it was stripped.  Shut the water off, took off my soaking wet clothes (at least it was relatively warm water), and prepared for the immersion.  Undid the wires and backed the element out.  Lucie had been throwing towels to me like a Western fire brigade so I stuffed one in the hole and wrapped the tape around the threads.  Oh but looky here - there are TWO rubber washers on this one.  Turns out the old washer got left behind which made for the difficult threading and prevented a tight seal.  So I pulled that off, the towel out, and threaded her right back in there nice beautiful.  I was able to tighten it right up.  Turned the water on - no leaks!  Flipped the breaker on - no short circuits!  It is filling now but seems to be working.  Good for another 17 years I hope.

The guy on the video made it look so easy.  And so dry...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bee Gone, Devil!

Today was a good day to do some yard work.  Just the usual edging, trimming and mowing but then I thought I would shape up the bush at the end of the driveway.  Went to the glove spot for my gloves.  No gloves.  The usual suspects all deny using them but finally, after some intense interrogation, Ashleigh broke down and admitted she had them.  So the mystery was solved but it didn't help the situation.  I went OJ and stuffed my hands in a pair of gloves that were too small and went on with the trimming.
With that job done, I gathered all the trimmings in the wheelbarrow and wheeled them out to the woods behind the house, dumped them and headed to the back door for a drink.  I felt something jabbing me in my Achilles, just above my sock, and there it was  - a yellow jacket.  He was pounding his stinger into me over and over for all he was worth.  (Actually, I don't think he ever broke through - later on there was no red mark or swelling or anything.)  So I took a swat at him and he flew off - about 2 inches, doubled back and started to make his move on my shin!  Whacked at him again and jumped back.  By now Lucie was at the screen door (she heard my girlish screams) and said she saw it fly up my shirt!   So that came off and went flying across the yard.  All was quiet.  Too quiet.  Lucie told me to jump into the house but I didn't want it following me in.  But we chanced it - she opened the door and I bounded in.  As we stood at the screen door looking out, I ran my hand through my hair.  BEE!!!  It took off toward the living room and now he was the hunted.  But I figured it was personal now and he had a vendetta against me so I just waited.  Sure enough, old BEElzebub came back at me.  We swept him to the screen where he got a close up reading of the latest Home and Garden magazine.  I laid him out in state on the top of the garbage can for all his friends to see.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rebate Return

Just a quick update - our kitchen sink faucet has been leaking a steady stream.  Like it just won't shut off.  No amount of adjusting or tightening seems to work so we are watching $$ run down the drain.  We did some research and found a replacement faucet at Costco.  Looked perfect so we put that on the list of stuff we need to buy but can't afford.  (And my how that list is growing!)  The other day Lucie opened the Costco bill and there was our annual rebate check - within $8 of the cost of the faucet!  In one hand and out the other but at least our hands won't be wet from the constantly water drain.  Thank you Jesus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Objects In The Rear View Mirror...

About a week ago, Ashleigh came around the corner by the house and clipped the neighbor's mailbox with her passenger side mirror.  The mailbox was unscathed - the mirror was a complete loss.  One would say she swerved when her passenger (David) looked up and yelled out that she was too close. Someone else would say he yelled out only after she had already hit it...  Whatever the case may be, the mirror was wrecked.  I tried to glue it in place and then went redneck and used some black duct tape to  hold it but we knew at the first snowstorm or parking lot door bump, it would fall off.  So off to the junkyard I went.  None to be found.  Bought one from eBay for $34 including shipping!  So, in the spirit of my brother and niece (Lowell and Katrina), Ashleigh and I went to work on it together.   It went surprisingly smooth.  Of course two of the three bolts stripped out of the old mirror but we got around that and were able to pop the new one in.  The power function works fine, it looks brand new, and there were no parts leftover. Success!

There is some life commentary to be made here I suppose. About how some things have happened and have been left behind, out of view and forgotten.  Or perhaps that some situations are coming up from behind and we just haven't seen them yet.  Or it may be that at times looking back on things, experiences may be clearer than at the time you went through them.  But that is not always the case.  I have plenty of questions about things in the past and why they took the turns they did.  On the other hand, I know that it is all part of the Plan and everything happens for a reason.  I may not know it, may not see it, or it may just be out of view.  But it's there.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Who says the Bible isn't relevant today? There is an Old Testament story about Elijah coming to a town and he ran into a widow who was very poor. So poor, in fact, she only had enough food in the house for one last meal for herself and her son.  But Elijah told her of a prophecy from God and so she went home and somehow there was enough food to feed her, her son, and Elijah for as long as he was there.  Not sure how long he was there, but it was for days.  The point of the story was that God provided when there was no other provisions.  (I Kings 17:7-16)

Fast forward to July 28, 2014 in Newark, Delaware.  Our central air conditioning has been hanging on by a thread.  We have put some money into it but it is dying and, after 17 years, it needs to be replaced.  It was running in the morning so I made the mistake of taking the fans and putting them away. Naturally, the A/C immediately seizes and dies.  I called the A/C guy and he said if I can come up with half of the cost to replace it, we can pay off the rest as we can.  Just a few days ago I had been going through our files and looking for something and made a note of the credit card balances.  Not much to work with there and we have been working hard to pay them down.  Essentially, there was nothing left in the cupboard.  But on this day I looked again and told God that we were doing our best and we needed a break.  All of a sudden out pops an old credit card with almost the exact amount of credit available for the down payment.  Now an argument can be made about not getting into debt and so forth, and I am fully aware of that, but I am choosing to thank God for supplying for our need.  No other way to explain it.

UPDATE:  I waited to post this until Lucie returned from camp - no sense her worrying about things while she was away.  The new AC is in and it was near record low temps the few days we were without it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Knee PT Is Over For Me

Wednesday was my last physical therapy session for my knee rehab.  It went well.  They took before and after measurements and strength readings and on Wednesday, my right knee was just as flexible as my left and both were stronger than average.  The beginning sessions were mostly stretching - the latter sessions were strengthening.  I am cleared to do most things except run (no problem there!), heavy lifting, or actions that require twisting in the knee.  I will wait till December or so to play basketball again but it is really feeling great.

I am pretty thankful that my work was flexible enough that I could go to PT three times a week.  And the insurance covered it.

The weather has been nice enough lately that I can get out and walk - not just for myself, but for Mocha too.  We walk around the neighborhood and then straight into the pool...

Monday, June 23, 2014

I KNEE-ded That

Well I am on the other side of knee surgery now and feeling super!  It should be no surprise now how quickly things can turn around.  The surgery went fantastic.  Never had any pain.  Of course I aggressively relaxed if such a thing is possible.  I set up my couch with the TV remote, laptop, cell phone, house phone, light dimmer, pillows, blankets, eye shades, water, pills and the wonder machine - an electric water cooled knee wrap that pumped ice water from an Igloo cooler through tubes into a wrap.  All together, it worked great!  A friend recommended a short TV mini-series to watch so I downloaded that and made myself comfy.  To add an extra thrill to the week, the family decided to go on a "cleanse" diet to help get us ready to start losing weight.  That was a bit more "painful" but we didn't cheat and we made it through (and Mom - Lucie even had me eat 6 whole tomatoes on "Tomato Day!").  At the end of the week, I was down over 9 pounds (3.5% body weight - you do the math...).

Today was the first day of physical therapy and I was apprehensive that the pain I had avoided so far was going to come back in a big way.  Wrong.  PT was excellent.  I knew my legs were in great shape (it's just the rest of me...) so there is really very little for me to do.  Mostly stretching and flexibility exercises.  Probably 3-4 weeks, 3 times per week.  Insurance was supposed to be $50 per session but the PT place called my insurance company and then told me that I had met the deductible cost for the year (that's no surprise) so the $50 was waived!  I called the insurance company to verify but the agent said they were wrong.  Bummer.  I knew it was too good to be true.  30 seconds later the insurance company called back and said THEY were wrong - it was a matter of semantics but I had met the out-of-pocket expense for the year so yes, in fact, I did not need to pay the $50 co-pay!  Great!

So with that news, the weight loss, the leg feeling so much better than pre-surgery, my brain being no worse than ever and other things, life is looking up again.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Over The Pill

The other day I turned 50 but I don't want to talk about it...  But I will blog about it.

Seems like a bunch of relatively minor health issues have been piling up on me lately.  Most of them fixable if I lost about 40 pounds...  Torn meniscus in my right knee, a migraine headache, stomach virus, cholesterol is high, blood pressure is high, weight is high, there was a fear (and actual brief diagnosis) of two strokes...  The birthday celebration wasn't one of the happiest days in my life - a good portion of it was spent at two doctor appointments.  (Lucie did pull off a church surprise party so a bunch of people did sing Happy Birthday to me and we had some excellent Costco cake!)  Could be a lot worse - I recognize that.  So now I am lined up for knee surgery, the "strokes' turned out to be insignificant anomalies in my brain, taking more fish oil pills for the cholesterol (I can now hold my breath underwater for 43 minutes...), and I am taking a low dose blood pressure pill (and monitoring my blood pressure at home).  The good news is that there is no more room in my daily pill container so that means nothing else can go wrong...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Career Ender?

What you see here is a college collage.  Ha!  It is a collection of pictures of me playing intramural basketball at ORU.  (Pretty skinny guy back then!)  But even in these pictures from 30 years ago (WHAT?!  30 YEARS?!), you can see I was having problems with my right knee.  The middle MRI image shows the torn meniscus I will be getting repaired soon (green is good; red is bad).  Hopefully I will be back to playing again.  On the other hand, the last basket I made playing somewhat competitively came from an assist from Elliott so perhaps that is the best way to let it go...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pool Peace

2014 turned out to be the best and easiest pool opening that I can remember in the 10 years that we have had this pool.  Maybe it was because this was the first time in 10 years that Elliott helped me...!  Ha!  Usually the pool is a green, slimey, stinky mess because the safety cover I have on there is porous and allows decaying leaves, bugs, etc. through.  They in turn decompose into the pool all fall, winter and spring.  This year we had a solid ice/snow cover all year so that kept a lot of the debris out resulting in pretty clear water at the opening.  I will have to think about putting some sort of solid cover down before the safety cover maybe this fall.  Anyway, I had to replace the salt chlorinator this spring and I poured about a dozen gallons of bleach in to shock it.  Whatever the formula, it all came together with no issues, leaks or fights.  Even the new (replacement) deck cleaner attachment for the power washer worked great.  I am pretty happy with that.  And so is Mocha as you can see in the video below:

Friday, May 16, 2014

Don't Call That Dog Britni, Call Her "Lifesaver"

A couple of weeks ago, 12 year old Britni the beagle became very lethargic.  Wouldn't eat, barely moved all day - just seemed like she was on her last legs.  She would go out to do her business but couldn't handle the stairs or anything.  I just figured it was old age and we didn't want to spend a fortune on testing.  She didn't seem to be in any pain - just unmotivated, maybe even confused - sometimes she would just wander around aimlessly.  I consulted Google and it was possible she had CCD (Canine Cognitive Dysfunction) or a stroke or other things.  Then at times she would perk right up and almost seem normal.  Those wild swings made me keep thinking and researching.  I thought perhaps she was diabetic so our nurse friend procured some test strips and Lucie managed to capture some of Britni's pee and test it.  Negative.  More research.  Perhaps she is hypoglycemic.  The "cure" for that is to give the dog honey.  So I did and it was like a miracle.  She bounced back in a couple of hours and was pretty much her old self.  So I started drizzling honey on her food (which she now ate right down) and in a few days, she was charging up and down the stairs again, full of energy, barking and howling and just being annoying like she always is.  That doesn't answer the underlying cause which we may eventually get checked out but for about 2 weeks now, the honey is all the fix we need.

But how does that make her a lifesaver?  Well, during the diabetes testing, that same nurse friend's husband began complaining of excessive thirst and other issues.  So on a whim she did a test on him and found his blood sugar was off the charts high!  Off to the doc they went and he is now on meds and a modified diet.  I don't know if Britni's episode occurred directly to discover our friend's condition but I will give her credit.

Monday, April 21, 2014

One For The Little Guy

Score one for the little guy.  Last fall I bought a small tablet computer on sale at Wal-Mart.  It wasn't anything fancy or powerful but was nice to have a device to jump onto the internet with that had a bigger screen than my phone.  Sure enough, hours after the warranty expired, it died.  No amount of re-setting or power-cycling would save it.  So I contacted the manufacturer and threw myself at the mercy of their sense of empathy.  They agreed to take it back and repair it - for more than half of what I paid for it.  Unacceptable.  So I thought that since I bought it with my American Express card, I would run the situation by AmEx and see if they could help.  Gave them a call and the nicest person took all of my information and said they would go to battle on my behalf.  They warned me it could take a while but they would see what they could do.  Today in the mail I got a letter from AmEx saying that Wal-Mart was unresponsive to their requests but in a good faith gesture, they were going to refund the cost of the tablet!  Nice, very nice.  I actually feel like someone in big business knows what it's like to have something die on them just out of warranty.  Thanks AmEx!

Friday, April 18, 2014


I was originally going to call this blog post Inconsiderate In NYC but I have found inconsiderate people are not limited to NYC.  On my train trip up to NYC yesterday, the woman in the seat ahead of me, who was of small to average stature (the woman, not the seat), had her seat tipped as far back as possible.  Practically in my lap.  Yes, it was certainly her "right" to tip back to the full extent allowable, but it is also her right to pass wind in an elevator - but both instances are just inconsiderate and rude.  Another train situation is the person who sits on the aisle seat, loads their belongings into the window seat, and then immerses themselves in their Pulitzer or Nobel Prize work on their laptop while seat-finders look longingly at the equipment occupied seat and then must amble onward looking for a truly vacant seat.  Who do these seat-fillers think they are?

I emerged from the bowels of Penn Station and made my way 7 blocks to the office.  On at least 3 occasions, I saw a pedestrian just about get plowed over by a car in the road.  In all 3 cases, the pedestrian disregarded the walk signals because they are obviously the 3 most important people on the planet and the traffic signals don't apply to them.  I noticed that rather than watching the signals, many of the people watch the traffic - regardless of the signal status, if there is a chance to sprint across the road, they do it.  And believe me, these people do not qualify as sprinters.  Things would run so much smoother if everyone just followed the signals.  On the other hand, there is the potential that 4 to 5 seconds of precious time might be wasted standing on the corner - or, as I have also seen, standing about 3 feet in the road...

When I got back to the train station parking garage where I started, I hopped in my car, paid the fee and headed out.  It wasn't until I was down the road a bit that I realized my passenger mirror was folded in.  Sure enough, when I got home I found someone had hit my mirror and knocked it in.  Didn't even bother to pop it back out.  Inconsiderate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pick A Card, Any Card

It's a rainy day and my work email is down - good day to catch up on the blog a little bit.  I think I haven't posted much because it is quicker to throw out a comment here and there on Facebook and get some immediate response; or not.  But as I have said before, I will try and keep up with this blog a little better.

Rather than going back and trying to fill in the last 8 months of things that happened, I will go back about a week and move forward from there.  Those 8 months may some day be referred to as the Apocryphal Blogs causing much debate and concern when my blog anthology is compiled.

Anyway, I got an email last week from a neighbor who found my credit cards and driver's license that were stolen last year.  The wallet turned up somewhere else in the 'hood.  The family who found my credit cards (hidden in a flower pot in their yard!) tracked me down and brought them over.  Very nice family and it was comforting to get them back (even though they were all canceled - good to know they weren't drifting around out there).

My next project is to buy/build some sort of a weather resistant cover for the fire pit.  Right now I have some old plywood over it but that is unsightly.  I thought about buying a plastic kiddie pool and putting it over the pit but that would look too red-necky.  My next idea is to get a piece of faux stone siding and cut it to size and place it on top.  That might work.