Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Water Heater Flushing

At least today I was.  (Not really sure what a "bucket filler" is - I hope it isn't something bad!)  My friend had to replace his water heater and during his research, he found that about twice a year, we are supposed to drain and flush our hot water heater.  We have been here about 19 years so I guess I am 38 flushes behind...   It was a dreary and rainy day today so I figured I would give it a shot.  It is pretty simple - turn off the power to the heater, shut off the water feed, drain, re-fill, re-power, shampoo, rinse, repeat.  The problem is, the water heater is in the basement and the drain spigot is right at the bottom of the tank.  No way I could run a garden hose up the stairs to drain it that way (not enough pressure) and my pool pump doesn't have the right inlet to help.  So I just attached a garden hose to the spigot and put the other end in my 5 gallon wet/dry vacuum tank that I brought down.  I figured with a 65 gallon tank, I would only have to lug up 5 gallons 13 times...  Of course the hose was at least 75 feet all coiled up so it took forever for the bucket to fill.  Had to be a better way.  Out to the shed I went and sure enough, I had kept the old washer machine hoses.  Perfect!  Hooked one up and I was doing the bucket brigade pretty quickly.  Overall, it was a pretty uneventful experience.  I didn't spill a bucket down the stairs, the tank re-filled (and didn't leak), and my shower afterward was nice and warm. My only fear is some of the sediment might have been holding the thing together and now it will fall apart.  Time will tell I guess.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Texas Treat

Lucie was on a crafting project today so after church I went to lunch at Texas Roadhouse with some friends. There was hardly anyone there (surprisingly) but it took a really long time for our food to arrive.  Which was OK since we had a lot of catching up to do.  When the food was brought out, the waitress asked us to cut open our steaks and be sure they were cooked properly.  I had asked for mine to be cooked "medium" but it was clearly well-done.  I showed the girl but I said I was fine and didn't want to wait for another one.  It really was OK.  Well, 2 minutes later the manager arrived and asked if I had a problem with the steak.  I told her I sort of did but I didn't want to be "that guy" that complains about his food.  The manager was fantastic and agreed that my steak was way over-cooked and she would get me another.  She also said she would do a little something for my bill.  That was very generous and nice but I was fine - it is for sure I was going to eat that steak anyway!   A few minutes later, out comes ANOTHER whole complete meal!  Not just the steak but the ribs and potato too!  That was really too much and I was very grateful.  Clearly that was coming home with me in a doggie bag (but not for the doggie!) so we finished our meal and the waitress brought our check.  Dang if the manager hadn't credited the entire cost of my meal (and second one too!).  Super nice and way beyond.  I checked with my friends to be sure I didn't have any type of attitude and they confirmed I didn't - it was just a manager who understands good customer service!  You know we'll be back!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Taxing Time

Tax time is upon us again and as usual, I do the family taxes (using Turbo Tax).  It went pretty straightforward for Ashleigh and Elliott although I had to do non-resident taxes for Maryland and Massachusetts for them.  No problem - all done, filed, and refunds on the way.  Not so easy for Lucie and I.  (Every year we question how we, both with Master's Degrees, struggle with doing our taxes...)  We didn't get a certain form from Boston College and even though it was explained to me why not, I still didn't get it - cognitively or literally.  So I pressed on without it and got the return done.  This past year, the utility company Lucie used to work for liquidated its pension plan and we were forced to take a distribution.  It wasn't a whole lot and was an unexpected little surprise.  But nothing is free;  we paid the 20% federal tax up front but got hit with an ADDITIONAL 10% penalty for early withdrawal.  I tried to call the utility and went to their website for some filing advice but both were shut down.  Again, it wasn't a whole lot of money but it was just enough to push us to having to pay in instead of getting a refund.  Turbo Tax has a nice feature that shows a running calculation of your federal and state balance as you go but both federal and state were in the negative - and I hadn't even started the state yet!  When I finished the federal part, I was really discouraged about having to pay both.  So I told God that if we needed to pay in, He needed to help us out.  This morning I sat down to do the state portion and got to that same section about the early withdrawal penalty.  Yet there was a big difference.  In Delaware, there is no penalty on early withdrawal if the money is used for our or the kids' education.  Well it certainly was used for their education!  Even after significant scholarships, they have a balance to pay.  So I reported that the distribution was used for their education and was very happy to see that calculation on the screen started rolling like the big wheel on The Price is Right.  Not only did it roll up to the positive (refund), it was enough to cover the federal debt we owed!  Never saw that coming.  But isn't that the way with God?