Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Alban Arthan

Today is the winter solstice; the shortest day of the year. We are certainly feeling the effects here as the A/C only ran a couple times yesterday with more of the same frigid temperatures expected today: lows way down in the 60's at sunrise and highs only creeping up into the mid-80's by the afternoon.

Other than suffering from the inclement weather, we really haven't done much. I've been heads-down on tax code while also working feverishly to finish up the last of the landscaping projects before tax season kicks in. Debbie's work is starting to take off as well; yesterday she finished up the highest-cabin-count week she's had since starting with her current employer. And this is supposed to be the calm before the storm.

We don't have any real plans for Christmas this year. We will have dinner with my parents, and not much else. Debbie only gets Tuesday and Wednesday off, and I'm covering for other people (who do have holiday plans) cooking lunch at the Moose Lodge, so it's not like we can do much anyway. We may try to sneak over to Disney World either tomorrow or maybe Christmas Eve day. Either way, it's going to be insanely busy.

Well, that's all I have for now. I should have some pictures of the work we've been doing on our place, and all the work my parents' have been doing on their place. We're booked most of today, so I may not get to it right away, but hopefully in the next couple days.

And just in case I don't get back here before Wednesday:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday the 13th...

...is on a Friday this month.

(Debbie made me do it.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

Catching Up (Not)

We got behind on things in the weeks prior to the cruise, then we were on the cruise for a week making it worse. Since we've been back, everything we manage to knock off the to-do list gets replaced by two more. We're starting to feel like George Jetson:



So rather than try to write anything substantial, I'll just steal random things from others.


Yea. Facecrack. Just Say No.

We used to have huge flocks of starlings around Flint, Michigan when I was growing up. I remember my fourth-grade teacher using her whistle to scare up the flock that would roost in the trees behind the school to show us the flock murmurations. It was pretty cool, but nothing like this:


Well, off to try to whack away at the ever-expanding to-do list.
[Edited to add a bit more fun]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So, We Got This Phone Call...

...and we headed off on a 7-day cruise aboard the Norwegian Epic. Mama Gaia, having a cruel sense of humor, gave us a rousing send-off. This is what Miami looked like in the proverbial rear-view mirror:


Things were better once we got to the islands, but the ship shook, weaved and jiggled the entire seven days:

video


We did OK; neither of us took a header on the stairs or got tossed out of bed in the middle of the night, but nothing screams, "Fun!!" like listening to the guy at the table behind you puking up his lunch while you're trying to eat yours.

Our first stop was St. Maarten. We were going to do a bicycle tour of the island, but that got vetoed after we were told I wasn't allowed to ride a bicycle in sandals. Huh? I've ridden thousands of miles in sandals and I ain't dead yet. The worst part was that the only reason we even knew that before we showed up at the meeting point, was due to an off-hand comment by the shore excursion dude after we had already paid. Nothing in the printed description or on the web site gave any hint that "close-toed" shoes were required. Shore Excursion Dude kept trying to convince us that it was no big deal, just buy some water shoes on the ship or in port. Sorry; not gonna happen. I'm not going to do a bunch of last-minute scrambling around because you cannot put useful information in the description of your shore excursions. So instead of that, we just wandered around a little while being accosted every 30 seconds by someone wanting to give us a ride in his taxi:

Obligatory sign in case you're confused where on Ma Gaia's round belly yer standin'.

First sign as you leave the port. In case the shipboard entertainment isn't living up to expectations, I guess.

The beach. Not nearly as much panhandling and selling as we expected. Just one guy selling sodas from a wheelbarrow full of ice.

A signpost to show you the way home.

Downtown. We saw cars and trucks going both ways on the road. Not sure what the protocol is when they meet head-on. Drive on the sidewalk?

The next stop was St. Thomas, which we didn't really see other than from the ship. We had a hiking tour on St John's, so we walked off the ship, then went a bit down the pier and got on a ferry. By the time we got back, we were tired and hungry enough that we decided to skip walking around and just got back on the ship. So even though the ship stopped in St. Thomas, we actually visited St John's:

One of our tour guides with our transportation in the background.

A tricky bit on our hike; steep downhill, loose rock and tree roots.
Lots of green, but fewer flowers than I expected.

Wild donkeys descended from the ones brought here to work the sugarcane plantations.

A beach we wasted an hour at that we could have spent hiking. I'm confused why Every. Single. Shore excursion has to have "time at the beach." Hows abouts time doing what I paid you $140 to do? At least it was a nice beach.

Our last (and in our in-no-way-humble opinion, the least) of our stops was Nassau, Bahamas. We've been here together three times and have yet to step foot on shore. Judging from everything we've ever read about the place, there is exactly three things to do: snorkel, shop and get drunk (expensively). None of those hold any appeal to us whatsoever. So we took a few pictures from the upper deck of the ship, then spent the day enjoying a mostly-empty ship:

Waves and rocks.

More waves and rocks.
The Epic has two three-lane bowling alleys. Just for giggles, we thought we'd try to bowl in a moving bowling alley. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, the lanes had absolutely zero slide, hence the little bunny-hops on release. We didn't do well, but we did a fair bit better than anyone else we saw making the attempt:

video

Of course, whenever the ship made an unexpected lurch, this happened:

video

The results:

Nothing is wrong with your eyes; our monitor was all janky.
So now it's back to reality. Which for me seems to consist mostly of large piles of leaves I need to do something with, and about 30 hours of CPE before the end of the year. For Debbie it means back to dealing with grumpy, over-entitled people trying to book cruises.

Off to read up on depreciation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Placeholder

I'm thinking through and collecting information for one of my long diatribes. I haven't done one of those in a long time, mostly because I've been up to my eyeballs in construction projects. But it is time and past time that I tackle the leviathan known as the ACA or ObamaCare. In the meantime, there's this:


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Sunset

I was sitting in front of the computer being my usual more-or-less inert self when Debbie suddenly grabbed the camera and ran outside. I tried to peek out the window from my recliner, but I didn't see anything to get excited about and went back to my mindless web surfing. She came back with this:


Sunsets like this are rare down here for some reason. At least one of us got to see it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Carving Party

On Sunday, a bunch of us got together to have a wee pumpkin carving contest:

He didn't do so hot carving his pumpkin, but he made up for it by being cute.





I had the opportunity to do some modeling:

Doin' what comes natural.

A strikingly likeness, although the artiste was a tad generous in the hair department. My modeling expertise earned him the first place ribbon.
Here is the result all lit up in their Halloweeny glory:

Spooooky!

Not much else happening right now. Mostly enjoying our break from the heat. It's only been in the high 70's the last few days and, laudate dominum, dipping down into the low 60's at night. We both have been sleeping for 10-12 hours a night. Alas, it won't last. The weather liars say we will be setting record high's by the middle of the week. Unlike all their other predictions, they'll get it right this time. Sounds like we'll be all sealed up and running the A/C in November.

Well, I'm off to another night of deep and undisturbed slumber while I still can.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Life of a Patio Block

So we hustled over to the concrete place and purchased, hauled and stacked about 3,000 pounds of patio blocks...


...got the ground all prep'ed...


... started setting blocks the next morning...


...and finished up on day two:


I know I said we would be all done with patio blocks after this, but we haven't been happy with the front patio since we moved here. The whole thing is one giant tripping hazard with all the sinking and tipping patio blocks. The original plan was to reset the blocks that were already there, but when we looked closer at the blocks, they are in bad shape; missing corners, cracks, funky miss-matched colors. Soooooo...


While we were at it, we took up some existing patio and did some regrading with all the dirt we have left over from the work in the back. It will take another pallet of patio blocks to finish, then we need to find some place to dump the old blocks, but the result will be much better drainage on the lot plus not needing to tip-toe around on our patio to keep from face-planting.

Today, I took a break from all things yard to catch up on bills, bookkeeping and blogging. One bill that I had been ignoring for a while was from one of my doctors. Since the beginning of this year, every time I go see this guy, I also get a bill from some lab I've never heard of. The visits were routine, nothing had changed that I was aware of, and there was also a lab line item on the bill from the doctor's office. I have no problem paying bills I owe, but I have a big problem with paying a bill that has already been paid. Today I finally got someone on the phone who knew what was up and told me that I shouldn't be getting the separate lab bills, that the office already paid the lab, and to not pay them. Well, I already had, so she needed copies of the bills that had been paid mailed to her so she could start the process of getting me my money back from the lab. (Yea, right. A refund from the medical-industrial complex? Don't make me laugh.) She was very apologetic and explained that it was the result of a tragic computer error.

I have another term for it: Fraud.

A computer error could have kicked one bill to me. It may have even allowed payment of said bill. But to kick a second bill and allow that one to be paid, after being aware of the problem for four months? That's something far more serious than a computer error. Unfortunately, from looking over the constant stream of bills coming into my parent's mailbox, I have a feeling double billing is very common. The worst part is that trying to dig to the bottom of these messes is nearly impossible. The entire medical establishment's attitude is "Shut up and pay it or we'll trash your credit." The bills themselves are impossible to read (deliberately so, in my not-so-humble opinion), so don't even think you can cross-reference bills from different organizations to see if you are paying for the same thing twice. Even the people who work in the office are baffled by the crap they themselves send out.

Good thing Obamacare is going to fix all that.

Heh.

Obviously, I didn't bother to say any of that to the person I was talking to; the problem was at the lab, not the doctor's office. So I made copies of everything and sent if all off to her like she requested. I expect it was just a waste of paper, toner and a stamp, but I may get a surprise.

I think the Florida weather gods are trying to kill us. We have always shut the A/C off and opened up the windows on October 1st. Today is October 21st, the windows are all sealed shut, the A/C is cranking away, and there is no end in sight. Oh, the weather liars keep saying it will cool off by the end of the week. For three weeks now. We've had exactly one day that it didn't get into the 80's. But this weekend for sure!! I started the summer off using old washcloths as sweat rags; now I've graduated to old hand towels. If this keeps up much longer, it's gonna be old beach towels.

Well, I need to go make some food. It's hamburger and fries night!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Brain Bender

You'll want to watch this full-screen:


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Slow Week

It felt like we were busy, but this morning when we tried to figure out what we were so busy doing, we couldn't come up with much. We were able to get everything prep'ed for the last phase of the patio block project:

The ground is cleared, phone lines buried, and everything more or less ready to start dropping patio blocks.
And our squirrel was back this morning on his new favorite perch:

Yo. Wha' choo lookin at.
I'm not sure if he is expecting to be fed or if he is plotting our demise. Maybe he works for the NSA...?

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I'm heading over to the concrete place for another pallet of 12" patio blocks. I don't need that many, but it's cheaper to buy a full pallet instead of paying the individual price on what I do need. I'll have around 30 or so leftovers. I'm not sure what we will be using them for, but we'll think of something.

Well, it's late and I need to get up early. Someday I may have time for a real post....

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Busy, Busy

We spend every day knocking things off the to-do list, but the list never seems to get any shorter. Some of the latest bits we've been working on:

After storing the thing in its original box in the back of the Durango for a week, we finally got our anniversary gift assembled.

We had our thermometer hanging on the side of the shed primarily because that's where our predecessor had his hanging. We couldn't see it from inside the house, and the sun shone directly on it in the afternoon, making it a less-than-ideal location. We moved it to the fence, which works much better for us and seems to please our local squirrel.

These were going to be dug up and tossed, so we dug them up and planted them next to the porch. This is another plant we see growing all over the park; we'll see if they can handle our southern exposure.

New pots with Cat Palms. These are supposed to bush out rather than grow up, which will make a nice screen for the patio.
We've also been busy just keeping up with all the leaves falling out of the trees both here and at the parents' place. Toss in car repairs and other such random "fun" and our time disappears.

Speaking of parents, we'll probably start opening up their place in another week or so, getting everything aired out and cleaned up. This year was a bad year for mold, so we may have a lot of work to do inside. We already know we have a lot to do on the outside.

So other than all that, not much going on. Heh. I'll probably start working on the last phase of the patio block project later this month after the credit card closes. After that, I will be taking a break from outdoor work while I focus on getting my CPE credits completed before the end of the year, and re-familiarizing myself with software I haven't looked at in 15 or so years. And I may have other news on the job front. I'll know more on Monday.

Well, I need to get back at it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Porch Project

While taking a break from laying patio blocks, we decided to get some stain on the deck boards on the front porch. We were already seeing some grey-ing of the wood along the west edge that gets blasted by sun in the afternoon. So we ordered deck cleaner and stain and went at it:

The little black spots are a million or so Love Bugs that kamikaze'ed into the wet stain. Fortunately, I was able to get them mostly removed after the stain sat overnight. Now if the humidity would get below 100% so the stuff would dry completely, we could move the porch furniture back where it belongs.

We also made some changes to the planting bed in front of the porch. It's gradually becoming un-Simon-and-Garfunkel-ized, first by the Black Swallowtail butterfly larva eating the parsley to the ground and now with the addition of two versions of Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) called Petra and Red Mammey. We'll see how they do. There are quite a few of these around the park and they seem to tolerate a wide variety of lighting conditions. They do add a bit of color:

Oddly, the mostly-red plant in the center is called Petra, while the two on either side that have almost no red in them are called Red Mammey.

It's very hard to see, but while I was scratching around, we also planted new thyme and sage plants we were able to start from the other plants, and we started layering the rosemary so we can have a full hedge across the front of the porch.

We also removed some aloe plants that my parents had given us from the south side of the porch and put them off in a back corner in the shade. They are supposed to do well in any light condition, but the full sun had bleached the leaves completely out and the plants had done absolutely nothing in nearly a year. We really wanted something else there anyway, we had an empty hole, and so we made a command decision and moved them. We're browsing through native plant catalogs looking for a vine or bush that will give the porch some shade and privacy. There are several candidates that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies, assuming I can find a local source.

Yesterday was an indoor day so we could make some progress on the piles of paper that have built up while we were playing around outside all summer, and today I've been trapped indoors by rain of Noachian proportions. Normal rain in Florida is massive amounts of water falling from the sky for five minutes or less, then it's all over until the next day. Today, it started raining around 11am, and as of 6pm, still has not stopped. And it ain't a gentle shower, either. The retention pond across the street is getting alarmingly close to the top and according to the radar, there is plenty more to come. If you see two old people huddled in a row boat go floating by, it's probably us.

Well, time for dinner.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

More of the Same

Friday the 13th was on a Friday this month, but I was too busy power-washing to post anything. At least the place looks a bit cleaner:

The gunk was really thick along the trailer. It took all day to work down to the side of the shed.

All the patio blocks that we have are now on the ground instead of in piles. I need another pallet to finish up, but that will have to wait for the credit card to close in a couple weeks:

Next phase will be to fill in between us and the trailer behind us. That will cut out about half of my mowing and trimming.

Debbie has been kicking out cards in preparation for the busy time of year. Something like half the birthday and anniversary cards she makes get sent out in the last three months of the year:

Don't look too close if you have a birthday or anniversary coming up in the next few months.

We actually had clear skies one night last week and got a shot of the moon and Venus while we were out wandering the park for some reason:

Not bad for hand-held with our glorified point-and-shoot.

In the meantime, the deck cleaner and stain arrived via Fed-Ex, so we cleared off the porch and got ready for some scrubbin':

Everything is out of the way and waiting for me to quit messing around on the internet and get to it.

Of course, after a week of no rain, we have thunderstorms lined up one after the other, so we'll have to give the deck several days to dry completely before we can start staining.

Speaking of thunderstorms, Mama Gaia gave us quite a light show last night. The lightening was more-or-less continuous for almost two hours. We were trying to finish up the mega-once-a-month-OMG-we-have-nothing-left-in-the-house-besides-Ramen-and-some-sour-milk shopping when the storm started rolling in. (Have I mentioned before how much we hate shopping and put it off until we have no choice?) Getting home was interesting to say the least; imagine driving at night with strobe lights flashing at you. We barely made it to the house and unloaded the car before the rain started. With all the lightening, we decided to shut down and unplug everything, even though we have multiple layers of protection for the important stuff. We haven't heard if there was any damage in the rest of the park; all the neighbors seem to still be hiding inside.

Anyway, I need to make some bread, help finish up the laundry and get the deck scrubbed down so it can start "drying" (a somewhat ambiguous term when the humidity never goes below 90%). More photos when everything is all purdied up.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Another Quick Update

We're still flingin' patio blocks everywhere:

All done under both clotheslines.

There are still 70 or so patio blocks to go in this batch. Then we only have a hundred or so to finish up. Once this is done, the only patio block work left will be to level some of the areas that were here when we moved in. Then on to the next project(s).

We were able to take a break from yard work to spend Thursday at Animal Kingdom so we could visit the kitties:

Grandma Boris tongue! And yes, the big cats are just as lazy as the little one living in your house. After at least a dozen visits to Animal Kingdom over the last three years, we only have a handful of pictures of them not sleeping.

And also visit the kiddies:

We didn't get a good pic of Jabali, but that's him in the back getting a hug from one of the younger females. I think that's mom's butt at the right of the frame. Jabali turned two years old August 24th.

New to the park: a pair of baby giraffes.
Well, I need to go finish up dinner. And I probably should batten down the hatches and turn on some lights; it just went from full sun to night in less than a minute and I can hear thunder.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

What We've Doing This Week

Of course, I'm still plopping down dozens of patio blocks:

Making sure the two sides are going to line up.

Still a big pile of patio blocks left....
One section all squared off and blocks positioned for the next phase.

A bit of cheating: Rather than try to cut curves, I just used some concrete.

The blocks in the foreground will take me to the corner of the neighbors place. Eventually, the entire space between the trailers will be block, but that will have to wait for the next load.
We moved all the patio blocks from where I had tossed them out of the car so that a) they would be closer to where I will be using them and b) so we could do a bit of cleaning:

The black gunk is mold, a Florida specialty. It had gotten so thick, we were slipping on it.

Cleaned up the path to the front door.

Close-up of the contrast between clean and Yuk!!

The break room. Nice thing about living on a dead-end street is being able to use the street as part of the yard.
And that is pretty much all we did this week. Other than the usual lawn care, which was extra-fun this week because a lot of the grass hadn't gotten mowed last week because of the siding guys and all their stuff in the way. Two weeks of growth in Florida in August means waist-deep grass. It took three and four passes to get everything back into shape, plus a lot of trimming. But it got done, so I can forget about it for a couple days.

Oh; almost forgot: Debbie had a visitor on the window right over her desk while she was working.

Six-inch grasshopper enjoying the shade.
We don't see them often, but Florida has a couple types of giant grasshopper. This one looks like a regular grasshopper, only hugerer. There is another one that I've only seen twice; once when we lived in Sanford, and once here last summer. They're entire body is bright, shiny gold. The first time I saw one, I thought it was some kid's toy dropped on the sidewalk until I tried to kick it out of the way and it flew off. Talk about needing to change your Huggies. We also have giant cicadas that are doing their best to deafen us. And yesterday, I saw and even gianter hornet flying with a giant cicada that I assume it was going to stuff into a hole to feed it's young 'uns.

Fun fact about the giant cicadas around here: Apparently, my saw cutting through concrete sounds enough like their call that I usually have at least one either wack into me or fly into the saw blade when I'm cutting patio blocks.  Not sure if they're trying to run me off or mate with me.

The plans next week are more of the same. Today, we're off to a barbecue at the Moose Lodge and will likely hang out there most of the day. Tomorrow is supposed to be a work day at the Lodge, but I might beg off. I would love to get more patio block on the ground instead of in piles, and get the rest of the Yuk!! off all the old patio blocks.