Saturday, December 29, 2012

Year-End Interregnum

I'm still pursuing job leads, with one that looks a bit promising. I don't want to go all blabby and jinx the thing, but it's probably the strongest lead I've had since we moved to Zephyrhills. The problem is that the multiple steps necessary mean I'm stuck hanging around the house waiting for phone calls and/or e-mails. Not that the weather has made me really want to run outside. Since Thursday, we've had nothing but heavy overcast, rain, and temps in the 60's (brrrrrr!).

So while I can't leave the house, I'm cleaning a month's worth of photos off the camera, catching up on our bookkeeping, scraping off the foot of dust on everything, blah, blah, blah.

Speaking of cleaning off the camera:

Inaugural Cruise on Celebrity's Reflection:

Debbie in the Big Chair

Ricky in the Big Chair

Reflection at Night

Celebrity's Big X

Sunset at Sea

Migraine Clock
We have several neighbors who get into Christmas lights:


Fence Decorations

Tree Decorations

Santa and Snoop Dawg.
And photos from Thursday's trip over to Animal Kingdom. Note to self: Never go anywhere near Disneyworld  the week between Christmas and New Years. We're used to the other parks being crowded, but Animal Kingdom is usually much less so. Not Thursday. We had to park further from the gate than we ever have before, and simply attempting to walk down the streets in the park was nearly impossible. But we did get a glimpse of Jabali:



New Kids on the Block

Bald Eagle in the Flights of Wonder Show


Grumpy Kitty

Hungry Kitty

Sleepy Kitty

No clue what this thing is or why it's standing on its knees.
Well, I should stop messing about here and get on my inside work. The weather is supposed to clear tomorrow, so with a bit of luck, I'll get some outdoor work done as well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

...and We're Back

We're home to stay for a very long while. Debbie is coming into her busy season. With some luck, I'll be busy as well. I have a number of lines out at this time, and Friday I will be out sniffing around some more. In any case, between now and at least mid-April, don't even bother to ask. We can't.

As I mentioned before, this is our first Christmas since 2005 that we've spent with anyone other than the two of us. Compared to the Grand Chaos of Christmases Past, it was a cakewalk, but it was still more than our normal just-us, monkey-bread-for-breakfast-lunch-and-dinner, NCIS-24-hour-marathon, not-even-get-dressed-let-alone-leave-the-house Christmas. My parents are forever telling us we're boring. I prefer "lazy". Pō-tā-tō, pō-tă-tō.

Tomorrow is Debbie's day off because she will be working Saturday, so we may sneak off someplace like Disneyworld. Which means more driving, but nothing like what we've been doing the last few weeks. Maybe the Christmas... er... Holiday decorations will still be up.

And that's pretty much it for the week. I have several hundred photos on my camera that I haven't even looked at. If I find anything even moderately interesting, I'll post it. Otherwise, I may get some Mickey pictures up over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Done... least for a few months. I decided that rather than spend the day circling Zephyrhills begging for a job, I would complete my last eight hours of CPE in one go. I managed it, although I think I broke something in my brain. At least I can now read something fun instead of reading tax code, hence Watership Down over in the Currently Reading list. It's been years if not decades since I last read it, and I figured it would be relaxing for my poor noggin. Not much else to report; tomorrow is more money we don't have out the door for doctor visits for me and a trip back to the dentist for Debbie to put one of her temporary caps back on. Then a day to do some chores in the morning and get ready to head out of town again. This will be the last time in a loooooong time we leave our wee little homestead; we're just about tripped out. We'd forgotten how hectic this time of year is after seven quiet Christmases with just the two of us. We had figured it would be just us again as my family normally all head up to Michigan for Christmas with my grandpa. But no one can afford the extra drive back and forth, and Grandpa is to the point that he doesn't recognize hardly anyone and wouldn't know if they were there or not. So they're all here, which is good, but, again, a bit more chaotic that we're used to.

Well, off to read about some wascally wabbits. (Elmer Fudd is in Watership Down, isn't he?)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Work, Work, Work

So we finally landed at home Monday afternoon. At least for a couple weeks, then it's back on the road for another trip. The plan for this week was for me to focus on finding a place to do taxes for the upcoming tax season, but that went out the window. We spent Monday afternoon unpacking, rebooting, laundry, etc. I spent all day Tuesday trying to get my required CPE complete before the end of the year. Should have gotten on this sooner, but with all the moving and stuff that needed to be done on the trailer, I'm now scrambling.

Then Wednesday, we both had our initial appointments with the new dentist. We expected a quick in-and-out; a few x-rays, a "plan of attack", then appointments at some future point to get things rolling.


Instead we were there for five and a half hours and got socked with a $5,000+ bill. After that, we sort of just came home and stared off into space trying to figure out where in the %&#@* we were going to dig up five large.

Thursday, I finally had to do some work outside. The oak trees decided to drop all their leaves while we were out of town, then it rained on them. The oak leaves down here aren't like the ones in Michigan. These are very small and flat so they stick to everything and leave permanent stains on whatever they touch. I just couldn't leave them any longer, so I went at the outdoor work with a vengeance, sweeping, raking, trimming, mowing, edging (a weekly activity in Florida), more sweeping, weeding, mulching. Then I figured the day was pretty well shot anyway and while I was sweaty and dirty, I may as well attack the shed. Since moving here, we've been shoving things into the shed any ol' way, figuring we'd deal with it later. Well, "later" was yesterday: pulled out shelving to make more floor space, relocated/rewired outlets, cleaned and made a first pass at organizing all the clutter. There's still a long way to go, but at least the basic outline is starting to take shape.

And that brings us to today, which was another brain-buster trying to cram in CPE. I really should have started this sooner. Meanwhile, because of the dental fiasco, Debbie's work schedule has been completely jacked all week, just adding to the chaos.

And yes. I'm whinging. Deal with it.

Tomorrow and Sunday look to be more of the same other than a break Sunday night to go to the Christmas cantata at my parents' church. Maybe next week will be normaler.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Passing Through

In between coming from and getting ready to go again, there is this:

Sweet. And note this time around that a) Paramount hasn't ordered free advertising off the internet (yet) and b) the video can be embedded; all without the whole world screaming at them first. Good to know that at least one corporation has learned how to muzzle their clueless lawyers.

More when I have time. At least we'll be mostly done after this weekend. I really need to focus on a couple things for the rest of December.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel:

The herb garden is more-or-less planted. Right now, the challenge is keeping the plants watered given everything is dry as dust. Not the most typical problem in Florida, but when the rainy season ended back in September, it came to a screeching halt. As in not a drop of rain since. We need dust masks just to walk across the lot. Crazy stuff. Anyway, the garden:

And just because I have so much free time, I re-did the walk and landing pad in front of the shed, and added a place for our bikes to sit that is less in the way:

Well, gotta go make dinner.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Home Improvement

Still messing around in the front of our place. I got 1/4 of our Simon-and-Garfunkel herb garden in a few days go:

The inside of our car and my work gloves have a wonderful rosemary scent to them now. I'll probably get some thyme started next. The sage may need to be grown from seed; I haven't found a local source for plants, which is usually an indication that something doesn't do well in the local climate. But I've found dozens of pages on the web from people who swear that sage does well in Florida's beach sand soil as long as you don't try to plant it in the middle of a bog. So as some point, I'll order some seeds and see what happens. I also got some aloe vera planted along the side of the porch. The stuff is like a weed down here, so that should fill in fairly quickly.

Today I finished up getting our house number and lot number painted on the posts and hanging all our Arcosanti bells:

Now our pizza delivery guy will have an easier time finding us, not to mention that we're now in compliance with the park rules.

That's pretty much all I've gotten done; we've been too busy socializing for me to get to all the things on my ever-growing to-do list. With Thanksgiving coming up, I don't expect to get much more done for the rest of this week, but if I do, I'll throw a couple pictures up here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Planting Bed

I finally got this thing finished yesterday. Right now, all I'm growing is dead leaves and grass clippings. At some point next week, I'll pick up a half-dozen or so rosemary plants and put those up against the porch. But for now, this is how it looks:

Eventually, the bed will extend for the full length of the trailer, but I need to do a little work on the skirting first. In the meantime, I have all the inside work - cleaning, dishes, bake some bread, etc. - that piled up on me while I was messing around in the yard. A woman's work is never done....

Friday, November 09, 2012

Carl Sagan's Birthday

I really need to get a calendar; I almost missed this again. Anyway, I've posted this before, but it's worth another watch:

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

One Bruce F. Webster has put together an illustrated version of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings". Appropriate given certain events from earlier this week.

(For those, like me, who somehow avoided copybooks while learning penmanship, Wikipedia has a short article on them. The part that is relevant to Kipling's poem: "Other copybooks, however, focused chiefly on writing literacy and used maxims and sometimes Bible verses as their material. It was intended that students memorize not only correct penmanship, but correct morals as well, through exposure to traditional sayings.")

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


So yea. I made a wee little drive up to Michigan and back. While I was there, Michigan thought it was appropriate to remind me why I left by slamming me with high winds, freezing temperatures, snow, sleet and rain. I got the message, left as soon as logistically possible and have no desire to go back in any months other than June, July or August.

There were two goals for the trip: Take a small load of furniture up to Michigan to dump on others so we can quit living like one of those headcases on Hoarding: Buried Alive, and to help my parents pack up and drive down to Florida for the winter. Both goals were met in that I did manage to get a load of Stuff up to Michigan (nearly) intact and out of our lives while navigating a moving van for most of the length of I-75, and my parents and I are now back in Florida. We made it back late Saturday night. My parents normally take three or four days for the trip down, but I "missed" a couple of their non-expressway longcuts, my sister and brother-in-law that they normally visit were out of town, and I pushed pretty hard for them to not stop a few hours short of Zephyrhills just because it was dark. We met Debbie in Z-town at a local restaurant for a very late dinner about 9:30pm, then finally HOME.

After being gone two full weeks and a couple days, it took all day Sunday and Monday just to catch up on my daily reading and dig through my e-mail. Yesterday, I felt like I spent the entire day in the car, although I'm certain that can't be true. I started my day off with voting. I had considered skipping the whole sordid mess, but decided that while I was out for other things, I may as well drop in and color in a few ovals. I voted my usual pattern; whoever wasn't in office and was least likely to win. The result was typical as well, with not a single person I voted for attaining office. Works for me. In addition, Florida had 11 constitutional amendments on the ballet, all but one of which I voted against as they were measures that should have been handled in the do-nothing legislature rather than being amendments to the state constitution. The only one I voted for was a symbolic amendment making the key provision of Obamacare - the penalty for failing to have health insurance - unconstitutional. With the Supreme Court ruling that the penalty was constitutional, Florida can't make it unconstitutional, but the measure was left on the ballet as a non-binding referendum of sorts.

So the bottom line is that I am not in any way responsible for what happens in the county, state or national governments. I can piss and moan about it all I want because I did in fact drag myself to the polls.

So the underside of the bottom line is, nutin' new here.

The rest of the yesterday was spent driving around Florida's suburban hell trying (and largely failing) to cross items off my various shopping lists. I keep trying to "support local businesses", but they just don't have what I'm looking for. Even the big box stores have been a disappointment. I ventured out again today after we realized that we were out of paper for the printer. I found a few more things, but I finally gave up and moused another big order of random bits on Amazon.

Today, I did get a bunch of things that piled up while I was in Michigan checked off the to-do list, but for every item I checked off, I added two more, so now the list is longer than ever. I think I've discovered all the bits of neglected and forgotten flotsam of our lives, but there may still be something under the couch or in a corner covered in dust bunnies waiting to be discovered.

So I see on Yahoo this morning that Obama gets his four-more-years. Several people I've encountered today, including my parents, are in a state of mourning due to Obama's re-election. I'm sure today's Wednesday Prayer Meetin' at their church will be an hour of wailing and gnashing of teeth. This I do not understand. There is not one single thing that Romney would, or even could have done in office that would have been any different that what Obama will do, just as ol' hope-n-change followed right in Bush's footsteps in spite of all his rhetoric to the contrary. The banks will continue to run the country for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans and their enabling captives in Congress and the White House. Energy prices will continue their wild gyrations that are simultaneously pushing energy companies and consumers into financial ruin. We will come to accept that 8% unemployment is simply frictional unemployment, rather than a sign of serious economic problems. More and more of the middle class will be stomped down into the growing permanent underclass. The stock market will continue its long-term, random walk to nowhere. Various boogie men, including Obama, will be trotted out from time to time to take the blame for all of America's ills. Etc., etc., etc. In short, we will continue the long, bumpy decent we started back in the 1970's. And the rubes never catch wise.

Well, that's all I have energy for today. If I can drag my sorry carcass out of bed at a decent time tomorrow, I may have pictures of our new planting bed. I wouldn't bet on it, but it could happen, at least in theory.

The Housing Industry

I'll do a real post at some point.

Couldn't have said it better myself...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On the road again

Ric left this morning with a smaller Penske truck heading to Michigan.  We decided we really did not have room for a couple BIG things and could not get anyone down here to make an offer on them, so they are heading to a couple family homes that will appreciate them.

We timed this so after dropping the Penske truck off in Traverse City, he will be heading back with his parents as they make their way down to Florida for the winter.   This way he can help out with most of the driving instead of Don doing all the driving.   

They will do Halloween at Grandpa's, visit a "couple more days in Flint area" and then start working their way down to Zephryhills Florida.  I believe they will try to stop in Mobile AL area to see Teri/Gary before heading back over to Florida.   I should them after election day.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rose Wiklanski, RIP

We received word yesterday afternoon that Debbie's Aunt Rose had passed.

This was today's Non Sequitur:

Goodbye Aunt Rose. Give a hug to Dad and Uncle Leo for us.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tweak, Tweak, Tweak

So far, only one call-back to our roof dudes. The vent from our hot water heater was a bit too close to the rubber roof. Nothing damaged, but the heat had caused a bit of a ripple in the material, meaning that eventually, there would have been damage. A bit of flashing to divert the heat away from the roof and all is well. Naturally, since the work is all done, the rainy season has decided to vacate the state once again. We haven't had so much as a heavy dew since the roof work was completed, so we still don't know how much quieter things will be with the added insulation and a non-metal roof. It is definitely cooler in the Florida room with the max temp staying pretty even with the rest of the trailer. We still need some sun shades to hang from the new porch; there is about 45 minutes where the sun is low enough to sneak under the porch roof before it goes behind the trees. The heat film we put on the windows helps with that, but keeping the sun completely off the front of the trailer is better yet. The shades will also make the porch more usable in the summer, while still allowing us to let the sun in during our frigid Florida winters.

Anyway, we're done with big stuff for now. We'll be doing a great deal of tweaking that doesn't involve large amounts of money, but probably the only big-money project we will do in the short term is swapping out the windows in the Florida room for ones made of glass instead of shrink wrap. We're required to put siding on before next May, but I'm going to see if I can get that extended. The cushion is getting pretty thin; it would be nice to give our savings account a chance to build back up before we smack it again.

Yesterday, I started cleaning up around the trailer. It's always amazing to see the amount of debris even the simplest project can create. I hauled over 100 pounds of metal to the scrap yard, but only got about half the money I expected for it. I wrongly assumed the price/pound I got for soda cans would be what I got for all our aluminum scrap. I didn't realize that soda and beer cans are some sort of super-high-grade aluminum that gets almost twice the price of other kinds of aluminum. Shows what I know. I also had several pounds of something called "irony aluminum" on my scale ticket. I wasn't aware aluminum could be ironic. Whatever it is, it ain't worth much. In any case, I got enough to pay for our laundry for the next month or so, which is still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick found in a sewer and covered in blood from a mouse with the hantavirus. I also got the road swept clear so we don't have to worry about picking up any stray nails or screws with our car tires. After driving up and down the road numerous times, of course.

Today I tackle the oh-so-fun job of policing up all the bits of foam all over the ground. I have no idea what I'm going to do about the "snow" where the guys were ripping the foam sheets with a skill saw. I'll try to rake up what I can, but it may have to simply "disperse" as much as I hate to do that. Then the rest of the raking and trimming, and maybe, if I have time and umph, get a start on laying out walks, planting beds, etc. The joys of a yard.

I didn't bother to watch either the Presidential or Vice-Presidential debates. No one running for office this year will explain to me why Jon Corzine and the rest of his Wall Street golfing buddies are still walking around as free men, and until they do, I don't give a damn what else they have to say. It doesn't sound like I missed much in any case, given that the media is treating the whole thing like a cheerleading competition (with some damn-ugly cheerleaders). Does anyone remember when debates were about ideas instead of an exchange of insults? Or when the holders of high office could manage to conduct themselves with more decorum than a 12-year-old boy when the teachers uses words like "asinine" (Dude! She said, "Ass.") or bupkis (Dude! She said "Butt kiss.")?

Not that it matters much in my case anyway. I just realized that I probably won't be back to Florida in time to vote, and that I don't even care.

Well, off to fold laundry, work outside until lunch, then scan pictures until time to make dinner. Fun, fun!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Losing My Religion

For the first time in US history, Protestants are no longer the majority. The article gives a number of reasons why, but primarily it is due to 1/3 of those under 30 have no religious affiliation. Some of that is due to definitions; no religious affiliation just means you don't self-identify with the label "Protestant" or "Catholic" yet still attend church services and/or believe in God, pray frequently, etc. Baby Boomers give lip service to disestablishmentarianism, but it's Gen-X and Y who are more likely to be found in house churches or other non-traditional religious establishments. But a big chunk of that 33% is people who are simply atheists. And so a little R.E.M.:

About fifteen minutes ago, the last of the workers packed it in and left, and I gave a big chunk of change to the owner. I tried to take pictures of the roof, but without before pics, I'm not sure how much information they convey. While they were here, we also had them replace our back door with something that a) closes, b) stays closed when the wind blows, c) doesn't allow a cat to walk in under the door without crouching, d) locks. It's almost like living in a real house. Anyway:

Snow on an 80-degree day.

Snazy new back door. Only problem is the plumb door really shows how bad a job was done on the original Florida room. Inch-and-a-half difference from the top to the bottom.

Our new, gutterless roof line. Less work for me!!
Roofline on the south side.
And the fancy rubber roof already hard at work reflecting away the sun.
Last but not least, the completed porch:

Now we just have to wait for our savings account to stop making pitiful mewling noises, and we can move on to the next phase.

Details, Details...

Porch is coming along nicely. There isn't much left to do at this point other than railings on the steps and the last bit of the skirting around the bottom:

The next major step won't be anything that will show in photos. We are getting additional insulation up on the roof plus a membrane roof over everything that will hopefully take care of the leaks. It will be so nice to not have to walk around a bucket in the middle of our living space.

Sunday, we made a cross-state road trip for a ship inspection at Port Canaveral. We could see SpaceX's Falcon 9 sitting on the launch pad from one of the forward lounges. It was, unfortunately, the most interesting part of the trip. For me, the actual ship inspection isn't really all that interesting as I don't sell cruises. And frankly, if you've seen one stateroom, you've seen them all. I go for the free lunch on-board. Only this time, instead of the group having a private lunch in the formal dining room, we had to fight it out with the boarding passengers in the buffet. So, yea; fifty bucks in gas for sore feet and an underwhelming buffet on a rather tired-looking cruise ship. I've been on several ships from a couple of the "bottom tier" cruise lines, and either I'm mis-remembering my First Cruise Experience on Carnival, or these other guys just don't measure up. We have a Celebrity cruise-to-nowhere on their newest ship in December. "Overwhelmed" is probably setting the bar too high; I'm hoping for welmed.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Taking Shape

The porch and the roof are essentially complete. There is still railings, trim work, gutters, etc., but it is pretty much what it is:

The rainy season seems to have returned with 90 degree days and matching humidity, and thunderstorms in the evening. At least it isn't interfering with the work too much.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Good Day

The weather finally cooperated and, combined with a much larger crew, resulted in significant progress today:

It looks like the work will bleed into next week, but not by much. At the latest, things should be wrapped up by next weekend.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A Bit of Progress

We were visited by a full-blown monsoon about two hours after our porch dudes showed up. They tried to shrug it off, but eventually it became dangerous for them to operate power tools. By that time, it had gone from rain to RAIN to holy-crap-I-can't-see. They packed it in so fast, one of them actually left his lunch sitting on our outdoor swing. The good news is that the worst is supposed to be over in a few hours, then back to the normal pattern of good weather most of the day with scattered rain in the afternoon. Here's where we stand at this point:

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Work Begins

We got delayed by a day, but first thing this morning we received a pile of lumber and concrete blocks. Of course, just because we're trying to do something, rainy season decided to make a come-back. Once things cleared a bit, the guys got started by moving our current front steps around back. The iron steps that were back there when we bought the place had nearly rusted through, and they were actually too tall, interfering with opening the back door. So now the back of our place looks like this:

Wider and more stable are definitely both a big plus. The rail is on the wrong side, but it may just go away completely rather than going to all the work of moving it to the other side. It's not like the old steps had a railing, nor do most of the back porches in the park. If taking them off, cleaning them up and re-attaching them doesn't end up being a big deal, I may do it. Or not. I was born lazy. 

I also talked to the contractor about replacing the back door with something that is a bit more weather-tight so wind and rain will quit blowing into our living space. He said they have a basic door with no window that will screw right into the same hole. I said, "Do it." Because the guys are already coming out here, there won't be any installation charge, just the cost of the door. Can't beat that with an ugly stick cut from a tree you can't see for the forest.

The guys were able to get a rough outline of the deck going before the rain came back and ran them off for the day. Naturally, the instant they got everything packed up and got into the truck, it stopped raining. The weather liars say it will be like this for the next several days. Anyone like to bet that this will be the one time they're right? Anyway, here's how it looks so far:

Originally, they were going to do the roof first, then build the deck, which I thought was a little backwards, But I assumed something to do with hurricane codes meant they needed to anchor the porch roof before the deck was in the way. Then this morning, the contractor called and said they decided to do the deck first, then build the roof to the deck. I'm completely indifferent as long as something is getting done. With all the preliminaries out of the way, like moving the old steps and getting the leveling jack off the trailer tongue, I expect things will go faster.

With some luck, I should be able to post updates every day or two. Unless that lazy thing kicks in.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stopping Point

For the last couple months, I've been working on scanning in every photo we've ever taken prior to switching to digital in January of 2003. At some point, I had started to get all our prints and negatives organized using a Light Impressions archive system. It looked like I was making good progress, then everything came to grief at some point in the mid-1990's. Today, I completed the organized stuff. That was 3,245 individual photos, covering October 1977 through October 1994, scanned in and organized into 223 folders. What a difference between film and digital. On our cruise-tour in 2008, we shot 2,112 photos over 12 days. After a little break, I get to start on the hard part; I have at least as many photos still in the envelopes the developer put them in, most of them without dates. Then I have several large boxes of undated loose photos when I get done with those. Fun stuff. I have a feeling that a large percentage of the scans from here on out will end up in a folder named Miscellaneous Undated.

A bit of dark humor from Yahoo News about how Americans when forced to choose between eating and digital masturbation on a smartphone are choosing digital masturbation:

Looking over the family budget on Sunday night, Mr. Boedie said, his wife marveled at how much of it was going to the phone company.

"It stinks," Mr. Boedie said. "I guess it's the cost of modern-day America now."

Apologies to Irving Berlin, but I can't figure out why any god in his right mind would bless America.

On a... ahem... lighter note, the sun threw a bit of a hissy fit on August 31:

 Just for some perspective:

  Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun with Earth to Scale

And off to bed before I throw frackin' Blogger out the window. These idiots who just can't leave anything unbroken have just made the editor nearly impossible to use. Nice job Google. No wonder Apple told you to piss off.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Short Update

This will be quick because there just isn't a great deal going on right now. We're sort of on hold for the next month or so because of the Michigan road trip. I'll be driving up in a Penske the last week of October, dropping debris along the way, then coming back down with my parents, helping them out with the driving. In the meantime, I'm making a list of what I'm taking up and what I'm bringing back. (Koegel's!!! Serve the curve, baby!) Otherwise, it's more or less keeping busy puttering around with small jobs like cleaning out the gutters and trying to figure out why half of our electric is screwed up. I dug into the box over the weekend and did some fixin', but we're still having issues with running the laser printer and, oddly enough, the crock pot. The laser printer I (sort of) get as it's a high-draw appliance, but a crock pot? I'll be making a quick trip into town this afternoon for other stuff, so I'll pick up some fiddly bits from Lowes and see if the situation can be improved. If that doesn't work, we'll need an electrician dude to come out and tear into the power pole. That's supposed to be the park's job, but they flat out refuse to take care of it, so, as I'm not interested in being immolated in my sleep, we'll be paying to get things fixed.

Our only new news is that next week, we have contractors showing up to beef up our roof and add a 10'x20' covered deck to the front of our place. The roof should be done in a day; the deck will take two or three days to finish up. So in a week or so, our little place will have a rather different look. We were only going to redo the existing roof and extend it out the front, then worry about building a deck under the extension at some future date. But the price we got on the roof was far less than we expected, and we couldn't buy the deck materials for what they wanted to extend the trailer roof and build the deck. So it all gets done in one big bang, then we sit here broke for the next year or so until we can do the next thing. But at least we'll have a roof that doesn't leak, more insulation so our electric bill won't be in the stratosphere, and a shady spot to sit outside.

And that's pretty much it. I'll post some pictures as the work progresses next week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And Another Week Slips By....

First, some good news: We got "our" new fence and it looks pretty good, especially compared to what was there before.

The "however" is that it likely won't stay good looking for long. It's the cheapest grade of fencing you can get and there are no plans to attempt to preserve it in any way. I give it five years max before it starts looking as crappy as what was here to start with. Florida is tough on wood, even when it's well-cared-for. If history is any guide, this won't be. On the other hand, who knows what part of the world we'll be living in five years from now.

Rainy season continues. The first couple years we were in Florida, the rain started to taper off in September, but this year it's still going full bore halfway through the month. I don't know if moving across state is the reason or if things are getting back to normal after several years of "drought". (Most places in the US would start building arks if they received the amount of rain Florida gets in a drought year, hence the scare quotes.) Our recent yard work is hold up well to the onslaught, although the bare areas haven't started filling in like I had hoped. No matter; this is Florida. Something green will take over in no time.

We went through the last pile of bins over the weekend. It's all Christmas stuff that we've been carting around for 20+ years, most of which has never seen the light of day. It was a little depressing; after most of a day's of work, we still had the same pile of bins in our living space. We did get the stuff sorted into bins-we're-keeping vs. bins-for-yard-sale, but because the shed is already packed right to the door, we have to leave it all in the Florida room for now.

Which brings me to more news. I'll be driving a moving van full of left-overs to Michigan sometime between now and the end of October, unless a last-minute buyer jumps up on Craigslist. I seriously doubt that will happen given that everything has been listed for over a month and we haven't gotten a single inquiry on any of it. As of right now we have for-sure takers for everything but the dining room table and chairs. I'm pretty sure I know where that's going, but if the person backs out, I have two or three alternatives. In any case, it all will be gone in a month or so. Then we can finally start to figure out how we're going to live in this place. The last month has felt like we're living in a storage unit.

We are also going to start working on the biggest project so far: a full roof-over of the trailer and Florida room. That will probably put a serious dent in our savings account, so we won't be doing much else for a very long time. But it's the one improvement that will save us major money on utilities by beefing up the insulation in our roof, plus giving us over-hangs that will keep a lot of sun off the walls. Our electric bill for August just came; $122.33. That's the highest we've ever had anywhere we've lived. My goal is to cut that in half next year. The positive news is that this place is built and insulated so poorly (like nearly everything in Florida), we can easily make huge improvements.

So off to start making phone calls and stimulatin' the local economy!!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Far, Far Away

Americans are often accused of being "extravagantly wasteful" or promoting a "throw away culture". I'm hardly going to argue with that given that several families were able to make a living digging empty beer cans out of the dumpsters behind our former apartment. But a couple of things over the last few days have made me realize that it isn't just a party-like-it's-1999 attitude, like some drunk trust fund baby in a bar setting $20 bills on fire simply because he thinks he has an unlimited supply of them. Rather it's more like a kid's belief in unicorns; that there really is a land of Far, Far Away. Only instead of a place of handsome princes and beautiful princesses (or in the modern version, a couple friendly ogres and a talking donkey having sex with a dragon), our Far, Far Away is a place where we send anything that we are unwilling to deal with ourselves. Something breaks? Throw it Far, Far Away. Something stinks? Flush it Far, Far Away. Get bored with some trinket after you realize that it isn't the key to eternal youth and endless sex like the advertisement promised? Throw it Far, Far Away.

Then we have the once-removed's like recycling. Not to pan on recycling as a concept; everything gets recycled whether it's us doing it or Mama Gaia (who catches everything no matter how Far, Far Away we throw it). I'm talking about Recycling American Style where you mindlessly set some of your trash to the curb in a blue tub, it goes Far, Far Away, and you get to pat yourself on the back for being so green. If you want to see the ultimate blank stare, ask your neighbor next trash day what happens to the stuff in the blue tub. I got one of those yesterday from one of the park maintenance guys. We're looking for topsoil to build some raised beds and wondered if the township or county ran a municipal compost pile. Most of those allow locals to haul away the finished compost for free or cheap. I ask him if the yard waste we set out went to a compost pile. "No, we just toss it in a roll-off." Yes, I understand that. My question is, when the big truck comes and picks up the roll-off it goes...? Blank stare.

I have no idea myself where that roll-off ends up, but I do know that in Flint, Michigan, yard waste was going to the same landfill as the rest of the trash for years after residents were required to set yard waste out in separate bags. That is also the fate of most blue-bin trash as the market for such things as old newspaper and plastic have been completely saturated since the 1970's. My school used to have an annual paper drive where everyone would bundle up their old newspapers and pile them in a rented semi trailer next to the school. When the trailer was full, it would get picked up and hauled to a paper recycler and the school would get a wad of cash. At least, that's how it worked until the last paper drive sometime in the mid-1970's; when we showed up with our semi load of newspapers, the recycler told us he had all the newspaper he needed for all eternity. Because he felt sorry that our fundraiser was already going to cost us money, he was willing to take our newspapers without charging us a dumping fee. Not much has changed in the 40 years since. In fact, about the only thing in all the millions of blue bins that nets income in curbside recycling is the aluminum. Glass and steel are about break-even with paper and plastic being a dead loss. That's not just in terms of money, either. Every study of curbside recycling has come to the same conclusion: it takes more energy and resources on net to run the recycling program than the program saves.

The problem is another fantasy that Americans have; that we can keep doing everything we've been doing for the last 70 years only more of it, year after year without consequence if we'll only do just a little itty bitty bit. Like throw our plastic water bottles into a blue bin instead of a trash bag, or change out all the incandescent light bulbs in the McMansion for compact florescents. Remember the green mantra from the 1970's? Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. The order isn't random. First step is to reduce. Everything. Buy less crap. Not buy even more crap, then think you're making it all OK by throwing 2% of it in a blue bin. Recycling is the last resort, not the magic cure-all that's going to let us keep our 5,000 square foot "starter homes" and 6,000 pound SUV's that you have to park in the driveway because the 4-car garage is stuffed with quad runners and jet skis and bins full of clothes that no one has ever worn and kitchen gadgets still in their blister packs. Of course, any suggestion that maybe it would be a good idea to cut back on the amount of crap we buy and hoard, and the best you can hope for is a blank stare. More likely, you'll get a punch to the head.

(And yes, we're as guilty as the next guy. In spite of a concerted effort over the last six or seven years to cut the crap pile down to a reasonable size, our home still looks like something off one of those hoarders TV shows, with plastic bins stacked literally to the ceiling and little narrow passageways to navigate through the stacks. And while our sissy SUV is way smaller than most of the monster trucks running around here, it's till way more vehicle than we need to haul our butts around, while simultaneously being too small to do anything useful, like moving building materials. We're going in the right direction, but the going is slow and we frequently backslide.)

So what brought up all this tree-hugging crap? This:

Ya know how they say that when the tide goes out, everyone knows who's swimming naked? Well, yesterday the park began tearing down the old, dilapidated board fence that runs between the park and the woods behind us, and there was a multitude of naked people. Nearly everyone who lives along the back fence tosses their leaves over the fence instead of bagging them up like they're supposed to. I'm not sure in what universe that it's easier to heave piles of leaves over a 7-foot fence instead of stuffing them in a leaf bag, but no one has ever accused humans of being overly logical. But the section of fence behind us is extra special. Not just leaves and branches, but plastic bags, aluminum foil, candy wrappers, flower pots, bottles, cans. It's all in there. The pièce de résistance was the 10 yards or so of dirt that had been tossed over the fence. That must have been done over a period of years, because digging through the dirt pile was like working a kitchen midden at an archaeological dig, only instead of animal bones and pot shards I was digging up Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers and broken pieces of plastic flower pots. The irony of the whole thing is after all the effort that was put into tossing all that dirt over the fence, I plan to bring back as much as possible before the guys get here to put up the new fence, in order to level up some low places and stabilize the wobbly patio stones that have been undercut by run-off.

Anyway, the point is, Far, Far Away can be as much psychological as physical. In this case, literally out of sight, out of mind. If I toss my candy bar wrapper or a broken flower pot over this fence so I can't see it, that object must cease to exist and there are no possible consequences because it is now in the magical land of Far, Far Away. Of course, one person's Far, Far Away is someone else's property. I wonder how loudly the former residents would have screamed if the owner of the adjacent property had started throwing leaves, dirt and garbage in the other direction?

Anyway, not much of a point other than maybe we should start thinking about whose back yard all the stuff we throw Far, Far Away lands in and maybe throwing a great deal less of it.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


Florida is giving us a last hurrah (or giant middle finger; take your pick) with 90 degree heat and matching humidity. Everything from Isaac has blown out and now we don't even get the couple hours of relief we were getting from the afternoon thunderstorms. I try to get outside every day and do a little puttering around the outside of the trailer, but there is only about a two-hour window between sunrise and when being outside is just too brutal to think about. So I sit inside scanning old photos.

That process has changed somewhat. I was originally scanning the negatives, mainly because 3x5 or 4x6 prints have a different aspect ratio than the 35mm negative, so something has to get cut off. Prints also seem to have more issues with color balance, and even though a print is many times larger than a negative, the scans didn't seem any better in terms of graininess. But the scanner software seems to want to fight me every step of the way. Yesterday, I had just finished up 500 or so photos that we had no negatives for (or they were something other than 35mm), and started back in on the 35mm stuff. The very first strip of negatives I grabbed came up in the software as color positive film. I was done with that. So now I scan the prints and screw the negatives. It involves more trips to the scanner as I can only do two or three photos at a time instead of an entire strip of negatives in one go, but the process is actually faster overall.

Yesterday, we had our first block party since we moved here. Our neighbors at the end of the street hosted an ol' fashioned potluck, so we showed up with our signature baked beans, which got a lot of comments. I'm hoping that we're not stuck bringing the things to every potluck forever; we have a lot of other things we like to make besides baked beans. In any case, we all ate too much and sat around for several hours acting like hooligans. We had fun and finally had a chance to meet a few of our neighbors. Nice change of pace from... well... pretty much every other place we've ever lived.

The Republican National Convention has finally ended. We avoided even looking in the direction of Tampa while the circus was in town, and of course there was no way we would waste our time watching any of it on TV. Personally, I'd rather scratch my eyes out with rusty nails. I heard a lot of yapping about this or that speech and something about Clint Eastwood playing the part of a stroke victim while talking to an empty chair. Why anyone pays the least bit of attention is beyond me. Whatever is said or done at the convention has absolutely nothing to do with what the Liar in Chief actually does while in office. The worst of it is that as soon as the holiday weekend is over, we get to start the circus all over again for the Democrats. At least that one is far enough away that we don't have to be concerned with road closures, blockades, protesters, riot cops, etc.

And I should get back to scanning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No More Banana Flips (and other critical news)

We were out wandering around a week or so ago, looking for something else when we happened across one of those Hostess Bake Shop clearance places. There was one of these near where I grew up and I remember my parents buying car-loads of Wonder bread for something like 20 loaves for $1, then carrying sandwiches made with freezer-burnt bread until Thanksgiving when whatever was left got made into stuffing. Mmmmm. Good times.

Anyway, we're both big fans of Banana Flips (yea, yea; just stuff it, will ya?) and we hadn't been able to find them for several years. So we head in and no Banana Flips. We asked at the counter and were informed that Hostess had discontinued Banana Flips about three years ago. What?!?!? Holy crap! I must have stood there with my mouth hanging open for a full minute. How could a company that continues to make those disgusting, pink, coconut-covered balls of glop discontinue the very food of the gods? I don't think I said anything for the rest of the day other than mumbling "What in the.... How in the.... Who in the.... WHY!!"


Hurricane Isaac completely missed us. It rained for three days straight and we've had some wind gusts that were barely strong enough to ring our largest Arcosanti bell. The highlight was a flood warning that came over the Emergency Broadcast System for some minor little creek. (Most likely a man-made drainage ditch dug by some developer literally selling swamp land in some real estate scam, but I digress.) As always, these things break into the TV show right at the most critical point of the whole thing. So we're squinting at the TV trying to read lips while this guy drones on about how many feet above flood stage this immaterial body of water is. Then he goes on some tangent about "normal" flood stage vs. some other kind of flood stage. Then he launches into the entire flooding history of this creek, yapping on about how many feet above flood stage it was in 1957. Dude! You're not on some frackin' PBS special! Shut! the Hell! Up!

So that was the extent of our suffering and drama related to Hurricane Isaac.

It does look like Isaac is going to test whether anyone in Louisiana learned anything from Katrina. Isaac seems to have stalled just off-shore and is beating the living crap out of the coastline. We'll see now if any of the federal tax dollars that were supposed to repair and improve the levees actually did any good, or if it all ended up in Swiss bank accounts like most of the pre-Katrina levee money.

We're still in various stages of unpacking and trying to unload furniture on Craigslist that won't fit in our 600 square feet. Craigslist doesn't seem to work in Florida, likely due to the high percentage of con artists and grifters that live here (approximately 98% of the population). So far we've managed to unload exactly one thing. We'll try some other avenues and we always have Restore if all else fails. At least it won't end up in a landfill. We still need some major plumbing work done and the electrical is becoming critical. We talked to the park manager yesterday about getting our power pole upgraded, but she wouldn't commit to anything definitive other than having "someone look at it." Bottom line, instead of new windows and doors in the Florida room or a bathroom redo, we'll be rewiring and replumbing. woo. hoo.

And I'm still pounding on the new scanner. The hardware seems solid, but the software was written by coked-up chimps on a Friday afternoon. The automatic mode seems to do a decent job, except when it decides that negatives are slides. There is no way to override without going into one of the non-automatic modes (Home, Business, Professional), and at that point, gods help you because not even something as simple as a check box works correctly, and the scan results SUCK. So far, I've been able to work around the glitches, but they seriously slow down the process. I'm still trying to get through 1986. Only about 18 years to go.

Well, back at it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, RIP

The first human to step foot on any planet other than earth is dead. Nothing really to say other than, "Godspeed, Commander Armstrong."