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Measure twice, panic once.

So my darling Dian made an odd request of me this week. She purchased a rather large antique mirror, complete with wooden frame, and wanted me to install it in our hallway.

I pointed out that the shape of said mirror frame indicated that it belonged on a dresser. She reposed that we didn't have a dresser (she prefers Ikea stacked storage boxes) and showed me exactly where she wanted it mounted.

I pointed out that our lovely 100 year old house predated modern building codes ... heck, the folks who built the old girl didn't seem to believe in any building codes a'tall ... and that studs to support the mirror's sixty odd pounds were few and far between. Moreover, the bathroom (and, more importantly, the shower) was right on the other side of the lathe and plaster wall she wanted the mirror attached to, and the combination would make it a tricky installation indeed ... perhaps the other side of the hallway?

Nope.

So, yesterday, after several hours of peering into the access hatch for the bathtub's plumbing, I mounted an attractive one by two the entire length of the wall, driving drywall screws every six inches, but giving wide berth to where I figured the shower pipe would be. Then I gave Dian the option of having the mirror hung anywhere along the one by two. Instead of having me drive a hook to hang the mirror, however, she requested that I drive screws into the one by two through the wooden frame.

I shrugged and did so. She produced a couple of decorative screw caps to cover the heads and mission accomplished.

I was rewarded for my cleverness and manly carpentry attachment solution appropriately (I'll leave the obvious pun for the more giggly readers to supply for themselves) and hopped into the shower afterwards. I turned on the water, took down the hand held shower head (best to aim it away whilst the temperature finds a balance) and pulled the little knob that diverted the flow from the bathtub spout ...

And barely a trickle escaped the shower head!

OH CRAP!!

I shut the water off, leapt out of the shower, and grabbed my cordless drill. Dian, hearing my less-than-manly shriek of panic, came running from the bedroom to find me nakedly removing the access hatch and checking for water gushing into the basement. There was none, but the water had only been on for a scant few seconds ... it might have absorbed right into the plaster!

I told her what had happened and what it obviously meant while I frantically pulled screws, adding that it must have been one or more of the screws that I drove through the frame that nailed the pipe. Then I heard her walk into the bathroom and turn on the shower.

I ran in to tell her to stop and skidded to a halt, seeing the full flow from the shower.

She reminded me that the shower head had a wee little knob on it that regulated flow, one that occasionally was accidentally shut off when one hung the head back on its holder.

She's had two showers since then and she still giggles throughout.

Sigh

Sailor Jim walks in and shucks his gloves, shoves them into the pockets of his heavy coat, which he also removes and hangs up by the door, then removes his overshoes and places them on the floor under the coat, and finally removes his cap, carefully shaking it off before putting on the hook next to his coat.

He glances at the room and wryly comments, "Monday, when last I checked, the weather service called for 'tee-shirt weather all week and well into the weekend.' Which was true through yesterday, Thursday, but when Dian and I awoke this morning, it was below freezing outside and, just a few minutes ago, it started snowing. I guess you could still walk around in a tee-shirt, but I suspect many health and safety officials would advise against it."

SJ walks up to the bar and orders something hot and alcoholic before continuing, "Sometimes I wonder, what with all the crazy weather patterns and non-patterns, why most meteorologists don't simply call in drunk and tell their bosses to just flip a coin."

SJ

Not bad, considering ...

Sailor Jim is sitting to the side, carefully going over calendars for the past couple of decades and making a column of numbers on a yellow pad. After adding up, he purses his lips and slowly nods.

"Y'know, shipmates," he slowly drawls, "for a race as ancient as the Mayans, only being off by five thousand, eight hundred and sixty-four days (give or take a few hours, eastern standard time) is kinda impressive."

SJ then sweeps all the paperwork off his table and order most of Mike's stock.
Well, shipmates ... this is it. Tomorrow is closing day and I become that dreaded thing: A Homeowner.

At 1300 (1:00 p.m., for you civilians) tomorrow, I'll trade a cashier's check of several thousand bucks for a title and set of keys, and become the owner of a 1927 "airplane bungalow," a style similar to a craftsman bungalow, but with a pop-up partial second floor that playfully resembles a cock-pit of an airplane. A style that also might carry the labels of American Craftsman, Prairie Style, Money Pit, or What the Hell is Up With All Those Awnings?

At 1300, I assume a bank mortgage and, at roughly 1310, my wife will have me hard at work tearing up carpet from stairs, changing locks, and offering opinions as to room colors. Electricians will terrorize us with dramatic pronouncements, plumbers will horrify us with inflated estimates, and lumber stores will adore us as we purchase most of their available stock. Sanders will growl, paint will flow, and the economy will flourish.

Looking ahead to tomorrows festivities is a little like waiting for the guard to come back and solemnly announce, "It's time, Tommy." It's a bit like one's last day as a freeman, with a wedding early tomorrow.

A close "friend" of mine smiled into my face today and intoned, "A man doesn't know what true happiness is until he owns his own home ... but then, of course, it's too late."

Tomorrow I become a - shudder - grown-up.

Pity me, shipmates.

A little catching up

Well, let's see what's new in my life ...

My weight is down into the 350s, so that's good. Actually, it's painful. I really want to find the asshole who wrote that "no pain, no gain" stupidity and beat him with a stick, all the while chanting his asinine cliche. My exercise sessions now include weights, but only because my legs and feet are in massive pain half the time.

It's like this: Monday, walk a few miles, briskly. Tuesday, walk a few miles, briskly. Wednesday, scream in pain as the tendons in my feet and ankles throb, and take massive amounts of Tylenol and anti-inflamitories ... get in some upper body weight work to fight the pain later in the day. Thursday, hobble around the house after wearing plantar fasciitis splints all night, do some light stretching, and more weight work. Friday, walk around the mall, slowly, after wearing the splints all night and doing a lot of stretching. Saturday, walk around the mall, briskly. Sunday, sit around the apartment and bitch about the week.

Okay, it get it: loosing weight and getting back into shape at 57 is going to be a painful (and painfully long) experience. I just thought it would get easier (and less painful) the further along the process I went, not harder (and more painful). I mean, c'mon ... at some point, I really should stop hurting and start basking in the warm glow of health and vitality, right?

Right?

In the meantime, just because I don't have enough physical and emotional pain in my life at the moment, Dian and I have been going through the gothic horror that is buying a house. We close this coming Wednesday, after going through a process that was part IRS audit and part French Inquisition, where the bank that has been so friendly and kind to us all these years treated us like con-artist terrorists, questioning every debt and transaction in the past two years, while making us fill out and sign more documents than I ever did in over twenty years in the military.

And for what? A house that was built in the 1920s that Dian fell in love with the very first time she stepped into it. A house that needs all new wiring (it has knob and tube at the moment), a complete remodeling of the kitchen (and serious plumbing work), and a couple of steel beams in the basement. I already have a work list that would choke a Trojan Horse, starting with ripping out all the carpet on the ground floor, while cleaning out all the various household chemicals that all but fill the basement.

Oh, yeah ... while we were writing up the contract to buy the house, Dian lightly tossed in a paragraph that said "anything the sellers don't want to move out of the house, we'll take care of." When I gasped out a strangled "What?!?," she explained, "Well, they just lost their mother," (it was her house for fifty years) "and shouldn't have to deal with the emotional pain of throwing her old stuff out."

To Dian, this means that they'll clean out the basement of better than five decades worth of half empty cans and tins of paints, solvents, and all the other household chemicals that accumulate, but might leave some of the old furniture and clothing that is too painful for them to take to Goodwill.

To me, this means they'll take all the nice stuff they want and leave all the crap in the basement for me to clean out.

We find out which of us is right on Wednesday. Although, depressingly enough, we do tend to drive by the house at least once a day to see what progress is being made to empty it of wanted possessions. The depressing part is seeing the elderly children of the deceased owner shuffle in and out, struggling to carry furniture. I keep waiting for them to get a van and some husky grandchildren or nephews (or hired crew, at the very least) to do the work.

Best of all, our current lease doesn't expire until August and the apartment folk won't let us out of it. Well, not without charging us very close to what we'd spend in rent until then. So we will be living in our nice apartment - our nice, modern, and not having to mow lawn or clean out basements, apartment - while working on the house for the next six months, paying both rent and mortgage and utilities on both.

Oh well, at least I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be losing lots of weight doing it.

Not for nothing, but ...

I'm sure it's just an odd coincidence and nothing more, you understand. I'm not saying it was deliberate or anything, but ... well, did anyone else happen to find it strange that Donald Trump held off actually tossing his comb-over into the ring until the very first Presidential election after Jon Stewart retired?

Well, what do you know ...

Okay, so yesterday Dian and I made a pilgrimage to her holy of holies, IKEA.

When we pulled into the garage, we passed a rather distraught looking young woman, around 22 or 23, standing next to a nice BMW sedan. I headed her way when we parked, in case I could help, when I overheard her on her cellphone, telling somebody that she was locked out of her car and that she'd called the police for help.

I was about to get my kit out of our car (I have some specialized tools in my bag ... don't ask why), when I noticed something odd in the woman's hand.

I motioned to Dian and asked her to get back in the car so I could wait around to see how this was going to play out. Dian was visibly torn between curiosity (when I've made this request in the past, she hasn't been disappointed with the results) and shopping, but realized that IKEA wasn't going anywhere and sat back down.

I pointed out the woman, explained that she was locked out of her car, and added what I'd observed.

Dian stared ... then started to laugh.

With a few minutes, a patrol car pulled up next to the BMW and a very calm officer, looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, stepped out. We rolled down our windows and listened.

She: I'm terribly sorry, officer, but I'm locked out of my car. Can you open it for me?

He: Certainly, Ma'am. Are your keys locked inside? (He added that last bit while peering into the passenger window of her car.)

She: Oh, no! I have them right here. (She jingled the keys I'd noticed in her hand earlier.)

He: Um ... you have your keys, but are locked out of your car?

She: Look ... (She pointed the largest key at her car and pressed the button on it that should have unlocked the doors of the BMW.) See? It's broken or maybe the battery is dead, but that leaves me locked out either way.

The policeman showed incredible self-control and, after standing silently for a moment, took the keys from her hand, walked around to the driver's side, and - more watching the woman than his own hand - slowly inserted the key into the lock and unlocked the door.

Her reaction to this simple act was astonishing. You would have thought he'd just levitated the car or something. She gushed over the amazing fact that the door even had a keyhole, much less the incredible good fortune that the same key that started the car could unlock the door.

He (deadpan): Yes, it is odd, isn't it. It's a safety function that dealers rarely mention.

She thanked the officer profusely and even offered him a twenty dollar tip for his services, which he turned down as politely as possible. She then drove away, undoubtedly late returning to the fantasy land she lived at, while the officer sat back against the trunk of his patrol car and had himself a nice chuckle.

Made spending the day at IKEA almost pleasant.

Electro-life goes on ...

I've finished my gaming build, several months in the making. How did I screw up, let me count the ways ...

I bought the wrong DRAM for the board for starters. What's rule number one for a computer build? That's right: always check for compatibility. Every parts manufacturer has a website and every one of those websites have lists of what's supported with their product. I forgot to check and ended up buying DRAM twice. (However, I sold the DRAM that wasn't supported to a friend who was in the market, so it wasn't all that bad, it just put off my build for a couple of weeks waiting for the replacements.)

Then there was the video card that couldn't. I love NVIDIA, but even they put out the occasional dud. I booted the rig up, ran some tests, and - poof - the video vanished. The card was replaced for free, but there's another couple of weeks.

Assorted little boops and beeps slowed me down as well, but the major problem came down to the fact that there are no computer stores where I live. Everything I bought for the build had to come from the web, which meant that everything took time to arrive. (And thank you, UPS, for being the little man who wasn't there. I swear, the guy fills out the "You were not home" sticker in his truck and sticks it on the door as he softly taps on the wood, while sprinting past the door.)

But it's finally done and running. An I7-5820K running at 3.30GHz, with liquid cooling provided by Astek's little 550LC unit, and the aforementioned NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 card providing the images. 16 gigs of GSKILL Ripsaws V for memory, a Samsung 512 Gb M.2 for the SSD, and two 2 Tb Western Digital Blacks for bulk storage. All of it plugged into a MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK ATX board, powered by a 750 watt Corsair RMi Series brick, and encapsulated within a monster of a box, the NZXT H440 Razer Edition Steel Mid-Tower Case. Black as night, solid as a tombstone, quiet as a mouse, but with underbody and internal green LEDs that light up the desk.

Ah ... also, with no external drive bays, which is another of my little fake paw's. I ordered a serious Blueray DVD drive, a multi-card reader, and a really nice little fan/lights controller panel ... for a box without any external drive bays. Pure stupidity on my part. I changed my mind on the case at the last minute, just before I submitted my order, from a case with plenty of external drive bays. Again, I distributed the various parts to friends for good discounts, but each of them wanted to know the story.

So, now I have a rep as a competent, but fairly derp, builder.

I bought a Razer gaming keyboard and mouse, and a surprisingly nice ASUS monitor to round out the build. (Incidentally, if any of you can explain the difference between a regular keyboard or mouse and their gaming counterparts, I'd really appreciate it. I mean, at this moment, the only differences I can see is that both have cool backlights and that the mouse - again, for reasons still unknown to me - has a plethora of oddly located buttons ... and no instruction booklet to explain their use.)

What did I learn from my first gaming build:

1. Always check the specs and compatibility lists.
2. M.2 drives rock like nothing else! Plugged directly into the mobo, it out-performs just about every other SSD form out there. If you want a pc that boots almost before you press the little button, go for an M.2 (or a U.2 add-in card, the only form that beats the M.2).
3. Cases that weigh a little over 40 pounds are easy to build in, but a bitch to position.
4. Finally, do not let your wife or significant other glimpse the receipts for a good build. Dian saw the final price of my little build and, apparently, I have now received both my birthday and Christmas presents for the next ten years.

Ah, and to balance the electronics karma, our beloved vacuum packed it in on the same day my build was finally completed. Newegg giveth and Electrolux taketh away. Amen.

Life's a mean bitch

I was at the doctor's today ...

To the good side, I'm down to 368. That's almost forty pounds off in around two months and better than a third of my goal to lose 100 pounds by next August, when I go back to work. If I maintain this rate of loss, I might drop two hundred by then.

To the bad side, I have this pain in my chest, high up on the left, when I exercise now.

I can accept that, following twenty-some odd years of inactivity, my back went out after a couple of weeks of exercise. I even managed to laugh while taking pain meds and muscle relaxants at myself for being pissed at my back. I weighed a little over 400 pounds to begin, for pity sake ... what did I expect?

I can accept that, since then, I have had tendons, joints, and muscles ground me for a couple days at a time. Again, what did I expect? Even with careful stretching before exercise, twenty-some odd years of inactivity ... right?

What I cannot accept is the possibility that, when I finally take the time to combat my health issues, when I finally accept that my diabetes isn't just going to go away, when I finally start to make a serious improvement in my lifestyle and pull it all together, now my heart is giving me problems.

I mean, wtf!

So I had an EKG (which came out okay) and a medical exam (which didn't) and now I have an appointment to have a drug injected that will cause my heart to race so a different doctor can study the result and, hopefully, not give me a friggin' heart attack by doing so!

All in all, I gotta say, not particularly happy.

Timing ... it's all about timing.

Last January, Dian and I started looking for a house.

We are renters. We have always been renters. We like renting. Renting means that someone else has to repair things, mow and weed things, paint things; in short, do all the crappy things that people who do not rent have to do themselves.

Then, last years sometime, a previously dormant synapse in Dian's head fired and she started thinking about buying a place. Read more...Collapse )Driving around neighborhoods, going on-line to home rebuilding sites and property sites and decorating sites, buying books and magazines on selecting and repairing homes ... worse, her taste in houses seems to be mired in the turn of the century. Last century, that is.

On weekends, she dragged me to see the interior of so many 1900 to 1930 houses that I became a bit of an expert on what to expect. Stairs only wide enough for pixies, kitchens that only a midget could love, soooooo much natural wood everywhere and hardly a carpet to be seen, and plumbing from the dark ages. All have basements, but watch for flashbacks to old horror movies.

Then, on the drive to the next house, she'd talk about what she wanted to do to the previous house. "If we knocked out the wall between those two ground-floor bedrooms, we'd have a really nice master bedroom or workshop (what we call our combination needle-craft and computer area)."

"Um ... sweets? It's a two-story house, right? I don't think it's a good idea to knock down a first-story wall on a one hundred year old house, even if it's not a load-bearing wall, love."

Then, about mid-January, something went ping in my head and I decided that maybe it might be nice to actually own a place. Something tossed up in the last fifty years, though. So we started driving around together in the evenings, looking over houses and talking about what we want in a house and so forth, then working on the financing when we got home.

However, we could never agree on a house. It seemed to me that she'd only consider a house that was built no later than 1930, one that needed plenty of repair and renovation. She said that I was looking for something built in the last decade that we could simply move into, some sort of latch-key home.

The houses she wanted all cost under $75,000, but needed another $75,000 worth of work. The houses I liked all cost over $200,000, but needed nothing more than a coat of paint.

Unable to agree on a house, we decided to sign a new lease for a year. Then I resigned to work on my weight (365, by the way). After workouts, we'd buy a soda and drive around looking at parts of the town that we'd never been too, discovering all sorts of little shops and things ...

... and the house. No; make that The House.

It was everything I didn't want. It was built in 1920, had original woodwork throughout the house, was on a oddly shaped lot ... but the basement was clean and neat, the woodwork shined and had no built up grime in the corners, the kitchen was - if small - totally modern, and the master bedroom had a well-maintained sunroom attached (what Dian called a sleeping porch). The bathroom was in excellent condition, even if it did have a claw-foot tub.

And the guy wanted a tad under $40,000 for the place! The county valued the place at closer to $100,000, but the guy had started out asking 50 grand in August and had lowered it to 40 by September. His agent told me that he inherited the property and just wanted to unload it as soon as possible. I clicked my heels and danced Dian to the bank.

1. Unemployed; neither of our banks want to even discuss a mortgage (payments would be around $100 on a 30-year loan) while I'm unemployed, never mind that I pay around a grand on rent at the moment and have the retirement income to cover it.

2. Lease; the manager of our apartment doesn't want to lose around a grand a month, not while she has us locked into a lease that expires on August of next year.

So who cares? We have the money in savings to simply buy the place, cash, and can pay rent for ten months while doing what little has to be done to the house to ... what do you mean, utilities? Well, I'm sure we can pay utilities on both places without ... what do you mean, insurance?

Timing, amigos. Life is all about timing. Had that house gone on the market one month earlier, I could have put off resigning until the mortgage went through, even if it meant renting month-by-month for a while. Instead, it didn't even get placed until after we'd signed the new lease and I'd resigned, effectively putting the silly thing as far out of our reach as a million-dollar mansion.