Interesting weekend . . .

Weird.

Well, first off, we had a bitterly cold Canadian air mass move through the area starting Friday afternoon, which dropped the local temperatures to sub-freezing. Naturally, the extra strain caused the central heating unit to finally quit – completely.

We’re fine, though. The fireplace insert we put in last fall took over with no trouble, aside from a bit of extra bundling up to keep the setting lower.

Anyway, Sunday afternoon proved to be quite the adventure. It started just after lunch, when my wife took a bag of trash out to our dumpster. As she opened the lid, she discovered about a dozen (used? not sure) syringes in the bottom of the bin. She came running back in and told me – I went out and confirmed it, and then called the local police. They were amazed that someone would go to the trouble to put them in OUR dumpster – there are several houses around where they’d have been less likely to be seen. See, our dumpster sits direcly under that brand-new super-bright LED security light we just had installed about a week ago, making it a very visible location even in the middle of the night. Anyhow, they cheerfully removed the syringes, and said they would do some extra patrols through the neighborhood to see if they can find who put them there.

As soon as the officer left, I went to the kitchen and put a cup of coffee in the microwave to warm up. I’d just sat down at my computer to read the news when *BANG* – I heard something loud right out front that sounded sort of like a head-on collision. That turned out to be pretty close to describing what did happen. Somone’s vehicle jumped the curb just north of our driveway, and destroyed a traffic sign (on a metal pole!) which landed in the street. By the time I got out there, and I tried to respond pretty quickly, the vehicle that hit the sign was gone, but a pickup had stopped in traffic and was keeping other vehicles from hitting the sign. I had my phone in hand, and called the police again. There wasn’t much they could do about it, aside from filling out an accident report. None of the potential wittnesses waited around for the police, and all I could tell them was that I heard it happen and called right away.

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More House Maintenance…

Well, we knew it was coming.

Nearly 7 years ago when we bought this house, we were told that the HVAC and water heater were both old. An average water heater has a life-span of 10 years, and the one in the house was already 18. I’m not sure what a normal life-span for an HVAC system is, but I’m pretty sure 45 is pushing it. This one was installed in 1973.

Anyhow, in the last 18 months we’ve had 4 service calls on the heater, so we knew it was about to go. Day before yesterday, we had to have another visit, and after spending 2 hours cleaning burners and electronic ignition switches, he stated that he’d done all he could and it was still uncertain. So, I asked him to have someone from his company come by to give us an estimate on a complete system. That night, the heat failed to light yet again.

The fellow who came to do the estimate was quite impressed that this old thing lasted so long, and said we’d definitely see some energy savings from getting the units replaced before summer arrived. As an added bonus, there will be an actual place to put the filters, so they won’t rub up against the blower motor anymore. It will be easily changed, too. After measuring this, that, and a few other things, he tallied the bill to – – – – $4600, installed.

So, my wife and I spent some time last night looking at how to juggle some plans and savings arrangements, and figured that it is doable. Certainly not the way we wanted to do it, but we can do it. Oh, and we got the bill in the mail for the water heater installation, too. It was just under $700.

So, a quick recap of the last 6 months of home maintenance:
$3500 Fireplace insert
700 Water Heater
150 Security light
4600 HVAC system

I certainly hope that’s enough for a while.

Step by step . . .

Slowly, but surely, our move towards a greener lifestyle continues.

One of the things that we’ve been looking at is that our HVAC system has been in this house since the early 1970’s.  There is no doubt that it will someday need replaced, but in the mean time it is not the most energy efficient.  So, I had the brain storm that if we could come up with a more energy efficient way to heat the house in the winter (i.e. using the fireplace) we might save enough money over time to pay for the update.

Well, it turns out that the reason our fireplace isn’t safe to use is that the liner in the chimney is cracked – and there is NOBODY in this area who replaces cracked liners.  I’ve even used email to contact people in KC, Tulsa, and St. Louis – they won’t even consider traveling so far for the job. So, we started looking at other options.  Or, we thought it would be plural.  Turns out, there was only one option – get a gas-burning fireplace insert.

Of course, that isn’t as easy as just snapping your fingers.  A gas-burning fireplace insert actually needs a gas line to provide the fuel, plus it needs a plug-in to power the regulator.  So, we called our favorite plumber, and asked him if we could get a gas line to the fireplace.  Naturally, he needed to know where it should go, and the salesman who talked to us about the insert didn’t tell us where to put the line.  So, after a few delays over the telephone (the salesman took vacation while I was waiting for the plumber’s estimate) I got an answer on the location.  We got lucky – the best place for the line to enter the fireplace was also the easiest place for the plumber to put it.

So, now the gas line is in place.  The plumber even filled the hole around the pipe with a cement compound that was color matched to the brick, and painted the pipe to match.  We’re very happy with the results.  The next step is the insert itself – at a minimum cost of $3k – but I think we would actually want the $3.5k version.  We’re going to be living with this for a LONG time, if fate is kind.

Home Improvement victory . . .

Actually, this is a post about two different things, but I’m starting off with something we’ve spent nearly a year working on.  You see, last July we decided to repair the doorbell on our house.  We went to Home Depot, looked over several different bells, and selected what we wanted.  We even got a new button and transformer, so that whatever was needed was already available.  After that, all we needed was to find someone who would install it.  We thought that would be the easiest part.

HA!  The first couple of people we talked to couldn’t do it.  We tried calling contractors, who said the job was too small for them to mess with.  We tried calling a commercial electrician corporation (literally, they have divisions that do HVAC, commercial electricity maintenance, and more) – they also said it was too small a job for them, even though they have been doing our HVAC service for 4 years.  We talked to every handyman we knew – they wouldn’t mess with it.

Finally, my wife was in the parking lot of a locally owned hardware store, buying organic eggs from a farmer we’ve bought from for a few years now.  He happened to mention that he used to be an electrician, and she asked him if he might be interested in doing this job.  No, but if we really wanted to find someone good who would do it, just go inside the store and ask one of the clerks who they would recommend for it.  She did, I called.

Last night we heard the doorbell ring for the first time. Yes, it is installed and working.  Here is the weird part – that job that nobody wanted to do?  It used all of the parts we bought, and cost us $35 in labor.

Next – today is my daughter’s 29th birthday.  Priscilla, I hope it is a happy one, wherever you are.

Neither her mother nor I know – last we heard she was somewhere in the deep SW USA (Arizona or New Mexico) but she hasn’t contacted either of us.  I know she doesn’t think much of our advice most of the time, but seriously, I would be more concerned if she never disagreed with us.  Just don’t be dishonest with us.

A very busy day . . .

Yesterday was a busy day.

First, the city arrived and put in our 2 new trees (both elms, which will eventually provide afternoon shade for the new sidewalk).  They are in the ground and happy (I think?).  Late last night, Gaia even took care of watering them.

Then I had to call my wife to let her know I was calling an HVAC repairman – at 0900 it was 5F degrees hotter inside the house than it was outside the house, with the A/C turned on.  They arrived at around 1400 (2pm).

Shortly after noon, our mowers arrived – one of them, anyhow.  He told me that his son and daughter-in-law (the other 2) both fell off of a ladder 2 days before while working on some guttering (they also have a guttering and downspout business).  She was about 10 feet off the ground, and landed on the concrete driveway.  He was higher up, but a garden table partially broke his fall.  Both were rendered unconscious by the impacts, but they are doing alright now.

Then the HVAC repairman told me that the problem was 2 parts of our system quit working.  Both could be replaced, but he didn’t have either part on his truck.  One was a capacitor, the other was a circuit breaker.  He has capacitors on his truck – but not for 27 year-old systems.  So, he had to drive out to a supply store to get the parts.  It was all working again before my wife got home from work.

Oh, and though it’s a minor detail in such a busy day – I got an email from the eBay seller we bought a covered litter box from – you really DON’T want to know why we needed that – with a tracking number.  Testing the tracking number at 1430 told me that the package had already reached Lenexa, KS at noon.  While it MIGHT have been able to get here by the end of the day, I was already expecting it to arrive today.  Yep, I was right on it not arriving yesterday, at least.

Oh, and somehow during all of that I still managed to fit in a workout on our new weight bench (despite the severe temp and humidity – there was a storm system wrapping itself around our area all day).

What a week . . .

I have quite a few updates to share.

First – yesterday I went to see the VA again about my migraines.  I’m now fully convinced that they can’t help me – but they would love to know why I won’t just roll over and do as I’m told.  They don’t like ex-service men who think for themselves.  We’re supposed to be broken of that bad habit in Basic Training.  Too bad I was ready for the mental component of the course.  LOL!

The doctor wanted to put me on a prescription for gabapentin.  He actually wrote it – but I didn’t talk to a pharmacist so I didn’t get the prescription before leaving.  A good thing, as it turns out this is another example of doctors using a drug that was FDA approved for one thing (in this case, it’s an anti-convulsant for epilepsy) to treat something else (migraines).  It should be illegal to use any drug to treat something it wasn’t specifically approved for.  Oh, and check this out from an official medical website:

You may have thoughts about suicide while taking gabapentin. Your doctor will need to check you at regular visits. Do not miss any scheduled appointments.” 

http://www.rxlist.com/neurontin-drug/patient-images-side-effects.htm

The good news, though, is that my weight is down to 211 – officially (because they don’t like to take a home scale’s word for it).  Well, actually, it was 217 with my shoes on, but my shoes weigh 6 pounds and I usually weigh without them.

On the sidewalk through our yard – the trench is now dug and the framing has been started.  There were a few hiccups along the way – the backhoe broke the water line & the encasement for the water meter – so we had some repair cycles rushed through.  It’s all good now.  They even managed to save the 2 trees I had started to believe they were going to need to remove.

Since the 17th I’ve had a rib out of place, just a little bit but enough to hurt, in a spot next to my spine.  It’s managed to do a good job of keeping me from sleeping more than a few hours at a time – but I have an appointment today to get an adjustment and it will all be good soon.  I’d have seen the chiropractor for the adjustment sooner – but he has been out of town on vacation.  His first day back was the day I had to go to the VA.  Part of me thinks I should have stayed home and went to the chiropractor.

But – hey!  Major bonus!  When I got dressed to go to the VA yesterday, I put on a pair of jeans I’ve been saving for over 2 years.  I haven’t been able to fit into them for that long – but yesterday I put them on and didn’t even have to fight with them to fasten them shut.  They just fit.  It is really nice to be (well, more than) 35 pounds lighter than I started 2015 at.  And it’s all due to the Paleo Diet.  I’m not dropping the weight fast (and still would like to lose another 35 pounds) – but it is going, and a pound every week or two is a perfect pace to maintain.  My blood sugar levels are fairly stable, I’m not starving myself, and I get to eat real food.  There is no down side.  The real muscle that has been hidden under the fat is starting to show again.  I like it.

There goes one window . . .

We’ve had our heater turned off for a few days, due to nice weather.  This morning it got down to 36F degrees outside, and it started to feel chilly inside, so I turned the heater back on.

After about 15 minutes, I heard a really loud bang, and then a weird noise that sort of sounded like the cats trying to get through the barrier to the laundry room door.  Except the cats were both upstairs.  So I turned on the light and looked, and saw water (or something) running all over around the heater.  That was when I turned the whole system off, and after talking it over with my wife, we called an HVAC service company.  It took 3 different calls, but someone called me back and said he could take a look – and their company rates are $98/hr. for after-hours service calls.

Sure we can afford it, by taking money away from replacing a window.  I just wish that I hadn’t turned it on – because the afternoon high today is supposed to reach 73F degrees.