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.

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Continued home improvements . . .

I realize that sleep deprivation and nearly endless pain have made my usually sharp memory a bit more dull, but I seem to remember writing a while back about trying to get our fireplace fixed so we can use it for winter heat.

Well, I FINALLY got an explicit explanation of what made the fireplace “unsafe to use” – it seems some of the bricks in the enclosure are cracked, and the mortar is crumbling, in addition to the chimney liner being cracked.   There is no easy repair.  To make the fireplace able to burn wood again, we’d have to get a mason to tear out the fireplace and rebuild it.

Well, we looked around at other options, and selected a fireplace insert that runs on the same gas that already came into our home for the hot water heater and the furnace.  Except that, being brand new (as opposed to being installed in 1973) it will be FAR more energy efficient.  It cost us about $300 (I think) for the gas line to be run to the fireplace, and the insert itself cost us $3500.

As of Wednesday morning, it is installed and fully operational.

On other updates: I continue to be amazed at how the Dawn Redwood tree I planted in our yard is doing.  Less than two years ago, it was only 2″ tall when I planted it.  It is now over 3 feet tall, and the bottom branches have a diameter nearly equal the height.  It is looking GOOD.  Also, because of all the rain we’ve had this year, the trees the city planted along the new sidewalk grew so tall and so fast that I had to cut some off the tops to keep them from getting top-heavy.  Both are already starting to provide some (albeit small amounts at this stage) shade to the sidewalk, exactly as planned.

Annual Physical . . .

Yesterday was my annual physical at the VA.  I have a few very interesting updates relating to that.

#1.)  The doctor was suitably impressed with my weight loss.  We’ve been trying for over 5 years to get my weight under control, but last year when I got my annual physical I weighed in at 237 pounds, and at the hospital in Fayetteville a few months earlier I had hit the magic number of 248.  He asked me last year what I had done to drop 11 pounds, and I told him about my starting the Paleo Diet.

Well, yesterday I weighed 199.3 – with my 6 pound tennis shoes on.  The weights I record in my progress notes other times I’ve blogged about my Paleo progress have been on my home scale without the shoes.  So, my actual weight is closer to 193.

#2.)  The neurologist I was seeing in Fayetteville told me it was alright to take Excedrin with the Imitrex when I need extra help with a migraine – but he didn’t tell me that he put it in my treatment records that he feels PART of my problem is my irregular sleep pattern.  I wish knowing that could help, but it actually doesn’t.  The migraines are part of the CAUSE of the irregular sleep pattern.  I can’t figure out which magic wand to waive to suddenly start getting a solid 8 hours at a time every day.

#3.)  I had a rather humorous exchange with the doctor about my arthritis.  I was limping rather seriously while I was there – a combination of extreme cold and impending foul weather made my left hip and knee irritated.  He saw it, and asked if I wanted him to prescribe a cane.  I laughed – and told him that I have 5 canes at home that I can’t use anymore. When he asked why, I had to remind him that I have arthritis AND bursitis in my left shoulder now.  When the hip and knee are acting up, so is my shoulder.  He laughed at himself briefly and admitted that I was right.

At that point, he inflamed another concern – by asking me if I was ready to start thinking about hip replacement surgery.  I’ve been holding my breath, metaphorically, expecting this conversation to begin sometime.  I have thought it through pretty thoroughly, I think.  I told him that the door is certainly open on that discussion, but I’m not ready to face it just yet.  Then I reminded him that the REASON I have arthritis in my hip is that I had a bone tumor near that hip in the femur, and if we did a hip replacement we’d have to replace the whole femur with it.  He thought about it a few seconds and agreed.  I’m not ready to face a surgery that huge just yet.  I’m not sure I ever will be, but I know I don’t want it right now.

#4.)  My blood pressure continues to confound establishment medical professionals.  The basic rule of thumb, that I was told in 1981 when I was a US Army Medic learning to perform annual physicals, is that the top number should be the patient’s age plus 100 (or less).  That rule of thumb would make anything below 154 on my BP acceptable.  What confounds the doctors is that I’m 53 years old, and my BP is a raw 120/82 without any medication.

Thoughts on joining the PS4 generation…

Well, I guess it had to happen.  One of the games I play fairly often is DC Universe Online – aka: DCUO.  While I played it on the PS3, there was a limitation that I was terribly frustrated by: higher-leveled characters could use area-of-effect (AOE) spells and powers that just flat toasted my PS3’s graphics card.  The images would lag, load slow, or in worst-case scenarios the image would totally pixelate and the system would lock up.  It wasn’t just my system either – this was a problem lots of PS3 users would talk about in chat.  It has long seemed like the only remedy is to upgrade to a PS4.

In addition to that, there was another game, The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO or ESO) which a friend and I have been trying to play together, because we both like the series that preceded it and we can interact in real time even though he’s in Florida and I’m in Kansas.  ESO is not available at all on the PS3, but it IS available to the PS4.

Put both of those paragraphs together, and it was inevitable that I would eventually get a PS4.  About a week ago, I found a listing on eBay where a guy had bought a special (meaning more expensive than normal) edition PS4 as a present for one of his kids, only to find out that the kid didn’t like Star Wars (it has a  Darth Vader silhouette  line sketch on the outside of the box).  So he was selling it (still NEW, in the box) for over $100 off the usual price so he could get a different one as a Christmas present for the kid.  It seemed to me like a win-win, I get the PS4, his kid gets something he likes.

The PS4 arrived ON Black Friday.  I also ordered (via eBay) a copy of the ESO game for the PS4, from a different seller, that arrived at the same time.

First off, the setup process was a LOT more cumbersome than I thought it needed to be.  When I put in my PSN log-in information to access the account I had set up while gaming on the PS3, it went to a loading-screen that displayed a polite little animated swirling circle with the words, “PLEASE WAIT” – and stayed there for over 24 HOURS.  I still don’t know what it was trying to do, but I finally gave up and hit the “Back” button to escape whatever it was doing, and moved on.  Most of my trophies, friend contacts, and other such information seem to have been transferred alright, but I’m still not entirely pleased.

It seems that ESO has some sort of partnership with SONY beyond just making a version of the install software for the PS4.  ESO is a massive, multi-player, online game.  That is all that it is.  There is no game without being online and logged in.  But, ESO won’t even install on the PS4 unless you ALSO have a PSN Plus subscription.  The only real difference between ESO and DCUO is cosmetic, but DCUO was originally released for the PS3, and so does not require the Plus subscription.

I’m pretty disappointed with the PS4, overall.  It is not backwards compatible, which means that none of the games I already have for the PS3 will play on the PS4.  There are no PS4 versions of any of those games, except for Dragon Age: Inquisistion, which I don’t really care for because it’s so different from the other Dragon Age games it should have a different name.  I looked in the Playstation Store, and there aren’t many PS4 games at all, and the ones they do have aren’t games I want to play.

So, it seems that the only reason I now have a PS4 is to play DCUO, or take advantage of the social networking stuff.  If you have a PS4 and want to add a new friend, leave me a message with your ID, and I may hook up.  I would just put my account name here, but automated spam-bots troll the internet specifically looking for things like that.

Weird updates . . .

  1.  The sidewalk is complete – well, except for the fact that they didn’t get the back-fill of dirt along the sides done, nor did they manage to get the new driveway cement to tie-in to the old driveway.  There is about 6″ of crushed rock filling the gap between them.
  2. Our refrigerator has been – misbehaving? – for about a year now.  We tried getting the thermostat replaced, but the freezer compartment just doesn’t want to keep things actually frozen.  So, Friday afternoon we went out to Home Depot and looked around, and bought an upright deep freeze to put beside the refrigerator to handle the freezer duties.  The old freezer compartment will now be used for cold food storage that doesn’t need to be frozen.
  3. Thanks in large part to the new windows – our electricity usage went DOWN by 1,000 kwh last month, as compared to the same month the year before.  Now if we could just get the electric company to quit hiking the usage rates every time we decrease our usage . . .
  4. We recently discovered that, after about 9 years without access to this type of service, there is a new chiropractor in town who specializes in functional medicine.

Shaking my head… (UPDATED)

I’ve posted numerous times before about how the universe almost seems to behave like it is sentient when arranging things to challenge my plans.

Take, for example, today’s plan for getting the new windows installed (if the contractor keeps up his end of the schedule).  If I behave as if he will still arrive to begin the installation by around 10am, I still will have to shut off the A/C to allow him to work – on the day the weather forecast says will be the hottest one this week.

Sometimes I think the universe is deliberately testing me.  I hope I’m getting a passing grade . . . . . (grin).

UPDATE:  Last Thursday, there was a crew working down the street with a cement saw, cutting driveways and curbs to get ready for the new sidewalk.  Naturally, our driveway was no problem – until they tried to cut the apron.  It was poured with a cement that had crushed silicon rock added – they killed 3 saws trying to cut it, and didn’t get it cut.  There isn’t even a natural crack in it – and it’s over 50 years old.

Of course, the universe has a master plan.  The crew came back this morning to try again.  I had to run out and ask them to keep an eye out for the contractors for the windows, explaining that it took me over 6 months to get those windows ordered and scheduled for installation.  They were very understanding and glad to help by letting the contractors past when they arrive (if the apron cut isn’t already finished by then).

Some updates…

Yesterday afternoon, the mowers came by to cut our lawn.  In compliance with an agreement we struck about 2 weeks ago, he also took down the 3 screen windows that were covering the 3 windows we’re getting replaced on the 30th.  So, everything is ready.  Let the installation commence.

I’m still looking into options about Grandma’s funeral.  I think I’m going to call my next younger brother and see if he’s going to go.  If he is, I’m going to offer to help with his gas if he’ll pick up Dad on the way.  Part of the reason is that the window installation was already scheduled, and might cause a conflict, but, I don’t really see any point to deliberately putting myself in a situation that isn’t going to be pleasant or helpful for anyone.  If I go, I’m likely to get thrown out for causing a disturbance when the minister starts in with the hellfire.

Paleo Diet update…

Back when I started the Paleo diet, I weighed in at 247.8 pounds.  I wasn’t just fat, I was obese.  I could easily loose 50 pounds from that, and would still be overweight; that’s how heavy I was.

And I felt it, too.  I was sluggish, had no energy, and had random back & knee pain nearly all the time.

Yesterday evening, my wife made the observation (out loud) that she thought I looked smaller.  So, I checked.  The scale reports that I am now down to 214.0 pounds.  Without strenuous exercises that I am not supposed to do, due to a weak femur bone in my left leg.

Yes, I’m still overweight.  Yes, I still experience lower back pain (likely due to how much “gut” I have out front).  Yes, I still get pain in my knees.  But, losing the weight can’t hurt anything, and I’m starting to be able to think more clearly.  In fact, I have blisters on my fingers again – from putting the “Rocksmith” game disc in my PS3 and resuming my efforts to learn how to play a guitar.  It’s been over a year since the last time I felt up to doing that.

I made a new word . . .

Monday, my wife and I made a trip to a regional VA Hospital for a neurology consult – evaluation of my migraines.  Just routine stuff, really.  Nothing to get excited about.  And yes, the doctor did confirm the diagnosis of “migraine headaches”.

But, the funny part was that, while we were driving home, my wife saw something that used to be a living animal on the side of the road and stated that she thought it was an opossum.  I replied that it might have been that, or it might have been a “carmadillo” – an armadillo that had an unfortunate meeting with a car.  She laughed for several minutes after that one.