Tuesday, November 29, 2016
After breakfast we stopped at Smith's downtown so the girls could go shopping for Under Armor. They came back with shopping bags and excited faces. This is a phenomenon that I still just do not comprehend (having fun while shopping).
Then we went for a drive up to Hardware Ranch. The temperatures were in the low 20s, the scenery wintry. We expected the road to Ant Flats to be closed, but it was still open – so we drove a few miles out to Miller's ranch, wildlife spotting. We saw dozens of elk, a few deer, a bald eagle, an American dipper, and a raptor that we're pretty sure was an osprey (it was far enough away that i couldn't positively ID it). A very nice drive it was, with beautiful scenery in every direction.
Today's the last full day Jimmy and Michelle will be with us, darn it. Tomorrow we take them to the airport so they can go home...
Monday, November 28, 2016
Yesterday I did a little work on the deck electrical wiring, but it was just plain too cold and nasty to work for long. I gave up and came inside, where I spent the day with Debbie, Jimmy, and Michelle eating, cooking, and playing games. A nice day. :)
Sunday, November 27, 2016
the four floodlights is rated at 7,000 lumens, using 5,000K LEDs (actual power consumed is about 80 watts each). We mounted oak panels to the 8x8s holding up our deck roof, then mounted the floods to the panels. The result looks great, and it's strong and stable.
We were expecting snow last night, but it didn't materialize. Instead we got relatively warm rain, which melted most of the snow already on the ground. The forecast is still calling for 4" to 8" of snow between now and tomorrow night, though...
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Thanksgiving leftovers are a good thing. Ours were complemented by homemade turkey noodle soup, with the broth coming from our Thanksgiving turkey, and the noodles handmade by Debbie and Michelle. Oh, yummy, it is! And there are a few quarts more of this ambrosia in our refrigerator right now...
Jimmy and I worked outside most of the day on the electrical wiring for the deck. We didn't get nearly as far as I'd hoped, mainly because I made some mistakes that had to be undone and then redone. At this point we have one duplex outlet installed on the house wall, a pair of switches on the house wall, and the switches are all wired up. I can turn on the deck lights and the flood lights separately. Or, more accurately, if I had the lights wired up I could turn them on. :) Right now I just have the end of a wire that I can energize on command! Today's first order of business is to mount the flood lights on their oak panels. Then we'll start actually wiring some things up...
That's in between eating leftovers, of course. I started with a slice of apple pie with my tea. Wonderful apple pie, made with Jonagold apples that stay crisp after cooking, and enough cinnamon to start a cinnamon distribution business...
Friday, November 25, 2016
The electrical work we did on Wednesday (mounting the boxes) is in the first photo below. Most of what we did yesterday is in the second photo. That circuit breaker box on the right is getting mounted “right” – on an oak board that's affixed to the house's sheathing (instead of the siding as it was). Toward the bottom you can see a duplex outlet mounted that same way, and toward the top you can see where I'll be mounting a pair of switches to control the deck lighting. The smaller inner hole is where the metal electrical box fits, and the larger hole exposing bare wood is where the oak board will be mounted. I'll caulk the siding where it meets the oak board, and that will give me a waterproof mounting that's affixed to solid wood instead of the relatively flimsy siding. I've got things like this to fix all around the house; the original construction was done by mounting stuff right to the siding which I think is pretty darned shoddy. It would have been easy to do it right in the first place, but it's much harder to fix after the fact...
Today (and tomorrow) I'm going to keep plugging away at this. I'm hoping to have the outdoors work all done before it gets too darned cold to work.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Yesterday Brad H., our painting contractor, finished putting the first coat of red paint on our new front door (the exterior door of the mud room. It's going to be gorgeous! Debbie seems really happy with the choices she worked out with Brad for which bits of the door will be red, and which white. Tomorrow Brad expects to get the exterior of the mud room painted, which means our house will then appear to be complete from the outside as you drive in. That will make Debbie very happy. :)
We left for Salt Lake City late in the morning yesterday, along with our friends Jimmy and Michelle. The provocation for the trip was an appointment with Debbie's endocrinologist (more on that below). After we finished with her appointment, we headed to Wild Birds Unlimited which is the closest source I could find for the bird seed I use in one of our feeders. I discovered last year that these “no mess” seed mixes, with the right seeds, fruits, and nuts included, attract birds to the feeders that we otherwise wouldn't see. It's also not as expensive as it looks, as it's 100% edible food (unlike, say, sunflower seeds which are about 25% edible) and it doesn't get eaten as quickly as regular bird seed. For us, the “no mess” part is just an added benefit, not the main draw. They had the seed in stock, but only a few bags. The staff there fell all over themselves to help me out when they realized I was going to buy them out. It was a shopping experience that reminded me of what we used to run into in San Diego all the time, a bit uncomfortable for me, and very different than in Cache Valley. I can't imagine the staff in stores here ever being so deferential and obsequious, just friendly and curious. :)
Then we traveled north for 10 miles or so to eat. If you've been reading this blog for a while, the photos below will tell you where we went: the Red Iguana. Once again, it didn't disappoint – great food, cheerful and helpful servers, and old friends. That's a very difficult combination to beat! The first dish below was mine: a pair of luscious sour cream chicken enchiladas slathered in strawberry mole sauce (one of the specials). Yum!
Our drive home from Red Iguana took nearly double the usual time, as it was either raining or snowing the entire trip. As we climbed up out of Brigham City into Sardine Canyon, and then back down into Cache Valley, we had big, fluffy snowflakes dropping constantly. The snowplows were working in the canyon. The last few miles of the drive we had to go quite slow because the intense snowfall limited our visibility to just a couple hundred feet. It was after dark, so the headlights reflecting off that falling snow really impeded visibility. We drove by some houses in Hyrum that already had a beautiful display of Christmas lights up, and of course in the white snow they were really nice.
When we got home, Debbie and Michelle started baking pies for our dinner today. We've got a yummy looking apple pie in the refrigerator, and a pecan pie in our microwave. There's also a giant turkey (23 pounds!) defrosted on our kitchen island, and as I left the kitchen the girls were working on the stuffing. That kitchen is going to smell good today!
My brother Scott will be here in a few hours, and Jimmy, he and I will stay out of the girls way while they make our dinner. The three of us will be puttering away on the electrical wiring for our deck, in between sampling the goodies emerging from the kitchen.
On Debbie's endocrinologist's visit: some good news. If you've been following her medical journey, you'll remember that the last thing she heard was that the drug that would help her the most (Forteo) was apparently causing her potassium levels to drop and her calcium levels to spike up. Her endocrinologist told her to stop using it until we figured out what was going on. That was extremely disappointing for Debbie, especially after the battle we went through to get her approved for that drug. In the intervening month, the endocrinologist made a discovery: there is an interaction of sorts between Forteo and another drug Debbie is taking (the active form of vitamin D), and taking Forteo obviates the need for that other drug. The interaction causes ... a spike in calcium levels. That means that most likely all she has to do is stop taking that other drug and she should be fine on Forteo. That is very good news for her, as it means faster and better bone regrowth. So she's back on the Forteo, and in a month she'll recheck to make sure her calcium levels are in the normal range. Her endocrinologist is not expecting any bad news on that recheck. That's celebration time for Debbie!
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Blogging will likely be slow for the next few days, as we work our guests' fingers to the bone...
Monday, November 21, 2016
Jimmy B. and Mike B. are both old friends from my Navy days, back in the '70s. It's hard to believe now, but I've known them both for 40 years. Jimmy is roughly my age, but Mike is downright ancient, being almost ten years older. :)
I spent most of yesterday working on the electrical boxes for our new deck's light fixtures. These fixtures will hang from a standard octagonal ceiling box. There are nine of the fixtures, and they will be arranged in a 3x3 pattern. Naturally, none of those positions fell into a place where the box could be conveniently attached to a truss. :) So to solve that problem, I came up with a simple design: a pair of 2x4 stringers that will be tacked to two trusses, and the ceiling box mounted in between them (photo at left below shows the idea). This approach lets me place the ceiling boxes precisely where I want them. The boxes are mounted at three different offsets, with three at each offset. I built them all yesterday, making the pile in the photo at right. You might note that the box sticks down below the stringers; that's because the builders are going to put a “skin” on the ceiling made of 3/4" thick tongue-and-groove wood, and I've mounted the boxes to be flush with that.
Today I'll be building two more assemblies very similar to this, to hold a pair of duplex outlets that will also be mounted on the ceiling (to the north, toward the yard). This will give us power out there, should we need it. There will also be a pair of duplex outlets mounted on the house wall.
Last night and this morning marked a couple of corners turned in our puppies' growing up. First one: Cabo (who has been sleeping in her crate in our bedroom) spent the night in the kitchen, in her crate, alongside Mako. She didn't cry at all. The crying was what prompted her staying in the bedroom; she apparently couldn't stand being separated from me. Now she's fine on that count; spent the entire night without making a peep. Second one: both Mako and Cabo were in their crates while I took a shower, and didn't howl. They've both been howling up a storm every time I took a shower, for reasons we've never figured out. One result of these corners being turned: I got the best night's sleep I've had in about eight months. I could use some more of that!
We've been feeding the dogs at night for quite a few years, generally just before we go to bed. One thing we've noted with the puppies (but interestingly, not the adults) is that they need to drink water a couple of hours after they eat. That means I've been needing to get up to let them out of their crates for a drink (which I did last night, for instance, around 9 pm). So we decided to change our feeding schedule to mornings, starting today. Not one of the four dogs seemed upset about getting an extra feeding this morning. :) We'll see how they handle not getting fed tonight!
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Last night our fencing contractor texted me to say that the back yard was now puppy-proof. This morning I walked the whole fence to verify that, and then let all four dogs out into the yard to play. Such canine joy! Miki didn't want to stay out long; the old man likes his warm house and soft bed. Race and the puppies, though, went into full-time, non-stop play mode. Everything in the yard is a potential toy. We've seem them tussling over rags left by the workers, a plastic soda bottle, and a willow twig. It doesn't matter to them; everything is a toy. :)
I made a run to Home Depot and a few other stores, grabbing some supplies for the great deck wiring project. This morning I've been sawing wood and testing whether my mounting design actually works (it does!). Much more sawing and screwing directly ahead.
First thing I did this morning, while it was still crisp and cool outside, was to break out my chain saw and cut down an evergreen tree we didn't want. It was in the way of the fencing guys completing the very last section of the fence remaining, which they will do tomorrow. I have fired up the chain saw in about 7 months, so I expected it to be reluctant to start. Second pull and it fired right up – thank you, Stihl!
Saturday, November 19, 2016
My brother Scott came over to visit and to test the pressure washer I bought recently. If it worked well for cleaning up old muddy driftwood, he wants one for his own use. He and I put it together in our garage, filled it with oil and gas, hooked it up to a hose, and lit it off. It worked great on my driveway for a couple minutes, then I handed the wand over to Scott to try on a piece of driftwood. Immediately it stopped working, doing a funny pulsing instead of a nice, steady high pressure. Dang it! Scott thought it had died, but after a couple more minutes of this intermittent operation it went back to working great. I suspect there was air in the 75' hose I used to hook up to it, and that took a while to work out. In any case, the pressure washer passed his driftwood test with flying colors, so we ordered one for him.
Scott saw the shipping crate I blogged about earlier today, and had a great idea: he can make that into a nice, insulated cat house for the kittens hanging around his cabin. We loaded that into his truck for him to take, along with a roll of the goat wire that our fencing guys have been removing from our fence. Scott's going to use that as an armature for some future concrete sculpture.
Debbie and I just got home from a very nice dinner at the Black Pearl, with a dessert of ice cream from Aggie's creamery. When we pulled in, we noticed that the deck roof had been “dried in” (waterproof underlayment laid down on top of the sub-roof). That means we're all set for the storms forecast for tomorrow night and much of the next week. Woo hoo!
Burton Lumber (the source of all the lumber we used in construction), so I ran up there to see if they could match it. They did! Given that the baseboard we were trying to match was installed 22 years ago, I think that's pretty amazing!
Speaking of the builders ... they've finished all they can do until I get the electrical wiring for the deck finished. Below left shows what our deck looks like now, looking out from our kitchen doorway to the northwest. The photo at right shows what the inside of the deck roof looks like at the moment – not so beautiful! :) My wiring will be installed inside that mess, and then when I'm finished the builders will return and put a “skin” of tongue-and-groove floorboards over the bottom of what you see there. All the interior framing will be hidden. Our builder was absolutely delighted that (for the first time in the entire project) he wasn't the long pole – it was me instead. :)
Later in the day we got a call from SSL shipping, telling us that they had a delivery to make. We were expecting this; it's a piece of furniture for our bedroom (more on that in a later post). He was driving a big rig, so I made arrangements to meet him out on the road with my tractor in ten minutes or so. I went out, got the forks mounted on the tractor, and drove out to the highway to meet him. As I arrived, a Corlett shipping truck (which we were not expecting) drove up and pulled over. He had a delivery, too – Debbie's office chair that we weren't expecting for another week or so. What a weird coincidence! The SSL truck showed up about 3 minutes after the Corlett truck left. That was very convenient – which it happened more often!
Friday, November 18, 2016
The romex cables I mentioned yesterday were handled expeditiously by the construction guys. For all but two trusses, they were able to stuff the cables behind the uprights against the house. For those two outliers, they cut a slot in the uprights, fed the cables through, then put a “patch” over the slot they cut.
When the builders finish putting the sheathing up (today, I'm sure), then it's time for me to wire up the patio. We're putting 13 lights out there, along with several outlets, on two independent circuits. That's quite a bit of wiring! Fortunately for me, a good friend (Jimmy B.) and his wife (Michelle) are arriving on Monday for a 10 day stay, and I'm planning to put him to work. :)
Thursday, November 17, 2016
One surprise for both of us when they pulled the soffits off that section: there are a lot of romex power cables in there! When they built the house back in '92, instead of running the cables through the studs, as you usually see, they're all run through this funny short roof section. They're using what would otherwise just be wasted space, so it's actually kind of clever. However ... that means our builder has a challenge trying to route these cables behind the trusses. Worst case, if he can't find a way to do it, we'll have to cut every one of those cables, route them through the trusses, and then reconnect them. That will be a big pain in the butt if we actually have to do it, so we're hoping that we don't!
I'm enjoying the way our builder is totally unfazed by anything unexpected we run into during the construction. This is probably the tenth such “surprise”, and he just calmly takes them all in stride. That's a great attribute for someone in his profession! :)
I had more excitement than I really wanted yesterday.
The first bit was excitement of the scary kind. I walked into our barn to get something and nearly passed out from the overwhelming stench of gasoline. This is the same barn that has a gas-fired boiler for heating. My first thought was the danger of an explosion, so I ran in and shut off the boiler. Then I opened every window and the big garage door, and set up fans for ventilation. No explosions. Phew! Then I set out to find the source, which was much harder than I expected it to be. I only have a few gas-powered things in our barn, and at first blush none of them were leaking. There's no gas can in the barn. On my second round of gas-powered tools I looked more carefully – and under my portable generator there was a puddle of gasoline. That thing has a fuel shut-off valve, so I shut that and trundled it outside to dry out. Then I used kitty litter to sop up the gasoline on my barn floor. A few hours later the smell was mostly gone, so I closed the windows and door, and fired up my barn heat again. I've never before had anything spontaneously develop a leak like that. I'd be happy to never experience that again!
The second bit of excitement wasn't scary, just a hassle. The builders sanded our new redwood deck yesterday morning, in preparation for the painters to show up and put a coat of penetrating stain down. The goal was to get that down before the rain and snow showed up yesterday evening. Well, the painters called and said they couldn't come out. Yikes! Freshly sanded redwood and rain on the way! Not only that, but we were depending on that coat getting down before the builder started putting up the roof (think dirty boots all over the deck). So I ran up to the paint store, picked up the last two gallons of the recommended stain that they had, a couple of brushes, and headed back home. By this time the wind was blowing hard and cold, and it was a bit nasty to work outside. Our builder took pity on an old man, and assigned a helper to join me in painting that deck out. It took us a couple of hours, but we got it done while the sun was still shining. Last night we got that snow, and the photo at left shows what saw when we woke up. At right is the “after” photo, after I shoveled all that sloppy, wet, white crap off my beautiful deck.
I'm hoping today is just a tad calmer...
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
- Filling in the trench associated with our new “filling station” (which, it's clear now, won't be finished this fall)
- Removing the backhoe from my tractor, and storing it in the barn
- Attaching the tractor's three-point hitch, and then the ballast box
- Filling the ballast box with gravel (this adds weight low in the back, to counter-balance the heavy snowplow in the front)
- Moving all the tractor attachments into the barn for winter storage
- Attaching the tractor's snowplow to the front
- Picking up and storing the 26 pieces of 3" irrigation pipe (most of them 30' long) that water our lawns
- Draining and coiling the 7 hoses (most of them 75' long) that we use to water the nether regions of our yard, and storing them in our outbuilding
- Picking up and storing our three tripod sprinklers
Later in the evening, Debbie and I took Cabo for her second puppy class. She did quite well in class, including being better-behaved around the other dogs (instead of barking all the time, she mostly just whimpered a bit). I think she just can't stand it when it isn't all about her! :)
There was some progress about the homestead, too. The tile guys showed up and finished laying the tile in the mud room – beautiful, it is. We are just amazed at how good these modern “wood-look” tiles look. It's modern technology at work: they start with a photo of an actual piece of wood, then use an ink-jet printer to reproduce that photo in glazes which are then vitrified into the porcelain surface. These are rapidly improving; in just a couple of years they've gone from two-color printing to four-color printing, greatly improving the result. Another improvement is the incorporation of some wood grain texture into the surface (even when it doesn't match the printing, it still adds realism – our perception is tricked into thinking it's actually wood). The tile guys will be back on Friday (after the tiles they were short on come in) to finish the sun room tile, grout the mud room, and repair the kitchen tiles where the door installers broke some. Then they'll be back on Monday to finish up the grouting in the sun room and kitchen, and they'll be done.
The painters showed up to evaluate our job and estimate it. We ended up agreeing to do a time-and-materials job, as it would probably be almost as much work to estimate as to actually do it. :) That's because we have a bunch of little things to do, and nothing big. We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that (a) they could come today to put a coat of preservative on our redwood deck, and (b) they can start on the rest of it next week. Woo hoo!
Finally, the guy we ordered our doors through showed up to take care of all the little problems we found with the doors. Three of the four doors had issues, and only one of them was something I could fix. The rest had assembly issues or missing hardware or missing screens. This fellow made a good list of all the issues, and promised that he'd have them all fixed within a few days. That would sure be nice!
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
So I got to wondering: just what fraction of the possible combinations of letters actually form English words? I know it's a small fraction, but just how small is it? I found a source that listed the number of English words of various lengths (the first two columns below), then whipped up a little spreadsheet to do the math:
Our tile guys took three steps forward yesterday, but two backward. As you can see in the photos, they did get quite a bit of tile put down. The first step backward was a materials problem: they ran out of the blocks of four small squares that are the centers of the pinwheel pattern in the sun room. They're on order, but won't be in until Friday. The second step backward was a mistake in the mud room. It doesn't show in any of the photos, but one entire row of the herringbone pattern was oriented 90° off. Adrian (the boss of the crew) noticed it was he was helping Jose (the fellow who laid most of the mud room tile) with some cuts. They called me over to see if I'd accept it the way it was, and I said “no”. Jose was very embarrassed. :) Adrian agreed with me that it should be redone, and they spent about an hour peeling up the incorrectly laid tiles (thankfully the mastic had not yet cured!). Adrian is the cheerful fellow in the last photo, and he looked like that most of the time – that smile is nearly permanently plastered to his face. Jose is the guy in the next-to-last photo.
Our fencing guys showed up for a couple hours and made some more progress. It looks to me like they've got two or three more afternoons of work to do, maybe even more – and the weather (see below) will likely stretch that out for a while.
I spent yesterday working indoors, on some finishing work inside our house. I caulked the interior side of our new kitchen door (leading onto the hypothetical deck), and then masked about half the inside glass off for painting. That was all quite tedious work. More fun was what I did in our bedroom. When the new door was installed in there, there was a gap left between the wood flooring of the bedroom and the aluminum threshold of the door. Unfortunately this gap was irregularly shaped, about 48" long but varying in width from 1/2" to 1". Worse, the depth of the gap was weird: about 9/16". I had a piece of walnut in my shop big enough to fill the gap, but it would require quite a bit of milling to make it the right shape. With some careful measurement and layout work, I was able to scribe 7 lines on the walnut that approximated the shape I needed, and then some freehand table saw work got that right. Then I used my planer to get the thickness right. When I plopped it into place it fit like a glove! All I needed then was some Watco and glue, and presto! we had a hole-less threshold. Now I need some caulk of the right color (just ordered) and the job will be complete. Nobody looking at that would have any idea how complicated it was to put that in!
Today is the last day of nice weather in the forecast, and therefore most likely the last day before winter sets in hard. Tomorrow we've got rain and snow in store. That means I have to scramble today to get prepared for the winter: putting tractor accessories in the barn, picking up hoses and sprinklers, preparing the snowplow, etc. I expect to be busy all day on that sort of thing, and tired this evening when we go to puppy class.
Monday, November 14, 2016
We're expecting tile installers, redwood deck builders, and fencing people today. Nobody's here yet, dang it.
We had something very nice happen last night, a simple little thing that's a great example of what we love about living here. A week or so ago, we mentioned to Michelle H. (our friend and house cleaner) that we could use some help getting the rug in Debbie's office flat. The challenge for it is several pieces of (very) heavy furniture had to be lifted to be able to move and stretch the rug. Michelle and I, with the aid of a big piece of lumber as a lever and a hi-lift jack, were able to get most of it. The rest, though, needed some muscle. Well, last night Michelle texted us that she had a crew ready to come help. A veritable horde showed up, including seven (!) well-muscled strapping lads – her sons and sons-in-law. In five minutes we had the whole job done. The entire time we were entertained by the smiling, laughing, and just plain happy family of Michelle. Good mom, she is. She's rightfully proud of the family she's raised, and we're grateful and privileged to know them. This area is fertile ground for that sort of old-fashioned, solidly American family. It's a very comfortable place for these two old farts to be...
We did indeed have our feast yesterday, prime ribeyes and baked potatoes. Yum! Miki and Race were very appreciative of the fat-eating and plate-licking opportunity thus provided, too. Race closed his eyes and groaned in appreciation as he cleaned my plate. :)
Today I wired the final payment for our Tesla Model X. They're consistently telling me “Early December” now. Given their past schedule estimates, that likely means late April next year, but I remain at least slightly hopeful that I'll see the car this year.
Macey's put turkeys on sale at a most attractive price, so Debbie and I are going to go grab us some for our freezer. The rest of the day I plan to be masking and painting our kitchen doors, on the interior side...
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Yesterday we had a feast of a different sort: burritos from a local Mexican food truck. This truck has the best Mexican food we've found in Cache Valley, and we've been eating there once a week or so. Their burritos are the best item on the menu. I generally get a carnitas (pork) burrito, and I'm stuffed when finished. Debbie gets a carne asada (beef) burrito, and sometimes can't finish it so I get some leftovers. This excellent food is prepared by a friendly, happy crew in a pleasant outdoor setting with lots of chomping people (including a good percentage of the local Hispanics) – and our meal for two costs $10. We combine it with a glass of Rosehill milk; a great combination.
Today we're having a feast of a different sort: I picked up two prime ribeye steaks at the same time I got the scallops. Macey's generally has prime ribeyes or New York strip steaks on the shelf. They're expensive, but they're also just as good as the best steaks I've ever had in a restaurant for far more money. We don't do a darned thing to them other than broil or grill them. In San Diego, in grocery stores frequented by people with plenty of money, finding a prime cut of beef was a rare thing. It's interesting that here, in a far less wealthy community, the local grocery store routinely has them in stock (along with a wide selection of choice cuts). It's true that even the good cuts are cheaper here than in San Diego, but still...
We have a morning ritual, the dogs (all four of them!) and I. It involves bananas. I take a peeled banana and a knife, and I cut off slices to drop into the drooling maws of a waiting dog. All four of them love bananas. The puppies are just learning to catch the falling slices, and they're not very good at it – they miss perhaps half of them. The big dogs are expert banana slice catchers, and rarely miss one. The big dogs now, however, are learning that a slice falling toward a puppy isn't necessarily lost to them. :) So now they intently watch such a slice, and if the puppy misses it they pounce. That leads to an outraged puppy. The whole affair is just hysterically funny to watch. When we're finished, and there's no more banana, the dogs are so disappointed...
Yesterday I got our laundry room put back together, ran to Lowe's to buy a bunch of window and door trim, then came home and got all the interior trim cut and installed for the our new door between the kitchen and the deck. Next step on that project is a whole bunch of masking, caulking, sanding, and painting. I won't be doing that today, though – today is paperwork day. I've got a huge pile of receipts, letters, bills, etc. that I need to plow through. Dang. So I've got the stereo playing '60s music, and I'm going to work...
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Last night I did something I don't recall ever doing before: I fell asleep with my iPad on my belly and the remnants of a glass of (good!) Scotch in the crook of my arm. Debbie rescued both the iPad and the Scotch, and I slept solid for about eight hours – a very rare thing for me, and very nice!
Lots of things yesterday; it was chaos central around the house. The tile guys showed up as promised, but quickly disabused me of any notion that they'd be finished on Saturday. It will be Tuesday before they're done, but that's ok. The two-man team is led by a Hispanic fellow named Adrian, who until three years ago lived in Escondido – not far from where we used to live. He even knew Jamul, as he had tiled a couple of homes there. Adrian was interesting to talk with about the recent election. Bucking the liberal stereotype of Hispanics, he's an ardent Trump supporter and loathes Hillary with spittle-splattering intensity.
I went through most of the day in a daze induced by sleep deprivation. In the morning, though, I did manage to paint over the repaired drywall in our laundry room. That came out great – you really can't tell that those repairs were done. That's an important lesson for me: I will feel much freer, now, about chopping through drywall to run plumbing or wires. It's not trivial to fix it up, but it's not the disaster I'd thought it would be, either...
Today my plan is to focus on trim, paint, and similar finishing details. I have things like this around our new (and wonderful!) dishwasher, in the laundry room, and around the new doors in our bedroom (to the sun room) and kitchen (to the deck).
Oh, and I have an excellent customer service story, too. We bought our new exterior door hardware from FPL. This is the same hardware I bought two years ago for our barn, and I've been very happy with it. One of the sets arrived with a broken metal part. This was no fault of FPL: they had packaged it beautifully, padded and inside two nested boxes. The shipper had somehow poked something through the boxes and plastic bags, long and skinny, like a long metal rod. I took a photo of the damaged part and emailed it to FPL, and the next day they shipped out a replacement part for me. It arrived on Thursday, and I installed that yesterday. You can't ask for anything better than that!
Thursday, November 10, 2016
I got the wiring all finished in our sun room, except that I could not mount the light fixtures as I had planned. The way the fixtures are constructed I would not be able to take them down for painting, then put them back up later (unless I were to buy 6 more toggle bolts!). So the lights are all wired up and ready to go, the circuit is tested, but they won't actually go up until next week after the painters finish. After I got the wiring done I spent the rest of the day cleaning up in the sun room and mud room, getting ready for the flooring guys who are due tomorrow morning.
Our construction guys were here all day today, starting at around 7:30 am when a big load of lumber showed up: 8x8s and lots of redwood planks. With the 8x8s in hand, the framing underneath the deck went up in a big hurry – the crew of three was all finished by about 1 pm! I took that last photo just a few minutes ago, shortly before they knocked off for the day. Tomorrow they'll be back to put the actual deck on, then comes the roof. Progress!
In the afternoon our fencing guys showed up. They're hoping to finish up cutting all the panels and building gates by Saturday, then early next week they'll screw them all into place. They believe they'll be done by Tuesday or Wednesday. The part they've finished so far looks glorious by comparison with what it's replacing; it will provide us with a nicely secure dog yard.
In the late afternoon, the wallboard repair guy finished the fix-it job to the wallboard I mangled in our laundry room. It's almost like magic the way these guys can make damage like that just disappear. Once that texturing is dry, I'll slap a coat of paint on it and nobody will know how I butchered that wall and ceiling!
Betsy's son Race lives with us today in northern Utah, along with three field spaniels and a ridiculously large collection of cats. When he first came into our lives, we lived in the mountains of Southern California, not far from the Mexican border. We drove from there up to eastern Oregon to pick Race up, and he had our hearts from the first moments we saw him. He was terrified at first - scary new people, strange brown dogs that were so slow, and lots of these funny-smelling things called cats. It took a few weeks for him to really settle into our household, but settle he did. It wasn't long before we'd often find Race in a pile with other dogs and cats, and he joined in the play along with all the others.
Debbie trained him to run agility, and the two of them were doing wonderfully until one day four years ago when Race slammed into Debbie's knee. She was badly injured (a tibia plateau fracture) and took many months to recover to the point where she could run agility again. Race was the proximate cause of the injury, but it really wasn't his fault - we could hardly hold him to blame for doing his very best in exactly what he was being trained for. But the risk for Debbie was too high, so we decided that she wouldn't run him in agility any more. That means Race became "just" a companion, but oh what a companion that boy has been!
Visitors to our home always marvel at Race's never-ending desire for play, especially to chase and retrieve something thrown. It doesn't matter to him what you through: a ball, a pine cone, or even a stone are all equally fun for him. He takes such joy in the chase, the catch, and the return - and you'll tire of it long before he does. He's been great with visitors, including kids, once he's sure they're not threats. While Race is making up his mind about that, though, it's best not to get too close. If anyone ever invaded our home (or our car) while Race was on guard, they'd have some mighty fast teeth and claws to contend with!
These days, of course, Race is an adult dog (eight and a half years old). His constant canine companion is Miki, our ten year old field spaniel. The two of them share a special contempt for our field spaniel puppies, Mako and Cabo - while occasionally condescending to play with them, too. Besides chasing thrown things, Race's favorite activities include riding with us on four-wheeling trips, walks through the country around our home, and swimming. Our field spaniels are supposed to be water-loving dogs, but we have trouble getting them into a stream or pond. Race, on the other hand, goes completely bonkers anytime he figures out that he's about to go swimming. He loves to bark and snap at moving water (as in a stream), and to fetch sticks thrown into a pond.
This morning as I had my tea and toast while reading the (depressing) election news, I felt something worming its way under my left elbow and into my lap. When I looked down, two big brown eyes were looking at me - and then flicking over to my buttered toast - and then back to my face. When I took a bite from my toast, there was a little piteous whimper from below, and a little drool. His tail was wagging furiously the entire time, of course. I did manage to keep a little toast for myself. :)
Dog people understand us completely when we say that we think of Race and our other dogs as our children. Others think we're crazy, and they may be right about that. It's our great privilege to have Race as part of our lives, and we're grateful for him every single day. Even when he eats our toast. Especially when he eats our toast...
In between dealing with all the contractors I spent the day working on the final electrical work in the sun room. In addition to the outlets, I got the lighting switch installed, one of the three lights almost finished. That leaves me with two lights to go, and then I can move on into the mud room. The siding is now finished around all my lighting plaques, so I can do the final wiring on the entire thing.
Our flooring contractor called yesterday to let us know that our tile would be arriving one day late – so they moved their installation schedule from Thursday/Friday to Friday/Saturday (tomorrow and the next day). The mud room and sun room will look much different after that!
I forgot to mention yesterday that on Tuesday night we took Cabo to her first night at her new puppy class. This one is held in Logan, much easier for us to get to. One of the things we trained for was really basic leashed walking, something both of the puppies are really bad at (they pull like little bulldozers). The instructor gave us some simple techniques for that training ... and within one lesson we see definite progress. That's the good news. The bad news? I can only train one puppy at a time this way, so our walks will now have to be with individual dogs. Lots of walks! I did a bit of practice on this yesterday with both puppies, and saw definite progress. Cabo is picking this stuff up much faster than Mako; she seems to be the smart one of the bunch.
Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment with the insurance agent who handles our health insurance. He was very sympathetic, and said that he's running into this giant rate increase with most of his clients who are between about 55 and 65 years old. If Trump really does repeal ObamaCare, the burden may be considerably eased starting in 2018, but for next year the high rates are pretty much locked in. We went over all our alternatives, and the best option we could identify was to switch from our current carrier (SelectMed) to the local Blue Cross/Blue Shield (called Regence) carrier, and at the same time switch to a lower-tier plan. The lower-tier plan will cost about the same as the plan we have this year (about $1,400 a month), saving over $1,000 a month in premium. The coverage is about the same as our current plan, but the out-of-pocket maximum is much higher. The best feature of this plan from our perspective is a much better network, one that includes every facility and doctor that Debbie is using. Our current plan doesn't cover her physical therapy facility, for example – even though it's the only one in Cache Valley that has the equipment she needs. If by some miracle we don't actually get near our out-of-pocket maximum, we'll actually save some money with this plan. If we do hit our out-of-pocket maximum, the total cost will be about the same as the higher tier plan.
The possibility (probability?) that ObamaCare will be repealed is a very disruptive threat hanging over the entire healthcare industry right now, including health insurance. I don't mean that it will necessarily be a bad disruption. But right at the moment, with no idea what would replace ObamaCare as a regulatory framework, the industry has no idea how to invest in their future. That uncertainty trickles down in lots of ways that people might not think about, from the economic opportunity (or lack thereof) in drug research investment to the wisdom of acquiring another treadmill in a physical therapy facility. It will be best for the industry if the government can move very quickly to repeal and replace ObamaCare. This is one of those times when making the decision quickly is more important than making the decision optimally (and this happens quite often in business). Moving quickly is not a notable feature of our federal government, however...
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
- Neither Trump nor Clinton made it to 270 electoral votes, Evan McMullin takes Utah (and it's electoral votes) and the election goes to the House where McMullin is the compromise candidate. In this scenario it doesn't matter who controls the House or the Senate. This was a low probability outcome, but not implausible.
- Hillary wins the presidency, but Republicans had firm control of both the Senate and the House. This was a recipe for total gridlock, which means no giant entitlement programs would (hopefully!) be enacted, and also no giant new tax scheme.
- Hillary wins the presidency, the Democrats take the Senate, and the Republicans hold the House. This is still gridlock city, but riskier.
- Trump wins the presidency, the Democrats take the Senate, and the Republicans hold the house. This is very similar to the preceding bullet in terms of legislative risk.
- Trump wins the presidency, and the Republicans had firm control of both the Senate and the House. This is a balance that could actually get things done, which is ... terrifying, given Trumps public policy pronouncements.
So we ended up with my last and least-favorite scenario. Prior to last night, with only the polling to go on, this seemed nearly as unlikely as the first bullet – and yet, here we are. My biggest fear at the moment is that Trump will actually follow through with his anti-free-trade babble, get it through the Congress, and cause significant economic damage in the process. My biggest hopes are that he does follow through with a repeal of ObamaCare, and that he nominates originalist Supreme Court justices.
Both Trump and Clinton gave exemplary, calm speeches after the election. It would be oh-so-pleasant if this spirit prevailed from now on, but I expect it to end around, oh, noon today.
I think my alcohol consumption is quite likely to go up over the next four years...
I spent much of my day cleaning the sun room. I had done this once before, prior to the drywall guys doing their job. The amount of dust, dirt, and debris they created is nearly beyond belief. :) I also cleaned the casements for the basement windows, which I had not done since the foundation for the sun room was poured. It was a good five hours of work to clean that little room well.
This morning I started the final electrical work in the sun room. I've wired the two duplex outlets (and they work!); next up is the lighting and switches for it. I'll be done with that in a few hours. On Friday the tile contractors will be here to install cement board and tile in the sun room, and tile in the mud room. Painters will be here early next week. We're getting close to the point where we can actually use those rooms. Woo hoo!
Monday, November 7, 2016
Our builder got here with three helpers quite early this morning, and they went to work on our new porches (for the sun room and the mud room). Forms were finished, rebar was cut and laid, and the concrete truck called. The result:
By tomorrow morning, those will both be perfectly usable. That means we can actually use the mud room as an entrance again. I've almost forgotten that used to mainly use that door!
After they finished the concrete work, the builders went to work on the deck in the back yard. The footings for this were poured so long ago that the cardboard forms had rotted! Most of what they did here today was invisible, along the side of the house underneath the back door. Tomorrow should bring lots of visible progress!
A few minutes after the builders left in the afternoon, Mark and Dave (our fencing guys) showed up and went to work installing the first 1/4" wire panels (visible if you embiggen the second photo below). These turned out just great – vastly better than the wire fencing we had before. Even our evil puppies will be unable to get through these!
While all this was going on, in between working with the contractors, I finished up the second dog food drawer in the laundry room. Then I put cheesecloth over the gaping hole in the drywall made by removing the built-in ironing board, and stuffed the hole with insulation. Much sneezing was involved with that – so dusty! I also put up some hooks, hung a dry erase board, and put a few other finishing touches on the laundry room. It's looking much better than it was!