Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Stairs ... a little machining...

Stairs ... a little machining...  So this evening I jigged up a router template (first photo) to cut one of the grooves in the bottom of the stairs, just the big landing step for now.  Both steps are in the pipe clamps.  The other clamps are holding the jig in place, and the bags of lead shot are ensuring that the jig lies down flat on the step.  In the second photo you can see the result after I ran the router through the template (but before I cleaned up).  It took three passes to cut a half inch deep groove, 1.5" wide.  I cut the groove a tad longer than it actually needs to be, so that the rib will fit in nicely without worrying about the radius of the router bit.  After I cleaned out the groove with compressed air, I did a test fit of the rib – perfect fit!

Let the trenching begin!

Let the trenching begin!  I've been trying for two years now to get sprinklers installed in our yard.  I could write several thousand words just describing all the various things that have gone wrong on the three separate attempts I've made.  But today is a red-letter day on this project, because today the first trenching on the project occurred.

If I were to stop right there, you'd think that great things were likely happening.  But about 30 seconds after I snapped the last photo below, an alarm started sounding on the skid-steer – the engine coolant was approaching a critical high temperature.  Oh, noz!  A little quick detective work on Mark T.'s part showed that there was a coolant leak, and that the coolant level was low.  Mark tells me that today's work is the first time any of this gear has been used since last fall, and he's had coolant leaks develop over the winter before.  So now he's off to get some more coolant, and to gather his tools to find and fix the leak.  Sigh.

Ignoring that little problem, though, his trenching machine is a pretty cool little gadget.  It's powered hydraulically, through the enormous hydraulic pump on the skid-steer: 24 GPM vs. the 5.5 GPM on my tractor, despite the nearly identical horsepower rating of the machines.  The teeth on the trencher drag soil to the surface, where an auger scoots it out of the way to the left of the driver.  It makes a very neat trench about 6" wide, and it does so quite quickly compared with a backhoe.  On the other hand, it can only do skinny little trenches – if you need one any wider than 6", you're out of luck...

Paradise ponders, Medicare edition...

Paradise ponders, Medicare edition...  So yesterday Debbie and I visited Sam Winward, our health insurance agent.  He's been very helpful to us the past couple of years, helping us navigate the (many) challenges of Obamacare insurance for older individuals.  Yesterday was the day we'd set aside for him to educate us about Medicare.  I turn 65 this year, so it's time for me to join that system.  Sam told me last year that I was really going to like switching to Medicare, so I wasn't too worried about what I'd learn today.

Though there are a mind-boggling number of options available (unlike with Obamacare!), it didn't take long for us to home in on a low-deductible Part F plan.  While this was the most expensive option available, the price is so low (roughly $400/month for me, $265 of which is the baseline Medicare premium) compared with our current plan, and the benefits so much better, that it was basically a complete no-brainer.  When I say the benefits were so much better, I mean: nationwide network of providers, no deductible, no co-pays, large drug formulary, no caps on hospitalization or physical therapy, and so on. 

How is this even possible at such a low cost?  Well, fundamentally it's because of two things:
  • The baseline Medicare premium is heavily subsidized by the Medicare taxes we all pay on wages.  For me, that's a little over a quarter million dollars over my working life.  That's far more than would be required to subsidize my health insurance, so as an above-average wage earner my taxes subsidizing a lot of other people's insurance as well.
  • The Part F supplemental is mainly insuring against the risk of exceeding the baseline Medicare's caps (especially for hospitalization).  That part of it resembles an old-fashioned major medical policy – the kind of policy I really wish we could have now instead of this #%^(&$# Obamacare policy we have.
Anyway, obviously Sam was right.  The health insurance situation under Medicare is way better than as an ancient Obamacare individual who isn't broke...

Right after that meeting, we went to Los Primos for what is becoming our Tuesday afternoon ritual: a meal of their outstanding beef and vegetable soup.  After we'd seated ourselves, the waitress we see most often (but who wasn't serving us yesterday) came over to say hello.  We ended up having a nice discussion about, of all things, stuffed peppers.  It turns out that stuffed peppers are something of a Salvadoran specialty, and they're making them on Friday.  If they're anything like these, they look great!