Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A touch of the Writer's Block

It is probably very obvious that I haven't posted much here lately.  Usually by this time of year, I've surpassed my lowest years (2010 and 2011) of published posts.

Writing in the morning works for me because I have access to a brain that doesn't exist any other time of the waking day. Think about what the brain was doing just minutes before that alarm clock went off. It was dreaming. Creating storylines with strange plots, strange casts of characters, and no real sense of a structured plot. That's the brain you can tap into at five or six o'clock in the morning. Peak creativity. -- Chris O'Brien, Medium Rare.

I have been in a slump since the start of the year. First off, my daytime paying job has been busy, stressful and more demanding than usual.

Time for grilling
Second, I'm going through what I refer to as the Groundhog Day Phase with my kids.  Everyday it's pretty much the same thing:  Fight with them to wake up in the morning, get them dressed and off to daycare.  Then scramble to get to work at a time that is in the ballpark of "Start Time".   Hope that things are quiet enough that I can leave on time and meet my wife at daycare and bring the mini-tyrants home, feed them and fight with them to go to sleep at a decent time.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Finally, as the quote above suggests, I do my better writing first thing in the morning these days.  But my mornings are chaos and by the time things settle down, the day is half over and my energy and creativity are depleted.  

On a side note, I've opted to take advantage of my job privilege of flexible schedule and working from 
Home more often.     I should probably cancel my gym membership.    

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Monday, April 9, 2018

These old letters are pensieves and horocruxes

I've been working Project Ancient Letters since September of last year.   These letters have lived in a box that I've carried around from apartment to apartment, condo to house.  These old letters bring back memories long forgotten. 

Some people can look at that box and just say yeah I don't need these anymore and toss them without reading them.

Some people will re-read them but still throw them away. 

Then there's me. My original plan with these letters was to re-read them and then pitch them.   But someone suggested that I scan them which seemed ridiculous at the time.  But then I realized that I have free access to an industrial sized scanner at the office and had no set timetable so why not.  I'm certainly becoming very good at working that scanner.  If my current job doesn't work out, I guess I can find work at a Kinkos.

These letters were very much like Pensieves (or Horocruxes in some cases), transporting me back in time. 

I just scanned the last ones before the end of last year, so now comes the next phase.  Returning them to the senders that I'm still in touch with.   I'll keep a few that have some special meaning for me, at least until the next time I need to clear some clutter, and the rest get bonfired.

It's interesting how people will reference something I obviously wrote in a previous letter, or perhaps mentioned on the phone, but it is just vague enough that I cannot tell what we are talking about.  I can see traces of when my confidence started to erode and my depression setting in.

If I had the bandwidth, I'd write a post about some of the key writers.  Maybe I still will even though I've already returned some of the letters to their senders.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

One More WiFi device at this house

I purchased a Zmodo Greet Wifi Video Doorbell With Beam Smart Home Hub And Wifi Extender off MorningSave at the start of the month.  As is my life, I only today got it installed.  The device cost $59 (plus $5 shipping) and to get a professional electrician to install was another $95.

I probably could have figured out how to install it myself.  But I don't think I would have done as good a job of mounting it as the pro did.

To be honest, I'm a little disappointed in the device.  I don't expect a lot from certain tech.  It's nice if it has extra bells and whistles but I generally buy something for a specific purpose and if it is lacking in functionality that would make that tech meet that need, I feel cheated. 

The camera does not come with a zoom and tilt.  Also, I would expect the part that attaches to the actual doorbell to be more modular, so that you could swap out for a more enhanced version later. 

I'm still tinkering around with it so maybe there is a way to get some zoom or tilt.  Stay tuned.



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Friday, March 23, 2018

Deck Rail Project

We’re having a cold spring here. The relentless chain of nor’easters probably has something to do with it.. In late afternoon, it’s usually in the mid to high 30s, and with the sun out, that’s not too bad.
It’d be a gift in January, but in late March, it feels like I’m being robbed of something. And it’s all because of the light. We’re well into Daylight Saving, and I’d like to take an outdoor run from time to time, maybe work in my garage or backyard, but it’s so cold. And I'm so old.

This time of year when I need to address home improvement projects.  We have many.  We can only take on a few.  So I have to choose the ones that add value to the house, or more realistically maintain it.  Secondly, things that improve the comfort level while we are here.

This year's big spends will be replacing the railings on our backyard deck and if there is any money left over, some type of cooling system, either split ductless or space pack, because I'm tired of window units and NG is tired of them too.   Included in that, we hope, will be some resolution for our cold basement.

I actually tried to get this resolved last year but I contacted people who like to build new decks, not do maintenance on them so it didn't go anywhere and I updated the electric panel instead.

So I reached out to my neighborhood handyman, just asking if this was something he did or if not, could he recommend someone.  He wrote back saying:

"My guys are tied up and will not be able to get to your work in any kind of timely manner."

Thus I was told, in the coded language of handy man customer service, to go fuck myself.

so then I decided to use Yelp to find a handyman who could do this.  I got almost a dozen responses.  Even though you include all your information, most of the responses asked for numbers and addresses.  I sent pictures, descriptions to both the Yelp proxy and the email addresses they gave, and even texted a few people.  I narrowed it down to half, based on my sense of whether they truly understand the scope of the project.




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Sunday, March 18, 2018

March weather

Every so many years, we get an early spring in Chicago.  This year is not one of them.   St Patrick's day was too cold to take the kids out to see the parade given how much of a hassle it is to take them out in public when we have to these days.  

It did warm up enough to let them play in the yard for about half an hour yesterday when the sun was shining upon our deck, though the temp dropped quickly once the sun went behind my neighbors tall evergreen.


Today will be in the 50s but the rest of will barely crack 40s. Next Sunday's shamrock shuffle looks to be a tights over shorts day.   I prefer that because my cold weather tights have pockets but I hate the shivering afterwards.   

We missed good weather though because Natasha was feeling a bit under the weather and wanted a nap.  She insisted that I nap with her and since I was up since 2 AM, I obliged.  Of course the sleep I got was not quite enough.    


There are some around the house projects I need to get started on but I need the weather to be just slightly warmer without being too hot. 

Chicago Weather always subject to change....unless you need it to



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Sunday, March 4, 2018

New garage door opener

A month or so ago our inner garage door opener started failing.   The last time I had maintenance on it I was warned it would happen.    They predicted it would happen soon so going more than six months turned out a small win for me.

We made the decision to replace both door openers so they would theoretically be on the same Life Cycle.  Plus that allowed me to get the latest bells and whistles.  The doors open from a single remote so no more having two different remotes in each car.  There is also a phone app that lets me check the status and also open or close them.  No more driving around the block because my inner voice says Dude the door isn't closed.  


The surprising feature is just how quiet these doors are.  The Craftsman we had on the alley door was fairly quiet already (the Genie not so much) but these Liftmasters are practically silent. 




















The only downside is that I was told that I could only get a 3/4 HP opener if I wanted these features and was quoted a price.  What was installed was a 1/2 HP opener with the features at the same price.  Unfortunately I don't have the bandwidth or the chops to call and complain.

Also, the installer did a great job but he threw lots of stuff that could be recycled into my neighbor's garbage bins.  Not cool Robert's Garage Door Professionals.




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Monday, February 26, 2018

Just another weekend

The intervals in posting both here and at ChicagoNow are the longest gaps I've had in a long time. A confluence of events have created a Perfect Storm of obligations that left me with no time or energy.  

This weekend I found a nice buy at the Salvation Army which motivated me to start working on the laundry room.  I finally laid down a portion of the Proslat tile I bought three years ago (almost to the day).  

It appears that Proslat tile has gone the way of the dodo so shame on me for not just buying more at the time, especially of the color i wanted.  Lesson learned.

I was also able to do a little O-P  Organizing and Purging.  I managed to get rid of lots of useless things I've been keeping in the garage and my work area looks a lot nicer.  I hope to continue and get my tools better divided between the garage and the laundry room.  

May not reflect final location
Winter seems to be retreating, with the usual skirmishes as Winter does.  While there have been a plethera of warm days these last two months, generally this time of year the day starts out cold and by the time it warms up enough, I'm too beat by work to go for a lunch run.  Soon I will be able to drop the kids off at daycare and then do my run before work.   Assuming the kiddos cooperate.

We actually got the kids dressed and downstairs by 655.  We left the house at 710.  By the time we left Daycare it was 725.  We get in our train at 745.  we get to Washington Station at 8:10 and ten minutes later I'm at my desk.  And this is a good day.

on the plus side, my scale says I'm 208.8 lbs today!  I want that to drop closer to 200 but it's a bit better than the nearly 220 I was clocking near the end of last year.  I have one month before the Shamrock Shuffle and I need to get more consistent running in just so that I can run it non-stop let alone defend my preferred start that I keep getting thanks to legacy status, which may not last forever. 

This time of year when I need to address home improvement projects.  We have many.  We can only take on a few.  So I have to choose the ones that add value to the house, or more realistically maintain it.  Secondly, things that improve the comfort level while we are there.  This year's big spend will be some type of cooling system, either split ductless or space pack, because I'm tired of window units and NG is tired of them too.   Included in that we hope will be some resolution for our cold basement.  

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Tuff and Needle Matress Two Years later

I didn't even remember I had wrote about the new mattress until I got a form letter email soliciting that I do something to help someone else, without any benefit to myself.

It might be a coincidence but pretty much from the day the new mattress arrived, the kids stopped sleeping in their cribs and began sleeping with us.  I tried removing the railing and turning their cribs into a makeshift toddler bed.  The novelty of that lasted about a week.  Then I bought them their bunk bed, which also was cool for about a week.  They have slept with us pretty much for the last two years.

Sometimes I take one kid into the guest bed, which has been moved to their old nursery, nee my old office.  Sometimes both of them come along.

the winter is in retreat, with the usual skirmishes as it does so this time of year.  Good thing too because my electric snow thrower bit the dust a few weeks ago.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Snow Days are great except when they are not

It started snowing last night just as we got home from work and continued through the night and the better part of the day.  As far as snow storms, the one that just occurred in Chicagoland isn't even in the top 10.  However, it did suck just the same because....

A lot of businesses closed included our daycare so we had to keep our kids home.  This would have been okay since Friday is my normal WFH day and NG got to WFH as well because of the conditions.  However, she still has to take pages and give consultations over the phone while also writing notes.

On top of that, at work we are having what's known as a Major Outtage.  This involves everyone getting on a phone bridge and not being able to leave their computer until things are settled.

On top of that, I missed the text from my Director asking for my help at 10:30 pm last night because I was already asleep because we are so sleep deprived around here that we rarely stay up past 9 pm.  I didn't have my phone upstairs because I don't want some random call to wake us once we do get to sleep.

On top of that, my kids are being fucking douchebags typical 3 year olds and not wanting to behave and just watch TV.  They see their parents home with them and want attention.

So yeah, this day has sucked.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I'd like to add crunches but I'm not there yet

I'm doing this little thing where I do 10 push ups every day.  To make a game of it, I am allowed to miss no more than one day and I have the option of making up missed days as well.  I could even do 10 push ups at 11:55 pm, then do 10 at 12:01 am and not have to do a set for almost 48 more hours, but that requires staying up late.

I've missed a day here and there.  Not sure exactly how many but at least one per week.  So let's call 26 out of 31 an 84% or a B on the old grading scale.  I will state the obvious: the push ups are easier the more frequently I do them.  In fact, skipping a day now and again seems to actually help.  My long term goal is to get to the point where I just do some push ups every morning without thinking about it and if I miss a day, no big deal.





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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Welcome 2018 goodbye 2017

So what has been happening?  Obviously my posting here dipped substantially 2017.  Mostly because I was focusing on other things in the real world and the bulk of my writing was done over at ChicagoNow.

My days are of the Groundhog variety, mostly consisting of me getting the kids to daycare, getting to work, picking the kids up and dealing with them until it's time to go to bed.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  If I'm lucky I have a slow enough day at work that I can draft a post and get a lunch time workout in, that's a win.  

I still intend to keep this site and post here as much as I can, but it will be more archival, historical things to look back on, like an old fashioned weblog versus the writing practice that is my ChicagoNow blog.

According to FB On This Day here are my miles for the years:

  • 2017  304
  • 2016  301
  • 2015  300
  • 2014  374
  • 2013  702
  • 2012  804
  • 2011  495
  • 2010  661*
  • 2009  344*
  • 2008 1100
Update:  I was able to find most of the missing years.  I don't believe Daily Mile was a thing in 2009 and 2010. Luckily I had uploaded my Garmen data to Strava and was able to get some of the numbers from 2009 and 2010.  There are suspicious gaps in the Strava log as well.  Perhaps I didn't run with the Garmen all the time or the data wouldn't upload for that segment.  or maybe I was doing the No Need to Log miles if I'm not training thing.  And that's fine.  It's probably reasonable to suspect that the graph of miles versus years is linear moving downward.

It makes sense because 2008 was the year I foolishly ran 3 marathons and needed to take 2009 off.  I ran the 2010 Chicago Marathon so there was probably more mileage there. 

I managed to get 300+ mile goal in well before the year ended, in spite of hardly running at all in July and squandering the last 10 days of November.  I think this year I won't have a hard goal other than to just run as often and as far as time permits.  I'll just run when I can and see where I am each month.


Right now I'm home with two sick children.  We are in a phase now where they do not want to go to sleep on time and thus don't want to get up on time.  It doesn't help that they are not getting much outside activity to wear them down at daycare because of the weather.

During our trip to the South, Nightingale oscillated from wanting to move down there to realizing it wasn't the right answer.  We could get a really nice house for not a lot of money and be in an excellent school system.  But my feeling is that I don't belong there, can't fit in and won't be welcomed, thanks in no part to my my newest brother-in-law (who I will call Jethro Clampett).

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