Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Labor Day Fun

This was perhaps one of the best Labor Days I can remember in a long time. That's not to say the last
few have sucked or anything but this one had the right combination of just enough to do to keep busy but not too much to be overscheduled.

Nightingale had taken most of last week off in an attempt to get the house better organized and work on some pet projects and also maybe engage in some personal she-time (massage, pedicure, etc).  However, Boris and Natasha decided to get sick and couldn't go to Daycare on Wednesday and Thursday, which blew a lot of that out of the water.

They were healthy enough to go to Daycare on Friday and Nightingale managed to purge a bunch of toys from the attic and other play areas.  We dropped off a big load at the Salvation Army on Saturday on the way to Taste of Polonia.



For once, the weather was just right for this event.  Not too hot, not too cold, no rain (well a little late afternoon once we decided to leave).  We put our kids in the bounce house and they spent a good combined 3 hours there burning off energy.  Last year it was too hot and it had rained the day before so the houses were a little waterlogged.

The other thing that made it easier as it was just us.  While we love meeting up with someone, the downside to that is balancing agendas.  Since it was just us we didn't have to worry about seating for a lot of people or who wanted to do what.  We just took turns looking at things and then spent a boatload of money on Polish food. 

I did run into a pseudo-friend from the No-Name Software Company.  This was a person who I thought we were better friends but I overestimated my value.  A couple years ago at the annual event, we were chatting and she asked if I was staying for dinner.  I wanted to catch up and get the backstory and company gossip but didn't realize that she was just making conversation.


Sunday it rained in the morning so it wasn't conducive to go outside.  We let the kids stay in which was more for our benefit than theirs.



On Monday we met Katness at a pool in Wilmette and even though it was colder than normal, we managed to make it until about 2:45 pm.  Then we went back to her place and had a cookout for dinner.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

August MPD update

I had this sorta but not so crazy idea that for the month of August I would try to run 2 miles a day every day.  This would theoretically bring me to 62 miles for the month which would not only get the 31 miles needed for August, but would also knock out the 18-mile deficit and give me a 13-mile surplus going into September.

Life doesn't quite work that way but as of right now, I have 23 miles for 19 days of August.  With 12 days left in the month, I need 26 more miles to break even.  Given that I'm not getting runs in on the weekend, it is more realistic that I get the remaining 8 miles for August and chip away at the 18 mile deficit, perhaps halving it.

July was hot, hot, hot.  My beautiful green lawn is now a burned yellow hay patch.  I also had some knee issues so I took a strategic week off to see if that would make a difference.  I ended up with an extra 7 mile deficit that I probably could have made smaller just by doing 1 mile per day on the treadmill.


Month      Goal Actual
Jan-Feb 59 59
March 31 25
April 30 18
May 31 38
June 30 30
July 31 24
212 194


Why I think I'll succeed:  If I can go into September only being 9 miles behind, I should be able to catch up.  I run more during the fall when it's cooler and I don't have yard work or outside chores to compete with my free time. 

Why I think I won't:  I hate having to follow a schedule and there are days when I just want to kick back and not go out for a run or do anything. 

I'm averaging 28 miles a month so I should at least pass my usual 300 miles per year.


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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Stage 5: install quarter rounds on the six steps

I finally got around to buying, painting and installing the quarter rounds for the front porch.  I wasn't in a rush to finish this project, but I didn't think it would still be technically going on this year.

To be fair, last summer every day was either brutally hot or very wet.

Anyway, I bought the quarter rounds but didn't get around to painting them until this year.  I was pleased to find that the local Crafty Beaver not only had them but would cut them to size.

For a while, I thought my nail gun was broken.  Turns out it was just a faulty battery and I had a spare.  But the nails kept jamming.  Turns out that while nailguns prevent you from putting the nails in upside down, they cannot prevent you from putting them in backward.










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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Under the deck project

For a long time, I have wanted to address the situation under our back deck.  For whatever reason, whoever installed the non-standard sized deck, they didn't put down a decent foundation.  I suspect it was both costs and the desire to have the pool water go somewhere.

Anyway, I gave myself a challenge: do what I can with minimal monetary investment.  Kinda like when Nicole Curtis of WHATEVER does the I'm not gonna put a lot of money in the backyard because I spent too much on the 6th fireplace in the 2nd guest bedroom.

Anyway, the first thing I did was put down some weed guard.  This required me to temporarily remove and then put back the assortment of different sized pavers we had back there.



I was going to leave this go until mid-summer when I know the big box stores have clearance sales and I could get extra-large pavers dirt cheap.  However, my neighbor is having his basement re-done and they had bought a large number of pea stones.  Actually, the next size up of rocks.



Anyway, after they used all they needed, the doofus who is doing the work asked me if I wanted them and I said sure.  It was about 10 wheel barrels and naturally, the cost was I had to take all of them.





I was also able to repurpose the stones from the fireplace we removed from the basement.


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Friday, June 21, 2019

MPD goal update

On January 1st I weighed myself and, if memory serves, I was about a sandwich shy of 220 lbs.  Most of that was holiday bloat and water weight but I have been upwards of 210 lbs longer than I can remember.  I'm not a spring chicken and I don't run piles of miles like I did in my 30s.

BTW what is it with spring chickens?  do they just have some amazing superpowers?

anyway, I did my usual running which abated the weight but then I was also able to work in some weight training which turned the corner and brought me down under 210.  Of course, I lost momentum and consistency and oscillated between 209 and 213 for a few months.

Recently, I found that I was consistently at 210 or just below and this corresponds to logging 38 miles of running in May.  I was able to not only cover the mileage for May (31) but also the March deficit (5) and even tack on 1 extra mile to chip away at the April deficit (18).

Today I weight 206 lbs which would be a fluke except last week I weighed 208 and 206 on consecutive days, so I think it's safe to say I'm getting down to my driver's license weight of 205 lbs.

Today is the 20th day of June and I have logged 17 miles.  I'm 14 miles behind on the MPD goal.  That means in the next 10 days I have to run 24 miles just to be on pace at the halfway point of the year. 

Today is the 21st of June (and the first day of Summer) and I have logged 21 miles, including today's 4-mile run.  I'm 11 miles behind on the MPD goal.  That means in the next 9 days I have to run 20 miles just to be on pace at the halfway point of the year.

There was a time when  I could have easily knocked these miles out.  now each run is a struggle.  


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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

My Through the wall air conditioner problem

One of the warts of our house is that it does not have central air conditioning.  I've looked into installing some form of cooling system but it has always been cost prohibitive.

In the Master Bedroom of our 106-year-old house, we have what is known as a Through-the-Wall air conditioner.  What some crazy or visionary previous owner did was take a window and seal it off to hold this unit. It is a very old, Sears Coldspot.  How old?  When you google the model number you get refrigerators because Sears stopped making these around the time Nixon resigned.



 While it still works in the "it turns on" sense, it doesn't produce cold enough air if the temperature reaches a certain point.  That point being the temperature one would turn an AC unit on.

It's hard to find anyone who works on these units these days because most homes have central air or at least SpacePak.  Or if it doesn't, people are buying cheaper window units.  But lo and behold, I found a recommendation on my local Facebook neighborhood group for a place that does this type of service.



I called Bob and from our initial phone call, I had a gut feeling I would not be happy.  I'm willing to adhere to the "respect your elders" up to a point.   I don't believe this Missionaria Protectiva gives someone a free pass to be abusive, or even just a plain old dick.

Bob cut me off while we were talking.  I was trying to ascertain whether it was worth his time to look at my ancient AC unit.  He said that he can usually do something to get these older units going and I believed him.  What I should have done, and he confirmed onsight, is send him a picture of the air conditioner.  I mean I did tell him it was a SEARS Coldspot and anyone in the business should have bee able to say "hey they haven't made those in at least 20 years!"



True to his word, he called me the morning of and said he was 45 minutes away.  About the time I was expecting him, I looked outside and saw a service vehicle driving so slowly down the block, obviously looking for my address.  He actually called me and I said "I see you, park in my driveway".  Older than the proverbial Methuselah this is a guy who probably shouldn't be driving at all, let alone a service vehicle.

I'm not making fun of him for his age.  I'm making fun of the fact that he obviously doesn't like doing what he is doing these days.  It would be one thing if he loved his job and didn't want to retire.  But it is clear that he is only doing this because he either made some bad life choices or experienced a series of unfortunate events.

He did not want to answer my questions.  To be clear, I didn't ask about his grandma's favorite sex position.  I asked about the AC unit.  He cut me off.

At first, it seemed my only options were to replace the unit which will run just short of $1000.  Or I can try to convert the opening back to a window, which will probably cost nearly as much.   I'm inclined to replace the AC so that we get some relief this summer before we put the house on the market.  NG feels that a window looks better.  The problem is, it isn't possible to put a double pane window that will open enough for a window AC unit, which is why someone used this solution in the first place.

So after feeling sorry for myself and my $109, I did some research.  After watching a dozen Youtube videos, along with the one thing that Bob showed me -- how to remove the existing unit -- I feel confident that I can buy another Through-the-Wall and install it myself.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

The goal is easier if you do the homework


A month ago I wrote about the unofficial goal of running 365 miles this year, or a MPD (mile a day).  After that post, I didn't run consistently for the rest of April.  The start of May wasn't runtastic either, but I have started to right the ship.


  • Jan Feb  59
  • March    25
  • April    18



as of May 13, 2019, I'm at 116 miles including today's 2-mile treadmill run.  For the MPD goal, I would be at 133 so I have a 17-mile deficit.  With 18 days left in May, that means I need 18 + 17 = 25 miles to get back on target.  That is in addition to the 14 I have already run this month.

There was a time when that would have been five 5-milers or three 5-milers and a 10 mile LR that I could have completed in a week.  Those days are gone and I really should have made more of an effort to get a few more runs in since that last post.

My body isn't gonna handle running every day, even if it's just 2 on the treadmill and I prefer outdoor running especially now that the nice weather seems to have arrived.

If I take tomorrow off, then run 3 outdoors, that covers me until May 17.  I could even take Thursday off and then run Friday, assume 3 miles and that covers me to Monday.  If I get another LR in on Saturday, that would cover me for that upcoming week. 

Update:  after drafting this, I did a 4-miler on the 15th but then was not able to get out for a run since.  I did a 3 mile run today (5/20).  That gives me 21 miles for May and I'm still in decent shape goalwise but it would be better if I built up some miles before taking another long break.  My plan is to get the 31 miles for May and 6 more to cover the March Deficit.  June will be about chipping away at the April deficit.

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Green, green grass

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, I put down some sod on the mud hole in our backyard.  As this was my first effort doing something like this, I wasn't trying to do a spectacular professional job.  I just wanted to cover the mud so my kids would stop playing in it.  Of course, it snowed the next day.  The rest of the week was warm and I watered the sod as needed.


I had bought just enough sod to cover the whole with nothing to spare and it wasn't a perfect fit.  I also didn't remove enough dirt and only used one bag of fertilized dirt when I really should have used two.




The following week we were in Mississipi but it rained a lot here.  In fact, it rained so much in April that I hardly ever had to water the sod myself.

So after the better part of 4 weeks, I'd say the grass looks good.  Yes you can still tell where the sod ends and the old grass begins but I fathom that will dimish in another month or so. 






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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Running Goals and a little math

For this year's unofficial running goal, I decided I wanted to log 365 miles, or essentially a mile a day.  While I cannot run every day because of my knees and my schedule, I can manage every other day.  I can also get in one mile on the dreadmill if I really want to make a game of it.

With DailyMile gone, it's a bit more effort to track.  I'm using STRAVA right now which torments its free users by making things harder than they have to be.  Example: you can manually enter an activity, but if you make a mistake on the date, time or distance, you have to delete and start over.

Update:  Apparently, this isn't just with the free version either.  There are various threads in the support community about this exact issue and how Strava refuses to address it.



At the end of February, I had run 59 miles so I was right on target.  I missed some time in March because of sickness but still managed 25 miles and with three 3-mile runs under my belt so far in April, I'm on track.

So by my math, as of April 10, 2019, I'm at 93 miles for the year, including today's 3-mile run.  If I actually ran a mile a day, I'd be at 100 miles so I'm only off by 7 miles.  I'm hoping I'll get some running in when we go down to Olive Branch MS for Easter.  But even if I don't, it shouldn't be too hard to make up the missing miles.  And again, this is just an unofficial goal.  Some days I just don't feel like running and after a decade of being a slave to a training schedule, I kinda feel like I deserve to not run if I don't feel like it.


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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

2019 Shamrock Shuffle recap

2016: didn't take a picture this year
I've run the Shamrock Shuffle every year since 1997 except for 2007. I've run this race in lousy weather, hung over and even once after an 18-mile training run the previous day. I've always enjoyed it because I use to run it fast, set new personal bests and knew lots of people at the event. There was often a lot of post-race partying as well. I'm starting to think it is time to let go of the tradition. Surprisingly, it's not the race fee that is driving this. And it isn't quite my ego...I know I will never duplicate my PR of 31:03 (April 2, 2006). But I am feeling my age, as the elders like me say. Physically, when I run more than 3 miles, my bones start to rattle. No, what is really driving this is the event is no longer my playground. Yesterday morning after I checked in my gear, I didn't see anyone I knew until about just before they closed the corral. In years past, I would have seen so many familiar faces.
To be clear, I'm not rushing into anything. I do have a couple of friends that still run it and we meet up afterward to have our token beer and then some coffee, and if time permits, brunch. But if we move, I don't see myself driving in from Barrington or flying in from Memphis to run this thing.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Spring is arriving

A week or two ago, I said to Nightingale that Spring is coming.  I elaborated that yeah we would probably get one or two light snow powderings (we did) and it wasn't shorts and sunscreen weather but we could safely downgrade our winter coats from parka to jacket.

So I haven't done my usual beginning of the year project post yet.  I've actually completed a few so far.  I installed a new toilet in the first-floor powder room. This project was more complicated than it had a right to be.



First off, I was willing to pay a plumber to simply fix the running water by simply replacing some old parts within the toilet.  I know that isn't worth their time so I tried to sweeten the deal but agreeing to replace the basement toilet.  I got some takers but they were so expensive it just wasn't worth it. 

One company wanted to charge me approximately $1K a toilet with a service plan.  Colossal waste of my time.  I have to remember from now on when I use Yelp to find vendors, ignore the phone calls.  The point is so that I can look at offers, not get phone calls from people trying to talk to me over the phone like I'm a teenager from the 80s.

I ended up buying a toilet from Costco and doing it myself.  I had actually asked my cleaning lady if she had a recommendation and she sent me a picture of one while she happened to be at Costco.  It was on sale for $180 and included everything you need, although I sprang for a non-wax ring and I have to admit, my in-laws were right about that.

And luckily I bought two because the tank connector leaked water after being connected to the water supply.  Had I only bought one toilet, I would have had to take it back, but instead, I swapped out the good tank and brought back the second toilet.  The basement toilet, which works fine but has some cosmetic cracks, will have to wait.

I also hired a plumber to fix the leak in the upstairs bathtub faucet.  This was worth the $230 ($40 per cartridge and $150 service call) because I would not have been able to do it as quickly and efficiently, or really at all, as a professional.  This is the exact reason I try to do the things I can so that I can shift my limited money to pay for situations when I have to outsource the work.


In the basement, we got rid of the wood burning fireplace.  While I had that crew in, I also splurged and had them work on the leaky shower.  It isn't perfect but it is better than it was.  Total cost for that project was approximately $1600. 




I really hope that is it for now.  However, I know there are some more coming.  I need to finish those quarter rounds on the porch and maybe touch up some of the paint.  Next, I need to power wash the stone pavers and the house.  I will do this in two jobs.  I also need the gutters cleaned and re-balanced. 

I want to get the area under the deck landscaped so it looks pretty when we try to sell and also so that it is less maintenance. 

Finally, we had to address the crown railing on the top of the front porch. 


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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Sometimes we are heard

I wrote a post the other day and didn't really do the usual promote it on social media thing.  Yet somehow, one of my favorite writers and fellow CN bloggers noticed.  

I enjoyed your latest post on social exclusion. It's very relatable but I'm sorry you experience that. I'm in a constant group chat with a group of 5 girls I went to high school with and I feel that "otherness" all the time and it's unfortunate. Keep up the thoughtful work :)

She wrote to me on Twitter  Direct Message which isn't the best way to get ahold of me, but it is her preferred method of contact and it does work.  Honestly, I wish she would have put the comment on the post since that helps the post gain internet currency.  Being a fellow writer and blogger, I would have thought she would understand that.  On the other hand, I suppose a DM is more permanent than a comment that a user can come back and delete.


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Thursday, January 31, 2019

DailyMile is going the way of the DoDo

I've been using the DailyMile website to track my running since December 2011.  It served its purpose but I can tell that the site is sorely in need of code updating, which it will likely never see because whoever is/was behind it, couldn't figure out how to monetize it.

DailyMile came too late to the game.  This would have been a wonderful thing in the early 2000s when not ever runner had a Garmen or other GPS watch device and would have loved a simple tool to keep track of their mileage.

In lieu of the expensive GPS watches, a lot of us runners used a poor person's tool at USATF.   This clumsy website was just good enough to let you map out a route and share with others, although most runners, I suspect, just used it to figure out how many miles they just ran.

Had it partnered with USATF, perhaps it could have found its niche.  Instead, when DailyMile came on the scene, it tried to be like if Facebook if Facebook were a Running App.

I'll keep using DailyMile as long as it is free and available but I suspect it will be sunset in the next few years.  There are other apps I could use and will likely do so since my Garmen is about to die.

UPDATE:  Not too long after I published this, I logged into DailyMile to post that day's run and saw this message




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Polar Vortex visits Chicago

Yesterday was the coldest day perhaps on record for Chicago and many parts of the midwest.  Public Schools and our daycare were closed as they are today.  It is understandable in one sense.  Many people have rough commutes that would expose them to unnecessary dangers of the cold.



My unpopular opinion is that many people are acting as if this is radioactive fallout instead of cold air.  That's not to say that you can be outside for prolonged lengths of time without consequences, severe frostbite comes to mind.  But you can survive going from your home to a car and to a heated building if you have the ability to do so.  If you have to wait for a bus or train in the elements, that is another thing entirely.  Still, as long as you bundle up and the wait isn't too outrageous, you will survive.

Meanwhile, I was able to take yesterday off but am working today.  I didn't want to take two days of PTO even though I have the hours, I'd rather use them for something else when the weather gets better.

I WFH 100% so most days I'm in workout clothes to start the day. I drop the kids off at daycare and then get back home just in time to start the day.
On a good day, I go for a lunchtime run and then check in and see what is on the agenda for the afternoon. My team is EST so sometimes that run is at 11 CST, sometimes at 12. If I put it off past 1pm, I just don't want to do it.
I get back and usually, there is a call or issue I have to address. Therefore I don't get to shower until 3 or 4. So I'm basically in "street clothes" from 4 until bedtime which, with two rambunctious preschoolers, never comes soon enough.
#TheStruggleIsReal






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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

New Year, New Office

This is a picture of my new desk.  It's actually a used Ikea Micke desk I picked up on Facebook Marketplace.  It is replacing the larger, bulkier rolltop secretary desk we bought ages ago.  We sold that on Marketplace as well.

Ironically, this is the second Ikea Micke desk that was available.  I was going to purchase one from someone but had to hold off because the attempt to give away my rolltop desk fell through.  That's right, I was going to give the desk to someone for free but she couldn't take it for, reasons.  Thus I was able to sell it for $50 (I paid $80 four years ago).



With a laptop and decent WiFi, I can work in almost any room I wish around the house.  And when the weather gets decent again I do plan to sit on the porch or back deck for parts of my workday, or even the garage.

But there are times when you just need a traditional desk, especially if you want to hook up a monitor for an extra screen.

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