Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So long 2013, we hardly knew you

This is the last day of 2013 and it is freezing cold in Chicago.  Perhaps Hell itself froze over, not realizing that the Bears did not make the post season, instead squandering an 8 pt lead over the Green Bay Packers with less than 2 minutes to go.

Chicago sports team disappointments aside, what can I say about 2013?  It was a year of change and transition and some growing pains.  We bought the new house and had to deal with all that comes with owning a SFH while also dealing with the dilemma of being reluctant landlords times two.  I don't think I wrote too much about those issues and I don't want to re-live them here.  First my tenant turned out to be source of stress and aggravation and then, or should I say simultaneously, Nightingale's tenant also became a problem. So suffice it to say that we confirmed that we do not want to be landlords for the long haul and my thought about keeping Nightingale's property as our "in town" for retirement.

This house too had its share of issues.  First off, we didn't have heat in our basement.  This was a minor problem resolved for $200 but that's $200 I should not have had to spend.  This problem didn't crop up during the inspection.  Then of course was the flood which caused financial hardship I'm still recovering from.  There's never a good time to have to pay $6K for a new sump pump and installation but it especially sucks after spending $1400 on furniture, $500 on a headboard and $1K for Financial Planning all on the same credit card. 

I'm not wired to take all that out of my savings so I have been slowing paying off a zero interest credit card.  Even with my year-end bonus a small grant from FEMA, I'm still $5K away from paying it off.  So that means no big screen TV for the foreseeable future.  What I really need to do and am about to do is go on major lock down and not buy anything I don't absolutely need.   That's not to say I was frivolous all summer, I was anything but.  However, I didn't hesitate to buy things like the new desktop that could have waited a few months when I saw a good sale.

On the job front there were challenges.  For one thing I had to deal with a PM who didn't want to manage the project at a PM level.  He was terrible at doing the basics of project management like communicating tasks, deliverables and expectations.  Of course I made the mistake of calling him out on it directly instead of letting the Natural Order of Corporate America take care of it.  He's gone and the project is over, but I'm now on my boss's boss's radar as a potential bad apple.  It doesn't help that I don't have a lot of work to do once my application is updated and stable.  We are trying to convert me to a BA or PM but that is a long process.

On a more positive note, I think I wrote some very good posts here in the early part of 2013 before succumbing to simply posting a picture and a few sentences.  I do more of my substantive writing at ChicagoNow and that's not a bad thing.  For the foreseeable future, I will continue to manage two blogs, with this one being the personal stuff and CN being the "hey world, look at me" blog.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to my readers

Even these guys needed alone time
We're in Michigan with the in-laws for Christmas and intend to return to Chicago well in time for New Year's Eve.  I say intend because weather or a last minute change of plans might cause us to stay beyond Friday.

I am attempting to use the vacation time from work to finish up some blog posts, both here and at ChicagoNow.  However, alone time comes at a premium at the Adama compound.  When the little monkeys are in the room, they demand attention.  Even when they are not in the room, they make enough noise that I cannot concentrate and I'll just shut up now.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, acknowledge or ignore. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

May have spoken too soon

Last month, I said that it should be realistic to reach 700 miles for the year.  That was before the cold front set in.  This time of year, it's dark in the morning until its time for me to leave for work, it's dark at night when I leave work and it's cold, especially this week.  While I'm not particularly averse to running in the snow or the cold, it does mean that I do more of my running on the weekends and WFH days.  At last count, I've got about 30 miles to go and there will be a good week when I'm up in Michigan drinking at the Adama compound. 

Is it still achievable? Sure.  But it is going to require some treadmill work this coming week since forecast is for cold.   I'm working on the assumption that I will be lucky enough to get a couple of runs in up in Michigan while the little monkeys are playing on their iPads.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Vendors we used for our Polish Wedding

Every so often as friends get engaged, I get asked about our wedding planning, specifically the various vendors we used.  So I figured I'd write a post about them and compile the contact info in one place so I can just forward the link next time I'm asked.  Laziness meet internet.  Note: I'm providing the info I have for these vendors.  I'm assuming if they have moved or changed anything, your Google-fu skills will be sufficient to track them down if you so choose to do so.

Where we got our bling!

For those who don't know, we officially became engaged on Halloween, 2010.  We tossed around dates to get married and realized 10-01-11 was coming up and figured we'd try for that if it wasn't too much of a hassle to get a church and reception hall on that date.  I called St Vincent de Paul which I was/am a member of and they were booked a year and a half out.


We used Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church because 1) I'm Polish and 2) we're catholic though not really practicing anymore.  My reason for wanting to use this church was if Poles like me don't start using it, it won't be around for much longer.  Luckily it was conveniently located to SIL West Town House and it has a large parking lot and is right off the expressway.  It was also available and cheaper than the more popular churches like Old St Patrick's and St Vincent DePaul.

Polska Misja Duszpasterska
w Chicago
1118 N Noble Street
Chicago, IL 60642
Tel. (773) 489-4140

It was the afternoon of  New Year's Eve and we had some time to kill so we drove out here to check the place out.  In their lounge, they had a happy hour with a free buffet so we ordered a drink.  We were wowed by the appetizers -- fish sticks if I recall correctly.  We figured if their happy hour food was this good their entrees and other items had to rock.

Mirage by Sheraton
10255 W Irving Park Rd
Schiller Park, IL  60176

We used   Laura Witherow because two of our other friends each used her for their wedding.  Nightingale felt obligated to use her even though I wanted to interview another photographer.  Since I got my pick of church, I didn't put up a fight on this one.  Especially since we had limited free time.

Laura Witherow Photography 
(773) 853-5606

as an alternate, I'd like to suggest

Suzy Rohan
Lily Red Studio
(312) 428-5033

We used this place and got a discount for paying in cash. Keep in mind this is a small shop operation and I think the poor Polish lady does the lion share of the work.

4Getmenot Inc
5519 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
Neighborhood: Portage Park
(773) 777-2575

Deejay and Limo Driver
I don't have this info at the moment but look for an update soon.  Initially, we had a Groupon for a Deejay and were excited that we might save some cash on this event.  However, half of Chicago apparently bought the same Groupon and overwhelmed the deejay so much that he split town.  We got our money back thanks to Groupons awesome refund policy.

I believe we ended up with one of the Mirage's preferred vendors.  And by preferred vendors, I really do mean preferred as in recommended because they've worked there before and know the lay of the land, not preferred as required because they give a kickback like Cafe Bauer.

Update:  For a Deejay, we used John Coyne at


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Look what arrived in the mail

My autographed copy of Redshirts by John Scalzi.  I got it because JS works out this deal  with local independent bookseller Jay and Mary’s Book Center, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. 

I will admit I was slightly worried because Jay & Mary's Book Center requested that orders be placed via this archaic device called a telephone.  When I called my order in, Jay made me repeat my information twice.  Then he made me repeat it a third time because his "system" lost it.  I realize that a small scale independent bookseller like theirs doesn't have the infrastructure to have an online ordering system.  However, there has to be a better way to avoid mistaking the name of my street -- which i spelled as I gave it -- for Lawyer. 

it says: to my less successful
And it arrived in this...box

Friday, December 6, 2013

Finally put up some shelves in the kitchen

I bought these from Hobby Lobby in early summer and they literally sat on our kitchen floor until Thanksgiving weekend, when I was able to coerce my FIL into helping me install them.  In fact, I've just come upon the receipt and they cost $14.99 and $22.49 respectively and were purchased August 14, 2013, thank you very much.  It looks like we were just beyond the 90 day window to return for refund or store credit.

Before: an empty wall that was cluttered with stuff on the counter

After: two nicely spaced shelves that look better
than I ever imagined in this space

Final: After Nightingale decided what goes where

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How not to suck at gift giving

This time of year, I always think back to my former life as a paralegal in the Settlement Trial Department of a Big_Bucks Law Firm 1.0 and one of the worst Christmas presents I ever got.   

It was from my boss, a lady who was only a decade older than I yet seemed to have a handle on what was en vogue.  She gave me a set of Dinosaur Christmas lights.  I don't remember exactly how old I was at the time -- 25, 26, maybe 27 -- but clearly I was past my dinosaur toy phase.  These weren't even trendy or kitschy dinosaurs.  This was something you'd put in a 7 year old's room to decorate his window or mini tree.  I was so caught off guard by the gift that I couldn't even feign appreciation.  And honestly, if you give this sort of gift to a kid-less, single guy in his 20s, you pretty much forfeit any claim to a gracious thank you or fake smile.

What is even more mind boggling is that my boss has a December birthday so we all gave her various presents a few weeks before.  Knowing that she liked red wine, I got her a box set of wine.  Sure it wasn't $20/bottle wine but it wasn't 2 buck chuck either.  You'd think this would have set the bar (pun intended) and she might have reciprocated with a nice bottle of Rum or something.

Looking back, I wonder if she re-gifted something she got or had bought for another occasion. I'd like to think that perhaps she had mixed up her gifts.  Someone else got my bottle of rum.  Alas, the simplest explanation is most likely true.  There always was something a little off about her.

I know it's hard to give an appropriate gift to someone, especially in the workplace with all the extra PC minefields.  However, it's not impossible if you put a little thought and effort into it.  All you have to do is consider the person’s hobbies and interests.  That might require having a conversation with them that doesn't revolve around you -- another thing that was hard for boss lady to do.

So the point is that if you feel the need or obligation to give someone a gift, do the ground work to make sure it is something they will appreciate, use or at least re-gift without looking like a clueless jerk.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bathroom Wall Art

 For some reason,  I like this piece of art (left) hanging in our basement bathroom way more than I should.  It does a good job of covering up a boring white wall and it seems to work in the space very nicely.  It also compliments the piece to the right.

I found this painting at the Goodwill and they match the pieces I used on the garage.  Probably all part of the same Home Goods or Hobby Lobby set.

Friday, November 29, 2013

My full inbox is lonely, the demise of Email

I wrote a semi-formal post about The End of Email on ChicagoNow.  This is gonna be a more down to earth follow up post. 

I was a relatively early adopter of email. Having gotten free access to a unix based account in college, I loved the ability to send a message to a friend in another city without having to find a stamp, an envelope and their snail mail address. And getting a response the same day instead of a week later was very addictive.

The thing I really appreciated though was the fact that I didn't have to hand write a letter. Since my handwriting and even my printing is atrocious – top Egyptologists can’t decipher some of it – I have used a computer to write letters to my friends since word processors became more prevalent. I thought it was cool because I could not only edit and re-write a letter more efficiently than with a typewriter, but I could also save a copy so I knew what I wrote them when they finally wrote back and referred to some forgotten comment I made in the previous letter.

Unfortunately not all my friends jumped on the email bandwagon even after it had been around for decades beyond the AOL form. Some just would forward jokes. Others just wouldn't email back at all, not even to acknowledge that they got your last message.

Chalk it up to a combination of some people were busier than me, or didn't have the ADD thing I have or didn't sit in front of a computer most of the time. Some people didn't discover email until they got a work account and didn't like mixing work life and personal life. I couldn't understand what was so hard about hitting the reply key and saying "got your email, I'm still alive, still working at my mind numbing job which doesn't afford me much time to write emails all day."

It took me a while to realize that these people just weren't built that way. They didn't hate email, they just weren't designed to stay in touch. In the physical letter era, they liked getting mail but didn't didn't like the obligation of having to return the favor hanging over their head.  Even though e-mail made the process easier, the resistance to effort was still there.  If there were a technology that would take the thoughts from their head, put it in a note and send it instantly and effortlessly, they still wouldn't do it.

These days I don't get very many personal emails.  Most of my emails are retailer mailings, newsletters, blog subscriptions and the like.  Most people use FB-mail for email which I absolutely abhor because it is so user unfriendly.  What you gain in speed, you sacrifice in functionality. 

Texting has replaced email for the most part.  I have some friends who insist on only using text messages and I just give up when something needs to be communicated beyond the 140 character limit.  Ironically these same people have smart phones that get their email too. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A rather boring post about my home computers

So I bought a new desktop PC off Woot.com back in October.  It was a HP desktop suitable enough for my needs.  I didn't like that it came with Window 8 but also recognized that is the leading-edge OS in the Windows world and I might as well join the avant-garde party.  I could have got a Windows 7 if I had jumped on one quickly enough but by the time I ran it past my fellow geeks the option that gave me the best hardware for cheapest price was gone.  All in all, I'm quite happy with the $400 savings on this one then the custom one I might have built on the HP website.

Before this new PC arrived, I had three desktop PCs that I used for the following purposes. 

  • My main desktop, a dell PowerEdge 400SC class PC which I got for $20 at a yard sale in 2009.  I got it to replace the dinosaur Dell (named Orion) that I had been using since 1999.  I threw a copy of XP on it and added the data drive from Orion.   I really only used it for storing emails, some web surfing and blogging. 
  • PC that I built in 2007 that was supposed to be an Application Server but I changed jobs and it ended up really being just a glorified storage drive.  I had plans to use it as a NAS but never got around to it.  When Nightingale and I merged households, one of my many time wasting tasks was going through a box of 3.5 inch diskettes and seeing if there was anything of value worth saving.  A few got copied to this machines hard drive.  Alas, somewhere between all the moves, the HD got fried and it won't even spin so I've lost whatever was on it.  I do have redundant copies of most of it, but there's always a chance one file was missed over.  You know, the one with the next great American novel on it, about a vampire who loves a zombie and they go to wizard school or something like that.
  • A Windows Media Center PC that my in-laws gave us.  It took me a couple days to get all the
    malware, spyware and other junk off it and convert it into a clean poor man's Roku that we used at the condo so we could watch a few things online since we didn't have cable.

Anyway, when they were all working they were fine machines and I had geek-visions of re-purposing the machines as media storage, surveillance camera servers, firewall and whatnot.  Alas, it's too much work and we aren't there yet.  Hence the new PC -- this is probably the last traditional desktop I will ever buy because the leading-edge trend is to go tablet.  

So over the last month I've been slowly migrating the data from the old pcs to the new one.   I decided I'd get rid of the App Server and the SBS machines.  I'm keeping the Media Center one because it still a pretty good piece of hardware and it can support my XP apps that I don't want to upgrade.  I put the outlook archive on it.  The only potential issue is that the hard drive makes a lot of noise when it spins.  I don't know if this is because of its age or from all the moving I put the PC through in the last year (condo to new house, basement to attic, to first floor, now to office.)

The final two
On the new HP, I just have my current email on Outlook 2013 -- I was fortunate to be able to purchase Office 2013 for $10 as an additional benefit of my current employer and the fact that Micosoft is ready to move on to Office 365.

I figure another month or so and I will be confident that I can drop these machines -- stripped of their hard drives of course -- off at the recycle center.

I figure if I don't come across it in a month,  I won't likely need it at all.  Yes, I do have a a backup of the HD on an external Maxtor drive, but I'm not convinced everything got copied.  The problem is that I'm using a maxtor that is already very full with other backups so I cannot simply select the copy the entire drive option and for some reason I cannot select or even see certain folders.  I could trouble shoot it but I rally don't want to invest that much effort and energy.   

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Monday, November 25, 2013

A reasonable goal to achieve by Year's End

According to my Daily Mile account, I've run 623 miles so far this year.  With less than 40 days to go until the end of the year, it's a likely that I can make a reasonable push to hit 700 miles by EOY.  While I generally run all year long, this time of year it can get tricky.  Running outside can be hazardous when there is snow and ice and we get like 10 minutes of sunlight per day.

I suppose between treadmill running and a good weekend LR I can easily do it without too much effort.  In years past to hit a particular number meant I had to find time for a run at the busy end of the year when i might not have felt like going out for a run or had other things to do.  Usually I find that I need to run way more miles than I can fit in to reach a certain round number milestone like 800 or a 1000. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Roaring Fire

The only thing that would make this day better would have been a Bears win instead of that poor excuse for a game they delivered against St Louis today.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

100th Post of the Year

Since this is the 100th post of the year, I thought I should put some thought into it....okay enough thought, time to write.  Looking back, I see that I have written some good stuff longer posts at the start of the year before I started posting nothing but pictures and quick blurbs.  It was a very busy spring and early summer at work but now that project has died down and I'm at my wits end trying to make the day go faster so I can get home to my not so new house.

We had a tornado warning Sunday...with an actual tornado to back it up.  Growing up in the city all my life, I don't recall ever having a tornado come through here.  I know we did the tornado drills back in grade school and I suspect they were also combined with air raid drills so I probably don't know what to do.  Nightingale grew up on a farm so you'd think she'd be the one to know what to do.  We mostly just hung out in the basement waiting for the Bears game to restart.

I know a lot of people lost a lot of things and a few even lost their lives.  That said, once the tornado passes, there has to be a better way to air the news without preempting every show on TV for 8 hours to repeat the same 5 facts over and over again. I am grateful that we didn't experience any issues.

The class that launched the rebellion
Last week I got to spend some time in Exciting and Exotic Schaumburg at the Learning Tree training center.  it was a virtual classroom and I could have done it from home but going onsite keeps me honest and gets me out of the house.  In the summer of 2005, I spent some time in Arlington Heights because of an ex girlfriend who happened to work at the Motorola campus in Schaumburg.  She would tell me that when she did take a lunch it was to go shopping.  Little did I know that half a decade later I'd be doing the same thing.  If I worked in Schaumburg I might be more broke than I am because of all the stores.

When I worked at the Big Bucks Law firm a few years ago, my dbag boss sent me to this training course on communication.  It was one of those soft skills courses and I asked Anakin why he sent me there.  He said it was because he had extra money in the budget that he needed to use up.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise course.  Ironically, a short time later I end up working down the block.  So hopefully this isn't foreshadowing of things to come.

Friday, November 15, 2013

D-bag Driver

This lady attempted to cut me off and almost caused an accident.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Get your kids and babies here

I'm in exciting and exotic Schaumburg for the next couple of days at the extremely friendly Learning Tree training center picking up some additional marketable skills.  Unlike many of the courses I've taken at various learning centers -- most of which seem to be near the Woodfield Shopping Mall -- this course is actually quite intense and I cannot allow my usual level of ADD to kick in.

Toddlers and Teenagers sold separately

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The long awaited Tale of our Flood

It was the Wednesday morning before Memorial Day weekend and Nightingale went down to the laundry room to toss her dress in the dryer to remove some wrinkles.  She noticed a large pool of water around the drain.  We usually get a little rain that seeps in through our Wizard of Oz doors and it goes straight to the drain, but this was more than usual.  We assumed the drain was somehow backed up.  I tried unclogging it with the wet dry vac but all that did was fill up the vac with water and more gushed in.  This should have told me something but we were in a rush.

On this particular day we had to be downtown for an appointment we couldn't afford to miss or reschedule.  On top of that I had some meetings at the office that I had to attend in person.  This combination along with the water not being so much made us decide to deal with the water when we got home.  Bad mistake.

When I got home the water had quadrupled and was beyond the laundry room and into the family room portion of the basement.  I just did get home in time to move all the furniture to one end of the room to save the new sofa, loveseat and ottoman I had just bought two months before. 

One of the problems with this type of situation is that you don't really have time to Google and shop around.  We called our Home Warranty Insurance company and they were less than helpful.  They said it probably wasn't covered but would gladly send out one of their vendors to take a look.  We also called State Farm, our home insurance company and they also said it wasn't covered but would gladly send out an investigator at some point.  I'm not really sure what she said because she was rambling.So we called a service that advertised that it handled this sort of thing.  Only they just do the cleanup,they don't fix the problem.  Their website didn't make that clear but we figured it out in time to call Pete's Plumbing service. 

The long and short is that our sump pump was in a locked position, burnt out.  It needed to be replaced.  My theory is that it was overworked from all the rain we got in April so that it simple said screw it, i give up.  We also had a crack in our drain pipe from our sewer to the city sewer and because it was on our property line, Pete said we had to fix it, not the city.  He said that even if it extends to the city part the city would only fix their part.

The bottom line is that I got hit with a $6500 bill to fix this at a time when my credit card had a bigger balance than I prefer to carry because of some other life events.  (Furniture and Financial Planning fees).  So it took some juggling to get everything aligned and I am still paying that bill.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lovely autumn leaves

My hood is so pretty with the fallen leaves.  Of course the time has come to rake them up. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Slightly Damaged Goods

I wrote a post about the wisdom of using Amazon Ship and Save.  It certainly saved me effort when we lived at the condo because if I didn't get rock star parking, I'd have to carry kitty litter around the block.  It's helped at the new house too in that it's one less thing to worry about remembering to pick up at the store. 

I was fortunate enough to be home once when the UPS driver delived a batch and I told him he could simply bring it around back each month rather than schlep it up the front porch.  It's easier on him because he just has to wheel his cart around back and it makes life easier for me because I just bring it down the Wizard of Oz doors into the basement laundry room where it lives until needed.

Apparently we have different UPS driver now because the last shipment or two was left on our front porch and not in the best of conditions either.  I believe one or two bags of kitty litter were damaged in the process.  Not worth the effort to do a refund or replacement shipment, especially since we can still use the litter but annoying nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Family and Condo Woes

Next Holiday Please:  Now that Halloween is over, we are trying to figure out the plan for Thanksgiving.  We are hosting this year and Nightingale's parents (Cartwrights) will visit and stay with us.  We are also trying to talk the Adamas into coming down for a 2nd Thanksgiving that Saturday.  And if flights are cheap enough, perhaps SIL#2 can fly in that Friday as well.

When this family is more functional than yours
So the only issue then is my side of the family.  I want to invite them over because they haven't seen the new house yet.  There just wasn't a good weekend all summer to try and fit it in and I figure this is as good a time as any since we are driving to Michigan for Christmas.  The only catch?  Most of the family doesn't want to be around my mom.

She certainly has earned their wrath with her attitude and toxic behavior.  Still, I'd think they could suck it up for a few hours and come hang out with us in the name of "family" during the holidays.  It's kinda a shame that my family is this way, though I know we aren't the only family like this.  I have two cousins from another branch who I never see because they live out of state.  I suspect they did their best to get as far away from their parents as possible.

Meanwhile, back at the Condo:  Last winter we would get emails from Kesha, the poor lady who does all the hard work of running the CA Condo Association President asking people to pitch in with snow removal.  Like most of the chores of a self-managed association, a small subset of owners actually pitch in while the others -- mostly the ones who no longer live in the building -- skirt their obligations to help out.  I will go on the record here that in my decade plus of living there I'm probably just slightly above average for pitching in.  It should be noted that not a lot of effort was organized until Kesha took over.

Anywho, to avoid the surprise guilt trip emails this year, I sent out an email to the group suggesting that we do something very crazy, like be proactive about snow removal.  Snow, I reasoned, usually comes every winter here in the Midwest City of  Chicago.  I pitched two options:
  1. Engage a snow removal service and pay for it with a temporary increase in association fees, or if costs are tight...
  2. We take the 13 weeks between Dec and March and every condo owner pick a week.  If it snows during your week, you are responsible for removing the snow.  If it doesn't snow, you won the winter lottery.
Pretty straight forward.  Now I know you probably think everyone jumped on the brilliance of these ideas and wanted to get started right away.  Au contraire mon ami.  There was the typical resistance with a twist of WTF.  One owner actually wrote:

"I think it's a great idea but I don't live there either and will be hard with a bad snow fall for me to make it over in time to clear.. I hope we can work it out without raising the assessment.. Let me know what I can do.."

Hmm, let's see.  You don't want to pay more money but you don't want to figure out how to get to the condo 1 week out of 13 for your turn to shovel.  Maybe magical bunnies can come over and shovel for you.  What can you do?  Maybe adjust  your outlook on life to realize that everything has a cost associated with it whether it's an actual cash disbursement to a Snow Removal Service or your time and effort to shelp over to the condo you own and shovel the snow.
What do you mean bad snow?

I did send a second email answering questions and asking if anyone had a better idea to please speak up.  I suspect yahoo, gmail and all the other ISP must have gone offline because of the responses since no one has said boo since.  After all,  as Nightingale pointed out, I called everyone out on being negligent and uninvolved and put them on the spot by suggesting we plan in advance. 

The problem in our Lord of the Flies run Shangri-La is that owners are at different places in their life.  When you live in the building you have a more vested interest in taking care of it.  When you don't, it's hard to make the effort to get over there.  But it’s more than that. 

I'd say half the people want to pay for services like lawn care, common area cleaning and snow removal.  Or I should say they feel their assessment should cover that because it did when they first bought into the place.  The problems with that is that 1) it was over 10 years ago and guess what kiddos, prices do go up over time, and 2) I'm not quite certain that our costs were budgeted correctly in those early days.

FWIW I’m not one of the Originals that bought in the building, rather I'm the second owner of my unit, like the majority of the other owners.  Among the First Ones, only two still reside in the building.   The rest have moved out and are renting  their places until that long lost friend The Market returns.  I think there are one or two Originals who specifically bought as an investment property and either never lived here at all or moved out after the first year because you could easily buy more property during the boom years.

Alas, the mentality is pretty interesting.  The same people who don't want to increase the assessment also want to wait until the market returns such that they can make back every penny they spent on the place.  The ones who bought before I  did got in on the ground floor and after a decade, really out to be able to sell their place today.  They won't get the asking price they paid, but it really ought to be enough to cover whatever they owe the bank.  But their thinking is along the lines of "I bought Sears stock at $50 a share that's now $25.  If I just wait long enough it will come back to $50."

I will really be surprised to see how this works out.  Kesha and I are soliciting quotes from Snow Removal Services but I suspect that we'll end up just like last year with people suddenly being out of town when the call for shoveling comes.  Because collectively, our association has all the foresight of Ray Charles in a snow storm.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Post Halloween write up

Since the Bears don't play until tonight -- and in fact haven't played in a couple of weeks because of their bye -- this Sunday and last Sunday were excellent yard work days.  We put away our deck furniture, and laid down some mulch.  I know it's not the end, I'll still probably have to check the gutters and do some other little things before the weather gets too difficult to work outside.

We got our water barrel from the water company a few weeks ago but it doesn't make any sense to put it in right now.  So I'll probably wait until Spring to put it up.  though I did install a hose rack that was more difficult than it should have been.  I also managed to get the garage better organized so this winter I hope to start on some simple woodworking projects.

In spite of the weather, we got a couple dozen trick-or-treaters.  We probably got more in one evening than I ever did in the decade I lived at the condo.  B brought over her kid, her husband and her pseudo-nanny Hannah.  Hannah is a bit of a drama princess in that she doesn't own a car, cannot afford the $25 taxi ride to our house and refuses to take the El.  Therefore, she kinda forced B to wait until she got off work to give her a lift, thus forcing B to endure traffic that she could have avoided by coming a little earlier. 

Not sure what the one in the middle is
She actually asked Nightingale to pick her up, not realizing, understanding or considering someone else besides herself caring that traffic from Streetville to South Loop is intense at rush hour and would take longer than if she just sucked it up and got on the El.  I get that the El can be scary late at night.  But during rush hour it's not a big deal. 

We think next year we might open it up to any parents who have kids but live in a building instead of a home and cannot easily Trick-O-Treat.  This will of course morph into a Halloween Party though. 
They were all too quite willing to pose for pictures

Over the weekend, we did a double visit to the Loop, West and South.  First we had brunch with Na who was in town for the Hot Chocolate run.  Then we went home to finish a few things up and then went to the South Loop to watch the Michigan v Michigan state game at B's.  The B and Na cold war is still on in that Na is past the point of caring and it isn't in B's programming to make the requisite move to bring about reconciliation.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An offering to the TIn Gods

Or perhaps simply just the aluminum ones.  My nieghbor leaves out a bag of aluminum cans in hopes that the scavengers will take it and not rummage through his blue bin.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Checking in post

Not much content here these days from me.  It's a combination of relatively unrelated events that share the common denonminator of me.  I have the attention span of a litter of concussed kittens these days.  This blogs identity keeps changing and thats my fault. At first is was just an online journal to record my thoughts on life.  Then I decided to try and increase readership, which is hard because you have to be funny and/or interesting 100% of the time.  Half the time I don't give a sh*t so why should anyone else?   I've also spent a lot more time and energy working on the ChicagoNow blog.  I get more hits there on a bad day then I do here in a month.  Of course that comes with it's own drama, see below.

We went to Vegas to celebrate our 2nd anniversary.  That is to say, Nightingale had a work conference so we were able to piggyback a mini vacation on it.  On the plus side we got to see Hoover Dam and got to see Jersey Boys for free. On the down side, we didn't plan the trip well and spent a lot of money at a time when we really shouldn't be spending money.

Nightingale's condo has been unrented since Sept.  We finally got a renter as of last Wednesday in fact. 

This year we both had issues with our condo renters.  My first renter was a PITA who pissed my neighbors off and left the place a mess.  Now I have a lady who is quiet but high maintenance.  My downstairs neighbor who ironically bought his unit (a foreclosure) the year I tried to sell my condo, sold his this summer for about what I currently owe today.  My hope is that I can sell it next year for what I owe plus transaction costs and simply get it off the books.  My little corner of Albany Park/Irving Park is improving but it will be a long time before it is Lincoln Square West and I don't have the patience to wait it out.

For Nightingale's condo, since we are still underwater on it, we need to rent it for another year or two.  The South Loop is improving every day.  They just got a Mariano's and more and more stores are opening in that mall structure on Roosevelt.  If DePaul builds its stadium next to McCormack Center, I think that will be the final piece that solidifies the no-man zone between Chinatown and the South Loop.  That won't happen if we don't sell it, but if we do sell it, I'm sure we will one day look back and say "damn we should have held onto that South Loop Condo!"

Chicago Now:   As I've mentioned, I'm blogging on Chicago Now.  Recently I wrote something about the Bartman event and it not only generated the most pageviews I've ever gotten (placed 3rd for that day in all of CN content) but I actually got comments.  And by comments I mean nitpicky trolls.   It's my fault for mis-using a common phrase that I copied and pasted from somewhere without checking the correct spelling, and also for having one of my factoids incorrect.  Neither were germane to the story but based on the comments, you'd think that would invalidate the entire post.  Oh and I also have to explain what germane means to those commentors.

Future of this blog   I still intend to post here from time to time.  If you like enjoy any of the content here I suggest you use the email subscribe above so you don't have to keep coming back to check for new content.   I suppose the RSS feeds are an option too even though Google Reader has gone away.  If you can, google connect will make it look like I have an audience or at least engage me in the comments.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I've Found Grooves home

On my alternate route home, I often pass this house that is along Irving Park Rd somewhere west of Harlem.  While it is along an alley I don't think it encounters the same issues that a similar house in the city would (graffiti, garbage). It would probably be an advantage to live there if you had children.  They have a big parkway they could play in that is within eyesight of the house.  You'd just have to make sure they had enough sense and discipline to not go into the street or take candy from any Chancery Lawyers who drop by.

It comes with it's own park

Friday, October 4, 2013

Time to reduce the number of desktop computers at our house

It's time to update my desktop computer. I wrote a little about it here. I think we might be a hop, skip and a good sale away from the desktop going the way of the VCR in terms of user need.

The new thing seems to be these all-in-one touch screen devices and I have no doubt that one day we will have several of them throughout the house.  At the moment they are still a bit cost prohibitive and are rumored to be lacking in the touch screen feature expectation category.  I should add that the cost prohibitive-ness is more a function of my current outstanding debt than actual I cannot really afford it. 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

My favorite seat

I don't get to rid the EL much these days but when I do, I love to score this seat below.  It's perfect for placing my coat or jacket around since my ride is long enough that it can be rather uncomfortable in an overheated train car to wear it.  I also have enough space to place my bookbag yet keep it safe from snatchers.  Finally I can spread out without bumping into the person next to me. 

Although when the train gets crowded enough, people do insert themselves in the spaces behind that seat. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Some thoughts influenced by other Blogs I follow

Maybe we are a computer simulation created by some earlier civilization: From Dilbert:  

and also here:

There’s a good chance that in a few short decades science will develop three separate paths for human immortality:
  1. Science will “cure” aging. (See Google’s announcement.)
  2. Humans will be able to transfer their minds to robots.
  3. Humans will be able to transfer their minds to software-only virtual worlds.

But what about Reincarnation?  I know that atoms and molecules combine to make things and once those things get destroyed, the atoms become something else.  A tree gets cut and becomes a piece of furniture.  Perhaps that furniture gets burned in a house fire.  That wood becomes charred carbon, with some atoms being released into the atmosphere.  Do these atoms ever become a tree again? 

I find it rather wasteful that we don't reincarnate in some way.  Not just our bodies but whatever this spirit or soul thing is.  I mean does that mean a pyramid builder from whatever year BC doesn't somehow get recycled as a plumber in 1932?  Or a programmer in 2012?  It just kinda seems sad that our life experience doesn't get reused or that we only get some slight sliver of time that doesn't even register on the Cosmic Scale.

One of Dilbert theories is that we are or eventually will become moist robots with our personalities and memories downloaded into these android like machines.  In various science fiction this crops up from time to time and I always wonder: in a world where you could do that, wouldn't everyone design a body that is attractive, in good shape and young?  And would that cancel out so that people would create models that weren't so attractive just to be unique? Or is it like the Cylons in the Battlestar Galactica reboot where they evolved and reproduced?

Stole the next two sentences from Scalzi's blog:  Because I've been thinking about this topic a lot recently, but it's not resolved itself into a coherent narrative. So to hell with the narrative, let me just toss out some thoughts I've been having on the subject, in no particular order.

When I drive to and from work, I often think about the past.  It might be my time at NMSU or it might be my first job as a Paralegal_JR at BigName Law Firm 1.0 or my time at the No-Name Software Company, or any of a million other interactions between me and other humans. 

I really want to turn it off, like the vampires turn off their humanity in The Vampire Diaries.  Unfortunately,  I cannot.  Some of it is guilt and remorse because I realize in a lot of those situations I didn't act in the best form.  Sometimes it was immaturity, sometimes it was anger.

Sometimes it's just the fact that I often fell flat on my face in situations most other people navigate with automatic grace and poise.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Somewhere in Portage Park

Since I couldn't get these to play nicely in a previous post, I'm putting them here stand alone.

The Scene Seen on my Morning Run

In Portage Park the trees may not speak, but they do smile
So most of my runner friends ran their 20 miler yesterday.  If you are training for the Chicago Marathon, or any fall marathon, this past weekend was when all the Hal Higdon Training Schedules call for a first/final 20 mile run followed by a 3 week taper before Race Day.  In honor of that, I ran 8 miles of my own and wrote a little something about it here.

Before they came up with this concept, we would just do our 20 mile run at whatever CARA site we were training out of.  I don't know the details of how this idea came about -- whether CARA approached a sponsor or vice versa -- but it is one of the more positive innovations that CARA has come up with over the years.to Run 20 Miler.

Granted, the event had some hiccups the first couple of years but they seem to have worked them out.  All in all, I think it is a great way to prepare for a marathon because you get a practice run that mimics marathon conditions, complete with the hydration and gels available on the course at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and a party at the end.

I have to admit that I have been a little envious of all my friends posting their LR results every weekend on Facebook.  During the bulk of my marathon/racing years I didn't have FB and had to brag the old fashioned way: sending out an annoying email to my friends like a Caveman!

At a party on Saturday, I was asked by someone (who clearly isn't reading this blog or my FB page) how my running is doing.  Nightingale and I brought her up to speed on my knee and what little mileage I do these days.  I get asked if I would run another marathon and I usually respond that my doctor strongly suggested I not.  Though run/walking Detroit last year shows how well I listen to doctors.

Sometimes I add that I probably have one or two more marathons in me so I want to pick them judiciously.  The fact is, I don't need another 4+ hour marathon under my belt.  So I would probably only do another one under the following conditions:

1)  if I were certain I could run fast enough that I have a shot at a BQ (which will be a 3:25 when I turn 45 next year).  Since my best marathon time is a 3:29 and that was 7 years ago, it's rather unlikely that I'll regain the speed and endurance that I had before the knee scope.

2)  if Nightingale says honey I want to go [some location outside of US soil] and there happens to be a marathon the same time we are going and  have 16-18 weeks prior to said vacation trip to train beforehand of course.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This should have posted Monday

Unfortunately, I didn't get around to completing this until today.  So there.

Well, I spent a larger portion of my weekend attempting to troubleshoot the hard-wired portion of my home network.  In order to deliver a more stable signal to the devices that we stream movies (Roku today and a Smart TV someday) and also to increase signal strength to the devices that extend our wireless, I bought a Netgear FVS318 Cable/DSL ProSafe VPN Firewall with 8-Port Switch.  It was used and I bought off Amazon with gift certificate so I got it really cheap.  The good news is that it worked as soon as I plugged it in.  The bad news is I accidentally reset it when I was trying to configure it to do more than just move the internet from one end of the house to another.
My new tech thinks it s the cable modem

The problem was that the support page and everything I read said that the default IP of the device was when in fact it is This lead me to believe there was no way I could gain access.  Apparently, the newer models have switched to the first address while older ones still have that second address, which is also what many Cable/DSL modems also default.  So I foolishly reset the device and let the webpage come up automatically.  It's possible I did something else to mess things up...after a few days, the memory becomes blurry.   I'm going to tell myself that this would have become a problem eventually.

So at the moment we have limited wireless as I took every Wi-Fi extender and streamer offline to troubleshoot.  Getting all that set back up will only take 10 minutes of my time.  I can always roll back to life before the FVS318 came into our home.  I just have visions of locking things down in such a way that when my BIL comes to visit, he cannot watch Golf in any way, shape, or form.

  • Update1:  Last night, I got the wired internet working!
  • Update2:  This morning it stopped working!  
  • Update3:  I have to reboot the router every morning.  So far it seems to be occur after we watch something on the Roku.  

The rest of the weekend was spent doing other things.  After hemming and hawing for almost an hour, I did make it out of the house Saturday morning to join the CARA group for a chilly morning run.  My group was doing 14 miles which would be just too much mileage for me given my current out-of-shape state.  I figured I could handle 8 but actually managed 10.  The knee held out for the most part.  There was a moment when it seemed to be a little tweaky.  I switched to walking for a bit.  Had a little heart-to-heart with my knee.  Turns out the old fellow just wanted some attention.  So once the knee felt validated, I was able to finish the run.

Instead of going all the way back to the CARA base, I waited for my group. There was no point going back there and waiting for everyone by myself when I could sit in the sunshine closer to the lakefront.  This afforded me the opportunity to snap some photos of random runners for use in future blog posts.  Speaking of blog posts, you should really read this one.  

One sour note of the day:  The new manager at Universal Sole gave me the wrong parking validation so instead of paying $4 for parking, I had to pay $16.
Downtown CARA marathon training group

On Sunday we had people over.  Originally it was supposed to be a cookout but the weather didn't cooperate.  I was going to babble about how it was looking like they weren't going to show at all but I'm out of breath.  Besides, they arrived during the final few minutes of the Bears game and waited in their car until the Bears scored the winning touchdown.

For Posterity:  So it's far too soon to be thinking Denver-Chicago in the Superbowl, but the Bears did pull out another come-from-behind victory that they had no business pulling off.  I've seen them win games like this before.  Usually, it's borrowing against a sure victory later in the season.  There was something different about this one though.  It was confidence in Cutler that I haven't seen in a Chicago QB since Kramer.  I'd still be happier if they could simply be up by two scores at the two-minute warning.