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 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.