Small Joys and a Giant GRRR

Joy #1:  Our favorite pub is finally open for business, with restricted hours, for indoors and outdoors dining!

Joy #2:  I got my vino “present” from my financial manager, although I had to fetch it from a local FedEx.

Joy #3:  Today’s predicted thunderstorms missed us.

Joy #4:  Our vegetable garden is going gangbusters.

Joy #5:  I owe no federal or state taxes, because I overpaid last year.

Giant GRRR:  Why did my accountant make me overpay so much last year?  Nobody can predict my income, year to year, but this sucks.  When what you overpaid would cover twice your property taxes, it gets into WTF territory.

Fireworks, Baby! Yeah!

Fireworks are perfectly legal in my state, and Independence Day would not be right without them.  Instead of just picking up a 20-pack assortment of weenie stuff from the Acme, we stopped by a pop-up vendor who set up shop in a shopping center parking lot.  The prices were average, but the selection was good — much better than you’d find in a grocery store, but not as good as we could have found at a fireworks superstore off the side of an interstate highway.

We didn’t get anything spectacular enough to have to be mortar fired.  Still, this pop-up place was within a 10 mile radius of us, the selection was good, and the prices were alright.  They’ll keep us entertained for maybe an hour and a half, after we eat our smoked ribs, and the sun sets.

Air Conditioning Fixed

I was looking for estimates from three different places, via Home Advisor, none of which contacted me.  A fourth company called me within minutes, talked to me about the problem, and gave me an estimate.  It was reasonable, so I agreed.  Their original appointment was scheduled for this morning at 8:00.  Yesterday, one of the two owners called me, saying they had an afternoon cancellation, and he could stop by here within an hour, if I agreed.  I did.  He showed up an hour late, but got the annex AC running, with the warning that it needed a new circuit board, and told us that in the meantime, the fan would be on constantly, but the cooling would kick in and out.  It did.  The AC in the main house is on a different system, and works just fine.  For the annex system, he was there for two hours yesterday, but charged me for the one hour I was originally quoted for labor.

As promised, he called again today to give me a price on the circuit board and labor.  It really was quite reasonable, so I agreed, and we set up an appointment for early afternoon, with a half hour window of arrival.  He got here on time, with the part, did the installation and testing, and was gone as soon as I forked over the check.  It was a blower problem, and, evidently a bad circuit board, rather than a condenser failure, so this bill came to nothing like it would have, if it had required a total replacement.

He showed up on time, worked his magic while I “locked” the critters in the main house, tested his handiwork, then gave me the bill, for which I wrote his employer a check.  He’s a good contractor, and quite reasonable, price-wise.

Now, I don’t have to worry about stashing a visiting niece of nephew in the annex, overnight, and having to give them a fan, if the cross breeze though open windows isn’t good enough.  There really aren’t all that many weeks of the year when open windows and fans get the job done.  Not in this part of the country, anyway.  Some of our bedrooms have ceiling fans, but not all of them.

In summary, this company is a good one.

Other than that, we need to get some decent fireworks for July 4th.  I don’t want mortar fired ones.  I just want the kind that sensdup a spark storm for 20′, and make a lot of noise for a few seconds at the end.  There’s a pop-up vendor ~6 miles away that has a much better selection than our local grocery store has.  I need to hit an ATM first, though.

Interesting eBay Suggestions

I have several watches.  They’re a mix of TAG Heuer and Seiko.  The Seiko solar ones don’t need batteries, and keep great time, but they’re not the easiest to read when there’s either too much or too little light.  One of my TAGs is a Formula 1 with a silicon (rubbery, anyway, whatever it is) strap.  It’s supposedly watertight to 100 meters.  Twice now, it’s gotten some condensation inside the crystal, that I had to dry out over a silica gel pack.  That did the trick, and it keeps time like a champ, but I suspect the problem is with the back not being screwed on tightly enough, assuming the gasket is still good.

I have other TAGs that don’t have that problem, but they all have stainless steel bands, which turn my wrist a little grey when I sweat in them, outdoors in the blazing sun when it’s hot.  This one with the silicon strap does not do that, so it’s great to wear down by the pool, but if dunking it 5″ into the water causes it to get some condensation inside, I need to get this fixed.  It’s questionable whether my favorite local jeweler is open for business at this point.  Yes, the watch is ~20 years old, but they will fix just about any watch, and this doesn’t have any internal mechanical issues.  They might even fix it for free, but even if they don’t, they can’t possibly charge any more than the $10 they charge for a battery replacement.  It’d be nice to be able to wear it swimming, rather than just riding around on a float.

What this post is really about, though, is what eBay suggested when I bought a bunch of silica gel packs.  Those can be reused, of course, but I only have one at the moment that’s smaller than a bottle cap.  So, I bought a bunch of silica gel packs, and eBay suggested military surplus ammo cans for me, along with ammo cans for shotgun shells.

Um, okay.  Keep your powder dry, I guess.  My “gun” projectiles are solid lead, so the items that fire them aren’t even technically firearms.  They use air or CO2.  Just don’t lick your fingers after loading that ammo.  *shrug*

New Picnic Table and Detached Benches

The old picnic table and benches we had that were 50 years old finally died.  They were redwood, and I did stain them every other year since my parents gave them to us, with redwood stain containing water seal.  The table collapsed when we put a six-pack of seedling veggies from a garden center on it.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt.  The benches did not collapse, but the wood was on its way out.

So, with a bunch of ash logs on hand, and a sawmill, it was not difficult to cut some lumber to assemble a new one.  It took over a week to get the 3.5″ carriage bolt assemblies in quantity from a place in Charleston, SC, that specializes in fastenings.  They shipped the next morning, but it took the damned USPS eight days to deliver it, from what’s an 11 hour drive away.  I get it that mail has to go through some transfer stations, but then it sat in my local post office for three days before they loaded it into the delivery truck.  *headdesk*

Anyway, the new picnic table and benches are solid ash, built to much sturdier specs than the original set we had.  The benches weren’t all that heavy, but the table had to weigh over 200 lbs., so it took both of us to get it out of the barn, onto a trailer, then unload it, and get it onto the upper patio level.

My mother was impressed that their half century old picnic table and benches lasted as long as they did.  She was equally impressed with our homemade replacement for the set.  This ash version is rock solid.  I’ll probably just soak it with a few coats of water sealant, rather than stain.  Some of the rough edges could use a little planing first, though.  That’s easy.  Won’t take me more than 20 minutes.  I don’t want colored stain all over that patio after I power washed it a couple of weeks ago.  We don’t have enough newspaper to lay down to catch the drips, and it’s too damn heavy to carry out onto the lawn, and back up there, like I used to do with the old set.

Yes, we have other patio furniture for the one right outside out back door — 40+ year old tables, chairs, and a new sectional, but our upper patio did not look right with only a kettle grill on it.  It needed the picnic set, for posterity, if nothing else.


Retirement Community Sales Pitch

Really?  The retirement community that sent me the snail mail is a few miles away from me, and is still taking in SARS-COV-2 positive people, per our state governor’s mandate, but they sent me a letter to tell me that it’s perfectly safe to move my mom there, and they have replaced half their administrative staff.   Um, okay.

These people are insane.  Mom is better off staying where she is, and having us smuggle in groceries to her garage, then waving hi/bye from afar as we pull out of her driveway.

We drove through that retirement community before COVID.  It’s not good for anyone who has limited mobility, and they will not deliver meals to anyone who isn’t already in the nursing home or dementia ward.

Way to go to promote your “community,” idiots.

R U Kidding Me?

Evidently, the NRA has raised its “Lifetime” membership fee to $1500.  It was only $600 a couple of years ago.  I am a lifetime member, but I joined way back when as one.  Although I own plenty of weapons, not one of them is a technically a firearm.  Crossbows, halberds, katanas, wakizashis, tantos, CO2 pistols, BB guns, etc. are not firearms.  I have all of those.  Heck, even a cricket bat, a santoku, or a 12″ cast iron skillet, which I also have, could do some serious damage, without firing projectiles.  They’re mostly good for close combat.  I simply support 2A, as laid out in our Bill of Rights.

There aren’t a lot of benefits to being an NRA member, in terms of discounts for merchandise from various companies.  I’m not a hunter.  I just do not want my right to bear arms taken away, and handed over to the criminals who pay no attention to laws, anyway.

On another note, our pool is perfectly clear, and good for swimming, or floating around.  My state still has draconian stay-at-home orders, but this makes it somewhat tolerable.

Pool Company Screw Ups

They’re going to get paid when I get the bill, of course, but the two person crew messed up on two things.  First, they forgot to install the ladder at the deep end, so I called customer service, and they sent the crew back to do that.  I took some blame for that, for not specifically showing them where the ladder was stashed over the winter, although it was in plain sight, not hidden.  What I did not realize yesterday, but found out this morning, is that they left the drainage valve on the pump assembly open.  Half the water was gone.  I’m not a “Karen” by nature, so instead of calling to complain, I closed the valve, and ran a garden hose down to the pool, then opened the spigot.  It’s going to take hours to replace the water that was lost.

I’m not too worried about some of the concentrated liquid bleach being lost with the drainage.  The water was pretty clear to begin with, so it’s mostly a matter of vacuuming up the debris and settled small particle sediment, and adding some calcium hypochlorite to make up for the lost bleach.  Still, I can’t do that until the water level is back up to where I can run the circulation pump, which probably won’t be until mid-afternoon.

It’s one of those “just deal with it” scenarios.  Still, it’s a bit of a *facepalm*.  They didn’t notice the valve was still in the open position, and neither did I.

Pool Opening

Yes!  I might have been their first appointment of the day.  The two person crew showed up around 8:15 am, and were gone within half an hour.  I didn’t recognize the young guy, but the middle aged woman has been here before, a couple of years ago.  She only comes up to my nose, and is built like a tank, but holy hell, does she have muscles below that blubber.  She moved a really heavy hanging lounge chair out of the way like it was a sack of potatoes.

I had the DE powder and 3″ chlorine tablets, but not the super-concentrated liquid bleach, which they knew ahead of time, so they brought some.  I greeted them, to show them where things were in the pool house, and once the cover was off, got in there myself with the net to skim off the worst of the floating arborvitae debris that had gotten under the cover, and was floating around.  Then I went around the edge of the pool to sweep away more of the same debris that had gotten trapped under the cover, but not in the water.

Some contractors hate it when you watch over their shoulders.  It would creep me out, too.  Still, I think they appreciated my pitching in, without getting in their way.  With any luck, we might be able to swim in it tomorrow evening, but if not, it will be by Wednesday.

It took me most of the afternoon yesterday to power wash the patio surrounding the pool.  Roughly half of it was black with dirt, grime, and mildew, and even the areas that didn’t look so bad turned a different color when I went over them.  Had to refill the gas tank twice to get it all done, but I had to do it before the pool company people arrived this morning.  If I had left the power washing until after the cover was off, who knows how much of that grime would have ended up in the pool?  I still need to power wash the foam floats, but that can be done on the lawn.  The inflatables need to be hand washed with a sponge, and either dilute household bleach, or plain old soapy water.

Guess what?  None of us were wearing face masks.  The nature of the job entailed “social distancing,” anyway, except for when the two of them were driving around in their employer’s truck from job to job.  I doubt they mask up in there, either.  At this point, state government “rules” for being out in public, or around strangers, for conducting ordinary business, are ridiculous.

Voting During COVID Restrictions

There was a big push in my state to get people to use mail-in ballots.  No excuse, such as being out of state on a business trip, needed.  Screw that.  We voted in person.  Yes, we had to put on those ridiculous face masks upon entering the polling station.  Ours is in the basement of the building that serves as both the police station and the township hall.

Not much of a line, but that probably had more to do with the time of day we showed up than the push for mail-in ballots.  Blue electrical tape was laid out in 6′ intervals.  As usual, there were a few people electioneering outside the polling station, but inside, only two people were working the joint.  The elderly woman dutifully wore her face mask, but the 40-something guy sitting next to her wore his like a beard, over his chin, leaving his nose and mouth uncovered.  That didn’t bother me one little bit.  The condensation and CO2 build up inside them pretty quickly.

Normally, we have full sized booths with curtains and touch screens.  This time, we had to fill out paper ballots, as if we were voting absentee, and then feed them into scanners to be read.  Took ~30 seconds, but the scanner finally did come back saying “Thank you for voting.”

I’d like to see both my state rep and U.S. rep replaced, but I suspect both will survive the primary.  We’ll see what happens.  What could get interesting is seeing how long it’ll take the vote to be counted.  Polls close at 8 pm.  Ordinarily, we’d know by midnight what the results are.  With all these paper ballots, depending on how many actually got mailed in, and were received today (deadline for mail-in ballots, too), I suspect we won’t know the results until next week.

I was pleased to see the woman in line ahead of me bring her (teenage?) son in with her.  The kid wasn’t old enough to vote, but his mother showed him how it’s done, so that when he’s old enough to register to vote, he’ll know how it works.  Different routine this time around, but the process in general is the same.

FWIW, other than one new resident who not only showed up at the wrong polling location, but also didn’t know we have closed primaries in which Independents are not allowed to vote, everybody on line was registered as the same party I am.  That one woman was turned away.  She probably moved here from a state that has open primaries.  Nobody else was turned away, although someone in line three people behind me was asked for ID, which is unusual.  I was once asked to show ID to vote, although I was also told I could refuse to do so, if I wanted.  What’s the big deal about whipping out a driver’s license?  Very few people live within walking distance of a polling station where I live, and only people who have a death wish ride bicycles or rollerblade along the state and county highways that have 50+ mph speed limits with one narrow lane in either direction, and no shoulder.  Even the local roads have 35-45 mph speed limits.