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Dave18

Posted on December 31st, 2018

Dave!For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.

As you can imagine, 2018 was the worst year of my life so far. Just surviving it feels like a major accomplishment. All I can do is hope that 2019 is better.


JANUARY

• This year was largely about my cats and the hijinks they got into. So... no change from last year...

Jake the Statue

   
• Found out that Google thinks I look like Ryan Reynolds when I have the right haircut...

Dave Photoshopped to be using a Flowbee hair cutter.


   
FEBRUARY

• Another year, another traumatic trip to the vet for Jake and Jenny...

Vet Visit Two Point Oh

   
• Saw the best movie of 2018: Black Panther.


   
MARCH

• Finally bought into the SONOS smart speaker ecosystem...

Sonos One Speakers


   
APRIL

Said good bye to long-time blogging friend Kelly "Hot Coffee Girl."

   
Took my new macro lens to The Keukenhof in the Netherlands...

Macro Flower

   
Another day of Keukenhof wonderment at macro level...

Macro Bee

   
• Finally made it to lovely Budapest...

Hungarian Parliament Bulding at night in Budapest

Budapest at Night from Buda Castle

   
• Finally made it to lovely Vienna...

Klimt at the Belvedere Palace Museum


   
MAY

• Returned to St. Louis and its Gateway Arch...

Gateway Arch St. Louis

   
• Headed to Jefferson City to hunt ghosts at the old Missouri State Penitentiary with Coal Miner's Granddaughter and the Tennessee Wraith Chasers...

Ghost Hunt Weekend at Missouri State Penitentiary

Ghost Hunt Weekend at Missouri State Penitentiary

Ghost Hunt Weekend at Missouri State Penitentiary

   
• Jake gets a new favorite toy...

Jake and Moose the Mule

   
• Saw another amazing P!NK show in Seattle...

P!NK !!!

   
• Had to rescue another bird from my savage kittehs...

Catio Bird Rescue!

   
• Started organizing my souvenirs from around the world...

XXX


   
JUNE

• Spent my weekend building a flower bed in my front yard...

Flower Bed Construction

   
• Upgraded Jake and Jenny's catio with a ramp and a massive climbing pole...

Catio Pole Installation

   
• Had the worst day of my life when I said good bye to my mom...

Mom and Me

   
• Remembered my many travels with mom...

Travels with Mom

   
• Took a look back and wrote about The Elephant Out the Window...

Mom, Mickey, and Me


   
JULY

• Wrote about finding inspiration amongst the heart-crushing tragedy of dementia...

Travels with Mom

   
Built my cats an indoor feeding station...

Cat Feeding Station!

   
• Another trip to Maine... this time with a torrential flood of rain.


   
AUGUST

• Saw an amazing show by one of my long-time favorite bands, Erasure...

Erasure Seattle 2018


   
SEPTEMBER

• Installed a mesh network with Google WiFi.

   
• Remembered back to the AIDS crisis, which wasn't that long ago.

   
• Flew to Salt Lake City to catch a show by The B-52's, Boy George, and Tom Bailey with Marty from Banal Leakage...

The B-52's

   
Wrote an obituary and buried my mom when her marker finally arrived from the VA...

XXX


   
OCTOBER

• Was gutted when Jake got seriously ill...

Jake Hospital Visit

   
• Had to make a short one-day trip to Hawaii and back...

Oahu North Shore Beach

   
• THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT! THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT!

Dave Loves the Red Sox!


   
NOVEMBER

• Was forced to remodel my remodel.

   
• Remembered my trip to Antarctica on my one year travelversary...

Neko Harbor, Antarctica


   
DECEMBER

Back to Maine again.

   
Happy birthday, Mom...

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska


   
And there you have it... my 2018 year in review.

Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through the not-so-great times.

Here's to a better 2019, everybody.

   

Daily Grinder

Posted on December 27th, 2018

Dave!Christmas is such a weird holiday. All this drama build-up to one day... then, just like that, it's all over and you're expected to return to Real Life. I worked for a little while before I drove home yesterday. Then worked a little in the office once I got back. Then today I only worked a half-day. So I guess I'm kinda easing my way back into Real Life.

What I'd like to do is ease my way into a new tattoo so I have some fresh ink for 2019... but my artist is in San Francisco,* so that will have to wait a bit.

Instead I've decided to set my top ten goals for 2019...

  1. Pay off my Black Friday purchases so I'm out of credit card debt (this will happen once I get my tax refund).
  2. Exercise. Nothing extreme... just move more.
  3. Develop a pizza recipe I like so I can stop buying frozen garbage.
  4. Finish my photo wall.
  5. Set up my wood shop as early as possible this Spring so I can get to work on refacing my cabinetry and remodeling kitchen.
  6. See if I can get my pergola framed out and find a way to extend the catio.
  7. Come up with a remodel plan for my laundry room.
  8. Play with my cats more.
  9. Travel someplace interesting.
  10. Get a new tattoo.

That aught to keep me busy. Assuming I can manage to live through 2019.

   
*For which I'm thankful. If my tattoo artist was local, I'd be covered in ink and broke.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past

Posted on December 25th, 2018

Dave!I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about Christmas now that both my grandma and my mom are gone. For my entire life, they were Christmas. Even once I decided I didn't need to celebrate the holiday, it still meant something to me because it meant something to them.

But now? Forever more, it's just another day without them here.

Which is to say that it's just a day like any other day.

Might as well see a movie?

We ended up seeing Vice which I was a bit excited about because Adam McKay wrote and directed it. Having his wit turned towards the steaming pile of garbage that is former Vice President Dick Cheney...

Vice Movie Poster

Didn't care for it.

It was funny in spots (and really funny in one particular spot), which was entertaining... but it was a kinda slapped-together documentary-style movie that didn't expose or enlighten. And while it did present some of the horrible shit Cheney unleashed... it didn't show it in any real context, nor did it really explore the consequences. It's just laid out the stuff we already knew.

Lame.

Dick Cheney is a fucking monster.

I want to see a movie that takes what he did and follows it through to what happened because of it. Not with a title card at the end of the movie, but with and actual exploration of just what a heinous blight on all humanity he has been.

All that being said, the performances in this flick are phenomenal. Christian Bale... Sam Rockwell... Amy Adams... they all deserve their Golden Globe nominations, and are a shoe-in for Oscar nominations as well. Truth be told, Steve Carell was brilliant as well. But best picture?!? Seriously? Nah.

Have a happy Christmas, if that's a thing you celebrate. Otherwise? Happiest of Tuesdays to you.

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Christmass Eve

Posted on December 24th, 2018

Dave!Apparently squatting down to apply and remove chains to my car for the drive over the mountains yesterday worked some muscles I haven't used in a while... because my gluteus maximus is all kinds of sore today. Guess I need to look into assercize or something like that. Or, I dunno, just exercise at all maybe?

And speaking of chains...

Yesterday after I made my way through Tourist Town, there's a sign before you head into the mountains advising you as to road conditions and closures and such. If the roads are impassable, there's also an arm-block that drops down to keep people from going any further.

This was the sign which warned me that chains were required over the pass... 21 miles ahead.

Some people decided that they didn't want to wait 21 miles and were pulling over to apply chains for driving on bare roads. Since the roads were bare, everybody with chains was driving way too fast. And so... chains were flying off tires and being busted to shit left and right. Which meant that some people wouldn't have chains for the pass and would be ticketed if caught.

Welcome to the hazards of winter driving.

But it was worth it to spend the holidays with friends...

Christmastime

Bring on the jolly fat man!

   

Seventy-Four

Posted on December 19th, 2018

Dave!   
Happy Birthday, Mom.


   

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska

   

   

   

Finding Normal

Posted on December 17th, 2018

Dave!The thing about life is that your "normal" is always changing. Just when you think you've got things figured out, BLAM! Suddenly what you thought you knew goes out the window and you're scrambling to figure out what your new normal is and how to live there.

When I look around, my life has remained relatively steady (comparatively speaking). I've lived in the same valley for 47 years. I've worked at the same place for 35 years. I've had my closest friend for 32 years. It goes on and on. Most of the significant factors that make up my life are unchanging. I've had three "major" relationships (and a few not-so major relationships) but even my being single feels unchanging and consistent.

Then my mom dies, everything changes, and I haven't been able to find my new normal since.

It all hit me like a ton of bricks on Thanksgiving when I realized that I wouldn't be hauling my ass over the mountains to get turkey take-out from Denny's so I could have dinner with her this year.

Or any year ever again.

I had plenty of places to go for Thanksgiving, but decided to stay at home this time and let that sink in.

Except it didn't, and I was no closer to normal than I had been for the past five months. Apparently sixteen years of prioritizing my mom in my life doesn't leave quickly. Nor should it, I suppose. Howard once told me that a breakup takes twice as long as the relationship to get over. Technically, my relationship with my mom has been 52-years long, so I guess I'll finally be back to finding normal when I'm 104.

Something to look forward to.

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Memories and Redemption

Posted on December 14th, 2018

Dave!If Facebook has a redeeming quality, it's their "Memories" feature where they give you a run-down of what you were doing on this day a year ago... two years ago... three years ago... and so on.

Well, kinda redeeming. I find that much of the time there's at least one painful memory which you'd just as soon not re-live, but that's life I guess. In general, it's a good thing though.

And that got me to thinking...

I should be able to do something like that for my blog!

I started writing out the code I would need, then remembered that there's nothing new with WordPress, and surely somebody else had already done this. Sure enough, there's a bunch of plugins available.

Alas, none of them work for me.

And so... I'm back to coding.

How else would you know that a year ago today I was returning from my Antarctica trip?

Or two years ago I was wishing you a Happy World Monkey Day?

Or five years ago I was saying goodbye to Peter O'Toole?

Or twelve years ago I accidentally smacked myself in the balls with a shampoo bottle?

Heaven only knows your life isn't complete without reading all about that!

   

The Bears of St. Mark’s

Posted on December 11th, 2018

Dave!My mom was an avid Teddy bear collector. She had tons of them. So many that she ended up donating a bunch of them to a firefighter drive. Apparently when firefighters respond to an emergency where a child has lost everything, they will give kids the bears in order for them to have something of their own from which they can start rebuilding their lives. It's a pretty incredible concept. But, then again, firefighters are pretty incredible people.

When my mom couldn't stay with me any more, I packed up some of her bears and took them to her new home. The rest of them I boxed up and stuffed in a closet because I couldn't bear to give them away.* Now that she's gone, there's not much point in hanging on to them.

Last month, I decided I would start donating her massive bear collection to the annual "Toys for Tots" drive. Almost all the bears are brand new, have never played with, and still have the tags attached. I'm sure mom would be happy to know that her bears are making kids happy for the holidays instead of sitting in a closet collecting dust, so it really is the perfect solution.

And so... every weekend I've been unboxing another crate to make sure they're in good shape, give them a vacuuming, then bag them up for the Marines...

Pile O Bears

There are a couple bears I've run across that I'll probably hang onto. Sunday I found the first bear of her collection which, coincidentally enough, I bought for her. Then there's her Teddy Ruxpin, which I also bought for her. I don't know that I want to keep it, but I'm interested in selling it if I can get a good price! Probably a long shot since there's no box for it, but you never know.

I was told that getting rid of mom's stuff is good therapy for accepting that she's really gone.

That's a therapy I don't need. I know she's really gone every single day.

   

*See what I did there?

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Life Sucks with the Dyson V7 Absolute

Posted on December 5th, 2018

Dave!When Jake got sick, I turned off Carl the RoboVac because I didn't want him running through puke and smearing it all over the house. Now that Jake has been puke-free for two months, I'll likely turn Carl back on. Because there's nothing quite like having your floors vacuumed when you come home after a hard day at work. Especially if you have pets shedding all over the place.

While Carl has been hibernating, I've been using my cheap cordless Hoover to pick up all the kitty litter and cat hair. For what it is, the thing does a pretty good job. Not so good that I can use it for my monthly deep-clean... for that I have to pull out the Shop-Vac (which my cats hate more than just about anything)... but for day-to-day cleaning it's fine.

But Hoover has been acting up lately so it was time to find a newer, better, stronger, faster vacuum. The only requirements being that it had to be cordless and it had to be lightweight. So when Black Friday rolled around, I did my due diligence Google research and found that Dyson came out on top every time for the things that were important to me. I loathed to get in bed with Dyson again (which was explained here), but they had a deal that was very good and so away I went.

Believe it or not, the two features I was most looking forward to were these...

Dyson Baseboard Sucker

Dyson Top-Of-Door Sucker

Being able to clean baseboards and above door-frames without getting on my hands and knees or climbing on a stool is a pretty big deal. And so I've been counting the minutes until my Dyson V7 Absolute would get here. And today was the day.

Overall? I like it. But it's not perfect...

PROS

  • Lightweight. I had read in reviews that it was lightweight, but wasn't expecting it to be this good.
  • Comfortable. Not just because it's lightweight... but because it's well-balanced and ergonomically designed
  • Quiet. I mean seriously quiet for a vacuum. My cats are terrified by my Hoover and Shop-Vac... but Jake is content to sit and watch me use the Dyson V7. Jenny keeps her distance, but is likewise not as terrified.
  • Cordless. Apparently Dyson has stopped making corded vacuums because they feel the cordless models they make are powerful enough to replace them. I think this is a load of hogwash, because the raw power of a good corded vacuum is leagues better than what you get out of my V7. That being said, the convenience of cordless just can't be denied.So quick and easy to clean when you're not fighting a cord the entire time.
  • Easy to empty. My other vacuums are such a frickin' hassle to empty that I probably don't clean them out as often as I should. But the V7? A piece of cake! As if that wasn't enough, it doesn't make a mess.
  • Versatile. Being able to easily remove the tube and snap tools directly on the motorized head is a serious game-changer. It's so quick and easy with none of the hassle that you get with a "traditional" vacuum. Dyson put a lot of thought into how you clean, and it shows. I love how easy it is togo from vacuuming my floors to cleaning out my car by stripping everything down to a small unit that fits in tight spots.
  • Good tool assortment. My Black Friday "deal" came with all kinds of attachments. The one I most wanted was the "stiff brush" from the "deep clean" add-on so I could sweep/suck the dust that ends up on my baseboards. While not quite as stiff as I would have liked (that's what she said) it still does a really good job.
  • Fluffy cleaning head. When vacuuming debris on hardwood, most traditional vacuum heads will just push it along (the so-called "snowplow effect"). In order to suck it up, you have to lift the head by rocking it back, come down directly on the debris, then wait for it to rattle around until it is removed. But the "fluffy cleaning head" changes all that. It happily pulls debris into the suction with no additional effort. Spill dry cat food on the floor? Just run over it with the soft roller head. Easy.
  • Motorized upholstery brush. I don't have much upholstery. My living room furniture is nice leather stuff that my brother gave me. But I do have a couple chairs that collect cat hair like a magnet. Enter the "mini motorized tool" which is unbelievably good at removing every trace of the stuff. I use it on the carpet treads on my stairs and it's amazing at getting the dirt out.
  • Unparalleled maneuverability. Zipping around my home is ridiculously easy because the design of the V7 "stick" vacuum feels like it was made to make it easy. Once you get in the groove of things, vacuuming around stuff is so much easier than with a fixed-head vacuum.

CONS

  • Not as powerful as I expected. The Dyson has far better suction than the cheap Hoover it's replacing, that's not even a debate. It plows through cat hair, dust, and kitty litter on hardwood with ease thanks to the "fluffy head" that comes with the "Absolute" version. But when push comes to shove, the suction is not where I thought it would be. I put my hand up to the tube and am not feeling the pull I was expecting. Yes, the V7 has a "MAX" mode for awesome suction, but it only lasts 6 minutes, making it impractical. If I had the money, I'd return this and get the V10 for more power. But I don't, and this does a good enough job that I'll be keeping it.
  • No trigger lock. For the life of me, I don't understand this. You have to keep your finger on the trigger the whole time you are vacuuming. Sure it encourages you not to waste precious battery time when you get distracted with picking up LEGO (or whatever), but shouldn't it be my choice?
  • Expensive. If it weren't for Black Friday, there is no way I could have afforded to buy this. Even with the Black Friday sale, it was still kind of jarring. Even so... I do feel that I got my money's worth since I got the Deep Clean Kit as a "bonus" when I ordered it on sale.
  • Small bin. While there has to be compromises in designing a cordless vacuum, I question the size of the bin. If you have a dirty home, you'll have to empty more than a couple times to clean it. Luckily emptying the bin is easy, but a bigger problem remains. Larger refuse will definitely get stuck in it. I vacuumed the tag from a T-shirt and suddenly the "cyclone action" in the bin was halted because the tag formed a blockage.
  • Freaky design. In all honesty, I don't give a crap what my vacuum looks like. I'm not going to display it like a piece of art or anything. It's either in my garage being charged or in my hand vacuuming, so how it performs is far more important that any aesthetics. That being said... this thing has more nooks and crannies than you can believe. I just know it's going to collect dust in all that, and then I'm going to need a vacuum for my vacuum.
  • Confusing lineup. There are four versions of the V7 I bought. The Animal, The HEPA, The Motorhead, and The Absolute. This is just nuts, and can be confusing. All I know is that if you have hardwood, you want the "Absolute" version because it's the only one that comes with the "fluffy roller head"... the single most essential piece of equipment for my home (which is all hardwood).

Compared to what I have, the Dyson V7 Absolute is a dream. Sure I wish it had more power in "regular mode" but it still does a very good job of making quick work of dirt, cat hair, and random cleaning tasks. Though there is an up-side to the lower power... the thing is so quiet! That goes a long ways towards my liking my new vacuum. If you can get it on a good sale, I wouldn't hesitate picking one up. But, once again, if you have hardwood floors you must get the "Absolute" version that comes with the fluffy cleaning head! For me, the V7 would be half the vacuum it is without it.

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Re-Remodeling

Posted on November 28th, 2018

Dave!When I bought my home, there was a lot of remodeling that needed to be done so that my mom would be safe living here. She couldn't walk on carpet very well, so I had to replace all the flooring with hardwood. She couldn't use the showers because there was a lip she'd trip over, so I had to put in a zero-entry pan. I had to remodel the stairwell railing so she wouldn't fall down the stairs. It went on and on. And that's not even touching on some of the cosmetic things I wanted to change (the sponge-painted accent walls had to go).

When it came time to hire a contractor, I had to be sure they were available ASAP and would do high-quality work. I ended up going with one of the most expensive options, but I felt I'd get what I paid for. My mom's safety was worth more than money.

After the work was completed, I was fairly happy with everything. I ended up being more expensive than quoted... took longer than quoted... and was one of the most frustrating things I've ever done... but it's all good.

Then I started living with it and noticing things.

Fixtures were crooked. Workmanship was shoddy. Paint bled onto my floors. And these were not isolated incidents... they were everywhere. I paid a premium price for shitty work.

Which meant I had to remodel my remodel. I started with the horrific job they did on my "California corners" on my baseboards. Instead of being sanded smooth, they just painted over their shitty mis-matched bullshit...

Remodel Wall Sag

Then back in August I saw that the paint was sagging off the wall of my guest bathroom...

Remodel Wall Sag

Upon inspection I noticed that the texture which was still stuck to the wall was applied badly. They didn't bother to sand down the patchwork they applied after ripping the mirror off the wall...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

Not only that, but they didn't bother to match the texture that was already on the wall. There are no less than six texture patterns across the whole bathroom along with ugly smooth spots where they didn't apply texture at all...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

This is infuriating.

Everything is so messed up that the only realistic way to fix it is to scrape everything off, sand it all smooth, then start over from scratch.

I don't have time for that right now, so I started removing the texture that was sagging. The reason it was sagging is that they didn't sand off the paint from the previous texture, so the new texture couldn't stick to it...

Remodel Wall Scrape

And then something horrible started happening. The patch material that they used where the mirror used to be (and didn't sand down) was starting to turn to power. The texture would peel off the wall with the slightest scrape of my putty knife...

Remodel Wall Scraped

Even worse? As you can see, chunks of the patchwork was falling out of the wall as well.

What a fucking joke. My contractor's team did the shittiest job possible and apparently didn't give a crap that it would fall apart within two years. Some of the repairs were so badly applied that I had to cut them out of the wall so it would flatten out.

After scraping practically the entire wall and sanding around the area that fell off, I was ready to tape off everything and re-texture...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

Despite coming from a can, the new texture went up easy. I dare say that my effort matched the walls better than the various textures my contractor used...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

After painting, the wall looked far from perfect... but at least it wasn't sagging and flaking any more...

Re-Remodel Wall Repair

Maybe next Summer I'll be able to take a week off work, pull out the fixtures and furniture, strip everything down, then do a proper repair. In the meanwhile, this will have to do.

I remain dumbfounded that people don't seem to take pride in their workmanship or build anything to last anymore. The only way to make sure of anything now is to do it yourself.

   

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