kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So the in-laws were in town for the past few days. It was pretty good, really. They stayed with us, but that worked better than I expected, and they're pretty decent for in-laws so we mostly enjoyed their company. There was something of a ground rule that political discussion was off-limits; they're both big Trump supporters, and as you can imagine I find that pretty awful. But at least I kinda loathe Hillary too, so at least we have that in common, right? Anyway.

For their whole visit we were driving around in the minivan, since they didn't get a rental and it can hold all 7 of us. But when the time came to take them to the airport yesterday, the wife had to take Hermione to her weekly band practice, so it fell to me and my car to be the airport taxi. So we load up and set off, only to find that the air conditioning isn't working. And I don't just mean it wasn't blowing cold air, I mean it was actually blowing HOT air, as if the temperature dial were stuck on the highest setting. Whatever mode I tried--whatever vent, whatever temperature, A/C compressor on or off, outside or recirculated--same thing, HOT air coming out. So eventually we gave up and shut it off completely, and rode with all the windows down, but since it was 92F outside that really didn't help a whole lot and it was a pretty miserable ride. It was like that on the way home, too. And ironically, I was just thinking the other day about how this car really hadn't ever given me the first bit of trouble.

I gave it a while to cool down and looked up some possibilities on the Interwebz, and some people said maybe it's the electronics, so disconnect/reconnect the battery to reset everything. So I gave that a try and it did work, but then later when I pulled the car into the garage it wasn't working again. But today so far, on my morning commute and then a trip out to grab something for lunch, it's been fine. So I've concluded that the problem must have been THEM. After months of sporting a Bernie sticker on the rear window (which I finally did remove--it felt like it was time, him being out of the race and out of the spotlight these days), I think it rubbed off on the car and it just couldn't tolerate carrying a load of Trump fans. It's the only explanation.

Nah, actually I figure it will act up again eventually and I'll have to take it somewhere, which I am frankly dreading. A/C is an absolute necessity in these parts, no matter what time of year it is. So there we are. But if it can at least keep working until it's not in the upper 80s and low 90s every day, that would be swell.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Got a new (used) car yesterday!

I'd been having my doubts about our aging minivan for some time--the A/C compressor has seemed like it wants to die before long, little things were starting to fail like the power side door and keyless entry, and at 116k miles I was starting to fear for the powertrain as well. The final straw, though: just lately it had been particularly noisy at speed in the front end, sorta like the usual road noise but much worse, so I took it in for an inspection and they said wheel bearings and lower ball joints all need to be replaced, to the tune of twelve hundred bucks. I could maybe have done the work myself, but really I felt like it would be a waste of money and effort. So I suggested that we trade it in before something really DOES go belly-up and it loses what value it does have. H didn't like the idea at first, because it was nearly paid off and she was looking forward to losing that monthly payment. But she liked even less the idea of dropping many hundreds on repairs right now, so she came around pretty quickly.

I looked around, and found a relatively new used-car dealership in the area with stellar reviews online. Really the only bad reviews I found were about speed of service--people who waited an hour before being helped or felt the whole process took too long--and frankly in my mind that's par for the course when it comes to car shopping. The place mainly deals in lease returns that have been in fender-bender accidents (without structural damage and cosmetically repaired, of course). So late-model, low-mileage cars at pretty decent prices. No haggling, low pressure, like CarMax but with better prices. And as someone who hates high-pressure salesmen and is not keen on negotiating, that sounded good to me.

So we all packed up and headed down there yesterday morning. I had been hoping to go alone, but we figured H might need to come along to sign some paperwork since the old van was in both our names, and that meant we had to bring the kids too. They were excited about climbing around in the new vans and taking a test drive, of course, but I knew the rest would be excruciatingly boring for them. But they stuck it out pretty well.

Anyway, I was sorta hoping to angle for a newer Toyota Sienna, which is what our old van was, and they did have some nice ones with great features and low mileage. But those were all a bit more than we were willing to spend just now. So we decided to go as cheap as we could this time, and then in a few years (as long as the potential merger here at work doesn't screw me over) we should be in a better position to upgrade. We ended up with a 2012 Kia Sedona, fairly basic, but in really good condition and with reasonably low miles. The girls really like it. I've been a little underwhelmed with it on the whole, but it's certainly more pleasant to drive than the rattletrap it replaces, and it does have some good features. The stereo is the high point: Bluetooth, Sirius and USB all built in, which is nice. It lacks some other things I liked about the old van, but nothing major and it will do for now as long as it stays reliable. I don't quite trust the Korean brands for longevity just yet, so we'll see.

It does put my mind at ease to feel relatively certain that we shouldn't have any major vehicle problems for the foreseeable future, though. Plus we're planning to drive to meet the in-laws in Myrtle Beach again this summer, and I really wasn't feeling good about doing that in the old van. So let's hope this turns out to be a good purchase!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So, Detroit! It was cold. And pretty dreary, on the whole. Partly due to the cold, I'd planned to go to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, both of which sounded right up my alley. When I got there, I discovered that Greenfield Village was closed (seasonal hours, I guess), so I just did the museum. And actually it was a Good Thing that it worked out that way, because the museum is HUGE--like 12 indoor acres huge--and I went all the way to closing time and still skipped some bits. And some of the stuff in their collection really blew my mind.

Lots of photos, of course, and mostly (as the subject implies) of planes, trains, and--as one would expect in a Detroit museum named after Henry Ford--lots of cars. Come along for a tour?

Clicky! )
And that was about it! After I left it was already getting dark, and the next day was just office-to-airport, so no more photos. Hopefully that wasn't too boring--I know there's nothing like being there.

Anyway, thanks for looking!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So I added a couple new friends from an AMA friending post (welcome aboard!) and then disappeared for a couple weeks. Sorry about that! Work's been busy, especially since I took a day off last week. And this Friday is July 4, so I get that day off as well. Go USA!

Anyway, I figure I'd better catch things up with recent goings-on, and of course there are photos, so this should be a decent introduction for the newcomers as to how things work around here. :)

20140616-IMG_0139
In my last post I mentioned getting my new solo kayak; one evening shortly thereafter, I dropped Heather and the girls off at a park while I took it for a quick test run on a chain of lakes around here. When I was done I went back to find the girls playing on this neat climbing playground. Amy likes tattoos, as you can see.

Lots to see! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140322-IMG_8794_HDR

So Saturday I had an ambitious plan. We'd decided on St. Augustine, so the plan was to hit a state park over in Palm Coast, then head up A1A and maybe visit Fort Matanzas on the way to the St. Augustine lighthouse. And THEN swing over to another state park we've been wanting to visit before heading home. I knew going in that it was probably too ambitious for us, but aim high, right? Ha!

So firstly, we didn't even get out the door until after 9am. The girls slept in and then took their time getting ready, despite saying how excited they were to go explore some new places. So I figured okay, maybe we won't have time for that last state park, especially since it's a bit out of the way.

When we left, I again noticed something I'd noticed the night before: the van's starter cranked a bit more slowly than usual. It started, so I didn't think too much of it. And I'm sure you can already see where this is going.

We stopped at a Publix in Palm Coast to get our usual picnic lunch: a sub for Heather and I to share, and Lunchables for the kids. Headed back out to the van to be on our way, and.. dead battery. I kicked myself because I should have known that was why the slow cranking. And I didn't think to put jumper cables in the van, either. So I called AAA, but as I was talking to them the couple in the car next to us offered a jump, so I said great! and got off the phone. Unfortunately I'd misheard them: I thought he'd said he had cables and could give us a jump, but he actually said if *I* had cables he could give us a jump. Oops. But we managed to find someone with a pair to lend, and got cranked up in short order. But then our first order of business was to secure a new battery, so off to the auto parts store. That was actually quick and pleasant--the weather was lovely and the auto parts guy was very nice, so he popped in the new battery and that did the trick. But between our late start and unforeseen delay, it looked like more of the agenda would have to be sacrificed.

So we went to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, which is definitely a new favorite. The park straddles A1A in Palm Coast, between the Matanzas River on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. So on one side of the road it's a nice riverfront park with some cool old structures, magnificent live oaks, and a neat formal garden. And on the other side of the road it's a strand of beach unlike anything I've seen elsewhere in Florida. My perennial favorite beach has been Playalinda, near Titusville, which I like because it's so natural and undeveloped, unlike a lot of touristy stretches of beach lined with hotels and surf shops and whatnot. This beach was a lot like that, but with the added bonuses of lots of coquina rocks to climb on and seashells to sift through. Definitely a new favorite park and beach.

So the girls had a blast exploring the beach, and then we went across to the other side of the park. And by then everyone was a bit worn out and it was already into mid-afternoon, so we decided to call it a day and leave St. Augustine and that other park for another day. I still want to climb that lighthouse!

Sunday we planned to mostly take it easy, but we headed out in the morning for one of our favorite local parks, lunch, and a stop in at Goodwill to donate some stuff and find some more books to add to our collection. I really do need to get going on the library project sometime!

Okay, more photos from the weekend: Clicky! )
And that's about all for now. I just realized I never posted about the Christmas Wish photo session! I'll do that in another entry. Hope everyone is having a good Monday so far!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I guess I'll start with a weekend update. Overall, it was a good one.

Saturday we definitely wanted to head out somewhere, since the weather was scheduled for beautiful and I had a new lens to play with! I was actually thinking kinda ambitious, like driving up to St. Augustine or somewhere else that we rarely (if ever) go. But it had been a while since we'd seen my Mom or our friend Holly, so we decided to do that instead. Went to Mom's to let the girls play for a while, and then we all went out to lunch and to the Hammock Trails on the way out to the beach--the land out there is all Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore, so it's nice and protected and lovely. I used to drive out to the Hammock Trails once in a while in my high school/college days, but probably hadn't been back since then. It's a very nice walk, though the mosquitos were out in force after the rains we've had lately.

After the trail we went back to Mom's for a little ice cream, and then went to Chain of Lakes park to meet up with Holly and her kids. That's a nice park, it has a great long walking trail along the lakes, and there's a very cool observation tower along the way. The girls had fun there, of course, and then it was back home for dinner and our usual evening routine.

Sunday we had no plans, but ended up staying home most of the day. But I was quite productive! I worked on the pool quite a bit--I never got it completely cleaned up last swimming season, and it got worse over the winter. Now that spring is around the corner, I want to get an early start on getting it back into shape! So that's a work in progress, but I think it's coming along. I'd also been meaning to finish ripping out one of the big plants in the pool area so we could turn that bed into a nectar garden for the butterflies that occasionally find their way into the enclosure. I always feel bad when one gets trapped in there and I can't catch it to get it out--they usually die since there's no food for them in there. Or wasn't, anyway! Now there are a few plants in there that should keep them going until I can get them out of there. Or who knows, maybe we'll add some host plants as well and have our own little enclosed butterfly habitat. We'll see how it goes.

I also took another stab at changing the oil in my car. Did I mention that? I tried it a few weeks ago, and could not get the drain plug bolt loose. I'm not sure if it was overtightened when the oil was last changed, or if I was using the wrong tool, or both--but it would not budge and I ended up rounding off the bold head. I tried again the next weekend, having gotten better tools, but it was too rounded to do any good. I'd resigned myself to having to take it in and probably pay extra to get the damn thing removed, but I did a little more research and decided that one more shot with a set of bolt extractor sockets was in order. So I got a set, got the car jacked up in the garage, and gave it a try.. only to discover that the largest extractor socket in the set I got was actually 12.5mm, not 13mm, and wouldn't get a grip on the bolt. Gah! I tried it for a while, and banged up my hands good trying a pair of Vise-Grips pliers as well, all to no avail. In frustration I set out shopping for the next larger extractor socket. Went to NAPA and they had nothing--why I ever bother going there I have no idea. Went to AutoZone and they had a set, but it was $25 and overlapped the set I had, plus they were deep sockets and I didn't have that much working room. Checked Home Depot and they looked at me like I had three heads when I asked if they carried them. So no dice. I was going to give up and just order the other sizes of the set I had, but I figured what the hell, I'll try a little more. I attacked the bolt head with a file to make it a little smaller and give it some straighter edges, whacked the extractor socket on there with a hammer, and finally the thing came loose! I made a big mess of dirty oil on the garage floor, but finally the deed was done! So next time it shouldn't be nearly so difficult. Sheesh, what an ordeal!

But today my hands are still a bit grimy and sore and scratched up, my neck and back hurt from twisting around under the car, my legs are sore from working to pull that plant out of the ground. This grown-up homeowner stuff is painful, I tell ya.

After all that, I noticed some crud on the car so I washed it, which turned into waxing it too since it had been a while. By then it was dinner time, and after that we decided to go take a walk around Crane's Roost park and feed some ducks. And get milkshakes, since I definitely felt like I deserved one. :)

And that was the weekend. How was yours?
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140223-IMG_6947

Amy! Though man-oh-man, you'd never have known she wasn't in the full grip of her Terrible Twos despite turning 3 yesterday. Heck, she even argued about it when we told her it was her birthday and she was turning 3! "It's NOT my birthday, it's YOUR birthday, and I'M TWO." Oy. I think it was a lack of sleep, but aside from a couple hours of her being good, she was pretty much a nightmare all day. She's just so stubborn when she gets something in her head. She'll misplace a toy or book, come ask us to find it for her, and then go nuclear when we can't find it or refuse to look. Or she'll get it into her head that she wants to do something, and raise the ceiling if we want her to do something else. And heaven help us if we ask her to do something she DOESN'T want to do. Sheesh. I'm glad these phases pass in time, but I'm pretty sure she's been the worst with this stuff. Hermione was perfect, always eager to please and not a complainer. Hallie was a little more vocal, but easy enough to distract or redirect or coerce somehow. Amy just will. not. have. it. I guess she'll be our Type A kid. ;)

Anyway, weekend was good otherwise. Heather's sister Stef came over Friday night, and we had fun watching some old home videos with her. Saturday we headed up to the zoo in Sanford, where they've recently added giraffes (though the feeding station for them doesn't open for a few more weeks). It's not a great zoo, but our main goal was to get our pass there since it's relatively cheap, and then we can use that to get discounted admission at lots of other zoos and aquariums. And the animals they have are pretty cool, though their enclosures tend to be on the small side which makes me feel bad for some of the critters.

After the zoo we got lunch and then headed home, and then I stayed home with Amy while everyone else went ice skating. Hallie finally got past a hurdle so she got a lot better, and Heather's apparently decided that rather than just take Hallie to her lesson and sitting around each week, she's going to sign up for lessons too. She already skates okay--well enough to stay upright, anyway--but she wouldn't mind getting better.

After the ice skating was dinner and then our walk and paddle down at the lake that I posted about before.

Sunday Stef headed home in the morning, which left us the day. I'd been wanting to head out to the big plant nursery we like to get some stuff, so we decided to make an outing of that, lunch, and checking out a city park we hadn't been to before. The park was first, and it wasn't as nice as I'd expected, but the girls had fun. Then we couldn't find a place for lunch, which caused some drama. And then the nursery, which hopefully redeemed the trip. I got a bunch of milkweed plants, and some dill and fennel, and a porterweed, all for the butterfly garden. Got some azaleas to replace a couple that died over the winter. And Heather was looking at the fruit trees and couldn't resist getting a peach tree, which will hopefully do well. The girls and I planted all of that when we got home, which is always fun.

Then I tried changing the oil on my car again. I'd tried a couple weeks ago and was frustrated because I couldn't get the damn drain plug out. It was clearly overtightened by whoever changed it last, and my tools weren't quite the right size so I ended up rounding the edges of the bolt a bit. Not good. Since then I got some new tools to hopefully fit better, but even so all I did was round off the bolt even more. Gonna have to take it in somewhere and hope they can get that off--I did order a new plug to replace that one, but first the old one's got to come off! Not happy about it, changing oil is not supposed to be an ordeal!

I also worked on my photography website a little. The home page has always been my blog, but I wanted to switch to a setup where there's an actual home/landing page, and a menu link to the blog instead. Finally got that working, though I still have work to do on the landing page, as well as my portfolio images which haven't been updated for a year or two. And I'm sure there are other changes I want to make to the text here and there. I'm always saying I'm happy as a part-timer and don't want too much business, but lately I've been getting hardly anything and it makes me feel out of practice, which is bad.

Oh, and I ordered my new lens, which should arrive around Thursday. Looking forward to playing with that! At the nursery I saw a guy who had that very lens on his Canon, so I asked him about it a little. He frankly seemed a bit clueless for a guy who dropped $1300 on a lens, but he said he mainly got it for video since it's stabilized and has been happy with it. We'll see!

Okay, enough rambling. Have some more photos instead.
Clicky! )

Meh.

Feb. 3rd, 2014 08:56 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
That pretty much sums up the weekend, I'm afraid. A bit of a dud, really.

After a few chilly, rainy, gloomy days, we were looking forward to a nicer weekend. Saturday was indeed warmer, but it rained pretty much all day, which ruled out most anything outdoors we might have considered. So instead I took the two older girls to the science center for a few hours, which was a pretty good time--though a lot of other people had the same idea, so it was a bit crowded. Still, they had a good time and it got us out of the house for a while.

Sunday looked to finally bring an end to the rain, so we planned to head out to the Magic Kingdom for one last visit before our passes expire. My thought was to wait until late morning and stop for lunch before going to the park, but I was overruled because everyone was eager to get out of the house. That meant dealing with the morning rush of people parking and heading to the park, and the crowds near the entrance. It also turned out to be a busier day than expected, so lines were long. And the rain did indeed stop, but it left lots of humidity and stickiness in its wake, which made the weather a bit stifling and uncomfortable. Hermione and I tried to go on Pirates, only to have it break down while we were in line, so we ditched that. The main thing Hallie wanted to ride was the Haunted Mansion, and we checked it a few times but the line was always too long. So we really only went on a couple things before calling it a day, and it made for a not very good last visit. Ah well, on the other hand it reinforced our decision to take a Disney break when our passes do expire. :)

We took the car to Disney because I checked the oil in the van that morning and found it quite low, and rather than just add oil I wanted to do an oil change since it's been a while. So when we got home I got cracking on that. At first I thought I had everything I needed, but it turned out I needed a filter, so I headed to the auto parts store for that, and I also figured I'd get oil and a filter for my car, which is about due as well. Turns out the car uses the exact same filter as the van, so that'll be convenient! I'd already drained the oil from the van, so all I needed to do was install the filter and fill up the oil, no problem there. Then I started on the car. And I must say, I finally found something to really dislike about my car. The filter is only accessible from the bottom of the engine, which is unusual for me. And it's hidden by a plastic panel, something else to remove. As is the drain plug, which is also pretty far back from the front of the car, making it rather difficult to reach. Plus the plug was apparently really overtightened whenever it was last changed, because I could not get it to budge, and in fact I was starting to round off the damn bolt head. So I eventually gave up since I was doing more harm than good. I'll have to attack it with the floor jack and stands next time so I can really get under there, maybe even get the impact wrench involved if that might help. But first I think I need to order a new drain plug. :/ One of those things, I guess--once I get it done once, doing it in the future shouldn't be so bad. But sheesh, it should not be this hard!

What else.. oh yeah, we got our info together to file our taxes. We knew we'd owe since I had nothing withheld all year, we just wanted to get it overwith so we'd know how much, and from that we could take a guess at how much will be leftover from my upcoming annual bonus. The tax bill came to just over $1k, which was a bit more than I expected but apparently less than Heather feared, so I guess that's not too bad. We'll use the bonus to catch up on a couple things, and probably put the rest aside as a buffer for my upcoming trips--I get paid back for them, but the delay between paying for the airfare and whatnot and the reimbursement sometimes takes more than one billing cycle of the credit card, and it doesn't make sense to pay finance charges on business travel that technically shouldn't be costing me anything.

Oh, and my poor Amy. Apparently Friday she was goofing around and smacked her mouth on the coffee table. Heather said there was a lot of blood, so at first she was afraid she'd copied her older sister Hallie, who knocked a front tooth out at about the same age (though that one happened on my watch). So far the teeth seem okay, but she had a pretty swollen upper lip all weekend, and obviously complained a lot that eating hurt, poor kid. Hopefully that will all heal up good as new in another couple days.

So yeah, a bit of a subpar weekend, no paddling (again), not a whole lot of fun, and not even really any photos worth sharing. Hopefully this week will go quickly and next weekend will be better! Hope everyone out there had a better weekend.

Dilemma!

Jan. 16th, 2014 01:08 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I've had my new car for almost 6 months already, which seems crazy. Yet the front license-plate holder remains empty and ugly, since I never decided what I'd like to put up there. I want something unique, something that sort of advertises my personality, since that's what stuff you put on a car is supposed to do, right? So I actually did come up with an idea, but it is problematic for me. See, what I'd really like to get is something related to Calvin & Hobbes, which played a big role in my youth and is something I adore to this day. My notion is to get a vinyl decal of C&H or maybe one of Calvin's alter-egos like Spaceman Spiff or Tracer Bullet, affix it to a blank black license plate, and voila. I just think that would be nifty.

But the problem comes in here: there are no truly legal alternatives for doing this, since Bill Watterson--someone probably in the top 5 of my idols and heroes--never licensed the characters for merchandising. That's actually one of the reasons I respect the man so much--his syndicate figuratively drove truckloads of money to his house to get him to license the characters, and he absolutely refused. And for good reason, as all the tasteless knockoff Calvin-pissing-on-things stickers out there can attest. So since I respect his wishes, I am reluctant to circumvent them for my own vanity. But on the other hand, the strip and characters and his art and insight have meant so much to me over the years that I would really like to pay homage to it, even if it's through something as silly as decor on my car. So I feel like I wouldn't be violating the spirit of his wishes TOO badly, if that makes sense.

It's a ridiculous thing to be concerned about, I know. Just the way the wheels in my head spin. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
My office has no windows so I can't actually SEE the rain, but I hear it on the roof so I know it's there. I kinda like that.

Wow, so I won the LJ-Photophile poll! Not the one I mentioned a few weeks ago, this was a catch-up poll from a few months back. Funny how it works, I was WAY more proud of the seagull-at-sunset photo than I was of the passionflower photo, but people went nuts over the flower and it ran away with the poll. I find it interesting that the things I think are my best work and what other people think are my best don't always--or even often--overlap. In other news, I can't find a single photo I want to vote for in the latest poll. Most of them are snapshots, and the one that wants to be amazing was posted in quite low resolution as part of a massive dump of pics, neither of which I want to encourage by voting for it. If that makes sense. Anyway.

Speaking of seagulls at sunset, I just now booked my outbound flight for a trip to California next week! Kind of short notice, but I've had to wait for some other folks to get their shit together to pick dates and whatnot. So presently it looks like California next week, Birmingham and Detroit the week after that, and then Indianapolis in early November. Travellin man! Since California is such a long trip, I'm contemplating adding a vacation day to the itinerary so I can see some more sights out there. Maybe even a Disneyland day, I guess we'll see. I'd love to visit Sequoia Nat'l Forest, but hello GOP government shutdown. Anyway, I ran the idea by the wife, we'll see what she says before I book the return flights.

Weekend was pretty good. Saturday morning the wife headed downtown for some training on being a Girl Scout troop leader. Maybe I mentioned she's trying to get a troop going for the girls and some friends of theirs. The timing was bad because I had booked a photoshoot for the afternoon, way out in Christmas (about 45 minutes from home). But the Girl Scout training is only offered once a month, so she didn't want to miss it and have to wait a month. But she also didn't want to turn around and head to the park as soon as she got home--if she'd even get home on time, which was questionable. So that left me alone with the girls, and the prospect of dragging them along to the shoot, or leaving them home alone until she got back. Neither option sounded very good. But it thankfully worked out--luckily the client was an old acquaintance and a friend-of-a-friend, so I got that friend to meet us all at the park with her daughter, and she watched the kids play while I did the session. Whew. Good thing too, because before our friend showed up, Amy didn't want to even let me put her down. Would have made trying to work a photoshoot pretty darn tough, without even mentioning the utter-lack-of-professionalism angle! But it went well, and I even got everything edited by Sunday evening. Quick turnaround! And the client was ecstatic with the photos, so all's well that ends well.

Sunday we had no plans, so mainly we stayed home and I sweated a lot. Hopefully that's the last summer-like weekend for a while! Anyway, I worked some more at unearthing a big plant from the pool area (we want to replace the stuff in that plant bed with butterfly-friendly things), helped the girls sand and stain our woodworking projects from a few weeks back, and worked at cleaning the garage. That was sort of a big deal, we cleared and rearranged enough stuff to allow us to fit both vehicles in there. It's extremely tight with both of them inside, but it makes me feel better. The main crime in our area is vehicle burglaries--usually unlocked cars, but occasionally smash-and-grab jobs--and my new car is too nice to subject to that sort of nonsense. So I'll sleep better knowing they're both snug inside. Plus it's better for the car itself, of course! While cleaning the garage I found a piece of wood countertop I forgot I had, so I came up with the idea of extending the surface in my workshop while also moving a metal shelving unit to a better location. Might work on that evenings this week, should be fun. :)

And that's about it for now, I guess. Work is going along despite my best efforts to do as little of it as possible. I've been steadily catching up on Breaking Bad and was quite sad when they demolished the Winnebago. Sorry if that was a spoiler! :) Back to it, hope everyone is having a swell day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Keeping busy today, but I thought I'd take a few minutes for some general short nonsense.

-Hoping for that job offer today or tomorrow. Yesterday I bumped into the guy whose job I'd be replacing, and we chatted for a few minutes. I got the distinct impression that I was his pick, though he's not the primary decision-maker. Anyway, between me and the one other person I know was in the top 3, I think I'm in pretty good shape. So unless that third person has a secret weapon of some sort, I think it's mine if I want it. I did some math this morning on the salary I'm planning to ask for, depending on what sort of offer I get. We'll see.

-Had to return some tadpoles to their puddle yesterday--we just scooped way too many! They were all doing well, but there were like 70 of them and they were eating a LOT. So I tried to get about two-thirds out and back to the puddle, and we'll see how it goes with the others. They're getting bigger!

-Today I ordered a set of rear shock absorbers for the van--I think I'm comfortable doing that job myself. I almost ordered a pair of front struts too, but that looks like a more involved piece of work and involves compressing the coil springs, which is dicey and probably requires specialist equipment. I'll do some more research. I'm replacing the rear shocks because one of the tires that was back there (and was moved to the front when I got a new pair of tires a couple weeks ago) has some cupping, which can be caused by bad shocks. I don't want the new tires to do the same! But the road noise from the cupped tire is pretty bad, so I'm also thinking I'll move that pair back to the rear so it's not as annoying. Really I should just replace that pair of tires too, but they have lots of tread life left so I'm reluctant to spend the money. We'll see how it is once I've replaced the shocks and moved things around.

-Speaking of ordering stuff, today I'm expecting an early birthday present--the LEGO Back to the Future DeLorean set! I wanted it when I first saw it a few weeks ago, but it was sold out and only available via resellers who were jacking up the price. But the other day I saw Amazon had it in stock at the normal price, so I pulled the trigger. It's a Cuusoo set, which are fan-built sets that get voted into official LEGO production, kinda neat. There's a Ghostbusters ECTO-1 set currently going through the approval process, and oh man do I want that if/when it hits the shelves.

-Um.. I think that's about it for now. Back to work!

Car Update.

Sep. 4th, 2013 11:07 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So I haven't mentioned the new car too much lately, to the disappointment of no one, I'm sure. :) But I still adore her and I'm just about done with the stuff I wanted to add to her, so I thought I'd give you a look at that. Fun, right?

Under a cut, of course! )
So that's about it so far--I think it's come along quite nicely! It's a shame I do so little driving in the dark to enjoy the ambient lighting, but I still dig having it. :) And that whole mod was maybe $30 altogether, between the LED strip, the switch, wire and some other electrical connectors. I seriously considered getting RGB LEDs instead so I could control the color and have it do fun color-shifting things, but that added a lot of complexity that I don't think would have been worth it. I may add a dimmer control so I can dial the intensity up or down, but the level seems pretty good as-is. The lights in the door panels will be my next task, I guess, and getting that temperature sensor to an exterior point somehow. Fun!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Okay, no vampires were actually involved, as far as I know. But Friday I spiffed myself up and came in to work, and had that job interview. It went very well, I'd like to think--we were scheduled for an hour and went for 90 minutes, so I figure it's promising that they thought I was worth spending even more time than planned with. The interview was a tag-team effort with the lady I'd potentially be reporting to, and the guy who got promoted and whom I'd be replacing (and also sorta reporting to, in dotted-line fashion). And as I said, I've worked fairly closely with both of them for years, so it was pretty comfortable going in, and I think I was able to fill in some gaps they might have had in terms of knowledge of my skills and experience. And it was a good opportunity to learn more about the position, and the lay of the land for that. So yeah, I think it went well and I came out of it wanting the job even more than when I went in, so that's good. They said they'd be setting up short teleconference meetings with the top 3 candidates and my potential-new-boss' boss (who is also my present boss' boss--confused yet?) and make their decision by the end of this week(!). I sent a quick thank-you e-mail to both of them this morning, and the guy wrote back saying: "You really were a 'wildcard' as far as interviews go, going into it. You gave me a lot to think about that you bring to the role, great things. Good luck in the next phase (not saying for sure you are there, but in case you are ;)" So I'll take that as a good sign too.

Funny thing is, I have no idea if my current boss is even aware that I'm going for the job. I dropped him an e-mail about it before I submitted my official interest, but he was on vacation and is fairly notorious about being overwhelmed with e-mail so I doubt he even saw that. It's quite possible that potential-new-boss gave him a call about it, or that he heard otherwise. But I don't see or talk to him very often, so our weekly staff meeting tomorrow might be a chance to briefly mention it and make sure he's aware. I don't feel all that obligated to him, frankly, but I'm not the sort to want to leave him high and dry either.

The weekend was good, though we didn't actually do all that much. I tackled some projects around the house, and worked on the ambient lighting for my car (which I managed to get done, mostly--looks pretty good!). I'll have to do a photo post or two to catch up on that. I also got my scooter running and mostly reassembled, and bought a new battery for it--hopefully I can put that up for sale soon. This week I'm planning to take Friday off, maybe Thursday too, and get a nice long weekend (since I have next Monday off for Labor Day). I think we're planning to take a day trip over to my Dad's next weekend, and we'll definitely go to Disney World at some point, but aside from that we have no real plans. Just waiting for cooler weather to get here, but we'll probably be waiting a bit longer for that...

UPDATE: And now I have that second interview at 9:30am tomorrow, at the boss' boss' office over in St. Pete. That'll mean hitting the road bright and early, but that's okay. My potential new boss also gave me some feedback and tips on things to brush up on before that interview, so that's good. I definitely get the feeling that she wants me to get the job (even though ultimately it will be her own decision--probably she mostly wants me to impress her boss enough to agree!). She also did her homework on the salary concerns I had, since the new job would be one pay grade down from my current position. But the pay range of each grade is pretty wide, and she confirmed that my current salary is just about the midpoint of the new job's grade, so I definitely wouldn't lose any money (and I sort of expect I could wrangle a decent increase out of the offer too). So we'll see. I'm glad things are moving quickly!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So let's see.. Friday after work we went to a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at a local high school. It was high school all the way, so even calling it a low-budget production gives it a bit too much credit. But it was still highly enjoyable, and the guy playing Joseph was really quite good. His performance of "Close Every Door To Me" was excellent, and the ensemble who did "Those Canaan Days" did a great job too. That was our first time taking all the girls to a live musical, and they seemed to enjoy it even though it wasn't all that impressive of a production. I used to get offered lots of tickets to stuff when I worked closer to the Marketing department, I wish I still did. We saw a really good traveling version of Oklahoma! that way, it was nice.

Saturday we felt like going somewhere and decided we hadn't been to Gainesville for a few months, so we headed up there. We usually hit the Florida Museum of Natural History while we're there, and check out something new too--this time we decided to check out the Teaching Zoo at the Santa Fe College. It was a little zoo, rather rustic. Decent collection of critters, though, and we enjoyed it even though it was already hot. After that we planned lunch at Schlotzsky's--we're big fans of that chain, and the Gainesville location was the closest one to us since all the Orlando and Tampa locations shut down a few years ago. Note that I said 'was'--we were devastated to get there and find that there was no sign of Schlotzsky's and workers were busy converting the building into a credit union branch. Apparently the restaurant closed a mere 2 weeks after our last visit, with no warning. The franchisee is apparently looking for a new location, but hasn't had any luck yet. So we are bereft of our Schlotzsky's fix until that happens, or they finally open a new central Florida location (which I do believe is set to happen at some point). So that was a bummer.

We mainly went to the FL Museum of Natural History for their Butterfly Rainforest, which is really quite awesome. It's packed with butterflies, mostly exotic species from Asia and South America. Last time we went it was raining, this time it was rather hot and sticky in there, but it was still amazing. They also always have a selection of butterfly host and nectar plants for sale out front, and I was ecstatic to see they had false nettle this time! I've been looking for that one for ages, and it's really not something that most nurseries carry since it isn't all that pretty. But it's a host plant for Red Admiral butterflies, which are some of my favorites. A couple other neat species can use it too, but they aren't species I've ever seen around here, so if they show up that would just be a bonus. :)

Once we got home from our travels, I spent some time starting to tear the car apart to install some of the goodies I got--mostly the Bluetooth/USB add-on for the stereo. That went pretty well from a physical install perspective. I added the USB port inside the center console, and installed a switch for the ambient lighting I plan to add (though I'm holding off on the lighting itself for now). The electrical part was where I hit a slight snag. I got a custom wiring harness to hook the gizmo to the stereo, and that worked very well with one exception--the stereo has no switched 12V accessory wire, so I had to track one down and then run a separate wire to that. But once I figured that out, the rest was pretty smooth and turned out quite nice, I think. I tested the USB input and the Bluetooth phone connection, including the voice recognition dialing. All works just like it's supposed to! I also swapped out a couple more interior lights for cool-white LEDs, and put my Dalek decal on the back. Gotta add some personality, you understand!

Speaking of Daleks, last night we watched the BBC special announcing the Twelfth Doctor. I guess I'm not tuned-in to British culture enough to have ever really heard of Peter Capaldi, but from a strictly visual perspective he looks like a good fit. He sorta fits the visual mold established by Tennant and Smith, he's just a bit older. And it's pretty cool that he's a lifelong Whovian, that might bring an interesting perspective. I imagine lots of people are disappointed that it's another white guy, but whatever. As long as the stories are good and he takes to the role well, we'll be happy. The girls weren't particularly fussed about it either way, but it did make them want to watch a Who episode last night, and the next one up for us was "Blink," which I'd been looking forward to--the first appearance of the Weeping Angels! The Doctor really wasn't in that one much at all, we realized, but the girl who carried the story was quite good so it was okay. She looked familiar so I had to look her up, and I saw she was in My Boy Jack, which we watched and liked, and she plays Daisy in the new Gatsby movie, which I want to see when I can get my hands on it.

Yesterday I told Heather it wouldn't take long to finish working on the car, but then I hit that electrical frustration and it ended up taking most of the morning and part of the afternoon too. But oh well, that's what lazy Sundays are for. :)

And now it's back to the grindstone for the week, yay. Hope everyone has a good week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I know, I know, my LJ has been a bit vehicle-centric lately, and I swear to you who just added me that it's not always been so, nor will it always be so. But talking about the new car (which I'm still excited about!) got me to thinking about all the cars I've called mine over the years, and I thought a post along those lines might be fun, for me if no one else. :) So here's sort of a museum tour of all the cars that have hauled me around over the years.

(Note: except for the last few, the pics are from Google Image Search because I don't have digital pics of most of these. Because I'm old. So yeah.)

My driving history is a bit strange, even for an American. I spent much of my childhood in a house my Dad built, out in the woods. And I mean REALLY out in the woods--we lived at the very end of a long dirt road--about a mile of sugar sand, actually--and for many of those years it pretty much required a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to get out there. Obviously the school bus couldn't go down our road, so to get to and from the bus stop in high school I had to drive there, even though I wasn't old enough for a license--so essentially I was commuting at 12 years old, which means I've now been driving for 25 years or so. It was kinda cool, actually. :)

jeep_wagoneer_1974
The first vehicle I used for that looked very much like this, a 1974 Jeep Wagoneer. By the end of its life it was in rough shape and we called it Puff the Tragic Wagon. My older sister (who drove it to the bus stop prior to me inheriting it) drunkenly got it stuck in a big mud bog out in the woods, which messed up the transmission. Then some local hoodlums stole it by taking hammer and chisel to the ignition switch, so to start it my Dad rigged up a bank of five 3-position toggle switches as a sort of combination lock, with a push-button to engage the starter. Keyless start before it was cool! The back window was broken out and replaced with plexiglass. But the thing was a tank nonetheless.

Tour Continues This Way )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
All right, please feel free to ignore this, it's more for myself than anything. But. I can hardly express how much I am loving the new car. It's not even that it's THAT nice of a car, even though it kind of is. :) It's more that it's MY car, I picked it out, I'm paying for it, and I'm proud of it. I'm not generally one to be overly attached to tangible goods, but I'll say it: I love this car. I think her name is Julia, that's what jumped into my head and I kinda dig it.

So anyway, I've been doing research on things I want to buy for Julia, to make her more mine and add a few features that I kinda wish she had--not necessities, but nice perks. And here's what I've come up with so far!

Cut for those who couldn't care less. )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, the deed is done. As I mentioned Friday, I got to thinking we may as well forget about trying to sell the truck privately, and just trade both it AND the Scion towards something. I ran the idea by the wife, and she said fine as long as we didn't get lowballed too badly on the trade values. She was a bit attached to the truck since she's had it since before we even met, and just didn't want to let it go for too low a price, you know? So anyway, with nothing else to do on a hot (and potentially rainy) Saturday afternoon, I figured I'd drive the truck down to a local dealership to see what kind of deal I might be able to work out. I picked the dealership I did because they advertise no-haggle pricing (which has its pros and cons, of course, but I happily admit I'm no shrewd negotiator) and a pretty good extended warranty on new and certified used vehicles.

So the salesman who pounced on me as soon as I pulled up ended up being a fairly nice guy--he told me all about his incarcerated, drug-addicted son--and 4 hours later we had a deal on this beauty:

20130720-IMG_4576_HDR

It's a 2010 Ford Fusion SE, and I like it a lot so far. Today we took it to Brevard to visit our friends and my Mom over there, and it was a nice long test-drive. I signed up for the Sirius/XM trial immediately, so it was nice to surf the stations on a longish trip. As expected, I feel the slightest twinges of buyer's remorse: I'm always sure I could have gotten just a smidge better of a deal, or found another car at another dealer with more features for the money. This one is nicely equipped but still fairly basic, no real bells and whistles aside from a nice stock stereo with mp3 capability and satellite radio built-in. I'd have loved to have Sync for the built-in Bluetooth and whatnot, a USB port for the stereo, maybe the cool back-up camera system. And I kinda wanted the V6 instead of a 4-banger, but the 4 gets significantly better mileage and is zippy enough to satisfy me. I'm happy enough, anyway, and can actually look forward to work road trips now, and that was the main idea. I might like to add a few aftermarket goodies, like the rearview mirror with compass and outside temperature display, and maybe some nifty interior LED lighting. The fact that I'm thinking along those lines tells me I finally have a car I'm proud of, and that's kinda nice. :) The truck was nice but not mine, the Scion certainly wasn't purchased for me, and neither was the minivan. This car I picked out all by myself, and I'll be the one driving it 99% of the time, so yeah. MINE. :) Though actually, I can see this one going to Hermione when she's old enough, which is only 6 years or so from now, hard as that is to fathom. So I'll try to take care of it for her too.

And that's really the most notable part of the weekend--today was fun, but the usual. And tomorrow back to work. Um, yay?

Car Talk.

Jun. 12th, 2013 01:49 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So for some time I've been driving to other offices for work--every few weeks we go to Deland (a 56-mile round trip) and/or Melbourne (about 155 miles round-trip), and thanks to some recent changes I'll also be driving to St. Petersburg about every couple weeks (a 230-mile round trip). I get reimbursed mileage at the IRS rate, which is presently 56.5 cents per mile. So it already ends up being a nice little chunk of extra cash each month since my car gets pretty good mileage, and it will be even more if I really do go to St. Pete every other week. Problem is, the car in question is a 2005 Scion xA--it's very small, not very comfortable, a stick-shift, and really not designed for that much highway driving. So I've been really wanting to upgrade to something a little bigger and more comfortable, and now with this St. Pete thing I REALLY want to. It would also help if we had a second vehicle that could comfortably hold us all, just in case the minivan breaks down sometime--we could probably all fit into the Scion, but it would be a squeeze for the kids in the back seat for sure.

We also have a third vehicle, a 1999 Ford Ranger. It's actually been sidelined for a few months now, ever since it died on the road on my way home from work. We had it towed back to the house, and it runs now even though I never figured out why it died in the first place. I need to charge its battery and try driving it again for a few days to see how it does. I'm a bit reluctant about that in case it decides to die again--we have AAA so the towing is covered, but then we'd have to decide whether to take it to a mechanic and spend who knows how much to get it fixed. Thing is, we've considered selling it several times in the past, and always changed our mind because (obviously, since it's a truck) it comes in handy for hauling stuff. But I recently installed a tow hitch on the van, so if I found us a small utility trailer, we'd have the hauling capacity in addition to a vehicle we could all fit into (the truck is an extended-cab, but I don't consider it safe for long drives with all of us since the rear seats are sideways jumpseats).

So long story short, we discussed it a little today via e-mail and I think the tentative plan is to sell both the Scion and the truck, and use that money to get a different car. If we could get anywhere near the Blue Book value for them, it would be a pretty good chunk of change since they're both paid off. I've had my eye on something like a Ford Fusion or Taurus, or maybe a Toyota Camry. Or a Pontiac G6, I rented one of those a few years back and really liked it. Anyway, I don't know how soon any of this will happen, but maybe we can at get going in that direction--we'd kinda like to sell the truck before its registration renewal is due next month, and I'd like to replace the car before it needs something big like a new set of tires.

Just thinking out loud, really. :) But if you have any suggestions for sedans that are roomy and safe and get good mileage (though I'm partial to 6-cylinder engines), feel free to share!

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