kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Sheesh, here it is more than halfway through January, and I see my last post was just after Christmas. I will hope this is not a sign of things to come, but.. I dunno. The week after Christmas is normally the most quiet and tranquil workweek of the year, but this time around it blew up. Some VP somewhere blew a gasket about something, and it's been pretty much nonstop work ever since. Today is quiet for a change, and my calendar is unusually clear, so I thought I'd better take advantage to say I'm not dead. Yet.

Anyway, there's too much to try to actually catch up on, so let's just recap a few things, shall we?

As you can see in the photo up top, Hallie's started horse-riding lessons. Heather found a little farm less than 10 minutes from home, a lady who's really just getting started up, so her prices for lessons were quite reasonable. Only 2 lessons in so far, but I think Hallie's enjoying it! I was able to go yesterday, since I had the day off for the MLK holiday.

Past couple weekends, I've put in a lot of work replacing stretches of our privacy fence around the house. It's all pretty old, and stretches have been threatening to disintegrate totally, so we decided to finally do something about it. I'd planned to get a fencing company to do the job, but I got a quote and it was a lot more than we expected, so I went back to the idea of DIY. So far so good, really, and a lot cheaper. Now my main concern is how to get rid of the old fence! I need to see if the county can come and haul it off, or if I need to make alternate arrangements somehow.

This past weekend I took a break from fencing so we could go visit my Dad, though. We didn't get to see him around Xmas, and then he took a cruise for New Year's and his birthday. Plus 3-day weekends are always preferable if we have a day trip in mind (and he lives about 2 hours away, so that counts). Anyway, it was a nice visit, mostly I did tech support like a good son. :) Perhaps the main thing of note was that he'd gotten an Amazon Echo for Christmas, which we all found pretty impressive. The voice recognition is cool, and we all had fun asking it random questions and asking for it to play songs. I thought it was just very cool! So of course we had to order one. :)

I went with the Tap, though--it's a little smaller then the Echo, and it's not always listening for its name, like the Echo does. But it has a battery which makes it portable, and it also works as a Bluetooth speaker. And we weren't necessarily keen on the idea of a device that's listening to us all.the.time. anyway. :) So far we really dig it. It's fun to mess with, though music is its main function. The girls will put it on the table where they play LEGOs, and take it in their room when they have playtime before bed. And it makes for nice background music for dinner, too. The main drawback is that the default music service is Amazon Prime, which is rather limited. It can do Spotify Premium, or Amazon's new Music Unlimited service, but of course those are both subscription services. I've been paying for the ad-free level of Spotify for some time, since I use it here at work a lot, and at home too when I'm working on the PC. So I'm considering whether to upgrade to Spotify Premium, or stop paying for that and go to Amazon Unlimited. Or neither, I suppose! Maybe I can get it to stream from my home media server instead, and I can add music to that as we find things we want. I'm doing the free 30-day trial of Amazon's Unlimited, so we can mess with that while I try other options.

Speaking of options, it seems like a very hackable device. Out of the box it can do home automation with things like Nest thermostats and Hue lights, and it can control media devices with the right hubs and whatnot. I'm going to try to get it to work with Kodi and/or Plex on my HTPC, and if that works it might be worth it to add a Dot in the TV room for the always-listening functionality (and Bluetooth audio streaming to my nifty new A/V receiver). I found the functionality for general-knowledge questions was a bit lacking since it defaults to Bing, so I found a step-by-step guide on the interwebs to add an Ask Google command instead, which works well. I look forward to playing with it more!

Okay, that can be enough for now. Hopefully the rest of this week will be as calm as today and I can post a bit more regularly! I hope you're all doing well so far this year. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Some updates on stuff going on!

The A/V receiver seems to be on its way--matter of fact, FedEx reported it arrived in Orlando this morning, though it's not scheduled to be delivered until tomorrow. That was a little bit of an ordeal. I ordered it last Tuesday, and had heard nothing, so I e-mailed the retailer on Monday asking for an update. It's shipped, came the response, and I'll get an e-mail once the carrier scans it in. A bit light on details, frankly, so I kinda looked at it as a delaying tactic. But I still wanted the thing, and wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I waited. Wednesday rolled around with no shipping notification, though. So I wrote again and said look, I need a valid tracking number by the end of the day or I'm canceling the order and reversing the charge. That seemed to do the trick--they passed me on to a guy who both e-mailed and left a voicemail, promising a tracking number, and sure enough I got a FedEx notification not too long after that. It could be a box with 22 pounds of rocks in it, I suppose, but at least SOMETHING is on the way. I'll believe it when I see it, of course.

I'd also ordered a new basketball post and hoop/backboard from Amazon, and they'd been dragging their feet on shipping too, until today. It did say the thing was out of stock with more on the way, and it's Amazon so I wasn't worried. But that finally shipped today, which is nice. Not set to arrive until Tuesday, for some reason. I'm hoping it gets here over the weekend, I could knock out that installation.

I finally almost finished the book I've been reading forever! Sheesh. I say almost because there are some appendices and footnotes I want to look through. Weird, though--usually if I have trouble getting through a book I just ditch it and move on to something else. Life's too short to slog through a book, you know? But this one.. it wasn't that I didn't find it interesting, or even that the writing style wasn't good. It's just.. the author liked to take 4 pages to say what he could have done in 1, which made 800+ pages out of what should have been 300 or so. Fascinating book nonetheless, though--it's They All Love Jack by Bruce Robinson, about Jack the Ripper. The guy took like 12 years to research and write the book, so it's definitely thorough. His premise is that there was never really any mystery about the identity of the Ripper, or at least there shouldn't have been. But because the Ripper was a Freemason like much of the establishment of Victorian England, the police effectively looked the other way and buried evidence to keep him from being caught. He also identifies--convincingly, I would add--his candidate for Jack the Ripper, which (spoiler?) was a man named Michael Maybrick, who was a musical star of his day. He can't prove it conclusively at this far remove, especially since much of the evidence has been lost or--oddly--remains under official seal even 125+ years later. But he certainly makes a good case for it. Interesting stuff if you're of a mind--just be prepared for a long read, with lots of rage against the Ripper himself as well as the men who conspired to see him go uncaught and unpunished.

Man, I am just incapable of making a short post, even when that was my intention. But oh well, most of you have been around long enough to expect that, right? Anyway, have a great weekend. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
A bit odd: I had a 4-day weekend since I took last Thursday and Friday off, and yet I still had to work those days, plus the weekend. Just a little time in the morning to crank out some daily reporting the bigwigs wanted, so not too bad. And a bit unusual, really--it's pretty rare that I have to produce anything over the weekend. Anyway.

Thursday I took the older two girls to Disney's Hollywood Studios. They got enough interest in Star Wars to watch the movies (so far we've seen all but Episode III and Rogue One), and they've enjoyed them, so Star Wars is a Thing for us now. As such, they'd never really cared to check out the Star Wars area and Star Tours ride, so we did that and they approved. Disney is about to undertake a project to turn a good chunk of that park into a Star Wars land, so I guess we'll see if they still dig it whenever that finally opens.

Thursday evening, Hermione's band had a little Christmas concert, which was nice. After that we took a stroll in old Winter Garden, which is beautifully decorated and lit this time of year. And it was a cool night for a change, so that was nice.

Friday the girls had the last day of their homeschool enrichment program, and they put on a little show for the parents for the last hour or so of the day. That was fun. We had decided to not return to the program when it starts back up next month, partly because they raised the (already high, imho) price and the classes they expected to have weren't as good (sewing, for example--Hermione doesn't really care about that, and Hallie's already quite good at it since her mother is such a good seamstress herself). But I guess they got feedback about both, so they not only lowered the price (and added a sibling discount!), they ensured us that the class schedule would be flexible, and there would be an alternate option if a student didn't care for what was on the agenda. So now we're wavering, especially because the people who run the program are really nice, and working hard to get it off the ground--this past semester was the first, and it was done very well. So I guess ultimately it will be up to the kids, but I certainly lean towards having them stay in. It gives Heather a much-needed weekly break.

Saturday we didn't do much, really--went out for a walk in the woods and lunch, but mostly stayed close to home after that.

Sunday I went out in the morning to do some shopping and errands. Got myself a little sledgehammer, so I could bust up some concrete to remove our old basketball hoop post, which rusted through and broke a year or two ago. Hermione's shown some interest in learning basketball, for some reason, so the time is right to get a new post and fix that so she can practice. Plus it's fun to go out and shoot some hoops now and then!

Sunday afternoon Heather's band had its usual Christmas concert at the downtown mall, so we dropped her off for that and I took the girls to a park we like before we headed back to catch some of the show. Beautiful day out, so that was nice.

And today I'm back to work, but it's actually been pretty quiet around here today. I have some irons in the fire, but my presumptive-new-boss hasn't really needed much today. Which probably means he'll blow up my phone when I'm trying to head home later. Tomorrow I'm on the road to St. Pete, assuming nothing comes up to derail that trip, and then I'm taking Wednesday off this week for no particular reason aside from burning up some time. I might take Amy to Disney, I guess we'll see how we feel that morning. I need to go shopping sometime, to get a present for our little Christmas lunch and gift exchange here at work, which is Thursday. Hard to believe December is already almost half over!

Speaking of Xmas, I think we're just about set present-wise. Amy's getting the most since she's obviously still at a toy-centric age. Hallie didn't really ask for anything in particular, so we're just getting her some things we know she's kinda-sorta wanted. And I picked up a nice 3/4-scale electric guitar for her, since she showed an interest in learning. But that was a couple months ago, and really she hasn't seemed interested (though Hermione has!). So I guess we'll see if having a guitar of her own rekindles that interest. I'd give it to Hermione instead since she's actually making an effort to learn, but she's tall enough for a full-sized instrument, so.. yeah. If she sticks with it, I'll be happy to find her one, or give her one of mine. I need to make room for that PRS I've been drooling over anyway. :) Hermione didn't ask for much either, though she did mention wanting a little point-and-shoot camera of her own, so I found a great deal on a refurb camera from Canon. She's also shown an interest in making her own jewelry, so we're getting her a bunch of beads and a tool set, and some books on the subject. I think she'll like that.

Heather and I aren't getting each other much, since we generally tend to get ourselves what we want anyway. :) I sort of impulsively decided I'd like to upgrade our A/V receiver as my Xmas present to myself, even though the old one is really still fine. But it's a few years old and doesn't even have HDMI, and I've wanted to get one that does, and that has room for expansion if I ever decide to get a PS4 or something. So anyway, I found a really good price on the one I want, which made it a little bit of a splurge but not too bad, and pulled the trigger. But it's an independent dealer, and I fear it's a scam. The place says 3 to 5 business days on shipping, which is a bit ridiculous these days but I was willing to wait since the price was so good. But I ordered last Tuesday, and the order status still said 'Processing' today, so I looked a bit closer and saw some bait-and-switch reports from people about the place--like they hold off on shipping so long that the customer reaches out, and then they hit the customer with upsells for shipping charges and extended warranties. Ugh. So anyway, I e-mailed the place today, expecting to get a response of 'Call us to discuss your order' or something, at which point I'd say thanks but no thanks and initiate a chargeback on the credit card. But they actually responded to say the order HAS shipped, and I'll get an e-mail update once it gets scanned into the carrier's system. So I guess I am cautiously optimistic, but still pretty wary. If I haven't got a ship notification and tracking number in hand by tomorrow, I am calling the whole thing off.

Oh yeah, the reason I was able to splurge on the receiver (or try to, anyway) was because we got the pension money last week, a little earlier than expected! So that was nice. It felt good to walk into the bank with a check of that size, even though it's actually a bit of a Bad Thing that they killed the pension in the first place. But anyway, it let us pay off the cars and some other small debts we've been nursing along, so that will still provide a bit more breathing room each month, plus a cushion in savings. I don't want to spend much more of it until we know how our taxes end up looking for the year. But if we come out of taxes with some left, we're thinking of maybe new windows for the house (ours are thermally inefficient, to say the least) and replacing some fencing, which is looking pretty bad in spots.

Jeez, this was a much longer entry than I had in mind, sorry. Good thing it's a quiet day here! Hope you're all well and having a good Monday. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
My morning routine is to shower and dress, then munch a bowl of cereal for breakfast while I sit at my desktop PC and catch up on FB, clear out the junk e-mail, maybe check some news, that sort of thing. I was doing that yesterday, nothing out of the ordinary, when Windows 10 suddenly gives me a Blue Screen of Death talking about CRITICAL_STRUCTURE_CORRUPTION. Yeah, that doesn't sound healthy, right? I try a reboot, and as soon as the boot process hands off to Windows and the loading screen appears, it almost immediately locks up. That's no good. So I try it a couple more times with the same result--occasionally there's text on the screen saying something about Automatic Repair, but that immediately freezes as well. But I've gotta get to work, so I just power it down to deal with when I get back home.

So I get home and set to work. Presuming it might be a failing hard drive with some corrupted Windows files, here at the office I'd downloaded the Win10 setup to a USB drive, so I try booting from that to run a repair.. and it won't boot from the USB. The latest copy of Windows I have on cd is 8.1, but I figure that's better than nothing if I need to reinstall anyway, so I try booting from that instead.. and it won't do that either. Every time, the PC goes through POST, but then as soon as it hands to Windows it freezes. I try some BIOS tweaks, I try the PC's boot menu, nada--it won't boot from the hard drive or anything else. I try getting to Windows' own boot menu to try going into Safe Mode but that won't even come up, and in fact starts giving me errors about disk read/write problems, which again makes me think it's a failing hard drive. That's actually not so bad, since I always dedicate a hard drive (or partition) to the OS, and keep all my data files on other drives so I can always format and reinstall the OS without losing much. But I want to try ruling out everything else before I get into that, so I go so far as to open up the PC, re-seat the RAM, disconnect and reconnect the hard drives, just to make sure everything is solid in there. Try booting up again, and still no dice.

I'm just about to swap out that hard drive with a spare I have lying around and do a fresh install, but before I do that I do one more search online for suggestions on PCs that freeze at boot. And I come across a forum post somewhere, guy says his PC wouldn't boot so he unplugged all his USB devices and then it worked. And guess what? I unplug everything USB aside from the mouse and keyboard, and the thing boots right up. Sheesh. So I figure maybe my USB memory card reader locked up somehow, and that was the whole problem. Though I swear I went so far as to turn off the power supply at some point, which should have powered down the USB ports and cleared that problem. But then again, maybe I didn't. So anyway, all that hassle and frustration and it was as simple as unplugging a card reader! Hopefully I'll remember that next time. :)

Jeez, I've been pretty absent in these parts lately. I should do a catch-up post that isn't quite so geeky and boring. Hope you're all well, anyway. :)

Ugh.

Mar. 16th, 2016 10:40 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yesterday was not a great day. I'm not even going to talk about yesterday's round of Presidential primaries and what all that means. I'm not even going to talk about waking up with pinkeye. Again. As always seems to happen this time of year when the oak pollen hits and my allergies flare. Nah, let's talk about the pool.

So it's that time of year when I work on the pool, clean things up, make sure everything is in working order. The girls have already been going in the water, despite the water temperature only being 68F or so. They're crazy. But anyway. Yesterday evening I was working on it, cleared out some leaves, cleaned the salt cell, and replaced the filter. For reference, the filter housing looks like this:



The big nut on top attaches to a steel tie-rod which goes down through the middle and screws into the bottom of the housing to hold everything together. As has been the case the past few times I've opened the thing, the rod came unscrewed at the bottom, when it's just supposed to come unscrewed at the top. Whatever, after taking the top off I just unscrewed the rod there and screwed it back into the base instead, swapped out the filter, and screwed the top back on. Cranked up the pump and all seemed well.

Until a few minutes later, when we suddenly heard a loud pop, and I ran over to find the top had shot off and water was gushing everywhere. Good thing that happened while I was still out there working on the pool and could get it shut off in short order! Anyway, turned out the threads in the base where the tie-rod goes in finally failed, and there's really nothing to do about that except replace the whole thing. So that's ordered. So yay. I guess I'll try to get the old one removed this evening, and then hopefully installing the new one will be easy when it arrives tomorrow. It's the same make and model, so it should be a pretty easy swap. As long as I can do it without messing up the pipes that go in and out of it. I hate plumbing.

The joys of home ownership, especially with a pool. We weren't planning on the extra expense, of course, so we've decided to cancel our road trip for next week. Luckily we weren't committed--I booked hotels that were easy to cancel, and nothing else really obligated us to go. I'll still take the days off work, though--I need to burn a little time anyway, the year going by as quickly as it is. But we'll stay close to home, tackle some projects around the house, maybe take a few day trips to places we've been meaning to check out. Should be fun enough, if not quite the same adventure we were planning. Next time!

Okay, off to lunch. Hope everyone is having a better week than I.

CoughCough

Feb. 22nd, 2016 02:37 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Almost 3 weeks and I am STILL fighting the Great Phlegm Wars. Constantly trying (and failing) to clear my throat, and coughing even though the coughing does nothing. It is annoying. But it shall pass. Someday.

This morning.. should I even post about this? We live in an area with city water but not city sewer, so we have a septic system. And we'd never had the thing pumped out, so we decided we should do that before we have actual problems. So that happened. All was fine, and I learned a bit. The odd thing is that there's a pump in the system somewhere, the purpose of which is to pump water to the drainfield in the back yard. And the pump has been unplugged for who knows how long. But even so, everything looked okay with the tank and all. The septic guy was a bit flabbergasted, called it a miracle. Though in my experience miracles don't tend to involve anything septic-system-related. But whatever.

Weekend was pretty okay. Saturday we went over to the coast to visit my Mom, because Amy said she wanted to do that for her upcoming birthday. She'll be 5 tomorrow, hard to believe! Anyway, that was a pretty good visit. We had lunch at a yummy Mexican place we like (and my sister met us there--she is still a moron). Afterwards we went to check out the house my sister is planning to buy, since it was just around the corner from the restaurant. It's a HUD home with some issues, but for the price it's pretty impressive. Nice big separate garage that includes a bonus room and a little bathroom. And the house itself, apparently when they built the separate garage they converted the attached garage into additional living space, so the kitchen and living room were both huge. Sis has huge dreams for the place, though how she plans to accomplish them when she and her husband both live on disability insurance is beyond me. Should I also note that she's a big Trump supporter? Like I said, she's a moron.

Sunday it was decided that I'd take the girls to EPCOT and get us new WDW passes. We'd been tossing the idea around for a bit and decided to go ahead. I'm shooting a colleague's wedding this summer, and she asked if we could do the engagement session at EPCOT. I told her that wasn't an option since we were between passes, but then I got to thinking about it, and thought why not? I like to have a pass for myself and photo sessions when they come up, and I generally make enough from photography to cover the cost. So then the question was, who else gets a pass? The wife just wasn't interested--she's not a big fan these days because she says the place is always busy, and she's not too wrong (though I think she doth protest too much). But the girls and I still like to go, and it's particularly unfair to Amy since she's at a perfect age for the place, and would be missing out since we've almost always had passes when her sisters were her age. So at first I suggested just me and Amy, but we decided that wasn't fair to the other two either, so everyone but the wife got one. It's a win for her because it gives me a place to take the girls for a good chunk of the day now and then, which will give her a nice break to sew or clean or just relax in a quiet house with no rugrats. Nice, right? So anyway, we headed out there and had a nice time for a few hours. Didn't do much to speak of, just got our passes, had lunch at The Land, and made the grand circle tour of the world. And I scouted some nice nooks and crannies for that upcoming engagement shoot.

Speaking of photography, I need to get back on the ball with that. I've been feeling like my skills have gone downhill, and that was reinforced this morning while I was waiting for the septic guy to finish. Amy wanted to see photos of herself as a baby, after Heather was telling her we moved in to the house when Hallie was a baby. So they were looking at my Flickr photos from back then, and I realized I just don't take photos that good these days, for whatever reason. I need to figure out why that is, and what to do about it. I should really fire up Shutterbuggery again, if for no other reason than to pose some exercises for myself and whomever else cares.

That said, my Creative Commons photos seem to get picked up pretty regularly. I was paging through a recent Orlando Weekly, which is the free alternative newspaper thing around these parts, and there was a photo of the old mill at DeLeon Springs State Park that looked awfully familiar. I was like, "Is that mine?" And sure enough, there was a credit to my Flickr username. And on FB, someone posted a link to an article with some photos of the Bulow Creek sugar mill ruins, and the majority of photos were mine. Always kinda fun to see that. :) I need to get those chops back up as well.

After EPCOT I took Amy to the home improvement store to get lumber for the additional LEGO cabinet shelves, and tackled that yesterday before dinner. Didn't take long at all! And I think the LEGO cabinet is pretty awesome. I'll have to get some photos to share, because while it's silly to have a huge cabinet full of LEGO, and even more silly to be proud of such a thing.. we do have it, and I am kinda proud. :)

Have a great afternoon!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


The microscope is very cool! Didn't get a lot of time to play with it over the weekend, but we looked at some of the set of prepared slides I also got, and I messed around with the camera mount, as you can see above. That's a bit of dandelion fluff, but not magnified too extremely. I need to mess with it some more, figure out some stuff. Pleased so far, though!

I started researching telescopes too, and pretty quickly realized that the ones I'd want are out of my budget right now. I'd like to get into astrophotography, and to do that well you need a good motorized tracking mount, which does not come cheap. But then I discovered a network of folks who do actual deep-sky astrophotography--and get some breathtaking results--with nothing more than a dSLR and standard lenses. It's a rather involved process, but still one I'd like to try sometime. A tracking mount would still be helpful, but there are ways around that, including building a simple equatorial mount out of a strap hinge and $5 worth of nuts and bolts. Gonna try it!

Along with the microscope came the bearings for the pool pump, and am pleased to say that little project was a complete success. I had to invest in some new tools to get it done, though. I got the motor apart and found I needed a special pair of pliers to remove the bearing retainer ring, so I ran out and got that. And then I discovered that the bearing puller I found in the workshop wasn't even remotely up to the task, so I had to order a good one, which happily made short work of that task. The front bearing was definitely the culprit--it was difficult to turn, and very grindy when it did. So I replaced that one, and left the back one because it felt fine. Got it all reassembled, threw the switch with no small amount of trepidation, and now it's nice and quiet, probably even quieter than the less-powerful motor it replaced. I also put back on the proper impeller and diffuser (they're different based on the power of the motor) so it should pump more efficiently too. The wife asked why I didn't do all that months ago! Good question. :)

Speaking of home stuff, after I posted last week, a front moved through with a heavy band of rain, and Heather reported that our living room roof leak was back in full force. So I guess that's now a top priority to get fixed with my bonus money. I strongly suspect it originates around the skylights in the roof above the leaky area, so I'm planning to go ahead and get those replaced. They're plastic and sound like drums when it rains hard, so I think a nice set of glass ones would fix that, and be a lot more thermally insulated as well. A guy stopped by yesterday while we were all out to take a quick look and provide an estimate for that job, which was about what I expected. But I suspect there are some more repairs needed due to the leak, certainly some ceiling repair in the living room. Though maybe I can handle that myself, if the sheetrock itself doesn't need to be replaced. I guess we'll see. I have another guy coming out Thursday to take a look and provide an estimate, so maybe that will give me a better picture. I'd like to get moving on that pretty quick, I guess. Luckily it's the dry season!

MIL's visit went pretty well. The only full day we had with her (and my sister-in-law, who brought her over) was Sunday. We went up to Mount Dora for lunch and to roam around the downtown shopping district there, which was fun. And the weather started out all gloomy but turned really lovely as the day went on. So in the afternoon we left MIL and the kids at home, and Heather and her sister and I went for a nice walk at Lake Lotus. Good times.

Yesterday I had the day off for the MLK holiday, so I took Hallie over to Melbourne to meet up with my Dad for lunch, and then to visit with the tour of WWII aircraft that comes through every year. Great weather for that as well, and Hallie and I had fun crawling through the B-17 and B-24, snapping pics as we went. I think she took more than I did! I just barely started going through the pics, but I'm sure I'll post some up when I get them done. :)

And that's about it. Back to work today, with our weekly staff meeting coming up in a half an hour. But the boss is dialing in because he's in a meeting all afternoon, so hopefully that means it will be a short one. I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

Oh, and RIP Glenn Frey--I've always dug the Eagles. I can recall as a kid, using our electric typewriter to type up the lyrics to "Hotel California," which (literally, I guess!) struck a chord with me even then. Great songwriter, definitely a loss. This year has been crazy with the celebrity deaths so far--a friend online suggested that it would seem George R.R. Martin is writing the script for 2016. Hmf.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Just things going on, and floating around my brain, bullet-point style:

• Just pulled the trigger on buying a microscope. I mentioned to the wife that with my upcoming annual bonus I'd like to get some good optics: a decent microscope and telescope. We have a little beginner's reflector telescope, and a kiddie digital microscope, but neither are all that good, and frankly I've never been a fan of kiddie and dumbed-down stuff like that. The idea is to pique an interest without spending a lot of money, sure, but if the result is frustration because you immediately run into the limitations of the thing.. that can have the opposite effect, you know? So the microscope is a nice, sturdy metal one, trinocular so I can slap a camera on the top eyepiece and leave the pair of binocular eyepieces available. So I ordered the camera adapter as well, and a set of prepared slides so we'll have stuff to look at immediately, and blank slides for stuff the girls find. Should be a hit. Now to research the telescopes!
• We've been getting into spring cleaning early this year! With the new year our county (finally) rolled out automated garbage and recycling collection, and provided huuuuge 95-gallon bins for each. We've been taking advantage to fill those suckers to the brim with boxes and other big things we've had stashed in the garage and around the house. Not that we couldn't have gotten rid of the stuff before, but having the big containers really makes it easy. And now that I've cleared a few spots outside, I'm inspired to do some landscaping. I'm hoping to use some bonus money to replace some of our wooden fencing as well, it looks ragged. Maybe even get some sod replaced, that's never looked great. I guess we'll see. If nothing else, I have some notions of adding pavers to some spots, and maybe adding some new plants here and there. And I should finally sand and seal the arbor bench thing I built a few years back. And there's always the Library Project. I should make a list.
• Speaking of projects, a while back I had to replace our pool pump motor--again. The one I replaced was less than a year old, but the pump itself had been sporting a small leak--it's a salt water pool, so a few months of leaking was enough to rust out the motor housing. Grr. The new motor I got a good deal on as an open-box, and it does work--but it's way (WAY) louder than it should be. So I also ordered a new set of bearings to swap in, I'm hoping that and maybe some other lubrication will quiet the thing down a bit.
• How 'bout that Sanders campaign, huh? If you follow me on FB you already know my joy, but things are really looking good for ol' Bernie. The first polls of 2016 show him widening his lead over Hillary in NH, starting to surpass her in Iowa, bringing the national (national!) gap to within the margin of error, and--perhaps most importantly--outperforming HC in every poll of hypothetical general-election matchups. It's amazing to see, and really very encouraging. If he pulls off wins in IA and NH, no matter how small, I think the momentum will be even more on his side than it already is, the media will finally have to say okay, maybe he's not the no-hoper we've been portraying him as, and all those fence-sitters and people who haven't paid him much attention so far will start thinking maybe he's worth voting for after all. And if all that happens, it won't make a bit of difference what happens on the GOP side. The only question at that point will be whether the Dems can recapture the House along with the Senate, which is unlikely, but we can hope. :)
• I had a number of photo sessions over the past few weeks (two of which I still need to finish editing, oops). There was the family in Oviedo right after Christmas, an extended-family thing in Kissimmee after New Year's, and later that week a short family session at one of the Disney hotels. In a couple weeks I have an engagement shoot with a couple whose wedding I'm shooting in July. I had an inquiry for a June wedding that I was actually pretty excited about because the location looked great, but they ditched me. I haven't even been advertising lately, really--I should do that since now I don't have much booked. And the weather is finally nice!
• Poor Hallie. When she was 2 or so, she had an incident that knocked out one of her top front teeth, so she's had that gap ever since. When she started going to the dentist he kept an eye on it, and said when the other front tooth fell out and started growing back we'd see if the adult tooth under the knocked-out incisor would also start coming in--if not, it would need a little help to get through the gum. As you might guess, it didn't, so in a couple weeks she goes in for a quick procedure to make an incision for that tooth to start coming through. Hopefully it will be no big deal, but being a huge dentist-phobe for no good reason, I'm anxious on her behalf. :)
• Like half of America, I sped through Making a Murderer on Netflix over the past week or two. Quite a show, that. I am loath to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it but wants to, so I will restrain myself. But it's all pretty infuriating, the stuff in that show. I didn't come away from it convinced of the innocence of the two men on trial, but utterly convinced that the legal system did not perform well during the entire process. To say the least.
• As part of my goal to be more musical this year, I was learning a few new songs to play on the guitar, so I'm pleased with that. If I'm not too embarrassed I should record myself as I get good at some of these songs, maybe share them here. But I'll probably be embarrassed. :)
• This weekend my mother-in-law is down for a visit, so she and my sister-in-law will be staying at a nearby hotel and we'll likely roam around the area doing fun stuff, weather permitting. And her foot permitting too, apparently she injured it recently and has been having trouble walking. Hopefully it will be feeling a bit better in a few days! Then I get Monday off for MLK Day, and that happens to coincide with the arrival of the tour of WWII-era aircraft that swings through the area each year. The nearest stop is Melbourne, so I'm hoping to drive over there, probably just me and Hallie since she's interested in climbing around in airplanes. Weather permitting, again.
• Yesterday I was over in St. Pete for our staff meeting, and on the way back the weather was glorious so I stopped by Weedon Island Preserve for a walk. There were almost no crabs this time, though--last time I visited little fiddler crabs were all over the boardwalk and in the mangroves, it was awesome. But at least it was a great day for a little walk. On the way out I noticed a little memorial along the side of the road--apparently nearby was the site of a 2000 helicopter crash, wherein 3 crewmembers died when their Bayflite medical chopper hit a radio tower and crashed. Hadn't heard about that one.

Okay, enough for now. Better get some work done before calling it a day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, I should probably say Pool $250 or so.. But anyway, I got the replacement pump housing to finally fix that leak. I was a bit apprehensive because I feared some re-plumbing might be involved. But I was very pleased to find it was an easy job. The outlet pipe on top was secured with a screw-on collar, so that was a cinch. And once that was off and rotated out of the way a bit, I had juuuuust enough room to rotate the whole housing around to unscrew it from the (also threaded) horizontal inlet pipe. Reverse process to install the new housing, and voila! There was a teensy leak from the outlet pipe connection, so I unscrewed that again, dabbed on some teflon sealant and put it back on nice and tight, and that took care of that.

Now I'm just concerned about the filter housing. It has a long metal rod that screws into the base, and which the top part then screws onto. It's supposed to stay screwed into the base, but the past few times I've needed to get in there to clean or replace the filter (which happens fairly often), it's come unscrewed from the base, which makes it difficult to remove--and then it's an ordeal to get it back in, and getting a little tougher every time. Not sure what I can do about that, some threadlock compound, maybe? I hope so, that's an important part of the system, and rather pricey to replace!

So that was the productive part of the weekend. Didn't do a whole lot otherwise, we went out shopping a time or two, spent plenty of time in the pool because it was HOT this weekend, played some video games, the usual.

I should mention Friday--I made a trip out to Celebration to meet up with my wedding photography clients for next month. They're having a very small ceremony at a hotel down there, and then we'll roam around for photos before they head to dinner. So we met at the hotel and took a walk around the area to chat. I was a bit miffed, since it's a long drive down there and I really don't charge enough to justify client meetings and all that rigamarole. But it turned out to be fun, they're nice folks and it was a fun to walk around and talk. And thankfully the weather wasn't uncomfortably hot. I hope the same can be said next month, but we'll see. Outdoor weddings in Florida in July? Craziness! Hopefully it will be a fun day, though.

Ooh, nice! I'm still planning the NYC trip with the girls in October, of course, so now and then I look to see if the hotel prices have come down any. And today they did! I know which hotel we're staying at, but the price was a bit more than I liked. But it dropped by around $30 a night, which is not nothing, so I cancelled and rebooked. Hopefully it will come down even more between now and then!

Okay, better get back to work. Hope everyone is having a good Monday so far!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, the pool pump was a bust. The plastic goo I got is pretty neat, but it only forms a chemical bond with certain types of plastic, and I guess the pump housing isn't one of those types. So it felt nice and solid at first, but when I tightened the bolt it came loose again. So on to Plan B, which is to replace the whole pump housing with a new one, with factory-fresh bolt inserts and all. This will involve a bit of re-plumbing, but I am hoping it will be within my skill set. And if not, it would be a quick (and hopefully cheap) job for a pro.

Weekend otherwise was so-so. The wife and middle kid have both been fighting off some mystery ailment or another, so they were both a little under the weather. But we went to the American Girl store as planned Saturday morning--and now need to go back again, because I didn't think I needed to check the box of the thing we bought to make sure the thing we bought was actually in the box. But it wasn't, which we discovered when we got home. Might use my lunchbreak today to drive back down there and rectify the situation.

Last night I took the girls to EPCOT Center. It was our last chance to hit a park before the summer blackout period, and between Heather's illness and general busy-ness she could use a break from the kids, so off we went. It was a pretty good time! We did more rides than we normally do, including Soarin' (which Hallie and Amy went on once before, but it was Hermione's first time). That was a hit, of course--I think that's one of the best experiences at WDW, though we don't do it much because the line is always long. They're planning to add a couple more theaters to expand the capacity, and I think they're also going to change the film to Florida instead of California, which certainly makes sense. So we rode that, Spaceship Earth, Living With The Land, the Mexico boat ride, and we checked out the store in China and had dessert at the bakery in Norway. Mmm, good. It was a bit warm, but there was a nice breeze so overall it was a very pleasant evening.

I've been splurging a bit on games for the Wii U--I see it as playing catch-up. :) But not too bad, I've mostly been getting good deals on pre-owned games. Let's see, I got LEGO Batman 3 (good game, but now we find it a bummer that the multiplayer on LEGO games is only 2 players--hopefully LEGO Dimensions will rectify that!), LEGO City: Undercover (which is as awesome as I expected, but only 1-player), Wii Party U (we enjoy the minigame collections, lots of variety and quick to play as well), The Wonderful 101 (neat game, but pretty difficult and entirely chaotic), Rayman Legends and ZombiU (haven't even gotten to try those yet!). This Friday is the release of LEGO Jurassic World, which I think I must get immediately. :) Then I'd like to catch up on a few other LEGO games, and grab things like New Super Mario Bros. U and the Zelda games. Just checked, the new open-world Zelda game (which does sound amazing) was just pushed back to next year, that's a bummer. Oh well, lots to get in the meantime!

Amy still only ever wants to play the Mario Cat Game (Super Mario 3D World), of course. And I must say, she's getting better at it! Yesterday we were playing, and she actually outscored me on a couple levels! Mostly because we died midway and had to continue with reset scores, but still. I'm a proud gamer Dad. The other girls aren't quite as into it--they'd rather play on their PC, where Terraria, Don't Starve, and Scribblenauts are the order of the day. And Sims 2 sometimes.

Speaking of gaming with the girls, I taught them Poker recently! When I was a kid I remember lots of fun nights spent playing penny-ante Poker with the family, so it's cool that we can do that now. I started them with 5-card draw, of course, but next time I'll introduce 5- and 7-card stud. I don't know the varieties like Texas Hold 'Em, maybe we'll try that later on. I also showed them Blackjack real quick, but they didn't like that as much. They like getting more cards, they said. So I guess 7-card stud should be a hit. :)

Otherwise I've been feeling a bit blah. I dunno, every now and then I let the 10% of stuff that isn't where I want it to be distract me from the 90% that's truly wonderful, and I stew in those negative juices for a bit. Mostly I blame myself for being the cause of my own discontent, and for not seeing how I can make it better. Same old, same old, I suppose.

Okay, back to work. Or maybe I'll hit the road for the mall, grumblegrumble. Hope everyone is having a good Monday!

Blah.

Jun. 4th, 2015 03:52 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Today's dragging, for some reason. There's work I could and probably should be doing, but.. just not feeling like it. There's nothing pressing, anyway. Kinda nice to have a slow day, but I'm ready for it to be over!

Home stuff.. this past weekend we noticed the A/C was on but not cold. June in Florida, that's Bad News. Usually it's just a clogged condensation drain pipe, easy enough to fix, but that didn't seem to be the problem. So I futzed around with it for a bit, and I don't think I actually did anything, but it started working again after a bit. I think something electrical got confused, so just turning the breaker off and back on (which I did while troubleshooting) must have reset it. Easy enough!

The pool pump, though.. I mentioned the leak in my last post, as well as my attempt to fix it with a new insert in the pump housing. Somehow I botched that, so now there's a bigger hole but the insert is still loose and the leak is even worse. Go me! Replacing the pump housing would cost a couple hundred bucks (more if I get someone out to do the work), so I have one more thing to try before I take that step. I ordered some binary acrylic plastic stuff--it's a powder that mixes with an activating liquid, and the mixture then progresses from liquid to paste to putty to hard plastic in the course of 15 minutes or so, and it even sets underwater. So I'm hoping I can use that to get the insert to get a good grip, and/or just entirely plug the hole and re-drill for the insert. I'm not entirely hopeful it will work, frankly, but it's worth a try. I'd really rather not have to re-plumb the whole pump, I'm not great with that sort of work.

I can't get used to how quiet my office is now. For the past 8 years or so, I've had this huge PC next to me--I needed it to run a bunch of automated data jobs and whatnot, plus it functioned as a file server for all my documents and whatnot since it has a RAID setup. But it's old, and was getting pretty clunky, and our IT people have been on me to decommission it since it's too old to upgrade the OS and they're phasing out any machines with XP that can't be upgraded to Win7. So finally this week I found a home for the few automated jobs I still needed to have run, and shut it down. I didn't realize how used to its rather-loud fan I'd gotten! It's eerily quiet in here now. I guess that's good, though.

Seemed like there was something else I've been meaning to post about, but now I can't think of it. So have a song instead!

The Damnwells are a band out of Brooklyn that I came across several years ago--I found their stuff a little hit-and-miss, but the tracks I liked I liked a lot, and the rest grew on me. Unfortunately I discovered them right as they were breaking up! But they got back together to record a new album recently, and it's pretty solid. This is the first song I heard from it, which remains one of my favorites.



Hope everyone is having a good day! Finally almost time to go home!

Updatery.

May. 28th, 2015 02:41 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I feel like an update is overdue, but I dunno what about, really. So let's break out the bullets.

• The Wii U has been a big hit so far! Mario Kart 8 is awesome, of course, but we've also really enjoyed Super Mario 3D World and NintendoLand, both of which were in the console bundle I got. At first the girls didn't care too much for Super Mario, but it grew on them. Amy especially loves it, for some reason--she calls it the Mario Cat Game, because one of the power-ups for the characters is a cat suit. In fact, she loves it a bit TOO much. As soon as she wakes up and as soon as I get home from work, she's asking if we can play Wii. Don't get me wrong, I dig that she likes it so much, but sheesh! I can't even play anything solo--if I try, she pops in and grabs the controller like she owns the joint. Silly kid. I also got it playing old GameCube games--that was actually even more viable on the old first-gen Wii, but for some reason I didn't do much of it. But since the ghost game in NintendoLand was such a hit, I figured they'd appreciate Luigi's Mansion too since it's more or less based on that. So far so good!

Then this week Humble Bundle did the first console-based bundle I've seen, and it happened to be Nintendo (Wii U and 3DS) so I jumped on that pretty quickly. Mostly platform-style indie games, but there looked to be some pretty neat titles, with more being added next week so I can look forward to that as well. I've only tried one (Guacamelee) so far, but it looked really good. Amy kept stealing the controller, though!

• Been having a little trouble with the pool lately. The pump has had a trickle leak for a while, which recently turned into more of a mini-geyser. Not a lot, but enough to be annoying. And it's salt water, so I really don't want it spraying all over the pump motor and other stuff over there. So I figured out one problem was a loose bolt insert, and I fixed that--but the leak persists. So I'm thinking the plastic plate that attaches and seals the motor and impeller assembly to the rest of the pump got warped at some point and isn't sealing completely. So I have a new one on the way, hopefully that will finally do the trick. With my luck, though, probably not!

• Photo session tomorrow, not entirely looking forward to it. Some clients I feel great about, some are more iffy. This one is just a tad on the iffy side. But hopefully it will all be good. I only took a half-day from work, so I'll have to come in to the office afterwards. Probably after I go home for a shower, that is--gonna be a toasty one, as usual.

Hm, I can't think of much else, so.. have a good afternoon/evening, wherever you are!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
My back is sore. I took the day off yesterday, and spent a decent chunk of it pressure-washing the pool deck. Which involves stooping over slightly most of the time, and I am feeling it today. Hell, I was feeling it while I was doing it! I really need to work out more. I'd started running around the block a couple times a week, but I've fallen off that wagon. Need to get back to it, it really did make me feel like it was tightening up my core and back muscles.

Anyway, I decided to take the day because I really haven't used much time yet this year (thanks to cancelled NYC trips and such), and we're already rounding the corner into June. Sheesh, the year is flying!

I also got the WiiU hacked so it can play Wii games from an external hard drive, so that's nice. Seems to work fine so far, though there's another step or two to get there, and an annoying prompt to format the hard drive every time I power up the system. I think there's a way to fix that, though, gonna try it tonight, maybe.

We also went to a cool book sale. I guess for a week or two every year, the Scholastic Books warehouse around here opens up for a public sale. Most of the books are a simple 50% off the cover price, but they also have books down to 50 cents or so, and one area where you can fill a box with books for $25. We had no trouble finding plenty of books, mostly for the girls but a couple things I'd wanted as well. The only downside was that it's in their warehouse, which is not air-conditioned, so it was toasty in there. They did have big fans, at least! As my wife said, it was probably good because we might have spent more time and money there if it hadn't been uncomfortable!

Back to work today, seems like a pretty relaxed day. I have a meeting in a few minutes, but then my afternoon is mostly clear. Might run out and shop for some screen to fix our pool enclosure. And maybe do some ore of this silly series of online training modules I have to do for work. Security of credit card and personal information, none of which I actually deal with in my job. But oh well.

I hope everyone is having a good week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, weekend was kind of a bust. The weather was pretty gloomy, so outdoor plans weren't really happening Saturday we headed over to visit my Mom, since it had been a while and Amy had been asking to go there. Can't complain when the kids WANT to go to Grandma's house, right? So we hung out there for a while, went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch, and had ice cream cake as a belated celebration of Amy's birthday.

Speaking of, did I mention that? Amy turned 4 last week, which seems hard to believe. I neglect proper kid updates here, but they're all doing pretty well. Amy is the one who currently makes us want to pull our hair out, though. She's quite different from her sisters, that's for sure. They were always shy and quiet, for the most part. We had our struggles with Hallie as she went through these ages, but even that seems tame compared to Amy. She's just so tenacious, stubborn and determined. She knows what she wants and she wants it RIGHT NOW, as she is wont to tell us at high volume. Will not take no for an answer, everything is a negotiation, and if all else fails she resorts to name-calling and threats that are actually pretty hilarious. Last week there was an incident where she threatened to poop on our heads, which still makes me chuckle even as I type this. It's hard to maintain the requisite parental authority when your kid makes a threat that cracks you up.

Anyway, I keep telling Heather that it will pass, and eventually these characteristics will serve her very well indeed. Imagine if she always retains this level of stick-to-it-iveness and tenacity! Her focus sometimes is really quite amazing, especially when you consider her age. If she's on a roll, she'll sit for literally hours focused on one activity. I have trouble with that at MY age, and she's barely 4! She started violin lessons about a month ago, and she's amazingly good at those from what I hear. She'll occasionally disengage from the lesson and go over to Heather (who hangs out in the room) and ask when she can be done with the lesson. But then she goes right back to it, does what she's told, and apparently impresses the teacher with how well she does. At home, sometimes she'll head straight for her violin when she gets up in the morning, and she's been equally eager to work through the 100-lesson reading book with Heather. She gets excited to learn the next letter or sound, and it's pretty awesome to see her try to read things around the house or when we're out and about. Again, for someone who just turned 4, it's pretty amazing. But those bits definitely come at a price. :)

So anyway. Sunday there was a good chance of rain again, so we just ran around some stores and planned to spend the afternoon relaxing around the house. But then Heather mentioned that she'd noticed some water in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, which I determined was coming from the garbage disposal (garburator, for any Canucks in the audience). The old one came with the house, so it was probably due for replacement anyway, so I bought a new one and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to swap out. Of course, today Heather tells me that the dishwasher isn't draining, and I immediately realized there must naturally be a plug in the dishwasher inlet of the new unit since not everyone has a dishwasher, and I didn't knock it out. Oops, there's always something. So I know what I'm doing when I get home from work!

Oh, a quick update on my post about gaming and the girls. Tomb Raider: Anniversary has remained a hit with Hallie. We even started watching the first TR movie, and she likes that too. Some parts are tough for her, but she's doing fine for a 7-year-old, I think. I thought Portal would be good too, since it's all about navigating the environment and problem solving (plus the portal mechanics are cool), and she likes that one too, though I think some of the later levels are beyond her until she really gets the hang of WASD+mouse. I played through it myself, and can't help but wonder what took me so long. The humor baked into that game via GLaDOS is just my cup of tea, and I was utterly tickled by the "Still Alive" song at the end. :) So Portal 2 is probably next on my agenda. I also introduced the girls (including Amy!) to Terraria, and they've been having a blast with that one. They love the building and crafting part of it, and mainly play it for that rather than to advance through the game. But hey, whatever! We've been having a little emulation fun on the new HTPC, too. I'll have to see what they think of some Commodore 64 classics next!

Speaking of old video games and computers, have any of you read Ready Player One? I'd heard of it, and it sounded good. A friend gave it high praise on FB so I bumped it up to the top of my list, and wow, awesome read. Just a lot of fun, and irresistible to me. While I enjoy a lot of books, I can only recall a few that really grabbed me and made me impatient to get back to it so I could see what happened next. This one goes on that list!

Okay, better wrap up and get home to fix that dishwasher! I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Also this weekend I got stung by a paper wasp, which was actually somewhat amusing. Well, not at the time.

The back yard had become a jungle, which deters the dog from doing her business in out-of-the-way spots, so it was due for a mow. I got out the lawn mower and cranked it up, and grabbed the push handle to get going.

And then it was like a slow-motion mental dialog. My brain was like, "Okay, sensors report something odd with the left hand, a sort of prickle. No wait, that's starting to actually hurt. Yes, yes, that definitely hurts. And it's getting worse. What the hell? OW CHECK THE HAND CHECK THE HAND!"

So I let go and open my hand to take a look, and there's the wasp just sitting there in the middle of my palm. I may or may not have screamed like a little girl. It must have been on the handle when I grabbed on, of course, but there was no sign of the beginnings of a nest or anything. Just one of those things. I did the ice thing to numb it, and some vinegar to try to neutralize the venom, and it didn't hurt for long--but now it itches! Stupid wasps. I appreciate their role in the ecosystem, truly I do. But I still kill 'em dead when they build a nest too close for comfort!

Oh, and I never showed off last weekend's project (not that it took all that long): my Wall of Strings!

20150111-IMG_4281

I had two racks on two sections of wall, and after last weekend's Great Furniture Rearrangement I decided I'd like to combine those into a single wall (until the collection expands, anyway) with a staggered pair of racks. I think it came out pretty well, though the blonde acoustic is by far the biggest of the bunch and sorta crowds the others. So if and when I do get the new electric I've been eyeing, I think I will find a new home for that acoustic.

Which reminds me, I don't think I mentioned the Great Furniture Rearrangement, either! We consider moving furniture around to be one of our main hobbies--it's fun to try new setups! Since we'd decided to get rid of our grand piano, that got me to thinking about what concurrent changes we could make. So I suggested bringing my desk and whatnot back into the great room--I'd been sharing the girls' school/craft room over by the kitchen, and somehow their toys and stuff always made it onto my desk and under my chair, and I was a bit tired of it. Plus mine is the PC that connects to my musical gear if and when I ever get back into writing and recording tunes, so it makes sense that it should be in the great room (which is really our music room, or at least that's my notion). Heather was not a fan of the idea--at least, not until I told her we could move the huge filing cabinet full of LEGO into the schoolroom, and that could be the LEGO room instead of always having LEGO all over the coffee table and floor in the great room. That got her on board pretty quickly. :) So I did the moves, and so far I like it.

Speaking of things happening quickly, since the idea of the move made it important to clear out the piano asap, Heather posted it on Facebook for her musical friends. And almost immediately, our neighbors down the street expressed interest. It's the lady who's been giving Hermione piano lessons for the past few years now, and apparently she's always wanted to have a grand piano, so her daughter went to her father like, "Can we do this for Mom?!" We didn't think to offer it to them because we didn't figure they had room in their house, and because she was familiar with our piano's issues, having started Hermione's lessons using it (nothing major, mind you, just a couple missing hammers and strings, and a few keys that don't work perfectly). But they did have the room and she didn't care about anything but getting the piano. We were quite pleased to see it go to someone we know and like, and the idea of only having to move it halfway down the street was appealing too, so they enlisted some helpers and came to get it that very evening. Kinda sad to see it go, but it was really just taking up space that can be better used--and let's face it, I was probably never going to give it the time and money it needed.

So now the music room is home to the digital piano, my guitars, the girls' violins, my PC/DAW and mixing board and whatnot, Heather's flute and French horn, and random bits of percussion. I think next we need the electronic drum set. Then I want that electric guitar I've been drooling over, and maybe then I can add mandolin, banjo, and dobro. Ooh, and some nice congas and bongos. Let's do this!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Going to bed last night I remarked to the wife, "That sure didn't feel like much of a weekend." Just a busy one without much downtime!

Friday evening after work we all headed down to Disney's Boardwalk--I was meeting a family for a photoshoot, and Heather and the girls roamed around while I worked. I was warily watching the weather all afternoon, and seeing a huge mass of rain moving in from the Gulf. I almost got in touch with the client to reschedule, but figured what the heck, we'll just see how it goes. And it turned out great! It never rained aside from a few drops, but the rain in the area really dropped the temperature so it felt very nearly pleasant. And we had a great time roaming around shooting, so I was pleased overall.

Saturday morning I hit the road for Disney again for another family session, this time at the Grand Floridian. It was my annual shoot with a family I've been working with for years--I had to look back at my e-mail to verify, but this was year #6! Their kids have changed quite a bit since we first met, as you might well imagine. It was a hot weekend, so we mainly stayed indoors in the hotel, but we started outside (the hotel has a gorgeous 1929 Cadillac sedan that I like to use) and ended back outside as well. I was glad we spent the bulk of our time inside, though!

When I got home, I mainly waited for the parts to arrive to try fixing the TV. They both came, so first I tried putting in the new power board, since it's the cheaper one and regardless I didn't want to risk damaging the new mainboard if the power board was the problem. So I installed it and tested the TV, but it was no different, still flickering and not seeing good signals from the inputs. So I went to put in the new mainboard and.. no dice. It was the exact same board platform, almost all the same components, except for the two ribbon connectors to the screen itself. Bah. So I looked around online again, but the only board I saw that looked like the correct one was listed at $215, which was rather more than I wanted to spend to fix a TV set that wasn't that great in the first place. I broke the news to the wife, and she grudgingly agreed that we'd have to replace it. So I got to researching.

Oh, and somewhere in there I had more photography business: a couple who I used to work with are getting married next month, and asked me to be their photographer. So they dropped by to catch up since I hadn't seen them for a while, and talk about the wedding plans. It all sounds good, but the one thing we couldn't settle on was price. It's tough because I know they're on a budget, and really I wouldn't mind doing it for cheap since I consider them friends. But it's giving up a full day, basically, and my wife rightfully expects that I should be bringing home some money if I'm giving up the time and work. So I dunno, I guess I'll come up with a number to ask for, and let them know that it's open for negotiation. I just hate the business side of things, you know? I need a business partner to handle that stuff. :)

So Sunday became new TV day! I spent a good bit of time researching the models in my price range, and found myself rather limited by my needs. I have an A/V receiver, but it's only for audio, it doesn't switch video or have HDMI inputs or anything. So to support the cable box, Blu-ray player, and home theater PC I need 3 HDMI inputs, plus a component input for the Wii and a good old-fashioned composite input for my old game systems. That last was the real kicker, it seems like a lot of sets have now dispensed with the composite inputs, or only have it as a hybrid with the single set of component inputs, which means you can only use one or the other. Even in HDMI, 3 such inputs is pretty rare on the low-end sets. Also, the wife and kids don't like to mess with the HTPC, so I need a Smart TV that can stream from the computer with a reasonably simple interface (and hopefully offer some other good streaming services and whatnot as well). So looking around, the only model I found in the low-to-midrange that offered smart features with the input mix I needed was the Sony lineup. I liked Samsung's interface and faster processors better, but they lacked the inputs I needed (and cost more to boot). I used to be a big Sony fan, but somewhere along the line they let me down somehow, and I've not been too impressed with our Blu-ray player, which is Sony also. But my hands were a bit tied, so off to Best Buy we went.

I knew which model I wanted (there was no 42" set in the lineup like our old set was, and I didn't want to go smaller, so I opted for the 48" W600B set), so the purchase went quickly. The installation.. not so much. The girls helped me unbox the new set, and I attached the wall-mount brackets, and.. it wouldn't fit on the wall plate. On my old set, the screwholes for the mounting brackets were 200mm apart, but on the new set they were 300mm. So just as is my luck, with the wider spread the power outlet was getting in the way. Long story short, I added some strips of wood to bring the mounting plate out from the wall (and outlet) a little bit, and then I was able to get it mounted. But the whole process took a lot longer than expected, and that ate up much of the day. Once I was finally done, Heather wanted to go to a store to get some homeschooling stuff, so we did that. And then it was dinner time, and then we went on a bike ride around the block, and then we jumped in the pool. The girls had recently come across my box of old game system controllers and wanted to try them, so we fired up the Dreamcast for some Crazy Taxi. Fun! And it was nice to have an actual TV in place when TV time rolled around, too!

OH, we also got new foster kitties! Hermione had been begging to foster again--she remembered that we'd told her maybe after our vacation, of course--and Heather happened to talk about it with one of her flute-playing friends, who said they were fostering a houseful and had a mom and kitten who needed just a little more special attention than they could spare. Mainly, the mom tends to ignore the kitten, so they need to be watched more closely to make sure he's getting enough to eat. So I got the cage down from the attic, and we got that all set up before they brought the kitties over. The girls named the kitten Willy. He is pretty cute, and I doubt more than 3 weeks old.

20140817-IMG_5315

And that was the weekend. Whew! Now time to end my workday. I didn't think I had any travel on the agenda this week, but my boss just rescheduled our meetings tomorrow from here to St. Pete, so I guess I'll be on the road after all. Ah well, it usually makes for a fairly good day.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
In other news, our tv crapped out last night. Now, we don't watch a whole lot of television, really. The girls typically watch a cartoon or something while they have breakfast, and in the evening some tv time (usually movies) are part of our daily routine with the kids, and then once we put them to bed Heather and I watch something for a bit before we head upstairs to bed. But since we watch so little tv, we only have the one set--which means now we have none! It really sorta messed up our routine last night, and I reckon it will tonight as well.

Not exactly sure what's wrong--Heather and I sat down to watch a show at our usual time Tuesday night, and after 5 minutes or so the tv shut itself off and then turned back on. Weird. A couple minutes later, same thing. And again. It got a bit frustrating, so we essentially gave up, though after a bit we speculated maybe one of the remotes had weak batteries and was sending bogus keypresses or something. The next morning Amy watched a show in the morning as usual, with no issues, so it seemed like just a one-time thing. But last night the girls were playing Wii before tv time, and it did the shut off/turn back on thing again. And then, when it came back on, it started saying Invalid Format for the video signal. I tried switching it to the DVD player and cable box and PC, and it didn't seem to recognize any input from any of those sources. Uh-oh. Plus I noticed that even going through the setup menus, everything seemed more sluggish than usual, and there was also a prominent flicker to the display. None of that seemed like a good thing!

I hit the Net for a little research, and power supply issues seem fairly common with this family of models, so that's my first suspect. But since it stopped recognizing the inputs I was also suspicious of the main board, and I would hate to order one board and then find out the other is the culprit. Plus, it's possible the power supply board went bad first and damaged the main board in turn. So I found replacements for both on eBay for a total of $115 or so, which is a lot cheaper than springing for a whole new set (which the wife assured me we can't afford right now anyway, though she always says that). The power supply will hopefully arrive tomorrow or Saturday, so I can pop that in and see if it helps. If that does the trick all by itself, maybe I can just return the new main board without even opening it. But if not, at least it will be on the way. Hopefully one or the other will work, though. Not that I would mind updating to a new set--but talking the wife into it might be more trouble than it's worth!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Oy. I still need to do a vacation recap post or three, but work was crazy last week, the weekend was busy, and this week looks pretty crazy again, so.. yeah. But I thought a quick weekend recap post was in order, at least. And I'll toss in a few photos because that's what I do.

So firstly, here's the newest member of our family!

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Yesterday was Hallie's 7th birthday, and she wanted a pet of her own. It's been in the works for months, actually--we said she could pick what kind of animal she wanted, and she went parakeet. So we got the cage a while back before our trip, and Saturday we went ahead and got the bird. He (we think it's a boy) is pretty quiet so far, still settling in and all. She named him Cauliflower. Ooookay. I guess that's a relatively unisex name if he turns out to be a she. :)

More! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I can't think of anything particularly pressing about which to update, so I figured some quick bullets were in order.

• Speaking of "Gimme Back My Bullets," if you're familiar with the Lynyrd Skynyrd song: the bullets in question were of the editorial variety, and the song was really a lament about the decrease of press coverage of the band. But when the song became popular, crowds started tossing live ammunition onstage when the band would play the song, to the point they eventually had to decide to stop playing it live.

• Ahh, Friday. It's been a long short week, but they generally are; seems like I always spend the whole week catching up from the missed day. Today was rather packed with meetings, but all done now. Just need to finish up something for the boss, see what other damage I can do, and that'll be it for the week.

• Success in fixing the pressure washer! The new pump works just fine. I tested it out for a few minutes last night, but I felt like I wasn't getting full power from it. Probably because the engine is running lean and will only run fully choked. I still think (and hope) that's because the gas in the tank is so old. Gonna fill up a few gas cans this evening and get some fresh hi-test in there, hopefully that will do the trick. If not, the carburetor might just need a more thorough cleaning, and maybe a replacement of the main jet. New spark plug might not be a bad idea either.

• So part of the plan for the weekend is to pressure wash all the things. Pool deck is first up because it's awful. Sidewalks really need it too. Back driveway. Front driveway. Fence. Bricks on the house. I doubt all this will get done in one weekend, though!

• Other plans for the weekend.. not much, yet! The kittens we've been fostering are old enough to return, so we're going to do that tomorrow. The lady said we can keep the cage they provided in case we decide to foster again, which is very nice! Stefanie (the wife's sister) is going to come over sometime tomorrow, and stay through Sunday, I believe. We usually find some fun stuff to do with her. Maybe we'll pack up the kayaks and do some paddling Sunday. I think setting off from Wekiva Springs would be a fun little excursion, just an out-and-back. I really want to do Rock Springs Run sometime, but I think a weekday would be far better--it gets pretty packed on the weekends, especially during the summer. Kinda defeats the purpose of getting out for some peace and quiet and wildlife spotting.

That's about it for now, I think. I hope everyone has a great weekend!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Or, you know, not.

It wasn't a bad weekend, but it certainly wasn't as action-packed and exciting as last weekend's DC excursion. Saturday we actually had some plans--in the morning was our neighborhood's annual Easter egg hunt and pancake breakfast down by the lake, and then in the evening was my employer's annual Family Fun Night.

The Easter egg hunt was about the same as always, and pretty fun. The girls always have a good time hunting for the eggs, not that we make it very difficult. I don't know if Amy remembered doing it last year, but she got off to a slow start until she figured out the idea. Then she had fun. Hallie had a blast, and Hermione too, though I think she's almost reaching the age where she's too old for it. Not a whole lot of kids showed up for it, but she was definitely the oldest. She didn't do what some older kids would and monopolize the hunt by being bigger and faster, of course. Kinda weird to think of her growing out of these things!

I think this is the 3rd year where we've done our Family Fun Night at Universal's Islands of Adventure (where they have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). No complaints, I love going there and there's plenty to do for the kids too. Unfortunately the girls have been fighting whatever sickness has been plaguing the cp household for the past few weeks. I'm so glad they didn't get it until after our trip, at least! So we had dinner at the Three Broomsticks, then headed over to Camp Jurassic and the Dinosaur Discovery Center, then went back around to Seuss Landing for some rides there. Nothing too exciting, but the girls had fun. I got my traditional frozen butterbeer in the WWOHP, and while the girls had ice cream I ran over to ride the Spider-Man ride, which I hadn't been on since they refurbed it. Basically they just updated the 3D videos accompanying the ride, so it's the same story and everything, just better visuals. Not too shabby. Would have loved to go on a coaster or two, but I didn't want to make everyone else wait while I did that. One of these days maybe we'll get Universal passes again and I can go have a coaster day. After all that Hermione was dragging and we didn't want to keep her or Hallie up too late, so we headed home.

Sunday we had no plans, so I figured we could mostly stay home and accomplish things around the house. And indeed we did! We cleaned a lot of the house, I fixed Hermione's sink that had been draining slowly, I worked on the pool some more (it's getting there--we're expecting a cool front this week but after that I think I'll run the heater a bit to get it up to swimming temperature), I cleaned leaves and branches off the roof, pulled some weeds, raked and bagged a huge amount of leaves.. yup, got a lot done. Somewhere in there we went out for lunch and to the pet store for some new fish. Our aquarium population had dwindled, so maybe a month ago we went fish shopping. We saw they also had these really brightly colored aquatic frogs, and they looked cool, so we figured what the heck, let's try one of those. Unfortunately it was apparently aggressive towards the fish, and they started dying off. We didn't know what was happening until we spotted the frog chasing and biting the fish, so we got it out of the tank and into another aquarium, but by then it was too late and all but one fish died. Stupid frog. So this trip was to replace those fish with some new ones, and lots of varieties were on sale for $1 each, so we got a couple types of tetras, some zebra danio, and a pair of catfish. 10 altogether, so now we're up to 11. So far everyone seems happy.

Let's see, what else is going on. Ah, tomorrow I'm off to the D, where it is so cold. Last week I realized I'd better get up there this week, before they start up with a major training and billing system migration. I have a big training coming up myself next month, so I'm pretty much taking a trip every week for the next month. Detroit this week, Nashville next week, then Birmingham the following week and Indianapolis the week after. The training is in Tampa, so I'll probably be spending a couple days over there that week too. But then I'll be done for a while.

In Detroit I won't have a good chance to do much sightseeing, but I'm planning to visit Belle Isle, a park which dates back to the late 19th century and is now a state park. Looks fairly scenic, and it was originally designed and laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, who I dig very much. He designed Central Park in NYC, was involved with the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and designed Bok Tower Gardens closer to home, among other things all around the US. The attractions within the park will be closed, but it should be a nice walk with some good photo ops. Maybe I'll try to find the old Packard plant while I'm over there too, though I probably won't be brave enough to stop for photos or anything.

Okay, enough rambling. Have a few photos from the egg hunt!

20140405-IMG_9913

A few more.. )

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