Ding! Achievement Unlocked: Reached 50th birthday!

Today I am officially a half-century old. Which feels really weird to type out and read. I both do and don’t feel 50. Physically, yeah, I’m feeling it. No doubt in part because I’m not in great shape. Mentally I’m still wondering when all the wisdom is supposed to show up so I can fulfill my role as a mentor to the younger generation.

Heh, as if.

Frankly, I’ve been winging this adulthood thing all along. If I have any wisdom at all, it’s the realization that there’s an alarming amount of time in my life when I don’t really know what I’m doing. Most of the time I got this shit down pat. Then I do something I’ve never done before, like buy a house, and suddenly I don’t know what I’m doing again.

I have a lawn that I am responsible for. It was stunningly green and free of weeds in the real estate listing. Yeah, it’s not so much that anymore with me in charge. I’m looking forward to winter if only because my yard will look as nice as everyone else once it’s buried under an inch or two of snow. I own a lawn mower and a leaf blower and I’m looking at weed trimmers as a serious purchase. Hell, I own weed killer. Not that it seems to be killing weeds all that well. Followed the instructions and the weeds just laughed.

I have, for the first time in my life, replaced electrical switches in my home. That turns out not to be as hard as I thought it was going to be, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to sweating a bit more than usual on the first attempt. I can only assume all the incandescent light bulbs in this place were bought all at the same time because they all seem to be burning out within a short period of time since we moved in. I’ve replaced most of the ones in the basement with LEDs (hence the switch replacement), but now 2 of the three in the bathroom fixture have died, two of the five in the dining room fixture died, one of the two in the fixture over the back door died, and three of the five outdoor fixtures all died. The outside fixtures have new LEDs, but I need to pick up more for the others that have given up the ghost. In the dining room this will mean swapping out another light switch as it’s dimmable and old enough not to support LEDs properly.

So, yeah, lots of new stuff to learn at 50. That said, it’s been a pleasant birthday. I took the day off and have spent it alternately playing video games, getting the house tidied up for the party tomorrow, and napping. Got a few birthday gifts already too.

An early gift from my mother-in-law.

Speaking of new things outside of my comfort zone, my mother-in-law bought me a charcoal grill so I can have hamburgers and hotdogs at the party tomorrow. I’ve never grilled anything in my life. I have a basic understanding of how these things work, but I’m sure there are details I’m clueless about. Fortunately, I have friends who think about such things.

Thanks to Stan Pedzick I will have some help with the grill.

This book is amazing, though you have to go all the way to the end for the basic tips on using a grill. 309 recipes from around the world many of which I already know I won’t ever try because they are spicy and I can’t handle spicy. That said, there were several that sounded damn good. However, I doubt I’ll try the Ultimate Hamburger recipe considering it asks you to do things such as grind your own chuck and purchase sea salt from a very specific region of the world.

Speaking of books, someone bought me this and I still don’t know who.

I have many of the Calvin and Hobbes collections already, but here is every strip in one spot with commentary from Bill Watterson. I’ve wanted this for a long time so hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow who it’s from so I can thank them.

Speaking of speaking, my wife got me a Blue Yeti microphone, shock mount, and pop filter!

This thing is so sensitive that even with the gain turned all the way down it picks up the hum from my computer sitting on the desk as well as my tortured breathing, but it makes my voice sound soo good. Only thing left that I need is an arm to mount it on so the shock mount can isolate it from things like the PC and any typing I do. I guess I’m going to have to get serious about vlogging and starting the podcast with Dave back up or something. Vlogging, now there’s something else that I don’t have any real clue about what I’m going to do.

Anne also got me a funny book about turning 50 and a BBQ apron that says MADE IN 1967 on it. The apron is a bit small, but it’ll always work well as a bib if nothing else.

Lastly, my sister-in-law Angela and her husband Rob bought me a wicked cool Hawaiian shirt plus the movies Live Die Repeat (formerly Edge of Tomorrow) and Pacific Rim. I don’t have a pic of me in the shirt yet, but that’ll probably happen tomorrow.

So a little time off from work, some new toys to play with, and a party still to go tomorrow. As birthdays go, this one has been pretty good so far.

 

Where the hell have I been?

Sorry for the lack of postings lately, but we’ve been settling into our new home. We’ve been here for two and a half months now and we’re mostly unpacked. The living room, master bedroom, guest bedroom, dining room, and kitchen are unboxed and more or less sorted. Just Anne’s den and the basement remains and we made a good start on the basement this evening.

If you recall back at the start of June the basement looked like this:

And tonight it’s looking like this:

A huge improvement. The stack of boxes on the right is all stuff that needs to go upstairs to Anne’s den because it’s mostly arts and crafts or photographs and it was mistakenly moved to the basement during the move. Over in the area in the far back right is where I’ll be setting up my computer lab (my actual desk is just out of frame at the bottom) and it’s full of empty boxes that need to be broken down. 10 of the 14 lights in the ceiling have been replaced with LED bulbs after I replaced their wall switches. Just the four in front of the fireplace remain incandescent  as we don’t use them as often, but I’ll be swapping those out before too long. I got my TARDIS lights my real estate agent gave me hung up in the bar area too, but I need a shorter extension cord for them.

I need to think of something to put on the wall behind me as right now it’s just wood paneling and one of the platforms for the kitty tower. I’m going to try my hand at vlogging and streaming and right now it’s stunningly bland.

I am the stereotype of the fat computer geek in his basement personified. One nice thing about the LED bulbs I put in. I don’t need studio lighting as these things do the job just fine. My webcam will do automatic background replacement, but the paneling is so light it ends up replacing part of my head and I look like a bad accident victim. I have some blue contact paper that might work, but the highlights on my chair are also blue so that could be a problem.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. Working and settling in. Next Friday is my birthday and we’re having a party which is part of why we’re busy getting the last of the boxes unpacked or stored away someplace. I still have to put together my BBQ grill that I got as an early birthday present from my mother-in-law. I’ve never actually grilled anything before so that should be fun.

Beyond that I keep meaning to blog something about Trump, but the fucker is rushing from one misadventure to another so quickly that I can’t keep up. Now that things are finally getting settled around here I’m going to make more of an effort. Especially with the vlogging thing. Not sure what I’ll do it about. If you have ideas you’d like to see me try, let me know.

Having a lawn teaches you how fucking tenacious life is.

I’ve never given two fucks about weeds before in my life. I pretty much took a live-and-let-live approach to weeds up until I bought our house and acquired a lawn that was meticulously taken care of. Now I feel compelled to at least make an attempt to kill every weed that dares attempt to establish a foothold within my property line.

So far this has been relatively easy because the lawn was pretty much absent of any and all weeds making the ones that do show up stand out like a sore thumb. Hey, that thing looks like something other than grass! Yoink! Hey! That thing is growing in the rock bed and it’s definitely not one of the bushes! Yoink!

The flower beds in the back aren’t quite so easy to distinguish what is a weed and what isn’t. Hey, that thing is big and doesn’t have flowers…. yet… but it also doesn’t have little prickly spines so… maybe yoink? The weeds are having much more success in the flower beds where they can blend in with other things that are tall and leafy.

It’s the ones that try to set up shop in the rock beds and in the cracks of the sidewalk that impress me the most. Two of the shittiest places to set up shop and these fuckers are popping up as though they had settled down in the richest of topsoil. Inevitably I seem to pull the same fucking weed from the same spot every week or two. It really is amazing how determined life — in the form of an unwanted plant — is to set up shop wherever it can.

Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park said “life, uh, finds a way” and, boy howdy, is that ever the truth. We’ve yet to find a location so hot or cold or acidic that there isn’t some form of life present. It may be simple bacteria, but they’re there and living the good life. So I suppose it’s the height of hubris for me to assume I’ll win my war against the weeds. Especially given my general lack of motivation and avoidance of the outdoors. Still, I am making an attempt even though I know it’s probably a losing battle. It helps that my next door neighbor, Sam, appears to have nothing to do all day but tend to his lawn so it looks like something out of Better Homes and Gardens thus shaming me into action. At this point, I’ll be happy if I manage not to kill off all the non-weed plants in my yard.

 

 

My first week (and a half) as a homeowner.

After a harried three days of packing and several trips back and forth with a UHaul cargo van that we rented in addition to the movers we hired, we managed to get all our shit into our new home.  We have lovingly named our new abode “Castle Boxlandia” for obvious reasons.

The current state of my basement. That’s not including the boxes in the living room, dining room, and bedrooms. Click to embiggen.

We’ve slowly started to unpack with emphasis on the word slowly. We only used the stove for the first time this morning as much of the kitchen, including most of the pots and pans, remains boxed up. Anne had to have outpatient surgery on Friday and she’s recovering from that so that’s also a factor.

That said, I have accomplished a few things such as putting together the two new cat trees we purchased.

These came from two different companies and I have to admit that in the future I think I’ll stick with the company for the one on the right. On the first tree the cubby isn’t really big enough for either cat nor is the tube near the top. It’d be fine for kittens, but for adult cats it’s a little disappointing. Not that Jasper isn’t getting use out of it. The second one is not only taller (I was worried it was going to be too tall), but the cubby is more than large enough for the cats to fit in. I don’t have the ladder attached to the front of the first one yet, but it has three sisal covered rungs for scratching purposes. The second one just feels like it’s better built as well. Both went together with the included allen wrench.

I did get around to buying an electric lawn mower, but I’ve not unboxed it yet. That’ll probably happen later today after it’s cooled off a bit outside. It’s supposed to hit 90° today. I still need to buy a sprinkler as it’s not rained much lately and my grass is starting to turn brown. I did attempt to water the yard by hand a couple of days ago, but I don’t think it helped much.

I’ve received two housewarming gifts so far. The first from my real estate agent was a couple of sets of TARDIS string lights to hang around my bar. The second one was from my mom and it was a bronze colored metal sun for hanging on the front of the house that I’d had my eye on. It replaces the floral wreath in the previous pictures and looks like this:

That’ll brighten up your day.

We’ve got our computers and TVs set up and we’re back online. My computer is in the basement which is at least 20 degrees cooler than upstairs. So much so that I have to wear socks and shoes when down here for any amount of time lest my feet end up freezing. I’m hoping the reverse will be true when winter comes. On the bright side, my PC can pump out all the heat it wants without me breaking into a sweat. Even with all the lights on in the basement — which put out a fair amount of heat themselves — it stays really cool down here.

My mom dropped by yesterday with the housewarming gift above and some of her furniture that was taking up space in her storage unit that she thought we could use. My sister also gave us this huge dining room table that may not be pretty to look at, but will hold up plates of food just fine until we get something else to take its place. A couple of end tables for the living room, a jewelry box, and there’s more yet to come. We’ll be heading up that way next week to pick up a TV stand and some more bookshelves.

So here we are. Surrounded by a sea of boxes that we’re slowly working our way through. It’ll be awhile before we figure out where to put everything and what to get rid of, but we’ve no need to rush. I’ve looked forward to owning my own home for a long time and I plan to enjoy it as much as I can.

My last week as a renter.

I’ve been meaning to blog something and I kinda figured the Trump administration would provide me with something to talk about, but they’re spitting scandals and crises out so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with them all.

So let’s talk about my last week as a renter. We’ve been waiting to hear an ETA on when the lady who sold us our new home would be moving out on the assumption that she wouldn’t stay right up to the deadline, but it’s looking increasingly like she will so our currently scheduled move date is Tuesday the 30th. Which is probably fine as we’ve not even started packing yet. When we moved back to Canton I took the whole week off and we didn’t start packing until 3 days before the move so seeing as this coming weekend is a 3 day holiday that’s when we’ll get all the packing done. We’re gonna need a lot of the stuff we’ll be packing until right up to the end anyway. A good chunk of our stuff is still in boxes in the basement from the last move so that’s stuff we won’t have to worry about at least. I’ll probably start pulling books and DVDs/Blu-rays from the shelves after work during the week, but it won’t be a mad rush until Friday arrives.

We’ve started in on the new furniture buying though. Both Anne and I need new computer chairs and we found a couple on Amazon that will support our weight and should offer better support and Anne’s was on sale so we ordered them already. They should arrive at our apartment around Wednesday. I’ve also picked out a new computer desk from IKEA that isn’t really advertised as a computer desk, but tends to be very popular with computer geeks because it’s very wide. I’ve not bought it yet, but it’s on the pending list. We’re probably going to hit up some garage sales once we’ve moved in to find a bed frame for the guest room with boxspring and mattress to follow later. We’re debating whether to put the loveseat and recliner we have now in the living room or the basement. We’re going to end up with a couch and another chair in one of those two places eventually.

One thing I’ve learned is that everyone you know will take the opportunity of you buying your first house to unload extra furniture on you as soon as they hear about it. Which isn’t a complaint as there’s plenty we’re going to need. My mother is giving us her TV stand and a shelving unit she used to keep her stereo system on. My sister has offered us a table. Someone Anne knows at work is giving us a lawn mower and snowblower. They’re used, but they work and it’ll make for a couple less things we’ll need to worry about right away. No one has offered me a ladder yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens.

Needless to say, I’m both excited and nervous. I’ve technically been a homeowner for three weeks already, but it doesn’t really feel like it because we’re not actually moved in and I’ve not had to make a mortgage payment yet. I also have to confess to being a bit worried about the future. I’ll be 80 before my mortgage is paid off — assuming I don’t try to refinance it at some point and I don’t die before then — and I’ve got minimal retirement savings due to working as a contractor for most of my career, which means I’m going to have to stay employed at a decent job for as long as I can unless I get really lucky and win the lotto or something. I have no idea how I’m going to keep this home into my retirement years and it worries me, but I’m trying not to think about that too much.

For now, I’m trying to enjoy the fact that I have a new house I’m about to move into. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I probably should’ve done this years ago, but I got there eventually. For awhile there it seemed like it would always be just out of reach.

Homeownership: A new era in my life.

Next Monday at 12 noon is when I will close on my first home. Possibly my last home too unless I win the lotto or something. This is it here:

Home sweet home.

It’s a three bedroom ranch with a finished basement and two and a half bathrooms. There’s a gas fireplace in the basement and a small wet bar. It’s eight years older than I am, but, unlike me, it’s in pretty good shape despite its age.

My entire adult life has been spent either living in someone else’s house or in apartments and now that I’m on the cusp of owning my own house it occurs to me that I have this odd contradiction about the stuff I own. I have a lot of stuff. A good chunk of it is still packed in boxes in the basement of the townhouse we’re currently renting until the end of May. Mostly books and kitchen stuff that won’t fit in the tiny kitchen we currently have. Also, there’s a number of additional boxes still in my in-laws basement from when we lived with them for awhile.

Some of those boxes contain Christmas decorations I received as gifts from back in my 20’s that have only seen the light of day once when I first received them and have been laying in wait for the day that I finally purchased my own house and had someplace to display them. That’s right, I have home decor that’s at least 20 years old with a few bits that are at least as old as my daughter. One is a porcellian horse drawn sleigh and another is a huge musical snow globe with a Santa in it. Non-holiday decor like some Sun/Moon/Stars wall sconces for candles are also in there. I’m really looking forward to having someplace to display them for the first time.

On the other hand there’s a ton of things I’ve never owned before that I’m going to have to purchase. Things like a ladder. At a minimum I’m going to need a step ladder and I’m sure sooner or later I’ll need an extension ladder. Another would be a lawn mower. I won’t need a huge one, but I’m going to need something unless I find a reasonable lawn care company.

I have had a dining room table before, but it was a small, round one that barely fit four people that I had to get rid of when we moved back to Canton due to lack of room for it. I’d like to get one that seats at least six people. I’ve got a power drill, but no bits for it. I may actually have to drill something in the future. I’m going to need a screen for the fireplace. It’s gas so there’s no real danger of sparks popping out, but I do have two cats that’ll be running around the joint. The fireplace also doesn’t have a mantelpiece and the more I think about it the more I think I want to add one. It’s a bit boggling to consider that I’m thinking of buying a mantlepiece.

That’s a lot of brick for what is a small firebox. You’ll note there’s no chimney for it in the first picture of the front of the house. That’s all for show.

I’m going to need to pick up carbon monoxide detectors for the first time in my life as well as replace smoke detectors from time to time. Hell, I’m going to have to learn about furnace filters and when to replace them and what size to get. I should probably buy a couple of fire extinguishers, which is something else I’ve never had to think about before.

A rake. We don’t have a ton of trees on our property, just one in the back, but it’s going to lose its leaves come fall. I have to remember when trash day is as I’ll no longer have a dumpster I can toss garbage into whenever the need arises. Also curbside recycling. Cleaning gutters will be something new for me. There’s that need for a ladder again.

It’s weird and exciting and a little overwhelming to think about. It all becomes my reality next Monday. I’m more than a little nervous about it. It’s taken me a long time, but I somehow managed to pull it off. Buying a home was one of the bigger challenges I’ve struggled with for a long time, but I believe I’ve done it without putting myself at too much risk. It’s a nice house. I’m hoping I don’t fuck it up too badly.

The great House Hunt of 2017.

I’ve not posted much lately because I’ve been busy shopping for a home. You may recall we tried home hunting back in 2014 and came very close to buying a house and then I got cold feet and called the whole thing off. I still think that was the right decision at the time because I’m not sure I could’ve afforded the payments at the time.

A little under three years later I’ve taken out a loan against my own 401K and we’re trying it again. So far we’ve actually made three attempts to buy a house only to have all three attempts fail. Which is an odd reversal of our first go at this because back then it took forever to find a house to make a bid on and we dropped it before they ever got a chance to consider it.

The first house we tried to bid on was, in my opinion, everything I was hoping for in a house. It had only been on the market a couple of days when we put in a bid on it, but apparently a lot of other people liked it too and the sellers went with someone else’s offer. I did not take this disappointment well and was moody and grumpy for the rest of that weekend. The second house wasn’t as nice as the first one, but it was pretty close and so we tossed out an offer. However, I didn’t get my hopes up because the listing had been updated to say that all best and highest offers had to be in by 5PM on the day we submitted which told me this house also had a lot of competition. It went to someone else.

Third time’s the charm, right? Not really. The third house we bid on wasn’t one I was particularly excited about, but it would’ve been a decent house. We’d need to purchase a stove, fridge, washer and dryer for it as — unlike the first two houses we bid on — those appliances were not present. It was clear the home had been bought to flip and it had some nice updates and the basement would’ve been awesome for LAN parties. Someone else had bid on it previously and it fell through so it was back on the market. Alas, the mortgage we’ve been preapproved for is an FHA and the sellers already knew that the appraisal of the home would be for 5K less than they were asking for so they wanted us to kick in another $3,000 above and beyond the down payment and closing costs to go towards the commission. Alas, that would’ve left me with no money to buy the appliances I’d need let alone afford to pay for movers so we had to drop the bid.

Part of the reason I gave up back in 2014 was the sheer stress of the process and it’s no different this time around. I hate everything about this, particularly the part where I don’t really know what I’m doing. We’re using the same agent we used in 2014 — Mike Mazurek — who has been really great at shepherding us through it and pointing out potential issues with the homes we’ve looked at. I think after making it through three failed bids I’m managing my stress a lot better. Which isn’t to say that I’m not still a big ball of nerves, but I’m not totally freaking out about it like I was at the start of this adventure.

So, yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing. It is my full intent that I will find a house that will be my last move ever unless I win the lottery or get kicked out. So it’s gotta be a decent house. Especially given that I’m a computer nerd with absolutely zero ability to fix up a fixer upper. I’ll try to post a little more often while we’re doing it and if anything interesting happens along the way.

The Burning Question of Our Times: Where do you keep your ketchup?

When I got married I had to relearn how to do laundry. Growing up my mother did laundry every other day or so and, unless my recollection is faulty, she dumped everything into the machine regardless of color so that’s how I learned to do it. There were exceptions for things like bedsheets and comforters that took up a lot of room on their own, but otherwise there was very little separation. The first time I tried to do this after I got married my wife looked at me like I had suddenly turned into a neanderthal. I was retrained to separate out the whites as well as to generally put darker clothes and lighter clothes into separate loads.

My point is that a lot of the stuff we learned as we grew up we just accepted as the way things are done and when we’re confronted by someone who learned it a different way it’s a bit of culture shock. Stuff that I would never think of questioning how I learned to do it ends up being a surprise when someone says that’s not how you do it.

Take for example, where you keep your ketchup (or catsup if you prefer). Apparently there’s a raging debate on the Internet right now about the appropriate place to store it when you’re not using it. Do you keep it in the fridge or the cupboard?

U.K. supermarket chain Asda (I have no idea how to pronounce that) Clapham waded into the argument with a Twitter poll:

Asda Clapham sparks fierce debate after move to stock ketchup in fridge

The supermarket tweeted: “Where do you keep your tomato ketchup? Our colleagues at Asda Clapham have joined the debate by stocking them on shelves AND in the fridge.”

Asda’s Victoria Williams told the Daily Mail: “Tomato ketchup is a staple of many of our customers weekly shop but recent debate has prompted us to trial two areas to stock our great value own brand tomato ketchup sauces, so we can end the debate once and for all and give everyone what they want.”

The final poll results are below:

I have to admit I’m surprised there’s a debate about this at all. The answer is: Both.

I mean, look at this label for Heinz’s ketchup:

Click to embiggen.

See that circled bit? It says “For best results, refrigerate after opening.” So you store it in the cupboard until you open it the first time, then it goes in the fridge. Same thing for A1 Sauce. How is this even a debate?

All that said, one thing that doesn’t go in the fridge is Maple Syrup unless it’s 100% pure a.k.a. REAL maple syrup. The “maple flavored” syrups sold under brand names like Aunt Jemima (THAT’S RACIST!) or Log Cabin even say right on the bottle they don’t need to be refrigerated after opening. Yet invariably they end up in our fridge and it ain’t me or the cats doing it. Makes pouring that stuff really fucking annoying.

In fairness I should point out that I do put my malt vinegar in the fridge after opening it even though it’s completely unnecessary. I have no idea why. I don’t remember us ever having it in the house when I was growing up so I have no precedent for this. We did have worcestershire sauce back then and we generally kept that in the fridge even though it didn’t need refrigeration either. I don’t think I’ve had worcestershire sauce in the house since I started living on my own so maybe I transferred the habit from that to my malt vinegar.

Oh, hey!

So it appears I’ve not posted anything since the first. My apologies, but I’ve been busy figuring out how I might purchase my first house. Our apartment lease will be up at the end of May and I’ll be turning 50 in August (which just blows my mind) and I’m thinking if I don’t pull this off now it’s never going to happen. The good news is, I think I might have figured out a way to do it this time.

Of course, that’s not all I’ve been doing. I’ve also been trying to wrap my head around how crazy things are getting now that Donald Trump has become President. It’s a sort of an embarrassment of riches in that there are so many things to talk about with regard to his Holy Hairness that I can’t decide where to start and so I end up playing Call of Duty instead.

So this is basically a quick update to say I’m still here and I still plan to try and post more often even though I’m failing at that ambition so far. I did get a new webcam for Christmas that I plan to use for vlogging and/or game streaming in the not too distant future. I also hope to add in a Blue Snowball condenser mic soon for better audio quality.

In the meantime, here’s a pic of a cat toy I saw at Meijer the other day that was oddly familiar:

Does anyone under 45 even know who this is these days?

A request for donations to help my brother’s family.

My older brother, Wes Jenkins, lost his wife of 26 years, Debra, on Monday to pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, my brother has been chronically underemployed for quite some time now. This last month she required round the clock hospice care that has racked up some serious bills for him and his family.

I don’t often ask for donations and I’m not entirely sure my brother would appreciate me doing so, but I’m putting this out there anyway because you guys have in the past been so very supportive of me when I hit a rough patch, and my rough patch doesn’t compare to what my brother is going through right now. If any of you can spare a few bucks there is a GoFundMe page that’s been set up to accept donations on the family’s behalf.

I am truly thankful for the past support you folks have shown me and I would like to preemptively thank you for any help you can lend my brother now. Thank you.

jenkinsfamily