Welcome to Fall 2020.

The leaves are only just starting to change color around here thanks to some pleasantly mild weather as of late, but according to the calendar summer has officially ended. If you go a bit further north, you’ll find the colors have started taking hold in earnest.

Fall Foliage. Source: Forest Wander

With 2020 being such an unending shit show, it really feels like it took Fall both forever to get here and no time at all. The holidays will be upon us in no time and I’m already stressing about it, but probably not in the way that you would think.

The Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas period is my favorite time of year, but with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming election and all the political bullshit that seems to be happening all at once, I’m having a hard time getting too excited about it. The past couple of years we’ve not had any money to do gift exchanges over Christmas which is a huge bummer for me so we’ve been trying to put some aside for this year, but we keep having to dip into it. I’m worried it’s going to be another year with a Christmas tree with nothing under it.

Which is a stupid thing to be worried about when there are so many other folks out there worrying about wear their kid’s next meals are coming from. I’ve been lucky in that I’m still employed even if we were just handed a 10% pay cut for the remainder of the year. The mortgage is covered, we have food on the table, and the gas and lights are still on. So, yeah, I don’t have much to be worried. So, of course, I’m worrying about other stuff like what happens if I lose my job or if Trump manages to get reelected or insert some other thing that hasn’t happened yet here. This has been affecting my sleep and eating habits which is just makes for another couple of things that are stressing me out.

Still, I’m hanging in there and trying my best to be as positive as I can despite my cynical nature. Memes help and I’ve been shit posting them like a mad man all over Facebook lately. I’m hoping the cooler temperatures of fall will help me to relax as well so I can get at least a little enjoyment in the days ahead. Hopefully you’re doing well and aren’t stressing out like I am.

Then and now. Me at the end of the decade.

So I saw something making the rounds on Twitter the other day where in honor of making it through yet another decade of life, folks are asking others to share pics of themselves from the start of this decade and now. I thought to myself, “Self, this would make an excellent blog post. We should do this.” And so that is what I am doing now.

Then, in my usual tendency to overthink things like this, I wondered if I should try to find more than two pics (the original meme only stipulated two) and if I should try to get them from around the same time of year or throughout the year or whatever. I’ve decided to go with the tried and true method of just winging it.

So, in the spirit of the original thingy, here’s two pics of me. One from July 2010 and one from November 12th. I went with July because I don’t have a lot of good pics of me from 2010.

Clearly the two biggest changes are the amount of grey in my beard and the number of wrinkles on my face. I was fat back then and I’m still fat now. One other big change is the first pic was taken in our townhouse apartment in Ann Arbor where we were living at the time and the other in the basement of my home in Westland. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever manage to purchase a house, but was finally able to stumble my way through the process just before I hit 50.

We lost Melvin in September 2012 and Cuddles graduated to Official SEB Cat with Jasper as the Emergency Backup Cat in the event that Cuddles was unable to fulfill the duties of the position. Today, at 9 and 8 years old, they are quite regal in stature and are doing well.

I don’t know that I’m any wiser than I was 10 years ago, but I’m definitely older and it shows. You can definitely tell that camera technology, particularly in cell phones, has increased significantly in the past decade. The portrait mode effect alone is an impressive development.

Not really sure how to wrap this up. I don’t have any great insights to offer other than “Hey, I’m still on the right side of the grass.” So I’ll wrap up with one last selfie that I took just this morning because I thought the early morning light in the car looked pretty nifty.

I have been a homeowner for two years.

As of this past May 1st, I’ve officially owned a home for two years and we’ve lived in it for that long as of June 1st. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in that time it’s that I am not a great gardener or, for that matter, lawn up-keeper. I have a bad tendency of mowing the lawn once the grass has gone to seed which means that so far this year I’ve mowed it a grand total of three times. The lady we bought the house from was amazing at it. For example, when she was here our back yard looked like this:

So luscious! So colorful!

Today, our back yard looks like this:

Well, it’s at least green. Fortunately weeds are green.

The area behind the tree used to look like this:

Tidy-tastic!

And today it looks like this:

The opposite of tidy-tastic!

It’s probably for the best that I apologized to the neighbors the first time I met them. At least with all the rain stuff is relatively green compared to last summer when both front and back yards had a distinct brownness thanks to grass that had gone dormant from the heat. The front yard is still recovering from that and there are areas that are more weed than grass. The little kidney shaped flower garden has also lain fallow since we arrived.

Truth is, neither Anne or I are in much shape to be out on our hands and knees pulling weeds nor do I think we have the requisite skills to keeps things looking quite as good as the previous owner. I keep looking around to see if I can find someone I could hire to help whip things into shape, but you have to have surplus budget for that sort of thing.

You’ll note the difference in height pre and post-mow.

So, for now, I will continue to at least try to keep the grass at a reasonable height. I’m also trying to spray weed killer on the stuff growing in the cracks of the driveway and sidewalk, but I think I might have bought weed food instead of weed killer as it doesn’t seem to be having any impact. Frankly, I’m just glad we’ve made it through the first couple of years with the house still intact. The yard, not so much, but the house is still standing.

Oh hey, look, it’s July already.

Man, time sure does fly when every day is a new waking nightmare, eh? Once again I’ve allowed myself to get sidetracked and not blog at all for a whole month. Part of it is there’s so many terrible things happening with our government right now that I don’t have time enough to finish one entry about the latest outrage before two more have occurred. So I end up trashing what I was working on to try and write something that covers the latest shitstorm and nothing ever gets finished.

So too have my attempts at vlogging and streaming fallen by the wayside. I’ve got no excuse not to be doing those things as I have a pretty good setup for it these days. I just haven’t been doing it. Sadly, I’ve fallen off the bike riding bandwagon as well. It’s been over a month since I last got on that and peddled around. I step outside and it’s like walking into an oven and I turn around and go right back inside.

This week I’m on vacation and the only really notable thing I’ve done was had my first, small LAN party yesterday. Friends Bob, Greg, and Andy came over and we were all really bad at surviving in Left4Dead 2 and then, after Bob had to leave, we played a little bit of Diablo 3 as I helped Andy get back into playing it.

Other than that it’s been eat, work, play video games, sleep, repeat for the past few weeks. Anne has been unemployed so we’ve not been going out and doing things because the budget is tight. All in all, other than keeping up with politics, my life has been relatively quiet. I will try not to let it go a month without posting something again.

A quick vlog update.

A conversation with my wife from this morning.

Anne: Your breakfast is on the counter. A boiled egg cut in half with some bacon and half a banana. Put it in the microwave for 20 seconds. Take the banana off the plate before you put it in the microwave.
 
Me: You don’t think I should microwave the banana?
 
Anne: If you want a hot banana then go ahead.
 
Me: I already HAVE a hot banana.
 
Anne: *sighs* I knooooowwwwww.
 
I live for moments like this.

A quick update.

Apologies for being away for so long — I just realized I didn’t get a single post up in February — but I am still alive and kicking. My recovery from the pinched nerve issue has been slow, but steady with my pain levels being mostly background noise these days. I had my second steroid injection into my spine on February 19th and it has helped considerably. I doubt I will need a third one.

Sitting in most chairs and on the toilet isn’t much of an issue anymore and I can bend over to pick up stuff from the floor without too much issue as long as I’m careful in how I do it. Putting my sock and shoe on my left foot is still a struggle, but I can do it on my own most days. I still have weakness in my left leg/foot/toes with numbness in the calf, big toe, and pinkies of my hands, but pain-wise I’m close to being back to normal. I can also sleep more than three or four hours at a time.

Now, of course, my hospital bills are rolling in and I’ve definitely hit the $4,000 deductible on my health insurance for the year. I fact, I somehow owe almost $4,500 to the hospital and various others involved in my treatment in spite of my deductible being $4K. I’m going to have to call Anthem and ask them how the fuck that’s possible. Thus stress over being in pain constantly has given way to stress over how to pay my hospital bill. Not sure how I’m going to do it, but I’ve been in spots like this before and have made it through.

Other than that, I’ve been working and sleeping a lot. I missed seeing the latest Star Wars movie in theaters and I’m more than a little bummed about that and I still haven’t seen Black Panther, but I hope to rectify that this coming weekend. Thanks to some help from my sister-in-law and her husband and my buddy Greg, we got the last of our boxes out of my mother-in-law’s basement. Now our basement is back to looking like this:

It really is amazing how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the years.

I’ve started digging through the boxes and a lot of them are full of books. So much so that I may need to buy a couple more bookcases if we decide to keep them all. We have to dig through all of this soon as we’re going to need the room to hold a going away party for my daughter, Courtney, who is packing up and moving to Phoenix, Arizona to take on a new job at her company that will be a big step up for her career.

Needless to say, plans to sit down and blog, vlog, and/or stream have not been working out for me lately. Not because I don’t have the time, but I’ve been lacking the motivation/inspiration. You hear all the time about how chronic pain is exhausting, but it’s another thing to actually experience it. Fortunately, I appear to be getting better and I’ve started actually exercising a bit (25 mins or so of walking a few times a week) in yet another attempt to improve my health and alleviate some of the issues I’m having. I’m hoping to buy a bicycle soon, but with the hospital bills coming in I’m not sure I can justify the cost.

So, I’m still here and I have every intention of getting back to posting more often. I can’t guarantee that I will, but, much like trying to get back into exercising, I’m going to try.

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.