Thursday, June 14, 2018

Losing my cool *updated*

Figuratively and literally.

The story thus far:

The coolant in my a/c unit has been almost fully evaporating every winter, thanks to pinhole leaks in the compressor. Being a responsible homeowner (and unable to tolerate heat), I contracted with a local firm for a replacement unit.

The guys showed up early the morning of May 26th and began the install. Forty minutes later, the salesman called me...they sold me a two-stage unit (dehumidifies,then cools), but he hadn't checked the connections. A two-stage requires two connector boxes, while my existing unit had only one. Adding a second doubles the cost and includes machinery with large shovels. No thanks.

He apologized profusely, changed the order to a single-stage, arranged for express install (the following Wednesday, May 30th), had the guys put my old unit back together and recharge it so I'd have cooling, and gave me a discount on top of it.

May 30th arrived, and the install was done. I had other contractors in the house as well; it was a busy afternoon. The a/c took less time than I anticipated, which was nice...I thought.

Naturally, it cooled off considerably outside, and I haven't really needed it much until the last few days. Imagine my surprise when I got home last night, and the room temperature was 3 degrees above the a/c set point, the a/c was on and merrily blowing...room temperature air.

I checked the inside unit (conveniently located in the utility closet in my kitchen) and saw condensation on the unit. Sure enough, it was starting to freeze up, a sign of extremely low coolant.

Called the company, they sent a tech out within the hour. He confirmed the low coolant level, as well as the fact that the brand new line set they just installed two weeks ago is leaking like a sieve.

Not happy.

They are supposed to come out today to fix it. I have no vacation time left, but will go home when they get there to let them in and hang out; my boss is ok with that (should be, given I put in quite a bit of unpaid overtime every day).

But it's ten a.m., and no one has called yet. Not the office, to tell me when they will be coming out, not the installers, to say they need to get in the house. They have until noon, when I will call, quite...irate.

If they say they've already been, and it is "fixed", heads may roll. Not adequately checking their work is how we got into this mess in the first place. They cannot call it "fixed" unless they turn the unit on (it's been off since last night), let it cool down to the set temp, and then wait 15 - 30 minutes or more to make sure it's cycling correctly.

And to think, I paid thousands for a new unit to avoid just this issue of coming home (the day before the hottest three day stretch in over a year) to a hot house.

So much for being responsible.

They came, they messed around for three hours, they fixed it. He looked a bit insulted when I asked him what number to call if I came home on Friday, and found it conked out again. Just trying to cover all my bases.

It is running well, even in our 95 degree, 98% humidity four day hot spell. I do need to adjust the (high up on the wall) register in my bedroom. It's in the "winter" position, also known as "Good heavens, don't blow any heat into this room!". The summer position, on the other hand, is wide open, letting the room (when I remember to close the door) cool quite well.

The final inspection by the city (which I didn't know I needed - the most frustrating part of this AND the little bit of construction work has been people not telling me everything involved up front) is this Friday. Assuming no issues there, I'm set on a/c for the foreseeable future

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

D-Day

It's been seventy-four years since D-Day, thirty-four since this speech by Ronald Reagan. But the spirit and determination, the will to fight for the right, lives on in our Armed Forces.

The following are remarks delivered by President Ronald Reagan on June 6, 1984 commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Invastion of Normandy.


We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For 4 long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers -- the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your ``lives fought for life . . . and left the vivid air signed with your honor.''

I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking ``we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.'' Well, everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, ``Sorry I'm a few minutes late,'' as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold, and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a rollcall of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore: the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's ``Matchbox Fleet'' and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day: their rockhard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do. Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: ``I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together.

There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall plan led to the Atlantic alliance -- a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost 40 years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose -- to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.

But we try always to be prepared for peace; prepared to deter aggression; prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms; and, yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II: 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the Earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that some day that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We are bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: ``I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Various and sundry, May edition

Yeah, yeah...I haven't neglected this place on purpose. Busy time of year.

The final (sort of) corporate taxes for my workplace were mailed May 12th. You get an idea of what fun the last month has been when I tell you it took the clerk half an hour just to stamp the envelopes (I had all the certified slips completed and attached already), and it was $182 in postage. There are still a few weird things to finish up with a state or two, but I can't seem to get to it...

...because people far above me in the food chain seem to have no grasp of the fact that taxes are a part of life, even for a so-called tax exempt institution. The fact that we are facing a rear-guard action on a partially executed agreement makes things ever so much more fun.

Meanwhile, as of 10 a.m. on Friday I will be on vacation for a week.

Not that much actual "vacating" will be done. I'm hanging around home. Not even resting, when it come to that...

On Saturday (yes, a holiday weekend - there is a story behind that which I won't bore you with, but the bottom line is Diane stuck to her guns and got what she wanted), my air conditioning unit is being replaced. Four years of severely evaporating coolant, an unsuccessful leak test and a total lack on my part of willingness to dink around with it any longer brought us to this place. The new unit is a bit more energy efficient. It's also a two-stage thing: it first sucks the humidity out of the air before cooling it and sending it into the house. The theory is that I'll be able to set the temp higher and still have the same comfort level, as the air will be considerably drier.

On Tuesday, the crew comes to do some minor renovations. The bigger project is installation of closet doors to turn a nook in the loft into an actual closet, as it is in other units in my building. Ordinarily, hanging a sliding door like this is something I could do (with added muscle from a friend to lift them in place), but the opening is 90" wide, and I'm having the contractors extend the wall so the opening is only 72". It will still be 90" on the inside, so lots of storage, now out of sight!

I need to paint what will be the interior of the closet before they arrive. It's currently the same color as the walls - think the color of those reddish-brown accordian folders you see in offices. A bit too dark for the interior of a closet that has no light of its own (I'm not crazy enough to have electric run to this closet - it's only 30 inches deep, and I have motion sensor, battery operated lights to put inside).

In addition, they are putting up a new light fixture and staining/hanging a new door in the downstairs bath. While this is a piece of cake for the contractors, it's the larger of the two projects for me personally. I need to paint the room, which, unfortunately, includes the ceiling. The ceilings are rather low in there, due to the need for space to run the plumbing stuff for the kitchen, which backs up to this bath, and the bathroom immediately overhead on the second floor. So the previous owners painted the bath a nice, lighter grey...including the ceiling. It does in fact make the ceiling appear higher, though friends over six feet are still eye level with the light on the wall...near the ceiling.

So, it needs a base coat, then a white ceiling, and at least one, maybe two, coats of a wonderful medium lavender on the walls. There is no medicine cabinet, just a large mirror that I am replacing. There re a couple of nice shelves I need to take down and relocate. The toilet seat needs replacing, as does the flush lever.

If I'm realistic, if I get the closet interior painted and the base coat in the bath, along with some of the smaller stuff (toilet stuff above, a railing support replacements, curtain rods up and a replacement for the shower head upstairs) I'll call it good. I also have 4th of July week off, and if I do a little bit a weekend, I should be done by then.

Oh yeah - the new wall upstairs? Means I need to completely move my desk and two file cabinets, as well as unhook the computer. I should still be able to get online, at least in the evening - my internet cord is 25 feet long. But it's going to be a long three days, as I just realized I can't exactly stream movies to watch while I sew if everything has to be unplugged.

Ay. I'm going to need a vacation from my vacation.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Not much to say

It's been two weeks, so I suppose I should say something.

The Alfie Evans thing is breaking my heart. It's one thing for the UK National Health to say they are done treating him, it's another entirely for them to prohibit the family from seeking treatment elsewhere. "We've decided he's going to die, and we are going to make sure he dies!". The core question is one of ultimate responsibility: who is the one ultimately responsible for making decisions for the child? Apparently, the UK believes it's the state, not the parent.

Lest you think "that could never happen here"...I point you to the case of a couple of New Jersey teens who have been suspended from school because they (legally) went to a gun range after school to get in some target practice. What's the connection? Overreach of the government. In this case, the township "enforces zero-tolerance policy for any students who have weapons in their possession, on or off school grounds".

"On or off". Are they planning on searching out every student whose parents are teaching them to shoot, and suspend them? Are they going to tour the local hunting blinds, and slap suspensions on kids hunting with family and friends? It sounds like a very sneaky way to take away rights from the kids...in the hopes that as they grow up without guns, they will never go back to the dark side.

The older I get, the more grateful I am that I have not had to raise kids in this world.

In other news, I have the estimate for the closet creation and mini bathroom projects. Sigh. The description of the work is wrong, in several places. This, in spite of the fact that when I asked them to come to take a look and give an estimate, I gave them sheets detailing exactly what I wanted done. My task this weekend is to correct the work descriptions, and send it back to them to be reworked.

Spring is finally here. Naturally, I have other plans this weekend, and can't get to all of the outside stuff I want to do. None of it is particularly hard, but time consuming. It's also supposed to rain tonight, which dampens my enthusiasm (heh) a bit.

Not much else going on around here. How's it by you?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

I'd like to report a crime

Officer? I'd like to report a crime. Yes, a kidnapping. No ransom demand, but I know hundreds of thousands of people who would pay anything - anything - for her return. The kidnapee? Oh - Spring. No, not a person, the season.

On the bright side, we have not been hit as badly as places north. If you drive three hours up to Green Bay (just kidding, you can't right now, the roads are treacherous and almost impassable), you would find record-setting snow totals from this rather long duration storm. On top of what they received the last couple of days, they expect another 6 - 12" throughout the day today. To add insult to injury, there is a strong possibility of flooding along lakeshore properties, as the wind is gusting 25 - 40 miles per hour.

In Milwaukee, we woke up to about an inch of wet, heavy slush, with a nice slick coating of ice underneath. I did go out to get something for breakfast (I've been off since noon on Wednesday, and other than picking up a grocery order Thursday afternoon, have not been out of the house...feeling a bit stir crazy), and had a bit of difficulty getting out of my own driveway. Both coming and going, I needed to back up and get a running start to get over the plowed rim. Usually, it would not have been an issue, but remember - heavy and slushy. The intersections were a mess as well, with high plowed ridges crisscrossing the center.

The salters were out, but the roads were bad enough that a lot of churches, including my own, canceled at least the early services. Smart move.

Now, of course, it is...snowing. Big, fat, wet flakes. The weatherpeople are still claiming we are only getting about three inches accumulation overall. They are lying liarpants.

As I mentioned, I took vacation days Thursday and Friday. It pretty much rained continuously from Thursday night on, so I've spent much of the last days in the kitchen, or lazing in the recliner reading (Martha Grimes' new Richard Jury mystery). On Friday, I cooked a largish turkey breast and stripped the meat from the bones. Some was dinner that night, some went into a salad on Saturday, just over a pound was frozen and the rest was set aside while I cooked the carcass to make stock. The resulting turkey soup is about the best batch I think I've ever made, and perfect for weather like this.

Wednesday's temperature is going into the high forties, which means most of this, other than the compacted plowed piles, will dissolve into a wet mess. Somewhere underneath, spring must be hiding. At least we hope that's where she is, rather than lazing on beach in Boca with no inclination to come back north.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring cleaning

Spring is such a wonderful time...flowers popping, birds returning...outside winter detritus to clean up.

It's also my busiest time at work, all the way through May 15th. Any "free" time I have is spent either sleeping or taking care of basic things like eating and washing clothes.

It's no wonder cleaning up outside falls to the bottom of the list. I've been telling myself (and others) I want to pressure wash the patio for the last, well, several years. Still hasn't been done.

Then there is the wall of stuff in the parking bay that the previous owners left...a shelving unit, a metal cabinet and a bunch of garden hose. So much garden hose.

I am part of one of those neighborhood list things, that is generally people whining about people on their lawn, spying on every stranger in the neighborhood, or trying to sell things. Every so often, though, it has its good points. A local college student, home on spring break, who has worked summer in landscaping, offered his services to pressure wash, haul garbage or do landscaping.

Seemed like a sign to me.

We met up this afternoon so he could see the job and give me a quote. Bottom line, he's doing the pressure washing, the junk hauling AND the high outside windows for less than some of the quote I got a bit ago from "junk" companies just for hauling the junk. And I have the pleasure of knowing I'm helping a very enterprising young man.

And he brings his own pressure washer.

Big sigh of relief. It's nice to know that when it lets up at work, I can just bring up the umbrella and the grill and get started relaxing. There are still some gardening type things to do, but that falls under "puttering" rather than "work".

Now, the inside spring cleaning...

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Lists Day Twenty-two: Things I'm Saving For

- Renovation of bathrooms and kitchen - I have the HELOC available, but I'd like to pay cash for as much as possible. I'm hoping to start the full remodel process after Christmas this year. Meanwhile, I'm working on smaller projects.

- Retirement - I keep upping the percentage of my check going into the retirement plan. While I keep saying I have to work until I'm dead (and in some ways, that is true - I can't imagine not working at all), at some point, I do hope to retire from the full time grind.

That is pretty much it at the moment, as they are rather high-ticket items.