spawning diversions

Before I start I gotta say that I feel like I'm having one of those days today where, even though it hasn't happened yet, I feel like I'm on the verge of saying something supremely stupid that will undoubtedly piss someone off. I hate days like these.

I had a slight scare on my trip last month from my friends. Trevor and Leah are expecting. That's not the scary part though, this is the funny part. What's funny about it is Leah only wants to go through this once, and Trevor was hoping for two (a boy and a girl). They both are getting exactly what they wanted. Twins! The scary part was that Leah had to check into the hospital for monitoring, after the prescribed bed rest didn't seem to be doing the trick. This is when and where I visited them on while on my trip. There's a chance they may be premature, but we're all hoping they stick to the April birth schedule. Luckily (so far) it was only a scare and the things they're going through are normal when expecting twins. It's been almost two months since then and I'm happy to report that Leah, the babies, and Trevor are all doing very well. Both are going through all the mental "OMG I'm going to be a parent soon" exercises in double time, but I know they'll do fine. I'm thrilled for them, thrilled that I get to be an uncle (again), and looking forward to meeting the kiddos.

Since returning from CA I've been unusually antsy. It's not for a lack of things to do, but I've got a very active mind. My day to day life has become a bit too mundane to keep me happy so I starting looking for ways to keep it engaged. If I don't I wind up concocting a fun way that always ends with me getting into trouble with someone, the law, or costing me money. I can't have any of that in my life right now. I started watching/catching up the show Supernatural last December which helped a little (I'm midway through season six now). As a late xmas gift to myself I renewed my XBox Live subscription last month, but I only play one game on it (on or offline), I use it to watch Netflix as well as other things on my TV. Still, it's not enough. I decided to go back to playing Eve Online, and no it's not porn. The best and simplest description I can give you is that it's an internet spaceship game where you're pitted against other live players around the globe. I gave it up last year due to the monthly cost and life no longer afforded me the time for it. I'm able to get around paying out of pocket by paying via in-game money for 30 day subscriptions.

How will I cope on the road? Being in the city is what does this to me, and I'll be ok once I'm away from it.  One of the things I've been doing while in captivity has been to make a list of things that I will do then. It's a pretty good size now, but it's not the size so much as what I do with it. Right ;-)



Rather than wait I called and had my appointment moved up to last Thursday to get the timing belt replaced. The cost of parts had dropped since my esimate so I saved about $150 off the total. I've never skipped on any maintenance needed before so there's no noticable difference in how it drives, but the spirit of my truck seems happier nonetheless.

In reviewing the original list of estimates I completely missed the part about the front CV boots needing replacement. That was quoted at $500. When I went back I asked the tech how critical was this, he said I could easily wait until the end of the year since there was only little grease outside of the clasp points. I don't have to even do that but it's something to keep an eye on. This works out perfectly since the verdict is also still out on whether I need to replace the catalytic converter. For the sake of being thorough I went ahead and called my CU to find out about loan options. The best one wound up being one where I can use my savings as collateral at 4.6% interest.

Although, I'm looking to register my vehicles in South Dakota when I officially begin full timing. They don't require emission tests there so it makes replacing the catalytic converter moot. There's an aftermarket part which allows you to bypass and kills the check engine light for it. It's drastically cheaper then the converter too. I may do this instead.


buyers remorse?

So I haven't bought anything yet but the thought of shelling out 2k for repairs got to me. After doing extensive research and contacting a few friends, I decided to replace only the timing belt. The dealer where I bought my truck (in CA) is owned by my friend's parents, who now also work in the family business. I sent out a few emails the day I found out about the repairs and the answers I received matched what my research turned up. According to Honda 100k is roughly the magic number when you need to replace your timing belt. This goes double if you live in an area with extreme temps and/or tow somewhat regularly. I do, and have for the past three years, on both counts. Slam dunk!

What was also in the emails/my research was that I may not need to replace the catalytic converter yet. The extreme temps can affect the O2 sensors and misreport the status. Most everyone said that their check engine lights switched off when the weather warmed back up. I'm going to wait until May and see if this holds true. It will be sufficiently warm by then, and also get my next bonus check. I'll can replace then if need be, but am hoping to avoid it.

* Updated to add the following ..

This negates getting the loan since the amount is too small to make it worthwhile. I'm going to charge the repairs on my lowest limit CC instead. I've been charging small things and paying it off every month in hopes they'll raise the limit. I haven't looked into this yet, but could've sworn that I read that it's better to get a limit increase instead of a new credit card/loan. More research.


it's always something!

On the way back home from CA last month, I had the check engine light flick on. Fuck! This happened at night somewhere in the middle of nowhere New Mexico on I10. Ok, relax and take stock. There were no funny noises coming from the engine and it was driving smoothly as it always did. I took a chance by not pulling over right then and there and waited until I got to a gas station. As soon as I stopped I promptly ripped the owners manual out of the glove box and looked it up. Turned out there were a number of possible things that it could be with none of them being fatal to driving my truck home. The beagle and I unloaded our bladders, got the truck some gas, got myself coffee, got B some water, and got back on the road. When I got home there was less than 15% of oil life. I knew I had a few weeks before I had to take it in. The Honda maintenance minder informed me via it's obscure service codes that it was also time check and replace quite a few other fluids/parts on top of the oil change. I knew this one was going to cost more than just an oil change, but what was really worrying me was what would the cost be of whatever caused the check enging light to turn on.

Forever the procrastinater that I am, I finally took my baby in yesterday morning. A week and a half after the oil life expired. This is one of those slow tortures I think most people put themselves through. We know it's coming but we still put it off for as long as we can bare it. The service tech informed me later that afternoon what the problem was. Turns out the catalytic converter had died. To my relief this isn't a big deal and is something I could get away with not replacing for quite a while. However the onboard computer will compensate for it's lack by forcing a richer mixture causing me to burn more gas. Not good since I'll have to pay more at the pump. What's not great is that it'll cost me around 1k to replace. The worst news was that my timing belt will need to be replaced since it's coming up on it's end of life. This will cost me another 1k. The timing belt itself isn't the whole cost, and an entire host of other parts are being replaced along with it. This repair is one I can't ignore because the damage to an engine from a timing belt going out are catastrophic. I can't afford to procrastinate with either due to the associated costs so I scheduled an appointment to get them replaced.

The problem I have is in how to pay for it, and that it also means I won't be adding the amount of the repair costs to my savings. I'm due to pay off my final CC bill next month. I don't want to add to the balance so charging is out of the question. The CC is for emergencies only and this isn't one. I also have more than enough in my savings but it's meant to only be used when I don't have an income. I have one making the savings hands off. 

Here's the solution I'm thinking about. I want to take out a small loan via my credit union to pay for the repairs. The loan will be paid back in two to three months (max). Doing this allows me to do a few things that I can't if I charged or paid out of pocket. Under the conditions I just mentioned it adds something current to my credit history since I haven't taken out anything new in over a year. I'll also get to see what my current FICO score is. I'm curious to know what it is after doing all this work on my debt.

Since tomorrow is Presidents day I've gotta wait til Tuesday to start this. That sucks because I'd really like to get the ball rolling since loans can sometimes take a while to process. I'm also hoping that the fine folks at my CU might be able to suggest a more equitable solution to me. 


running in the family

This past weekend my sister and her baby boy came to visit me from California (by way of Dallas). The pressures of daily life had finally gotten to sissy so an impromptu vacation was needed and taken. They spent a few days in Dallas where the nephew got to visit his cousins before they made their way down to the heart of Texas. Once they arrived much fun, food, and allergy suffering was had by us all. The nephew and I did most of the suffering due to the high cedar and mold count at the time.

I am so nebulizing, man.

The poor little guy kind of suffered pretty badly his first night down here, but we managed to get him sorted out by the second day. They spent the first night at my apartment where we have two dogs and live next to a cedar forest. He was doing so badly by the next morning that we moved them to a hotel away from the forest and dogs. He still needed his breathing treatments but was doing much better there. Later that night we went out for an early Chinese New Years celebration dinner. The lil guy consumed several cups of jasmine tea after I told him it would help with his allergies.

gulp ... gulp ... gulp

On the third day before taking them to my favorite BBQ joint (The Salt Lick), we paid a brief visit to my future home. This is the first time I've had a family member visit me since I moved years ago. It was great being able to be able to show them everything they hear me talk about in person. Not that she doesn't have confidence in me, but seeing the trailer in person made a bit of difference in how she felt about my plans. Never underestimate the in-person factor when trying to explain stuff like this. It goes a long ways towards helping them understand the hows and whys.

Where's the BBQ you promised?!?

Proof, kids love bunk beds!

Even though we had just seen each other the prior month, it was nice being able to spend time together again. It also gave us a chance to carry on a discussion about some of our family issues as well as possible plans for future welfare of the family. Our phone convos tend to frequently get broken up by life. That and the toddler tends to be much more forgiving when he can see the grown ups talking in person than to a phone.

The food looked as good as it smelled

And we didn't regret eating every last bit

No meal is complete w/out ice cream!

On Sunday morning I (sadly) took them to the airport. The lil guy gave me a huge hug at the airport making me miss him all the more now. Sissy managed to shake loose most of the pressures that were dogging her and regained some needed perspective. I got to take a day off from work, play, and share it with some of the most important people in my life. 


home by the sea

This is one of those things in life I didn't want to think of much the less write about. Aging parents. Both of mine are in their seventies now, and seem to be approaching that point in life where they might need some extra help in doing what used to come easy to them. They're (thankfully) still fully capable of caring for themselves and only need the kind of help that my bi-anual trips seem to satisfy. They always have a honey do list waiting for me when I arrive, but the list has been growing slightly longer with each visit. I managed to get everything done on this trip but spent each day taking care of something else that wasn't on the list. I have a feeling that the list will be longer than the time I have time for on my next visit.

Something happened that really broke my heart. It happened more than once, and I first caught it out of the corner of my eye while we were out shopping. It was ever so slight, but it nonetheless happened. My mommy ... has the old people shakes. Right now it's just her head, and seems to happen only when she's sitting. Mom is a little too proud to admit this kind of stuff is happening to her; I know she'll deny it so there was no point in bringing it up. This was confirmed recently by my sister who told me that both she and my father have already met with resistance when they tried. Other than this everything else is in perfect workling order.

My father is doing very well even though he only recently developed type two diabetes and gout. He's made all the proper adjustments to his life to avoid suffering from these afflictions and leads a pretty active life. Well, active in a stays at home and watches Chinese soap operas on his new HDTV kind of way.

This is a potential game changer to say the least. My sister has a family and occasionally needs help from time to time. Life led me down a different path and I'm in a place now where I have neither. I know that caring for my parents is undeniably in my future. It's now simply a matter of when which possibly makes it the proverbial monkey wrench in my plans. I'm not complaining though. They're my parents and I owe them everything. Not a single qualm will be given if I gotta drop my life to help them live out their's in a comfortable way. It does mean that this journey I've been preparing for will have to be postponed for a bit. I do take a great deal of comfort in knowing that everything I've done these last three years has not been wasted.

Regardless of outcome, the game is still afoot!


come back another day

I've been writing about stuff from my trip but I'm not ready to post it yet. Part of it's because I had stuff I had to do, and the other half was to keep my mind distracted. You'll understand why when I publish later.

I've had quite a few good things happen over this past week 

I've got a new boss at work. Technically this is my second new boss for 2013 too. Towards the end of last year we were told about a reorganization and that we'd be getting a new boss in the new year. We did the usual mini meet and greet where you also get to voice any concerns. Mine was about being able to work from the local office instead of commuting. I've been riding the company shuttle for the last four months and have come to learn the strains of commuting three hours a day, four days a week. My first new boss was about to say yes to my request, but didn't get a chance to because he and my second new boss wound up trading positions in yet another reorg. I still got what I wanted as my second boss approved my request. I'm now back to a local commute, and grateful to have a bit more of the day to do with as I please.

Here's how my recent updates to the blog settings turned out. As I suspected the bot thing I turned on did nothing so I turned it back off. The disabling of anonymous comments turned out to be a success. I'm no longer seeing as many repeat visits from referrer sites as I used to. 

On Saturday I took Bridgie in so she could get her bloodwork done. The results took a few days to get, but the news was good. Her bloodwork results (from June last year) showed elevated enzymes in her liver which were caused by inactivity and being overweight. The vet said that in her recent results, those levels had dropped dramatically and were back to normal now. Good to know everything we've been doing is paying off.

Earlier last week I received a reminder call about my tax appointment with H&R Block. Crap! I scrambled to not only reschedule it, but had to find a closer office since I had moved to a new city. I lucked out though. Not only was the office around the corner from my new place, but were they able to schedule me for last Saturday afternoon. The best part is after we got them done I learned I'm getting back a little more than the year prior on my return. 

One of the best surprises to come out of last week was my sissy informing me that she and the nephew will be arriving tomorrow to spend a few days with me. This is kind of huge thing because no one else, aside from Trevor & Leah whose wedding I was in last year, has been able to visit me since moving out of California. Most of them wanted to come, but the effects of the recession kept them anchored. I'm very excited and can't seem to fall asleep even though I'm way past my bedtime.


private eyes

Ever feel like you're being watched but can't tell if it's in a good or bad way? That's how I've felt over the months of December and January. They were a boom according to the pageview totals, and I would be a lot more excited about that had my followers grown with the traffic. They haven't, at least publicly they haven't. I know a lot of that traffic came from referrer spam sites, bots, and the rest from spam commenters. I'm just not sure how much was real people reading versus spam traffic yet. Before I go on here's my obligatory why I blog declaration. It's done mainly as a means to document my story/progress through this chapter in my life. I chose to share it publicly because perhaps something here may help you at best, or at worst my back road slide into dementia entertains you. Whatever the case, there's a cute beagle in the story and no one can resist a cute beagle.

I did some research and no one has found an effective way of blocking unwanted traffic in any sort of effective way where blogs are concerned. The advice being offered on referrer spam is to simply not click on the links and they'll go away. They, in fact, don't go away. Instead they go out and tell all their friends who tell their friends as is evidenced by all the new links appearing in my blog stats. Still I managed to find a two possible solutions worth trying. Hold my beer and watch this ...

The first was to allow only the google bot to crawl my site while blocking all others. Here's the link on how to set it up if you're feeling up to it (http://www.robotstxt.org/robotstxt.html). Unfortunately I also read that this only really works if said bot happens to comply with the command. I'll see what this does over the next week and most likely remove it if it proves to be useless.

The second change was to disable anonymous comments. Sorry I know some of you haven't been able to sort our your blogger account/comment issues but you're going to have to solve them if you wish to comment here. The spam comment filter works great and catches every single one, but I also use "comment moderation" as an added layer of security. I noticed, after about a year of this, that all spam comments were posted anonymously which is the main reason for this change.

I imagine what I've done is the digital version of drinking snake oil, twice. So until google or someone else comes up with an actual solution I think we're all screwed. 

Good luck!