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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in mammasteed's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
9:19 am
The door saga
Well, the little flibberty-idjit is quite resourceful. And tirelessly dedicated.

The door still holds, but it is in severe peril.

It seems that Lionheart has finally given up on throwing his body against the door. This is good... and also not good.

As I think I mentioned before, he learned that he could grab the fencing material with his teeth and pull, and eventually it would break. This is why we had to replace the original fencing with something that is both smaller mesh and stronger material, at least on the lower half of the door. He found himself unable to break the new fencing, and we thought we'd won.

He then tried to pull off the wood surrounding the cat door. He clawed and clawed at it. While this resulted in the cat door becoming non-functional. It won't snick closed any more, and so it hangs half-open. Trout can go out, since you can push it open in the outward direction, but she can't come in through it unless someone raises the flap for her (she has not tried to lift the flap herself, though she probably could). However, despite the breakage to the cat door, the wood itself held up to the siege. We thought we'd won again.

His latest plan of attack involves the wood of the door itself. It appears that a dedicated puppy can chew wood. With enough work, he can rip off a hunk of wood.

So far, the damage is minimal. But it's quite clear that, over time, he will eventually tear up the wood and break through.

Ponder suggested metal reinforcement. She suggested that he PROBABLY can't chew through metal....

It's only a matter of time before he learns to use a blowtorch, but I think it's a good step, for now....
Saturday, July 11th, 2009
1:48 pm
Circuit replaced
The circuit breaker was easy to replace. Okay, it wasn't as easy as the one we had on the farm - on that one, you just popped circuits out with your fingers and snapped the new one in. On this one, you had to use a screwdriver. But it wasn't so difficult.

So, we (meaning Vicky, of course) replaced the old circuit breaker with a new one.

No luck. The electricity is still dead.

By process of elimination, that means that the problem is the electrical wire itself.

(Obviously, I asked Vicky if she was sure the wire is tightly connected to the new circuit, and she said yes, definitely.)


Vicky runs wire for ethernet all the time, so I thought this would be essentially the same. But she seems to think it's totally different.

Still no hot water for us.
Friday, July 10th, 2009
9:50 am
Sears repair guy came
The Sears repair guy came to look at the water heater. He arrived bright and early. After the idiocy yesterday with trying to arrange for the guy to come, I have to admit I was shocked that he showed up at all, much less bright and early. He was very nice.

My brother also came, mostly to make sure he didn't try to screw us over. When you get a shark, they're less likely to act shark-like when you have a man around, particularly a man who knows what he's talking about.

The repair guy declared that my brother did a beautiful job with the install.

He checked the heating elements, and they're fine.

What's NOT fine is the electricity. The water heater is getting no juice at all.

This is weird, because my brother used an electric sensing pen and got a signal when he installed it. However, there is no electricity getting to the unit today. None at all.

The repair guy told us this wasn't his speciality, and we should call an electrician. He shook our hands and left.

Anyway, there are three possible faults.

Possible Fault 1 - the little brown box that is the "water heater timer" thing. I've hated that damn box since we got it. We disabled its timer function, but we never got rid of it entirely. I'd be happy to replace it. I don't know why we haven't already, except for the obvious issue that it's easier not to fix what isn't broken.

Possible Fault 2 - The wire leading from the circuit breaker box to the little brown box. (Or, less likely, the wire leading from the little brown box to the water heater.) This would require stringing new wire.

Possible Fault 3 - The circuit breaker itself.

My brother felt fairly sure that it wasn't the little brown box. His reasoning is that he held the electrical pen to the wires leading to the little brown box and got no sign of a signal there, either. When he held the pen to other exposed wires, he did get a signal (proving that the pen is working fine and that it picks up a current in other exposed wires).

So, it's either the wire gone bad or the circuit breaker. We feel that the circuit breaker is more likely.

It was awfully coincidental that it should happen to die when we install a new heater.

Mom thinks it wasn't really that coincidental; she thinks that the act of turning the breaker off and on was the final straw that made it break.

Well, anyway. Point is, water heater's fine. We have a new problem.
Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
6:28 pm
We have water heater.... but lack hot water
The title about sums it up.

My brother picked up our new water heater this morning, and brought it by. He arrived a little before 1pm.

He installed it. He was done by about 3:30pm, even with waiting around for Vicky to swing by a store and buy some of that white pasty glue-like stuff you need for soldering.

He turned on the water to the tank, and we heard water rushing in. When we stopped hearing the sound of water rushing in, we figured the tank was full.

We turned on the electricity, and he checked to make sure the wires were receiving the electric signal. He has a really cool thing that looks very similar to a pen, but it lights up if there is electrical current. The not-pen lit up.

There were no obvious leaks. My brother instructed us to check again in about 8 hours, just in case there were some really, really tiny cracks. He said if we found even a teeny drop of water on the top of the heater unit to call him back.

Then he said to give it about 2 hours and we'll have hot water. And, of course, he left.

Well, it's been about 3 hours now.... and there is no evidence of any hot water at all.

The line had a lot of air in it; it took a while for me to bleed the line and get a normal flow of water.

Once I got water, however, I waited, and waited, and waited, and.... no hot.

The water went from freezing cold to only mildly cold. This was probably just my fingers adjusting to the chill.

8:29 am
Door update
Trout used the cat door this morning - without help. I SAW it, so I know it's true! Yay!!!

The door is still holding strong against the boy's efforts to escape. WE had to replace the original fencing with a tougher model with smaller mesh, but he's stuck on the side we want him on. Hooray!
Monday, July 6th, 2009
4:22 am
Water heater purchased
We went to Sears yesterday morning. Short version: we purchased the Powermiser 12.

Longer version:

We walked in the door of the appliance section. I glanced around; they had lots of appliances and they were all open for viewing. This display is sooo much better than the tightly-packed boxes at Lowes. Just one sample unit of each thing they sell - the boxes are in the warehouse where we can't see them, and that suits me fine. Maybe I'm shallow, but I do think that display is everything.

In under a minute, we were GREETED by an employee. "Hello!" he called. "How are you today?"

We exchanged polite pleasantries ("fine, and you?" blah blah), and then he asked us what we were after today. WE told him that we wanted water heaters, and he led us - not POINTED us, mind you, but LED us - to the guy who sells water heaters. Seems they only had one salesguy present who is qualified to sell water heaters today, but that's all right.

At that moment, the sale was already confirmed. Compared to the way I was treated at Lowes yesterday, I felt like a queen.

The water heater sales guy had another customer. He was explaining clothes washers to her. Specifically, the benefits of steam. I admit I wasn't aware that washers had "steam" as an option, but they keep coming out with new stuff all the time.

We stood there, waiting our turn. After about a minute, when it was obvious we were waiting for him, he held up his hand in a "one minute" gesture, letting us know that he'd seen us. I was pleased with that. I was not invisible! After another minute, he found a break in a conversation, turned to us, and said, "I'll be with you shortly." I nodded.

When it became obvious that he was going to be needing more time, he asked her to wait a moment, and asked us what we needed. I told him we were after water heaters, but that we were in no hurry, so he should take his time. I told him we'd be waiting for him over by the water heaters.

Sears had a comparison chart, too. Like the chart at Lowes, it only compared a few selected stats. Unlike the chart at Lowes, this chart was encased in hard plastic and illustrated with graphics to make it look nice.

Our salesguy showed up by the water heaters as soon as he'd finished with the other customer. He asked us what he could do for us. I told him we were thinking of the Powermiser 12, and asked him to confirm that it had 2 anodes. He did. I asked him if I was right about how the anodes would help, and he said he thought so.

He brought up the issue of size, which I thought was great of him. He wanted to know if we had space for this unit BEFORE we bought it. As it happens, in our case, the width of the unit doesn't matter one bit once it's installed, as it will be sitting in our laundry room... though I suppose something too wide might not go through the door *grin*. The height seems more important, because if it's much taller or shorter than the old unit, there will have to be adding or subtracting of pipe to make it fit. Not the most horrible thing in the world, as my brother has shown us how competent he is at adding and subtracting pipe, but still strikes me as less effort to have the pipes fit right in the first place.

Anyway, I felt very good about the salesman and our choice at that point, so I thought it was time to buy the unit.

I was disappointed to learn that the holiday sale on appliances did not include water heaters. Oh, well. I guess water heaters are the kind of thing that just don't go on sale.

Then, the salesman started talking about the optional service contract. I had pre-decided to say no to this. However, in the store, with him talking about the benefits of the contract, and with Vicky looking interested, I was willing to listen. He told us that the contract includes an annual inspection (and "tune up") of the unit - they send someone out, at no charge, to look over the unit and make sure everything is working okay. You know, that's not a bad idea. Might catch a problem BEFORE the unit explodes. Or might replace an anode BEFORE the water starts corroding the tank. Or whatever. I was sold. We agreed to the service contract.

His computer said that there were two units in stock, so we were set.

We arranged for my brother to come by and pick it up. The salesguy told us that my brother would need the receipt in order to claim our new water heater when he came to pick it up, so we called Mom to tell her we would be stopping by to drop off the receipt.

On our way to mom's house, the salesguy called to tell us that he'd just gone to look at the two water heater units in stock, and both of them were visibly damaged. So, obviously, we don't want those. He said that we could come and get a refund (and then, either pick out a different model, or go to a different Sears, or whatever), OR, we could wait. He said he could have a new unit ready for us for pickup on Wednesday. Hey, I figured we couldn't do better than this salesguy, so of course I elected to stick with him. So, we're getting a brand-new until on Wednesday. Besides, this one will be fresh from the factory, so it's less likely to have accrued damage from sitting around a warehouse, right? We win all around.
Sunday, July 5th, 2009
8:41 am
Door update
Yeah, so, the other post was getting ridiculously long, so, here's the door part.

Vicky installed the bolt we bought. It's thick and heavy, and the screws are large and thick. It feels solid and strong. I don't think Lionheart will be breaking it (like he did the latch). I think we've plugged our leak. I hope.

As for the cat door - it turns out that I was mistaken. Trout does NOT use the cat door, even when we are not looking. As it happens, that space ("just wide enough for our hands" so that we can open and shut the sliding glass door without first opening the guard door) is plenty wide enough for a cat to crawl through. Trout can climb up the fencing material and squeeze through the opening. This is far preferable to using a cat door.
7:17 am
Shopping, and another update
So, yesterday, we had a day out. It was intended to be productive, but it really wasn't all that productive.

First, Vicky slept late. I mean, she slept REALLY late. As in, she didn't wake up until the afternoon. I think it was a little after 2pm when she finally rejoined the living. I could have - SHOULD have - woken her up around noon (at the latest), but she works so hard during the week that I feel awful waking her on weekends. Then, of course, it took her seemingly forever to bathe and dress.

When we were finally ready to go, we first went to IHOP. I was starving. I'd totally forgotten to eat anything the day before (yes, all day; yes, it happens; yes, I FORGOT), and I hadn't eaten anything in the morning on the theory that we'd be going out to breakfast. So, yeah, by the time we hit IHOP, I was really ready for some food. Sadly, we got Miss Slowpoke as our waitress today. Oh, don't get me wrong, Miss Slowpoke is one of the nicest waitresses you'll ever meet; as a human being, I rate her ten out of a possible ten. But she isn't cut out to be a waitress - and I say that as someone who is probably also not cut out to be a waitress (though at least I'm not working in that field). In any case, our meal took forever and a day.

On the plus side, I had steak tips and eggs, which is a dream come true of a breakfast when it is done right. Now, sometimes, depending on the cook, the steak tips are tough and awful. But today, the cook did them right. Oh, my God, were they EVER right. Cooking like that makes you wish your tummy wasn't limited in size, so you can have ten, twenty, one hundred orders of the stuff... you never want to stop eating..... yeah, I know, and we all wonder how I could possibly carry extra weight.... *sigh*

They also had a "new" pancake. You get a free stack of pancakes with your order, but, for a little bit extra, I substituted the normal plain pancakes (blah, I'm not really much of a pancake fan - they're edible, but not especially tasty) with the new pancakes. I chose the banana and macademia pancakes. Sounded yummy. Wasn't yummy at all. In fact, I found it downright disgusting. Sigh. I had to order (and wait for) some garlic bread to get the taste out of my mouth (yes, I'd finished the rest of my meal off first).

When we finally left, we decided to hit Lowes first. This turned out to be a mistake (cue the foreshadowing music).

First, we took a few minutes and picked out a nice thick bolt for the door (see previous entries). Vicky took another few seconds and grabbed some electrical tape, too. We discussed whether we should buy an extra toilet chain while we were there, as they keep breaking on us and we're down to just one spare, but decided against it. That was the easy part.

Then, we went to look at the water heaters. My brother had told us which brand he'd purchased and loved - the Whirlpool. However, he'd failed to mention which model. The Lowes website doesn't have a lot of detail. We'd hoped that looking at the things in the store would somehow help. However, the water heaters were all in big white boxes on the shelves. They were packed tightly together, so you couldn't just turn a box to read it. And, of course, the side of the box facing us was fairly uninformative; it had less information than was on the website. Nor were there any models on display to view. There WAS a handy comparison list of certain features hanging off a peg, but only selected features were mentioned.

That's all right, we said to each other, because the point of looking at it in the store is that you can ask questions from a live person. Assuming you can get the attention of a live person.

There was a fat guy with glasses wearing an orange Lowes vest just a few feet away. He was talking to other customers. I stood there patiently waiting my turn. He didn't even have the decency to give me a gesture indicating that he was aware of my existence, but I stood there politely anyway. When he finally finished up with the other customer, he made like he was going to leave without talking to me. I said, "excuse me," and he turned, as if he hadn't even noticed me before. All smiles. I told him we wanted help with water heaters. He pulled out his little walkie-talkie, said "water heater" into it, and put it back on his belt. "Someone will be with you shortly," he said. Then he turned and scurried away as fast as his pudgy little body would carry him. I couldn't help but feel like he'd found us repulsive and was trying to escape. (Maybe that's true, or maybe he was just in a hurry to get to the bathroom or start his break, or maybe he was trying to get something accomplished. I don't really know, and I don't really care. I felt dissed.)

Well, anyway, we waited, and we waited, and we waited. We passed the time locating the boxes that went with each 50-gallon item on the comparison chart, and writing down the price, so we'd know when the "help" finally got there.

Eventually, we decided that help wasn't coming. We decided to leave.

On our way out, I saw Mr. Unhelpful talking at length to MORE customers. I yelled at him "Thanks for nothing!" and he acted like he heard nothing. So I walked over, stood next to him, cupped my hands, and yelled at the top of my lungs (inches from his ear), "THANKS FOR NOTHING!" He had the nerve to look aggrieved. He WHINED, and yes, I do mean WHINED, "I called for someone." I rolled my eyes and turned my back on him. His customers were looking less than impressed, though I don't pretend to know whether they were siding with me or with him. A woman behind me was chuckling wildly, like she'd just seen the best show ever. I felt a little better, but not much.

We went to pay for the bolt - no sense in finding it again. The guy at the cash register was wearing a big badge saying "CUSTOMER SERVICE!" which, for some reason, annoyed me all over again. I told him that his badge lies, that they'd lost a sale of a water heater, etc. (Yeah, I probably would have wound up leaving and going to Sears anyway, since I'd pre-decided that I liked the Sears brand better... but they'd had a chance at making a sale. Now, they've lost said chance, forever.) I told him that I not only wasn't going to buy a water heater today, but I was never going to buy from Lowes again. He said he would call the manager if I wanted to discuss these issues. I said that would be fine, as long as said manager appeared in under three minutes. He called for a manager on the microphone.

I waited, watching vicky's watch. Manager-lady appeared exactly 2.5 minutes later. "What do YOU want now?" she said to the guy. Wow. Some manager. I'm already underwhelmed.

I have to say, cashier-guy was cool. Ultra-cool. He hadn't let my ranting phase him or crack his sweet and polite demeanor, and he didn't let his manager's rudeness bother him either. HE should have been the manager, I tell you. If Lowes had any intelligence or decency in any of its upper management, he would be - and manager-lady and Mr. Unhelpful would be out of the street. But, obviously, Lowes doesn't give a damn about customer service... so back to the narrative.

Manager-lady turns on us, clearly communicating with her face that we're bugging her. So I let her have it. I tell her what happened. She pointedly looks me from head to toe, then back up to my head again. For you guys, that means she was checking out my clothes and evaluating my worthiness based on what I was wearing - and letting me know she was judging me.

"I'm sorry," she said, in a voice that clearly implied she wasn't one bit sorry. I noticed (as she intended) that she pointedly failed to add "ma'am" as well. "I can get someone to help you now."

"Too late," I said.

She said the words "I'm sorry" again. While I usually give credit for a manager who offers those words (they usually make a lot of difference, just hearing them), I didn't feel at all appeased by crocodile words from this crocodile woman.

I informed her, in no uncertain terms, that not only had Lowes lost a sale today, but they had lost my future business as well. I will never set foot inside Lowes again.

As I spoke, I was not yet sure whether I meant ALL Lowes or just that one Lowes.

I have never yet had a positive customer service experience at ANY Lowes. I have never been treated in such a blatantly rude fashion at a Lowes before today, granted. But I have never had anything resembling helpful service before. Lowes employees stand around being as unhelpful as they can get away with. That's fine if all you want is a few screws or a wrench, but I find it totally amazing that people go to Lowes and get stuff that requires any assistance to choose. I was, in fact, rather shocked when my brother claimed that Lowes gave him better service than Home Depot when he went to pick out his water heater, six months ago. I did, however, think that maybe Lowes had made some corporate decision to change for the better, and so I gave them a chance.

After contemplating this, I have decided that my brother experienced a fluke. Or perhaps, with his handsome looks and his rather imposing height, he managed to command better service than the average person would get. In any case, it is clear to me that Lowes has always sucked, and will continue to suck throughout eternity, even if there are the occasional exceptions to the rule. I therefore declare that I will not be giving them my dollars every again.

But, again, I digress. Back to the narrative.

So, we left Lowes. It was already after 5. And remember, yesterday was July 4. Americans have this weird tendency to treat July 4 as a day different from other days. They like to shoot fireworks after dark and stuff like that. (If you don't know why, I don't feel like explaining it, sorry.)

At this point, my tummy started hurting a little. Perhaps a reaction to the manager. Perhaps a delayed reaction to the awful pancakes. Perhaps something else entirely. I don't know.

We booked it over to the nearest Sears that Vicky knew of. She forgot that it was a Sears Outlet, not a regular Sears. That's okay, I told her, because, if they have what we're looking for, it will be cheaper here than at a regular Sears. That's what outlet means, right?

Well, the Outlet was really tiny. You could see all the merchandise at a glance, just by taking a few steps in from the door. The two far corners were a bit obscured, but you could quickly scan the room and see that there were no water heaters in sight.

Still, just to be sure, I walked across the entire room, and then I went over and asked. The saleslady confirmed that they had no water heaters. I thanked her and left.

We climbed back into the car. The clock said 5:27.

"Let's take Pepper home first," Vicky suggested, "and then we'll go to Fair Oaks. They have the biggest Sears."

Mom had warned us that Sears was closing at 6 because it was the 4th of July. Vicky thought that was utter bull. So I agreed. (Whether we could have made it over to Fair Oaks before they closed without stopping by home or not, I don't know.)

So, we stopped at home, took some time there, and then headed towards Fair Oaks. We arrived somewhere between 6:15 and 6:20; I don't recall exactly. The doors were locked. The sign posted on the door informed us that yes, they really were closed - not just some random fluke that the doors were locked by mistake, but really closed.

We called Mom and asked her to look up phone numbers for other Sears in the area, to see if any of them might be open later. She said she'd call us back in a few minutes.

Instead, my brother called us back. Nope, other Sears were closed, too. He told us to go shopping tomorrow, but to be sure to have the shopping completed by 3.

Guess what we're doing today?

I'm going to be waking Vicky up today. No sleeping beauty routine today!
Saturday, July 4th, 2009
11:48 am
More door update
Ah, well, I crowed success too soon.

Lionheart did NOT want to be left all alone in misery while I selfishly took a bath. So, yes, as soon as I immersed myself in water, he began a prolonged attack on the door.


The latch gave way.

The door sprang open. He tried to run off.

Luckily, ponder was on hand. While I sat in the tub, useless, ponder ran him down and tackled him. She brought him back inside.

Sadly, she hurt herself in the process.

But, at least he didn't escape.

In the meantime, the sliding glass door is once again closed.

At least I'm clean. :)
6:07 am
New door update
Well, Lionheart did not give up gracefully after one attempt to breach the new door. Over the course of the last 24 hours or so, he has vigorously tried to escape.

At first, he tried throwing his whole body against the door, seeking to break it down the way the babygates crumbled. I began to worry that the latch would give way under this onslaught, because it isn't a very sturdy component. It did pull loose a little bit. However, it held up. Yay!

Eventually, Lionheart decided to try other tactics. Next, he tried to claw off the cat door (and the wood surrounding it). That struck me as a fairly clever move. I mean, yeah, we nailed it down pretty good, and nailed the fencing to the wood, so he didn't have a chance there - but he didn't know that until he tried. When that failed, he tried digging through the fencing, which didn't work, either.

His next tactic was really devious. He rocked the door in and out until he could get his paw into the crack. Then he tried to pull the door open. The latch held firm for that, too, but it was really clever.

When he grew tired of that, he just started rattling the door like a cage (like prisoners in jail do, at least in the movies), and howling.

He howled for ages. Man, I grew so tired of listening to it that I almost let him go just to shut him up :) But I persevered, and eventually, he grew tired of howling.

Next came the whining. He whined, and whined, and whined. I thought he'd never stop. He just cried for hours.

Finally, though, he's decided to live with it. In fact, he's started to cheer up again. I guess this house isn't totally miserable. Yeah, it's a hideous prison, but he's managing to find some joy in life again. Grudgingly.

I dare say we humans have won the battle. :)

As for Trout and the cat door, well, that was another success. Trout complained and complained about the cat door, and only used it with great disdain when I held the door open with my finger.... until I went to sleep. Trout was outside when I went to sleep, and somehow managed to come inside without help in order to snuggle on my chest overnight. Of course, I might have been mistaken about Trout's whereabouts when I went to sleep, or Trout might have gotten help from another human in the household. HOWEVER, when I got up briefly at around 4:30am, I fed Trout and then went back to bed. As I lay there, trying to go back to sleep, I heard a decisive snick. I checked, and Trout was NOT in the house... and the cat door hadn't quite closed all the way. Yep. Success.
Friday, July 3rd, 2009
11:57 am
Hot water heater update
Well, when I last mentioned anything about the hot water heater, it had just burst. People suggested that I NOT blindly go with what we'd had before. See previous post for more details.

Well, I've done some research since then. And yes, that does mean that we've been without a hot water heater all this time.

It appears that the model we had in the past no longer exists. It was a Kenmore Powermiser, and the Powermiser line is still around, yes, but that particular model is no more. So, even if I DID want to just get another of what we already had, I couldn't. Not exactly, anyway.

Well, anyway. After reading up on the net about various models, I finally came to some conclusions. I could go in depth about my thought processes and what I read and all that, but all that would be boring to most. So, I'll just skip to the conclusions.

We want either a 55-gallon Powermiser 12, or a Whirlpool of either a 50-gallon or a 65-gallon capacity.


We'll start with why the Whirlpool. When my mom's water heater broke about 6 months or so ago, my brother chose to replace it with a particular 50-gallon Whirlpool model. Granted, I don't think he did extensive research. Still, I think very highly of his opinions on things of this nature. He says he is extremely pleased with his choice so far.

Now, there's a few slight problems. I've found 3 50-gallon Whirlpool models sold at Lowes (where he got his), and he hasn't given me any clue which of the 3 is the one he picked. Also, our previous water heater was 53 gallons, and I'm not sure how big a deal a mere 3 gallons is, but I'm not in favor of going down in water tank capacity. However, the next size Whirlpool offers, the 65 gallon, is not guaranteed to be identical to its 50-gallon counterpart. Meanwhile, I have not found any customer reviews for any of the four Whirlpool options. It's like a total information void.

So, we move to the Powermiser 12. This is, of course, twice as much a Powermiser at the 6. Okay, um, yes, I'm kidding. Sears currently has a Powermiser 6, a Powermiser 9, and a Powermiser 12. The 6 is the cheapest, and also the most poorly insulated; the 12 is the most expensive and the best insulated; and, meanwhile, the 9 is about halfway in between on both price and insulation. The kicker that makes me want the 12, however, is the little detail that the 12 has TWO anodes, while the 6 and the 9 each have just one anode. Given that we suspect that our corrosive water may be at least partially at fault in the demise of previous water heaters, and given that anodes are supposed to guard against corrosiveness, that second anode sounds pretty important for us.

In addition, the current set of Powermisers (all three of them) use two 5500 watt heating elements. By contrast, every other water heater I found specs for uses one or two 4500 watt heating elements. That extra 1000 watts presumably means more power, which should translate to faster heating or something. The bad news, of course, is that, if the element burns out, the only way to get a replacement 5500 watt element is to special-order it; Sears does not keep it in stock on the shelves, and, according to the comments I've read online, neither does anybody else. On the other hand, 4500 watt elements, which are available in stock at Home Depot and Lowes all the time, will work just fine - you just have 1000 watts less. One customer comment scared me by claiming that the lower element caught on fire; however, there was only one such comment out of many, so that was probably a fluke or a lemon.

AS for the other comments I've found, the majority have been positive. Granted, the majority of comments are from new purchasers - people who bought it just a month or two ago and are pleased (so far) with the water heater. Those comments don't really address the burning questions of long-term reliability. However, there were a few comments from people who had this model for a longer time. Many of those were positive, as well. On the other hand, there were several who said that their unit sprang a leak. Most of the reported leaks happened around 5 years after purchase, though at least two people said they happened 2 or 2.5 years later. So, yes, we may be buying into a repeat experience. Then again, there were more than a few who said their Powermiser 12 is still going strong after up to 9 years. (No, nobody has reviewed it, positively OR negatively, who claims to have owned this exact model more than 9 years.)

Other negative comments were that the heater didn't work on first install (hey, any brand can make a dud), that Sears service sucks (yeah, we already know that), that the Sears warranties are a joke (we already know that, too), that the installer screwed up in some fashion or that the install cost too much (not relevant, since my brother will install for us), that the unit is actually a couple inches taller than the official written spec sheet claims, and other things of this nature.

One of the comments that most struck me about this model came from two different people. They both said that they had been without electricity for two or three days, and yet the water was still hot - presumably due to the excellent insulation.

Well, anyway, we've had enough of cold baths, and there's a sale at both Sears and Lowes this weekend. We're buying a unit real soon - perhaps today, or more likely tomorrow... Sunday at the absolute latest.

The exact date and time is under my brother's control, because, um, well, gee, we're having bad luck all around, and our truck decided it doesn't want to start, and we aren't going to take the truck in for repair until we've paid for the hot water heater (in case we don't have enough money for both, obviously - what's more important?). (Yes, the truck's problem is probably something both simple and cheap, but it helps if we know for sure how much money we have in the bank before we get an estimate, y'know.)

But in any case, if you've read this far, here's a question for you: What do YOU think?

Some sample questions to prime your opinion-posting:

- Powermiser 12, or Whirlpool? Or would you care to make a pitched case for another model?
- Have you found any customer opinions on the Whirlpool models?
- Have you got any opinions on either of these choices?
- Have you got any opinions on anything else I've said?
- If you've got nothing to say on water heaters, is it raining where you are? Heh.
4:46 am
Our brand-new door
Well, as you may or may not know, we've been having increasing problems from Lionheart (aka "the boy") escaping out the kitchen sliding glass door.

This is a problem because the door opens onto a gorgeous second-floor deck, which has a staircase down the side of the house and into the front yard (ie, an escape route). That, of course, is a problem because many of the locals around here don't seem to want other people's dogs in their yards.

He hasn't been picked up by the dogcatchers YET.... but I feel it's only a matter of time.

Well, anyway. You might ask why we don't just close the sliding glass door. Well, we use a little portable AC unit in the kitchen, and it has to vent somewhere. WE don't have any regular windows we can vent it through, and we don't want to knock a hole in the house, so it has to go out the door instead. And, when the weather is cool enough that the AC unit isn't needed, we like to keep the door open for, you know, the air.

Our old solution was a babygate across the opening in the door. This used to work. It used to be enough of a barrier that the boy didn't try to escape.

But, somewhere or somehow, he got the idea that if he threw his body against it, it would give way. That used to only be a problem when we weren't in the house - out of loneliness or desperation or something, he would crash out of the house if we left. So, the solution was to turn off the AC, reel the hose inside, close the door, and THEN leave the house. We used to be fine as long as we were home.

Those times, however, are gone. He has recently gotten a bug about wandering. While he won't challenge the door while I'm sitting next to it, he will now make an escape if I'm not in the kitchen. I go to the bathroom, and he's making an escape. I fall asleep, and he makes an escape. Last night was the worst - he escaped three times in one night. He'd come home and then escape again.

Well, Vicky has actually been working on this new solution since last Saturday, but she finished it tonight. It's wonderful. She has made a wooden frame that fits remarkably well inside the open space in the sliding glass door. She covered it with fencing material. Then she cut three holes in the fencing material - one for a kitty door (we bought one from a local pet store; definitely too small for any of the dogs to get through but large enough for the cat), one for the venting hose, and a long swatch just wide enough for our hands but all the way across at the level of the door's handle so that we can open and close the sliding glass door. She then, of course, lined (and reinforced) these holes with wood. She also included a wooden board like a prison bar on the lower half, just to make sure it was sturdy.

Okay, yeah, it's not very attractive, but it's functional.

Tonight, she put it up. She used hinges on one side, and a latch on the other - in other words, yes, it's a door that we humans can open and close. The boy, however, has not (yet) figured out how to do so. This makes accessing the deck easier than in the past (with the babygate there, it was kind of hard for us to go out and enjoy the deck), but, much more importantly, it makes it much harder for the boy to have himself an escape.

About an hour after we got it up, Vicky went to bed, and I went to the bathroom. I heard the familiar crashing sounds of the boy trying to break out. Except, this time, I did NOT hear the crashing sound of the gate falling over or otherwise giving way; nor did I hear the sound of the boy running down the stairs. And when I came out of the bathroom, I saw the boy pouting, looking crushed. In fact, I would say he looked downright downtrodden.


We win. We win. We win. *dances*

So, good news: it works!

Bad news: The new kitty door is less successful.

Trout, the cat, has never used a kitty door before. Trout is an old cat, and teaching an old cat new tricks is not easy. Especially when said old cat is offended and affronted that you've changed the rules of the game.

So far, letting the cat out now involves opening the cat door and holding it open until the Majesty deigns to go through it. Oh, yes, and We will only deign to go through it after pitching a long fit about wanting to go in and out the old way.

I have tried picking up Trout's paw and opening the door with the paw, in hopes of giving Trout the idea to open and close the door without my help. So far, the lesson seems to be lost. I have only succeeded in annoying the Majesty for manhandling the Royal Paw.


Oh well. The door's WAY COOL. No more leaky dogs :) We'll work on the squeaky cat.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
6:52 am
The plumbing problems never really end...
Well, we've had a good couple of months, with no plumbing issues. It's apparently time to pay the piper again. (Get it? Piper.. plumbing... oh, never mind....)

Our water heater sprang a leak today.

Obviously, that means we are without hot water - again.

At least this time, we have running cold water. Just no hot. Not pleasant, but a major improvement over conditions were when we had a leak in the pipes. :)

As for the hot water heater suddenly bursting:

This is not the first time this has happened to us. Yes, obviously, it's the first time for THIS PARTICULAR water heater. But it is the third time since we moved into the house that the water heater has burst suddenly, without any obvious warning, and starting spitting water all over the floor.

There is no fix for the old water heater when something like this happens. You have to replace it. (Even if you think otherwise, nah, sorry, I don't believe you.)

We have acquired the same model each time in the past. When it broke the first time, it was still under warranty, so it was replaced free. When it broke the second time, I'm pretty sure it was not under warranty (though I suppose it could have been - I can't recall now), but I unimaginatively just replaced it with the same thing. And now, this third time comes.

I can't recall how long the warranty lasts. It's probably past the warranty period. (I can't find the paperwork, so I'd have to call the store or something to find out.) I can't recall exactly when we got this water heater, but I'm pretty sure it was 2002, give or take a year. So I'm willing to bet the warranty expired.

So.... the ultimate question is... do I buy the same model again, or do I give another model a try????

As a general rule, this model of water heater is functional and trouble-free until the day that it bursts open. And yes, it WILL burst open sooner or later. I'm positive of that - history says so.

IT may be that any hot water heater will eventually burst open. It may be that the acidic nature of our water slowly dissolves the water heater until it develops a weak spot that bursts. If this is the case, then it probably doesn't matter what water heater we buy. (Unless, perhaps, they make ceramic water heaters that are impervious to acidity?)

Then again, it may be that this particular model just happens to have an issue with bursting.

I know that this model works fine. That's pretty important.

My mom suggested that any water heater on the market would work fine. Maybe. I'm dubious. I've been to people's houses who have less than wonderful water heaters. Their water heater problems might could be blamed on having a water heater that's too small for the usage, perhaps. But there are refresh rates (how fast does new water get hot?), energy consumption issues, and... um... all kinds of issues that I haven't thought of yet, but I'm sure they exist.

Path of least resistance - get what we know. It's worked before, so why change what isn't broken?

Path of wisdom - do research, figure out what is most likely to be the best water heater for our purposes, and go with THAT instead.

*sigh* The path of wisdom sounds like hard work.....

Anybody have any recommendations? Anybody have any warnings of what to avoid? Anybody have any words of wisdom or sources to check out?
Thursday, June 18th, 2009
11:09 pm
I can't even have a nightmare right
So, after not sleeping much for over a week now, I finally hit exhausted at a time when I am actually permitted to sleep. So, yes, I closed my eyes and fell deep into the world of sleep...

Once I was there, I met three Japanese people. One was a young man, probably early twenties, in excellent physical shape and wearing a martial arts outfit. He wore a bandanna with a loud print tied around his forehead. The second was an old and wise man. He was dressed in loose clothes that looked more or less like traditional Japanese clothing. The third was a little ten year old girl in a kimono. She was cute, but she never said anything or did anything... I think she was just there to even out the gender ratio or something.

So, they told me it was time for a spiritual quest. For some reason, that didn't strike me as odd. I mean, you know, random people come up to me all the time and demand I go on spiritual quests. Yeah. It happens a lot. Honest.

I said fine, so we went to a Japanese-styled temple and sat down. They sat on their knees like Japanese people do; I sat cross-legged. Nobody complained.

I didn't get any directions, so I just closed my eyes and thought, or something. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I opened my eyes, and the old man told me I was ready for my quest. I didn't feel any more ready than I had a minute earlier, but I wasn't going to argue. Maybe they'd purified me or something.

The young guy in the martial arts uniform gave me a spear. I was like, huh? A SPEAR? What am I supposed to do with THIS? Maybe I'll put on an animal skin bikini and gyrate wildly around a fire for a while. That sounds like fun.

The young man informed me that I needed to catch an unagi. (The unagi is a type of eel that Japanese people, for some reason I cannot fathom, think is a delicacy.) I don't know which was more bizarre - the idea that I was supposed to go out and catch a wild unagi in the first place, or that I was supposed to use a spear to do it. The whole thing was starting to reek of practical joke to me. So now, finally, I protested. "Are you crazy?" I said.

The old man insisted. He told me I must, and then tried to tell me how magical and important the unagi are.

I informed him that I don't like unagi. I was, of course, referring to the unagi as food on my plate; I have nothing against the existence of unagi, per se. I just don't want to eat them.

And, if we're being honest, I don't actually KNOW that I don't like unagi. I've never tried one. I just, well, you know, assume I don't like it. Who wants to eat eel, anyway? I mean, besides Japanese people, obviously.

The old man was amused. He explained to me that we were not going to EAT the unagi. We were going to borrow its mystical magical power. (Note to anybody who thinks they're learning something about Japanese culture here: Nah, sorry, I made this part up.)

Naturally, I wondered why I couldn't just go BUY one. I mean, they sell them all over Japan, and anywhere else in the world where there's a reasonably large and prosperous Japanese population. Sure, unagi aren't cheap, but it seemed like a better option than hunting one down in the wild with a spear.

But no, the old man told me that a purchased unagi wasn't as magically powerful as one you caught yourself. Right. Sure.

So, my real self, if I'd been having this conversation, would have flatly refused at this point. But this is my dream self, and my dream self felt compelled to go hunting unagi with a spear. (But no furry bikini.)

So, inexplicably, the two men picked me up and carried me to a small one-person boat. They put me on it, opened a garage door, and shoved the boat so hard that it shot out into the ocean. Suddenly, I was adrift in the middle of the ocean, with no sign of the temple I'd just been in anywhere.

And you know what I thought? No, not "where'd the temple go?" Sorry :) I thought, "Gee, I thought unagi were freshwater creatures. How am I supposed to catch one out here?"

So, well, I sulked. I put the spear in the bottom of the boat, I hunkered down into the bottom of the boat next to it, wiggled around until I was comfy, folded my arms, and sulked. No, I didn't expect anyone to notice... I just felt like sulking.

This sulking continued until I found myself surrounded by a whole bunch of eels swimming towards me. I didn't know if they were unagi or not, but I figured it was a good shot. I mean, if they weren't unagi, why were they swimming towards me? Because, of course, the unagi are surely as anxious for me to catch one as I am to do it. Yeah. Or something.

Well, I looked at them. They were a bit creepy. Looked at me with fish-like eyes, unblinking, but seemed to have vast intelligence behind them. In fact, they rather resembled the go'a'ould (of Stargate). And they were jumping up out of the water. At the top of the jumping arc, they snapped their jaws, then turned to re-enter the water head first. It looked like a dolphin's jump, only more slithery and eel-like. I couldn't tell if they were performing tricks to amuse me, or if they were trying to get a better look at me, or if they were just really bad at trying to catch me in their jaws.

Well, I decided that I'd better pick up my spear. I decided that, no matter what the old man said about needing to catch one, I wasn't going to attack first. If this was some attempt at friendliness, or if I just happened to have intruded on their jumping-in-the-air spot, then I wasn't going to spoil things. But, if they attacked me, well, it somehow made sense (at the time) to be armed with a weapon I didn't know how to use. I felt safer than I would have felt unarmed, anyway.

So, I was watching them, starting to appreciate their beauty, though still unsure whether they were being aggressive, friendly, or blissfully unaware of me. Then, suddenly, my boat rocked violently, as a particularly large wave crested. A GIGANTIC head surfaced - it was the cause of the wave. This was an eel just like the others, but much, much bigger. It reared up into the air and towered over me - just the head, and a bit of neck. It was so large that I was to it as an M&M is to me. (In fact, I helpfully discovered an M stamped on my chest at this point.)

It looked at me.

Now, you know, this is where I fail miserably. Obviously, this dream has now become horror. I should be feeling fear. I should be screaming and desperately trying to paddle away. OR bravely standing up to the thing, spear pointed, ready to give him a pinprick that he won't forget for at least two seconds.

But, sadly, I'm just not that bright. I look up and I think, now that's a lot of unagi. And it suddenly crosses my mind that unagi sells for $100 a pound. (The fact that I personally would feel ripped off at $1 per pound is not relevant.... it really does sell for that, or so I've read.) And yes, this is what I'm thinking as I stare into this big monster's giant eyes, and it looks back at me.

Then, it opens its mouth. Slowly. And do you know what I'm thinking? Nope, not "help" or "aieeee" at all. I'm thinking, hey, no teeth! And then I think, waitaminute, unagi have teeth, I'm sure of it. And I look again, and yes, now it has teeth. They're just smallish compared to the size of the head. They kind of look like little stalagmites and stalagtites. And then I wonder if it's as cool as a cave inside the unagi's mouth.

Predictably, the creature swallows me. Whole. Boat and all. One gulp and I'm in. Can't even be bothered to chew me; I'm just traveling down the throat.

I land back in the temple. The old man asks if I have captured an unagi yet. I say no, and I start to bitch about the big guy swallowing me. I bitch and bitch, and you'd think that I'd broken a nail or gotten stuck in traffic or something. It was very inconvenient!

The old man listens patiently for a few minutes, but soon he cuts me off. He sends me back, and instructs me to be less ambitious and try to catch a smaller one this time.

Next thing we know, I'm back in the ocean again. And the unagi collect, and they're jumping again. This time, I swing my spear ineffectually at them. I might as well be trying to catch a fly with chopsticks - it's pointless. But I try.

Then the big guy comes back. He eats me again. I didn't have the sense to be frightened when I didn't know what would happen, so I surely am not frightened now. I just sigh, drop my spear, and let him eat me.

I wind up in the temple again. I admit I don't have anything. I get sent out again.

Put on infinite repeat.

I kept trying to make the outcome different, but nothing worked. I tried catching the big guy. I tried catching the little guys. I tried sneaking a butterfly net on board. I tried ignoring the whole thing and sulking in my boat until I got eaten. Bleah.
Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
9:12 pm
A few initial thoughts
So, I've had these thoughts before, but this time I'm thinking them hard enough to write them down. And I figured I'd share.

I will start by admitting that I am not aware of any laws or regulations that would affect any paypal replacements. So we will leave those out of this initial thought experiment.

It seems to me that the business of online money exchange does not actually require any fees.

You see, money is not just created out of nothing. All money inside the system is backed by money from outside the system that was "paid in". Or, to put it in easier to understand English, people add money to their accounts and then forward it to other accounts.

The act of forwarding from one account to another, in this modern age, requires no human intervention, and has no apparent cost associated with it. Sure, it costs electricity to RUN the servers involved, but that electricity is the same amount as the electricity spent while the server sits lonely and idle waiting for something to do. So, the cost of moving money from one account to another is FREE.

(This logical assessment is supported by the fact that Paypal (and many of its clones) doesn't charge any money for personal accounts to pay each other. This implies that I am correct - that is, I am not simply unaware of some invisible cost.)

Therefore, paying money from account to account costs the service nothing, as it is simply a matter of automatically recording a debit in one account and a deposit in another. Since it costs the service nothing, there is no reason why anybody should pay for this privilege. That means "anybody" - business or personal alike. (Why punish "business use" anyway?) It's just recordkeeping.

The major real costs that a money exchange business (such as paypal) will actually incur are the costs of adding and subtracting money from the system. What does and doesn't cost money varies with the deal the company has with its bank, of course. But, that said, as someone who has recently looked into ways to accept payments as a business, I can tell you that, at least in the US, most deals banks offer are very similar. Generally, accepting e-checks is free. Wire transfers can be free, or they can cost money - most services give you X wire transfers per month free, then charge for additional ones over your limit, but that's variable. Accepting paper checks can be free, or it can be limited. Writing paper checks over a very small monthly limit usually costs money. The main money transfer method that actually costs money is credit cards! In any case, we see from Paypal and other competitors that they agree. They tend not to charge you anything to fund your account via echecks or wire transfers. So, again, it should be free to fund your account through any method that is free for the company, and it should be free to withdraw money through any method that is free for the company.

It's perfectly fair to charge people for adding or withdrawing money via methods that cost the company money, of course. That ensure the company doesn't lose money on these transactions, and also encourages people to consider using free money transfer methods :)

Of course, Paypal itself has designed a system where the receiver pays the cost of adding money to the system - if you use a credit card, the receiver gets docked. This is how retail business works, so it wasn't that much of a stretch to make Paypal work that way, too. I mean, when you shop in a mall, you don't generally see two price tags on a pair of socks ($2.99, or $3.50 if you use a credit card). You sometimes see a "cash discount" (which is really a "credit card penalty") at computer shows and the like, but normal retail businesses absorb the cost of credit cards into their business model (and get a bonus if you use free payment methods). However, I personally find that unfair and inappropriate in the "online money exchange" model. Even if the company has made it easier to pay by allowing you to skip the "upload to my account" step and go direct to the "pay the merchant" step, you are still actually uploading money into the system and THEN transferring the money. Therefore, the onus of paying the upload cost, if any, should be on you who added the money in the first place. If you don't want to pay a credit card fee, then don't use a credit card.

In other words, my perfect system:
- does not charge fees to transfer money
- only charges fees to add money to the system when it has to pay fees (ie, credit cards)
- bills the person uploading money, not the recipient, when fees are assessed
- only charges fees to withdraw money from the system when it has to pay fees (ie, paper checks)

If you are a business-minded person, your next question (unless you've leaped ahead and figured it out already), will be: Okay, that's great, but HOW DOES THE COMPANY MAKE MONEY?

Well, I'll tell you how. It's simple, really. Interest.

When you upload money into the system, where do you think it goes? It doesn't just vanish into the ether.

The money exchange company has some sort of bank account. This bank account pays interest.

If the money circulating in the system in sufficiently large, the company can even invest it in various ways that yield better interest than a measly bank account. (Yes, there are ways; no, the exact ways are not important for the purpose of this blathering discussion.)

Assuming that the money circulating through the system is sufficiently large, the company can pay all its expenses via interest alone. Salaries, utility bills, "business checking" monthly fees, etc. Any interest greater than expenses would be called "profit" and treated accordingly.

Hey, that's how banks work. They make their money on the interest generated by their investments. That's why they can give YOU, the measly consumer, a few pennies on your savings account - they're generating significantly more interest than they are paying you.

Okay, so, then, a money exchange system can be profitable on interest alone. This means that it doesn't need to charge fees to trade money around. It only needs to break even on the fees it is charged by passing those along. No need to be greedy and invent fees!

The trick to making this work, of course, is to get money into the system. The whole thing falls apart if there isn't enough money circulating through the system!

That means the company has to do two things to succeed. First, it has to get people to use it. The system won't make any profit on ten people, or a hundred, or even a thousand. You'll need lots of people! Second, you need to convince the users to leave money in the system for as long as you can. The company needs to be able to USE that money in order to earn interest on it. The easy way to get people to willingly leave money in the system is to offer them interest (see Paypal's "money market"). You can also do annoying things like put a three-day delay on withdrawals, giving the company three days to use the money before giving it back.

So, in other words, the key to making the company work is getting people to use it. It's that simple.

Of course, in practice, the hard part is getting people to use your system. Paypal can afford to be greedy because people are already using the system. They've got folks locked in, prisoner. Sure, people could bail... but they'd also have to bail on ebay. (I, personally, don't give a damn about ebay, but millions of people do.)

Why was Paypal so greedy in setting up in the first place? Why did they decide to nickel and dime people? I mean, yeah, they're changing their policies to grab even more money, but they've always been greedy. They've always charged business accounts a money transfer penalty, even if no credit card backs the payment. They've always been nasty to personal users about accepting payments backed by credit cards (once upon a time, personal users were not permitted to accept such payments at all; now, they can, but at a higher penalty than business users pay). Why? That's the question.

Answer: Because they could.

When Paypal came out, nobody was doing them better. They grabbed prominence, and can basically do anything they like up to whatever sheep-people will tolerate.

So, they get MORE profit. Businesses are really all about grabbing all the profit they can, so I guess I can't blame them. Capitalism, and all that. But it still seems excessive.

So, the real question for an aspiring money exchange service is: HOW DO I GET PEOPLE TO USE OUR SERVICE?

This, I don't know. Marketing was never my strong point. I can't even get people to congratulate me on 13 years of anniversary in my personal journal, so why ask me questions like that?

(Okay, see, now, just because I'm thinking these things doesn't mean I intend to act on them. If you're reading this and feel inspired to act, please do.)
7:11 pm
Fair warning
It looks like Paypal has changed a bit. If they issued any sort of "change of policy" notification, I did not receive it. (Not that that's necessarily their fault, since I am still back on May 23rd in my email reading).

Anyway, it seems that they now have two tabs to choose from where it demands to know your reason for sending money. I have always found this demand to know offensive, but now they base their fees on it. Before now, that tab was simply for their information (which they undoubtedly used to profit in some way). Now, however, what you check affects the fees paid. Anyway, because they are scumbags, the default tab is commercial. Before, as I said, what you checked made no difference - the fees were the fees. Now, however, if you want to send your friends fee-free money, you need to remember to notice that there is a second tab, switch to the non-commercial tab, and then choose one of the "free" reasons to send.

Oh, and yes, Paypal still charges fees if you back your money with a credit card.

Their new "fees" page IMPLIES that they now no longer charge commercial partners any fees for transfers made via in-account cash or e-check. However, this is not true.

How do I know? I just sent ponder $6 last night.

I wasn't paying attention, because some fool was jabbering in my ear instead of letting me concentrate (I refuse to name names, but it wasn't vicky). So I just filled out the 6 and clicked okay, letting the chips fall where they may. As a result, I did not notice the new personal tab. (Honestly, even if I'd been paying attention, I might not have noticed it. They don't exactly make it stand out.) I sent the money. Ponder received the money less a fee which came to a rather ridiculous 47 cents. (Yes, I definitely think that's a ridiculous fee for a measly $6!)

Paypal has been getting scummier and scummier. The world really needs a better alternative. I have yet to find an alternative I really like.

(There was one that I loved briefly.... no fees for funding your account or anything, just a flat ten cent fee for sending money (no matter the amount sent).... but then they randomly decided to assess a monthly fee for keeping the account, so I closed it. Why oh why did they do THAT????? They were perfect until then!)
Monday, June 8th, 2009
11:14 pm
A week late - 13th Anniversary
So, I've been so busy and scatterbrained that I failed to mention this at the time. However, it is particularly monumental to us.

June 1 was our 13th Anniversary. Yeah, we've been MARRIED for 13 years.

Why is that so monumental? Well, my spouse's lucky number is 13, that's why.

So, this is a great year for us. A lucky year.

Besides, 13 years is pretty darn amazing. Do you know how many things in my life I've done for 13 years? Very, very few. If you count Kindergarten, I went through the pre-college schooling curriculum for 13 years. I've had a couple of pets live with me for 13 years or more. I wrote my first coherent story well more than 13 years ago, and I never quit writing (though I certainly haven't worked on any SPECIFIC work of fiction for that long). But other than that, I can't think of much.

So, well, not too shabby, if I may say so. And it's my journal, so I may :)
Sunday, May 10th, 2009
11:21 pm
We have a very, very bad dog
Well, naturally, Vicky and I went to visit my mom today. Mother's Day, you know. And, naturally, because it's hot out, we had the usual problem of me leaving the house.

You may ask, "what problem is that?"

Well, let me break it down. We have one of those mobile AC units in the kitchen. It blows nice, cool air - but the price is venting. I'm sure some readers will say "duh", but for anyone who has never considered air conditioners before, well, in order to make cool air, they also make hot air - they take the heat OUT of air on one side and then blow the heat out the other. So there's this little hose in the back of the unit, which is supposed to siphon the hot air out of the house (otherwise, there's not a whole lot of point in using the thing). Now, because we don't have normal windows (ours open sideways, using a winder, instead of pushing upwards), there's no obvious or easy place to stick the hose so that the other end is outside the house. We aren't comfortable with cutting a hole in the wall. But we DO have a sliding glass door in the kitchen, so we open the door and string the hose outside that way.

This works just fine when we're home. However, it's not good when we leave. You see, Lionheart (the boy dog) seems to think that, if he's left without human supervision (and our housemate doesn't seem to count), he must escape. Now, the kitchen door opens onto the deck, which has a nice set of stairs down the side of the house, right over the back fence - an easy route to freedom. Woo-hoo!

So, obviously, the simple solution is - shut the door. (We've tried various other solutions, like using baby gates, which don't seem to work. He just crashes through those.) But to date, the door seems to be able to withstand his efforts to break through it (or maybe he actually hasn't tried; we're never home when he does this stuff, so we don't really know).

Of course, to shut the door, we have to reel in the hose, which means shutting off the AC unit.

But, as long as the door is shut, he can't escape. Or so we thought. That changed today.

Vicky's room is pretty hot, so she naturally leaves her window open. Of course, she has a screen for it. Or at least, she used to, until probably shortly after we left for my mom's this afternoon.

The screen and its frame are now crumpled. Bent. As in, no, we can't put them back up in the window now.

And, as you may have guessed, Lionheart had himself a little escape out Vicky's window.

Naturally, Vicky was pretty furious. She has a babygate on her room specifically to keep the dogs out. (As I said above, a babygate isn't a real issue for a boy who really wants to go through it, but it IS a signal that reminds him he's not supposed to be in there.)

Well, there was stuff strewn all over Vicky's room. Seems he bounced around the room some before making his escape. She's pissed about the mess. Nothing torn, broken, or otherwise damaged other than the window screen, but it's a mess.

But she's naturally truly pissed about the screen. Strangely, though, her reasons are a bit odd. She seems to think that someone might break in without the screen there. Like that screen was really some crime deterrent. That's just silly. Okay, maybe a screenless window is slightly more inviting, but I wouldn't worry about that, personally. I don't think anyone who broke in would get out in one piece, unless they were already friendly with my dogs. No, the real annoying thing about the screen is BUGS. That is, after all, what the screen is designed to keep out. Until we get that screen replaced, Vicky will need to either keep her window closed (hot) or live with flying bugs (bleah). Some choice.

Well, in any case, the boy eventually came back home. In fact, he returned, and the housemate let him back in. I guess the window is a one-way portal - he whined and scratched at the door until she let him in, or so she reports.

We came home, Vicky saw the mess, got mad, etc. She started cleaning it up. I offered to help, and she said sure. So, you know, I go downstairs. Sadly, it seems that going downstairs looks a lot like me leaving the house to the boy. As soon as I was halfway downstairs, he was making yet another escape. Yeah, I'd opened the kitchen door and restarted the portable AC, so he just took off.

Strangely enough, that really pissed Vicky off. I mean, REALLY pissed her off - worse than the first escape, worse than the mess, worse than the broken screen. So, she decided to take decisive action for the future. She went to Wal-mart.

Now, collars that go around the neck just aren't any good. This boy can slip out of one of those in seconds. But there are harnesses that go around the waist. Vicky got one of those. She also got a leash - a very thick, strong leash. From now on, when we leave the house, we're going to tie him to the bannister. The food and water is right there, and the leash is long enough that he can sit in my recliner. There's some danger that he'll knock over the water dish with his leash as he moves around, yes. But it seems like a good solution. (At least until he learns how to cut the leash rope - it's good and thick, but probably not impervious.)
Saturday, May 9th, 2009
1:51 pm
Last weekend and this one
Last weekend was, apparently, the busiest weekend of the year. Well, at least, it seemed that way to me. In one weekend, all of these things were happening:
- CostumeCon
- Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival
- Steer Roast
- Spoutwood
- Beltane

And possibly other stuff I forgot to mention.

It seems like everyone I know was doing SOMETHING last weekend - and no, not all the same something, because there were so many options.

Anyway, it's a shame that everything had to happen at once, but the world is big enough to supply attendance for all of those things. That's pretty amazing, actually, when you think about it.

This weekend is Mother's Day. Well, technically, only tomorrow is. I'm doing something with my mother tomorrow. I hope everyone else is doing something with their mothers or children (or both, if applicable).
Sunday, May 3rd, 2009
11:19 am
In a little under 5 hours....
... the very first "channel chat" for OWL (Other Worlds and Lands) will happen.

Instructions here: http://forums.otherworldsandlands.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=8

Maybe I'll see some of you there? :)
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