i have completed yet another trip around the sun

Here I’m singin’ happy birthday
Better think about the about the wish I make
This year gone by ain’t been a piece of cake
Everyday’s a revolution
Pull it together and it comes undone
Just one more candle and a trip around the sun
I’m just hangin’ on while this old world keeps spinning
And it’s good to know it’s out of my control
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all this livin’
Is that it wouldn’t change a thing if I let go
No you never see it comin’
Always wind up wonderin’ where it went
Only time will tell if it was time well spent
It’s another revelation
Celebrating what I should have done
With these souvenirs of my trip around the sun
I’m just hangin’ on while this old world keeps spinning
And it’s good to know it’s out of my control
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all this livin’
Is that it wouldn’t change a thing if I let go
Yes I’ll make a resolution
That I’ll never make another one
Just enjoy this ride on my trip around the sun
Just enjoy this ride

Songwriters: Sharon Vaughn / Stephen Bruton / Alan Gordon Anderson

I haven’t posted much lately. This is because I’ve been keeping myself busy with house maintenance stuff. It’s too hot to go outside, so the garage is not any different than it was before the electrical panel was installed. This causes some distress, but it’s even hotter in the garage than it is outside… So, it can wait. Besides, I need to make a 4-inch change to the walls I built around the chimney. Apparently, there is supposed to be a 4-inch air gap between the chimney and the wall, or so says the building inspector.

The screened patio is being stymied by the fact that no one in Grand Rapids can get me the vinyl siding J-channel I need to match the house. Four years ago I picked up some siding for repair from Fox Brothers… but they’ve gone out of business or sold themselves or something. Whatever the case, I know what I need — Driftwood is the style and Canyon Clay is the color — but I can’t get my hands on it.

Which leaves the inside projects. I’ve been working on the basement while Lady Ronn tackles the front room upstairs.

well, now.
ceiling refresh
laundry room

patch and paint

Nothing is quite 100% done. But progress is being made.

More updates on the home improvement front. Today, I took phone calls about both the roof and the electrical upgrade. They’ll be here to start on the roof next week Wednesday and expect it to take two days. The utility company has scheduled the electrical work for the first day of July. And as I mentioned yesterday, the fence will start this Thursday. Lots of exciting stuff and good news around these parts.

But not everything is happening around here without issue. I need to pick up some vinyl j-channel and a few pieces of siding so that I can cut in the new back door for the garage and go around the framing for the screened patio. However, I’m not 100% sure what I’m looking for. The company that I picked up siding from last time has moved, changed names, and apparently changed names again. They’re still in business, just wouldn’t know it without a bit of research.

Anyway, I went there this morning to get what I need, only to find that they’re not quite open yet. What with the Covid-19. Their counter and showroom are closed to the public. You can call and place orders for pick-up… but I don’t really know what I need. So, I went online and found their website and their product list and realized that if you’re not an existing customer you can’t order from them online. But maybe now I have enough information to make a relatively informed phone call? Maybe. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

I haven’t gotten around to making the flower boxes for my privacy screen, but Lady Ronn is making the best of it with a bit of power washing and some other planters. Looks pretty good to me. I’d make the boxes, but my garage is a giant pile of tools and even if I could get to my saws, I wouldn’t be able to find anything else. Yet another thing waiting for the electrical work to get done.

Oh… I also requested an estimate for a 12×20 concrete slab for the shed, a new driveway, and a new garage floor. Not sure a couple of those are realistic projects, but I’m interested in knowing how much that’d cost. Because you never know. Depends on how much home equity line of credit money is left after this first round of projects is done.

That’s it for today. I think tomorrow I’ll give my two cents on the riots, black lives, and the LGBT stuff that’s been in the news lately. Later.

In preparing myself for another day of waiting for work, I looked in the mirror and thought my son had the right idea. Then I took out my beard trimmer, because I never did find my hair clipper, and went to work. I like to think of this as the covid cut.

rockin’ the covid look

Lady Ronn offered to cut my hair a few days back, but I wanted to wait until I found the clipper. I never found them and she was still in bed at 7:00 AM. So, this is what happens when I do this kind of thing myself. I’m sure she’ll get up and tell me about all the spots around back that I’ve missed. Then, fix them. I hope.

For the record, this is shorter than I had intended. This was not the look I was going for. But it seems that the numbers on my trimmer and the number I tell the barber do not mean the same thing. I used the 5 setting on my trimmer and I think the barber uses a number 3 guard. Five should be longer than three, at least in my mind. That does not seem to be the case. Oh well, it’ll grow. It always does. Besides, it’ll be another 2-3 weeks before anyone sees me out in the real world.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay distant. Later.

Logged in to work this morning to check on things and found an email from somewhere up the chain. Apparently, we’re calling this scenario a reduced work schedule. Which is a pretty accurate, if you ask me. What with my workload having been reduced to nothing.

The good news, no layoff. The bad news, half pay. I’ll take that. It’s not the best situation, but it’s better than the alternative. Basically, we’re going to get 20-hours even if we don’t have any billable work in any given week. Which allows us to maintain our status as full time employees.

Obviously, this is temporary and is due to the pandemic crisis that is impacting everything. And they were very clear in the email that this could change anytime, at the sole discretion of the company, and that this does not guarantee continued employment. i.e. if this doesn’t work out, we’ll be going to layoffs. Which is completely understandable. It would suck. But, I get it.

I appreciate what they’re doing and it just goes to showing why I’ve been happy working for them for the last 12-years. They may or may not be a giant evil corporation, but they treat me well.

I haven’t done the numbers, so I’m not sure how this impacts my bills, but it will keep me from burning through all of my PTO. Well… It will extend the amount of time I can survive on my PTO.

Let’s get this pandemic under control, because, I’d rather be working. Later.

gif by google photo

Well, it was bound to happen. I may be considered an essential worker, but most all of my customers have instructed that I should only respond to emergency work orders, and there haven’t been any of those in a while. Today, two things happened. The first, was that I finished up the last three outstanding work orders that I had for the only customer who hasn’t imposed any restrictions on site visits. And the second thing was, the only customer who hadn’t imposed any restrictions on site visits imposed site visit restrictions. I’m both out of work and out of customers.

What does that mean? No answers for that, just yet. At this point they still want us to be available for emergencies, so layoffs are kinda out of the question, but paying us to stay home and do nothing but wait, is not a thing. I’ve done all my training courses, so that’s not an option. Until I hear otherwise I’ll be doing the worst kind of vacation. You know, the kind where you use your PTO hours while still making yourself completely available to go on a call.

I’ve got a good bit of PTO, so I’ll be okay for about 4-weeks. But then there will be no other days off for the rest of the year, the family vacation will get missed, and I’ll have to not get sick. It’s better than getting laid off, at least this way I keep my benefits. Oh well. Like I said, not ideal. But still, better than a lot of folks.

I’ll be very glad when this is over.

The pandemic finally hit home for me and my family. In her last semester of college, face-to-face classes at GRCC have been canceled into April, the campus labs have been closed, and as a result, Lady Ronn, no longer has a job. Which I’m sure will in a small way impact our financial situation, the amount of spending that we do, and as a result a small prick into the area economy. You can almost see the ripple effect going from local to state to federal to the world. Will this be the event that tips the balance and topples everything into a global depression? Let’s hope not.

The wife went shopping yesterday and got pulled into the hoarding panic that seems to be gripping so many of you. She had intended to just pick up the usual things, but seeing the empty shelves and the carts piled high tipped her into the, “I better get it now or it won’t be available” mentality. And she ended up coming home with far more stuff than the two of us have any need for. I’m not going to lie, I was annoyed.

I don’t deny that this is something that we’ve not seen in my lifetime. Or at least the reaction to it is something that we’ve not seen. I don’t think we yet know how serious this will be, and won’t know until after it’s over. Caution is warranted but this verges on panic and hysteria.

I have seen estimates that say as much as 70% of the population will contract this virus, but at this point there’s only 12 recorded cases in all of Michigan. And while I admit the lethality of this virus seems to be greater than that of the flu… it’s not a death sentence.

The advice seems pretty consistent. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Apply social distancing whenever possible. Probably, don’t lick the sneeze guard at the buffet or try to tongue kiss everyone you meet. Use a little common sense.

There seems to be some expectation, or possibly just a desire for a break from work, that everything should close down and that we should all lock ourselves in our homes. I get it. I too would like to not have to go to work. But, that seems like it will just make things worse, differently.

I mean, the government seems pretty worried about the effects on the economy so we should all probably keep working.

Who exactly has the luxury of staying home during this covid-19 pandemic? I would guess that, in the vast majority, it’s those in the upper 50% of the workforce. Anybody making less than $15 or $20 an hour probably doesn’t have the luxury of taking 2-weeks or a month out of work, and certainly won’t be getting paid for it.

Just like during cold and flu season, most people don’t have the luxury of staying home if they have a slight fever and a cough. They’ve got bills to pay and responsibilities to take care of. So, whether it be at a restaurant, the gas station, the grocery store, or the pharmacy these people are going to go to work.

In this group, I include pretty much everyone that is in the service industry. My work has made no mention of us taking any time off, because building maintenance doesn’t care whether or not people are sick, things just need to get fixed. I’m just traveling around West Michigan like a carrier vector.

It’s certainly hope that this is all being overblown but, again, we won’t know until it’s all over and we look back on the numbers. I feel pretty confident that this is not a modern day black plague.

Take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Pay attention to what the WHO and CDC are advising. We’ll get through this. Later.

Today, was a beautiful, sunny, fifty degree day here in Grand Rapids. Yesterday, was not too shabby either. It makes me impatient for spring to get here. I took advantage of the weather to straighten up the garage, get rid of some scrap, and put the finishing touches on my new lawn tractor.

I arranged a pick-up of a bunch of stuff I just wanted gone, using a scrapper that I found on Facebook, Elite Scrap Metal Pickup. Which cleared that busted patio furniture off my deck, a couple file cabinets out of my basement, got rid of the metal sled that my lawn mower came on, and a bunch of other metal bits and bobs that I felt were cluttering up my life. The guy showed up with a pickup and a trailer, loaded it all up, and made it all disappear. Nice guy, too. I’m very glad to have the stuff gone, to have not had to pay to get rid of the stuff, and to have had to do little more than collect all the stuff into a pile. Really worked out for me. Hopefully, it worked out for him as well.

As I mentioned earlier, I finished putting together my lawn mower. Which means, basically, I put the front bumper on and assembled the bagging assembly. I also took time to break down the boxes and clean up the mess around the initial delivery and assembly, which took place when it was significantly less than 50-degrees outside. I love the way this thing looks like a gokart, what with the tube frame and tiny tires. The battery came charged, which was nice, and the rest of the assembly was pretty simple and straight forward. I would go so far as to say that getting it off the shipping frame was the worst part of that. Mostly because I was doing it in the cold, at night, in a cold dark garage.

electric riding mower with bagger assembly

Check out the charger sitting on the corner of the work bench there. That thing has a serious heat sink built on to it. I realized after putting this all together, that the extra blades that came with the bag kit were different than the default blades… I didn’t bother changing them out, because, I don’t really think I’ll be doing a lot of bagging. I’m a fan of the mulching mower… it’s less work.

Also, I haven’t really had a chance to test the limits of my snow blower, but I have used it three or four times to clear the driveway. Never more than an inch of snow. But I was happy to see when I checked that even after 4 uses, the battery still had one bar on the charge indicator. I could probably have run it one more time, but I decided to throw the battery on the charger.

snow blower vs van. ready. fight.

Never having had a snow blower before, I was completely surprised by the amount of snow that blows back on you when you throw that stuff up in the air. I guess, sacrifices must be made for saving my back.

In short, I love trash pick up and I’m happy with my big purchases to this point. That’s it for today, I’ve got to go practice guitar. Later.

Third time is the charm, right? Let’s hope so, because this is my third attempt at giving you a blog post tonight.

I wrote a post about my new custom guitar picks from Amazon, and then accidentally deleted it into oblivion. Frustrated, I wrote a post about writing the previous post and accidentally deleting it. Then I accidentally closed that window and deleted that post. Doubly frustrated, I went and played guitar.

I’m trying again.

This time I’m just going to share with you a list I found on the world wide web. I present to you the top 10 fears that hold people back in life. I kinda feel like this is an obvious list and I’m not sold on the order, but it was put together by a psychotherapist, so it may be legit. And anyway, the more you know, the more you know. Am I right?

Let’s do this countdown style.

I present to you the top 10 fears that hold people back in life, according to a psychotherapist.

#10. Fear of the Loss of Freedom

#9. Fear of Inadequacy

#8. Fear of Being Judged

#7. Fear of Getting Hurt

#6. Fear of Something Bad Happening

#5. Fear of Uncertainty

#4. Fear of Rejection

#3. Fear of Failure

#2. Fear of Loneliness

And the #1 fear that holds people back in life… Fear of Change

Life is full of relationships and careers, sickness and discomfort, oh, and death. Death is a thing as well. All of which will conspire to keep you in your comfort zone, cuddled up with your security blanket, safe and sound. But that will just leave you with a small life. Remember when you were young and it was all, “go big or go home.” And now you’re settling for letting your fears dictate the life you’re living. Bah. Enough of that nonsense.

See that list up there. Everybody has those same fears. The trick is to not move to the back seat and let your fears drive the car of life. I have read that a lot of people will work so hard to prevent themselves from ever feeling anxious that they actually develop depression. The effort of making themselves stay comfortable backfire. What they end up with is boring, safe lives that are void of risk and excitement. You need a risk and excitement, and as a byproduct, anxiety in order to feel fully alive. In order to survive.

I’m not telling you to go wrestle alligators, invest in your cousin’s crazy “insects are livestock” plan, or quit your job to become a cover model. I’m just saying that it’s good to put yourself outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. Try new things. Maybe talk to someone new. Have new experiences that are not presented to you on your living room screen.

A certain amount of this fear can be healthy, but it becomes a problem when it holds you back in life. For many people, the fear of the loss of freedom becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Amy Morin

Fear is a natural part of life. Embrace the fear.

I found the list on Inc., you can read it here if you’re so inclined.

Should I use money to make my life easier? Well, maybe not my life, but my chores. There is part of me that says doing these things around the yard without the benefit of power equipment is simply another way to get some exercise. And then I’m out there in 95 degree heat and 90% humidity and I think, perhaps I’ve made the wrong choice. Or, like last weekend, we get a bunch of wet, heavy snow and I’m out there trying to make my back as sore as possible while not having a heart attack and dying in my driveway. Same thought, I’ve made the wrong choice. Yesterday, I made a different choice.

I have been pondering this decision for a while. Last summer I thought I was ready to make a big purchase and get a lawn tractor, but then I convinced myself that I did not need such an extravagance. I have a suburban lot which, according to the local municipality, is 0.232 acres. It’s not really an all day job to mow less than a quarter acre. But it is a miserable chore that I do not like doing. In much the same way, my driveway is not huge, at least six cars, but not much more than that. And half of that is filled with two vans most of the time. I like shoveling snow more than mowing the lawn, but it’s still not a favorite.

I made up my mind about the snow blower last weekend. Getting one. Just a matter of which one. Enough of this shit.

The mower was a different story. I could not pull the trigger on what I wanted, because it’s a damn big purchase for something I don’t like doing. Kinda how I feel about replacing my roof. I was looking at self propelled mowers, but I had one of those and I didn’t use it. Sold it to the neighbor actually. It was actually Lady Ronn who said to do this. Apparently, she’s not so worried about me dying in the driveway, more that she doesn’t want me to collapse in the front yard where the neighbors will see. That would be embarrassing. So I did it. Pulled the trigger. Hopefully I won’t regret either of these purchases.

something for the snow

You have no idea how many videos I watched on this machine. Possibly all of them. I was pondering one or two stage snow blowers in our last go round. Not only is this a single stage unit, it’s also electric. Probably the big decision maker was that a couple of those videos were filmed here in Michigan, under conditions that I both recognize and have experience with. This should be perfect for most snowfalls, and the reviews say it’s bad ass enough to handle the big stuff as well. I hope that’s true. I could have gone to the store and grabbed this one off the shelf, but why bother, they’ll bring it right to my house. Home Depot will have it here in a week. Hopefully the snow will hold off until it gets here.

something for the grass

I looked at this Ryobi last year. Wanted it. Didn’t buy it. This year I compared it to a couple others, the Cub Cadet in particular, and I still like it best. It has a very go kart look to it, which I think is cool. It was on sale at the Home Depot and comes with extra blades and the hard shell grass bags, plus I had a coupon for 24-months free financing. Still not a cheap purchase. The 75AH is more than big enough for my lawn. It’s good for two hours or two acres and the 38″ blade width should make short work of my yard. I’m curious about how it’ll handle the digout for my culvert and the hill in my front yard. I guess we’ll find out in a few months. Home Depot is delivering it for free, should be here in two weeks.

So, I had my second guitar lesson tonight and I was told that I already sound better than I did in the first lesson. Which is good, being as I had 7-days of practice between the two lessons. I targeted for 20-30 minutes of practice a day, and I did way better than that. I practiced everyday and the practice times ran from 40 to 90 minutes. In fact, there was only one day that I wasn’t feeling it, and that had more to do with my back than with the guitar.

I’m practicing in my office chair and it’s not good. First, it has arms, so I have to sit weirdly sideways. Second, its too low and it wants to roll around the office if I move to suddenly. Thirdly, this guitar is a bitch to hold in my lap. My old guitar was a ‘strat’ style guitar and I don’t remember having this issue. This new Les Paul style guitar feels bottom heavy and I can’t find a comfortable position for it while sitting. The cord plugs in right where I’m inclined to balance it on my leg and it feels like I’m going to drop it on the floor if I tilt it into any sort of upright position. I find that I’m sitting with the neck pointing down and I’m hunched over the thing. Which is not an ideal position to try and read what I’m supposed to be playing. Maybe if I put the book on the ground?! I’m not doing that.

My boss reminded me that Guitar Center has a great return policy and that I might want to take it back and try something different. That’s a possibility, but I’m not there yet. Today, I sat on my little couch. It doesn’t have arms, but it’s a bit low. I may have to either steal a chair from the dining room or bring up a folding chair from the basement. I’m going to try those things before I go the route of changing the guitar.

My lesson today moved into 3/4 time and added 1/2 notes to my exercises and 1/8 notes are coming next week and I still don’t have a good grasp of keeping track of my timing. It’s a lot of new. I have NO musical background. There was a discussion again about tablature vs reading music. Lady Ronn thinks it’s dumb to not learn to read music and thinks I need a metronome. My instructor doesn’t disagree with her, but doesn’t think we’re in a place where either thing is necessary quite yet. But he did get noticeably interested at the idea of teaching me to read music. Probably that’ll end up being a thing.

A half-hour goes by in a flash, but it was good. All my practice went out the window as soon as I was playing in front of an audience, but like I said, he heard noticeable improvement. Or at least that’s what he said. Sounded like a train wreck to me and I thought I had these four exercises down. But I’m learning something new. I’m not discouraged. I’m still having fun. And I’m already ahead of where I was back in 1988.

Long ago in another time and a different place a pretty young girl bought a boy a guitar, because he thought he wanted to put music to his song lyrics and possibly become a rock n’ roll star. That guitar was a prized possession, but not a thing that was ever put to its proper use. The boy did not try very hard to master the instrument, and in fact, did very little with it. In the end, it was handed down to the next generation of rockstars and disappeared from any knowing that the boy might have.

I was that boy. That guitar was a 1987 Charvel Model 1… I think… my online shopping seems to indicate that it was. It was 30+ years ago and I don’t remember. I’ve looked around for one, but they’re hard to find and not inexpensive… maybe, if things work out, I’ll look into it more thoroughly. Right now, it would be a premature purchase.

Charvel Model 1

It’s 2020. I’m 51-years-old. It’s time to become a rockerboy (Cyberpunk reference). That’s right, I’ve decided to try my hand at the guitar once again. This time with a bit more of an organized and goal driven methodology. Weekly lessons. A one year, one song goal. And of course, to accomplish this I’m going to need some new equipment. Let’s see what I walked out of Guitar Center with…

I searched the internet for lists of the best guitars for beginners. I solicited some good advice from my boss who has been playing guitar for as long as I’ve been thinking about playing. Which was good, as what I was thinking about was not what would have been best. But having said that, this is not the guitar I had intended to get. It’s not even the style of guitar I was looking for. This is what happens when I go off the rails and shoot from the hip. This guitar bumped right up against the ceiling of my budget, but I like it. I went to Guitar Center wanting to look at a white Schecter C-6, which has a similar style to the Charvel above, and came out with something a bit different.

The Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Studio Deluxe Electric Guitar Is a dressed up studio edition that gives you all the great tone and sustain you expect from a meaty set-neck mahogany body with 12″ radius for strings bends that won’t fret out. The addition of Alnico Classic Plus humbuckers gives you even more low-end punch and midrange crunch. The LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece add more sustain and make string changing easier. This instrument is a super value offering the great tone, looks, and playability you expect from a Les Paul at an affordable price.

Mahogany body with carved top
Set mahogany neck
Slim-tapered profile
24-3/4″ scale
Rosewood fingerboard with trapezoid inlays
12″ radius
1-11/16″ nut width
Alnico Classic Plus humbucking pickups
2 volume, 2 tune controls with 3-position toggle
LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece
Vintage Kluson tuners with tombstone buttons
Gold hardware w/ Alpine White
Limited Lifetime Warranty

I know that the white and gold is not for everybody, but it just looks very retro to my eye. Very Chuck Berry esc. It’s not a hollow body, but it still has that look. And given what I want to start playing, it seems appropriate. It’s not my dream guitar, I had wanted something with a body colored headstock and I wish the weird plastidip tuners were gold, and they had those things, but I set myself a budget. And I stayed within that budget. Barely. The reviews on YouTube are good and I’m happy with my choice. It should be a fantastic starting guitar.

Of course, you can’t just buy a guitar. You need stuff to go with the guitar. Most importantly you need an amp to play the guitar through. I didn’t want to break the bank on that either, so I picked out this little Fender Mustang which seems to have a lot of features. I know less about amps than I do about guitars, so I can only trust that the sales clerk steered me in the right direction with this choice. Which to be honest, he pointed this one out as being a popular choice and the price was within reason, so that’s what I went with.

The Fender Mustang I V2 guitar combo amp adds new features to one of the best-selling amp series in the world. Get the flexibility you’ve come to expect from a Mustang. The V.2 series raises the standard for versatility and muscle. Featuring five new amp models, five new effects and intelligent pitch shifting. The series features USB connectivity, letting your musical creativity and imagination run wild.

Power: 20W
One 1/4″ instrument input
One channel with 24 presets
Gain, Volume, Treble, Bass, Master, Preset Select, Modulation Select, Delay/Reverb Select, Save, Exit and Tap Tempo controls
Eighteen amp models
Chromatic tuner
USB connectivity
AmpliTube Fender LE edition
Black textured vinyl covering with silver grille cloth
One 8″ Fender Special Design speaker

Those were the two main purchases, but I also walked away with a cable to connect the two, some picks, a digital tuner, and a wall mounted guitar hanger. But I did not get a case or bag to put the guitar in, I was thinking that I could find something on Amazon for less than what I saw in the store. Not so much, really. But I did order a hard case online and should have it soon.

The big thing. The thing that will make all this come together. The feather in the cap of this whole big deal is the lessons. I signed up, paid for, and scheduled the first 3-months of guitar lessons. I intend to take a weekly lesson throughout 2020. I’m starting with 30-minutes, but hope to move up to doing 60-minutes when I sign up for the next quarter. We’ll see how things progress. Lessons start the first Tuesday of the year. I’m pretty excited to be doing this.

When I received that red Charvel, the pretty girl who would go on to become my wife, made an off-hand comment that she would consider me to be a guitar player if I could play Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode. So I’m approaching this with the following goal and mindset. Teach me to play this song. There will be skills I will develop and things I need to learn in order to be able to do that, things that will be applicable to playing other songs. If I can learn this song I will have the ability to expand out from there to playing other things that are more in-line with my current musical tastes. If I can do that, then I can start to make the music I have always imagined in my head. I want to be able to play that song next year at the lovely Lady Ronn’s birthday party. My boss, says that it is a realistic goal if I put in the work. It all starts with one song, 52 lessons, and some dedication to the process.