Totally a first world problem, but anymore it feels like Thanksgiving is the starting line for a race through the end of the year.

I went home to Massachusetts to visit family at Thanksgiving and stayed for a week. I'm a homebody, so a week away from Chateau Conrad was pretty exhausting for Mama Conrad's little introvert. Then there's the month-long marathon of shopping and consumption leading up to Christmas. This year, maybe it was the timing of the holiday, maybe it was a confluence of the flu, and needing to replace my truck but Christmas' arrival left me feeling Christmas-spiritless.

Plus, there was a shitshow with one of the street urchins in my neighborhood two days before Christmas. The less said about that the better. But, word to the wise. Get a dash cam and make sure it records audio. My cheapo closeout dash cam saved my bacon when I showed the video to the po-po.

New Year's Even finally arrived and I managed to slog through it and watch the ball drop. Poor Jenny McCarthy looked like a drowned rat with all the rain in NYC.

New Year's Day did allow me to see the first use of 18 instead of 19, on a highway sign advising drivers that a road was going to have work starting soon, Deldot posted the start date as 1/2/18. Man, those guys are slow.

But we're here in 2019. I can hide in my house, post a warning that trespassers will be devoured by angry opposums, and relax. For a couple of days at least.

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Congrats on the surviving! We're glad you are a member of Those Still Standing. :)
Do I still count as 'standing' if I'm in bed under a blanket?
#totallystillcounts
 

The title says it all. The  next phase of the home renovation process is to change the windows. Of course, in order to change the windows you have to be able to, you know, get at the windows. Unfortunately 18 years of accumulation has made that nigh unto impossible. 

I'm a nerd, so I started measuring and adding and I figure I need about 100 square feet of storage space. Not much furniture will make the move to new digs, but one Hell of a lot of books and tools will. Both of which can be stacked.

So, do I rent a storage locker, which will be a sunk cost, or do I look into other options? A CONEX box, one of those stackable shipping containers, would certainly do. It would be overkill in fact. Problem being, they're a bear to move. So you've got to hire someone to deliver them, and move them, and then you've got to have them hauled away. Another sunk cost. Pods have the same problem. And their storage costs are crazy. Which leaves a trailer. Trailer's are a major up front cost, but most of that could be recouped once you move your stuff into the new place for all of your stuff and sell the trailer.

Fortunately I own a vehicle suitable to tow a trailer. Insurance is negligeble, ~$30 for six months. Registation doesn't even crack $100 a year. Wheel chocks, padlocks and security devices so someone doesn't drive off with all of my stuff will run about another $100.

So, on Friday I'm off to the wilds of Pennsylvania to purchase a trailer. Which should be an adventure, because I tow a vehicle once a year, max.


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10/17 '18 12 Comments
1. Good luck with the trailer. I'll keep my eye out for you.
2. Alternatively, you could just have a 'getting rid of my shit' party. Just sayin. (I'm a purge-a-holic.)
I was going to say, "YARD SALE!!!" ;)
Anne Mollo 10/17 '18
But... but... but... BOOKS!
Ray Conrad 10/18 '18
I certainly didn't say it would be painless!
You also didn't say it would be like having a limb torn off and then being beaten to death with it.

BTW, the trailer is super nice. But it's the largest trailer that my truck can tow and I expect its bad gas mileage to plummet to 70's luxury car levels when I am towing this thing.
Ray Conrad 10/20 '18
Yeeeeesh. Also? Awesome.
Also worth noting, after an early morning, a full day of driving, and dealing with the DMV, backing a trailer into a tight parking spot is very low on my list. Probably just above getting my foot run over by a dump truck. No trailers were damaged in this part of the misadventure, but there was a lot of teeth-grinding and at least one elevated blood pressure.
Ray Conrad 10/20 '18edited
I don't know how I managed it, but I didn't see the photo before. Whenever I see that kind of trailer, my brain immediately starts working on how I would retrofit it to make it into an RV. I apparently have a #vanlife addiction.
OPW doesn't allow you to post pics in replies. So I went in and edited the OP. So, it's not you. Unless you want to believe it's you. In which case, drive on.
Ray Conrad 10/20 '18
And yeah, I've thought that camping in a solid enclosure would be better than living in a tent. Far better to be 18 inches above the muck and mire than wallowing in it.
Ray Conrad 10/20 '18
Amen brotha. (Said the guy who has literally slept in the joint between a tree limb and the trunk...)
FYI, my truck, which normally gets 18-19 MPG on the highway, got 11 MPG while towing the Leviathan.
Ray Conrad 10/21 '18
 

So, the new heat pump went in yesterday. I've been living without a heat pump for 2 years, after the unreliable old one went belly up on the first cooling day of the year. Winters, I limped by on the emergency heat circuit, an electric blanket and two dog power. Summers were handled by a sophisticated array of window air conditioners and portable units providing enough cooling to be comfortable/tolerable.

But of course there are no windows in the bathrooms of my house.

Consequently I spent as little time in the necessary rooms as possible during the summer. They were always warm-ish. Post shower it was advisable to skip shaving as often as I could get away with it. Shower, brush my teeth and dash.

But now the new heat pump is in! Huzzah!

I noticed it immediately as the temperature and humidity both made a precipitous decline. Because the odd thing about portables is that you're either freezing your 'nads off if you're in the direct airflow, or you're a bit warm if you're anywhere else in the room.

But central air. Glorious central air, all hail Willis Carrier!

First impression: this thing is quiet. When the condensor fan kicks on I can't hear it. Which is probably the way it should be, I have just gotten used to listening to the industrial grade impeller grinding to life on the old one. It's a nice life upgrade.

For those keeping track at home, this is renovation project number three. Next up, windows. (No, not the OS from Hell. The other type.)

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10/2 '18 9 Comments
T'is a thing of great beauty!!
Anne Mollo 10/2 '18
Thankee!
Ray Conrad 10/2 '18
Gonna pay for itself quick I bet. Not that window acs are terrible, but electric heat...
Thomas Boutell 10/2 '18
The horrible heat pump I had was only about $20 less expensive than my array of inexpensive air conditioners. But that could have been because it was the crapola "unit that fell off the back of the truck".
Ray Conrad 10/2 '18
Wheeeee!!! Congratulations!! Dooood, I am so, so, so happy for you. I know how long you've been limping along with various things in your house-- this has got to feel amazing.

Here's to a comfy winter!

Since it's a heat pump, what's that mean for humidity in the house in the winter? Will your house be drier than a house with non-heat-pump heat? If so, I have a brand-new (and stylish!) room humidifier which we only used for one season before we got a whole-house humidifier put in (it came with our HVAC system). With the added humidity, our guitars and furniture and my skin were all infinitely happier. It's yours if you want it.
As a bonus I also had them replace the flex line on my dryer with an actual hard duct. I kept the vent box that diverts the dryer output into a second lint filter and into the basement, keeping my house nicely humidified in the winter, and reclaiming some otherwise waste heat.

I'll pass on the humidifier, because with the windows up next, most of my belongings will be moving out to a storage unit.

But that will also involve <dramatic music> a great purging of THE STUFF! <dah dah DAH!>
Ray Conrad 10/2 '18edited
Wait. Is that duct tape I spy, used on an ACTUAL DUCT?
'Tis indeed the mythical tape of ducts. The metalized version therein that is supposed to be used on ducts.
Ray Conrad 10/2 '18
My mind is blown!
 

So, this is after. What a difference a day makes. Next up, heat pump.

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9/22 '18 9 Comments
Nice work. When I worked for a fence company (who will remain nameless, but is not likely the one you used) the boss was bat shit crazy. BUT - he _really_ got us to do good work. If we didn't, he would tear it out and have us go back and fix it later. So while I elected to not continue working with them, I learned a lot about what good fence installation looks like. :)
I had a wood stockade fence and it is a stark difference on how much more privacy a solid panel gives you.

Sorry about the crazy boss. I know how memorable they can be!
Ray Conrad 9/23 '18
Yeah. True, he was nuts (I still remember the day I decided to leave - he was screaming that he would piss in all of our tool boxes) but like I said - I learned a lot, so I _did_ get something out of the deal.
Nice fence!

Also, heat pumps rool. We have a ground source heat pump that heats and cools our whole house, just an open loop of water in and out of a well through a heat exchanger.
Anne Mollo 9/22 '18
Yeah, if I were planning on staying and the budget would allow it I would love to upgrade to a ground loop. Mine is an air exchange, which means when it's really cold out it switches to electric heat. But the next owners are free to upgrade!
Ray Conrad 9/23 '18
Lots of people around here have installed air-to-air exchangers and love them! In my climate zone you can *kind* of go either way, but in the coldest part of the year the air-to-air systems usually require backup. The advantage is that air-to-air systems come prebuilt and are easier to install; ground source ones are built on site so you’d better have a good engineer who knows what they’re doing. And of course installation costs are different, so you have to weigh not only what you can afford but also how expensive what you’re replacing cost to heat/cool your home. So if you live in a part of the country where heating costs are relatively cheap, an expensive ground source system wouldn’t make as much sense.
Anne Mollo 9/23 '18
Why yes I COULD nerd out endlessly about heat pumps, why do you ask??!
Anne Mollo 9/23 '18
The real upgrade is a ground loop heat pump with humidity control. That system is worth it's weight in, well, not gold, but maybe aluminum? It's for those chilly, humid days you get in the midlantic and northeast. AC circuit runs to dehumidify and the electric heat circuit runs to keep the house at a survivable temperature.
Ray Conrad 9/23 '18
Ooooh-- that's a purty fence.
 

I'm sitting at work in a fit of mild anxiety. You see my new fence is being installed today. I'm not anxious (mostly) about the fence. But because the fence installation might take two days, my dogs are at a friend's house. So, the defense of the house, without my presence, has devolved to my cat, Spot.

Make no mistake. The  loyalties of cats never change. They are loyal to themselves, only.

Have you ever heard of a cat dragging their insensate owner from a burning building? Enough said.

I'm (mostly) certain that everything will be fine. And for those keeping track at home, this is remodel project #2, headed for the record books. Next up, we get the heat pump installed.

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9/20 '18 1 Comment
You and your dergs are gonna love your new fence! I'm so thrilled that your home improvement wishes are coming to fruition!
 

I got a new roof put on my house yesterday. I mean, it's not something you rush into. The old roof had been on my house since 1990-ish. So I guess it was fully amortized. Someone must have paid off the inspector, because said old roof had neither a ridge vent or a bathroom fan vent. And this is where the story starts to resemble "for want of a nail..." Because for want of a ridge vent, the plywood on the southern face of the roof started to warp and buckle from nearly 30 years of overheating and no way to vent the heat.

My roof, my roof

My roof was expired

Anyhow, I didn't want to tell the story of the many lacking features of my old roof. But rather how things went awry in the quest to replace the roof.

I bought my house in 2000. The home inspection detailed the lack of a ridge vent, and probable leak at the waste stack vent. No problem! says I. I can save up a couple thousand and get it done. After all, I was working a good contract for a major chemical company. And a week after I closed and moved into the house my contract got cancelled. Panic. Unemployment, scrape by for a couple months, get another contract with a major electrical supplier, nice raise. All is hunky dory. A few months later, a different contract, this time with a internation financial institution. That contract wraps up in July of 2001, but there's a follow-on contract in October in Dallas.

9/11 happens. Plane flies into my employer's building (WTC 1) and it falls on my client's building (WTC 7). And I get to watch it on live TV. Stress. Not a patch on the people who were there. And God bless the people trapped in the buildings and on the planes. But still, stress.

Dallas contract gets cancelled. A year and a half of unemployment, punctuated at odd intervals with small contracts and a last minute reprieve with the same company and same client. Do good work and people remember you when there's more work. Thank you Matt. You know who you are.

Then a couple of months later, just as a third unemployment extension is going to run out, the light at the end of the tunnel. I land a job with a local IT body shop. They farm me out to a local convenience store chain for their ops center. That works for a couple of years, but at a significant cut in pay. Hey, the bills are getting paid.

That job turns into another gig at a local bank and in 2009 I'm nearly back to where I was back in 2000. And then the compay that bought the local IT body shop decides to tell my client that the stuff they contracted to do, they weren't going to do. My client tells them that the contract they have? Yeah, we're not goint to do that any longer.

My last day at the bank, my oldest niece dies. I get told at lunchtime. I had to go back and work the afternoon. It's a testament to my fortitude that I didn't freak out. But yeah, more stress.

And more unemployment in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Job prospects are non-existant in the Carter-esque economic malaise. I get a lifeline from my brother that keeps me afloat, if barely. But the bills are getting paid (mostly) and the wolf is only at the garden gate, not the front door.

And then I get into a hit and run accident in 2015. Yeah, 6 years of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and a drunk hits my vehicle and bolts. Made me wish I had a dashcam (I do now). My right shoulder is screwed up. I start sleeping on my left side exclusively. 

For the next two years.

Revolving door doctors. More physical therapy than I've ever had before. And finally I found a good orthopedist who went through all the steps, and found the problem. Surgery, more physical therapy and eventually, 3 years to the day I was hit, I'm through with medical care.

Small settlement from my insurance (but that's another story). And I can finally pay off my house. Oh yeah, I've never replaced my roof.

So, finally, the roof is done.

The point of writing this all down?

At my lowest, in what I call "The Years of Suck", I re-watched Castaway. It was a good movie. Tom Hanks in the period when he could do no wrong. His character was helpless in that movie. He had no agency to change his situation, or even to kill himself. Until apparent random chance, wind and tide, brought him the tools for his salvation. And even then it was a struggle.

He says, "...And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back..."

In no way was I a castaway. But I have refered to my house as my lifeboat over the years. 

I have to say this to you, and take what comfort from it that you may. Keep treading water. Keep struggling, even when you don't think you can change your course or make a goal you desire. Because your ability to conceive of events outside your grasp, and how those events may impact the arc of your own little story, is insufficient to the task. Sometimes, it's just the ability to hang in there, keep breathing, keep putting one foot in front of the other even though you believe you'll never get where you want, that makes the difference that gets you to your goal.

The improbable can happen and it can happen to you. And that's not a bad thing.

But for tonight I shall sleep under my new roof. And for a change, the pitter patter of rain on my roof won't make me grind my teeth.

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7/28 '18 4 Comments
Wow. I learned a lot about The Ray from this. Thank you for posting it!

For as long as I've known you, your roof has been A Thing... and I'm sure it's been a sub-process (and a main process) taking up precious brain cycles and emotional energy, especially during any kind of inclement weather.

Congratulations on getting a new roof. It is the culmination of years of hard work and incremental steps towards a huge goal, and what surely felt insurmountable many times.

It must feel SO good to finally kill off this process.

With all the thunderstorms we just had (and will surely keep having because August), here's to many nights of restful sleep!
I am deeply in the Years of Suck, and have been for too many already. Thanks for posting this. I'm sorry that you were going through all this. I'm glad you got your roof. I don't even know what my metaphorical roof is yet, but I am waiting.
Karen 8/31 '18
Keep Breathing!
Ray Conrad 9/1 '18
<3
Karen 9/4 '18