In thirty minutes, I will clock out from my final shift as a maintenance technician. My next shift will be my first (excluding previous training shifts) as forklift jockey. I’ve never been so happy to take a pay cut in my life.

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Possums and Cats

The current possum has been a regular fixture for the last week or so. I saw on video where it and my male cat were on the porch at the same time. They didn’t seem hostile towards each other – no hissing or angry cat noises, but it was more of a grudging acceptance of the other’s presence. Given that and my current hectic schedule, I didn’t push efforts to trap and relocate it. But I still don’t like them and regardless of how much good they might do, I want it gone.

Last night, I had the fucker. He came 0100-ish, pigged out on the cat food inside the kitty house where I’ve started putting it to keep it accessible to the cats but out of the weather. Before dark, I’d put the trap next to the kitty house with a can of tuna as bait. It sniffed the top of the trap door after the pig-out, and ran off. It came back around 0330 and was more curious. It really wanted that tuna and finally found the entrance and went inside.

Brief detour. To make it remote control and no danger to friendlies, I modified the trap with a power door lock actuator connected to the door trigger (usually connected to the step plate inside the trap) and an associated control box. For a power source, I used a lawnmower battery that I bought for the stump grinder when I upgraded it to a larger engine with electric start a few years ago, but couldn’t really use because there was no room left on the frame to which to mount it and no recharge ability on the new engine. I’d kept it on trickle charge, planning to incorporate it into a UPS at some point. The charger always indicated 100% and the actuator cycled during initial testing. I thought no more about it.

Back to last night. As soon as the possum got inside the trap, I stood at the closed back door and started pushing the button on the remote for all I was worth. Nothing happened. I tried to sneak out and snap it closed manually while it was in there but I was slow and it fast. Post-incident investigation showed that the battery was at 8 volts despite what the charger said. No idea how it even worked during testing. I should’ve put the meter on it initially but whatever. I wasn’t happy.

I found a couple old (but never used) square 6V lantern batteries. I connected them in series and got a skosh over 12V. Not ideal, as they should’ve produced 12.7V or so. Whatever. They should work. I hit the button on the remote and the voltage dropped to 5.9 and no actuator movement. Well, shit! Those batteries are trash. Then I found a plug-in 110VAC to 12VDC power cord for an old router or something and tried that. Everything worked like a charm. I’ll feed the damn thing over the weekend (my work week) and Monday night he’s MINE using another can of tuna.

Also, Quicksilver (my male cat) has another black cat friend. I saw it for the first time last night. He met it in the driveway, they rubbed noses, and QS escorted it to the porch where unlike the possum, it didn’t take long to find the tuna. Initially when I saw the two cats in the driveway, I thought the second was the female, Wanda, back for a visit. No such luck. Maybe she’ll come back again, and maybe she won’t. Regardless, Quicksilver is always close, and another tortoiseshell patterned cat is often around at the edges of dark. If this new black cat starts hanging around too, that should be enough feline presence to take care of any rodent population, which was the reason why I got cats to begin with. I would really like it if my girl would come back regularly and permanently though.

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On Monday, I posted that I hadn’t seen Wanda, the female member of my Mouse Killer™ team, in the week since I released them from acclimatization confinement. On Monday night, she came back. She was skittish and obviously less comfortable than Quicksilver but stuck around/came and went for a good portion of the night. As luck would have it, I’d set up the trap (modified with a remote trigger) in an attempt to catch this month’s opossum. That’s the only place I had food, and unfortunately she never found the entrance to the cage and never ate. Hopefully that won’t discourage her from staying in the area, but time will tell if she’ll return. I didn’t see her last night. For the record, I didn’t catch the possum.

My new thirty federal reserve note LG phone has consistently demonstrated its budget nature since I activated it. I’d mostly gotten used to it and accepted its deficiencies as an acceptable tradeoff for a fresh battery. But it was very slow whenever it had to access the internet via wifi. I have 200 Mbps service at home. My “old” S8 speed tested today at 225 Mbps direct and 160 Mbps through VPN. The new LG came in at just over 2 Mbps both ways. That explained the delay whenever I tried to do anything that required network access. So I tried to get around the system. If you recall, Tracfone assured me that the S8 simply couldn’t be used on their network despite their supposed every effort to make it so. I pulled the SIM card from the active LG budget unit and put it in the S8 just to see what would happen. It booted up with my new number loaded in the configuration and every function worked perfectly. Basically, instead of the $1 bring-your-own-phone SIM card kit that should’ve worked, I ended up with a $40 (including tax and a cheap case) kit that included a backup phone. Whatever. It works.

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Of Note

A week ago, I left the crate doors open so my new Mouse Killer™ team could wander freely and explore their new home territory. I haven’t seen the female since. The male stays hidden during the day but hangs out within view of the cameras for much of every night. There’s another cat that’s taken to showing up regularly, mostly during the day. I haven’t seen any interaction between it and my cats, so for now it can stick around.

Saturday night an opossum stopped by for the second time in less than a week. The fucker was bold, too. Not only did it empty the cats’ bowl which is on the back porch, but it wandered around the porch and right up to the back door a few times during its thirty-minute stay. I’ve modified my trap to be remote control, so the next time I’ll be home and awake all night and it’s not raining, it goes out and if Mister Possum shows up he’s getting relocated.

A few days ago when I went to gather eggs, I found one of the girls in the corner of the coop dead. There was no sign of injury and I hadn’t noticed any odd behavior prior. They’re less than a year old – prime laying age, but it’s like she fell off the roost and gave up the ghost. The rest seem normal, and the one that’s been broody for a month or so seems to be getting over it. Yesterday was the first day in several weeks that I didn’t have to reach into the nest box and drag her ass out so I could gather the eggs under her.

Today I finally got semi-official word that I’ll be transitioning into my new role the week of 02 August. More than three weeks after they offered me the job, they finally got around to telling me when I’ll actually start. I’ve continued to come in on overtime two days a week since accepting the position to train. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to hate it. I will miss the five dollars per hour, but it’s worth the loss.

The cucumber variety that I planted this year is seed heavy and very bland tasting. The chickens have been getting all of them after the first two. Dear Niece picked the first of the green beans and I’m waiting to hear how they are.

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You Get What You Pay For

For several years, I’ve had prepaid phone service from Straight Talk. I always bought the one-year card for $495 plus tax and was sure that I was getting a good deal. However, given my impending pay cut I did some research to see if I could find an even cheaper alternative.

I seldom leave the house except to go to work. I have and use wifi at home, and they offer it at work as well within the confines of an Acceptable Use policy. I don’t worry so much about that policy since I rarely do anything even close to a violation, and with my near-religious use of a VPN, they have no idea what I’m looking at anyway. I also avoid voice calls like the plague because of my hearing impairment. I do text a fair amount, but most of that goes through my Google Voice number which doesn’t count as carrier-based SMS.

Enter Tracfone and their low bandwidth limited plans. $125 plus tax for a 1500 minute/1500 text/1.5GB annual plan. I know 1.5GB is nothing, but like I said, I’m almost always home and/or covered by wifi. I don’t need much bandwidth. I decided to give it a shot this week since my ST service expires on Monday.

Until Verizon’s acquisition of them recently, Tracfone either owned or was owned by Straight Talk. I bought a TF bring-your-own-phone SIM card for my S8 and assumed that the transition would be painless. Wrong. First, they told me that I’d have to deactivate my number with ST before TF could port it to their system (gotta be the same system, since 611611 is the text number given to customers of both companies to get plan information and help) which I know isn’t how it works. When I moved the SIM card to my old S6 (which my niece used on ST briefly about a year ago) and told them to just activate it with a new number, they said that the serial number wasn’t valid. Then I dug out an old LG 3G phone for them to try. That serial number passed muster but then they told me that they couldn’t activate it in my zip code. Or any of six other zip codes covering the metropolitan areas of two different states. Despite the fact that every mart of walls in the entire region sells TF phones and cards all day long.

After almost an hour and three different people trying the same steps and failing to get any of the three phones to activate, I hung up on them and drove to the local aforementioned mart. I bought a TF branded LG Journey for thirty bucks and had it activated online within ten minutes of getting home. Obviously BYOP with Tracfone is impossible, despite their claims otherwise.

Even including the cost of the “new” phone and a case to go with it, I have another year’s service for less than one third of Straight Talk’s price. To further put it in perspective, my total cost for the phone and the year of service was only slightly more than what the wife pays Verizon (whose towers I also use both with ST and TF) for two months of 4GB monthly service, which she never comes close to using up. But I certainly paid for a good bit of the difference in frustration. Now I have to let the six people who have my phone number know that I now have a new one.

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Grumpy Update

Last week I started training for my new job on voluntary overtime. I’m going to hate that a lot less than my current role. Still no whispers as to when I will transition. 

I’ve had the new crop of kitties for almost three weeks. Early next week I’ll leave the door to the crate open and see what they do.

Speaking of crops, my dear wife picked the first crop of cucumbers a few days ago. Including the small, immature ones. I swear, I’ll never understand how urban people even survive. Oh, and the cucumber variety that I chose is quite heavy on seeds and otherwise bland. I’ll need to pick a different one next year. Most of these will probably go to the chickens.

The chickens continue to produce eggs on a consistent basis, and the cost of chicken feed continues to climb. One of the girls has been semi-broody for a few weeks now, but she’s learned not to peck at me when I reach in the nest box to drag her out so I can gather the eggs she’s sitting on. She’s still quite vocal in her displeasure with my actions, though.

I finally finished the fence around Dear Niece’s back yard yesterday after about two months of start and stop work on it. She and her mutts are happy. Given the high cost of lumber, she decided to go with what we called Ghetto Fence instead of the standard wood privacy fence that she wanted. What is Ghetto Fence? It’s six-foot wire livestock fence with privacy screen sections zip-tied over it. Cost for materials was less than one third of what wood would’ve been. 

About a third of the yard that I seeded just before the weather went all Sahara earlier this year has come in, but is quite patchy. I’ll seed again in the autumn. Stringy weeds are coming back in the back yard that I tilled and seeded a couple years ago. I wouldn’t mind, I mean it’s more field than yard, but no matter how sharp the blades are, I have to do a sixty percent overlap in order to get everything. This adds to the mowing time, but that’s almost all I use the tractor for anymore, and I do enjoy my tractor time, so I guess it’s not so bad. I passed 420 hours on the Kubota during yesterday’s mowing session.

I do need to spray the grass that’s started to grow along the edges of the driveway. And thanks to dumbass delivery drivers, there’s a significant dip where driveway meets road that is getting on my nerves and will be scraped flat shortly.

My rainwater collection/irrigation system pump burned out over the weekend. The screw-on cover for the pre-filter came off during Saturday’s run and the pump ran all day trying to re-pressurize the tank. Fortunately, the rebuild kit is less than fifteen federal reserve notes and I already had one on hand. It’s just a pain in the ass to disconnect everything to get access to the guts of the pump.

Another job I’ve put off for the five plus years I’ve been living here will also finally get taken care of very soon. The dryer vent consists of a fifteen foot flex pipe connected to the vent in side of the house on one end, and the opposite end just shoved through the hole in the floor behind the dryer. Because of this, there is a fair amount of back pressure that makes the dryer less efficient than it should be, and is probably a minor safety hazard to boot. I recently purchased the proper rigid metal duct and the appropriate elbows and fittings to replace the flex pipe. Thing is, I’ll have to crawl under the house to complete the work. And there is all manner of nastiness under there. Gotta suck it up and get it done.

That’s about it. I’m as healthy as a fat old man can be. No political or social commentary today in an effort to keep it that way. Y’all take care now.

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New Job

At the beginning of my shift last night, I was offered and I accepted a new position with my current employer. It involves a pay cut of almost twenty percent, but the stress level should decrease by about ninety percent.

I’ll be moving from a maintenance technician position to being a forklift jockey. Their capital equipment philosophy is to buy a Yugo, expect it to run like a Ferrari and be as reliable as Mercedes. It’s my job as the tech to make that happen, so you can imagine how much fun I have. It was bad enough when I was responsible for the electroplating machines. They were between thirty and fifty years old, but at least they were robust. Fix something, and it stayed fixed. Not so much in the new department. Poorly designed, made from cheap materials, and expected to run 24/7 for decades with minimal preventative maintenance. Can’t be done, and I want no part of the attempt.

So, now I’ll juggle the raw materials in the warehouse. All I have to do is pull orders in a reasonable amount of time and not crash the equipment. No stressing every time the radio goes off. No wondering how long a fix will hold until I have to tweak it again. No worrying about how high up the chain of command the report of my inability to fix the hottest machine in the department will go.

My transition date is undefined at this time, but it can’t be too terribly far away. I predict four weeks, am prepared for two months, and am hoping for two weeks.

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The kind lady at the SPCA cleared me to adopt the Death To Rodents team that I introduced in my last post. I pick them up tomorrow, and begin the acclimation confinement period. Supposedly these are tame “for ferals” and the female can even occasionally be petted without serious risk to life and limb. I’ll keep y’all posted.

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Kitties, Round Two

Meet Wanda and Quicksilver. They are in the same Working Cat program that I adopted the first two from a few months ago. I was hesitant to reach back out to them, seeing as I’d managed to lose the first pair less than two months after I released them from acclimatization confinement. In my heart, I know that I didn’t do (or fail to do) anything that contributed to their disappearance. However, the short time makes it appear otherwise.

I just emailed them and asked about this pair. They are ferals that came in together. As such, they are buddies rather than just acquaintances like the first pair were. They are eight months old, Wanda is obviously a girl kitty and Quicksilver is a male. Last time, it took four days to get a response. I’ll post again when they reply.

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I Love My Wife

I really do. But sometimes I wish she were a little bit less of a city girl. She eschews all things bug, dirt, etc., and has no desire to be around any living thing other than humans. I mean, few of us whether male or female truly like bugs and whatnot. I’ve been known to shoot spiders, for fuck’s sake. But dirt is a fact of life, and both livestock and working animals are useful, even necessary. But none of that is the point of today’s post.

No, today I’m going to talk about gardening. Earlier this spring, I hastily built a raised bed and filled it with a generic “landscape mix”. Then I planted radishes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, habanero peppers and cherry tomatoes. Results are mixed so far.

The first planting of radishes took way longer than the published twenty days to mature, but they did produce and a second crop of the same variety is well on its way. Beans are growing like gangbusters, as are the cucumbers. Carrots have been anemic so far. Only a couple of the tomatoes sprouted (I planted seeds after I couldn’t find any plants locally. It was late enough in the year that I figured they’d germinate fine outdoors.) but weren’t doing much. As for the habaneros, I think a couple sprouted (again, from seeds – same logic as the tomatoes) but I’m not sure as they were still minuscule and what I thought were them might’ve been weeds.

Enter my lovely wife. Given her urban upbringing, she’s never been in proximity to a garden before. She seldom does anything outside. She’s prone to skin cancer, but was never the outdoorsy type even before then. However, she does sometimes try to do things outside as much for exercise as anything else. Today was one such time. I’d complained recently about how much of a fight it’s been against the grass and weeds that want to take over. I pull a hundred or so a couple mornings a week, but a couple days later it’s like I hadn’t touched it in weeks. She wanted to help.

I told her what was where and how the stuff I’d planted looked. Somehow, either she wasn’t paying attention or misunderstood the briefing. While I slept today, she pulled up everything in the pepper and tomato areas, including the pathetic tomato plants and what might or might not’ve been habanero peppers. In fairness, the weeds were numerous there as I’d left all but the obvious ones in place to avoid accidentally pulling up something that I had planted. So, I won’t have tomatoes or peppers this year. She did a good job weeding the other areas, though.

Bless her heart.

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