Race Day and Liberals

I’m on the way to my first race for 2019. It’s a 5K called Run for the Roses. I haven’t ran since October of last year, mostly due to foot pain. I expect to do very poorly.

Ladyfriend’s sister and niece flew in last night from Michigan for her birthday on Wednesday. Y’all know me, guns are laying all over the place. Sister examined the visible ones from a distance, as if they were poisonous snakes that might strike without warning. At least she didn’t make any rude comments.

Then this morning after her shower Niece puts on a rainbow flag Beto for Senate t-shirt. I kept my mouth shut. A twenty-five year old sexual assault therapist from Detroit is pretty much guaranteed to be cluess.

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Car Struggles

My 2004 BMW 325xi has been sporting an intermittent Service Engine Soon light for almost two years. North Carolina law requires no active faults in order to renew one’s annual registration. Last year, the renewal was easy enough to manage, since the light would come and go seemingly at random. This year was trickier, because the light has spent more time on than off, but I was able to get lucky and catch it off long enough to get it to pass. I knew that next year was going to be a problem, so I started troubleshooting.

There were two codes, one related to temperature and the other a lean fuel condition. The temperature could have been a thermostat/housing combination, a secondary thermostat, or a temperature sensor. The lean fuel condition could be one of four oxygen sensors, the fuel filter, the fuel pump, the mass air flow meter, the injectors, or a vacuum leak.

I started with the lean fuel condition. A new fuel filter didn’t fix it. Not that I expected it to, but it was the cheapest option and past time to be replaced. Then I threw a set of oxygen sensors on it. No joy there either. Then I took it to the shop to have the professionals look at it. They claimed that one of the year old oxygen sensors had failed. I knew they were wrong, but agreed to have them replace it. Of course the light popped again. They couldn’t find anything obvious, so they started concentrating on the temperature problem.

The thermostat housing was the first attempt to fix it, but the light popped again. The shop then said that the temperature sensor was also bad. I balked at the $600 they wanted for that, but they’d been unable to find anything else wrong that was causing the lean fuel code. They said that it could be a vacuum leak that couldn’t be easily found but would be found and corrected by the removal of the intake necessary to replace the sensor. So, I approved the work.

The fucking light is back on, less than a hundred miles after leaving the shop. I wonder what they’ll tell me this time. Whatever it is, I probably won’t fix it. Because that won’t be the problem either, and at some point I have to draw the line. This will probably be my last year of driving this car.

While all this was going on, my 2003 F-250 decided to toast its injector control pressure sensor, making it idle erratically and cut off without provocation. Said sensor is on order, and once replaced, the car will go back in for one more round of diagnostics.

UPDATE: As of 01 December 2018, my county will no longer require the OBD test in order to renew the vehicle. If I had only known before spending all this money. It’s not like the car is suffering any performance issues.

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Adventures in Generators

I’ve wanted a better generator since I bought the one I have. It was purchased mid-Matthew in 2016, and was the only choice within a hundred miles. I’ve been seriously looking into upgrades since Florence and its failure to run my air conditioner, despite it not having a problem with either side of the heat pump during my monthly load tests. I have a replacement voltage regulator on hand, which I’m confident will cure that problem. At least until it fails like the last two. Because I insist on making it run everything. And it fries regulators before it pops the main breaker. Which it has also done. Once.

I’ve decided that I want a diesel, both for longevity and easier/safer fuel storage. The problem is balancing cost and output. I can get a 21KW Isuzu-powered unit that will run pretty much everything in the house simultaneously. It costs $8K , plus shipping, a transfer switch, and however much an electrician would charge to tie it into the existing system. And it burns the better part of a gallon an hour at near-zero load.

The other end of the spectrum is a 4.5KW model for $2K (plus shipping) that will power any one major or moderate load. It only uses four-tenths of a gallon per hour at full load. But with that one, I’d have to manually manage every circuit in the house. Want to run the air conditioning? Better make sure the refrigerator isn’t running, and might want to turn the TV off, too. Need to run the water heater? Turn everything else in the house off except maybe one light. You get the idea.

Another option is a 6KW unit of unknown provenance for just under $2K which would allow me to pretty much leave everything on like I have in the past with my current gasoline generator, and only flip breakers off if too much stuff kicks on at the same time. But I don’t trust manufacturers that I don’t know. Hell, presumably reputable brands can be an unknown quantity these days. Take for example my current Troy-Bilt/Briggs that toasted a voltage regulator straight out of the box and seems to have killed another one during Flo.

Then there is the overpriced Generac XD5000E. It’s $3500, give or take, depending on where you get it. And the price tag includes shipping. It is a 5000W continuous/5500W surge, which will handle any one major load, one moderate load, and all the miscellaneous stuff at the same time.

Unlike the aforementioned 4.5KW, I will only have to manipulate breakers if the heat pump and water heater both want to run at the same time. I can plan cooking and clothes washing in order to stagger rest of the loads and keep from overloading the genny without messing with breakers. Yes, 500 extra watts makes that much of a difference.

I’m leaning towards the Generac for one other reason. I have multiple purchasing options that offer 24-month financing deals. Any other option is a pay now proposition.

Decisions, decisions.

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I have no love for financial institutions, and I take every opportunity to use their promotions against them. If I need something that costs a somewhat substantial sum of money, and a lender is offering a zero percent interest for X months deal, I’ll apply for the credit line even if I had already planned to pay cash.

My current lawn tractor is a perfect example. I needed a new one at the beginning of last season. I happened to be at Tractor Supply one day, and I saw the promotional literature. I had the money for a new one, but if they will give me a year to pay at no additional cost, I’ll gladly use someone else’s money. Which I did. That was the only time that I used the card, and I paid the tractor off months ago.

Banks seem to be wising up, though. Last night, I was browsing for a stump grinder. I have dozens of trees that need to go away, and dozens more that are gone but whose stumps remain as hazards to the mower. DR Power Equipment (now owned by Generac) makes a couple decent ones that I’ve considered before. There was a banner at the top of the page advertising 0% financing. I clicked on it.

I found the fine print interesting. Yes, purchases over $799 are indeed financed at zero percent interest for thirty-six months. BUT, they charge a $150 “Promotion Fee” up front in lieu of interest over the life of the promotion. Effectively, it is prepaid interest, like the balance transfer fees that are so common nowadays. Since it is a fixed amount, the more you spend, the better the deal. I’m sure that is intentional.

I decided to apply, and see how much credit they would give me. I was surprised by the answer: five thousand dollars. So, I could spend eight hundred dollars, plus the one hundred fifty dollars (eighteen and three-quarters percent) or I could get the stump grinder, a wood chipper to eliminate the burn pile, a post hole digger, and replacement teeth and blades for the grinder and chipper, for a total of just under three thousand dollars. That makes the one hundred fifty dollar fee a more reasonable five percent – only slightly more than the typical balance transfer fees on most promotions.

So, I obligated myself for three thousand federal reserve notes worth of power equipment. With it, though, I may very well have most of my property cleared and fenced within a year.

Another sneaky thing that I caught a lender doing this week was the fast one that American Express tried to pull on me. I just bought my annual prepaid phone card, which cost me $530.25. AmEx offered the option of Plan It, which sets up fixed payments for a specified time period instead of letting it fall under normal revolving balance rules. For this convenience, I would have to pay a monthly fee, but no interest would be charged. The monthly fee? $5.05, for a total of $90.90 in fees over eighteen months. But zero interest. I calculated the amount of interest that I would pay at my normal Purchases rate, on that balance with the same monthly payment amount. $97.99. The option would save me $7.09, effectively lowering my interest rate from 22.24% to 20.68%. Yeah, I’ll jump right on that. Not.

Sneaky bastards!

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Here I Go Again

I’m embarking on yet another weight loss journey. This morning I weighed 261 pounds. Based on my height and branch of service, my maximum weight according to Uncle Sam is 160 pounds. So, my goal is 159 pounds. And I want to be there by the end of the year. That’s almost exactly two pounds per week, sustained for an entire year. 

My plan is to consume 1,000 calories less every day than I used the previous day. But it’s not just about calories. I’m cutting meat and animal products to ten percent or less of my calorie intake. I plan to eliminate refined sugar from my diet completely, and keep my saturated fat intake to a minimum. Sodium consumption must also be minimized, and balanced by potassium. Fortunately, I can have all the starchy vegetables that I want – since they are pretty much the only ones that I like. 

According to my fitness tracker, I used 2,796 calories yesterday. So, today’s maximum is 1,800 calories. 

Breakfast was salad with a homemade salad dressing, a cup of buckwheat with the entire spice rack and a splash of bone broth thrown in, and 200 grams of fresh pineapple. Total, 330 calories. 

I’m taking another two cups of buckwheat, two cups of boiled wheat berries, and two cans of light fruit cocktail with me for lunch and dinner. Assuming that I eat it all, that will put me at 1,745 calories for the day. No refined sugar, negligible animal products, and maybe one gram of saturated fat. Minimal sodium, too – all from the bone broth. 

On my way home, I plan to stop at the gym and do something cardio-ish for 45 minutes.  

Then I have to repeat for 363 more days. This is going to suck! 

EDIT: I couldn’t do the wheat berries. I’ll have to make them a supplemental ingredient in another dish. Too bad, because I have gallons of the things.  Couldn’t finish the second round of buckwheat either. Also, the second can of fruit cocktail was a no-go. The gym didn’t happen – too much foot pain. This is going to be a huge challenge. 

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New Favorite Pen And Ink

Greetings, everyone! I would like to apologize for my scarcity of late. Simply put, life has interfered. I am alive and well, despite any rumors to the contrary. 

It is no secret that I am a fan of fountain pens. It is also no secret that I pretty much loathe everything Parker that I have ever touched. Brace yourself. 

A few years ago, based on a good friend’s recommendation, I bought three plastic Parker Vectors. I despised them. The fit and finish sucked, even considering the price point. The end where the cap should go when you are using the pen was too small and not tapered, meaning that you had no secure place for your cap while the pen was in use. And, despite a supposed fine nib, they left a LOT of ink on the paper. 

I successfully modified the barrel ends with clear fingernail polish so the cap would post securely. I attempted to modify the nibs to decrease the line width and ink volume, but that didn’t go nearly as well. So, I deemed them work pens, used them regularly, and didn’t care if they got lost or damaged. They were boringly reliable, and thus well-suited for the role. Over time, all three got lost or damaged. 

I’ve been trying to find a replacement since the last one disappeared a few months ago. I tried some of my less-favorite existing Chinese pens. Then I bought a multi-pack of Jinhao 599s, which are a Lamy Safari knockoff. I even risked my genuine Safari. Every single one of the aforementioned pens dried out between uses. Since I am not regularly running machines every day, which requires hourly log sheet entries, I only need a pen a few times per day. None were up to the task. 

I bought a couple of budget models from Fountain Pen Revolution, but they leaked badly with every change of the weather. Or temperature. Or almost anything else. I trashed one and am contemplating the same fate for the other. 

My trusty Nemosine kept unscrewing itself in my pocket, which made a hell of a mess several times. And there’s no way I’m risking my Platinum Century 3776 for work. 

So, I went Vector shopping. I found a “stainless steel” version with a fine nib for eleven federal reserve notes. (I’ll bet a day’s pay that the metal used doesn’t meet even the most liberal definition of Stainless Steel, but it looks the part.) I ordered one. I find it attractive, even elegant in its simplicity. The finish is very similar to my Sonnet, which would be a great pen, but it costs about seven times as much as the Vector and is about seven hundred times less reliable.  

This Vector posts securely, and because of the slight extra heft from the metal, I like the feel better than the plastic ones that used to have.  I inked it with the rest of my Noodler’s Dostoevsky sample. Dostoevsky is a pretty, blue-green (almost turquoise if applied lightly), water-resistant ink that is on the edge of blue enough for professional use. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have full bottles in stock at the moment, at least not at the usual cost of one ounce of silver. I like it, but not enough to pay 20FRN for a bottle. 

As seems to be the norm for Vectors, mine is very wet. If you apply any pressure to the tip or pause for more than two nanoseconds with the nib in contact with the paper, it will bleed through any paper that is not at least Moleskine quality. However, it does write smoothly, and is as reliable as the sun.  As long as you are aware of its quirks and adapt your style to compensate, it is a good choice. 

Yes, I just recommended a Parker pen. The end is nigh!

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CPAP Adventures

In a few hours, I will be heading to a local Durable Medical Equipment company to pick up my Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. Hopefully it will help me have more restful sleep and prevent me from waking up gasping for air as has happened twice in the last year.

I’m pretty sure my sleep doctor is more focused on the business side of being a doctor than he is on the efficient treatment of his patients. I say this because this adventure started seventy-six days ago. First of all, the sleep clinic wouldn’t see me without a referral, even though my insurance has no such requirement. Fortunately, I was able to get in to see my family doctor the day after I was told about the need for said referral.

They were able to get me an initial appointment fourteen days later, which I felt was reasonable. The doc evaluated my symptoms, and said that I needed a sleep study. Insurance pre-authorization was required, and would also dictate whether the study would be at home or in the sleep lab. They got the answer from the insurance company and got me into the lab for sleep study number one seven days later. This, too, was promptly enough for my liking.

Then shit went sideways. Doc required that I come in for a follow-up to discuss treatment after spending the night in the lab, and the earliest appointment was twenty-one days after I spent the night in the lab. On the day of this appointment, Doc spent less than five minutes with me. He said that I have severe sleep apnea, and that I stopped breathing an average of one hundred six times per hour. Treatment options were limited to a new treatment that I did not qualify for because of my BMI, surgery that he did not recommend, or a CPAP. Obviously, the only real option was the CPAP. Which required a second sleep study. Why the fuck couldn’t he have looked at the lab results and have someone call me and tell me that I need to get my ass back in for another sleep study as soon as fucking possible instead of making me delay treatment an additional three weeks, just so he could collect for another office visit?!?

Well, they got me back in four days later for sleep study number two, during which they played with the pressure on the CPAP to determine how to set my machine once they prescribed it to me. But wait.

Yes, you guessed it. I had to wait another seventeen days for yet another follow-up to find out my magic number before they would send over my prescription to the DME company so they could get me a machine and configure it. And it’s not like Doc needed this extra time to review either lab result, because when I went back for my second follow-up, he asked which room I slept in so he could go look at the file. Three minutes later, he was back. “You need eighteen centimeters of pressure. We will call over to the DME company today. Expect them to call you within the next few days to set up an appointment to pick up your CPAP.”

Motherfucker, there is no reason for yet another two and a half weeks of waiting for treatment. You kept throwing around the word urgent, but instead of taking five minutes to review my sleep lab data and having one of your flunkies call me and then the DME company, you had to make me wait so I could pay you for another office visit.

As promised, five days later, the DME folks called me and told me that they could get me in seven days hence to pick up my machine. That is in a few hours.

I’m all for capitalism and making an honest dollar. I would’ve happily paid for an office visit and never shown up for either follow-up.  Just have someone fucking call me the next day so my treatment can move forward instead having to wait thirty-eight days longer than necessary, just to work me into your schedule.

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