Walking the talk

It’s that time again — the new year. Welcome to 2015!

Traditionally, this is when we all make resolutions and yadda yadda yadda. Instead of doing resolutions per se, I’m setting out to make some changes by doing a few things differently. If you’ve read my blog in the past or known me out in the real world, a lot of these may sound familiar. Well, this year I’m taking a different approach: Small moves to reach bigger goals, if that makes sense. And there’s no timetable on any of this.

Here’s the objectives:
1) I want to do more with less. Or maybe a different way to look at it: I would like less stuff, but higher quality stuff.

For example, I have about 8 coats. One I called “a bar coat.” Another is a light coat. There’s a heavy coat. A ski coat. A suit coat. You get the idea. And you know which one I wear 99% of the time? A pea coat with a zip up “sherpa” hoodie underneath. When it’s really cold, I add a scarf to it. So, I’d like ditch most of these and have a few really nice coats. Same with hats. And shoes. And clothes in general.

I’m also going to go through my kitchen stuff, ditch a lot of the excess there, and start replacing it with All Clad stuff. No rush, mind you … but a pot here. A frying pan there. You get the idea.

2) I want to be healthier. To get to this goal, I need to eat better and exercise smarter.

This means I’ll be eating more paleo again (I actually like it/feel better when I eat that way), but none of that worry/guilt/superiority mentality that I’ve seen in so many blogs that eventually turned me off it. Basically, quality meat and veges with occasional stops for pizza and Primanti’s. Want 1000 Island dressing on a bunless burger? No problem. The point here will be less eating out, less super processed food, and no guilt when I do decide to eat junk.

The workouts will be a return to kettlebell training, with some basic weight training and walking during work hours thrown in until it warms up and I can go biking again. The other part of this will be lots and lots of stretching to keep my lower back from seizing up due to sitting too much at work.

My only real “vanity” goal here is I’d like to bench 275 and have a sub-34″ waist again by the end of the year.

3) Marathon not a sprint. Like most people, I have a bad habit of wanting results NOW NOW NOW, and I get frustrated (and quit) when I don’t get them as fast as I would like. So, I’m going to pare down what I try and do in a day, focusing on the most important stuff first (cooking/stretching/exercise) and anything after that is a bonus. On my weekends, I’ll do projects.

4) See what’s out there. I’ve neglected my exploration side for way too long. And this isn’t just about visiting new places … I’m going to apply for new jobs. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy with job nor “looking to leave” nor in danger of losing my job or anything like that — but there’s no harm in seeing what’s out there from a stable base, either. Maybe I’ll find something that really inspires me. Maybe I won’t and I’ll stay where I am. Who knows? But I’ll never know without seeing what’s out there.

5) Block/Hide with extreme prejudice. We’ve all seen those posts about “how to deal with negativity.” And maybe it’s right. Instead of letting various social media posts get to me, I’m going to hide/block the posts or hashtags instead of letting them linger or arguing about them.

Again, there’s no timetable on any of this. A fix here. A change there. And slowly but surely, all of these changes will get me to where I want them to be.


Cooling down

I am not one that does well in the heat. It gets above 70, I start to sweat … it hits the 90s, I basically dehydrate and want to die. As a friend of mine once said, I am “built for killing Nazis on the Russian front in winter,” which is partially correct — I have no Russian ancestry, but I don’t like Nazis and I do like the cold. So there’s that.

But for years, I wanted to hang some ceiling fans in my house … mainly because I can tolerate the heat much better with shade and a breeze. After all, while growing up in South Florida, my dad would never turn the A/C on until it got into the 100s — and I found I could sleep well enough with just a ceiling fan going.

Now, it was time. I had worked an OT shift, plus worked over the July 4th holiday, and it was my turn to be on call for the weekend … so as you could imagine, a big check was coming up.

I bought 2 52″ ceiling fans (Harbor Breeze at Lowe’s), and hung them up. First was in the bedroom, the second in my kitchen.

After playing with fun wiring for a bit (remember, my house is 90+ years old, so figuring out what was done in the first place is the hardest part), we got it going. I was solo for my second install.

Here are the pics (excuse the mess and shabby decor):


Now, I have to admit, at first I had a little buyer’s remorse. The first thing I hated … the bedroom fan was too low for my taste. If I can find a shorter downrod in the future, I will probably end up replacing it. But for now, it’ll do.

The second fan is simply too big for the kitchen. I wanted to get a smaller size (44″), but they only came with light fixtures that I hated. So, I went big … because a 36″ fan does no one any good unless you are directly under it.

However, I can’t argue with the results of these installs.

Both fans are super quiet. I kept the bedroom fan going last night and my sleep was dreamy, especially compared to running a window shaker a/c unit or a direct fan.

The kitchen fan made things so much better in terms of clean up. Before, when I would go to do dishes, I’d have to do them shirtless and I sweat my balls off. Now, I can do them shirtless, but it’s comfortable. Same with cooking. Just keep it on low for cooking and medium for dishes or moping or whatever, and it’s perfect.

Yeah, I still have to repaint the ceilings since both have rings from the heat shields that accompanied the lights.

With the temps going into the 90s this week, they’ll both be put to the test. But I am confident I will be tolerate it much better than in the past.

And this hot weather has determined the next project on the list: The basement.


Another step done

With the Furries leaving town, it was time to get things back to the ole normal routine. I wanted to complete the back flowerbed (aka Phase IV), because I had been kind of obsessing over getting it done.

This was one of those things I’ve wanted to do since I saw the house. I hated that ivy. It was just … blah.

So, while not *actually* done, I do consider this to be about 90% complete. I had to buy some Japanese Painted Ferns (which I did on the way to work) and Japanese Ornamental Grass (which my girlfriend will find at the store where she got me the other one). Then I have to clear out the rest of that ivy on the right and continue the stone wall … but that will come later, as part of like Phase V or VI or something equally blah.

But right now, I’m basking in the glory of how well this came out.

See that jungle to the right? Imagine that covering this back area. I could never run the lawnmower over that because those rocks were actually buried, but jutting up just enough to scrape the lawnmower blade. So, yeah, dug them up and built a crude, small wall with them, cause hey, why not?

From a different angle:

Then came the plants. 5 astilbes, 2 “ghost” dead nettle, and 1 cora bell later, combined with 2.5 bags of mulch … and this was the result:

Oh, and to give you an idea of how much stuff I cleared? That section of it in the bottom picture is probably thigh-high (and not even close to all of it).

Obviously, it needs a few more plants, which is where the Japanese painted ferns and the Japanese ornamental grass will come to the rescue. I will plant the ferns tomorrow, and the grass when it arrives.

About 4 hours of work total, and under $100 spent, and that bed is nice and spacious for those perennials to grow into. Perfect by no means, but it works and I’m happy with it … it looks 5,000% better than what it did.

Now, a job that I’ve wanted to do since Day 1 is finally realized.

Next, back to Phase III. Well, once I plant some grass and such.



Anthrocon 2013. Every year I like to pay a visit to the returning Furries, and again, I wasn’t disappointed.

I don’t claim I understand what the whole thing is about … but the costumes are great, the furries are friendly, and as 2 new friends I made at this year’s anthrocon said, “We’re firefighters … we see death all the time. So, you know, do what makes you happy.”

The visiting furries make me happy. I hope they keep coming back to Pittsburgh…

Here’s a small sample of pics I took with my phone …







But … yeah … you get the idea. Hope these guys come back to Pittsburgh for 2014! So much fun!




Good grief.

Mr. Rogers: Destroyer of Worlds, Harbinger of Doom.

King Friday will look upon the world, see nothing bug corruption and violence and sin and socialism, and find it to be unjust. He will decide that the end must come.

He will send his messenger, Mr. McFeely, to instruct man of how to be saved, but few will listen or accept his instructions, believing the words to be from a false prophet claiming to be a Nigerian Prince who needs money so he can send them more money.

You will know the end is near when Trolley’s great bell tolls, which signals the release of Daniel Striped Tiger, the right hand of Mr. Rogers, upon the world.

Daniel will enter the world with a mighty roar, and gouge the ground with his fearsome terrycloth paws, sending rippling earthquakes across the world.  His fearsome teeth will cause men to panic and flee before their inevitable destruction. Those who dare to get close to him will find themselves torn apart in Daniel’s great and mighty maw.

Things will be quiet for a day, and man will believe the worst is done.

But then a great howl will be heard across the land: Bob Dog will bring forth  X the Owl, who will beat his great wings, causing tornadoes and hurricanes to ravage man again. Millions of screams will be quieted by X’s mighty shriek, and the air itself will be littered with the dead as X laughs at man’s destruction. Man will be scattered and lost, knowing no border or home.

Again, those that live will know rest.

But on the third day, Lady Elaine Fairchilde will unleash plagues and pestilence upon man. The dead will rise and feed upon the living, while her harsh cackle fills the ears of those who live. The torment she unleashes will last for a day, and then she will say, “OK, toots!”

But on the fourth day, salvation will be at hand. Those who recognize the power and glory of Mr. Rogers will be saved. Henrietta Pussycat will arrive driving the giant trolley, and will help the survivors on board with a warm hug and a soft and gentle whisper of “Meow meow meow.”


And this, my friends, is why a lot of folks can’t take Fox News seriously.



A first!

It man not seem like much, but after years of trying to grow lilies, I finally got one to bloom. My own ineptitude and raids by ravenous deer took their toll … but persistence paid off.

Let’s hope the others grow flowers, they all come back next year, and bloom some more …

Side note: They were supposed to be purple and white, not pink. But hey, I’ll take what I can get.


Stupid and simple

Let me tell you about my kitchen.

My kitchen is a horror show.

If it was actually a horror show, it would be called “The Kitchen That Time Forgot.” Really. It’s still pretty much 1950s, and I’m being generous in my guesstimation. No dishwasher, no garbage disposal, and old wiring. Cabinets are very basic. Shelf space is limited. No pantry, either.

But one thing my kitchen has going for it? It’s actually pretty big. You could have 2 people cooking in it and not be stumbling over each other. It just needs to be updated, and boy howdy, do I have plans for that … later on … you know, after I get the first floor wiring redone.

But in the meantime, I needed to do something. My girlfriend had already done A LOT of cleaning and some slight rearranging in the kitchen when I was on vacation, and it was so much better. So I felt kinda the need to take what she did 1-step further.

I created a small “prep station” using some old wood that I had in the basement.

This wood was from an old futon frame that I had disassembled and stored. I figured it would be good for something … I had already used it on my baker’s rack to create shelves. But if worse came to worst, I could always throw it in the woodburner. But I’d hate to throw out something that I know would have a use later.

So I grabbed 2 pieces, and cleaned them up. I painted them black, and then created this stupid little shelf.

This isn’t a magical thing. But man, what it lacks in personality and style and finesse, it makes up for in sheer practicality.

Before, I had these utensils randomly thrown in a big drawer, and finding what I needed was a pain in the dupa. This stupid little shelf solved a lot. I actually feel dumb that I didn’t think of this sooner. 2 pieces of leftover wood. Leftover paint. 20 L hooks (cost under $4). Leftover screws and anchors. Done and done.

(Oh, and that picture? That’s my Italian grandma holding me. I learned my basic cooking skills from her, so it was only fitting that she share that space. And that potato peeler on the wall with the ribbon? That was my Slovak great-grandma’s potato peeler. My great-aunt Pauline gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. She probably peeled tons of potatoes with that thing … and I’m honored to have it in retirement on my wall.)

Then I started thinking what else I could do. The baker’s rack! Why don’t I hang some pot and pans on it instead of stacking them there?

I have a million pots. OK, not a million … probably about 8. But they were all leftovers from my mom and grandma, and I never needed that many. So, I weeded some out, and am going with a smaller set for now (not including soup pots and such). And again, I grabbed some hook screws, and created this:

Now, again, this is simple, stupid, and non-stylish at the same time. But it’s a temporary and cheap fix (hooks were less than $2 for 5) fix to what has been a long-standing problem — easy accessibility and space. I just need to get a few more hooks for lids, and wham, done. If I find I don’t need the extra pots, they will go to the VVA.

But all of this will change when I’m ready to tackle the kitchen full on … in a few years … I hope.

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