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Pat Rieger

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April 14th, 2016

Home Alone

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house, christmas
For a few days.

So I am going to be very busy with chores, mostly cleaning the carpets, and fun stuff. The weather so far looks great for the first star party of the year. I am so looking forward to it!

Today I have started the carpet cleaning. I am amazed how dirty the carpets get even after a few months. We walk around in our bare feet most of the time, but it is a small place and we do a lot of moving around.

The big thing for me today though is I am going to sugar my chest and belly by myself. This is going to be an experience as I have never done this before. I had my back done once, and it needs it again but for that I need help.

After that's all done I plan to head out to pick up a few things so I can complete my model of the Enterprise. I need some paint, small diodes, and resisters so the diodes are not too bright. I told my young son I'd have it done before he gets back.

March 17th, 2016

Ah spring. Even though it officially starts on March 20 as the Sun crosses the celestial equator into the northern hemisphere, Spring arrived early with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. Daylight Savings Time arrived at a good time so after my son is out of school for the day we have plenty of daylight to enjoy, and we have taken advantage of it. The only negative is my wife's retail job now closes at 10 instead of 9, keeping the little guy up later than he should be, but we can not avoid it if my wife is not going to walk home from work after a long day.

With warm temperature comes the need for appropriate clothing, and this is how I discovered how much weight I have gained since last Summer. Only 1 shorts fit me, those made from women's jeans size 12, and even those don't fit well since my belly, where most of the extra has accumulated, wants to push them down. If I had my way now, I'd be out and about in dresses and skirts. Those fit me better, and of course I thoroughly enjoy wearing them. But I can not do that right now.

But it also motivates me to do what I need to do to lose the weight. I am usually on my feet, and I do exercise at home, but I lack intense cardio, so soon I will finally make a trip to True Runner and get myself good running shoes. I have been wanting to do it for years, and this is an opportunity for me to do so. I hope to find a group to start running with, perhaps a group of beginners like me.

At home I have been keeping the windows open to allow the fresh air to flow, and the blinds open to allow all of that sunlight in. The cats love it too. Once I open the windows, particularly the right window in the bedroom, Chelsea jumps onto the windowsill and looks around and sniffs the air. So it is not just us humans enjoying Spring.

We do have a yard, sort of, but it is a mess and when don't have the tools or the time to do anything with it. So yardwork by us will wait until we have a our own place.

But it has allowed work on the car. In a previous post I said how my new mechanic made two repairs. With the warm weather I can do some of the work myself. I ordered two small items, a window control and a sideview mirror control. The window control came quickly, and after around 10 years I finally replaced the one where a bit of plastic broke. The sideview mirror control will take a while to get here, but at least it's on it way.

Last week I took apart the driver's door to get to the door lock mechanism, opening it to check the solder joints which turned out to be fine, but finding two bits of broken plastic jamming two gears. That allowed me to be able to open the door from the outside again but now I can not open it from the inside. After talking to the son of a friend, who is a VW mechanic, what I need to do is replace the whole mechanism. Not a cheap thing to do but necessary. I learned not to trust aftermarket suppliers when it comes to electronic parts for my VW, so I will need to get a VW part. Easy to acquire though.

But the big one is replacing the radiator, a big job. The whole front bumper and fender assembly needs to be removed to get to it. Work that needs a driveway and more than me doing the work. Not out of the question, and a friend has offered his garage. Just a lot of work. While I am in there I might as well replace the broken right fog lamp, and replace the radiator mounts. The hoses leading to the heater core also need to be replaced.

Eventually I'll also wash and wax it too :-)

Later in Spring comes the first star parties, CMU Carnival, and a friend's post-Carnival pie party which I always enjoy, and have my pies planned already. My wife and younger son will head off to Florida for 6 days, allowing me to be a bachelorette for a bit. It won't be all fun, I'll be cleaning all of the carpets, which is a lot of work for one person, but it is the best time to do it.

Not sure what else will come with Spring but it's already busy and fun.

March 13th, 2016

One of my life long interests and hobbies has been astronomy. It goes back to at least 1980, perhaps before. That year I saw a movie and a TV series that would have a profound impact on my life. The movie was Star Trek - The Motion Picture, which one of my brothers took me to see in January 1980. The TV series was Cosmos, which premiered in September of 1980.

Both touched something deep inside. For a kid going to catholic school and being very disenchanted and not feeling right there, and being the outcast for I never fit in with other kids, both lit a light bulb in my head. I didn't exclaim "Eureka!" but they changed my life. I still love watching them.

Eventually I got a telescope for Christmas, which I still have, read Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines, had posters of galaxies and nebula on my bedroom walls, and was generally made fun of and insulted by classmates.

Fast forward over 3 decades and I am an active member of the local astronomy club, the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh (http://wp.3ap.org/). So are the other members of my family, even my 3 year old, who attended his first star party when he was 1 week old. I attend each star party I can (not all of us get to them together so I go solo), taking my 30+ year old 8" dobsonian with me. Sure the mirror needs a new coat of aluminum badly but it still works. I love sharing what I know and the sites to behold in the night sky. I so get into talking with people. And it's all there for everyone. No secrets, no exclusivity, it is everyone's. I have a received a few small rewards because of the number of star parties I have helped with each year.

Now the next step: outreach. A few weeks ago when one of the other members was looking for help with an event I said yes, It is just a 10 minute walk from home, and on a Friday so I knew I was available to help. So come Friday, March 25, I will be helping with the closing event for Our Pittsburgh Constellation at Assemble on Penn Ave. We will be talking astronomy, the AAAP, telescope making, helping people make star wheels, discussing the problems of light pollution, astro imaging, and who knows what else. I will bring both telescopes, one I acquired just a few months ago, and my laptop to project Stellarium onto a screen to show people what the sky would look like from Assemble were it not for all of the lights. It is very exciting for me to get our and share something so very important, and to talk with the public one again.

February 29th, 2016

Rebuilding the Bug

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Sonic Screwdriver
My car is over 14 years old, and in need of repairs. Some I can do myself, others better left to the pros.

So far I have had 2 repairs done, stuff I left to the pros. An oil leak, which turned out to be a hardened gasket for the oil cooler just above the oil filter, and the oil pressure sensor.

I have not been able to open the driver's door for over half a year, which is very annoying. From reading what I have found via Google and newbeetle.org, I think the problem may be just cracked solder in the microswitch, it's a common problem and easily fixed by adding a bit of solder. I just need time to do the work.

The knob for the sideview mirror controller broke off a few years ago. easily replaced except for cost.

But the big one that needs to be done, that is better left to the pros but I can not afford to is replacing the leaking radiator, and 2 hoses leading to the heater core. To replace the radiator the front bumper/fender assembly needs to come off of the car, then the mechanism behind the bumper, front wheels, plastic sections on the bottom of the car, the cooling system drained, and then the radiator can be replaced. It's the labor to get to the radiator that takes so much time. Replacing the radiator itself is simple.

While I am at it I'll replace the right foglight. The lens is filled with moisture. If I had my own space to do the work and the time I'd also replace the plugs and plug wires. They haven't been replaced in 6 years.

So I have my work cut out for me. I could do more if I had my own driveway and/or garage but I don't. Fortunately I have one friend willing to lend me his garage. I just need to make sure I can do it all in one day, and not encounter any problems along the way.

December 8th, 2015

Christmas Once Again...

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Christmas_Family
I am happy to day this year Christmas will be better than the last few years. Yes, things are still tight, and my family's position could still be better, but it is better than before.

This is due to a few things.

Despite my being unemployed I get a nice amount for unemployment compensation, plus what my wife brings in, we have a decent amount.

No more daycare! We owe them money but Vaughn is no longer in daycare so the bill is not growing by the month.

Timing of paychecks happens to be good. Very little control over that, we're just lucky.

So, Christmas is better this year.

Everyone will get something from their wish list without us sweating over it.

I am hoping to get one of the two big ones from mine. I want to get my iMac working again. It needs a new logic board (a few pins that connect the display to the logic board broke and hard to solder back on) and a new hard drive (iMacs are notorious for hard drives failing, I think it's a heat issue). I have a good idea how much it would cost, it's just a matter of being able to pay for it.

The other thing is a Bowser Big Boy kit. Hard to find, no longer made, and they occasionally they come up on eBay.

Otherwise my wish list is small. Perhaps being out with friends while the family stays home? Time to work on a hobby and the family not always look to me to lead getting things done around the home? Not much. Things that are important to one's health and sanity but come oh so rarely for me.

November 27th, 2015

Another Thanksgiving

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Sonic Screwdriver
Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and despite our best efforts it did not turn out exactly as planned.

Vaughn did not take a nap, so he was very tired when dinner was ready.

The wife's monthly visitor came, and came hard, so she had to sit a while. Before that my family did their usual: paid too much attention to the TV instead of paying attention to Vaughn and not helping in the kitchen, so I had to yell at them. Not the first time I did that. It doesn't take long for them to go back to staring at the TV.

So when dinner came I was very happy to just sit.

We'll try again this weekend, we have enough leftovers.

November 22nd, 2015

Christmas is Coming...

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December 25
I have said it before, and I will happily say it again, I am a Clark Griswold. At least when it comes to the Holiday Season. Like him I love decorating my home to the hilt, I get into the spirit, I want as many people as I can get to my place and have a wonderful meal with them. I want to make it last as long as possible. I participate in the PPG holiday display in the Wintergarden. I see as many train shows as I can. I love seeing downtown decorated. I have a family that enjoys it too, not as much as I do but they still get into it.

Despite my family and I living in a too small of a space for our needs, I still make it as festive as possible.

Thanks to that wonderful web site called Pandora I can listen to Christmas music as much as I want, and not spend lot of money I don't have on CDs.

One piece of music I heard just a bit ago was Fantasia on Greensleeves, which is a beautiful piece of music but also touches a part of me that will always be painful: my mom no longer being around. When I hear the piece I picture the cemetery where she is buried, the sky is cloudy, the air is cold. I am there to light her memorial candle and to place a wreath at her grave, as I do every year. I think of how my sons should be running around her backyard before heading inside for dinner, instead of walking around her cemetery. But it is not to be.

I am the type that I try to find a solution to any problem, but in this case I have none nor will I ever have one.

So like Clark Griswold there is a sadness too. When stuck in the attic while his family is out shopping, Clark finds an old home movie from when he was a child, a movie that brings him to happy tears because he sees his family all together and enjoying each others company, which is not how it is in his grown up life. Clark is trying to make it a reality again, and he ultimately does at the end of the movie. So it is with me as I try to do the best I can to make the Holiday as much of a fun one as I can for my family, despite our circumstances.

October 28th, 2015

The Hour is Late...

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Sonic Screwdriver
And so I sit here surfing and typing.

Late night when all other humans are in bed tend to be when I get to sit and relax. Having a little boy who is very daddy centric keeps my late afternoons and evenings busy alongside dinner and other chores. Tonight we actually got to paint a pumpkin. Of course he has the attention span of a 3 year old, but for the short time he did it it was beautiful. I love my little guy :-)

But now I get to sit, surf, and have cats on me. One on my legs, the other between me and the laptop.

I think I have said this before, but after a long day, by this time it is tough for me to focus or even choose to do something. I feel I need to relax with a hobby or read but it's so late I don't feel like pulling anything out to work on or read. It's a rut I need to get out of. Or perhaps I need to make sure I set aside time during the day when I am home alone to do one of those things, pull myself away from all of the chores and errands that need to be done and I seemingly am the only who ever does them

However I do make sure I get some good stretching in. I don't get to exercise like I used to but I make sure I get stretching in.

I'm rambling. Time for bed.

October 26th, 2015

Many years ago I posted how I love the Holiday Season but putting calendars out in early July was pushing it. With the Holiday Season upon us again, I wanted to reflect on some things.

Since I posted that over 11 years ago, I have been divorced, we sold the house (an awesome house, I miss it), lived singly and alone for the first time in my life (small apartment but a great neighborhood, where I wish to live again), changed many things about myself like losing weight and getting regular exercise, found a great many new friends thanks to the ren faire, married again, became a parent again, gained and lost various jobs. But through it all I have not lost my love of the Holiday Season. It is so much fun! Yes, the days are shorter and colder but that doesn't matter.

An aside here: I define the "Holiday Season" as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

Even with our small apartment I try my best to decorate and celebrate. I need to be careful since we do have a 3 year old. We have lights and other decorations in the front windows. Thanks to my plentiful time at home due to being laid off again we have made a lot of space by purging, donating, throwing stuff out, and reorganizing. What was once a room used for storage is now our diningroom, where I sit now, with music playing. So this year we can sit at a table to have Thanksgiving Dinner instead of on the couch (which we don't have any more anyway). Later today I'll start on this year's entry into the PPG gingerbread display.

Now as then I am still called a Clark Griswold. While many people roll their eyes when the Holiday stuff goes up in stores and when the PPG ice rink starts being assembled I internally squee with glee. I pay attention to the countdowns to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I look longingly at the boxes of Christmas Decorations and wish we had a house so I could use them all. I make Fall and Holiday Season photo albums on Facebook every year. I listen to Christmas music when no one else is around. When I look at houses I'd like to have one my criteria is how well can I decorate it for the Holidays. I love walking through neighborhoods and looking at decorated houses. I make sure I get to each year's Halloween Hafla. The train displays that go up in so many places each year.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve each year I visit the graves of my parents. I light my mom's memorial candle (dad's cemetery doesn't allow them) on both, and on Christmas I place a wreath on both.

Even though it is the end of the Holiday Season, I look forward to the New Years Concert from Vienna. I even watch previous years on YouTube occasionally. Oh how I would love to attend one! But it's just not in the wallet. The distance and the cost of tickets, plus it's a lottery who gets tickets because the popularity of the concert. So I'll just stick to listening and watching on my local Classical music station and PBS affiliate.

Now to start that gingerbread display.

October 15th, 2015

Now What Was I Here To Do?

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house, christmas
One of the most annoying things about having so much to do is keeping track of it all.

Yes, I am currently unemployed, but I am far from sitting on my rear. Usually the only times I sit down are to have a meal or to do something on the computer. Otherwise I am on my feet.

One of the major projects my wife and I are doing is purging and organizing. I have made a few trips to Goodwill to donate, and I am sure to make a few more. It is truly wonderful to be going through boxes of stuff, and seeing how much we don't need or no longer need. Even my older son helped. When I came across 4 boxes of his stuff I put them in his bedroom so the next time he was with us for a weekend he could go through them. He did without hesitation, and found most of the stuff he no longer wanted. He didn't look closely, he missed a few things he would want. I then went through the boxes, throwing out some stuff. The rest cane be donated or saved for when his little brother is old enough.

The project has also allowed us to convert a bedroom we had been using as a storage space into a diningroom. That is one of the most wonderful parts of this project, if not the most wonderful. We needed space to set up a table to have our meals. Since we got stuck living where we live we haven't had the space, so we ate our meals on the couch, even on major Holidays.

Back to the point, there is so much to do. Besides this project there is taking care of our small son who has mild autism. The job search, the usual household chores and life errands, and keeping my aging car going. I finally ordered a new catalytic converter for the car. Unless I can figure out how to properly lift the car high enough to replace it myself I'll need to take it to a mechanic. As a close friend of mine reminded me for months after Snowmageddon, my car sits low to the ground.

There is also my interests I want to keep up on, like the effort to defeat aging (look up Aubrey De Grey and the SENS Foundation), astronomy, railroading, Star Trek, Tolkien, and of course my big issue to deal with, my gender dysphoria and need and desire to transition and all that goes with it.

My wife calls me the master list maker, for I am always making lists, usually shopping and to do lists. Even with lists I have a tough time keeping track of and remembering all I need and want to do. The last few years it seems what needs to get done has seriously ramped up. Perhaps I need to make sure I get more relaxing time. I hardly allow myself any, I am afraid some things will not get done that need to be done, and I have learned that unless I do some of them they will not get done. But that would probably help me a lot in remembering all that I need to do.

One of the things I need to do is actually go out with friends, either in boy or girl mode. Sans family. My wife has said that too. I don't see my friends (OK, being broke doesn't help).

I have hobby projects I want to do, but if my small son is home and awake that will never happen, he is too attached to me.

I could go on and on with this but I'll stop here. I am tired and my mind will wander and I will go on and on and on...
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