dxmachina: (Hobbes)
It was the best of times, it was the... well, not the worst of times, but there were parts of 2013 that weren't so good.

The year in review... )


dxmachina: (Hangover)
I spent New Year's Eve with friends, playing Apples to Apples and singing along (badly) while the kids played "We Got the Beat" in Rock Band. And feeling awful for Dick Clark.

Despite the lack of resolutions last New Year's, I managed to accomplish a couple of worthwhile things this past year. For one, even though I gained some weight back last winter, by the end of the year was I was a few pounds net to the good, so that's something.

The other thing is that for the first time in 25 years I have no credit card debt to speak of. I paid them off in June, and have since been able to not only pay off the balance every month, but also bank the money that I'd been previously putting towards payments. The only debt I am currently carrying is the mortgage on the house (which is about half of the current assessed value). My 401K is recovering from the recent unpleasantness, and just to add a cherry on top of the year, for Christmas my father gave each of my sibs and me a chunk of stock in the company the family business represents.

I have never had much of a head for money. I've also never been one to whom wealth was particularly important. Fortunately, I've almost always had a job that paid me enough to live comfortably. Where I got into trouble over the years was in frittering away what I could've been using to make myself even more comfortable on credit card interest and such like. I think I'm finally learning. On the other hand, money can't buy me love.

Other than those things, though, not much happened. Mostly I went to work, rattled around the house, or rode one of my bikes. I rode more than 1600 miles, my second best total ever. Probably could've beaten the old best, too, if I hadn't wussed out the last couple of months because of the cold weather.

So, the year gone by wasn't particularly exciting, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I know people who had terrible years, and that makes me feel lucky to live such an uninteresting life.
dxmachina: (Bike Snow)
I'm sitting here with my coffee while waiting for the feeling to return to my toes. I rode my bike this morning, even though it was below freezing outside. It wasn't really my choice. I had to drop my truck off at the shop for some work (the heater stopped working this week, natch, among other things), and rather than hang around the waiting room for hours and hours, I figured I could tough out the ride back and forth.

It wasn't awful. I dressed properly, and apart from my toes (and around my eyes, early on) it was warm enough. Being early Saturday morning, there wasn't much traffic, and had it been warmer it would've been a pleasant ride.

The bike was less happy about things. It stays in the back of the truck when not in use, so it was very cold when I hauled it out. The biggest issue was that the rear derailleur wasn't moving at all, so I couldn't do any shifting with it, at least at first. The front derailleur worked, so I was able to use that to do very rough changes, and fortunately the first part of the ride was mostly flat. After a mile or so, the rear hub warmed up some, and the derailleur started working again. Sort of. There were still a few unannounced gear changes along the way. Anyway, I made it home (5½ mi), and the ride back should be a little warmer as it's supposed to get up into the forties today. As long as it's before sunset.

This morning's ride was the first time I'd been on the bike in almost a month. It's been too cold for comfort. I haven't been on the stationary bike much, either, which I need to change going forward.

---
Yikes! Just got a call from the shop. Repairs are going to be close to a grand (new radiator, new wheel bearing, new differential cover). Merry frelling Christmas!

---
Speaking of Christmas, I started in on my annual trufflemania. I had yesterday off, so since Thursday night I've managed to make 7 types of centers already, and I should be able to finish off the rest today, barring another unfortunate drop-the-cream-cheese-on-the-floor incident*. I may even start coating tomorrow. That's way ahead of where I usually am this time of year. On the other hand, I haven't even thought of a design for a Christmas card yet, much less begun production of same, so there's that.

* For family members who may happen to read this, no, I did not attempt to wipe it off and use it anyway. Even if it would've been fine, which it was when I had some of it on my toast this morning.

Also, with regards to truffles, I added one more flavor last year, but apparently never bothered to write it down, so here it is (the base recipe is here, and some additional flavors are here):

vanilla centers -

chips: white chocolate chips**
flavoring: 1½ tsp of French vanilla extract***

coating: milk chocolate

** A careful reading of the ingredient list for Nestle's Premier White Morsels (note the missing word) informs me that they do not, in fact, contain any chocolate or cocoa butter whatsoever.

*** For the record, French vanilla should not be a flavor. It's a style of vanilla ice cream made in the French manner, i.e., from an egg custard. That's why it's richer and yellower than normal vanilla ice cream, not from anything having to do with the vanilla itself. It really ought to apply only to ice cream. <Takes an ironic sip from his cup of French vanilla flavored coffee...>

---
Other stuff. I caught a bad cold the day before Thanksgiving, so I missed the family dinner for the first time in my life. That sucked. Took about ten days to finally shake the cold, too.

---
Toes have warmed up. Time to make some more truffles.
dxmachina: (Bike 02)
I rode all three mornings, Saturday and Sunday in Kingston, today up at Blackstone with friends.

I've taken to riding early on Saturdays so that I can do whatever chores I need to do after I ride, rather than before, which leads to tuckered-out rides. Given the forecast, i.e., lovely on Saturday, blistering after that, I did my annual July 4th trimming of the shrubs Saturday afternoon. It was still hot, messy work, but it wasn't baking hot nor terribly humid, so it worked out.

The basic problem is that the previous owner let most the shrubs get too big. The hedge on the north side of the house is perfectly sized, and the shrubs on the south side aren't ridiculous, although perhaps there are too many, but the junipers, yews, and even my beloved small-leaf rhododendrons out front are all my height or better. The yews are tall enough to partially block the view from the windows behind them. I can't really cut them shorter, because the leaves end not far behind the new growth, and because they also got too wide, so the sides the plants that face other plants are completely barren of foliage. All six of them are pretty much hollow.

I don't even like the junipers, as I get a mild allergic reaction if I get scratched by one, and although I don't mind the yews, they're just too damn big. The problem is that if I cut them out of there, I'm left with two rhododendrons that will flower gloriously come spring in front and on top, but not at all on their sides. To do it properly, I probably need to take them out, too. Sigh.

Anyway, after several hours of wielding my electric hedge trimmer as though it were Excalibur against the shrubs that say Ni, they were trimmed for another year. Actually, I got a little over zealous here and there, and there are some definite bare spots where I went a little beyond removing current growth.

---
Sunday after the ride* but before it got ridiculously hot, I pulled out the loppers and my camp saw to do battle with the part of the evil thicket that was encroaching on the SE corner of the yard. Spent about an hour working on that, then continued training the tomato plants to their stakes. I have lots on teensy green tomatoes on the way, and even one tiny spaghetti squash so far.

* I rode the now well-adjusted 3-speed, and it worked flawlessly. I'm still surprised, though, at how badly it managed to get itself out of adjustment just hanging from a hook in the attic for the last year or so.

Afterward, I spent some quality time down in the basement organizing and cleaning up matted sawdust. Then I repaired to the a/c in the office to enter utilities and pay stubs for the last nine months into gnuCash. Still much to be done on both projects.

---
Today, as previously mentioned, I went for a ride on the Blackstone path with part of the v-ball crew. Apart from Blake, none of them had ever been before, so that was fun. It was blistering hot, which suppressed the usual pack of strollers, pedestrians, and other speed bumps from blocking the path. (I will note, however, that since we were constantly stopping to wait for the slower members of the group to catch up, we often became speed bumps ourselves.) Later we went back to Dale's for a pool party and barbecue which was great fun. Fun fact: wasps will catch crickets and haul them back to their nests for dinner. I know this because the nest in question turned out to be in the tubular steel chaise immediately to my left as I sat talking to Christina, who was sitting in the aforementioned chaise. Fortunately, the wasps turned out to be too stuffed with cricket to do much more than glower at us as Chris noisily vacated the chaise.

---
The one tiny silver lining to the temperatures was that it never got particularly humid (31% yesterday, 50-60% today, not Arizona, but neither was it business as usual for the Northeast). Tomorrow it's supposed to be even hotter. Yikes!

---
I didn't go to any particular fireworks display, since a couple of my neighbors put on pretty decent displays in their own backyards. This year Rhode Island rescinded the statewide ban on private possession of fireworks (a state felony). They had been banned in the late seventies after a couple of well-publicized accidents involving children. It didn't help that Connecticut legalized them a couple of years ago, and that there was a store just over the border on 95. Now you can get them in Wal-Mart and even Stop&Shop. The fact that it had been a felony had never actually stopped the displays in the past. They've been going on for the ten years I've lived in this neighborhood, throughout most of the summer.
dxmachina: (Snoopy Dance)
Haven't watched any of the Super Bowl except for occasional score checks, but I did catch Pete and Roger do the CSI trifecta at halftime in honor of their corporate masters. Instead I did my federal taxes, which have been filed. Tomorrow I'll do my state taxes.

Just checked the score. Wow! The Saints seem to have taken command. WHO DAT!
dxmachina: (Writing 01)
So, I've sort let things slide as far as recording financial transactions and stuff in GnuCash for a little while. Like, for a year and a half. Meanwhile, I've been stashing my receipts here and there around Casa Machina. This weekend I finally decided to do something about it.

I started by upgrading GnuCash to the latest version. GnuCash is an open source personal finance program that I like a lot. I never used Quicken, but I had used to use an early version of Microsoft Money (circa 1995), and I like this a lot better. It's available for multiple platforms, has great tutorials, and is free. When I started using it, the Windows version was still in beta, but I never had any problems. The Windows version came out of beta about the time I started slacking off. GnuCash can import Quicken, Money, and csv files, and when I was originally setting up my accounts, I just downloaded the information from my online accounts and imported it. I suppose I could've updated everything by doing that, but I also remember that I still had to spend a lot of time manually going through the transactions to categorize them, along with translating the bank speak in the descriptions into something I could recognize (i.e., replace incomprehensible abbreviations with actual words). I figured as long as I'd have to manipulate them anyway, I might as well enter them by hand.

Saturday I rummaged around for the receipts, then sorted them all into little piles by month. Yesterday I managed to get the last six months of 2007 entered and reconciled. Tonight I started in on 2008, and got January and February into the system. So far, there's only been one charge for which I couldn't find a receipt, and I remembered buying the dinner in question. More problematic are assorted eBay and Amazon transactions, most of which have to be tracked down by rooting about in the depths of my email program, but although it takes time, I've been able to find them all. With a little luck, I should be up to date by the weekend.
dxmachina: (Rain)
Some men drink to forget; I play games on the computer. Spent most of the weekend directing an armored battalion from Normandy to the suburbs of Paris in Steel Panthers. Didn't ride my bike at all, although the only day the weather actually allowed me a choice in the matter was today, and I couldn't be arsed. The weather people have been recycling the same damn forecast every damn day for the last couple of weeks — hazy and humid with a chance of showers.

---
I did get one thing accomplished. I finally got around to installing the ceiling fan I bought last October. I got it to replace a much older fan I'd installed in the back room. The old fan worked, but it buzzed loudly. The new one wasn't ideal. For one thing, it was all white. The old one was polished brass. Alas, the fittings weren't interchangeable. So I bought a can of bright gold spray paint and made the thing look like brass. Sort of. It's not as shiny as the polished brass (attempts to polish just removed the paint — I should've primed it, I suppose), but it looks way better than white on a white ceiling. Sadly, it is not whisper quiet. Or if it is, "whisper quiet" should not use as a reference the volume of a "whisper" uttered by rude people at a movie theatre. There's a hum. Not happy about that. Also, it makes me realize exactly how much smaller the back room is compared the the bedroom in my old apartment. That house had 9' ceilings, and the room was 14' x 12'. The back room is 11' x 10' with a 93" ceiling. The low ceiling is the main thing. I feel like Charlie and Grandfather at the top of the fizzy-lifting silo with the fan about to chop me into hamburger.

The other weird thing about this fan is that it has a custom sized socket for the light bulb. It's about half the diameter of a standard bulb socket, but bigger than a Christmas light socket. Another specialty bulb to keep track of. I'm guessing they don't make compact fluorescents in that size, either.

---
Mad Money... )

Taxman

Mar. 26th, 2005 10:50 pm
dxmachina: (Opus)
It was very bright and sunny out today. The temperatures never got out of the forties, but it was sunny enough to open the front door to allow the sunshine to stream in through the storm door. There is still some snow on the ground, but I'm beginning to think we may finally be rid of it soon. Next weekend daylight savings starts.

The sunshine helped energize me, even though I was inside cleaning most of the day. I actually got stuff accomplished. I did a couple of loads of laundry later on, and finished the day by doing my taxes. I used TurboTax online to e-file my federal taxes (for free!), and then plugged the numbers into my state return, which I will mail tomorrow. I could've e-filed that as well, but Intuit wanted $25 to do it, which is pretty exorbitant considering the RI return is a single sheet with exactly two numbers that aren't copied directly from the federal return. Pass. I'll be getting decent refunds from both. Woo! <Does the dance of impending money>.

Tomorrow is Easter, and I'll be heading to #2 Sister's house in NJ for dinner with the family. That should be fun.
dxmachina: (Default)
Almost got nibbled to death by ducks today. Doing bills this morning I noticed a 'check returned unpaid' charge on my credit card statement, plus a late fee because there was no payment. I made the payment through the credit card company's website, which I have done before with no problems. I checked my bank statement; there was plenty of money to cover the payment. WTF? I called the credit card company, and they told me that the reason was that the bank told them that my checking account was closed! Double WTF!?! I know the account is open - I can access it on the net. I know the account info that I gave the credit card company is correct, because I doublechecked that on the net, too. The rep said they would investigate and get back to me.

Then, I was mowing the lawn, and the lawn mower ran out of gas. And there was none in the gas can. I knew that beforehand, but I forgot to bring the can with me this week to get it filled. So I had to drive to the gas station to fill up the gan so I could finish mowing. Did I mention that I filled up my car yesterday?

Went to the gas station, and decided to pick up a sandwich at the sub shop next door. Ordered a medium sandwich and a soda, and the cashier said "$11.72," so I handed him a twenty, and he started to hand me back the change when it dawned on me that there was no way my meal cost that much. Turns out he had charged me for the guy ahead of me's meal as well. I decided at that point that it'd be best if I avoided using power tools for the rest of the day.

I actually had a very productive afternoon. I spent some quality time down in the cool of the basement with a box cutter, hacking up a bunch of empty cardboard boxes into recycleable sized pieces. This was long overdue. One of the boxes was for my lawnmower, which I bought two years ago. Did some laundry, and some straightening up as well. I also managed to fix two non-operating windows up in my attic. Yay me! Then I did seventeen miles on the bike at the bikepath, which, for a change, was mostly free of speed bumps other people. The only negative was that my right knee is still getting very stiff at the end of the ride.

Now if I can just get the laptop to talk to the network, everything would be just ducky!

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