All-star pity party.

I thought things were going poorly but one of my favorite greasy burger joints is closed because the proprietress (who I thought wasn’t too much older than me) has passed away. Condolences to her family. When I went it was all family there. Her dad was at the front counter. Her daughter, who must be out of high school by now (or maybe even college) would play the flute for one of my co-workers, a dude with blue hair. Farewell Kim and Red Coach restaurant.

So what’s been going on in my life? I can’t think beyond the last week, which started with work troubles that weren’t anything that I could do anything about but that still meant three 2-hour meetings on Friday, two 2+hour meetings on Monday (one starting at 8PM) and countless emails and phone calls.

Then Wednesday the dental hygienist told me fat guys like me need to watch out for Type II Diabetes and then gave me the most painful tooth cleaning I’ve had.

Then Friday I flew to Spokane for my aunt’s funeral. When I arrived at the Buddhist church, I found out I had to speak at the funeral. On the return trip our family friend insisted that we didn’t need to arrive at the tiny Spokane airport too early, but 30 minutes early is 10 minutes too late for Horizon Air and we were bumped off of our flight. My mom got the last seat on our original 5:10 flight and had to take a $52 taxi ride back home. I had to buy a $55 cell phone charger (thanks to Spokane’s awful cell phone coverage) so I could try to check all my options for getting home, but finally did make it onto the last flight back to town at 7:30PM.

Then Sunday was ruined because it was prep day for a Monday endoscopy/colonoscopy, where the result was directions from the doctor to avoid fried foods, chocolate, coffee, mint, and alcohol. (My sister’s comment was, “Well, maybe you can avoid mint.”) My mom also got sick on Sunday and she’s either asleep or moaning and wailing because she says making pitiful noises comfort her. It’s not the most pleasant thing to listen to.

Oh, and I think the sedation they used for me on Monday is making me overly sleepy today. I just don’t feel right.

I should expect something good to happen soon to counterbalance this all, but it’s Tuesday and I can’t seem to get the hang of Tuesdays lately. Maybe I’ll just order myself something on Amazon and call it good.

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I am a washing machine repair man.

I would say something about the “football game” I saw today but apparently the Denver Broncos decided they weren’t willing to play football and the Seachickens got to run up and down the field for an hour. I also found out that the Red Hot Chili Peppers haven’t changed much in 20 years but my fondness for their one hit song has diminished. I would go back to reading the book I’m in the middle of, but it’s really poorly written and the protagonist needs to be punched in the throat.

Back to the washing machine thing. I bought my mom a fancy Kenmore high-efficiency washing machine years ago and yesterday it started blinking an error code instead of washing clothes. So what does a guy do?

  1. Put the error code into Google.
  2. Read some instructions for fixing the error.
  3. Watch a YouTube video on how to take apart the tricky bits.
  4. Order the part (an electromechanical door latch) on Amazon.

I really wanted to just drive to the neighborhood in Portland known as “Felony Flats” and just buy the part that was broken (probably paying a premium for it at the Sears Parts Outlet) but they closed the parts store there and the closest one is in the state capital, at least an hour away. So, I ended up buying it on Amazon.

Oddly enough, the first thing Google told me to do was to open the bottom panel and fish out a piece of paper with repair instructions on it. Sure enough, there was big folded-up sheet of paper with instructions in several languages on how to troubleshoot problems. I’m not sure why they do’t just have thick repair manuals like cars do, but it was a nice surprise.

I hope the door latch comes soon and fixes things. My mom told me she only has enough underwear to last her a week at a time and so she’s going to have to wear the same things for multiple days. I think I can go several weeks at a time, myself.

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I’m “special”

I did it. I drank myself into a Starbucks Gold Card. The worst part about it isn’t all the Starbucks coffee that’s gotten tastier since I had it last: now I know how truly awful the coffee at work is. The Gold Card gets me a free drink every 12 purchases, but even more important, it lets me make 30 more purchases before it expires next January if I want to “stay gold”. Well, I won’t say it’s the worst hobby I’ve had.

Yesterday I made a bit of a mistake, though. I said, “I want a tall, er, Grande Americano.” They heard that as, “I want a Quad Grande Americano.” I thought that might get me overly awake at work, but that wasn’t the case. And it was tasty.

I’ve been trying to take it easy this week after an awful cramp at the gym last Saturday. I was doing burpee pull-ups and when I tried to do a second one, I felt like someone was stabbing me in my side. I’m pretty sure it was my rotator cuff, where it anchors to my back. I couldn’t stand up straight and was lying on the ground or hunched over for quite some time. I had to get help to reach a foam roller, but even then I couldn’t find any knots. The pain subsided a little and I went home to start looking for open massage appointments and many could be scheduled on-the-line. The best part was I found a great massage therapist just down the street. I was completely pain-free by Tuesday but I decided since, as my sister says, I’m a “f*cking spaz,” I should just lay low for the rest of the week.

Oh, and coincidentally, Monday was also my buddy Il’s birthday and so my week of rest started out with some extreme gluttony at the Ringside. It was glorious.

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Stupid new projects.

I think the customer loyalty programs are playing me for a fool.

I pay a bunch of money to American Express, mostly so I can get into airport lounges. I never travel by myself, so it was nice that they let me bring two people, my mom and my sister. I’ve only used things at Delta lounges and now Delta has limited it “effective immediately” to just me.

Starbucks sent me an email yesterday about a free drink at 12:03AM. I went it about 12:50PM, just after lunch, and checked the Starbucks app on my iPhone and it said my reward had expired. I wondered what timezone I was supposed to be in. I finally figured out several things.

  1. Starbucks gives me rewards and doesn’t warn me even though they have my email address and my cell phone number as well as an app that could send notifications if it was programmed properly.
  2. When Starbucks says something is expiring on 1/9, they mean that as soon as it turns 1/9 then it’s expiring. You can’t use it on 1/9 like everybody else on the planet would think.
  3. Starbucks can send you email for free stuff at the same time they have random things you don’t know that you even had expiring, confusing everything.
  4. Starbucks isn’t a nice touchy-feely company that would say, eh, it’s just a coffee, have one on us since we’re so confusing in our rules. (I emailed for clarification.) On the other hand Peet’s is.
Of course I’m still suckered into those loyalty programs and probably won’t be quitting in a huff, especially since they already have me already.
 
I ordered the ultrasonic dish I was mentioning before. It was about $170. I figured it is cheaper than my new obsession, which is to get a good microphone, a professional mixer, and see what my voice sounds like. I just realized I could just use the recorder I bought, but I’ve already told a guy that I want to buy his Shure SM55.
 
And I thought it was stupid to go to Radio Shack to buy this thing for $15 that plugged into a small computer (Japanino Arduino variant) I already had. It was a lot more fun than I thought.
 

 

The only secret to getting the Japanino working: go to http://www.silabs.com and get the driver for the CP2104 USB-to-UART controller.

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My odd obsessions.

You’d think this was going to be more exciting than it is, but I’m thinking of two odd things that I’m kind of obsessed with right now. One is trying to find the source of the power line noise that makes my ham radio useless. I bought a $150 direction-finding antenna/radio for finding radio interference and even build my own homemade antenna, but I keep needing more and more gadgets to try to pinpoint where the noise is coming from. It’s a lot easier when you can tell the power company the number of the pole and the reasons you’ve narrowed it down to that pole. Next on my list is an ultrasonic detector. Ultrasonic detectors are used to listen for gas leaks or bats, but they’re also good at pinpointing the sound of arcing on power lines. I’ve bought parts and pieces to build my own ultrasonic detector but I still don’t have all the parts yet. I think I may just buy one pre-made and experiment with the bits later.

I also get tricked into customer loyalty programs. If I drink 100 different beers at the Mellow Mushroom, I get a special glass with my name on it and I’m up to 49 or so. I’ve had most of the “good” beers on the list and I may have to start on things like Coors Lite. I’m exaggerating, of course, but it may get to that point if I get closer to 100. I’m also trying to buy 30 coffees at Starbucks this month to get to “gold” status there. The coffee has gotten better lately and is not the awful burnt stuff I remember so it isn’t as painful as you’d think. Starbucks also is supposed to give their employees benefits, which I should wholeheartedly support. But I’m not sure what “gold” status will really get me. It’s another one of those things I’m just going to have to experience for myself. I am the sucker with an American Express Platinum Card, after all, and that started with Green in college, Gold sometime afterwards, and Platinum after I decided it might be good for international travel.

Yes, I am just putting it out there that I’m a sucker.

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Happy New Year!

How does an old guy spend New Year’s Eve? In bed by 11PM. Since this is a blog full of an old guy complaining about his ailments, I can tell you about the cold that seems to leave me tired during the day but unable to sleep at night. At least I got my ‘flu shot this year and I’m not suffering from H1N1 like many people are. Instead it’s random fits of coughing. It’s not as bad as people who really got sick. Most of the time it was more like the hiccups.

But here it is, 2014 and I should have something to show for it, right? Some introspection about the past year and some resolutions for for the new year? Instead I’m just coughing, 10 pounds over where I think I started the year, and spending most of my time just shuffling to and from work. And I’m about to hit the big Five-O. One of my classmates said we should use that as an excuse to go to Hawaii, and why not? I haven’t been there since I was Five.

So, my resolutions. Ask someone out. I know how that’ll end up. Start playing the fiddle again (which I quit when my mom was hospitalized). Lose some weight (which I gained back when I realized the only one who saw all the gains and the actual abdominal definition was my doctor). And, realistically, call my insurance back and figure out what the password to my account is without getting horribly irate at the telephone robot maze that they have. I mean, seriously, when I had the option to talk to “mental health resources” I almost selected that to ask why I was so goddamn incensed that I had to go through all the voice prompts just to find out that the real human operators were gone for the night just twenty minutes before I decided to call?

I should come up with some more interesting and realistic choices. Blogging more often so both of you can read my ramblings. You know who you are. Blogging about technical stuff so when someone else googles for questions they can come up with the answers that took me hours to find (if google even finds my stuff, they just seem like it’s all paid ads just like Facebook). Or maybe I should start gardening or something, just to get the hell out of my room.

Well, I suppose that’s it. I never did find out what the fox says and it’s another year. Happy (arbitrary demarcation of a) New Year and it’s time to start anew.

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Things that work and things that don’t.

Did I mention that my bathroom scale broke and I finally bought another one? It appears that I’m up at least five pounds, though my doctor today said I look fine. I suppose he’s the only one who ever sees me with my shirt off, but he also only sees sick people.

I must say that two weeks after getting the Nest working it seems to be working just fine. A little too well, since the thermostat is in a room that we don’t go through that often and it thinks we’re out a lot of the times. You just have to walk around through that room and it figures out you’re not out. I think it’s probably a good thing, really.

I was bragging that I didn’t buy anything on Black Friday but I think I lied. I bought a light bulb, several electrical boxes, and a bore scope. I thought I’d use the bore scope to look around inside the ceiling to put in some smoke alarms, but I got very, very lazy instead. Heck, it took an hour to put in the one where I had access to the crawlspace above it which involved some crawling around in an attic. But now my 2nd floor has two smoke detectors and one combo smoke/carbon monoxide detector. The basement has a carbon monoxide detector now. And I still have to put in two smoke detectors and one smoke/CO detector on the first floor.

On that weekend I also bought an Apple TV. I think I’ve been duped, though. I just watched “The Expendables 2” on it and thought the image was kind of crappy. So I switched to my Chromecast, which was much cheaper and simpler and the picture was much better. Sheesh. I sure hope the iTunes movies look better.

Oh, and the fat guy (me) also didn’t go to the gym today. I feel sore and tired and isn’t that a good reason to take an extra day off? It’s also 32ºF outside which is nothing for most people but butt-cold for an Oregonian. It’s even supposed to be down in the teens this week. If I wanted to live somewhere that cold, I’d move to Canada or Nebraska or something. Yeesh.

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Fat, lazy, and tired.

I am more tired than I ought to be. I think it’s probably all the time I spent the last two evenings trying to get my furnace back working. The morning after I thought I had everything working I found out that after the gas heat never turned on (it’s supposed to switch from the heat pump to the gas furnace when it gets cold outside). I changed the switchover temperature so the heat pump worked at colder temperatures.

I called the owner of the HVAC company and he told me that he’d have someone come by. The HVAC tech added one wire to make the gas furnace run at two levels. When I got home, the vents were pumping out cold air. I found I could get the gas heat on, but the heat pump would never switch to heat. I talked to the tech and the owner of the HVAC company and they the reversing valve was energized in cooling rather than heat.

So, I called Nest. I was on the phone with Nest for 3½ hours. Turns out they lost a call center and the first-line support was not that great. She tried to make me call back once (no way in hell I was going to wait on hold for another hour to get back to a human) and also told me to have the tech call instead (no way in hell the tech was going to wait on hold for an hour just to talk to someone). When she said to send her a picture and call back I asked to talk to her manager.

Fortunately, instead of the manager she sent me to second-tier support. The second-tier support seemed skeptical for a while but he got the troubleshooting bug and we tried a bunch of things. We found we could get the furnace running without any controller and rewiring the Nest revealed the big problem: the Nest itself was broken and couldn’t switch to heat! It also started thinking it was 15ºF warmer than it really was.

9PM was too late to get a replacement and it was the coldest night of the year so far. Fortunately, the gas heat still worked. Amazon’s return policy is spectacular and Home Depot sells them locally for the exact same price. Today, two days after the ordeal started, I have a working heater again.

I am pooped.

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I am a big fat lazy pig.

I’be been away from the gym for over two weeks and I was about to go today but I thought I could install a Nest thermostat before I went. How hard could it be? The guy who sold me my furnace said he had one and it wasn’t much of a problem. There’s only three wires going from the furnace to the old Honeywell thermostat that seems to be going on the fritz just four or five years since it was installed.

FIVE HOURS LATER, the thermostat appears to be working fine. After hooking up the three wires, I got an error code from the Nest. I did what it told me to do and called Nest technical support. After about 45 minutes on hold, I took a chance and called the guy who installed my furnace. We both went to the same gear head high school and he told me how to wire my furnace, completely bypassing the control unit that’s bolted to the side of the furnace. Unfortunately that required running some new wiring, and finding multi-wire thermostat cable took a trip to Lowe’s and then a trip to Home Depot before I found it. While both were helpful, my favorite Home Depot even opened a Nest box to see if there were more instructions for me.

I think, finally, the Nest is wired right. It seems to know what kind of furnace I have. It seems to have turned the heat on. I can get to it over the internet.

However, I did miss going to the gym, and I still feel like a big fat lazy pig. Ah well, I suppose that’s not really a stretch.

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Japan Day 16

I said I think I drank too much, and it doesn’t take much to be too much when you’re old and when you’re traveling eastward. It was a very long Thursday. If you looked at the clock in Portland, we got up at 1PM Wednesday and didn’t sleep until Thursday night. I stayed up on the plane watching bad movies (a Japanese crime movie where most of the protagonist criminals die, “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “The Lone Ranger.”

But we started the day going to Tully’s for a change, to get the morning set there.

I wanted to get something to drink on the way back to the hotel and I found the Hot Ginger Ale they were advertising. It was pretty good.

We got on the Narita Express train for Narita Airport, and that takes about an hour.

We took my mom to our yearly lunch at Fujiya. There was an awful lot of spaghetti hiding on that plate.

My mom and sis cleaned their plates.

And then it was onto the plane where I watched all those movies and had to keep getting up to use the bathroom. Fortunately, I had an aisle seat. And then it was back to Portland where they have the Global Entry kiosks set up  That just meant I didn’t stand in line to go through immigrations but had to stand around a really long time to get my bags.

And back to Portland coffee. They even had refills!

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Japan Day 15

Well I just got back from dinner with my old co-worker Suzuki-san, so let me just say it’s time to post some pictures and edit them later.

Now its two days or so later and I’m actually at home. The intarweb connection at the hotel in Tokyo was so spotty that I couldn’t upload these pictures!

Our last full day in Tokyo, I found a large purchase I’ve wanted to make. But besides that, we met my sister’s friend for lunch and she was HILARIOUS. Most people I know in finance drink a bit more than I do and have bigger adventures. It’s the best when those people have fun stories to tell to go along with those adventures. We went to a matcha restaurant in Kinshicho where I had taco rice.

I honestly don’t remember what my mom had. Avocado maguro maybe?

Of course the matcha desserts were great. My mom was having shiruko with shiratama and I had the frozen matcha and ice cream drink. That giant parfait is what my sister had. You’d think it was warm, but it went from 72ºF to 50ºF in three days on our trip. It’s never been that cold on one of my Japan trips. I actually bought some fleece and a hoodie at Uniqlo but sent it to the airport ahead of us because I didn’t think it would be that cold. I ended up buying a Heattech sweater and a knit cap. That, of course, didn’t stop us from getting these cold desserts.

My sister and her friend went to do some shopping and I was planning to take my mom to Katsushika. But we weren’t as far out as I thought and we went for a quick stroll through Asakusa instead. The big lantern at the kaminarimon wasn’t there, but everything else was. 

We got on the subway to go back and I thought we should make one more sightseeing stop as long as we were out. I was thinking of going to Iidabashi where my mom took classes to be able to work in an orphanage, but I noticed that we could get off the subway, hit the Kanda shrine, and get on the JR Chuo line without much walking. Of course I forgot and took her on the route that had the “men’s stairs”.

Kanda shrine is just a little ways from Akihabara and is quite pretty.

Here’s a painting of an old Tokyo festival that my mom stopped to look at.

On the way from Kanda Shrine to Ochanomizu station is the old Confucian school where the samurai sent their children to study. We didn’t go in, but it was impressive to see nevertheless.

After that I went to buy a watch that was expensive enough that most people would think “you paid what for what now?” But I’ve been talking about it for years and guys usually only have two pieces of jewelry, a watch and a wedding band. No wedding band for me, so you know how it is. In any case, I’ve been looking all over for a Grand Seiko and finally found two OK ones that were discounted 15% at the certain stores, but the one I really wanted was only available at department stores and was full price. Then I went to a Seiko “Master Shop”  and saw something that I hadn’t seen anywhere else and I decided it was either that or nothing, leaning towards the nothing because of the price. But I finally decided to get this watch. I knew I could get the 5% sales tax back, but  if you also became a new point card holder you could get 15% off your purchases. So it went from very ridiculously expensive to just ridiculously expensive.

Then it was off to have dinner with my old co-worker, Suzuki-san. He’s been out of work for a year (he got 3 years pay for a voluntary separation package) and so he’s been living a life of leisure. And by that I mean he’s been doing almost nothing and needs to get out more. But I see him every year and that’s always fun. We went out to an Okinawan restaurant where I think we had fried crocodile. I also drank a bit too much, but it was fun.

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Japan Day 14

I’m not sleeping a lot in Tokyo. It’s much louder here and my hotel room makes weird noises what with the ductless air conditioner (that’s off but making a racket) and the Plasmacluster humidifier going bloop-bloop all night. We went to Paul Basset for breakfast, like we usually do, and had some of the best coffee so far on the trip.

I finally was early enough to get the quiche!

We met my sister’s friend in Shibuya and she took us to this weird sushi store where you order on a touch-screen. 

There should be a video here of the sushi coming down the track but you may have to check back in several days when I have time to fix it.

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Most of the rest of the day was spent wandering around Shinjuku. For dinner we met my sister’s high school classmate Chico and her mom. Dr. Hayasaki (and my dad) passed away several years ago, so unfortunately it couldn’t be a full reunion. The last time we met Mrs. Hayasaki was around the year 2000.

Here’s a series of pictures of what a fancy dinner at the Isetan department store looks like.

 

 

I switched to tea and for some reason I got bottled tea instead of the normal tea everyone else had.

 

Salmon and roe with eggs.

Crab on rice.

 

Yeah, they wouldn’t just give us ONE dessert. 

Finally, some tea with salt to get the sweet taste from overpowering your taste buds.

And there you go!

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