Living Life

I just realized that this website has been down. I'm not sure how long that's been true. Probably since I had to reboot after the last round of updates I installed. Is it a big deal to me? Nope.

Of late, I haven't been posting much here. That is not to say that I haven't been writing or trying to learn new things. I've gone full force into writing in my physical journal. For about a month now, I've even been scheduling some time each weekend at my local coffee shop. Each Saturday and Sunday, I head there and get a small vanilla latte. Then, I write for a bit in my journal and read a chapter or two of a book. I find this very relaxing, which is a nice balance for days I don't go to work. And I like setting aside some time to just sit and think. I think it's definitely helping with my overall happiness. I also am liking the feeling of physically writing things down, much more than I enjoy typing in this blog. Perhaps that's because I'm on my laptop so much at work during the week. So having some non-digital or non-screen time is quite enjoyable.

This now leads me to think of what I want this blog to be. I'll have to think about this next week when I'm back at the coffee shop.

Random Thoughts

It's an early Sunday morning and I'm relaxing with a cup of coffee when I thought I'd post some random thoughts I've been having.

1. What's the point of this blog?
So, I really don't have a point. I love to read other people's blogs, so I thought I'd make my own. At first, it was just to learn how to set it up. But now, it's because I like having it. The most successful blogs have a general theme that they follow. Either most of the posts are about personal finance/becoming financially independent, woodworking, making, sewing, etc. My blog is not like that. I guess my entire blog is just a collection of random thoughts. More accurately though, I look at my blog as a place to put things that I want to remember. Since I only eat oatmeal when the weather gets cold, every fall I'm trying to remember how I made it the last year. Thus, I posted my recipe for oatmeal. If I spent a long time at work or at home, figuring out how to configure something on my computer, I'll write a post about it. It's a very satisfying feeling when I then google that same problem a year or two later and my own blog post shows in the results. This is also why I have the comments turned off. This is really just for me. The information here might be helpful to other people, which is why I let anyone read it. I have had a couple of people send me a tweet that they found something here useful and that's pretty cool. But I'm really not trying to build a community or gather people to a cause. And I find it hard to believe that anyone is really interested in what I've written here. Checking the analytics for my site, over the past month, I've averaged around 500 unique visitors per day. I'm guessing that the majority of these are bots for search engines. However, if you are a real person reading this blog, welcome! I hope you find something useful here.

(Nuts, it took me so long to login to my account to check the anayltics that I forgot what my other points were going to be. I'll see if I can jar the old memory to get the back to the front.)

Oh, right.
2. Cars. Since I've been tracking my expenses in software since 2004, I have a lot of information about where my money has gone. I was shocked to find out that since 2004, I've spent over $53,000 on cars. Ok, yes, if I average that over 12 years, it's only around $4400 per year. And two big chunks of that were in 2012, when I started getting a bunch of repair bills on my van and then sold it and used my sister's car (and made her car payment) while she was in Germany and then 2013 when she came back and I bought myself a car. But still, seeing that much money go to cars sort of bugs me. I'm happy to say that as of right now, in 2016, my car expenses are under $1800. I think I have to pay insurance at the end of the month, so I'll probably end up just under $2500 for the year, which does not sound too bad. I'd like to think that I'm getting more reasonable in driving. I have been biking a lot more. Though I will admit that I gave up biking to work somewhat early this year just because I didn't feel like doing it in the colder weather. Yes, I am a big wuss.

3. Gratitude. In addition to this blog, I also have been keeping a written journal. I'm doing this because I like the physical act of writing on paper. I also enjoy working with paper. I made personalized stationery as gifts a couple of years ago and recently I bound my own book. These were totally fun projects. So I decided to use a blank book that I had as a sort of journal. When I remember, I'm trying to include something I'm grateful for. I've read that keeping a gratitude journal helps with happiness and I'm inclined to agree. I haven't been doing this too long (a little over a month), but I am happier when I remember that life is good and I have a lot to be grateful for.

4. Cashflow. I've been increasing the contributions to my retirement accounts steadily over the past couple of years. It's been good because I've felt that I haven't really noticed that I'm bringing how less each month. However, over the past two months, I have felt like I've been a running out of cash a lot quicker than normal. Starting in January, I'll finally be maxing out what I can contribute. While I'll only be bringing home a couple of hundred dollars less than I am now, I have a feeling that it's finally going to start hurting a bit more. So one thing that I'm going to have to look at in my yearly review is what other expenses I can cut a little. I think I'm doing ok, but I feel like I'm still wasting a little money in certain places.

5. Election. I was hugely disappointed with the outcome, but I have accepted that Trump is the president. I don't think he'll be good for anyone in the world, but I'm hoping that he'll surprise me. And I've already made a contribution to the ACLU because I'm thinking they're going to be busy for the next few years.

This post is now long enough, so I'll stop. It's sort of blowing my mind that it's already December and that the year will be over soon. And while I still think that life is good, I'll be happy to see 2016 end.

Been A While

My summer has been pretty crazy with a big work conference that is finally over. My life is now my own again. Yay! I've been very behind in doing my monthly checking, but that's ok. The good news is that I don't have to go back to work for over a week. So I'm trying to do a bunch of projects around the house.

First up, I've never posted my video I made of the bookshelf that I made for a friend of mine's birthday. It's below.

That was a lot of fun to do and I want to do more woodworking. One thing though is that I broke my planer. It no longer will plane the really skinny pieces of lathe that I want to glue together. The thinnest I can plane a board is around 1". I think this is because the belt broke and when I fixed it, I must have broken something else. I ended up buying a new planer. It's a less expensive one, which is fine. I'm really just using it to clean up old, dirty wood. I have yet to set it up, so that will probably be one of my projects this week.

It's harvest time in my garden. I've already gotten boatloads of tomatoes. I've given a bunch to my brother and just took a bag full to my Mom today. So I need to research how to make tomato sauce that I can freeze because there's no way I could eat all of these before they go bad. Since the garden worked so well this year, I'll probably make another little area next year. Think I'd like to try to grow lettuce and spinach.

If I'm going to make xmas gifts for people this year, I need to start. And while I like the idea of making bookshelves for people, I don't want to give people a big piece of furniture. That seems a bit much. Anyway, I'm back to working with paper again. I've found some great youtube videos of how to make different types of books and bindings. That looks like fun, so I'll see if I can come up with something cool.

Though, I would still like to make some stuff out of wood because I finally got my brand. I did have a little bit of time to do something fun last month and I designed a brand for myself. I then sent it to Shapeways to get made in stainless steel. It just arrived the other day. I'm quite happy with it.

brand

Now I need to put a handle on it so I can heat it up and put my brand on things. I bought a threaded rod and a tap and die set today. Hopefully, I can drill a hole and put threads in it. Another project for this week. But once that's done, I should be able to brand just about anything.

Reading Again

Work was fast becoming overwhelming of late, so I have taken to quitting email when I leave work and not checking it again until I get back to the office to keep my sanity. And I've been trying to close my laptop up more and stay offline. For a short time, I feared I was addicted to the internet, but I'm pretty sure I'm not. I just like to read and I was reading a lot of stuff online. These days, I've started up my weekly (or every other weekly) visit to my local library. I've read a number of books and it makes me happy. Now that I've fully accepted that I should wear reading glasses, I'm happy again reading books.

This morning, I just finished on called "Resilience" by Eric Greitens. The guy is a former (are you not supposed to say former?) Navy Seal who is writing letters to a fellow seal who is having a tough time. This is the second time that I've read a book of letters and the format is growing on me. (The first was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I loved.) Anyway, the tag line is hard-won wisdom for living a better life. It's basically a bunch of philosophy, but pretty easy to understand. And while I'm not nor ever had any desire to be a Navy Seal or even in the military, I thought it was interesting. Plus, I'm a sucker for anything that will "help you live a better life", since I'm forever wondering if I'm doing it wrong.

What I wanted to note here were two lines from the book that really struck me. The first is this:

People who think you weak will offer you an excuse. People who respect you will offer you a challenge.

People who leave the military, especially those who are hurt in some way, are often never asked again to do anything for others. It seems like everyone thinks they've already given enough and shouldn't ask any more of them. But this then leaves the former soldiers or sailors aimless. They don't really have a purpose and no one is asking anything of them. The author says that this is why a lot of former military get messed up with drinking and doing nothing. I'm not that familiar with people in the military, but the line made a lot of sense to me (I love a good challenge, just ask my Mom.) and I couldn't stop thinking about it for quite a while.

The other bit was a passage about work/life that he says he sees in the entrance to his building. He says it's by an english minister from the 1930s. I googled it and found that it's from a guy Lawrence Pearsall Jacks (or L.P. Jacks as he's usually known).

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

I completely agree with this. This is why I've always said that I love my job. It's really no different than what I'd be doing for fun. (Despite the recent onslaught of email I'm dealing with.) I'm starting to try to not to make a distinction between my mind and my body, which I think is good. My weeks of therapy on my knee are starting to pay off and I feel like doing more things again. I think I might like to print this out and hang it somewhere in my house. It makes me happy when I read it.

The Big Short

I had been wanting to see "The Big Short" for a while. Today, I found that it was still at a theater downtown, so I biked over to see it. Like most people, I pretty much knew the story. I've read a bunch of Michael Lewis books, though I can't remember if I actually read "The Big Short" or just lived through it. Anyway, I thought it would be good and it was. How I judge if a movie is good or not is based on how much I'm thinking about the movie after it's over. And, let me tell you, all I've been thinking about is this movie and I'm completely depressed.

I have written this paragraph a few times and can't quite find the words for what I want to say. I guess I'm just amazed at the level of greed in the world. It reminds me of how my Dad used to say people would always praise "the almighty dollar". I just don't remember this level of greed when I was growing up. I'm sure there were greedy people, but I don't remember the idea of being rich being such a big deal. And the thought of screwing anyone to get money. Do I want to be rich? I guess I do, but rich to me is having my mortgage paid off. It's funny, but I have told one of my brothers that I thought we were already rich and he basically laughed at me. I'm comparing myself to people making the average salary in the US, which I thought was around $50k. I make more than that, so I figure I'm rich. However, my bro makes quite a bit more than me and is around people who make more than him. So comparing himself to his peers, he doesn't feel rich. Anyway, "The Big Short" is all about people at the top 1%, which neither of us are. So comparing ourselves to them, we're nothing.

I've just reread what I wrote and I feel like I'm rambling. So I'm going to stop as I'm still depressed. This post is just fertilizer for the blog. I'm just depressed about the world and wanted to do something. Maybe I'll come up with a real plan to do something later.

February Check-In

I'm going to say that February was the worst month that I've had in a very long time. The main thing that happened is one of my favorite people in the entire world passed away. Short of something happening to my Mom, nothing could hurt as much. Along with my parents, for my entire life, my Aunt Lu was around. I will think of her on every Fourth of July (her favorite holiday) and Christmas Eve because we always went to her house. I often said she was hilariously funny, often unintentionally so. I loved going to visit her to hear about family members I never knew and what her life was like growing up. Since we knew she was sick, my siblings and I all made sure to visit her as often as we could during the month. She always loved to see us and I felt lucky to be there. If I could make people feel a quarter as good around me, as I felt around her, I'd be pretty happy. One of the last things she gave me was the dollhouse that someone made for her when she was a little girl. It has needed some work for a while and she gave it to me to fix it up. But only if I have fun doing it. If it's not fun, I shouldn't do it. I hope that I can get it into decent enough shape that I can donate it someplace where kids can play with it. I know she'd be happy if kids were playing with it.

I don't have too much to report on the rest of the month. I did drive more than usual. My odometer reads 35,572, so I drove 1,289 miles. I've been going to therapy for my knee and I think it's getting better. I need to get more flexible and I think that's just going to take time. So I have to be patient. I need to start watching what I eat better as I've been pretty lax about that. I'll try to do better in March. Lastly, if nothing else, I'm remembering that it's important to spend time with the people who mean the most to you.

10 years ago

February 25, 2016 was the 10th anniversary of my blog. Technically, it's the 10th anniversary of my using wordpress on the blog. I believe I registered coldandheartless in 2000, when my nephew was born, though I'm not entirely sure. But since I have pictures from when he was born posted, I'm pretty sure. And I have some pictures in directories named 2003. Yay for me in naming the directories correctly. So I know I had the website before 2006. But moving to wordpress looks to have happened in 2006. So let's celebrate that.

My first blog post tells what I thought the blog would be about, which was my house. That's still basically true as, ten years later, I am still working on my house. But it has also evolved to be a place for me to put notes on anything that I want to remember. This could be my new year's resolutions or how to write a bit of code. You could sort of say that it's my own personal google. And something that does cause me to chuckle is when I google something and it gives me a result on my own website.

So a belated happy anniversary to the blog part of coldandheartless. I'm happy that it's still around and still a bit bummed that I lost a bunch of posts between 2008 and 2010. (Lesson learned, don't run the server at your house. It's worth it to pay a cloud provider. FYI, I use linode.) Here's to 10 more years of me learning new stuff and documenting it here.

So far, so good

We're three days into the new year and it's so far, so good. Tomorrow, I have to go back to work. I'm a little bummed that I can't wear sweatpants all day anymore, but that's ok. It'll be good to get back in the swing of things. I've taken short bike rides every day so far and am up to 11 miles. So only 2242 to go to hit my goal. 🙂 I've cooked some good meals (homemade pizza, eggs with pepper, onion and avocado) and some ok ones (roasted vegetables with noodles). I've also used up my blackened bananas by making banana muffins, which turned out pretty good. I went with Paul today to his bar and helped him clean up some wood. So while I didn't technically do a workout, I worked there for a couple of hours and got my heart rate up. My car has only been out of the garage one day. And since the weather looks pretty good, I'm hoping that the bike will get me to work for most of this week.

I've also been good about not doing anything for work this weekend. Quite frankly, I haven't done much of anything except watch The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and the Bikes vs Cars movie that I bought. I read a little of the book that I bought myself before the holiday. Basically, I just tried to relax. Not my strong suit, but I do feel pretty rested. This is good because this week will be a little busy. For the past couple of years, I've taken every Friday off in January. I'm still debating whether or not to do that. Maybe I'll do it in February. Usually I'm taking some days off because I'm close to the maximum accrual. This year, I'm not at the max, but I'll get there by April if I don't take any days. Think I'll decide later this week.

I also took some time to look for more bike rides to do this year. Found two that I didn't know about. The Tour du Port (not sure why it's called this) is in Baltimore in September. I don't think the roads are totally closed, but the ride looks neat. There are different lengths of ride, but the one that looks the most interesting to me is the shortest one. "A family friendly 14 miles around Baltimore's Inner Harbor that includes designated bicycle lanes through historic neighborhoods and the famous National Aquarium rest stop." Riding through historic neighborhoods will pretty much get me every time. The second one, also in September (sigh), is NEOCycle. This is billed as "The Midwest's biggest urban cycling festival taking place September 11-13 on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.". The part that interests me is the Fundo ride. (Guess it's a play on Gran Fondo rides, but this one is apparently FUN since it's not timed. But since most people don't know what Gran Fondos are, I'm thinking this name might not make sense.) Anyway, they also have a short family (10 mile) ride that looks to go through downtown Cleveland. Could be interesting, but I'm thinking this is on the same day as both Detroit and Minneapolis and I think I'd rather go to one of those. But we'll see.

Could I Live without My Car?

A couple of days ago, I hit 2000 miles of biking for the year. It wasn't a goal to do this at the start of the year, but I'm rather pleased with myself. I actually thought it was a bit of an accomplishment until I read a blog post somewhere about a woman with MS who rode like 6000 miles for the year. I have a long way to go to reach that. But this got me thinking, do I really need to own my own car?

One of the big plusses in buying my house was that I didn't want to be dependent on a car. While I mainly bike to work, if that's not an option, I can also take public transit. I absolutely do not need my car to get to work. I live approximately four blocks from a grocery store, four blocks from a library and maybe six blocks from Target. And I'm less than a mile from a train station that can get me downtown in around 10 minutes. For my day-to-day life, I really don't think I need a car.

Are there times when I do need a car? Absolutely. I can't easily get to my Mom's house without a car. And I have plenty of other family members and friends who live out in the suburbs that are much easier to get to with a car. It's also really nice to have the car when I go to get supplies from Home Depot for working on my house. Could I replace these drives with using a rental car instead? One of the most-brilliant things I did years ago was purchase a lifetime membership in, then startup, I-Go Cars. In Chicago, this by-the-hour car rental is now part of Enterprise. And I've just found out that there's an I-Go car parked about a mile from my house. It's not as convenient as my garage, but it's pretty close. So using the rental more is definitely an option.

Since this year I've been trying to use my bike over my car, I have found that when I do drive my car...it's more fun. It's kind of like a treat to take out the car. I know a lot of people dread driving, but I'm not one of them. The other thing I like about having a car is that it's a complicated piece of machinery. And learning how it works is really interesting to me. There's a small part of me that enjoys doing maintenance on the car. Yes, I know this makes me an oddity, but it's also an argument for keeping the car. And I do have to say that driving my car to a new city with my bike, has been my major source of relaxation for the past year.

I think I'm going to use this winter as a test. I want to see how many times I just go to my car without thinking about it. Or I'll see if I can plan all my trips so that it would be like I'd be planning on getting an I-Go car. Now I'm just curious about this. A few years ago, I would have never thought this was a possibility. But now I'm thinking that it might be.

I Love Fall

Autumn is my favorite time of year. My birthday is in October. The weather is usually nicely cool. The leaves on the trees turn giving beautiful colors to both the city and rural landscapes. I also usually start cooking again in earnest as the weather cools. In summer, when it's hot, I don't like to use my stove or oven. This limits meals to uncooked food, like salads. As I get older, I am getting better at eating salads regularly. But I have to admit, a salad is, in general, not a meal I'm going to love.

Cooler weather, though, allows me to make bread and soups. These are meals which I greatly enjoy and feel very filling. (Salads never give me that feeling.) This past week, I made rolls and minestrone soup. Both of these are things that freeze without any problems, another plus. I took a roll and a thermos of soup to work every day for lunch and loved it. First, I enjoyed my lunch more than if I bought something. Second, I saved money. Third, I think I ate healthier.

Even though I'm no longer in school, I like how fall is the start of the school year. While I am always trying to learn new things, official and unofficial classes start again in the fall. This year, I signed up for a class in basic car repair at a local park. This has been a wonderful experience. I'll be honest that I first thought I'd attend a couple of classes and then just stop going if I got bored. But that hasn't happened. Mainly because I'm the only person in the class. Also because it's really fascinating to see all the details of how a car works. Will I become a mechanic? Probably not. But I have already learned a few maintenance things that I can do for myself that will definitely save me money. I've easily learned more than the $60 I paid for the class.

In recent years, I've also found that there are many fun bike rides in the fall. I should note that there are also a number of good ones in the spring. This year, I went to Detroit in September. That ride was a lot of fun. Next year, I plan to return. And in looking around, I've found other rides that are in the fall. Next year, I'm looking at going to Maine for the Maine Lighthouse Ride or to Minneapolis for the Minneapolis Bike Tour.

Yes, there are some drawbacks to fall. It's still dark when I'm biking in to work. But I have lights on my bike to help out. And it gets dark earlier in the evening, which just makes me sleepy earlier. I thankfully don't have to cut the grass, but I do have to rake leaves. With the cooler weather, I have to turn the heat on in the house, so my gas bill goes up. I also have to wear different clothes on my ride into work. Fortunately, after biking for so long, I have the proper clothing. These drawbacks are all minor and you can find things to complain about in any season. All I'm noting here is that I love fall.