So Much Adulting

The last four days have been a whirlwind of adulting. It’s been kinda exhausting.

Friday we had someone from AAA Furnace over to service our HVAC. Everything seems to be in good shape. I hung out to do anything needed inside (mostly adjusting the thermostat while he did his tests), partly because COVID, and partly because kittens.

Saturday was the big day, though.

After working out in the morning we went to Airport Appliance to buy a new refrigerator (per previous entries). We decided to go with this French door model by Beko, a Turkish company which is apparently huge in Europe and has been in the U.S. for about five years. It’s devilishly hard to find out how reliable fridges are – even if you find that one has been great, it was probably made 5 or more years ago, been discontinued, and who knows if the current models are as good. Internet reviews are generally useless, partly because a lot of them are just complaining, and partly because a review from someone who’s had their fridge for 6 months or less isn’t that helpful for reliability.

We had an additional wrinkle in that the space for our fridge is only 70” tall, and many fridges are a bit taller than that. It turns out we actually have more space if we remove or trim the bracket immediately above the fridge, but we’d already made a decision when I realized that. Good to know for next time.

Anyway, we’re replacing a 13-year-old GE fridge, and not many companies make counter-depth fridges fridges that are 69” high. GE makes several, but I’ve heard bad things about their newer models, and frankly we were not very impressed with the apparent build quality or the styling of those models. Whereas the Beko seemed generally more solid and we really liked the look of it.

We did buy the extended warranty, which means it should work for at least that long, right? Right??

Afterwards we had lunch at Yiassoo (a longtime favorite which has substantially improved their patio seating during the pandemic), and then came home and took Jackson and Sadie to the vet for their annual checkup. This was the first time Sadie rode in a carrier by herself, since we’d always brought her with Roulette. And she yowled the whole way there and back. Jackson was also unhappy, and even peed in the carrier on the way home. But, both of them are healthy and that’s what matters.

(Simon and Edison seemed to barely notice that we were all gone.)

After all that I went down to pick up some books I’d ordered from Books Inc., and did a grocery run.

In the evening I managed to find COVID vaccinations for Monday, about which more later.

Sunday was finally a quieter day. We went to the farmer’s market in the morning, and in the afternoon I wrapped up our taxes, which will be filed this week. I also did a Magic draft which I am playing out this week before Strixhaven comes out, and the first game was totally bonkers, lasting well over half an hour. (I won with 6 cards left in my deck!)

This morning we found that our fridge has gone out again, so we moved stuff into our chest freezer (which has plenty of space even with the stuff we’ve already put in it) and mini-fridge (which is pretty packed now). The new fridge will be delivered on Thursday, and what a relief that will be.

And finally today we went to Levi’s Stadium to get vaccinated. Despite having a little trouble finding the entrance, everything otherwise was smooth and easy. It took about an hour and a half including driving time. We joined House Pfizer, and six hours later neither of us has had any reactions, though apparently they could show up tomorrow. It’s great to finally be on our way! We rewarded ourselves with treats from McDonald’s on the way home. And I’ve been telling cow-orkers about our experience so they have some idea what to expect when signing up.

And today there was the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis. I’m sure smarter and more informed people than me (probably none of them Republicans) will have a lot useful to say about this, but one thought I have is that if we’re not going to take guns away from the cops, let’s take tasers away from them. Tasers aren’t particularly safe either, and cops mistaking their tasers for guns is bad news. If all they have to fire is a gun, then at least they know what they’re signing up for when they draw their weapon.

In any event, there’s nothing I’ve read that says to me that Wright’s actions even merited tasing. What the hell was the cop thinking? Were they even thinking?

So, that’s been a lot of stuff, even just considering our stuff. I’m looking forward to the fridge being delivered, and dealing with much less stuff for a couple of weeks.

Lukewarm

This week’s unwanted excitement is that our freezer crapped out again. Worse, it did so on Monday, which was the last day of a 4-day weekend I’d taken off from work. So instead of a relaxing day reading and watching television, it was instead a day of stress and anxiety.

Last time we unloaded the freezer into a cooler and that night it started working again. This time we didn’t do that, and by Tuesday afternoon both the refrigerator and freezer were up around 54°F – not good for either one. We lost all of the food in the freezer except for a few things that we’d just been storing for long term, like some Girl Scout thin mints. There wasn’t anything in there that was a big loss – it’s all easily replaced – but it was a bummer.

But we did put some backup plans in motion. First we went to Home Despot and bought a mini-fridge, so that we can have, you know, cream for our morning coffee. And also butter. And eggs. Essentials. We also ordered a chest freezer, which is a bit less of an extravagance since we’ve been thinking for a while of getting one, as we always feel like we need more freezer space. Whether we need this much more freezer space, I don’t know, but it is just about the smallest model. It should be fine. Load it up with ice cream!

Of course, after we emptied the freezer of the spoiled food, the thing started working again. It lasted a couple of months after the last incident, and I suspect each time the problem was blocked air flow, possibly some vent getting iced over. So it might be fine for a few more months or longer. But, the fridge is about 13 years old and that’s near the lifespan of such appliances, so we’re going to replace it.

Figuring out what to replace it with, and from where, is the next trick. All of our kitchen appliances are GE, probably because our builder bought a package when he furnished the kitchen. But GE fridges don’t seem very reliable these days from what I’ve read (and from comments from friends). A few other brands also get low marks by word-of-mouth. So we’re leaning towards Whirlpool, Maytag, or maybe Frigidaire. A friend also said they had a good experience with Fisher Paykel, about which I know nothing. Debbi is intrigued by this Whirlpool model. But mainly we know we need a counter-depth model, and we’d like a french door design with a bottom freezer. That cuts out a lot of the options, so we’ll get what we get. And hopefully get another year out of it.

(How soon we get it is yet another question, as apparently there are some long delays in appliance delivery due to disruptions in the global supply chains.)

I’m kind of kicking myself for not having moved on this two months ago, but, it’s water under the bridge at this point.

So, it’s been kind of a lousy week because of all this. The fridge and the oven are the two appliances we really can’t do without during a global pandemic. But hopefully we’ll have it worked out soon.

Home Maintenance

Our house is now 11 years old (we’ve been in it for 8), which means – of course – that it’s time for little things to start failing.

Well, there’s a big thing which has been failing too, that being our lawn. But that one gets a bit of a pass since it got hammered pretty hard by California’s drought several years ago. I’ve been doing my best to keep it going and fix it up, but I’m about at the point of declaring bankruptcy on that and having someone in to re-sod it. The advantage to re-sodding is that maybe that will smooth out the very bumpy soil of the back yard. (Our soil is clay-like which is pretty annoying in several ways.) I wonder when the best time of year to do that work would be? Before the rainy season, which starts in a couple of months? Or after?

A slightly smaller thing is that we need to have several windows repaired. Some of them appear to have compromised seals, which the window cleaner last year told us is why they’re dirty between the two panes. But we also have a window which no longer opens, and another in which the outer pane broke mysteriously a few years ago (I suspect a bird flew into it or dropped something against it). Some of that might be covered by warranty, assuming the builder’s warranty transferred to us.

We also have a couple of faucets which have issues, and I suspect the issue is in the wall for both of them. One of them is the hot water for one bathtub (but not shower), so it’s not urgent; the other is the cold water for one of the sinks in the master bathroom, so it’s a little more important. We had a plumber in a few years ago for a different issue and he didn’t want to look at the sinks, so I suspect it will be a bigger job. (Or maybe he just wasn’t a very good plumber, or not rated to do that kind of work.)

More recently, we had a couple of light fixtures go out. One is one of the three pendant lights which hangs over our island. Of course the one over “my” spot at the island. Another is an under-counter light next to the stove. I might be able to fix the first one myself, but probably we’ll get an electrician to handle both.

The other outage is more amusing: The electrical outlets in the living room stopped working one evening. Not a huge deal because the overhead recessed lighting worked fine, but certainly annoying. We spent some time checking the three breaker panels around the house (upstairs, downstairs, outside) and flipping breakers, but nothing had been tripped, and no flipping fixed the issue. (We did find out that we need to evaluate and re-label some of the circuit breakers, though.) I was dreading having an electrician in for that and having it turn into a big thing. But a few days later I did some vacuuming and then plugged the hand vacuum into the one outlet in the laundry room to recharge – and its charging light didn’t come on! “Hmmm”, I said, and remembered that that outlet is one with a GFCI (since it’s near a utility sink), so I pressed its reset button, the charging light came on on the vacuum, and I checked the living room lights and they worked!

It is a little weird that the living room outlets are on the same circuit as the laundry room outlet, but to be fair there are no other outlets in the other small spaces around the laundry room, so putting it on a circuit with a larger room makes some sense. We’ll just have to remember that. It’s a relief to have it fixed.

I also did exciting things like changed a light bulb and fixed a latch on the sliding screen doors to our deck. I need to figure out why one of our drip sprinklers seems to be mostly-clogged, and replace an accent light in the back yard. And then see about getting our Internet service upgraded (which I’ve been dragging my feet on all year, on a probably-misplaced fear that they’ll do the upgrade and it will stop working for several days). And we want to get our bar stools reupholstered, as the faux-leather covering is flaking away faster and faster.

And fall means yard work. I’ve been trimming the jasmine on the back yard fences, and cutting back the bushes in front between our house and a neighbor’s. And fall also means endless raking until probably New Year’s as the sycamore tree over the front yard gradually drops thousands of leaves, mostly on our lawn.

My dad visited last week so some of this stuff has on hold for that and other reasons, but it should give us some stuff to do for the fall. Like we need things to do!

Open House 2018

Saturday we held our eighth annual open house – eighth even though we skipped the seventh, as we didn’t get our act together last summer with everything we had going on. Last week in additional to prepping we were watching the weather hoping it would cool off by Saturday from the highs in the mid-80s, and it did cool down some, with highs in the low 80s. Still, better than our 2013 open house when it was well up in the 90s, which made us close the doors and turn on the A/C! (And a good thing we didn’t hold it in late June like we usually do, since our home weather station claims it got up over 100° around then!)

So we closed the cats in the guest bedroom, bought and made food and drinks, scattered balls and bubble wands around the porch and back yard, and opened the doors around 2 pm.

In the last two years I’ve acquired several new cow-orkers, and Debbi got a new job this spring at EPRI, so we had a lot of new people to invite – and lots of them showed up! A few of our regulars weren’t able to make it – lots of people are busy in mid-August with weddings, vacations and family events – so it was a different mix of people, but with all the new people it might have been our largest party since the first one. We both gave a bunch of tours of the house to people who hadn’t been over before (we’re more than a little proud of our house, I’ll admit), and tried to spend at least a few minutes with everyone who came in.

I was glad to see that the kids had a good time playing in the yard, as we had a different mix of kids than usual, including a lot of first-timers. I think the only mishap (that I heard of, anyway) was that I went to clean bubble fluid off the face and hair of one girl, but that’s not so bad.

We learned that our friend Emma – who I met through Madison fandom in the 90s and who had moved to California before I did – had worked at EPRI as her first job out here, and knew a couple of Debbi’s cow-orkers who came to the party. Maybe I’d known that at some point, but she’d moved to another job by the time I came out here, so maybe not.

I was happy to have my previous admin, Cyndie – who retired last year – and my current admin, Debra, came to the party.  And that my cow-orker Anders and his teenaged daughter came, as they have a very busy schedule and this year’s party happened to fall on a day they had some time available. Also, my cow-orker Jake, who started earlier this year, came with his wife, and gave us a (I think) pen-and-watercolor drawing she’d done of our house, which looks awesome!

Things wrapped up around 8 pm, and our friends Lisa and Michel and their kids hung out for a little longer and helped us clean up a bit (such as taking down the canopy they loaned us).  Once they left we vegged out for a bit, and called it a night.

Sunday we alternated between cleaning up and lying on the couch, but mainly being really happy with how the party turned out. I hope everyone who came had as much fun as we did!

The Dishwasher Mystery

As I mentioned last time, while we were on vacation in Florida our cat sitter wrote that our dishwasher was leaking. Specifically, the bottom of the machine was filled with water and was leaking onto the floor. This was right after the first of two big storms that hit home while we were away, so of course I worried that something had gone wrong with the dishwasher (bad), with the water supply to it (bad), or with the backflow valve on our house’s line to the sewer (worse). Still, despite my worrying about the worst case, apparently it was just water on the floor, and not any of the other wonderful stuff you would expect if you had a sewer back flow.

Our sitter, wonderful person that she is, brought over some super-absorbent pads to put under the front of the washer, and also turned off the hot water to the washer and to the sink, just to be safe.

For the rest of our trip, now news was good news; despite another storm hitting the house, we heard nothing more about the problem from her. That seemed like further evidence that it wasn’t a sewer backflow problem. We have not been thrilled with our dishwasher (a General Electric model which came with the house) as it doesn’t do a wonderful job of cleaning dishes, and we’ll probably replace it before too long. (Of the appliances our builder installed, it’s the only one we haven’t been happy with.)

So, we got back last Monday night and inspected the washer before going to bed: It was clean and dry. The next day I turned the water back on, and we kept an eye on it for the rest of the week, and nothing happened. So we planned to run the washer this weekend when it was reasonably full.

Late this afternoon Debbi noticed that the washer was filled with water on the bottom, and on the edge of leaking out. Very mysterious, since we hadn’t had any rain at all! My theory at this point was that there was some blockage in the side of the sink that the washer drained to and when we ran the water on that side of the sink it was draining to the washer instead. But I couldn’t see anything in the drain. So, after a short debate we decided to run the dishwasher as planned.

Two things happened: First, the dishwasher immediately started venting water into the sink drain as expected. Second, two of the front lights were flashing as it did so, which is not normal operation. Debbi checked the user’s manual, but didn’t find out what it meant. So I decided to stop the washer, wait a moment, and then start it again. This time it started normally, no flashing lights, ran to completion, and did not leak.

So my best guess is that the washer somehow got into some weird state while we were away, so that the drain from the washer to the sink was open, and thus the sink was partly draining into the washer rather than vice-versa. Maybe we bumped something before we left, somehow. Maybe our sitter was making sure everything was working and somehow triggered something with the washer by accident. Who knows.

But as of now, anyway, it seems to have been a transient fault which has been fixed.

Which is good, because I hate dealing with plumbing problems.

Open House 2015

Yesterday we held our fifth annual open house, our annual summer party which started as a housewarming but which we enjoy enough to throw every year. It’s a fair bit of work to set up, if only to clean the house, buy the food, and throw the cats in a room (so we can leave the doors open), but at the end it feels worth it.

This year I made margaritas again, but instead of Debbi making sangria I made a gin punch called mother’s ruin, which we discovered at a cocktail party a friend threw last winter. I made a triple batch of what’s in the recipe, and we went through almost all of it. Debbi used a triple slow cooker we received as a wedding gift to make dips, and also prepared meatballs for sandwiches. So we had plenty of food – especially considering that a few folks always bring things to munch on as well. (It’s gonna take a while to go through the enormous box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates someone brought!)

I doubt we’ll ever get the turnout we got for our first open house, but we probably got 40ish adults plus 8-12 kids during the course of the day, including a few folks who hadn’t been before, which meant showing off the house to them, which is, frankly, one of the fun parts, since we love our house! Of course it’s also why we had to do all the cleaning!

The biggest downside to the open house is that so many people show up that I don’t get to talk with everyone, and there were a few people who I think showed up and then headed out (maybe several hours later) without my saying more than ‘hello’ to them. If anyone reading this wanted to spend more time specifically talking to me or Debbi, in the future your best bet is either to show up early or stay late! A couple of friends and their families showed up right around start time so we were able to chat with them at some length, and then our neighbors and our friend Paul stayed late. If you want to meet our cats, staying late is also the way to do that, as in the evening we closed the doors and let them out of their room.

One of the fun things about the party is all the kids who come over, putting our back yard to use it doesn’t often see, and also getting a bunch of our friends’ kids together to play. As usual bubble blowing was a big hit with the kids. We should have kids over more often just to have them stomp down the uneven soil in the yard!

Once again we were blessed with nice weather, a little warm at the peak of things, but not the 90+ degrees it had been a few days ago.

And then today we remembered why we always hold the open house on Saturday rather than Sunday: It’s gonna take us a few days to finish putting the house completely back together.

It was worth it, though!

Retractable Screen Doors

Our house has some nice french doors that open from our family room onto the back porch. But with multiple indoor kitties we haven’t really been able to enjoy them (i.e., leave them open) except for a few open houses when the cats have been confined to a room. But recently we got some retractable screens and now we’e able to have them open when we want:

I staged this picture specifically so you can see the screens, but they're not generally this visible.
I staged this picture specifically so you can see the screens, but they’re not generally this visible.

We bought the screens through ClearView of San Mateo after seeing them at the Mountain View A La Carte & Art fair this spring, and getting them ordered and installed was quite straightforward. Installation took a few hours, but really there was nothing (including the price) which was beyond what we expected. We were also quite happy with how well the frame blended in with the door trim, including the dark brown bottom rail which works quite well with our wood flooring. We bought a few upgrades, such as low-profile handles, magnets inside the doors, and locks to hold one of the doors in place.

We almost immediately learned that opening up the doors cools off the family room and kitchen within just a few minutes. And the cats have been gradually warming up to sitting and looking outside, although at night we often have to close it up because Jackson starts jumping at bugs that come up from outside. I understand that other people have had problems with cats quickly figuring out how to get under the screen and get outside, but our cats so far haven’t tried. (We have on order an enhancement to put a piece of clear plastic into a slot at the bottom of the screen to prevent them from being able to do that.)

The screens are not invisible, but they’re not intrusive, either. And we did get heavier-duty screens to deal with potential cat paws on them. Plus it’s good to have them slightly visible so you notice they’re there and don’t walk into them. So far, neither of us has, and we haven’t tripped over the bottom rail, either. (And neither did anyone at our open house, as far as I know!)

We’d been thinking about doing this since we first moved in, and it’s great to knock down another long-standing home improvement domino.

Open House 2014

Yesterday we held our fourth annual open house, which is really just a party for our friends and neighbors. Of course, none of them have been as big as the first one, from the month after we moved into our house, but we’re still enjoying them. One frustrating detail is that we use Evite to send the invitations, but we are never sure whether the invitations it sends make it to their recipients, or if they end up in peoples’ junk mail boxes, or what. A lot of people don’t respond. But, we haven’t really found a better site than Evite, and the alternative is to send a bulk e-mail and collect replies that way.

Anyway, we bought too much food as usual, and made sangria and margaritas and infused water. It got into the mid-80s by the time the party started (2 pm), but the first people showed up around a quarter to 3, and by 4 pm it was cooling off pretty nicely. Plus our back porch is in shade by then.

The biggest downside to a large party is that I have good conversations with a few people, but there are many who I do little more than say ‘hi’ to. But as long as everyone has a good time, that’s the important thing.

I also tend to be in high demand to play with the kids – for some reason, kids love me. We had kids from ages 2 to 7, plus a (I think) 12-year-old, and they spent most of the afternoon running around in the back yard, kicking balls around and the like. We bought some bubble-blowing stuff and I made bubbles for them, and they ran around popping them.

We had a few guests who hadn’t been to the house before, so we gave some house tours, which is always fun. We also had our home’s builder and his wife come by, so we got to catch up with him.

At first we left the cats out to play with the guests, but after the first hour it was getting too chaotic and we wanted to leave the doors open, so we put them in our guest room for most of the party. I think Roulette and Sadie snoozed together under the bed, while Jackson was mostly resentful at being closed away from the action. When the party started winding down we let them out and the kittens came down to check things out.

Anyway, we had some folks stay until nearly 9, and I got to talk to several people I don’t see very often. We’ll do it again next year!

Meeting the Neighbors

Next door to our house is a house which is a rental property. When we moved in, our neighbor Juan told us that the renters were a bunch of Stanford students, mostly engineers. Other than saying hi to them once in a while when taking out the trash or mowing the lawn, we haven’t really interacted with them. That’s not so strange, since we have several neighbors we haven’t really met, but none of them are right next door to us. They’re mostly fine neighbors, actually; they’ve had a couple of loud parties, but never late into the night, and they used to have an old camper parked in their driveway right next to our joint fence which was there for a couple of years, and which left last year. That’s barely anything to complain about.

So the last two days I’ve been working the developer tools lab at WWDC, for which I woke up early (5:40 am!) and Debbi drove me up with her and dropped me off at the South San Francisco CalTrain station, and then I took the train back home, getting back around 7. Yesterday we also went to get my comic books and then out to dinner. And it was trash day.

We got home and found that someone (probably Juan) had brought in our recycling and yard waste bins (which we store around the side of the house), but the actual trash bin was missing. Since we and the neighbors put out bins right next to each other, I figured they’d probably brought our bin into their yard by mistake, so I went over to ask.

Sure enough, that’s what happened, and two of them went out and checked and brought it out for me. Then we ended up chatting for a while, because we’d never met! Three of their roommates came back while we were talking, and we learned that one of them had just moved in, and he’d brought the trash bins in, and didn’t know which were their and which were ours. So, an innocent mistake (as I’d suspected). But Debbi came out and we got to meet each other. Some of them are students, but others are working at startups. And it seems one guy – who’s since moved out – was responsible for most of the occasional wackiness we’d seen.

Anyway, now that we know them, they seem like nice folks, and it’ll be nice to have more people to say hi to around the neighborhood.

Oh, if they hadn’t been the ones with our bin, I have no idea where else it would have gone! So, glad I was right.

Another Ant Invasion

The summer we moved into our house, 2011, we had serious problems with an ant invasion. We brought it under control with Terro, and have only had a few minor problems with ants since then.

This year has been another matter: Two weeks ago we had an incursion in the kitchen, along the base of the cabinets. Fortunately we seem to have pretty dumb ants around here: They were just wandering back and forth, ignoring the trash, the dishwasher (under which they were coming in), and only wandering kind of close to the cat food. We put the cat food and water in trays surrounded by water, deployed the Terro, and in about three days they were gone.

Late last week, though, Debbi noticed a few ants on the kitchen counter, between the stove and the sink. A few of them made it into the sink, but there weren’t very many. Indeed, there were so few that it took us a couple of days of watching to see that they were coming down from behind the mounted cabinets. Again, dumb ants: Not going into the cabinets (you know, where the food is), and also ignoring the toaster oven and the stove. We deployed the Terro after moving everything off the counter, and holy cow have there been a lot of ants over there this weekend! Annoying the disgusting, but they sure did find the Terro quickly.

The problem is that by the time we see more than one or two stray ants inside, it usually means there’s a nest established fairly close, so Terro takes two or three days to get rid of them (i.e., for them to take enough of it back to kill the queen and the rest of the nest).

I wonder whether California’s drought is causing the ants to range places they usually don’t in search of water or food. We do have a lawn which we water, but I cut back the watering by over a third due to the drought, so maybe that makes a difference. Or maybe it’s a fluke.

A friend of mine suggested using fipronil around the base of the house to keep them away. “Good for a year”, he says. So maybe I’ll try that. If the Wikipedia entry is correct, it’s fairly safe. On the other hand, it does seem to be dangerous to bees, of which we have a number who forage in our yard. So I’ll have to think about it.

Anyway, we shouldn’t complain too much as a serious incursion every three years doesn’t seem too bad, and we are able to deal with it. But it’s still pretty annoying and somewhat disruptive.