2012 Home Renovations – Part 04 – Initial scratch and demolition

Probably this will have been the most dramatic day for us change-wise.

You know how, when it rains, you’ll do nearly anything to avoid getting wet. But there eventually comes a time when you just have to surrender to it. Recognize that there is nothing to be done except either embrace your reality or drive yourself mad railing against it.

Every small change we had made up until now – cutting down our little redbud tree, taking apart the bird feeders, removing the chiminea from the yard – had involved such inertia, seemed somehow monumental. But these were all merely drops of rain landing on my shirt.

The workers had brought in a bobcat just before I left for work on Monday and I did not arrive back home until after work. I walked around with a flashlight to see what had been done, but that is a bit surreal. The landscape was no longer familiar and I could not get a really good sense of the overall… difference.

The new view from the patio reveals the true extent of the hill in the back yard – in cross section no less

Looking down the driveway now looks almost precipitous with the removal of the old retaining wall and bushes

Turning to look across the yard from the same vantage point gives you some idea of the both the now flora-free hill but also the barrenness of the formerly forested area behind.

And the shed is still there, but the tired sidewalk is now no more.

A closer look at where the retaining wall used to be, Michelle is sure that the driveway will now slide off into the neighbor’s house

Meanwhile, from a different vantage point, you get a sense of where the pool will be located

Finally you can see the remains of the Juniper and retaining wall that was scraped out and is ready to be chopped up.

Tomorrow the concrete slab holding the Bar-B-Que will be demolished.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 03 – Clearing the Trees

2012 Home Renovations – Part 05 – Digging the trench for the retaining wall footer



Resolution to iTunes excessive CPU consumption issue on Alienware Area 51 Computer

Finally resolved this issue (hopefully permanently).

I wrote earlier about this issue where running iTunes consumed an inordinate amount of CPU cycles on my system. This issue pre-dated the iTunes 10.5 release but was certainly exacerbated by it.

Now I have resolved the issue and have iTunes running without my computer cooling fans going crazy. I’m even able to access the iTunes store which I haven’t seen in a LOOOONG time.

The executive summary is that the classic “netsh winsock reset” solution would not work for me because it’s “corrective action” was being overridden. I needed to uninstall Xeno Power Suite and my problems were solved.

Longer version…

I checked out this posting at support.apple.com (iTunes 10.5 for Windows: May see performance issues and blank iTunes Store) which confirmed that the issue stemmed from the existence of a Layered Service Provider (LSP) and how to identify what third party software had inserted this.

In my case the LSP was showing as BFLLR which, after a quick Google search turns out to be a bigfoot product. On my machine (Dell Alienware Area-51 Windows 7 64 Bit) this turned out to have been installed as part of the XENO Power suite which from the looks of my existing configuration, I was using not at all. I did read a review regarding the features of the “Killer Xeno Pro” and I’m sure it’s useful for someone out there (big gamers and torrenters) but I didn’t see that I was getting anything at all from it. Hovering over the system tray for this showed it was “disconnected”. So I downloaded the latest drivers for 64-Bit Windows (in case) performed some network speed tests and then uninstalled the suite.

When the computer came back up the first thing I did was verify network connectivity and speed. If anything, things had improved by a couple of megabits per second (download speed).
Starting iTunes did NOT cause my fans to start ramping up for the first time in ages. Process Explorer showed the Perftune service was back to being the most CPU intensive app on my otherwise idle computer (about 1.3% – anybody know if this is really doing anything for me? The info I’ve read regarding perftune has been really sketchy).

Opening the iTunes Store had me catch my breath as the progress bar paused at its customary point… and then continue on to completion and, amazingly, I have content again!

I’ll be keeping the Xeno drivers in my download folder for a few weeks but I don’t think I’m going to need them. I suspect that if you use them you know already and if you don’t know you need them, you probably don’t.

Finally moving to clipless pedals

After years of resistance, I finally decided this week to move from platform to clipless bicycle pedals.

After doing some research on the web and asking some friends for opinions, I ended up picking up a Speedplay Zero System which I have mated with some Shimano SPD-SL shoes.

As an added bonus, it turns out my Lifecycle E3600-HRT can accommodate *real* pedals so I’ll be able to practice with the new system a fair amount where I *can’t* fall over before hitting the real world!

I elected to go for a road system (stiffer shoe and exposed cleat) rather than one that would be a bit more forgiving should I need to walk a lot by evaluating how often I’ve ever needed to walk when out for a ride over the past 15 years which has been seldom).

I also had some concerns for whether or not my knees would be happy with the potentially limited range of motion that a clipless system offers. The Speedplay system has tremendous float (0-15 degrees adjustable) and has the added advantage of allowing you to clip in to either side of the pedal.

I’ll be very interested to see if I garner an appreciable performance boost from this upgrade. The last real boost was when I upgraded from my trusty Bianca Alaska commuter bike (awesome for commuting to work on glass-strewn city streets) to an actual racing bike (Giant two TCR composite frame).

I’m not intending to do any racing – but I do want to go as fast as I can for the effort I’m putting out, it’s just so satisfying…

When is the last time you read the Georgia Driver’s License Manual?

Of course, in my opinion, we should have in place a system where folks are re-tested every few years. The laws are *always* changing – those legislators have to justify their existence somehow – and are you really sure you know what the current thinking is on the correct way to handle a driving situation?

Even if your approach *is* the best, if it is unexpected as far as the other drivers are concerned then it is *you* who are the hazard.

I just finished reviewing the 2010 Driver’s license manual and got 100% on this (rather simple) test. I challenge you to do the same.

What do you do when a schoolbus has its amber lights flashing? What about its red lights? On a divided highway? I see people doing the wrong thing all the time, they are endangering EVERYBODY’s lives.

Power outage here in Marietta

Power went off here at about one thirty. I checked Georgia Power’s website and was pleased to see they had an electronic means of reporting outages. I was somewhat less pleased to see that there is yet no prognosis for resolution:

Outage Status

Your Status: OFF

Estimated Time of Restoration: Type of Account: Electric Service Notes: We are aware of the outage reported at your location. The next available repair crew will be assigned. We anticipate power will be restored by .

SunTrust joining the Evil League of Bank of America?

Hmmm… just saw that SunTrust has decided to try charging me a $9.95 monthly fee. No notification, no warning, it’s just there on my Quicken transaction list.

If you have a SunTrust account check and make sure they are not pulling a fast one on you too.

This sort of thing I’d expect from BofA, they exist solely to screw over their customers, but I’m very surprised to see this sort of sneakiness from SunTrust.

** Followup ** 5/9/2011

I spoke to a manager at the PC Banking service center and we got this straightened out.

Apparently there was a “sweep” done of all existing accounts to find ones that weren’t being charged but should have been. It *does* worry me somewhat that my bank is starting to look for sources of income like this.
Stand strong SunTrust! Nickel and Diming is BofA’s strategy. You’ve stood apart by being much more customer centric than other banks in my experience. Please don’t let that focus slip!

** End Followup **
** Followup ** 5/14/2011

Huh, turns out they lied. Just checked my account and nothing was done. I’ll need to follow up during the week. Thank you SunTrust for wasting my time like this.
If I do not get satisfaction I will switch over to a local credit union. You’d think the banks would try harder in this day and age…

** End Followup **

** Followup ** 5/18/2011

Called the Personal Banking number (1-800-786-8787) yesterday and found that there were notes on my account but they hadn’t been acted upon.
This was dealt with and this morning I see that all looks well. Hopefully I won’t have to revisit this.

** End Followup **

Cat Troubleshooting 101

We have a couple of cats, Phoebe and Maverick who are really well behaved… well… in most ways.

For years we had normal litterbox that they shared that looked just like any other cat litterbox.

After we had done a lot of work on our house I thought it might be nice to de-emphasize the litter box and ended up picking up “The Refined Litterbox” from Catsplay.com (they no longer offer this modestly priced alternative).  And for the past year and a half it has been great. The cats took to it immediately and all was well.

For some reason Phoebe, in the past couple of weeks has started backing herself right up to the edge of the internal litterbox and letting loose when she pees all over the inside (and sometimes the outside too) of the the cabinet. I cannot fathom why the change in behavior as she seems to be fine in every other way but it smelled bad, was a mess and needed to be addressed.

After hunting around for a while to see what other folks have come up with for similar problems, I came upon Clevercat Top Entry Litter Box
at Amazon. Essentially it’s a smooth, high-sided rubbermaid-style box with a lid with a hole cut out so the cats can get in and out but everything else stays in.

I placed the new litterbox next to the old one and barricaded the entryway of the old one with a couple of boxes of litter. I also tossed in some “samples” from their old litter box to let them know that this new unit is theirs.

At first the cats seemed a little wary of the box but they soon figured it out and now seem to be fine with it.  No more cat pee outside of the box! Yay!

A nice side-effect is that it seems that the high sides, the effort of climbing out, and the pattern on the lid of the box seem to combine to stop as much litter from making its way out onto the floor too.

Another few days and I think I may retire the refined litterbox cabinet. It’s a great idea so long as your cat has good aim!

Back on the Grid – Post Bike Accident

PICT6710Sorry to have dropped of the grid like that for a few days.

I took this past Friday off for a “me” day and went cycling along the Silver Comet Trail near Hiram, Georgia.

Around 23 miles into a 31 mile cycle something, I have no idea what, happened and I found myself dazedly staggering around the trail with a couple of very nice ladies offering me antiseptic wipes. I have no idea what exchange occurred between us because when I had finally achieved some degree of coherence, I was alone on the trail. I assume I must have switched to automatic “guy mode” along the lines of “No problem.. I’m fine… Thanks for stopping but I’m OK”..

I got back on the bike to finish the last 8 or so miles of the cycle, fortunately it did not seem damaged at all except for some scrapes on the top of the aero bars. My bike was off to the side of the trail facing as if I was cycling AWAY from Hiram. Somehow I managed to figure out that this was incorrect.

I gave Michelle a call and told her to expect that I would not be looking too great.

After getting cleaned up and bandaged from my newly replenished medical kit (literally I’d refreshed all the old supplies in that kit a month prior) we then sat back for a while to make sure that there were no neurological issues (uneven pupils, slurred speech, that kind of thing).

The next morning I awoke to bed spins so we headed off to the Northside Urgent Care facility to get things checked out.

After a couple of mis-steps with the X-Rays (got a lot more than I wanted) it turned out that my concussion was not neurologically worrying. And my ribs appeared only to be bruised (no punctured lungs or any of that kind of excitement) and nothing broken in my hand (I was thinking that was only a mild sprain anyway).

But I’ve been out of it for several days now, mostly sleeping and staring vacantly at the TV (which is probably the normal way of watching it anyway, so no harm no foul :)).

Just yesterday (3 days after) I started feeling like my old self but I was tiring very easily. Today, very groggy but can still sense improvement and am remoting in to work to try to get back on top of things.

You can see my mildly cracked helmet (thank you helmet!!) and my “battle wounds” here. If you do not like the sight of blood, please don’t click through.

North Georgia Canopy Tours

I’m pretty sure I was put on to this by a link from Mark Denney on Facebook.

The North Georgia Canopy Tour website looks pretty good and I think it will be fun.

We did something similar when we were in Belize this past November (here are some shots of Michelle doing a zipline and rappelling) and the Scenic Caves Nature Adventure North of Toronto in Collingwood (some videos of me on the final zipline here)  I really enjoyed it.

I don’t think the North Georgia offering is available to the general public until April 16. I’d love to hear from anybody when they do it to see what you think.

I’m thinking of waiting a couple of weeks so they can work some of the inevitable kinks out of their system (payments, timing, etc.) .