I’ve been writing all my blogs on my iPad’s Notes editor, which allows me to upload the text directly into WordPress for publication. The problem is that it doesn’t work for imbedded photos.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but my house looks like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. You know, stuff everywhere, remnants of more carefree times hanging on walls, here and there are bags of stuff, some trash, some keepers.
Just need Denzel Washington to walk through reading a script from The Book of Eli: Chapter 2. (There is no such movie to my knowledge, but I wish there were.)
I’ve been attacking this place for days and while I’ve made great progress it just doesn’t seem to be enough progress. I’ve been at it to the point where I’ve suspended my morning walks so that I can get at the tasks still needing attention. So far, that hasn’t been enough. I’m not concerned though, at least not yet. If I’m still looking at the same stuff come Monday (3/20/17) THEN I’ll be worried. So it’s a double-down Saint Patrick’s Day weekend.🍀
Truth be told, last week I kinda got lazy and took off a few days. I needed the time away from the constant purging. Hung out with my friends, and I really needed to do that. That’s not to say I didn’t get stuff done, I did:
• All utilities (water, power, mobile phone, wifi/media) are now scheduled to be turned off at the end of the month
• Several runs to drop stuff off at GoodWill
• Made some hard decisions on what to keep and what to toss
That last one has been the toughest yet. I’ve been going through rounds of purging, and because of that I’ve already gotten rid of superfluous stuff; clothes that don’t fit, tech I don’t use, furniture I don’t need, so on. The purge now is dealing with stuff I do want, or at least I thought I did. I’m asking questions like: Which shirts to keep? Am I ever going to read that collection of books? Do I really need 10 pairs of white sox? ( Actually, that’s an easy one since I seldom wear white sox.)
One thing that’s helped is my focus not only on what to bring with me to Namibia, but also what I think I want to have when I return. I’ve always believed that less is best though I have succumb to a bit of consumerism now and then (which my collection of shirts can validate), so I see this as an opportunity to seriously reduce what I have, and to start gating the stuff I get in the future based on what I need versus what I want.
I think “want” has been a problem for most people, especially those of my generation. We grew up being bombarded with commercials telling us that the newer, bigger, faster whatszit is THE thing to have, and we bought into it. Big house, big car, big tvs, more, more, more! We don’t see what all of that stuff drags along with it: mostly paper. Mounds of it. And it collects and multiplies in dark corners and drawers.
Take your mobile phone for instance ( a favorite media whipping boy), I just shredded a garbage bag full of phone bills, just phone bills, all neatly stapled and stored, from 10 years ago! Back then every text and call showed up on your paper bill that sometimes was as thick as a magazine. I somehow managed to store it in such a way that I didn’t see the bill once I paid it. Out of sight… And so, they accumulated, 3 years worth!
My shredder is getting one helluva workout! (I’m definitely keeping it!)
OK, I need to get back to it.
I apologize again for the delays in my updates to this blog, it seems that the closer I get to my departure date the more I find that I need to do. That’s not to say that I haven’t made progress. Au contraire mon ami! I have been kicking task butt! Check this out:
• Completed sodding my backyard: This was a big pain because the place where I was buying the sod ran out and it was a week before they got more.
• Planted viburnums in the backyard: I was looking to add a little something to the backyard, which tends to stay moist even without watering. And part of the yard gets about 5 hours of direct sunlight while another part is in perpetual shade. I planted ferns in the shady part and they took off. The viburnum should do well in the sunny part. (All of this in a yard the size of a postage stamp!)
• I got a company to manage my house: Was gonna get my good friend Brian to manage the house while I’m away, but I didn’t take into account all that “management” entails, so I decided to go with a professional management company and ask Brian to be my local point of contact. Good company too! They took care of advertising, vetting potential renters, showing the house and more. Which bring me to the next bullet.
• Got a renter!!! This happened a lot faster than I anticipated. My house went on the market on a Monday, by Friday I had 3 potential renters! The renter I decided was recommended by the management company. A huge relief!!!
• Made significant headway in clearing out the final “Catch All” room: One of the small bedrooms I used as an office, sound studio for voice work, and a place to put stuff that I needed to look at, but tended to forget about…which usually meant that stuff accumulated… a lot. Making any progress in reducing the stuff in that room is goodness. Still lots to do there, but progress is progress.
• Sold off most of my furniture: This was big! Everything went to good homes or, as is the case for the small bedroom set because my new tenant asked for it, is staying where it is under new ownership. Really did work out well.
• Bought a travel camera: Sold my Canon 7D and am lending the use of my other equipment while I’m gone. I didn’t want to lug around a big camera, but I needed something more than what my iPhone can give me. Settled on a Canon G7X. Pocketable, big (1″) sensor for great lowlight shots, 5x optical zoom, wifi connected, the works all in a neat little package.
• Terminating services: Water, electrics, wifi, and mobile all terminated on April 1. That last one, mobile, posed a bit of a problem because I wanted to keep my mobile number. Terminating service can cause you to lose your number. After some investigating I found a nice solution. Transfer my number to a prepaid plan and don’t use it. AT&T offers such plans (as do other carriers I imagine) and I can keep the plan and number tied to a SIM while I’m away. (My phone is unlocked)
There’s more, but I won’t bore you with it. Needless to say, however, I have been busy.
The last bit of good news is that I got my plan from the Peace Corps last Friday. It looks like I’ll be flying from Philadelphia to Johannesburg, South Africa, then to Windhoek, Namibia on April 9, arriving on April 11. That’s gonna be a looooong flight.
I know I’ve been quiet here lately, but I have a good reason. I’ve been very, VERY busy. Since my last post I have:
• Completed touchup painting on the exterior of my house
• Completed painting the front door (looks nice!)
• Completed touchup painting inside (except the room I’ve been using as an office and catch all)
• Almost done re-grouting the master bath shower
• Worked through rental logistics
• New planter/plant at the door (nice touch)
• Worked through some personal legal/financial tasks (power of attorney, set up accounts for rental, so on)
• Clean out the garage (finally!!)
So, as you can see, I’ve running around like crazy.
That last item (clean garage) took a lot longer than anticipated. The previous owners left twenty (20!!!) cans of paint! Some in the attic, some behind my junk. That was a trip to the county waste disposal.
And speaking of my junk, I’ve lived in this house for two and a half years and I seemed to have accumulated more junk than I came with. Where does it all come from??? I believe junk multiplies while we sleep (junk orgies??). In any case, that was another reason cleaning the garage took longer than I first thought. At least 5 carloads of stuff to the Goodwill, full trash cans at each pickup and I STILL have more crap to deal with. In fact, I should be dealing with it right now, but I’m waiting for the rental management folks to come by and this seemed as good a time as any to update.
As to when I leave, it’s looking like I’ll be gone the last week of March to see my kids out west. I’ll fly back then leave for Baltimore to see family and friends there before I finally show up in Philadelphia on April 8. It’s looking like I’ll arrive in Namibia on or around April 11.
In prep for travel I’ve been looking at several things like what tech I’ll bring with me, and the types of clothes to pack. For the tech I’ve decided to not bring a laptop. I’m going to bring the following:
• WiFi iPad
• unlocked iPhone
• Bluetooth speaker
• 4TB USB hard drive
• travel router
• Travel camera
Those last two are interesting. The travel router along with the USB drive creates a personal travel cloud and provides internet access whenever that is available. So I can backup my devices locally. The router I picked (HooToo TripMate Titan) has its own power, can act as a host, and can even charge devices in a pinch. Pretty nice bit of tech, that.
I’m still trying to decide which camera to bring. Needs to be small, good zoom (5x optical at least), good in lowlight, and simple to use, but have manual controls. Turns out there are a lot good choices on the market, which has not made deciding easy. Leaning towards Canon, Sony, and Samsung.
That’s gonna do it for now. More to come so stay tuned.
I got my legal clearance from the Peace Corps this morning! I am all but in the Corps!
I was getting a bit concerned because that part was taking longer than even the Peace Corps was used to. Apparently the FBI was taking their time, or, as I mentioned in a earlier post, I have a lot more background to check than your average Peace Corps volunteer.
Anyway, I’m in!!
Now I’ve got to kick things into high gear. Lots to do and not enough time to do it in.
BTW, if anyone knows of someone looking to rent a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with no yard work to do and is 100 feet from a very nice community pool, please send them my way.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated with weather. I’ve been called weird because I enjoy walking in all kinds of weather conditions. I love feeling the raw power of hurricane winds or the gentle caress of a warm summer breeze. I get a kick out walking in torrential downpours or mists so light it can hardly be call precipitation at all. I’m equally engrossed by skies filled with massive thunderheads or with only blue so brilliant it hurts to look at it. But what is really cool to be in is fog.
Fog has the ability to turn the most uninteresting, even ugly landscapes into hauntingly beautiful vistas. There was a thick fog about this morning and I was out in it. I took these with my phone. I hope you enjoy them.
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog you’ll recall that I’ve had to deal with several lists of tasks in order to get “accepted” in the Peace Corps. While all of those tasks ( at least the ones I’m aware of. I’m going to check again) are done, the list of things I need to do to prepare for my departure seems to stretch on and on.
I’m not a list maker by nature, it’s something that I’ve forced myself to do after seeing how effective it was for my friend Marcia. She has to be the Queen of Lists. The woman puts everything on bits of paper and, amazingly, addresses them and crosses them off as she completes a task. At any given moment the Queen of Lists will likely have 3-5 lists hanging around with at least 2 or 3 tucked in pocket or purse. I imagine she’s still that way.
New habits are hard for old guys like me to pick up, but this one I made the effort to acquire and, while I’m no where near the list fountain Marcia was or is (nor do I think I want to be), I’ve managed to incorporate list generation into my planning of major tasks and events.
Included on my Peace Corps House Prep list are:
• Investigate refinancing – Done ( won’t do it until I get back)
• Investigate Home insurance – In progress (I discovered I can save about $1000 a year and get better coverage if I switch.)
• Get Wind Mitigation Assessment – in progress
• Touch up painting, exterior – in progress
• Price the cost of new windows – done, may have to wait until I return
• Touch up painting, interior – in progress
• Clean out the garage – haven’t started
Sadly, the list goes on from there, and that’s just one of three lists I’m working on.
The wind mitigation assessment is needed by some insurers since my home is close to 30 years old and has a ceramic tile roof. Getting it could easily save another $100-$200 a year in insurance costs IF the roof passes inspection. If it doesn’t then I may been looking at the cost of buying a new roof, which could be pricey.
By the way, if you haven’t done so recently, I strongly suggest that you call around for insurance quotes. I know I must sound like a Geico commercial, but you could save a lot on premiums. As you may (or may not) recall, Florida experienced an insurance upheaval after Hurricane Charlie. Many insurers left the state, and the ones that didn’t or couldn’t because of legislation requiring them to stay jacked up the prices to make it uncomfortable for homeowners to keep them as insurers. That, it turns out, is why my insurance savings is so high. I had kept with State Farm for both house and car. After some investigation it turns out that State Farm is considered one of the worst insurers in Florida and had been on a campaign to get out of the state by escalating premiums.
My bad. I should have checked this when I bought my house. If you have access to USAA then I’d recommend you try them. They don’t actually insure in Florida, but they are affiliated with local companies that service USAA members, and the premiums are really good. Another good insurer to call is Liberty Mutual. Like USAA, they don’t insure in Florida, but have local affiliates who service their customers in state.
So, another day, another item on my lists to attack.
This just in: The Peace Corps has granted me full medical clearance!
I got the doctor’s signature I was waiting for and that was all I needed. So I am ALMOST ready. As I mentioned earlier, the legal side is still processing my background check. Hopefully that won’t take too much longer.
Everyone please keep those fingers crossed. And eyes crossed.
Last week the folks tracking my medical tasks for the Peace Corps told me that since my physical was performed by a physician’s assistant it needed to be signed by a licensed doctor. Normally not a problem, but it turned out that my primary care doctor who oversees the assistant was on vacation. So, my medical clearance is delayed until that gets done, which now won’t happen until next week.
This morning the legal side of the Peace Corps wrote to tell me that my legal tasks, which includes my background check, is delayed because some agency has not gotten through checking me out. I think I understand it. Older folks, like myself, have much more background to check than those kids they tend to accept, so it will take a bit longer. Still, I’ve had so many background checks in my career you’d think the path would be well worn and easily travelled by now.
Either of these delays could push me out of being accepted in time to leave in April. Very frustrating because I can do nothing to accelerate the process. Patience. Patience. Patience!!
In the meantime I’ve been cleaning up, cleaning out, and setting up my life so that I can move quickly once I get accepted.
I also ran across a BBC show on Netflix called Africa and the first episode focuses on places in Namibia including the Kalahari. If you’d like to see where I’m headed (hopefully) then watch that episode.
Of interest is the first 5 or so minutes where they discuss an area covered by curious rings. The media calls them “Fairy Rings”. No one is quite sure what caused them to form. I hope to see this up close.
Back when I was writing articles about iPhones I had a discipline and a process. Monday I’d find a subject to write about. Tuesday I’d research the subject and produce a general outline for the article. Wednesday I’d flesh out the details. Thursday I’d produce a rough draft and take whatever photos I needed. Friday I’d edit the draft and upload the article and photos for publishing. For five years and with few exceptions, I performed this process weekly regardless of what was going on in my life.
Now, the Peace Corps wants me to blog my experiences before, during and after my tour. Writing iPhone articles was easier because it allowed me to focus on something that wasn’t personal. Blogging, however, is supposed to be personal and social. At least, the type I think I’m supposed to be writing. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but when there are rough spots in my life social is the last thing I want to be, and offering up whatever personal turmoil I may be experiencing to public scrutiny is definitely not something I want to do.
Still, I need to get into the habit of writing regardless of whether or not I feel like it, hence this post and the title. So, if all of this seems a bit forced, well, that’s because it is.
I’ve pretty much completed my Peace Corps tasks. Once I get one more signature and upload a document I should have all my ducks in a row. I then wait to get the official ‘Welcome Aboard’ letter and travel instructions. In the meantime I’ve been readying my house for rental. There’s not a lot that needs to be done, just stuff I should have done but was either too lazy or unfocused to do them. This passed week I ticked off a bunch of things; cleaned out my clothes closet and turned stuff into the Goodwill, touchup painting, first pass at personal document organization and purging, and so on.
That last one is a doozy! It’s amazing how much paper one can accumulate! I’ve filled a 40 gallon trash bag full of shredded paper! And that was just the first pass!
I still have the garage to attack and that promises to be nothing but fun because I’ve found stuff in the attic that the previous owner of my home ‘strategically’ left behind and now I need to figure out how to dispose of it. Stuff like solidified bags of concrete, cans of paint, old blinds and more. The garage needs a good cleaning out anyway. Ah well, it’ll be a good diversion.
By the way, when I had my portrait exhibition back in December at Stardust Video and Coffee I was asked if I’d like to show it again. I knew I’d be too busy and had to declined, but I asked a good friend of mine, Sarah Kantz, if she wanted to take my place and she accepted.
Sarah works in watercolors and her exhibit promises to be something well worth seeing, so please stop by on February first to see her work. I believe she will be showing the entire month too.