Monthly Archives: January 2009


Vacuum Cleaner Plug

I’ve often been called the King of Understatement. Well, if I’m the King then Jean must be the Queen. When I rented out the cottage, I brought just about everything in from the lake to the condo, including the vacuum cleaner. I think Jean liked it ‘cuz we had one for the first floor and one for the walkout basement. Now that I’ve gotten the cottage back, I’ve been slowly taking things back out. I was carrying the vacuum out the door and putting it in the back of the Jeep when Jean said, “I don’t think that works very well. It doesn’t seem to suck up very much dirt.”

When I got out to the cottage and started to use it, I could see it didn’t suck up any dirt. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I put the vacuum up on the counter to see if anything was blocking the tube between the roller brushes and the vacuum bag. The tube is about six inches long (remember, I always have something with me to measure) and, sticking my finger in, I could feel some balled up rug lint. I took the screws out of the tube holder, opened up the other end and I could see a plastic bottle cap that fit through one end of the tube, but was too small to exit the other end.

I could tell this was going to take some specialized equipment to remove the plug so you can see, in the attached picture, the expensive tools I used. The bottle cap is there along with way more rug lint than you would think could possibly fit in six inches of plastic tubing. Once I got it all out and replaced all the screws I had taken out (if you don’t have any parts left over, that’s a good thing), I placed it on the floor and turned it on. A pile of sand, a nail, and a handful of unpopped popcorn kernels scattered all over the kitchen floor. The vacuum was so hungry for dirt, I had to shut it off before it sucked up two dish towels and a large bag of potato chips.

At our “every-Saturday-morning-coffee-group” this morning, Bob Dickinson, owner of State Grounds, said he wanted to move the “Laura’s Hope” 5-K run from Ypsilanti to Hastings and would the Trilanders be interested in helping him do that? We said of course and talked for a few minutes about who to contact and where we could have it. After that, the conversation deteriorated quickly. It all started when Diane started talking about a “nude” triathlon calendar. Now, Diane is not a prude…she’s probably seen more naked men than Sher (get your mind out of the gutter…she’s a doctor), but this is the first she’s brought up naked anything. After that, people started bringing up real events that included naked runs and a naked bike race. It’s going to take weeks of therapy to get the images out of my head. Nightmares here we come.

I looked outside yesterday and figured it was too crappy to run on the streets so I decided, for the first time this winter, to run on the treadmill. I got all my clothes around and went to the fitness center. There weren’t all that many people in there so I got my choice of treadmills. I kept it at a slow pace (10 minute miles) and had a difficult time keeping my heart rate down. As you know, I’ve just started back running after a good while off, so it’s been a struggle to regain any sort of fitness level. I decided to run a mile, then walk a couple of minutes, then run another mile, and so on. I only planned to run for 30  minutes, so I was about two minutes into my last 10 minute rep when the fire alarm went off.

With the mental health offices above us and the old codgers (like me) in the fitness center inadvertently leaning against the fire alarms when they’re talking, fire alarms going off are a pretty common occurrence. Everyone continued to do what they had been doing until the staff came through and told us all to get out. We all walked out the back door and stood there for 10 or 15 minutes. I was in shorts and a sweat soaked t-shirt. It felt good at first, but that good feeling passed in about 2 minutes. I started getting colder, then the wind picked up. I looked around and there were several older people, yes older than me if you can believe it, and they were not comfortable at all. Some had come from the pool and some had been in taking a shower. I was elated when I noticed the people in the shower had stopped to put on some clothes and their jackets. The nightmares from this morning’s debacle are going to be bad enough.

Just (Working My Way Back To Fit) Jack

What Financial Crisis?

Right now I have CNBC on the tube and, if you’ve listened to it since the recent financial crisis began, you would take your money out of every investment you have and hide it in your mattress. The talking heads all seem to think that things are dismal and there’s nothing good in the markets to invest in. I know my retirement accounts went down 35% since the beginning of the year. But I don’t plan on using any of that money for five more years so, by then, I expect it will go back up. Maybe not to the levels they were before, but much better than they are now.

Real estate hasn’t fared any better and most of you know we own more real estate than most. But you can’t spend real estate anyway so, for us, it’s not that big a deal. I did get the cottage back from the renters, but I planned to do that anyway. I miss the cottage as a cottage and, right now, I don’t really care if it sells or not. I know it’s way bigger than we need for a “cottage”, and it’s at the end of the earth as far as Jean is concerned, but it’s only 14 miles away and I really like it there.

Besides, it’ll give me something to do this winter (wallpapering and painting) and summer (reclaiming the lawn from the moles and landscaping). On the negative side, since December 31st, when I got it back, I’ve shoveled 3 inches, 1 inch, 6 inches and 9 inches of snow out of the driveway. Am I estimating the number of inches? No! I always have something with me that’s 6 inches long, so I can accurately measure whenever I want.

Back to the financial crisis or lack thereof. Things haven’t changed much for Jean and me and, today, I got a raise of $18,744 a year. I got my first social security check. I don’t really need it, and I’ll probably put it in a money market account, but it’s money I put in and I want some of it back. Yeah, yeah! You employees know that you put in 50% and your employer puts in 50%, so only half of it’s actually your money. But I was self employed for most of my work years and I had to put in both halves. It’s all mine and I want it back before we use it to bomb some other poor hapless country.

I started running again for the first time since mid-November. I only ran once in Europe and, with the plantar fasciitis problem, I didn’t run much from early October until I stopped altogether to let my foot heal. Starting up again is really tough. I can’t swim in pools, I haven’t ridden the bike trainer much, and I haven’t run at all, so the only cardio I got was the elliptical, and that’s not very intense. After my first run of 3 miles, my quads were so sore I could hardly walk up and down stairs. I ran again Sunday at Martin’s Trilander run, brunch, snowshoe, cross-country ski, and ice fishing festival. About eight ice fished, but they must be new Trilanders ‘cuz I didn’t recognize any of them. Martin had the chain saw all set to cut a hole in the ice for the first annual Trilander Polar dip, but no one signed up.

My run consisted of a two mile struggle, a 100 meter walk, another mile struggle, and another 100 meter walk. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I ran outdoors yesterday. They talked a lot about the cold temperatures and colder wind chills, but the weather wasn’t all that bad. The run was! I felt nauseous before I went out and felt worse all through the run. I ran a mile before I had the choice of 1) continue running or 2) puke. I chose to walk. After a while, I started to run until I was right at the edge of barf, then walked again. Since some of you may be eating, I won’t go into my bathroom misadventures throughout the day. Suffice it to say, my digestive system must be empty…battered but empty.

I’ll ride the bike trainer again today and will keep the three runs (not the bathroom kind) and the three bike trainer rides in my weekly training schedule. I’ll add weights two days a week and an elliptical here and there until we can get outside in the spring. I did find an endless pool on E-Bay for $6,000 dollars but decided against it. I’m not sure I’d use it enough to make it worthwhile. It’s not a group swim type of pool and nobody would want to stand around and watch another person swim 30 minutes before it was their turn. I’ll save the money for something else. Besides, I’m not very competitive in my age group anyway and the “good geezers” aren’t dying off fast enough, so no need to lower my swim time by two minutes in a 6 hour race. I may be done racing anyway. I was first in my age group in my last race (I was the only one in my age group) so there’s nowhere to go but down. Quit while you’re ahead!

Just (Watching It Snow Again And Again And Again) Jack

What Was I Thinking?

I’m out of the landlord business and I’m happy to have the cottage back. I’ve made four trips back and forth since Sean turned over the keys…well, all but the garage entry door key. Has anyone seen it? Now it’s a matter of taking things back that we moved to the condo in town. Slight problem! About the time we rented out the cottage, Jean rented out the Green Street house, so she moved things here as well. Most of the things at the cottage were nearly new since I had bought them when I got the cottage in the first place and we sorted out things from both places we wanted to keep and things we wanted to give to Goodwill.

Now I see that some of those things have worked their way in everyday use, so I think it will be hard to pry them away from Jean. I told her I was taking the portable CD player out to the lake because that’s why I got it in the first place. She had adopted it as her own, and carried it everywhere from next to her bike trainer playing the oldies to the kitchen playing Christmas music ever since Halloween. I waited until she was at work on Friday and spirited it away. She didn’t say anything but has been walking around with a black armband.

Back in September, I told Sean and Alana (the renters) that I wanted the cottage back by March 20th. That would give them plenty of time to find a place, but they would be welcome to stay all winter. Sean called me about three weeks ago and told me they had found a place and would be moving around Christmas. They had given me a $500.00 deposit back in September 2007 and had always paid their rent. The rent went from the 21st of one month to the 20th of the next. He thought they would be completely out by the 26th or 27th so what should they do about the December to January rent? I told him to just not pay it and we would prorate whatever time they were in there past December 20th and deduct it from the deposit.

They were supposed to close on the Kalamazoo house on the 19th, get possession that same day and be out within a day or so. As it turned out, they didn’t close until the 23rd, the weather turned bad and they weren’t completely out until the evening of the 30th. We met on the 1st of January for the official “turning over the keys” and to settle up the deposit/rent situation. In the meantime, I had gotten a billing for the 4th quarter sewer of $103.50, and they always paid for that in addition to the rent. So 10 days divided by 31 days in a month times $975.00 equals their allocation of rent of $314.51. And 91 days (from October 1 through December 30) divided by 92 days in the quarter times $103.50 equals their allocation of sewer of $102.37. That brings their share to $416.88 which, subtracted from $500.00, is $83.12 and that is the amount of their refund.

So I gave them an accounting on a sheet of paper and wrote them a check for $500.00. WHAT WAS I THINKING? Sean stood there in disbelief and couldn’t think of a thing to say. I said, “Before you pass out, here’s the thing…I could have rented the place to someone who didn’t pay their rent, sat there and trashed the place, and they didn’t. Next, he and Alana were all packed and set to move out before the next month’s rent started and, through no fault of their own, they couldn’t. They fixed all the minor things that went wrong with their own money, and only contacted me when something major happened…like when the siding blew off the house.” As to their share of the sewer, I didn’t tell them the bill was coming, and I knew they probably had spent most all of their savings just to get the new house and move in. I didn’t have the heart to spring that on them.

Without admitting any past transgressions, let’s just say I have a few minuses that still need to be offset by some pluses.

I’ll have plenty to do this winter painting, wallpapering and generally getting the cottage to be mine again. Matt is here for a few days, so I’ll prey on him to help carry out the TV and TV stand and the microwave. I may take out one of the basement chairs to sit in and probably won’t take much else until renovations are made. The renters left it surprisingly in good shape. Not as clean as I would have left it, but I may be a little on the picky side. I have since mopped the living room/dining area twice to get the tracked in salt to not streak the floor. Where is Judy when you need her to take pictures proving that men actually do know how to mop? Sorry guys. I gave away one of the “man-secrets”.

For those of you who don’t live in Michigan, we had a minor ice storm here this morning. The streets and sidewalks were ice-covered and very slippery. There were several reports of cars sliding into ditches. In eastern Barry County, near where Brian and Brenda Green live, there were reports of three mental patients running down the road, wearing stolen Trilander jackets, trying to escape. No one knew which hospital they had escaped from, but law enforcement issued a statement saying, “They must be crazy…no one in their right mind would go out running on a day like this”. Hopefully they have been taken back and are receiving the mental health treatment they deserve.

Just (Didn’t Run Today, Maybe Tomorrow) Jack