It really is amazing how time flies. I knew I had been neglecting the blog for some time, but I really had no idea that it had been seven months. Given that, I think maybe I should start off with telling you what I’ve been up to during that time.

Remodeling the Garage

Some time ago, medical problems progressed to the point that I had to move in with my mother. Let me tell you that, for a grown man, the idea of having to move home and live with your mom is a pretty horrifying prospect. But surprisingly, it has worked out quite well. On bad days, I need some assistance. On good days, I can help her out with things she can’t do for herself anymore.

One problem that we had to deal with though is our cats. She lets hers go outside while I keep mine inside. Neither of us wanted to change. We resolved this by converting the garage into a bedroom. It is an attached, finished, two-car garage with a large window, adequate light, and lots of room. For a temporary situation it was a good solution.

Eventually though, it became apparent that this living arrangement wasn’t going to be so temporary. We decided it was time to do some remodeling.

The door from the house led to a recessed alcove in the corner of the garage. I framed a door into the other end of the alcove creating a foyer between the garage and the house.

Everything was well lit with three ceiling lights but they were just bare bulbs. I changed out two of the fixtures with something a bit more decorative, and replaced the third with a lighted ceiling fan.

We discussed flooring but I really prefer throw rugs to carpeting. Given the expense, I decided that the concrete floor was fine (opposed to wood, Pergo, or similar options). I cleaned and painted the floors and added a number of rugs and am very happy with the result.

Painting the walls and ceiling a light yellow made a vast improvement over the dark green and it was starting to feel like a living space instead of a garage.

A few things still remained. First off, the water heater and furnace were exposed. I built a cabinet around these with lots of vents and a large access panel. Replacing either of them will be a problem but otherwise the cabinet worked out really well. Secondly, one window wasn’t enough for such a large space. Adding a second window was a little outside my comfort zone so we hired a contractor who took forever but did a great job. The cats appreciate having another window to look out of and the cross ventilation is wonderful.

For all this work, it was obviously still a garage. There were two garage doors at one end and all the hardware that goes with that. No one wants to look at something like that in their bedroom. More importantly, garage doors never seal tightly enough. They let in a draft, moisture, and bugs. After some discussion, we agreed that they had to go.

I’ve never installed or removed garage doors before and thought it looked a little daunting (especially those nasty looking springs at the top of each door) but it was a project I wanted to do myself.

The specialized bars you use to release the tension aren’t readily available locally and imo ridiculously expensive on-line so I went to a local hardware store and had them cut me two 18″ lengths of rebar. It was like $3 instead of $50 and worked perfectly. As intimidating as those springs looked, taking the tension out and removing them was actually quite trivial.

I literally had no idea how heavy the door panels were. I should have had a second person handy as a backup just in case but it turned out that they were ridiculously light. One person can easily manage them. Removing all the bolts was tedious but not difficult.

Framing in the two openings was pretty straightforward. I added an extra-wide, metal, exterior door to one side, and finished both sides off with insulation and drywall. After a great deal of thought I decided against driving bolts into the floor. I had concerns that it wouldn’t be secure enough but I wanted to retain the option of removing my framing and putting garage doors back up someday without having to deal with bolts in the floor at that point. Glue and a snug fit seems to have made it plenty secure so I’m happy.

For extra protection against the elements and unwanted bugs, I caulked the edges of the floor around the entire garage as well as the top of the footing, and repainted.

It was a lot of work which I had to do a tiny bit at a time. But the result is amazing. It’s a wonderful 20’x20′ bedroom that feels like a bedroom. I have an ample wall heater in the winter and window AC in the summer and enough privacy to be comfortable.

Creating a Work Area

I love my cats but it’s difficult to work on projects with them around. Painting miniatures especially takes a lot of room and I want to leave my paints and supplies out all the time without my helpers getting into them. Normally, I’d set up a space in the garage. Unfortunately, that’s no longer an option so I needed to come up with something else.

Years ago, I sold crafts at our local Saturday Market. For my displays, I used 6’x2′ grid panels (1/4″ metal tubes crisscrossed forming a 3″x3″ grid). It turns out that these make wonderful walls! I had enough to enclose an 8’x8′ area which let me set up my 4’x8′ work table on one side and bookcases, mini-fridge, printer, and storage on the other. All the panels were fastened together forming a secure wall with one panel only fastened on one side so that it could be used as a door. The open grid keeps cats out but allows unimpeded airflow which is wonderful.

Setting all this up, as well as routing electrical and hanging fluorescent lighting, took a great deal longer than it sounds but it was well worth it. I love finally having a work space again. It’s especially nice that I can still be near my cats without having them get into things.

Paying For a Day at the Beach

One day early this summer I woke up to a beautiful sunny day and was feeling particularly good. I decided to take my mom to the beach for the day. Even though it was extremely early in the season, the weather was perfect. There wasn’t even any wind which is unusual for the Oregon coast. We had a great lunch at Mo’s (best clam chowder on the west coast) and spent a few hours at the Aquarium. We even made it down to the beach to walk on the sand for a bit. All in all it was a full day. Very enjoyable and satisfying. By the time we got home I was exhausted and went straight to bed.

The next day I didn’t feel so well. I spent most of the day in the bathroom. For three days I had nastiness coming out of both ends. Finally, I broke down and went to Immediate Care. After some tests, the doctor told me that me creatinine was 2.2 (1.0 is normal and 2.2 is serious kidney failure). In addition, my blood sugar was severely spiked, my blood pressure was higher than normal, and I was dangerously dehydrated. Being diabetic with kidney and heart disease, these indicators are always high but these numbers were pretty extreme. She kept me in Immediate Care for seven hours, on intravenous fluids and medication, before things started to return to normal. She was insistent that I be checked into the hospital for observation but I’m a terrible patient. I frequently ignore such advice. I went home and observed myself. Probably not the smartest thing, but I knew how annoying and unnecessary a weekend in a hospital bed would be. Fortunately, that was the end of it.

But all that drama was, according to the doctor, caused solely by not drinking enough fluids that day at the beach. My kidneys are much more sensitive to a lack of fluids which sent everything else out of whack which made the kidneys even worse and so on.

Long trips, even day trips, will be few and far between from now on.

Computer Crash

My notebook computer (Asus Gaming System) was pretty cutting edge a number of years ago. I’ve had to replace the power supply twice and there have been intermittent connection problems with the keyboard and monitor since about the time the warranty ran out. But those issues weren’t severe and, all in all, I’ve been pretty happy with it.

A few months ago, it started making a noise. It sounded like the hard drive going bad. I had everything backed up and was only using it for games at that time so there was nothing new to back up. When it acted up, I ignored it. I figured when it finally gave out I would get a new hard drive; possibly even a whole new computer (although I don’t know how I’d come up with the cash for a new computer).

Then there was a new sound. This wasn’t the hard drive. I grabbed some tools and opened it. Sure enough it was the fan. With a powerful video card, I was always concerned that the cooling system wasn’t up to par. With the sole fan going out, I couldn’t risk using the computer till it was replaced. I turned on the computer just long enough to find and order a new fan through Amazon and then waited three days for it to get here.

Once replaced, everything was fine. Naturally, the next day the hard drive crashed. I picked up a new hard drive at Staples the next day and installed windows on it. When I hooked up my external backup hard drive, I discovered the worst… my backup files were damaged.

I set up the old hard drive as the D: drive, sure that if I booted to the new drive I could access the old drive. Maybe it was only some boot files that were damaged and the rest was ok. Nope. It looks like it was the interface card, not the data, that was damaged. *sigh*

Well, I had an older external backup hard drive. I connected it and everything looked good there. I transferred everything over and took a look at what I had. It was a two year old backup which had the bulk of what I had lost but not everything. Every day or so I remember something else that was on the dead hard drive that is now lost and gone forever. Nothing to do but move on, but I so wish I had been backing up onto both backup drives. I certainly will from now on!

And Now We’re Here

I think that’s the bulk of what I’ve been doing the past seven months. At one point my evil friend Glena got me back into WoW for a while. I was curious about the Panda expansion. I saw it. It was fun. But WoW just can’t hold my interest for long anymore. After that I went back to Star Sonata for a while. I really enjoy some aspects of the game but it is predominantly young kids (or adults that act like young kids) and I just can’t take that for long so I moved on.

For the past month or so, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about D&D. I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to come back to blogging but I got the push I needed so it looks like I’m back.

I’m excited to finally start some miniature painting and get back into map making so expect to hear a lot about that. Reading my early posts, I find my views on a number of things have changed so I plan to revisit some of those topics again as well. It’s probably time for a website facelift too. I’ll have to look at that and give it some thought.

Well, I got that all out. Now it’s time to move forward. I wonder how many people got this far and put up with all that rambling. :)

I’ll try to be a bit more focused from here on out. Cheers!