Monday, November 23, 2009

Downsizing - Another Wetsuit Down, Housefull of Stuff to Go

The second wetsuit went to a guy who was working on his swimming pool (it's November) and had to get in the water. He told me his wife told him to just get in and not be such a wimp, but he said the water was very cold! He drove about 2 1/2 hours, arriving at 7:45 AM to meet me at the convenience store and buy the wetsuit. This was on the morning of the day when he had to get into his pool. He took the wetsuit without trying it on and later emailed me that it fit. I hope the wetsuit bought him enough time in the water to get the pool so it will be ready for next summer.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Distraction - The Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival has become a seminal event for authors and readers. Thousands of authors, or agents, apply for just a few more than a hundred slots. Anyone who has a book published during the year is eligible. Two authors I was assigned to help had written a book about Davy Crocket's congressional career. Their book was released the day before the festival started! So, when they had applied to be in the festival the previous January, their book wasn't out but was scheduled to be published. Those who choose who will be presenting books at the festival have to choose among lots of unpublished books and many unpublished authors, hoping to choose those books that will be hits. I wonder whether Sarah Palin will be here next year.

For a reader, it is fun to meet authors and hear the m talk about their new books. But it is also special to just be at the festival and see the crowds of readers. There are almost all full sessions at every talk in the festival, with some full of people in the back: "standing room only." There are always famous authors there, talking about their newest books. They get to speak in the large venues; the Senate and House Chambers and the auditorium.

I like to volunteer as an "author escorted." This means I am assigned to lead an author or group of them through the maze of the Capitol building to get to the room where they were scheduled to speak. I make sure they and their entourage are comfortable and that everything is right for their talk. Then I lead them outside and down the Capitol lawn to the "signing tent," where they sign copies of their books for anyone who wants to meet them. There are usually a few fans who are getting signatures on a souvenir T-shirt or poster.

The authors I have escorted have been many and varied. Most were humble, excited to be there, and very nice. The most impressive in fame as well as personality was Alexander McCall Smith. The Scotch author wrote "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series as well as several other series, some short story collections, some single volumes, and lately an opera, many about or taking place in Botswana. Smith spoke in the House Chamber to an overflowing audience. He wore a full Scottish kilt outfit, with wool matching kilt and jacket. His talk was delightfully funny, and when he answered questions from the audience, he showed a wonderful quick wit. Then, at the signing tent, although he had a long line of fans waiting for him to sign books, often several per person; he stood and shook hands with every fan and then sat down to write "To Claudia" or whatever they wanted and sign each book.

Three authors I escorted gave me copies of their books, two have exchanged emails with me, and one came to my book club and spoke.

I always enjoy the TBF!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Downsizing - Trusting in Craig's List

This afternoon, I had an email message from my recent Craig's list ad offering a used wetsuit for a low price. I was surprised, as I had placed the ad more than a few days ago; soI figured it would languish until expiring, as do most Craig's list ads after a day or so. But, I guess this guy searched for a wetsuit, and there weren't that many for sale; and the main selling point for him was that mine was a size small wetsuit. I called the guy and he had an Asian accent. He said he usually gets size extra small, and so he might want to try on the wetsuit.

I felt that it wouldn't be very polite to ask him to meet me at a gas station and take the wetsuit into the rest room to try it on. So, since he sounded like the "nice" Craig's list type and maybe even there was a little Asian stereotyping going on in my head, I gave him directions to my house.

Then I got a little nervous about it. Not too nervous, but I thought I should do something the smart way, since I was taking a risk. I called a friend and arranged that she would call me if she didn't hear from me after a certain amount of time. I guess there was just that comfort that at worst, my body would be found before it putrefied.

The guy arrived! He was a very small person, smaller than me, and I was the one with the size small wetsuit! The wetsuit looked as thought it would be a little large on him, but he decided to take it without even trying it on. He might have been having a hard time finding a small wetsuit. He just wanted to expand his swimming. He was also going to get some gloves that have webbing, but he wasn't going to get any foot flippers. Have fun swimming, nice little guy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Downsizing - House Selling - 2 Steps Forward?

Selling a house simplifies life, but I'm not so sure. I'm selling a house I have been renting out for about 8 years. The rental business has had its ups and downs. It requires various amounts of time, without a dependable schedule, but has brought in monthly cash, usually on a regular schedule. Up - my first tenant was a young single woman taking care of 2 small children for a friend who was having problems; and my last was a man who wanted a place to have his 2 teenage daughters stay with him so he could help them graduate from high school, which he (and they) accomplished! Down - I had to evict a family and go all the way through with having the Constable put all their stuff on the lawn, where it sat for days in the rain before I could get enough garbage trucks out to clean it up.

Selling the house will save me the time I have been giving to the rental business and will immediately give us some cash, but to me that adds decisions. Decisions, decisions, decisions! What to do with the cash, and what to do with the time! Nice decision to have, certainly! I do tend to be a "yes, but" person. So, I'll say but will we miss the income and tax advantages from the rental business. And if so, what will we do? To buy a new rental unit, we would have to use the cash from this sale plus incur a new monthly cash debt.

For now, I'm selling. I want to be finished with this old house. It will be good for me to unload it - to downsize!

It's not a done deal, but the house shows well. We have had some offers!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Downsizing is Easy with Craig's List

We used these tree rings for a year or 2 to keep our robot mower from banging into tender new trunks of trees we planted. The rings protected the new trees and shrubs, but they caused the mower to get stuck a lot, and instead of having beautiful flowers planted in these rings around the trees, we tended to have stray grass growing inside them. Once the trees had become established, decided the mower doesn't bump very hard anyway, and we deleted the rings from the yard.

The rings were so helpful and so strong that I was sure they would be great for reuse and would sell easily on Craig's List. I listed the 6 of them in the spring for $20. Nothing happened. The rings sat there on the driveway. In the fall, the rings on the driveway gathered a lot of leaves. I listed them in "Free Stuff" on Craig's List. Within minutes I had an appointment to meet someone to give him the tree rings. Within a few more minutes, I had 2 more inquiries.

Downsizing=1, Moneymaking=0

Cleaning up that corner of the driveway = priceless!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Distraction - Hot Springs

We went on a vacation to Colorado, complete with soaks in hot springs in 5 locations! It was a wonderful time, with energetic mountain hikes followed by soaks in the hot springs. What a perfect combination!

It's fun to compare hot springs. When I put the photos onto the computer, I realized that we didn't take photos of the pools! There were reasons for this! (1) It was cold outside, so when we went to the pools, we were in a hurry to get into the water rather than stand around with a camera. (2) The pools are wet and steamy, an environment not suitable for a camera. (3) We went to the pools in bathing suits and left our bags with towels and shoes by the side of the pool. So there weren't too many conditions suitable to cameras. However, if I had it to do over again, which I will certainly try to do, I would take the camera to the pools at another time fully clothed and take some pictures. You can go to the pools' websites to look at pictures of them.

Hot Sulphur Springs, in ... Hot Sulphur Springs

We went to these springs at night after a nighttime drive over Berthoud Pass (11,307 feet high) in a snowstorm. The snow didn't seem to be sticking to the road, but the temperatures were dropping as we drove. The hairpin turns labeled "15 mph" were indeed hairy in the dark and snow! So we relaxed that stress away in the springs. There were a bunch of small pools of various temperatures. We couldn't see the layout too well, as it was dark and not brightly lighted. The temperatures seemed to be accurately marked and there were pools of several very comfortable temperatures: we soaked very hot for a while, then a little cooler for a while. Hot Sulphur Springs were the only springs on our trip that had a sulphur odor. The odor wasn't disturbing during the soaking, although we could smell it. What was a bit annoying was that the smell stayed on my bathing suit throughout the trip, even after going into different hot springs every day and rinsing the suit every day.

Mount Princeton Hot Springs, in Buena Vista

We stayed at the inn/motel, which was one of the nicest on our trip. The room was large and clean and seemed somewhat new. I particularly liked the very large granite counter outside the toilet/tub area, where we could spread out our toiletries and coffee/water things. The pools are a work in progress and will probably be among the best when they are done. As of now, they are somewhat lacking. There is a large rectangular soaking pool that is hot enough but has no seats. There is a cool pool for swimming and families. They have a steam room outside, too, which is very warm and a nice touch that we didn't see anywhere else. And there are some springs along the river. The river springs are along the side of the river, but in the river. They are little areas where the river has hot springs. They're marked with stones. So you sit in a little stone-surrounded circular pool about 5' in diameter and about a foot deep. With the cold air and the sandy/muddy bottom of the river, we didn't find these pools appealing. None were very hot and none were very deep or even deep enough to stay warm. People seemed to be enjoying them, though. Another problem with these pools was that the pathway to access them without climbing over rocks was a long path that required walking in the cold air in a wet bathing suit for an amount of time that raised the bar high for the excellence of the river pools. As I said, more pools are being built, which should add just what Mt. Princeton Hot Springs needs.

Cottonwood Hot Springs, in Buena Vista

Cottonwood is one of the oldest and most famous of the springs spas. The motel is old. Reviews of the motel are mixed but mostly somewhat negative. We decided to stay there one night to see whether we would go back again. We...might go back again. The room was ok, not great. It wasn't really dirty, but it seemed old. The walls of the motel were thin. Because we were there off season, there was no one in the rooms next to us. I thought it was nice that the management set us up that way. So we had a nice quiet relaxing stay. There are cabins available, which we will certainly choose if we go during a busy time.

Cottonwood has an interesting history. The part I liked is about the rabbits. The current owners seem to be a pair of sisters who have been there since the 1980s. When they first moved there, they attempted to breed rabbits for food. Not only were they psychologically unable to kill the rabbits, but the rabbits went forth and began mixing with wild rabbits, resulting in some legal trouble. Introducing a new species into the wild is not considered a friendly idea. So they built a cage (rabbit jail) which is still there but apparently was ineffective. Supposedly there are a lot of rabbits around. We didn't see any, but the rooms have stuffed toy rabbits, which I thought were a cute idea but which can be construed as dust-gatherers.

The pools are right outside the motel. There is a very cold one not used much outside of summer, a luke-warm one that is nice for kids and for relaxing and cooling off after the hotter pools. There are 2 hot pools, one a little hotter than the other. We found the pools to be quite comfortable. They are nice and clean and in a lovely setting. There is enough room for having a quiet soak or visiting with other bathers.

Cottonwood has an array of spa services, such as massage. They don't have bathrobes in the rooms, though!

Wiesbaden Hot Springs, in Ouray

Wiesbaden is a spa, with a spa atmosphere, though it is in the heart of Ouray, if a mountain town can be said to have a heart. Ouray is in a valley among tall rocky mountains (see photo at the top of this post), so most everything is in the city. There are mostly farms or more mountains on the way into and out of Ouray. Although we didn't stay at Wiesbaden, the rooms are probably nice. And, they seem to have bathrobes. Or maybe just the spa has the robes. Anyway, I saw robes, which makes it an upscale spa in my mind.

There are 2 pools: one outside that is hot but not too hot, and very comfortable. It's rectangular and seems like a small swimming pool, with a seat around the perimeter. Inside is the vapor cave. It's a real cave. First you go through a door into the cave, which has all rock walls and has water flowing down one side. The ceiling is very high so it doesn't feel small at all. Then, you go through another door into the pool area. It's very dark in there. My glasses fogged up immediately, so I couldn't see anything. The pool takes up most of this room. It's very hot and steamy. One guest felt a little closed in, but we didn't. On the day we were there, someone had stopped the cold water hose or something, and the pool was very very hot. We couldn't stay in the pool more than a very few minutes at a time. We didn't realize that it was hotter than usual until later when we overheard someone talking about it. It was too hot, actually. I guess it's usually about 110 degrees. Should be very nice for those who like it hot.

Ouray Hot Springs Pool in, of course, Ouray

For our last soak, we decided we should go to the huge Ouray municipal pool, where my husband remembers soaking as a child. We didn't expect much from this very large and very public pool, but then we also figured it would have to be good to continue attracting people for so many years. The dressing room was very large, with lots of hooks and lots of private dressing areas with curtains. It was heated, which was especially nice for changing back into dry clothes after the soak. The pool had 3 large areas...not just large but huge. Each was at least the size of 2 Olympic-sized pools. The first was warm and had many children in it. The hotter pool was very comfortable. Not too hot but hot enough to heat you quickly on a cold day. In the hot pool, we found some inflow grates, where we could feel the hottest water coming in. It was nice to put our tired achy legs near this influx of hot water for a while, but the whole pool was hot enough to enjoy in any spot. The third pool was cold. I did not enjoy dipping into it, as I just don't enjoy dipping into cold water no matter how hot I am; but many people did.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Ouray public pools. There was a lifeguard on duty, fully dressed including a coat, and carrying a hook and a ring life-preserver on a rope. These guard are good to have around but probably rarely need to get wet. The ambiance was pleasant, with some tourist visitors but obviously a lot of local people enjoying a Friday-night soak.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Downsizing - House Selling - The Curb-Appeal Stage

With some advice from realtors, I decided what had to be done to fix up the house for selling. I didn't want to spend a cent more than would be necessary to get the house sold! But, I got some good advice and did a little more than I originally expected to do.

Indoor paint, 2 shades. A light tan on the walls and a contrasting white on the trim. An extra wall in the kitchen needed to retexturized and painted. Outside, I had some rotting wood replaced. Didn't think I would do this, but it was near the front door and affected "curb appeal." It looks much better done! I decided to have the brand new deck sealed, even though people said I didn't need to bother. The deck looks so nice, and I don't want it to start weathering before I even sell the house. New carpeting, cheap but new. Hired a cleaning crew, even though the house was mostly clean. I didn't want to do it! Also hired a guy to wash the windows. I was on vacation the day he was there; and my Realtor took care of the admin details. She reported that he had a bad attitude. The windows look better but not great. Their age shows.

The house looks great! The fixes are mostly cosmetic, but the curb appeal is definitely there!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Francis Goes Home to Houston

Francis is leaving tomorrow to go back to his home with my daughter. He has been such a sweet little fellow! His little face looks out from wherever he is, with bright eyes. When he first came here, the dog was away, and I was happy to have a little furry business. Francis had been upset at his home by the death of his cage-mate, Cyrus. Then the arrival of Jekyll the cat had frightened him quite a bit. He had been hiding most of the time. Francis was a comfort to me, and I think my attentions helped him to forget his troubles. He became very responsive, coming to his cage door whenever I go near, coming out of the cage and following my hand to wherever I would tap on the table. Sometimes, I would take him to the couch while I watched TV. I would put him on a big towel, and he would run around on the towel, hiding among the folds. Then he would lick my hand for a while. How tiny a tongue is there that likes/licks people? This might be the tiniest! I will miss Francis!
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reducing Anxiety

Ha! There's an interesting title for a blog post. There are books written about that. I am sure there is no succinct answer to the anxiety problem. More likely, there are as many solutions as there are anxieties.

Today I am making a small step in minimizing my anxiety. I'm having a quiet day, mostly at my computer. I am downsizing my unread Google Reader subscriptions by reading some of them. Listening to some music on YouTube. Sending some friendly emails. I took the dog on two walks, one in the morning and one in the evening. I am not trying to get anything important done. It's a day of rest, meditation, and relaxation.

Often on the weekends, I have seen other people in my family taking the day off for relaxing, napping, listening to music, watching movies, or reading. Most often, I do these activities for short times but after or before some sort of chore or endeavor. Typically while others would nap or watch TV, I would prepare food and/or clean the kitchen, research something online, work on some volunteer work I had committed to, or 'work' on just about anything else on my ever-long list of things to do.

Not that I am always working and never relaxing. Not at all. I spend a lot of time not getting important things done. I get a lot of unimportant things done. I have a nice amount of social activity during my weeks, and I watch some TV and movies and other Netflix things.

But it is rare for me to give a whole day to relaxation.

I am enjoying it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Dog is Back!

Well, so much for downsizing the dog. She was depressed in El Paso without her grassy yard and her other comforts. El Paso has very little grass and it has sticky burs, which is the reason I think she didn't like it there. So when Husband A brought the truck, he brought the dog, too.

So now I have Pi and Francis to keep me company. And now I have dog-walking every day or every other day and rat cage cleaning every few days and attention to pay to the two animals.

Not a simplified situation, but I love the animals!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Car Go Round Results in Downsizing a Car

Daughter E has been in Chicago with no car for 2 years. This was wonderful, but it got tiresome for her, and I don't blame her for starting to want a car. She wanted to move to a different apartment, one where she would be able to invite people over without having her bed and exercise elliptical machine taking up the space where chairs might normally fit in the living room. But to find a place like this near enough to the El would have been an astronomical rent. So she was wishing for a car.

Husband A had more than 120,000 miles on his 2002 Toyota Prius and was impressed with new technology available in the new Prius. So, he came up with a plan. He would buy a new Prius, and we would give the old one to Daughter E.

This plan was very fun and exciting. But there was a hitch. The way new cars are sold, usually you pick one on the lot and take it home. But with the new Prius, there weren't many or any on the lots. So, Husband A had to order a car. The dealers received lists of cars that were headed to their dealership from Toyota on the 10th and 20th of every month. That meant that we wouldn't know when Husband A's car would be available.

Daughter E visited us for several weeks in August but had plans to leave to drive her new car back to Chicago on the 20th. Meanwhile, Husband A had my truck with him in El Paso. So he planned to drive it back to me when he was able to pick up his new car. We would be one car short as of August 20th. Upon hearing about the situation, my dear friend Carla offered to lend her old truck to me. They weren't using it much, so they were glad to have it off their driveway for a while. I was so touched I agreed. It would save me the cost of a rental car! After E left on the 20th, we learned on that no white Prius would be available for us on from the list the dealer received from Toyota on the 20th, so we would have to wait. The good news was that the salesman thought he might be able to trade cars among some dealers to get one for us before the 10th of September.

The truck was 10 years old. It was big, a full-sized truck. I drive a small truck. I was uncomfortable about the possibility of breaking something or having something go wrong on my watch, so I limited my driving. I missed a few things, but it wasn't too bad. I did go where I needed to go. I didn't want to change the radio, so I listened to the UT NPR station all the time in the truck. This turned out to be a bonus; I heard lots of good shows and music!

Finally, Husband A's car arrived and he drove my truck home and we returned the big old truck. So now we all have vehicles. The new car is great! Shiny shiny and drives great. It has a camera in the back so you can look at the screen and see what's behind you when you're backing up. All fun! I'm glad to have my truck back.

Did we downsize a car? Yes. Did we add a car? Yes. I guess we came out even but ahead.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Opportunity to Downsize...A House!

The tenant is out. The house is empty. It's kind of bittersweet to have it back. I guess once the tenant started failing to pay and I began thinking of needing to get him out; I started looking forward to getting control of the house again. But I don't want to be attached to it; there's nothing in that for me.

I have decided to sell the house, for the following reasons:
1) I am tired of the hassles of landlording. I am somewhat disillusioned because although I thought I was providing a service and helping people, I realized that the basis of my interest was really financial and I was unwilling to provide much charity...just a little.
2) Because of the $8000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, the size and price of home I have is selling well.
3) The house is getting old, and old things should be disposed of before they start breaking down (things, not people((I hope))).

So I am starting to think about selling. There is a lot to think about. It's not like trying to decide whether to keep a bell or not! There are several places/ways to sell a bell, but not nearly as many decisions as there are involving the best way to sell a house.

Which realtor, what kind of service to expect from the realtor and with that what kind of commission to be willing to pay. What repairs to do, how much to pay, who to do the work. Do the cracks in the wall mean anything needs to be done?

Do I fix things or just get estimates and suggest the buyer choose their own paint and carpet colors? Do I get carpet that I won't have to pay for until the house sells? Or will they charge extra for that privilege.

I have to get prices on everything.

Meanwhile the high-school kid across the street wants to charge $25/week to mow the small lawn. And the worst part of that is that there is a small mower in the shed, but I don't have the kind of strength it takes to start it!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oops, I Added a Pet

Francis the pet rat is here to keep me company! And I am here to keep him company! Francis is recently bereaved of his cage-buddy, Cyrus. Rats are very social animals. They rarely sleep alone when caged together; rather, they make a rat pile. Francis was also suffering insult added to this injury, in that cat Jekyll has recently adopted Francis' person, my daughter. Francis was terrorized and depressed, and I was going to be the only moving part to my house for a while, so it was only natural for my daughter to bring Francis to me for some rest and rejuvenation.

I have Francis all set up on the table near my computer...but not attached to my computer. I don't want him running and chewing and peeing and picking up things on my desk; that would indeed be too distracting. He has his own table to spread out on when I am home and I open the cage for him. He has several boxes to play in, with little portals he can go through. He seems to enjoy my company, sitting still for petting and coming out from wherever he is hiding, when I visit him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Down Dog

Now I have downsized my dog. Supposedly, I am busy downsizing my collection of things; and I should be able to say here that I have such a momentum going of getting rid of so many things that the dog got swept out in the whirlwind. But that's not how it is. I have been so very slow about getting rid of anything, it's more like I owe some downsizing and so it falls to the dog. It's not really like that, either.

Husband is working out of town in El Paso and has an apartment out there. We get 2 weekends together each month, out there or at home. We decided it would be nice for my husband to have the dog out there with him. She dotes on him, crowding in to lick his feet every chance she gets. She'll lick his feet for hours. I shove my feet in her face and all I get is maybe one small lick if I'm lucky and/or have been walking in gravy.

So, daughter and I drove out there to visit and brought the dog and left her there. The dog gets a nice walk up the mountain every morning and gets to be with my husband all day at work in his office. What she doesn't get is her doggie door that opens onto our lawn...and me. I talk to her on the video phone each evening. She lifts her ears and cocks her head to each side trying to find the source of my voice. I think the worst for her is that there is very little grass in El Paso, particularly around the apartment complex and where they usually walk. My husband isn't sure that his coworkers really like having to greet the dog when she comes to jump on them every time they enter his office, but that, of course, is what this friendly dog likes the best! We're trying it out for a while.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Distraction: Interim Before the Next Project

The carpet cleaning did get finished, with everything put away. A few choice items that were taking up space unnecessarily, eg, on the shelf that I did remove from the end of the couch, ended up in the garage for downsizing, and a few places got dusted. Everything looked great for my daughter's vacation. She is here from the big city Chicago for a few weeks. I am overjoyed about having her here!

I always have downsizing on my mind, but I have a kind of stretchy mind, and right now downsizing is far toward the edge, kind of in a pooched-out place. I am taking a vacation and enjoying visits from both my daughters.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Distraction - Not Finishing the Job

Not finishing is not happening to me, but it is trying to! The carpets are clean, but they have taken overnight to dry. Some are still a little damp. I keep thinking of things to do other than putting the house back together. In the kitchen, I temporarily placed the plastic shelves from the office, which are full of financial reports I have received in the mail and wish I could understand, some old camera equipment that I already brought to the camera store to sell for me on consignment but they wouldn't take, and some precious patent leather shoes that my kids had to have for band but that the current band kids seem to have to have in a different brand. I need to either put these shelves back in the office or clean them off and maybe leave that nice-looking space in the office clean. (I call the second photo, "Even the Dog Leaves When I Put the Shelves Back Next to the Couch.)It's a decision.

Instead of making the decision and getting the shelves out of the kitchen, along with all the other things I have taken off the carpets and end tables and temporarily placed in the kitchen, I keep thinking of things I should get ready to sell on Craig's List, banking statements I should peruse, a balance sheet I should create, and the Netflix DVD of the Gilmore Girls season 3 that I need to finish before Monday.

But the project was to get the carpets cleaned, and that means putting everything back on the carpets or otherwise disposing of things properly. That means upstairs, too. I'll finish it...before I take on any other projects, and as soon as I finish posting my thoughts about it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cleaning Downsizes Dirt & Helps Organize

This is the perfect opportunity for getting all the carpets cleaned: no one's around but me for a while, our young adults are planning to visit in a few weeks, and the upstairs was done about a year and a half ago and the downstairs carpets are 2 and 3 years old. I'm ready! The effort of getting as much as possible off the carpets and getting other surfaces cleared so that furniture can be moved is tremendous...especially in a home with too much stuff! Every one of our too-many end tables has too many dustables; these have been moved to the kitchen table, mostly.

My original plan was to take as much off the carpet as possible and move the rest to the hardwood and tile areas. A sudden brainstorm reminded me to leave a large path for the steam and vacuum tubes to run between the driveway and all the carpets. With my free hardwood and tile areas decimated, it still was workable.

Without mentioning names, I will mention that I made one mistake. I was lazy. My daughter was home for the July 4th holiday, and I was too lazy to tell her I was planning to get the carpets cleaned. I didn't ask her to leave her room ready. It wasn't negligence; I kind of felt sorry for her because she has been working outdoors in this searing heat so much lately, and she had to drive 4 hours each way to be here. I wasn't feeling too energetic myself. So the weariness of it all kept my mouth shut. The hardest thing we did over that weekend was put fluids in her car - it entailed a trip to Walmart, complete with asking a man who was also shopping in the automotive area for advice on transmission fluid. There were two kinds, neither of which were actually "transmission fluid." Fortunately, the guy was able to help us. Why the transmission fluid wasn't right next to the two kinds of other transmission things (cleaner? lubricator?)I don't know!

My daughter left her room ready for a room cleaning, not a carpet cleaning. I tackled that one first or I would have never gotten the house ready! I put some of her things on shelves, put clothes into a big plastic laundry basket and stuffed it in the closet, and cleared some things onto the wooden platform that she has as a canopy over her bed.

The other difficult room was the office. There are a lot of things stored on the floor! Plus I did move DHs work table out, by first moving everything from on top and underneath. There is still a snarl of wires about a foot wide and 7 feet long under my work/computer tables. I decided to just leave it there. It's not as if it drops food on the carpet anyway. I'll sit down there and vacuum by hand under it.

I still have more vacuuming to do. I worked hard to get the upstairs vacuumed. It took 5 separate vacuuming sessions. For me, this meant 5 trips upstairs to get the Roomba placed into each room and started. Actually, it took more; some to rescue the Roomba from a tight spot.

The downstairs isn't vacuumed yet. That's today's chore. I have to use the regular vacuum for some of it. Oh, and the stairs! That is the hardest vacuuming of all - note to self: do it first!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bells Sold, Collection Downsized

Members of the American Bell Association (ABA) are connoisseurs of bells. They know which bells are collectible, and they know which bells they like. Sometimes the two categories don't go together too well. I think most everyone in the group has some bells that are worth money and others that are favorites even though they wouldn't appeal to collectors. At the ABA convention, a group of 150 collectors from all over the country and a few from overseas talked about bells, looked at bells, and bought and sold bells. There were slide shows about such bell categories as Disney bells, hanging bells, and bells with men depicted on them.

There was a "behold room," where several members graciously displayed groups of bells they brought. One table had bells by John Macombie, who may be the most popular bellmaker currently producting metal bells. One table displayed a collection of Chinese enamel bells; the whole table shimmered with bright blue and green tinted bells. The person who essentially planned and ran the convention brought her collection of all things with a flamingo theme.

There was also an auction, lasting 6 hours on Saturday. This was where the most serious buying occurred. I had some serious bells in the auction. Some sold well, although prices were generally low this year.

Also, a "sales room" was open specific hours. I had a sales table. I spent about 20 hours selling bells. It was a lot of fun because of the interest and love of bells expressed by everyone who visited my table...and most everyone did. I went to the convention with 11 boxes of bells to sell and came back with 9 boxes. So, I downsized!

Distraction: I bought 3 bells. I couldn't help getting a little bit into the quest. I bought one bell because it was pretty and a low price, one because I had wanted one like it and had bid on it and lost at the auction...I got the same bell for about 30% less at someone's sales table after the auction! Also, I got one bell that I bid on at the auction. It wasn't a valuable bell, but I liked it and I think my daughter will like it. No one else bid on it, so I got it at the lowest price. I bid on 3 more bells, but it was clear to me in all cases that someone else bidding wouldn't stop raising the price no matter what, so I gave up each time. When I got home, I realized that the bells I bid on and didn't win were not as nice as others like them that I already have. I was mostly glad I didn't win them. After all, I'm downsizing here, not building a collection!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bells Bells Bells Bells Bells Bells Bells

I have done good work this week. I have prepared 167 bells to bring with me to sell and give away at the American Bell Association Convention! For each bell, I listed it in an Excel file, gave it a price and pricetag, and made sure it is on a photo in my computer. I will bring paper copies of the file, and I will note who buys each bell and the actual price they pay. I like to keep the bells well-organized, so I know for sure where they went and how much money I have made. I have gotten to know the bells, and every now and then I want to check on a specific one. I have also gotten to know some of the bell collectors who have bought my bells (I sold many a few years ago.), so sometimes I check my files to see where a certain bell is or who bought one. For more about the bells and the convention, see my post from February 15th. I have been getting ready for this for months!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Husband Shows Wife How To

Last weekend, while I was away with friends (having lots of laughs, some shopping and even some culture), my husband cleaned his closet. When he told me he had "scheduled" it for while I was away, I knew he meant to roll up his sleeves and super downsize. I wasn't disappointed! He had everything boxed up. I huge box, mostly T-shirts from the 1980s through now, 1 leaf/trash bag full of work jumpsuits for various types of weather, 2 medium-sized boxes, mostly pants and shorts, and about 30-40 shirts and jackets on hangers.

My daughter and I went through the stuff and were able to find some treasures. Although my husband has always been a few sizes larger than me, that doesn't mean he has always been a few sizes larger than any size I have ever been. This means that I am now a size where I can wear some of his old clothes! So I found a pair of jeans that fits me well. My daughter found some useful clothes for working in the field for her environmental cleanup job.

My husband's side of the closet is virtually empty, which showcases the rich tapestry of clothes on my side. My side is neater than it was before I started working on it about 2 years ago, though, and I get a feeling of controlled choice in there: lots of choice but it's under control. I feel like everything in my closet is useful to me, at least at some time of the year! I'm not planning to downsize my clothes much, except to continue slowly getting rid of things I notice that I haven't worn in a year or two and/or that I hate.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Distraction - Diagnosis

Unluckily, I have been diagnosed with an illness and must undergo surgery. This past month the time went to the testing, diagnosing, more testing, researching, and deciding. Another week for surgery and maybe I'll be out of the woods. Other than that, "I don't want to talk about it!"

I did some downsizing during the month, but not much. I went through my displayed bell collection, and my daughter went through hers. We took about 20 bells off the shelves to sell at the convention this June. I went through the bells I have already chosen to sell and chose a bunch for my sales table. I hope the bell collectors will appreciate these gems!

I thought I was so busy, but when disease reared its ugly head, I found time for it, although at the expense of lots of downsizing! I feel fine and will be fine soon!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Distraction - Plumbing

Simple? Of course not! I decided to replace my bathroom faucets because one was leaking and they were all corroded. Simple. So I go to the plumbing supply to look for new fixtures, and what do I see? No faucets in the color that's throughout my bathroom - polished brass! It isn't in style right now. Brushed nickel is in. But my shower is polished brass, and my bathroom window has built-in polished brass mullions among glass block. Lucky me - pretty but not simple.

I had found some faucets at Home Depot when I was shopping for the water heater (see previous distraction). They are polished brass. There were only the 2 sets left, because they were being discontinued. Of course, they were on sale. The Home Depot salesman told me that because they were discontinued, they would eventually be discontinued by their computer system, and in that case I would not be able to return them. So, I decided to get the plumber quickly to install them. I hoped I would be quick enough to be able return them if necessary, in case there was something wrong; ie, before they disappeared form the Home Depot computer system.

The plumber spent several hours. Finally he told me that the "adapter" (remember that word) was too short, so the handle of the faucet didn't quite reach the valve to turn the water on and off. He said that some faucets came with little adapter extenders in case this happened, but there were no extenders in this set.

We phoned the 800 number for the faucets and waited about 45 minutes for help. The help line said there were no adapter extenders for these faucets. I phoned again and waited again and this time they told me they would send me a new set of adapters, which would reach me in 7-10 days.

So the plumber left the bathroom sans faucets. I went in to clean up a bit, and I was taking the faucets apart and putting pieces together at random, when suddenly, I realized that the plumber had the adapters on upside down! The adapter is a cylinder about 1 inch long, but one end is narrower than the other, and when I turned it over and put the faucet together, it worked!

The next day a master plumber came out and spent 4 hours putting everything together. The company didn't charge me. Later that night, I realized that one of the sinks had a leak underneath where the plumber hadn't sealed two pieces together.

I phoned the company about the leak first thing in the morning. A while later, the phone rang. The boss who had sent the master plumber was on the line asking me to pay for some of the job, because when he said I'd get the remainder of the job for free, he hadn't realized that the previous plumber had left everything totally uninstalled. He thought the plumber had installed everything except the adapters and handles.

Ass that I am, I talked this through with this boss and agreed, yes it had seemed a lot of plumbing hours to get for free and sure we'd be glad to pay for another couple of hours. Then it came out that this boss didn't know about the call I had placed in the morning about the leak under the sink!

They'll fix the leak for free, but I'll still be paying those fees I agreed to pay. Had I been a little more adept, I might have embarrassed them into dropping all the charges!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sequences Require Hours in the Filing Cabinet

I decided to make a copy of my password notebook to put into a safe. Because my printer is rigged by the manufacturer to make copies with fully dark print, I decided to scan the pages of the address book into the computer and then print them out with draft print, thus saving a few cents' worth of inkjet cartridge. Beginning the scanning, I realized that each page would be named and saved as a separate file. I decided I would rather have all the pages in one big pdf file, so they could all be printed at once. I thought this would be a standard procedure, but when I started to do it, there was no way to do it! The free pdf readers will not do it.

I searched online under "how to scan a document" and then "how to digitize your files." I found some information, but not what I wanted. I tried various searches using the word "combine." I found a free software program called Scan2PDF. I tried it; but the error messages, which kept coming up, were in German, and the program wasn't doing what I wanted and was crashing on me.

My husband suggested checking Lifehacker. On Lifehacker, I fund several free software downloads for PDF file merging. The comments sections on the posts were, of course, helpful. I wanted to use PDFill because it allows you to rotate pages within a file, but I had problems with it. I ended up with PDFMerge. It worked great, and I ended up with my password book all in one pdf file! I got it all archived and safe.

This all took about 5 hours. Much of that time was taken by scanning and multitasking. I found that a slower scan produced a clearer image, so I used the slow scan and multitasked during the scanning.

Once the sequence for getting the password book archived had been completed and while I was performing the routine to scan and save each address book page, I decided to complete some paper document filing. When I have a paper document to file, sometimes I put it into a "to be filed" file at my desk rather than filing it right away. This "to be filed" file fills up every couple of months and I have to file the papers in it.

The sequence for filing involves not only filing the new statements etc, but also finding old files in the paper folders and purging them...and shredding them. For financial accounts, I like to save a paper copy of the full year's activity. This is usually the December statement. I have stopped paper statements on some of our accounts but not all. So, I have to purge some files when I add new ones. Sometimes it's as simple as shredding the April statement and filing the May statement. But sometimes I find a big fat wad of old statements. To purge them carefully, I have to wade through them to be sure I don't throw away anything important.

This time, I decided to add some hanging folders in one of the file drawers, because half of the files in the drawer were in hanging folders and the others were in the front of the drawer without hanging folders. Every time I have needed to access a file in this drawer, particularly among the folders that weren't hanging, I had difficulty and broken fingernails. Putting the files into the hanging folders seemed to be neater and to make it easier to manipulate the files in the drawer.

But adding all those hanging folders made the drawer tighter. I had to find something to purge, and sure enough, I found an old file of all my daughter's checking and credit card statements for the last 6 years. Bingo! I took these out, among others and cleaned out the drawer considerably.

Now I have about 6 inches of papers to shred, 8 pages at a time.

Exterminator Finishes and Leaves; Episode Closed

After the supervisor closed the hole, the noise never did start again. After about 4 days, the exterminator visited one last time to pick up the traps and close the case. EEK! He found a rat in one of the traps! After almost 2 months and 10 visits that included 3 whole-house rat!

A few days later, no new activity; and they did take the traps and close the case. The nights are quiet, except for my mind, which jumps and waits silently for more each time I hear the tiniest noise.

We'll never know what really happened in the attic and subfloor! Such are the mysteries of life.

Nevertheless, we are minus one pest. Downsized!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Revelation About Making Decisions

I'm getting ready to go to the annual convention of the American Bell Association (ABA). This will be my first time attending one of these conventions, though I have been a member of my local chapter for about 7 years. Since our local group is hosting the convention, I will attend and will help the group. It's a small group of about 30 very dear folks.

The convention is an opportunity to show the bells I want to sell. The audience is a select group of bell collectors! To seize this opportunity, I need to decide which of my bells to sell. Then I need to get the bells ready, devise a method of record keeping, and pack the bells to sell.

I have had a problem deciding which bells to sell. When I first inherited the collection from my parents, someone in the ABA gave me some advice I have been grateful for:
(1) Don't sell anything until you know what you have and what bells are parts of a set with other bells.
(2) Don't sell anything you like; you won't have a chance to own it again.

I saved all the bells I liked in any way. Then I sold off a lot of bells that I clearly didn't like. I also tried and failed to sell many of the bells that I don't like. What I have left is a lot of bells ready to sell but still too many bells that I have saved because I like them.

A difficult task I face before the convention is to sort the bells that I like and sell some of them. There are several reasons why I have kept these bells:
(1) I do love some of them! They are cool, fun, and beautifully made. Some depict famous characters who mean a lot to me. Some have interesting histories or uses. Some are very old. Some are unique (back to cool).
(2) They are a collection. This is one of the sticky problems. If I see the bells as a collection, then I am apt to keep some I don't like, because they belong in the collection. If I see them as individual bells, I may sell off some that go with others. Then the individual ones will be on the shelf all alone. Will they have as much visual clout without the collection surrounding them?
(3) Some I have saved because they are valuable and it's special to own them.

Looking at some of the bells I have kept, and casually puzzling about how to choose some to sell, I found myself looking at some specific bells and wondering how much money I can get for them. Can I get what they are worth? Are people at the convention going to be more thrifty this year because of the economy? Looking at other bells, I didn't even consider wondering how much I could get. I couldn't even consider selling them!

It wasn't until later, when I wasn't thinking about the bells, that I realized that I had answered one of my own toughest questions. One helpful way to decide which bells I am ready to sell is to ask myself, "how much do I want for this bell?" This might not help me sell the bell for the highest price, but it will tell me whether the bell goes into the "for sale" pile!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Distraction - Water Heater Replacement

The tenant called to say it wasn't an emergency; he had the temperature on the water heater all the way up and they were getting good enough showers with all hot water and just a little cold water to keep it from burning. The water heater is so blocked up with hard-water residue that only a tiny bit of water is actually heating and getting to the house.

So I got after it! I called plumbers and my husband. I went to Lowe's and 2 Home Depots. I got opinions about the building code. I Googled the building code.

The question was about where the line from the new drain pan should empty. The heater had been upgraded to code in 1998 by a plumber, but it didn't have a drain pan. The current code definitely calls for a drain pan. The drain pan is a simple pan that goes under the heater, but it holds only an inch or two of water. It has a plug that attaches to PVC piping so that if more than a small leak occurs, the water will be carried away from the heater and the house.

The tenant said he'd install the heater and end the drain line where the air-conditioner condensation line is. An Inspector who works at Home Depot said it can't drain there, and that if we did that, when it comes time to sell the house, the Inspector will note it and the buyer will make us fix it to code or pay to have it fixed.

The plumber said the pan needs to drain outside, ie, the plumber will install the water heater and run the drain piping to the wall and drill a hole through the brick wall of the garage so the water can drain outside for approximately $800.

Another Home Depot salesman who is also an Inspector called his boss for me. His boss said the drain line can end over the edge of the little step in the garage (just a few feet from the water heater, which is on the little step). This way, in the unlikely case of any overflow; the water would drain onto the garage floor, which is slanted toward the driveway.

The code says the pan drain must "...terminate over a suitably located indirect waster receptor or ... to the exterior of the building." Google says "did you mean waste receptor?"

I phoned the city to help me interpret whether using the garage floor for the potential draining would be OK. The city engineer agreed that we could just end the drain line over the little step. Just so that no part of the inside of the house would be damaged in case of a water heater flood.

The water heater research and shopping took 2 days.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Downsized One Folder

I cleaned close to an inch thickness from the family folder called "Dental." In the front of the folder are the insurance information, pamphlets from the dental office, and invoices from the last year that cover more than one family member. Then, each family member's records begin with a brightly colored piece of paper. Each person has a different color. There's no tab to find these pages, but the bright colors show up easily. Each person's records now include any statements that mention procedures that were done. I keep health records back as far as possible.

I threw away the paperwork from all appointments that didn't involve a procedure, ie, some important dental history.

After going through every paper in the file, there was a pile of garbage on the floor, but there was one more task to do!

I had to choose between shredding everything or sorting through the garbage pile and just shredding the pages with personal information on them. My shredder takes only 8 pages at a time, makes a lot of noise, and is a mess to clean out. So I sorted!

All the insurance claims and statements with personal information such as social security numbers are getting shredded!

The rest of the garbage, which did have names, addresses, and some dental history, went into the kitchen garbage with the coffee grounds and vegetable trimmings. That's my little way of discouraging identity theft. If you want to know TMI about me, it will involve knowing what I didn't eat!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Done Digitizing Old Record Albums!

I made it! All done before the mp3 encoder access expired! And with days to spare! I now have a computer full of old music and a bunch of record albums ready to give away.

But is it simple? Huh! Not me! There are 3 problems:

1) Finding a market to get paid for some of the old albums and taking the time to get the records to that market, be it a live flea market or garage sale or a Craig's list or Ebay.

2) Many of the albums have a lot of information on them, including histories of the artists, listings of songwriters, and notations of song names and length of tracks;and a few of the albums have booklets with even more information, such as lyrics and photos from performances. These seem to be worth....keeping. Ayeee

3) Windows Media Center has a feature where you can connect the batch of songs from an album to a photo of that album cover and listings of the "tags," ie, listings of names of tracks and lengths. I guess this is so that you can form playlists of albums easily. This feature is a little stodgy, in that if you name a song wrong, it gets all confused and offers you the correct name of the song. But sometimes you have a slightly different version of the album than is listed or sometimes you want to list the song with a different title. And this gets mucky.

You can create your own version of an album or a "mix" album within these Media Center listings. I spent a lot of time working with this while my albums were recording. It was doing pretty well, until all of a sudden, a whole bunch of albums I had gotten into the system all had the picture of the Sweeney Todd album. And then I worked on that and they all changed to the Oxygene cover. I dunno what happened.

Then there were shows, where the theme was played more than once during the show, eg, the Sweeney Todd theme. When I listed it for the second time, it erased the record of the first time. Oh, it got worse. The short version is that I gave up and now have not only 4 albums with the Oxygene cover showing next to them but also about 250 songs listed on the Media Player as "newly recorded" but not grouped into albums with tags. I have them in folders in my files on the computer by artist and album, but in the Media Player they are just listed individually. And so now I am saving about 30 albums so I can figure out which song goes with which album and what order they would be in, if I ever want to straighten out my Windows Media Player. Not sure I will do this. I never used this feature in the past.

Eureka Was Premature But Maybe Now...

That night I heard the rampaging rat, the squirrel soccer team, or whatever was up above my ceiling again. It bangs and clangs and pads and saws! It's directly above my home office. Sometimes it sounds like it's sawing a large piece of wood. Sometimes it seems to be picking up a small piece of wood or a screw and throwing it around. It runs from the office to the laundry room and to the guest bath. Banging on the ceiling directly below it doesn't phase it any more, though this move was followed by a long silence the first time. Sometimes it seems to be twanging wires, playing our electrical system like a guitar. And sometimes I can hear it dig into the wood of the house with it's teeth and pull a little piece off.

After a couple of nights of this, I called the exterminating company and demanded a supervisor. He spent several hours, all over the house. He found another hole under the shingles on a back gutter. He set various traps in the subfloor. It has been quiet...for one night.

Waiting to downsize this animal and again hoping it's done.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I think I found the hole where the animal(s) is(are) getting in. At about noon, there was much noise above my head in the attic. I'm thinking squirrel, bringing in a walnut, dropping it on the sheetrock above my head, rolling it around some...just because it's round. Then twanging some wires. Then running across the floor (my ceiling) and climbing around in the fixtures over the laundry room, picking up small pieces of wood along the way and dropping them. Or maybe it was trying to drag a long stick through the attic and the stick was getting hung up among wires, boards, and detritus along the way.

I couldn't just sit there and not try to do something. So I went into the attics...again. The guys I pay don't seem to be getting the job done. But it's my house and someone has to do it! I wore neoprene gloves this time so I wouldn't quail at going where I knew I needed to go - among the insulation. I went as far toward the slanted-roof edges inside the 2 attics as I could.

I found a tiny hole that has been gnawed in the tippy tip of a bay-window angle way up high in the top attic, but it's very small. Then, in the lower attic, closer to where I have been hearing the activity, I found shavings that look like a nest. This is next to an edge where the slanted roof meets the gutter. When you look from inside the attic, you can't see the whole nest; because the floor of the attic is double, and you can't see the lower part. All I could see of the nest was a few inches of what looks like shavings, but it was enough. I could see a place directly above it on the particle-board ceiling where the gnawing had occurred.

This wouldn't explain all the gnawing sounds like a huge saw that I have been hearing above my office, but it is a start. Because outside, from a ladder, I found a big area right near that attic space where the shingles are easy to lift and the wood is either rotted or gnawed out. I think that's at least one place where animals are passing. The exterminator will be here tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ma'am, There is Not an Animal in Your Attic

Today I was exonerated! I know they talked about me; thought I was crazy. But no more. Now we are working together, again, to downsize: we're ready to rid the house of whatever animal is setting up a workshop in the attic.

The exterminator came in to check and remove traps he had placed a few days ago. These traps had been placed 3 times already in the past few weeks, with no evidence of success. This morning, the exterminator left, saying very politely, "You might be hearing something late at night in your walls, but I don't think it's an animal!" I told him I would not ask for more traps; I'd watch and listen and let them know if any new evidence became available that might help them.

It wasn't that I was letting them out of their contract easily; they have been to my house 5 times already during January. The first time, I complained of animal noise in the attic, and they found a hole through the wall in the gutter. They patched the hole and left 5 traps. The second time, they came to check the traps. Three traps had sprung, but no bait had been taken and no animal had been caught. The exterminators came back several times and placed traps in different parts of different attics (we have 3). A supervisor even rechecked the entire roofline from a ladder.

The logical situation would be that with a hole patched, an animal would be trapped in the attic and would either go for the bait or would die of starvation somewhere within the walls and would stink. Nothing happened. But nights, sometimes 11:30, sometimes 1:00, and once at 4:30 AM, my husband, I, or both of us would hear noises and would listen and try to locate the noise. I went outside, shined flashlights, listened with my ear to walls, sat quietly staring at ceilings...and heard animal activity. I think Santa's workshop might be relocating to my attic! There is scratching, scraping, banging around, twanging, pitter-patter, sawing, and gnawing.

Then, this morning, after the exterminator left with his traps and his opinions, I heard scraping and gnawing above my head, during business hours for the first time. I phoned the exterminator and he came back...and heard it! He set more traps. He believes me now. I hope we get the animal(s) out before they have a problem or cause a problem.

Friday, January 9, 2009

How I Got Taken and Decided to Rush

I read the reviews of the USB turntable on Amazon twice - once before choosing this turntable (Audio Technica) for my wish list and once while I was climbing the learning curve to learn the software. I noticed one of the reviews both times - someone said something about the software only being available for 30 days. I did notice that the review was about a year old, so I figured that whatever software worked for only 30 days had been changed. Surely there would be more complaints on Amazon if they were selling a machine with software that would last only 30 days without making you pay for an upgrade!

When I first started using the Cakewalk Audio Creator LE software, it told me to I would have register it within 30 days or it would stop working. It told me that all I had to do was key in my email address and they would send me a key for registering. I decided to wait a few days and test the machine and be sure it was going to work for me. I had entertained the idea of digitizing all my albums within 30 days after Christmas and returning the whole turntable to Amazon for a refund; but then I decided that was really not appropriate. At best, the stylus wouldn't be in new condition. But I was prepared to send the machine back if it were somehow incompatible with my system or otherwise faulty.

After a few days, I was beginning to digitize my albums in earnest and I was getting tired of the popup window reminding me that I had 29, 28, 27 days left to register my software. I figured they just wanted to force me to receive advertising email or maybe they wanted a database of names or even a statistic about the number of buyers of the machine. So, I cratered and registered the software. The next day, a new popup came up. It said that the mp3 encoder module of the software would be available to me for only 30 days, after which I would have to upgrade or not transfer files into mp3, which was, of course, what I was doing.

So, I got took! Had I waited for 30 days to register the software originally, I would have had 60 days total with the mp3 encoder. 60 days would have been more roomy for this project. Trying to get it done within 30 days has me humming all the time but rarely having time to hum the same song twice!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Digitizing Old Record Albums Has to Be Done in Real-Time

Digitizing Old Record Albums Has to Be Done in Real-Time
Listening to the old albums while playing them on the USB turntable has, of course, been somewhat of a distraction. Today the big draw was “Camp Mataponi in Prayer and Song.” This album was recorded in 1964, two days before parents’ visiting day. On the prayer side, there is a service, with several very sweet solos. The camp owner, Sam, actually announces the soloists’ names; but I don’t remember any of the girls. Their clear tuned voices remind me of my daughter when she was that age.

So far I have come along the completion line! I have been watching completion lines of various ilk all day: the bright green box that moves me along the song’s wave, so I can divide the recording into tracks, and which can be elongated or squeezed, thus squeezing the wave. I don’t dare elongate or squeeze on purpose, as I fear it will cause me to have to rerecord the record, which I have had to do about 5 times and haven’t yet figured out why for any of them. Then there is the completion line as each track is being saved as an mp3. So, it’s natural I would see life as a program completion gauge today!

Right now it’s the Radha Krsna Temple album of Krishna Consciousness. I have always loved this album! The cover is kind of creepy, with a picture of two of what I think are dolls but just might be real women, dressed in full dresses with pinafores over the dresses and beads and flowers, and jewels. I won’t further try to guess whether they are women or dolls. The album was produced by George Harrison, who was very musical and chose great tunes to put on this album.

For some reason, probably the distraction factor, I seem to be averaging about 5 albums/day. This might be fine if I were recording after dinner…only. But it’s all day! Each album plays on the turntable and gets recorded. Then it takes a few minutes for me to go into the sound wave graph and place markers where each track starts and list the name of each song. Then there is a processing phase where the computer does the processing that changes the track from a sound wave (not a wav file) into an mp3 file. I could choose a wav format, but I have chosen to use mp3. The digitizing step takes a while, and I have to click on “OK” before each track. So, if I leave the computer and come back, I might have to click “OK,” meaning that all the time I was gone there was little processing being done. Or, if I am in the middle of an email message or checking a website or 3 and I don’t stop to click on “OK,” then no processing is done while I’m doing the other things. Thus, the distraction factor is dragging out the process of getting these albums done. Sometimes I just have to stop all else and listen…or sing along! Sometimes I have the volume on very low, so I miss the music; some of these times I end up playing back the sound track recording because I just have to hear it!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Digitizing Old Record Albums

Today the distraction time all went to the new USB phonograph. It's like a futuristic machine out of the past! Steampunk! It handles so like an old turntable, with it's delicate stylus and trying to gauge the exact place between two tracks. But it's a USB tool, and it digitizes!

How many hours did I spend trying to get the thing to play through my computer speakers while recording? More than I spent figuring out the Cakewalk software for recording! There was a setting deep within my control panel, where the "line in" was turned off. Thanks to the person who posted an answer to someone's question about "USB turntables" and "no sound," and mentioned that the input on a sound card is usually blue. I had openings with blue, black, and yellow; and none worked, because of the setting that was wrong. But it was nice to focus on the blue, so that when I did find the setting and change it, Toto sang out of my speakers immediately.

The first moment I heard the record played directly on the turntable and through the headphones (because I couldn't get the sound to come through the speakers [see above])brought me back to the days of quality hifi. I could hear that advantage that turntables have over CDs. There was a little richness, a little "it's 1975 again." But I am going to digitize and downsize my record collection. It's not large any more.

Digitizing LPs is a realtime process, playing each entire album. Saving the songs means staying by the computer, too; and the sheer magnitude of the job makes it prudent to not do too many other computer things at once. At one point in the afternoon, perhaps the apex of the burden on my computer, the recording software crashed and I lost half the side I had recorded. The wave pattern on the screen looks like something fell on the record player and scratched the record! But it just stopped recording at some point. Or it recorded but couldn't save half the recording. Or something. It happened later in the day, too, when I was recording after having watched La Dolce Vita mostly in fast forward mode. The second time, I rebooted and used the audio software with no other programs running, and it performed immaculately. So, my plan is to get a lot of reading done while recording at the computer, so that I can be there to click as each track needs to be OK'd and so that I don't use too many computer resources and slow up my process by losing tracks I have recorded.