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.