Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Explorer or Nester?

One of the blogs I read hit home the other day, as she explained the differences and "the whys" some people are constantly in the exploring mode and some people are nesters. It was a subject I had thought about over the past 3 years but more this past year. I even had friends asked me if RVing was something I really really wanted to do. That's not a typo but two "really" for emphasis. It made me look at my situation more in depth and helped me understand why I changed my mind so much since starting this blog with an interest of living in an RV of some type.

I think I am in between an explorer and a nester.

Take To The Highway along with some of the replies to her post, brings out good information about the differences between people who love to explore and people that feel no need to get out of town. I thought this might help some readers that have stopped by my blog looking for the same answers as I about the lifestyle. If they have gone back into the blog archives and read posts from previous years they would see my mind changing a million times. Some people email with questions about traveling or my lack of traveling because they are also in the decision making process on whether they should, can or want to travel full or part-time. A lot of them have more than one dog, some large, some small.

I know that after reading her blog post the other day, I thought of just this past year and how this past spring, once retired I was so close of getting on the road. If you remember it was just 14 months ago in September 2013 that I bought the Class C, 2003 Coachman 258db, in great condition with one minor repair that I did myself. It sat here during some great fall weekends and never went anywhere. That was the first red flag that made me wonder.

Instead of loading up the hounds and heading off to a State Park or National Forest within a 50 mile range from home, I never left home for those weekends of great weather. I had more of a desire to do some outside stuff in the hours before noon, then spend the rest of the day watching college football. The hounds loved getting in the Coachman, they each had their own spots to lay down. They rode well on the few test drives we did. Still, we didn't go camping.

Then the spring came and after I retired in April 2014, I have nothing to keep me here. For years all of my banking, transactions, etc have all been electronic. Some of them are automatic and others only required an internet connection. So no problems there. I had just bought the Chevy 2500HD 4x4 pickup truck to tow a bigger trailer but only kept that a little over a month before buying the 4x4 Toyota FJ. That put me back into the range of a small fiberglass trailer. The desire to hit the road was strong at that time.

The weather wasn't a decision factor but it was very nice weather and enjoyable for that time of year, as was most of the summer being cooler than normal. With that I really enjoyed living here this summer.

Thinking back to my days of growing up, like I have mentioned before somewhere in this blog, my family did not go camping or rving when we grew up. My dad was a teacher/coach, so our time was focused around sports 12 months per year. That was many years before the current AAU system but we still spent the summers playing on more than one baseball team, summer basketball and preparing to play football in the fall.

Our vacations were a few weeks of traveling, excited that we were able to visit different cities and that the motel had a pool. Traveling included the Wisconsin Dells, the Smokey Mountains, and a lot of time on the beaches of Florida. We were more beach people than camping people.

I was the only one in the family that showed any kind of camping interest. I had a two-person tent that was used a lot during the summers at home. We would use it in someones backyard or a vacant lot in the new housing additions where we lived. Those camp-outs were during the ages before the driving age. Once I was old enough to drive, I don't recall that tent ever being used again.

I was never the exploring type growing up ...  but I did enjoy the traveling and liked moving down the highway. My cross country bicycle trip one summer was one of the best things I ever did, I loved it.

So, I think I am somewhere in between being an explorer and a nester. By that I mean, once on the road, or getting out to look at things locally ... I like that. It's just getting the kick in the butt to get started. Once I am out I love it. Still, I don't have that "burning" desire you read about with other people that just have to see the next adventure.

While I have hibernated in my house for the winter every year, I still had the urge to travel. This is the first year that I have time to do that traveling if I choose to do so. Right now I have more interest in riding my road and mountain bicycle next spring than packing the hounds up and taking off to travel the country.

Time is full of changes, some unexpected and some are planned out in detail by people. I'm no longer a "schedule" person. I do not have plans or goals listed anywhere. I have no expectations or burning desires but I do plan on doing things I enjoy. I am content with what I am doing and where I am.

I am still enjoying the camera I bought. It was a great purchase and used daily. I will be getting out into the local area more to take photos and post here what I find. A lot of the photos I have been taking recently are nothing different than what I have posted here.

Heidi has improved but not as much as I was hoping for. Her follow-up vet appointment is next Friday. Winston is good most of the days but at times his lower back/back legs will act up where getting up the two steps into the house is hard for him. Sadie is Sadie ... zero problems, my clock watcher and obnoxious as ever at the age of 6+ years.

Just back in from a great morning dog walk. almost 50°, windy, no snow on the ground and a lot of fresh smells for the hounds ... they were going crazy with their noses.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Will the Three Months of Winter Bring?

If it's this cold in the month of November, with 50% of the USA having snow on the ground this week, what does that say for the months of December, January and February that are waiting ahead? We were warned. The Farmers Almanac stated months ago that this winter would be colder than last winter with more snow. It looks like that forecast is off to a good start.

Still the hounds are warm and that is all that matters. They don't care about the cold temperatures and would stay outside I think forever if I didn't go out to call them into the house. I mean only two of the hounds don't mind it. Heidi stays outside no longer than it takes for her to dump her tanks and she SPRINTS to the door to come back inside.

I am not sure what drove my decision to try this experiment but it might be ending just after a week or so of cold weather. Then again I may continue doing what I am doing now. You will probably think I have mentally lost it when you read what I am doing.

It's strange and laughable that I would never hesitate to put a $1,000 on a crap table with no hesitation nor worries, yet I hate paying my local electric bill every month. It is the same amount every month and then in May either I pay the difference due or they pay me a refund for paying to much over the year. Then they adjust my monthly payment for the following year, which may go up or down based on current usage with a little bump for extra use. I have received refunds in the past that have always been $100 or more.

The long time readers of my blog will remember that I love Excel spreadsheets and track a lot of different things with those spreadsheets, including my monthly electric usage. The kilowatts used really doesn't vary much from year to year for me but what does is the cost of electricity. My current utility company charges more per kilowatt in the "prime usage" months of Dec, Jan, Feb, June, July and August, than it does the other six months. In this past September they had their first cost increase in three years.

To me it just wasn't worth letting the heater run via a thermostat, keeping the house warm at all times, it wasn't worth the cost. I've never liked a hot or warm house but somewhere around 65° in the winter. My heat for the house is baseboard electric with each room having it's own control switch.

A few years ago when my cost for electric really jumped higher than I liked I tried using a portable electric heater, designed like the old steam registers. It worked so well that I bought a second one. What I found to be the difference, the house temps stayed at 65° but at 1/3 of the cost of using my 1970's baseboard electric.  

Since the month of May I have built up a pretty good credit amount on the account. I made it through a few weeks of very hot summer weather without using air conditioning as I usually do. I did NOT go as far unplugging electrical accessories if not in use, didn't feel the need to go that far to save energy.

So this fall I decided I would try to use the least amount of energy throughout the winter. I remembered back to 1977 due to the fuel shortage in the US, it was recommended to keep the inside temperatures at 55°. Any of you remember that? I was lucky because I was in the process of moving to sunny southern California that month so I missed most of it. I do remember how cold my sister's apartment was during my my last visit to see her before heading west.

Well this year I decided I could do that 55°. Even during the coldest temps of the winter. I have plenty of camping gear to keep me and the hounds warm enough and in the meantime I would be saving a lot of dollars that will be refunded in May 2015. That refund was tempting enough to try to save energy used.

As so far I have been able to use the heaters sparingly, even with the temps droping to the teens last week. Even now with the temps outside in the low 20's, my house is sitting at 60°. Slightly cooler than normal but the hounds are not shivering, have not lost their appetite nor are they whining. So they must be ok.

Am I crazy?

Is this financially motivated as a retiree making less income than when I was working a job.

Am I that bored enough to try different little experiments around the house?

Or am I somewhat concerned what the increase per kilowatt will amount to?

Those were just some of the questions I asked myself as I sit here wearing insulated long sleeve shirts under a sweatshirt. Or sharing my sleeping bags for the hounds to mix and match with their Mexican blankets while I use my down comforter. I must admit with the house at 60° - 62°, my hands are colder than I expected.

Those cold hands have prevented me from finishing my Mahjong games on my iPad Mini in record time. Each game is timed and I have over 80 of those games now under 6 minutes. That game has been my new form of entertainment. Much better than tv and definitely better than any news on the tv or Internet. I downloaded a cribbage app yesterday and it was the first time in many years playing a game that I use to play every day in the 80's. I had to go back and read the rules to play the game but was able to get back into the swing of things to beat the computer.

So at least in the Mahjong game and racing on the Playstation3 playing Grand Turismo, the cold hands are a factor. The portable heaters work well and they were only $37 each at Walmart a few years ago.

The thought has occurred to me lately, wondering if future costs of electricity and the cost of owning a home in this area with extreme weather 3-4 months out of the year, will increase to the point of that the better option will be selling it and relocating. With the change of EPA laws predicted in the near future, that could raise my utility cost substantially because large power plants in Indiana are coal based. Coal is the major factor.

In closing I will say I am pretty sure in the middle of the winter when the temps outside are in the single digits day after day, the heat will come on and will be used more than I am using it now. I will still be monitoring the cost of using the electric heat as I do all my other costs. In the meantime the hounds and I are managing the experiment of saving energy quite well and leaving a smaller "footprint" on the planet.

At least we don't live in the Buffalo area.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fell Off the Diet Wagon and Paid for It

Addicts still use even though they know the results but luckily I'm only addicted to "ice cold milk". Yes...cold milk right out of the jug, anytime day or night. That is why some time ago I had to stop buying any quantity of milk, even if I were buying it for using on a morning bowl of cereal.

Since I am single and there is a very small chance of someone stopping for dinner and requesting to have milk with their meal out of that gallon container ... one of the bachelor benefits is drinking ice cold milk right out of the jug. It seems to taste better than drinking it from a glass.

So where is all of this going?

Saturday morning I bought some groceries and the urge for milk to use on morning cereal was too strong to overcome. Even though I thought I'd use it for cereal, I knew most likely that 2% milk (still 37% fat) would be gone within 24 hours ... the whole gallon. That would put the time around Sunday afternoon when my fix would be accomplished.

The problems I started having a few years ago was heavy heartburn and something similar if not a case of sleep apnea. There is not a feeling worse than waking up in the middle of the night and you cannot inhale, any kind of breathing has stopped. I noticed when I stopped buying dairy products of any kind those two issues went away. Later on the few times I would have some good Ben & Jerry's ice cream or drinking milk in quantity, those two issues would take place.

I knew the potential results of having dairy but at times would not be able to resist to buy it. Sunday night I lived through those results again.

Saturday night and up through Sunday morning I did not have those issues and I was getting up to drink that ice cold milk throughout the night on Saturday. No ice cream was involved. I did have some B&J's in hand at the store but put it back and didn't buy it.

By late 7pm Sunday night the gallon of milk was gone and tasted great all the way to the last drop. The difference was the list of food and junk I ate during the day, I think was a huge factor. I fell off the good food diet wagon and I fell of hard. Around 1am I started the payment for that decision of eating everything and anything that I had bought at the store while watching a couple of NFL games on tv.

I'll spare you of the details but at one point somewhere around 3am I thought I might have to get to the hospital and I was willing to make any deals to stop what was taking place. I was even willing to stop watching ESPN forever to stop what was taking place ...  that's a huge commitment ... lol. I was reminded about my eating choices ever hour until mid-morning Monday. All day Monday I felt worse than any hangover I ever had. From the local hospital website I mixed up 32oz of water, a level 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 6 level teaspoons of sugar and slowly nursed my stomach back to normal. With a lot of off and on sleep I was able to recover. By Monday night was I was back in bed by 8:45pm and got a solid 10 hours of sleep.

Has the lesson been learned? I guess I'll find out in a couple of months from now when I get the urge for some ice cold milk.

Now to other topics.

I heard last night this is the coldest November in 55 years. I wasn't outside since Sunday. The hounds were let out when they wanted but they were on their own. This morning when I got up around 7:30am, it was 16° but said it felt like 8° yet it felt warm in the house.

Heidi has shown a lot of improvement since the pictures I posted a few days ago. Her hair is growing back on all the raw red spots from 3 weeks ago. Her energy level is back to being normal. I don't want to confirm yet, but I think we are on the way to a regular treatment without giving her any kind of shots. Her next vet trip as a followup is late next week.

Sadie found out today what I was trying to explain to her. Staying outside walking on the frozen snow with temperatures in the teens will eventually make it hard to walk, you will lift your paw in the air with a look of what is going on and will not be able to walk in a normal manner. Plus your owner hanging out inside the house in wool socks, shorts and sweatshirt will not be able to come out into the snow and pickup your 90lbs worth of bloodhound to carry you back into the house.

Still she kept begging me to let her out, with her nose on my wrist as I tried to surf the internet. Luckily she knows no better, strong as a bull and enough motivation to get to the house no matter what she was feeling. She was rather confused why her paw was in the air.

She was more than happy to feel that warm kitchen floor when she ran into the house and was soon doing her happy dance spinning 360° and wagging her tail.

Winston has moved into the mid-winter cycle of hibernating sleep plus requesting to be covered up.

Will there be a warm place anywhere in the USA this year? I don't feel a lot of "global warming" right now a month before winter becomes official.

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Snow of the Year

You can stop laughing now .... lol

As big as the snow flakes were last night and how hard it was coming down you would have thought we would have received more snow than just ground cover. By this morning this is about all we had and by noon it was gone.  The snow doesn't bother Sadie, she loves it. Winston has a problem of being so low to the ground there is little clearance if any when he walks and Heidi only goes outside long enough to dump her tanks and then sprints back to the house.

I spent the past few days during my computer time, early morning and then late at night, reading and finally catching up on my blog reading. From blog lists on the other blogs I found some older blogs that I use to follow and added them back to my blog list on the left side. Plus I have moved most of the blogs from Feedly back to the blog list here. No reason, just me, similar to re-arranging furniture I guess.

I wasn't planning on writing anything today since nothing is really going on except the first snow of the year. I know the people in the upper part of the USA would not even call this a snow based on what they have and I understand that.

I was outside planning on taking more pictures when I saw I needed to recharge the camera battery. Then a senior moment occurred when I had no idea where the battery charger was. I looked in all the common places where I keep other battery chargers and then fifteen minutes later I remember putting it my camera bag. I'm afraid it's going to get ugly with my memory when I reach my 70's. Should be fun.

Heidi's skin condition is improving from the photos I posted here a few days ago. That redness occurs right after her bath with PhytoVet CK Antiseptic Shampoo. She is required to have a bath with that every 3-4 days until our next follow-up appointment on November 28. I know you would probably like to see pictures of her at least soaked in suds and water but being a one man operation, taking pictures during that time is not even possible.

She is great though, no fight back, just stands there and acts like she has had a million bathes before.  Her hair is starting to grow back on the bare, raw spots and that's a good sign. I believe within the next two weeks there will be even more improvement before the follow-up appointment. The best thing is getting away from those steroid shots.

My friends asked me on Tuesday what has changed in retirement besides the stress off a job. They are 10-12 years younger than I so retirement is still a few years away for them. I told them it was about what I expected if I were to stay home. Financially you spend what you have. I was told that would be the case and so far it has been like that. I'm still able to save some money just not as much when I was working. Life doesn't stop and there is always something unexpected financially every month. I will be curious to see what my taxes look like this year after working a job for only four months before I retired.

My local college team has their first game of the year tonight. I am not a happy fan right now and the season has not even started but I will keep watching them as usual. It's too long of a story to explain why I am not happy ... different issues with a few players and I'm not a fan of the coach. It will be a very interesting season because of their lack of size on the front line. Yet, they have recruited some great young shooters so that might even out some games with all the 3's they will hit.

This means on the nights there is not an NFL or college Football game, college basketball games will start to fill in the calendar. I can't say that I sit on the couch from start to finish every night and every game, only when IU plays, but I will have it on every night in the background and watch when something is happening. Just a habit that is many years old. Of course the tv is off when I am in my book reading mode.

I started glancing around again at some of the websites selling RVs and trailers. For the first time in a long time I have not been to the usual sites looking at cars and trucks for sale. That tells me the two vehicles that I have are the right ones. In the past I have gone through a lot of different vehicles but haven't had the urge for a change since I traded for the Toyota FJ. I'm still getting 21.4 mpg which surprises me, I was expecting more like 17 mpg with that V6 engine. The Mini Cooper isn't being driven much but is getting 33 mpg.

For future planning and from reading my favorite blogs, it looks like October and November will be the time to be in Utah. Still great weather, crowds of people have gone home and a lot of vacant land to camp and hike on. Then in the winter months I could hang out in SW Arizona and Borrego Springs area. Those bloggers spending time in Mexico have some great photos and it makes it tempting to spend some time there. My only experience being in Mexico was the time when I lived in Carlsbad California and we spent a lot of time in Baja at Ensenada and Rosarito Beach on weekends. I was dogless during those times in the late 70's and early 80's.

All of those carbs are hitting me from that large plate of pasta I had for an early dinner ... I'm headed for a short siesta before the ballgame comes on tv.

It sure doesn't feel like a Friday but that's what happens when you are retired ... lose track of days.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Bitter Sweet Geek Squad Computer Repair

My first experience with the Geek Squad computer repair was bitter/sweet and very very frustrating. I am writing this post about my experience for a couple of reasons. One, it might help some readers if they run into this same problem and two it is somewhat entertaining for those looking from the outside in. It is a very a long post but I think an interesting humorous read.

Back in October 2010 I decided after using computers for almost 20+ years, to change from a Windows PC to an Apple iMac. I'll not go into the reasons why except to say it proved to be a great move and I have had zero problems with my iMac since the purchase 4 years and 1 month ago. I caught an article last Monday on November 3rd, talking about a professional company had found a breach in the new Apple OS Yosemite. Apple had confirmed his find and there would be plans by January 2015 to provide the fix. It was suggested in the meantime to run a program located in System Preferences - Security called File Vault. I also had a couple of friends email me the link to the article because they knew I had updated to the new OS Yosemite recently.

I decided, although somewhat hesitant, to turn on File Vault. I have always had the firewall turned on, I run flashblock and ad blocker but have never installed anti-virus based on the Apple geek's recommendations. I thought after reading the article along with the new OS, maybe it was a good idea to turn on File Vault.

I didn't get far with that decision.

After turning on the program, it was supposed to restart your computer and then encrypt the hard drive. After the restart I had a screen show up called "Reset Your Password", a locked padlock and 3 options or reasons why I could not reset my password. That seemed strange because it had never asked me for my password. "Houston, we have a problem".

I spent time trying to reboot my computer various ways, as a single new user, in the safe mode, and even as a last resort I pulled the OS cd from my original package and was willing to boot the computer from that cd, knowing it was going to reset my hard drive (reformat) back to a clean OS install. I would then use my backup to reinstall my files of documents and photographs.

That didn't work either.

I went over to MacRumors forum and did some searching for a possible fix and couldn't find anyone with that issue. I posted my problem with hopes of getting an answer within a few hours. By Monday afternoon I had over 300 views to my question and zero replies.

I was stuck with a computer that had locked me out. I found out a week later that File Vault automatically turns off your automatic log in and will ask for your system user password each time your computer boots up. The problem was my mouse pad did not move the cursor, nor did my tab key on my keyboard work to click enter on the screen and move to the next one. I wasn't in the panic mode but I was pretty sure that File Vault did not like my wireless keyboard and wireless track pad that came with the computer.  My computer was stuck on that one Reset Password screen.

The thought of trying a keyboard and mouse attached to the computer by USB never occurred to me. Were those even sold anymore since everyone had moved to wireless years ago? I had moved to wireless 7 or 8 years ago, even before switching to an iMac.

I decided by 6pm to drive over to the local Best Buy where I bought the iMac and see what the Geek Squad could do. I was hoping it was something simple and possibly be fixed right there at the help desk. Driving 33 miles away was a better option I thought than driving 90 miles to the nearest Apple store the next day.

The Geek Squad tech plugged the computer into power, he plugged in a keyboard and mouse via USB and we got nothing different than the locked screen that I had at home. He could move his cursor but instead of clicking the "next" arrow at the bottom of the screen he kept clicking "previous" arrow and that only moved to a screen that was blank. Why didn't he click the "next" arrow to see where that would lead?

I was prepared to take it back home, do some further research and fix it myself and if that didn't work, I had a quick thought of driving the 90 miles to the Apple store to use their Apple Care program. I changed my mind at the last minute before leaving and thought I was already there, I'd leave my computer and get it back within a couple of days. The Geek Squad agent said they had a 3-5 day estimate for picking it up, but most likely I'd get my computer back within a couple of days.

He handed me my copy of the service order, pulled a new cd of WebRoot Anti Virus for Macs and recommended the hard drive to be reformatted, a clean install of the OS and the Anti Virus. He told me that was the normal procedure instead of trying to get back into my system that might be corrupted. I told him to add that I did NOT want File Vault activated once they did the reinstall of all the updated software.

He had commented that my iMac was in mint condition and that surprised him since it was 4 years old. My first concern about Geek Squad was when I read the service order and beside "condition" he had typed worn and scratched. Also the purchase date was nowhere near the date I purchased the computer plus he never asked me for the date I bought the computer. When I brought that up to him he replied the date was just a fill in and "worn and scratched" was the commonly used condition for all computer submitted for repair. Then he stated there was not enough room to type that I did not want File Vault turned on in their forum so he would have a hand written note. He asked if I had a backup two different times and both times I answered yes.

I can't say I felt encouraged as I left the store but thought once the computer got back to the lab and the real techs would start working on it, there would be no problems. Little did I know what was in store for me and how this all would turn out.

Of course none of these things started until I paid the $200 for an 1-year membership. I reminded him they tried to sell me the same package when I bought the computer but I turned down the offer and consequently never had a problem until now. That $200 was to include the anti-virus software and something to remember later in this story.

As I drove home I figured I'd be coming back on Wednesday to pick it up. I mean aren't the Geek Squad techs a bunch of computer experts? What could go wrong when it wasn't a hardware but a software issue.

The story gets better.

Tuesday night after seeing my repair status was "assigned to a technician", I call the 800 number to get a status on my repair since their website showed it had been inducted for repair on Tuesday morning. The tech on the other side of the phone said she could not see anything in their system as far as repair updates and that was not normal. She suggested I call the store where I turned in my computer for repair. Another slight feeling of lack of confidence in the newly acquired Geek Squad.

The local store tells me they are working on the computer and I should be able to pick it up on Thursday with no problems. I made the mistake of assuming they were doing the OS install and all the updates would take a lot of hours to upload and Thursday would fall within their 3-5 days pickup window. Then she asks me what I thought to be a strange question .... Do you have a backup of your files? For the 3rd time I answered yes. I reminded her that I did not want File Vault activated because that is what started all of this mess.

Before I make the 66 mile round-trip drive to pick up the computer I call on Thursday as instructed, to see if it was ready for pickup like they told me the day before. "No, the tech is still working on it". I asked if they had found any unexpected problems because it was just just going to be a clean install of the OS and I would do my file backup install here at home. "No, no major problems found, your computer passed all the tests ran for computer and had a clean bill of health".  It should be reading to be picked up on Friday.

I call late Friday afternoon and they tell me the techs could not find a way to get the computer running but their boss had found a way to get around the locked screen and had the computer running normal and all my files were still there. I asked about the clean install of the OS but this time was told "We never do that if it's possible to boot up your system". Hmmm, I'm a little confused because the first tech told me they always did that in this type of situation.

So I remind them that since they are in my computer, go to System Preferences - Security and "turn off" File Vault because that is what caused this problem. They confirmed they had. He said "the boss" wanted to run some more tests and I could pick up the computer on Saturday afternoon.

After being told it would be ready for pickup on 3 different occasions and then each time I was given a different excuse I had decided by noon on Saturday that I would call them and let them know I was picking up the computer in it's current condition no matter what and that I would be there by 5pm. I was finished letting them try to complete their repair when they had told me on Thursday it was up an running, all the files were there and they were just going to test a few more things.

Well here is where the story gets exciting for some readers, frustrating for me and great humor for some of the readers I have.

During the half-time of one of the football games I am watching, I call them around 2pm and actually get to talk to the boss. This is the man that got into my system, had tested the system and everything is good. He said it would be ready by 5pm, the time I told him I would be there. That was great news to me. I'm expecting a simple pickup.

I get there, the man that did the repair boots up the computer with no problems and I move through my files of documents, emails, photographs without any problems. He hands me the service order for me to sign and right off the bat in the section for Repair Comments..."File Vault and Firewall are working properly". If I recall on 3-4 different occasions I requested that File Vault be turned off since that was what caused the problem. I couldn't believe it and told him I wanted that turned off. He replied that he found no problems running the program and it was a good thing to do.

I also noticed he was using a mouse and keyboard connected to my computer via USB. I asked him if they had tested it with the Apple wireless keyboard and and mouse pad since that was not only what I used but it was what came with the computer. He replied that they never used the wireless keyboards or mouses for their computer repairs because of the time it takes to calibrate them to the computer. That seemed strange to me because it's "plug and play", takes less than a minute.

I didn't even think of bringing my own keyboard and mouse, I mean they surely have that keyboard and mouse since they sell them at Best Buy plus they are "the experts" in computer repair. They surely have one sitting on their test bench somewhere. I was wrong again.

I'm excited but keep my speed at 60mph on the way home. I let the hounds outside, they are thrilled that I am home and have no concerns for my computer. They want to go out and then back in to get that "programmed" treat when they enter the house. To take no chances I don't plug anything into my computer as far as the printer, external monitor (my main one), external hard drives, speakers ... nothing. All I do is plug in the power cord into the surge protector and turn on the computer.

High anticipation ... 6 days of using my iPad Mini as my main computer as a backup, no access to my online banking or spreadsheets because they are backed up on the external drive that I can't get to and my passwords are locked inside of the program LastPass, which I started using a few months ago.

I COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT I WAS SEEING ON MY IMAC MONITOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The computer boots up to the same exact screen I had last Monday on November 3 !! It was locked so my mouse cursor would not move and nothing on my keyboard worked. A frozen screen again.

I called Best Buy and asked for the man that fixed the computer and showed me my computer worked when I picked it up. Now remember Geek Squad has computer geeks that have had training and are the so called experts in computer repair. That's a key bit of information for this story to go forward.

He has "no idea" why it's doing that.

I suggested it might be possible that my keyboard and mouse pad may not work with File Vault. Then reminded him that 4 different times I told them do stop running File Vault because that started the problem and cost me $200 just to get this far. I am shocking myself that I am maintaining my cool ... that I have no urges to climb through my phone ... He was thinking but couldn't come up with anything except "to bring it back in and we will take a look at it". Didn't they do that between Tuesday - Saturday? Help me out here, is my memory fading already at the age of 62?

I suggested that I reboot the computer but only this time I would take out the batteries of the mouse pad and keyboard so they would not be a factor. Still I was sure that the damage had already been done and that same "Reset Password" screen would show up ... and it did.

So they close at 9pm, I glance at my clock and see its 6:50pm and I wanted my computer fixed now ... so I made an appointment to see him at 8pm so I would have priority over walk up customers. It was another 66 mile round-trip back to the store. I told him this time I would bring my keyboard and trackpad to make sure they worked before I returned home.

Computer works. He had to use the USB keyboard and mouse to get back into the system and it only took the mouse to click "next" to move to this screen:


I entered my password WITH the Apple wireless keyboard of mine and I was into my computer and I could move through all of my files without a problem. Notice what that screen says ... "...it may not be compatible with File Vault...etc".  I told him that I was going to do what I had requested them to do on 4 different occasions and was ignored ... turn OFF File Vault. With him standing there watching I clicked "Turn off File Vault" only to see a message would take almost 13 hours to complete de-encrypting my hard drive. I let it work a little and in a short time it estimated it would take 5-6 hours to complete.

He said I could complete that process at home once I turned my computer back on, it would pickup where it left off.

We shut off the computer and watch it reboot three different times with no problems and batteries in my keyboard and mousepad. He starts apologizing over and over for my troubles plus the 2nd trip in 3 hours driving to and from the store. Of course all that is leading to is "in the next few days you will receive an email from Geek Squad to fill out a survey on how we did and I'd really appreciate a positive feedback".

I am not sure what my shocked expression looked like nor after a slight "blackout" how long I wore that expression ... needless to say I did not reply ... not a word.

I'm happy on the way home. He and I have witnessed the computer booting up using my wireless keyboard and mousepad with no issues. I know I can turn it on and complete the 5 hours of de-encryption. What could go wrong after that?

I turn on the computer and go back to the File Vault to restart the de-encryption. It says it will take about 5 hours, it's 9:30pm by now. So I move to the living room to watch the football games I had dvr'd while I was gone. I check on it from time to time and its working, now with the estimated completion time decreasing. It looks like somewhere around 2am it should be finished. I'll reboot and get my computer back.

Well ... "not so fast cowboy".

It finishes the de-encryption and shows a screen to reboot my computer. I click the key ... but instead of rebooting it keeps asking me for my password ... over and over and over. Then it wants to encrypt my hard drive. Why??  I just waited 5 hours for it to de-encrypt it???  Now I am really confused and it's 2:15am.

I have a computer that the Geek Squad experts say was ready for pickup 9 hours ago and I am still sitting here not able to get my computer working.  I decide that even thought it's late, I'll drive to the local Walmart and see if they still sell USB keyboards and a mouse. I know if I have those I can get back into my computer.

Before I go I decided to get a 2nd opinion from the Geek Squad. I mean I have paid $200 for a year of their "expertise" and they are open 24/7 either by chatting with a tech rep or calling their 800 number. I call but I'm not expecting much as far as a fix.

I wasn't disappointed.

I'll make this short. I heard two things from this Geek Squad technician located in Salt Lake City, Utah at 3:00am my time. "That is above my level of knowledge" and "You should probably call Apple Care and I can give you the number for that but they are only open until 11pm".

Why would I do that since I paid the experts of Geek Squad $200 for their tech service for the next 12 months?

Of course she also reminds me I will be receiving in email, a survey for me to fill out so "I can help my clients better".  Sure, I'll get right on that ... laughing because I cannot believe the whole situation from November 3 - 9. Unbeeeeelieeeeevaaaaaable!

I drove over to Walmart at 3:20am and find 1 USB mouse and Keyboard on the shelf. It must have been waiting for me to show up. I get back home and by 4:15am using the new USB keyboard and mouse I am back inside my computer and turning off File Vault .... but guess what, it wants to de-encrypt my hard drive!!! I thought it did that between 9:30pm to 2:00am. Whatever......

I decided I would do whatever the computer wanted. I let it start de-encrypting. I went to bed expecting to see it completed when I woke up. It DID complete the process and even rebooted my computer so when I woke up I was looking at my desktop. My wireless keyboard and mouse pad work .... and since 10am on Sunday the computer has worked perfectly.

I can only guess File Vault didn't like the de-encryption being interrupted when we turned it off at the store. So it kept asking me for my password over and over at 2am then wanted to encrypt my hard drive again.

Why didn't Geek Squad turn off File Vault like I requested?  I don't know but I can only guess because of the amount of time they would have had to leave my computer on to complete the process. I only told them at 4 different times to turn off File Vault. Even the screen they saw said there MIGHT be a conflict between the keyboard and running File Vault. Why didn't they test the computer with the wireless keyboard and mousepad before I picked it up?

Oh, and one last thing. Part of that $200 was a $49 value for the anti virus that they did NOT install "because Macs really don't need anti-virus protection on their system.

Did I do too much of the work myself to get my computer finally running after they told me it was ready for pickup 12 hours earlier?  I think I did way too much to get my computer running after paying for their repair service.

Will I use them again if needed?

Very very doubtful.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Hounds & I Are Doing Well

One thing I have noticed since my retirement started in April 2014, time passes much faster and days fly by. Unless you have a job where a calendar is involved there are times I forget what the date of the month is. I was shocked to see it's been almost two weeks since my last post. I basically got into a daily routine away from the computer where I had a days full of activity plus I spent many hours reading books that have been laying around. I haven't even opened my blog site for at least the past ten days, I think. I haven't read blogs from my list so there will probably be a lot of reading to catch up ... something I can do as the temperatures move to the 20s and more time will be spent inside.

Here is a recap of the past 14 days.

Heidi is starting her 3rd week of the new medications. The skin photos don't show a lot of improvement since we started, but the dry crusty spots have turned into soft normal skin with hopes of continued improvement back to where hair will grow back. These photos are right after her bath with the medicated shampoo. Later on the red spots calm down to where they are not as noticible.

She acts as if she is out of pain. Just this week for the first time in a while she returned to her demanding ways by barking when she wants something. She is returned to going outside with the Winston and Sadie as many times as they do, instead of staying inside. She has never lost her appetite no matter how bad her skin looked. She is also back to running around the yard and her tails is wagging much much more than when she was under the shots.



















Winston is the same laid back lazy basset and Sadie as usual, Sadie ... seeking more and more time on the couch with the change of seasons. The switch of Daylight Savings time has affected all 3 hounds as they want to eat an hour earlier and they wake up and want to go outside an hour earlier. Instead of adjusting their dinner time to fit the time change, I have adjusted mine by getting up an hour earlier and feeding them at 3pm instead of 4pm.


Sadie is now a photo hound and likes to have her picture taken more and more whereas before she would either walk away or turn her head away from the camera. She likes either the Nikon or the iPhone cameras.







I had posted a few weeks ago that I had started my annual leaf removal. When I started, the trees had lost less than half of their leaves but it was the right decision that I started when I did, instead of waiting for all the leaves to be off the trees. The high wind I was hopeful for did show up and helped quite a bit in the leaf removal. As recently as yesterday and last night it cleared the yard fairly well after I had mowed the yard for the last time this year. This photo is from a couple of weeks ago and not the finished product. Those leaves you see in the yard were all blown away by two different days and nights of windy conditions.



 As the hounds and I did our daily walk through the field, I was hoping the farmer would make one final trip to cut and bale the field one more time before winter. Last week on a early Thursday morning I heard what I thought was a tractor in back and sure enough they were making a 2nd cut for the year. It's a small field and it had not grown very tall the past couple of months even though there was plenty of rain this summer to keep everything green. He was able to get 16 rolls of hay on this fall cut. The field is cut short enough it will be much nicer to walk through this winter and is also short enough that I have been able to ride my G2 Timberline Mountain Bike around the edge of the field for a good workout.



We have had some great weather this fall but the temps started to drop recently and as of tonight it's headed for the 20's and a 10 day forecast temperatures ranging from 20's to mid 30's and only a couple of days of snow. I know the upper Midwest is already getting pounded with snow, but here in the "tropics" of southern Indiana it has to be almost the middle of winter before we get a lot of snow. I am not concerned about the 10 day forecast.

There have been some pretty nice sunsets recently.






You might asking, with the temps dropping and a freezing winter hiding right around the corner, what is my thought process on whether to hang out here or head to the SW for winter. The answer to that question is, I haven't had the urge to travel since I announced a few months ago that I had decided it was just going to be too much of an issue traveling with 3 hounds. I also have Winston limping at times with his older lower back problem, then Heidi's allergies are causing skin problems worse than normal.

I might change my mind once I actually feel and not read about temperatures in the 20's but right now I don't see any traveling planned. I'll probably hibernate. I don't have to be anywhere so there will be less snow shoveling to clear the driveway than in the past and the Toyota FJ will be able to migrate through any depth of snow that I encounter here. I have really enjoyed shutting off the computer and spending a lot of days these past couple of weeks, and nights, reading books. Many of these books I bought the past few years and either didn't finish them or never started them.

I am still enjoying watching football games and college basketball is right around the corner. I don't see my days changing much from what they have been and there is enough going on to keep me and the hounds occupied. I am NOT saying I have turned to working my "to do" list because I like living everyday without a plan and just take it as it comes. Not having a schedule or a commitment is great. I basically do what I want when I want to do it.

Just last Monday I had my first computer problem in the 4 years since I have owned an iMac. It was really not hardware related but I made a mistake of turning on a program with the computer called File Vault. This would encrypt my hard drive and give me added protection against hackers. My paranoia had flared up after reading any article about a recent breach in the system and I made a huge mistake by activating it. It locked me out of my computer and $200 later, I found out that my Apple Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Pad was not compatible with the program File Vault being turned on. It's a long story that I will post about later in detail and tell about the disaster experience I had with the Geek Squad and their attempts to "repair" my computer. You will find it quite interesting and possibly entertaining since you are not involved....lol.  I did remain calm throughout the process, which surprised me since I was without a computer for 6 days and I had ran out of patience. My iPad Mini pulled through as a spare computer.

Well that's the latest update from the "tropics" of southern Indiana. I am going to make a couple of cups of coffee and catch up reading the blogs listed on the left. Thanks to those that emailed me asking if the hounds and I were doing ok. I apologize for the lack of blog postings the past couple of weeks and hope to get back to regular blogging.

Everything is fine.