Two steps forward…

Work on lots of random things continue. We’ve got the electricity stuff wrapped up, except for city inspections and resolving the homeowners claim, both of which ongoing for reasons — for inspection, it was an inspector that showed up and insisted the house had to be de-powered before he’d start the inspection, to my surprise and to the electrician team’s surprise. So that went off to be rescheduled, and I’m guessing everyone is off having an extended discussion around just where did THIS idea come from? and will eventually surface to schedule a new date.

Plumbing is almost done, in fact was supposed to be done yesterday when they came in to install the upgraded emergency valves for the new water heater, and were putting the flue piping back together when they realized the stuff was horribly built and not remotely going to pass code or inspection. So some quick patch jobs together (because: Carbon Monoxide bad) has stuff working while they are off looking for the right parts to fix it right. whee. (side whee: said bad flue construction wasn’t caught by the folks who replaced the water heater 16 years ago, or when we’ve had the furnace worked on.. But once he showed me the problem, it was clear it had to be fixed… whoops)

The other project in progress: three replacement windows in a couple of windows where the double-seal has failed and the internal lining had discolored. I talked to the people who installed them (in around 2002) and we’ve ordered up replacements — it turns out they can replace those panes and don’t have to replace the entire unit, which makes it a lot cheaper. It also turns out that those early double-panes could be susceptible to it, and with almost 15 years of use, I’m not complaining as needing to fix a couple of them. But…

They were going to do the replacement Monday, and I got a call mid-morning from them. And it turns out the truck carrying the glass was in a bit of an accident (nobody hurt) but the glass, well, did what glass does. But they’ve ordered replacements for the replacements and we’ll try again Monday…

After that? Nothing currently scheduled. I do need to bring in the HVAC folks to talk upgrades, and round 2 of the window covering replacements, and I’m starting to look at carpet or some Pergo-like thing for a couple of rooms, but I’m also taking it slowly because the last few weeks have been a bit crazy. And all of this is leading up to prep and paint for about half the interior and a refresh of the (ten plus year old) exterior paint.

when you live in a place for a couple of decades, you collect stuff…

The other big project has been working on the de-clutter process. We have Salvation Army coming out next week and I’ve pulled together a nice haul for them, some old furniture, and the usual supply of boxes, bags, etc, etc. the listing for the pickup is around 30 items now, filling a space in the garage about 4x4x4. And in other news: haven’t even started the declutter of the storage room but I’ve cleared out the study, way too many camera bags (sigh; a weakness of mine that I’ve tried to stop) and a lot of other random stuff. We’ll probably do round two here towards the holidays as I get into that storage room and hopefully have most of this done by then.

This is on top of three or four trips to the Goodwill trailer since the start of the year. But among other things, I now can move around in the garage, and the study isn’t just the stuff we can’t stuff in the storage room any more… so I declare progress.

Helping others help others

One of my goals for the sabbatical was to get myself involved with a couple of organizations I support and find ways to help them. A couple of months ago I started a project for the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory to help them organize and digitize their historical photo archive. When they gave it to me, it was a couple of boxes of photos going back into the 1980s, none of it organized or curated. So I’ve been trying to put 8-10 hours a month into scanning, cleaning up, organizing and helping them document the images so they can use them. This seems like a simple project, but it’s got some surprising (at least to me) complications, especially since we don’t just want to turn two boxes of photos nobody can use into a hard drive of digital images nobody can use… What I’ve learned so far seems like a nice blog post to write, so I’m going go try to get to that in the next week or so.

And last week I agreed to come on board with Santa Clara Valley Audubon as a volunteer consultant to help their new social media and outreach team. This is going to be more of a teaching/planning/mentoring type role. SCVAS has a new executive director and they’re bringing in some new people to increase the groups work in outreach and education, especially among younger people, and in their advocacy work. Their needs and goals aligned well with my interests and skills, so I’m thrilled to be able to step in and help out a bit as an advisor. When I talked with them last week about this, a few other projects came up in the mix, and so there’s a good chance I’ll be doing other things with them down the road once we get the social media bits sorted out and moving forward.

I love the idea of volunteerism and sweat equity in things you care about; I’ve been a financial contributor for years to both of these groups (among others like the Nature Conservancy) and International Bird Rescue) but I’ve wanted to do more than write checks. Now, with the sabbatical I finally can, and I’m trying to set up my projects so that when I do go back to work it’ll fit in with my work schedule — by doing the initial heavy time-consuming bits now, I think that’ll be possible.

But wherever this leads, it’s great to be supporting these organizations and it’s great to be helping them push forward programs that support the causes I care about.

Keeping busy

All in all, this is keeping my surprisingly busy; remember when I thought not having a real job would mean more free time for things like my camera? Hah. But on the other hand, I’m clearing out a mass of stalled ToDo projects and tasks that I won’t have to worry about once I’m through them (for at least another decade). I did in fact grab a day out at Moss Landing with the camera to do some testing and experimentation with the new Fuji 2X teleconverter. I found, for instance, that image stabilization doesn’t help much if you forget to turn it on.

My calendar’s been very full, between crafts visiting the house to fix (or break) things, meetings on projects, coffee with old friends, etc. Now that the worst (or craziest) of the house stuff is done (at least for this phase) it’s starting to mellow out but I was pondering whether I wanted to grab a few days and hit the road somewhere (where? I don’t know; even considered a photo workshop to kick me in the head a bit) and I’m already finding that in the next six weeks, I only have two weeks with nothing booked, which means if I do head out, it’s not far and it’s only for an overnight. So right now I’m thinking I’ll stay here and just try to block out more time to get outside with the camera.

And I really have some estate stuff that I really need to grind through, but it was hard to concentrate on it with electricians and plumbers traipsing through.. So time to get back on that. And oh, did I mention that I’ve taken over as owner (and landlord) for a hour that my mom had? And that the house turned out to have a leaky roof and shower? the good news is I’ve found a good contractor and we’ve come up with a plan and today I approved that and so soon nothing is going to leak any more — and then we need to paint, and new carpeting, and… and… (and it never ends, right?)

But the tenants are great, and they’ve been in the place as renters over 20 years, and so I’m really happy to be doing some fixes and upgrades for them. In some ways, overdue, but for the last couple of years, it was tough for mom to get this stuff done, and tougher for her to ask for assistance. So we’re getting that stuff taken care of, too.

And onward…

And so it goes. The roses need trimming, the bermuda grass needs weeding, but overall I can’t complain. And that damned ToDo list is actually shrinking, not just mutating. And that’s a good sign…