Tag Archives: Furlough

Furlough Freebies (and discounts)

Today is Friday October 11th and I’ve been furloughed due to the government shutdown for 9 days and counting.  I shouldn’t complain because I’m getting a lot of tasks done and I’m also having some fun and also because there is a decent chance that Congress will give all the furloughed workers back-pay when this is all over.

But living without paychecks can be a bit of a burden for some.  Okay, for most.  Well, I’ve noticed that there are a number of businesses out there that are offering deals specifically to furloughed government employees.  Here is a list.  I will add to this list as I find out about more.  Please leave a comment or email me for additions or corrections.

Thanks to everyone for reaching out and helping,

My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 9

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 9 (Friday Oct 11th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

Today I got up at 7am because I wanted to get canoeing pretty early.  I could have set my alarm to get up before sunrise, but I’m on vacation so I just got up whenever I woke up today.  I checked Facebook real quick and then ate some breakfast burgers, since they make for a pretty quick meal.

Then I drove about 30 minutes to Pine Island Conservation Area.  Here it is on Google Maps.  My original NASA boss, Gary, told me about this place many many years ago and I’ve been wanting to check it out and have just never made the time.  This government shutdown is allowing me to do all sorts of stuff that I’ve been meaning to do, though.

There was a map station at the entrance and according to the map there were two separate canoe trails.  A 2.3 mile loop run and a 3.0 mile run.  The loop was obvious on the map, but the 3 mile run was not completely obvious to me at the time.  After studying it later at home, I’m fairly certain that the 3 mile run and the 2.3 mile loop overlap on the Indian River side.

I started on the south side of the sanctuary at the start of the 3 mile run.  My thinking was that I would quit after the 3 mile run run if I was tired.  My problem was that I actually started in a lake next to the run instead of starting in the run.  I didn’t actually realize that I was in the lake till I got to the opposite end and noticed that it didn’t take a sharp right turn as the map showed.  Oops.  No harm, though.  It was a nice warm up run.  The lake was dead calm.  This photo was taken on the lake at about 9:30am.


Had I used my GPS app on my phone and zoomed out a bit, it would have been obvious that I was not in the correct body of water.  But I didn’t do that.  Oh well.  Lesson learned.  So after I took my tour of the south lake, I got my canoe put in at the start of the 3 mile run and immediately started encountering manatees.  Huge manatees.  Manatees in large groups, no less.  I did my best to avoid them, but these things had no respect for my personal space.  They acted like they owned the place.  🙂

I didn’t see more than a couple jumping fish and some birds in the south lake, but in this canal there were tons of wildlife.  I saw alligators, manatees, ospreys, large cranes, and even a bald eagle.  As soon as I got out into the Indian River, there were tons of fish running in schools and lots of fish jumping out of the water.  This is a fisherman’s paradise.  I, however, am not a fisherman.

The breeze was starting to pick up and work against me while I was traveling north on the Indian River, but I stayed close to the shore where the breeze was minimal.  By the time I got up into the north part of the sanctuary and at the start of the 2.3 mile loop, the breeze was calm and I felt pretty good so I kept going.  I hadn’t really been paddling very hard.  I was just taking a nice leisurely pace.

The north part of the sanctuary has multiple marsh ponds connected by small channels.  There was one spot where I wasn’t even sure I was going to fit my canoe through.  This is a great way to see natural Florida marshland.  This is probably the same landscape that the first settlers saw way back when.

The largest pond at the north end of the sanctuary was a bit of a challenge since the wind was working against me.  I was travelling north and the wind was pushing south.  But I knew as soon as I turned around the northern border, I would be travelling south on the Indian River with the wind at my back, so I pressed on.

So after making the turn around and ending back in the Indian River travelling south, I was expecting the wind to push me south and I was planning on just lazily riding it home.  But apparently the wind died just as I arrived.  It was dead calm.  I don’t believe this happens on the Indian River very often.  It was pretty weird.  The glassy smooth water did allow me to see lots of fish, though.

My rear was starting to hurt from sitting in the canoe, so I stood up and paddled and I could see even more fish.  I know stand up paddle-boarding is a popular activity these days, but is stand up canoeing also a thing?  Did I just start a stand up canoeing thing?

You can see a fish in mid-air in the photo below.  You can also see that I’m in about 1.5 feet of water.  The lakes and canals in this area are fairly deep, but the Indian River is very shallow unless you are out in the middle where the boat channel is located.


In this glassy smooth water, I also saw some dolphins feeding.  I didn’t get close enough to them to get a good photo, though.  I saw some small stingrays in the Indian River too.  Here is a photo I took of a small stingray resting on the bottom.


So when it was all said and done, I actually ended up canoeing on both trails, plus repeating a large portion of the 3 mile run, plus a lake.  By my estimate, I canoed 7 miles or more today.  I started a little after 9am and finished a little after 4pm, so I was out on the water for 7 total hours.  It was a long day, but I was not paddling hard during any of my day.  Most of the time I was just taking it easy and paddling gently.  Although, that being said, I’m sure my shoulders and back muscles are going to be killing me tomorrow.

The weather today was really nice.  The high temperature was 85, I think.  It was mostly sunny all day long.  I think I applied SPF 50 sunblock three separate times today.  I think I got a bit of sun on the back of my neck, though, because the last time I applied it was sweaty and I don’t think it took very well.

Here is a Google map of the Pine Island Conservation Area marked up showing my path today.  This is not a GPS trail … I did not use my GPS today because I wasn’t sure the battery in my phone would last that long and I wanted to make sure my phone was available for emergencies.  This is just a satellite image that I manually marked up with my path.  Click on the image for a full size version.


So that was basically my entire day today.  Afterwards, I stopped for some ice cream.  Then I got home and rinsed off all the canoeing stuff, then I took a shower and ate a grilled swiss cheese sandwich.  Then I relaxed on the couch for a bit and now I’m writing this blog post.

It’s sorta funny that sitting at the table typing into my computer, I still feel like I’m standing in my canoe and it is gently rocking back and forth.  It’s just a bit dizzying.  I wonder how long it will take to wear off.  I wonder if it will impact me getting to sleep tonight.  I’m about to find out because it’s 10:30pm and I’ve had a long day in the sun, so I’m going to bed now.

So that was day nine of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.  My to-do list had 21 items on it last night when I went to bed.  Tonight it now has 20 items on it.  I’ll take it.

What will Monday hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! 🙂


My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 8

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 8 (Thursday Oct 10th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

Today I slept in till 10am because I was up pretty late last night working on my computer.  After getting up, I caught up on my Facebook news feed and threw in a load of laundry.  Throughout the day today I put laundry either in or out of the washer and dryer in between other tasks I was working on.  At the end of the day I had washed and dried 4 separate loads of laundry.  Yay me!  🙂

I know I should exercise more often than just once a week, but this is all I’ve motivated myself to do so far.  Today I fast walked for just over three miles while listening to my Adam Ant station on Pandora on my phone.  It was a nice cool morning today and it feels like Fall is trying to make an appearance in Central Florida.


It’s weird that the Adam Ant station plays Duran Duran, but the Duran Duran station does NOT play Adam Ant.  What’s up with that, Pandora?  Are they similar to each other or not?

I want to thank my sister and her friend Missy and also my friend Mick for introducing me to Adam Ant along with lots of other great British music in the early 80s.  I was probably 12 or 13 years old which is probably too young for many of the lyrics in Adam Ant’s songs, but I was probably not understanding the lyrics anyways.  I think I turned out okay, regardless.  Now that I’m older and wiser and actually paying close attention, it seems to me that Adam Ant sang mostly about sex, but he also sang quite a bit about pirates and also a little bit about native american Indians.  Weird.

I tried to beat my fast walking time from last week, but I was not successful.  Trying to take my own self portrait while fast walking may have been a factor.  I’m not quite coordinated enough to work the camera on my phone without slowing down, I suppose.  After my little hike was over, I passed a yard sale walking back to my house, so I quickly checked it out.  There wasn’t anything there that I needed to have.  As a matter of fact, I noticed a pair of gently used men’s underwear and also some sexy women’s lingerie.  That’s real classy, people.   Real classy.

Then I sat in my Adirondack chair on my front porch for a while and enjoyed a banana and papaya smoothie.  I caught up on my email while I sat there and I also sent out some feelers for any potential TV or film background talent needs that might be currently active in Central Florida.  I’ve done some extra/background work in the past and I wouldn’t mind doing some now since it would not conflict with my NASA work schedule.  So if you know of any leads, please let me know.  Thanks.

After I pried myself up out of my comfortable Adirondack chair, I went into the shop and changed out my old mower blades with a brand new set.  I was not able to get them off the other day by hand, but I borrowed an air powered impact wrench the other day from a friend and it worked like a charm.  I have a convenient setup in my shop where I can lift up the front of the mower using a cable winch puller (a.k.a. come a long winch) inside the doorway between two rooms in my shop.


Notice that the winch is attached to the header in the doorway which is essentially a strong beam that is designed to support a load.  The rafters/trusses that you can see in the background of the photo (that the lights are attached to) are not designed specifically to support a heavy downward load applied at the lower horizontal members.  Those horizontal members are designed primarily for tension.  You could cause some structural damage if you applied heavy loads to those horizontal “beam” looking portions of the trusses.  So be careful.

There is a really simple diagram on this website that shows the forces on a typical truss.  Scroll down a page or two till you see the blue arrows.  (Some of the arrows should show compression and some should show tension, so it’s not perfectly accurate but you get the idea.)

After I put on the new mower blades, I took them for a test drive.  They worked beautifully.  They sounded great and they cut like butter.  It felt kinda like walking in a new pair of shoes.  You feel light on your feet and empowered to go places.  With my new mower blades I felt like I could take on the world … or at least a few large yards.  My yard doesn’t need cutting for several more days, though, so I put the mower away and went looking for my next task.

I realized that I was starting to get hungry, so I went inside and ate my leftover Mr. Submarine sub sandwich from yesterday.  Then I installed trim around the fireplace brick in my living room.  This has needed to be done for two years now … ever since we bought this house … but I’ve been busy and this was not one of my highest priorities.  Don’t judge me … it’s done now.   🙂

It wasn’t exactly a simple job.  Most trim is just nailed into the bottom wood plate of the wall.  But this fireplace trim had to be installed in the direction such that the tall dimension was laying against the brick and the thin dimension was laying against the drywall.  That left me no place to nail the trim to, so I had to glue it.  I used Liquid Nails Indoor Projects adhesive and then I nailed some finish nails into the drywall to hold the trim tightly against the brick while the adhesive dried.  After I remove the finish nails from the drywall, I will have tiny little holes right along the new trim to patch and paint.  Oh well.


This odd installation direction is partially because the gap between the drywall and the brick is too large for the thin dimension to cover, but partially because it looks pretty good this way.  After I got my tools put away, I sat down and did some planning for going out in my canoe tomorrow.  The plan is to go out bright and early in the morning, unless it’s real windy.  It’s no fun rowing a canoe against a stiff wind.

Then I ate dinner which was popcorn shrimp wrap … popcorn shrimp, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, Italian dressing all rolled in a soft flour tortilla.  After dinner I spent an hour or so pulling stuff together for canoeing in the morning … including strapping the canoe to the top of the SUV.  Then I showered and now I’m writing this blog post.  That’s pretty much day eight of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.

My to-do list had 24 items on it last night when I went to bed.  Tonight it now has 21 items on it. Not bad at all.

What will tomorrow hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! 🙂


My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 7

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 7 (Wednesday Oct 9th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

Today I got up at 9am and got caught up on my Facebook news feed.  Then I ate a couple breakfast burgers and got dressed to leave the house.

I went to a friend’s house to help them with their home renovations that they’ve been working on.  I spent a couple hours rolling primer in the kitchen and in one of the bedrooms.  Then I cut and installed some kick panels in their kitchen.  Then I removed an old ceiling fan and installed three light fixtures.  I really didn’t need any payment for my work, but my friends bought me lunch at Mr. Submarine, here in Titusville.  It’s a great local joint and I highly recommend it for a quick and inexpensive lunch or dinner.

Then I came home and showered and then went to another friend’s house for a couple of hours for family life group.  Then I came home and promptly remembered that I was supposed to drop by the grocery store for some critical items that we had run out of.  So I hopped back in the car and took care of that errand.  Then I took the garbage and yard waste to the road.

After that, I spent an hour or so designing and drawing out a circuit that I plan to build soon to be driven by my Raspberry Pi single board computer.  I’ll talk details about that project in a separate blog post soon.  Then I caught up on my Facebook one more time and now I’m writing this blog post.  That’s pretty much day seven of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.

My to-do list had 25 items on it last night when I went to bed.  Tonight it now has 24 items on it. So I only got one official thing done today, but unofficially it was a busy and successful day for me.

What will tomorrow hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! 🙂


My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 6

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 6 (Tuesday Oct 8th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

Today I got up at 8am and got caught up on my Facebook news feed.  Yesterday my weight ended in 7 so I weighed myself again this morning and it ended in 5, so I guess yesterday’s weight was a bit off.  I realize that your body weight fluctuates and there’s no reason to weigh yourself every single day, but yesterday’s weight was a bit alarming, so I wanted to check again today.

I looked over my to-do list and decided to try not to do a lot of physical work today.  Sometimes your body just needs a relaxing day.  But I still wanted to get some to-do items knocked off my list, so I found some things that didn’t involve a lot of sweat and tears.  My first task was to add a guest account to my boys computer.  My 11 year old a couple weeks ago asked me to add a guest account and add a password to the account that he and his brother use every day.  Apparently the boys are a little annoyed when friends come over to play and they mess up their places and scores in some of the apps and games they like to play.

Then I upgraded my blog software, WordPress, on my web server.  You probably didn’t notice since it looks and acts the same.  Then I spent a little bit of time practicing a solo that I was recently given in my church‘s Christmas program.  My wife was out of the house for a few hours this morning, so I was able to launch a YouTube version of the song and sing along at full volume without anyone hearing me.  After that, I worked some more on some VHS video tapes that I’m transferring to DVD.  Once I started to get hungry, I made myself a chicken wrap for lunch and ate it.

Then I drove over to the local fitness center and gave blood.  I had missed a couple opportunities to give blood at work several weeks ago, so I’ve been keeping my eye out for the blood-mobile in town.  Their website has a list of upcoming locations in case you’re wanting to give blood.  You could save a life!


While I was out of the house, I stopped into Firestone and got my oil changed and also got my busted wheel lug replaced.  I had busted off a wheel lug a couple months ago when I was changing a flat tire by hand.  Don’t know my own strength, I suppose.  Then I ran through Lowes for a couple pieces of fireplace trim that I need to install.

Then I went back home and worked on a case mod for my new tiny little Raspberry Pi single board computer.  The board came in a plastic case for shipping, but I added some holes for cables and such.  Once I got it in a case, I felt more comfortable handling it and so I moved it over next to the house modem so I could plug it into the Internet connection and perform some software downloads and installations.  I then wrote a simple program on the Raspberry Pi in Python to turn on and off an output channel on the I/O bus.


By this time, I had run out of time and had to go shower and go to choir rehearsal.  This week is our first week of working on our Christmas program music.  We had a very good turnout of folks who were starting tonight specifically to be in the Christmas program.

After choir rehearsal, I got back to playing with my new tiny computer.  I verified using a digital multimeter that the channel on the I/O connector was actually being set ON (3.3 volts) and OFF (0 volts) by the Python script that I had written earlier.  This allows the operator to energize or deenergize a relay which can turn on and off lots of different things, like motors, etc.  Basically this thing can control a small or not too complex robot or other electronics that you can think of.  I’ve got lots of little project ideas for this little computer, but the first project that I want to work on is controlling devices wirelessly using a web interface from my laptop or from my smartphone.  So after proving that I could turn on and off the channel from the Python script, I installed Apache web server along with PHP and mySQL.

I tweaked my Python script to run from the web browser under CGI, but it would not run successfully because the I/O library that it was using required adminitrative rights to run.  So I turned to another I/O library for the Raspberry Pi called WiringPi that doesn’t need administrative rights.  After installing and playing around with WiringPi, I created a JavaScript web page that calls multiple CGI scripts written in BASH shell depending on which button you press.  This configuration worked great.  I was able to command the Raspberry Pi I/O bus via wireless web browser connection on both my laptop and on my iPhone.  So the next step is to design and create the custom circuit board that takes the various channel 3.3 volt signals and does something useful and fun with them.  That will be a to-do item for another day, though.

I got a lot accomplished today.  It looks like my to-do list now has 25 items on it.  I got a few checked off, but I did a lot of tasks today that were not actually written down on the list, plus I added a couple new items throughout the day, in typical fashion.

What will tomorrow hold for this furloughed government employee? Stay tuned! 🙂