Tag Archives: Government

My unexpected (and possibly unpaid) vacation: Day 3

This is my little journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 3.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

I woke up at 7:30am this morning and had a banana smoothie on my front porch, sitting in my Adirondack chair, obviously.


I might as well show you this chair that I keep bragging about.  I built it myself and I made templates and plans so I could make more of them.  This particular chair is bare pine right now because I have not taken the time to prime and paint it yet.  That is on my list.  But I’m also thinking about making one out of red cedar and leaving it bare to the elements.


So after I finished admiring my chair for a while, I got busy.  I started by cleaning out my driveway drain which has been clogged with grass clippings for a while now.  Then I brought the garbage cans in from the road.  In my first 5 minutes working in my yard I probably got bit by about 5 mosquitoes, so I performed a little mosquito treatment around the property.  While I was in the mood to kill small biting creatures, I got out my fire ant treatment and treated a number of fire ant mounds that were in the yard.

Then I spent the next couple of hours pulling weeds in my landscaping.  I’ve really let it go for a while now, so it really needed to be done.  It was a lot of work too since it hadn’t been weeded in so long.  I got bit by two fire ants while pulling weeds … both times on two different knuckles.  Far from the best place to get bit.

Note to self: Don’t let the weeds get so out of control!  Sheesh!

After a snack and drink break, I spent probably another hour or so weeding the landscaping.  About this time my back and legs started telling me that it was time to stop or I was going to hurt myself.  So I stopped and took another break.  Then I decided to go inside and eat something for lunch.  No Burger King today.  Today’s lunch was relatively healthy.  It was a chicken wrap containing chicken breast, avocado slices, shredded mozzarella cheese, lettuce, and Italian salad dressing all rolled in a soft tortilla.

I got back to work, but decided to do less physical work indoors for the rest of the day.  I replaced all the doorknobs in all the bedrooms and also in the pantry.  The old doorknobs were the wrong style, plus there was a mix of keyed and non-keyed locks.  While I was at it, I installed some door stops where some have been missing for a while.  Then I installed a mirror on the back of our master bedroom door.  The mirror has been leaning against our bedroom wall for longer than I care to admit.  It was way way overdue for installing.  Then I fixed a broken soap dispenser and picked up the shop a bit and then it was time to eat dinner.  I did some packing in preparation for a Cub Scout campout and I also swept the garage.

My body was now telling me that I was completely pooped, so I sat down at the dining room table and opened up my new tiny little hobbyist computer that I got in the mail the other day.  It’s a Raspberry Pi single board computer running Linux.  It’s just a bare bones board and you have to add a case and all peripherals to it.  It’s about the size of a credit card but it’s surprisingly capable.  It has two built-in USB jacks and an Ethernet jack plus video and audio jacks and an I/O bus.  Out of the box, it has a Python IDE for programming it.


It has an RCA composite video output and also a HDMI video output, but I hooked up the composite output to an old small TV that I had laying around in the shop because it was quicker and easier than hooking it up to my big TV in the living room.  There was a glitch during the first startup and it apparently went to the HDMI output rather than to the composite video output so I was stuck with no video and I didn’t know what to do.  I hit a few keys on the keyboard and the activity light started flashing like crazy.  I have no idea what menu item I launched, but the activity never seemed to stop.  After several minutes I took a chance and power cycled it.  It picked up on the composite video this time, but came up with a corrupt file error.  Of course that’s because I power cycled the thing.  But it left me no choice.  This is a Linux operating system and these things have to be shut down properly or there is a decent chance you will corrupt the file system.  The file system is on an SD memory card, by the way.  No moving parts.  Cool, huh?

It was not difficult to grab a fresh copy of the operating system on the website, but it did take about a half hour or more of downloading and unpacking, though.  But now I’m back in business with my tiny little hobbyist computer.  The computer only costs $35, plus any peripherals that you will need, like a power adapter, SD card, etc.


I have a number of projects in mind for this little computer.  But all I had time for this evening was to boot it up and look around the desktop icons a little bit.

So it was starting to get late, so I took a shower and now I’m writing this blog post.  That’s pretty much day three of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.

My to-do list had 38 items on it last night when I went to bed.  Tonight it now has 30 items on it. Now that’s some real progress!  Plus I had some time to play with my new tiny computer!  That makes today a complete success in my book!

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


My unexpected (and possibly unpaid) vacation: Day 2

This is my little journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 2.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

I woke up at 7am this morning.  I guess my circadian clock doesn’t keep good time since I usually get up around 6am for work. I went to my computer to check the status of the government shutdown but my Brighthouse home wifi was not working.  The same thing happened yesterday morning.  Before I could get my act together and call Brighthouse to complain, it started working again.  That’s two strikes for Brighthouse.  They better be careful!  🙂

Then I went outside to get a little exercise.  My mind and body are not very fond of jogging, so I typically fast walk when I am able to find time to exercise.  I stretched my muscles and then fast walked for just over 3 miles.  I used an iPhone app called NeoTreksGPS to track my route and to collect stats on my performance.  I haven’t really shopped around for the best exercise GPS app, so I can’t say whether this app is better or worse than all the hundreds of other choices out there.  I also used the Pandora app on my phone to listen to my Duran Duran station so I got to hear lots of 80’s dance club music during my fast paced walk.


This first screen grab shows me walking by my church.  The app uses Google satellite images and overlays your current position (the blue dot) and where you’ve been (the green dots).


This second screen grab shows my stats after I was all done walking.  I was going for a pace of less than 15 minutes per mile.  I exceeded that goal with 14 minutes and 43 seconds per mile.  That’s a walking pace of over 4 miles per hour.  Not bad for someone who doesn’t exercise much.  🙂

 After I stretched out again at home, I stepped on the scale to get a baseline for the government shutdown.  Since I’m off my regular work schedule, I should probably be careful that I don’t snack too much or eat too much junk food or I could end up gaining some unwanted excess weight.  My baseline weight ends in 3, so I will try to stay at or below that weight throughout the furlough.

Then I relaxed in my front porch Adirondack chair with a banana pineapple smoothie.  Did I mention that I love my Adirondack chair?  I made it myself.  But that’s for another blog post because I’m considering making them and selling them.

Then I watched a couple short DVDs that needed to be watched because they were burned from old VHS tapes and I needed to verify that they were in good shape before I deleted the source files from my computer.

Then I went to the driving range and hit a large bucket of balls.  In the past I’ve always gone to the driving range just for fun, but I’ve been meaning to get more seriously into golf and to start taking my kids along with me.  My youngest has sort of a knack and even has his own set of clubs that my dad gave him this past summer.  So I’ve been meaning to drive some balls and actually pay attention to how far I hit with each club.  I’ve never paid any attention to that before.  I don’t know how typical this is or not, but I was hitting around 90 yards with my 9 iron, around 120 yards with my 7 iron, and around 140 yards with my 3 iron.  My 5 iron is too short, so I’m not going to be using it any more.  I did not hit any woods today.  I’m not real good with them anyways.

I must have looked pretty bad at the driving range today because two separate guys came up to me and offered unsolicited advise.  It was all probably very good advise and these guys were obviously well intentioned, but some of their advise really messed me up.

I had a quick lunch at Burger King … why Burger King again?  I thought I was trying to not eat junk food during the government shutdown!  Well, I realized the other day that I have a gift card that I should probably use up before I forget about it in my wallet again and it expires or I lose it or something.

After I came home, I installed the final piece of trim into our office, thus completing that to-do list item from yesterday.  Then I started working on the trim pieces around the living room fireplace.  I got it about one third installed when my wife noticed that it looked funny.  It was the wrong color.  Silly me.  Now I will need to go to Lowe’s and exchange the white fireplace trim I bought the other day for the wood colored trim and start the install over again.

At this point, it was starting to get too late in the afternoon to start something big, so I relaxed again in my Adirondack chair (did I mention how much I love my Adirondack chair?) and read a couple magazines that I haven’t been able to find time to read.  They were Smithsonian Air & Space magazines.  What a great magazine.  I can’t say enough about this magazine.

Then I took a shower and made a sandwich for one of the boys since my wife was busy working with the other boy on his homework.  I skipped dinner since I wasn’t hungry yet from my big Burger King lunch.  Those BK fries are quite filling.  Then we dropped the kids off at church and went to a friend’s house for a couple of hours for family life group.  Then we picked up the kids and came home and I ate a small dinner and now I’m writing this blog post.  That’s pretty much day two of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.

My to-do list had 35 items on it last night when I went to bed.  Tonight it now has 38 items on it. I crossed several off today and did some tasks that were never on the list and I also added several new items to the list throughout the day. This to-do list is a battle that can never be won, I’m afraid.  Just as long as I get a handful of stuff done each day, the list is worth maintaining, though.  Otherwise important stuff would slip through the cracks.

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


My unexpected (and possibly unpaid) vacation: Day 1

I woke up at 6am this morning like usual, even though my alarm was not set. I checked CNN on my phone and saw that the government shutdown had actually happened while I was sleeping.

Basically for me the shutdown is a vacation with no guarantee of a paycheck. Although there is a decent chance that Congress will approve back pay for the furloughed government employees. But even civil servants need to pile up a solid emergency fund in case they lose their job (even if only temporary). Back pay is never guaranteed.

I’m not a gambler, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if I lost a week or two worth of my salary over this mess. That’s not the end of the world for myself and my family, but thousands of other federal employees might get into some trouble if that happens.

I checked my NASA email account right away for the official furlough notice but it was not there yet. Once the notice arrives I’m supposed to acknowledge it by forwarding it to my supervisor.

I have a huge to-do list that never seems to ever get any smaller so I got the list out and created a sub-list which is my furlough to-do list. This new sub-list now has 35 items on it. Probably twice as much as I’ll be able to get done during the furlough. But we have no idea how long this thing is gonna last.

Not everything on my furlough list is work-and-no-play though. There are things like “go see a movie” and “go canoeing” and stuff like that. I plan to fill my furlough time with both work and play activities.

After creating my to-do list, I made myself a banana and strawberry smoothie and enjoyed it on my front porch in my adirondack chair. During a normal NASA work day, I would never have time for this sort of thing. Mornings are usually pretty rushed.

First official order of business: fix clogged toilet

I went ahead and cleaned and disinfected all three toilets while I was at it.

I threw in a load of laundry while I was in the area. One of our bathrooms is through the laundry room and I noticed that the washer and dryer were both unoccupied so what the heck. My wife will be so surprised when she gets home from work and notices that some laundry magically got done!

My NASA supervisor then called my cell and asked me to check for the official furlough notice. It still wasn’t there in my NASA inbox, so I called my supervisor back at home and she forwarded me a copy to my home email address. It’s likely that some NASA server was shut down this morning before all the thousands of official furlough notices were delivered. Oh well.

Back to my to-do list. I had a one hour DVD that I needed to watch. It’s an old VHS tape that I transferred to DVD a while ago and I needed to watch it on a regular DVD player to make sure it was acceptable.

Then I did a second load of laundry. Yay, me!

Then after a quick trip to my in-law’s house to borrow an air finish nailer and a quick trip to Lowes and a quick stop for lunch at Burger King, I spent the next several hours measuring/cutting/installing baseboard trim in the house.


We’ve lived here for just over two years and I got distracted before all the trim got installed. Today I worked in the kids hallway, both kids rooms, and also in the front office.

Then I took a shower and ate dinner and went to church choir rehearsal. And now I’m writing this blog post. That’s pretty much day one of my unplanned furlough slash vacation.

My to-do list still has 35 items on it. I crossed several off today and did some tasks that were never on the list and I also added several new items to the list throughout the day. Typical.

What will tomorrow hold? Stay tuned! 🙂