Tag Archives: Journal

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! 🙂


My unexpected (but fully paid) vacation: Day 5

This is my little digital journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 5 (Monday Oct 7th), not counting the weekend.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

I had to change the title of this journal series because last night CNN reported that Congress had approved back pay for all furloughed government employees.  No word on the end of the Government Shutdown, though.  So this means that I’m going to get paid to sit at home and not work while Congress continues to argue over their own specific party-line agendas.  It’s pretty embarrassing.  It’s tempting to just go ahead and do some actual government work from home during this time where we know we’re going to get paid anyways, but we were all warned that we would be breaking the law if we tried to perform any work or if we even volunteered our time to our government jobs.

So here is what I did today.  I woke up at 7:30am this morning and caught up on my Facebook news feed.  I try to catch up at least once in the morning and once in the evening in order to keep up to date on all my friends postings.  Of course, if I have some spare time during the day, I’m not above quickly checking it on my phone multiple times during the day.  But I usually spend not much more than 5 or 10 minutes a couple times a day keeping up to date with my news feed.  I’m not one to go digging for stuff or to go commenting and liking all over the place.

Here is a quote from my post on Wednesday of last week … Government Shutdown Day 2:

My baseline weight ends in 3, so I will try to stay at or below that weight throughout the furlough.

It’s now Monday … only 5 days later.  I got on the scale this morning and my weight ended in a 7.  Whoa.  That’s 4 extra pounds in only 5 days.  I need to lay off the daily banana smoothies.  And the side stops to Burger King.  And the pre-holiday egg nog.  And the special Cub Scout camp fire desserts.  I was doing so good maintaining and even losing some weight before the furlough.  But not being at work all day seems to have changed my eating and snacking habits significantly.  Gonna have to work harder on that while I’m home.  The thing that typically works for me is to not eat at all the regular times, but to hold off my eating until I actually feel hungry.  That, plus not eating very much junk food tends to work pretty well for me.

My first order of business this morning was to sit down and pay the end of the month bills.  Yes, the end of September.  It’s only October 7th, so I’m not technically late on any of these bills yet.  And I’m one full month ahead on paying most of my utility bills, so I’m not really at risk for getting the water or the TV or the phone shut off even if I was really late in paying the bills.  But I should have done it about a week ago, regardless.

Why am I a full month ahead in paying most of my utilities, you ask?  I’m slightly embarrassed to say that several years ago, when I was very busy in a musical at the Cocoa Village Playhouse, I got behind on some of my utility bills and one time got my water cut off.  And another time I got my cable TV and phone cut off.  Embarrassing.  So to keep that from happening ever again, I paid double what was due at some point or another and have maintained that pre-payment status ever since.  So most of my utility bills come to me with a zero balance due.  So basically I pay them all a month in advance.

After paying the bills, I started to feel hungry, so I ate a bowl of cereal.  I know, not very healthy.  But more healthy than a Dunkin’ Donuts doughnut, right?

After that, I picked up sticks in the yard and then I tried to change the mower blades, but I failed.  I was not able to get the old blades off.  I verified that the bolts were right hand threaded and that I wasn’t trying to tighten them.  I posted to Facebook that I needed to borrow an impact wrench and then I mowed the yard using the old blades.  I had to go slower than I wanted because the old blades were pretty dull.

After I was done mowing, I checked the movie showtimes and noticed that Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney was playing on the IMAX 3D screen in Merritt Island.  I got showered and drove to Cocoa to eat lunch before the movie.  I had a club sandwich on garlic toast and bottled water at Oleander Bakery in Cocoa Village which would have been a fairly healthy lunch, but then I followed it up with a pumpkin cupcake which I really didn’t need.  But who can pass up a seasonal limited time only pumpkin cupcake?  It was pretty great, by the way.

Then I saw the movie on the big IMAX 3D screen.  I had a Fandango coupon from the Central Florida blood-mobile, so it only cost me a dollar as opposed to the normal 12 dollar price.  I’m a tight-wad so I would be hard pressed to pay 12 bucks for a movie.  But that’s just me.  Anyway, the movie was really great.  I’m usually not easily impressed with movies these days.  And I’m usually not easily impressed with special effects in movies these days.  But this movie was done very well.  The 3D IMAX experience was probably the only way to see this particular movie.  It feels like you are actually out in space with the characters.  The filming and the special effects and the production were all amazing.  During most of the movie it felt like it was all done in one long take, and it was very well choreographed.  It’s just an amazing movie.  It was so amazingly well made that I forgave them for creating a universe where a debris field could take out all our communication satellites and also take out the Hubble Space Telescope at the same time.  But hey, they had to take some artistic liberties, didn’t they?  🙂

After the movie, I went to a drive-thru car wash and mini-detail joint.  Then I drove home.  I got a phone call from a high school friend who I haven’t heard from in several months and we caught up on each other’s lives for a bit.  We talked for 45 minutes during his drive home from work.  My wife cooked dinner and then had to run to a school parent meeting, so I fed the kids the dinner that she cooked and I ate too.

Then I got online and bought my wife and I two tickets to see Young Frankenstein at the Cocoa Village Playhouse for this coming weekend.  I’ve been in a number of productions there (8, I believe) and have lots of friends performing there, but that’s not the only reason we go.  The quality of the productions there are second to none.  It’s a truly incredible place.  It’s Broadway quality at community theater prices.

I’ve had a full day today, but I had just enough energy to work on one more item from my to-do list tonight.  I got all the photos off my iPhone camera and organized them on my computer and then sent out the best photos to grandparents and aunts and uncles.  And some of the cub Scouting photos, I also sent to our Cub Master.  And now I’m typing up this blog post.  That about does it for today.

Looks like my to-do list now has 27 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! 🙂


My unexpected (and possibly unpaid) vacation: Day 4

This is my little journal from the government shutdown.  Today is day 4 (Friday Oct 4th).  This entry was not posted on Friday due to it being a crazy day, though.  Click here to see all of my government shutdown journal entries.

I woke up at 8am this morning and got busy getting ready for our Cub Scout camping weekend.  If the government were not on shutdown today, I would have had to take the day off work because the camping weekend starts around noon with a convoy of our entire cub scout pack driving to the campground so we can get there right when it opens.  So I think today would have been exactly the same with or without the shutdown.

So today in my morning rush, I had what we affectionately call “breakfast burgers” for breakfast.  Breakfast burgers are actually Tennessee Pride Snack Size Sausage Biscuits.  These little dudes are yummy … especially with a little Louisiana Hot Sauce added.  I want to thank my sister and her family for introducing these little nuggets of frozen microwavable goodness to my family several years ago when we were up in North Carolina visiting them.  Since that fateful day when she introduced them to us, our fridge has rarely been without a 24 pack on the top shelf.

In my morning rush, I ate on the run and did not sit in my Adirondack chair and enjoy my breakfast.  [insert sad face icon here]  Did I mention that I love my Adirondack chair?  I made it myself.  I’m so proud.  So after I scarfed down my breakfast burgers, I washed them down with a little egg nog that my wife surprised me with from the store last night.  [insert happy face icon here]  Can you believe it’s the first week in October and the stores are already carrying egg nog?  I’m not complaining since I absolutely love the stuff.  If I ruled the world and if I also didn’t care much about giving myself a heart attack, I would probably drink a half gallon of that stuff every day while it was in season.  My wife and youngest son hate egg nog and think it’s gross.  While myself and my oldest son think egg nog is a gift straight from heaven above.  Funny how one takes after me and one takes after her, isn’t it.

After my quick breakfast, I got to work collecting stuff from around the house and packing for the camping weekend.  My wife actually did most of the work.  She’s been collecting and checking things off her packing list for probably a week now.  I do maintain a small personal list of camping stuff that I need to collect that are mostly stored outside in the shop.  Here is that camping list in case anyone out there in Internet-land might find it useful or helpful.  If you don’t find it useful or helpful, please keep your comments to yourself.  🙂

Kurt’s Camping List:

  • tent & tarp
  • doormat
  • rope/clothes line
  • bungee cords
  • dust pan & broom
  • LED headlamp & flashlight
  • ratcheting straps & wire for tying down stuff
  • squeeze clamps & carabiner clips
  • leather gloves
  • stakes & hammer & hatchet
  • firewood & lighter & propane torch & kindling (only if not with the scouts)
  • grilling utensils & grill grate & wire brush (only if not with the scouts)
  • extension cords & multi-outlets (optional)
  • bikes (optional)
  • canoe & life vests (optional)
  • plus all the stuff on my wife’s camping packing list!

After I got all our weekend stuff moved into the garage and all laid out so I could see it, I started the non-trivial task of packing it all into the car.  This is like a life sized game of Tetris.  Only without the joy of beating your old high score.  I think every time we go camping we realize that we don’t really need quite as much stuff, so I think the car packing ritual gets a bit easier each time.  By the time I got everything packed into the car today I had a good 6 inches of visibility across the entire back window.  I think that counts as beating my old car packing high score, though, now that I think about it!  Sweet!   🙂

The rest of my day consisted of driving the family to LaNoChe campground with a dinner stop in Deland, setting up the tent with help from my oldest, hanging out by the fire with the other campers, going to the LaNoChe lodge to watch the movie FrankenWeenie (which I thought was pretty lame, by the way), eating a couple deli meat sandwiches for dinner, roasting marshmallows on the fire, and then going to bed.


The rest of the weekend consisted of mostly hiking from one activity to another.  This weekend included a lot of walking and our camp site was the furthest from all the activities which compounded the pain.  But we made it through and everyone had a good time.  I think all the fun activities at LaNoChe (like BB gun shooting and archery and swimming) distract the boys just enough from their leg muscle and foot aches to make them forget the pain.

It’s now Sunday evening when I’m typing up this blog post.  We had a busy but fun camp out with our cub scout pack and the weather was pretty perfect.  I didn’t get anything crossed off my to-do list, but spending a weekend camping with your family always trumps any tasks that might need to get done around the house.  I’m sure we made some lifelong memories this weekend.

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


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! 🙂