Tag Archives: Shutdown

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! 🙂


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! 🙂