December 29, 2014

Changing Heidi's Treatment

Before we get into the reasons why Heidi's treatment is changing direction, I thought I'd post a picture of Winston and Sadie outside on Christmas day with very unusual weather ... like high 40's.

Since they know the weather should be colder, all three hounds have done their annual migration to the leather couch. Luckily when I want to sit there to watch a game, a movie, or read a book ... one of them will move to another chair or spot on the floor.

Like I was saying, Christmas Day did not feel like the typical Midwestern winter day. It was just a few years ago we had over 24" of snow and I was clearing driveways a couple of different times due to the non-stop snowing. Not this year.

I think you will agree this next picture looks like a cool November day in the Midwest.

Christmas Day 2014

Sadie doesn't like the iPhone camera but loves posing in front of the Nikon D3200

I made a mistake in my last post when I wrote about Heidi's Atopica dose. I had put 500mg per day but it was 100mg per day, I've corrected the previous post. Huge difference. That comes in a very large capsule. Since it has to be given 1 hour before her meal or 2 hours after her meal, hiding the capsule in cheese or peanut butter was not an option.

I am not even sure if that would have worked, since she is very good at separating what she doesn't like to eat. Luckily she is a very good dog when I open her mouth and I can slide the large capsule down the back of her throat without her trying to bite me or fighting it.

With the daily dose of Atopica I was seeing improvement like I wrote about the last post. Our goal was a gradual decrease in dosage from daily to hopefully 1 per week or 2 per month.

December 12, as per the vet's instructions I decreased the dosage to every other day. Within a few days I started seeing her itch more, and she was back to chewing her feet. Her spots were not nearly as bad as they were October 28 when we took the initial trip to the vet but her rear hocks were still hairless and red as well as her armpits. 

I had mentioned the armpit issue in my last vet visit November 29 but was told due to the excess skin a basset hound has it was having a hard time drying out and healing after the medicated shampoos. That seemed strange to me because her armpits have never been a problem until October. I can't say I was thrilled with that answer at the time but nodded my head and moved on.

When she recently started itching again, chewing herself again after 8 weeks of treatment ... I decided to read more about Atopica. Back in October I had read about any possible side effects Heidi might have taking Atopica plus what the long term effects were. All the information I read in October seemed to show it was the drug to use for allergies without using steroids. It had been used in people for years but not dogs and cats until 2003.

Someway in that initial research I missed the long term effect  that Atopica had.

Last week I did an internet search for "Is Atopica safe for dogs".  A lot of links showed up, some dog forums where dog owners were discussing their results and of course places to buy it online. The majority of people on the forums and customer reviews said Atopica was great, they had used it for years and they had given their dog a better quality of life by controlling their allergies. All said their dogs lived to be 9 years or older.

Like any medication for dogs, unless it's something out of the ordinary, if a dog lives a healthy life while on the medication and dies at the age or 9 or older, who can say the medication had anything to do with failing kidneys, or a bad heart?

These are the two articles that made me ask myself if I was giving her the right medication. They made me reconsider different options for treating her allergies. I decided a different direction in her treatment might be best:

Atopica: A Dangerous Path - click here 

Is Atopica Safe? - click here

Also the websites you find in searches, I'm using DuckDuckGo instead of Google now, how many of those sites discussing the reasons why you should not use that specific drug are really trying to steer you to buy their recommended dog food or products? As an example when I bought Dinovite last summer, a food supplement that did not work ... all of their email replies were telling me to stop all dog food and use their raw food formula along with their other supplements.

It's like a Catch-22. Which should you believe?

I decided the plan I chose at the vet October 28 was not working as well as I expected. Yes, she did give me 3 choices  to TRY to treat the allergies and I chose the Atopica plan. She also wrote in her notes to call her if Heidi's condition worsened or failed to improve.

"failed to improve" ... While on a daily dose, it did improve but not everything I expected. If Atopica was to help stop the itching and chewing, why was I having to continue Benadryl to stop the itching and chewing?  Like I said, her rear hocks were red and hairless and her armpits were hairless and at times red. 

So I decided that after 8 weeks of treatment, $300 worth of Atopica, plus Benadryl every 8-12 hours to prevent itching ... the current plan was not working.

The Benadryl was suppose to be used up until the time there was improvement yet the itching never stopped after 8 weeks.

I told my problem to a friend of mine that rescues dogs and cats. Some of her dogs have had medical problems and with her medical background she is very informed about different medications. She replied later with a long detailed email describing what Heidi was doing or really what her weak immune system was doing ... along with what Atopica was doing.

She agreed with my idea of changing treatment plans. Instead of just putting a "band aid" on the problem, try and strengthen Heidi's immune system through a diet change and possibly adding pro-biotics to her food. As I said in a different blog post, Heidi had these allergies when I bought her from the Basset Rescue. She was under regular medication, which was later changed by my vet to a different pill, then finally steroid shots after the pills were no longer working more than a week or two.

I spent days reading all I could about Atopica, visited forums that were linked in these articles and also looked again at the dog foods I had fed her over the past three years. I found some interesting things on a forum of Scottish Terrier owners where Atopica was discussed. That is where I read where many owners were happy giving their dogs Atopica, with good results.

There were 3 other owners that stood out. 

They stopped Atopica due to the same problems Heidi was still having. They changed their dog food with some great results. None of them worked for the dog food company, nor were affiliates. All three thought it would take months before they might see improvement but they were shocked how fast they saw change. One of the three said she even saw improvement after two weeks of feeding Merrick's Pork and Sweet Potato blend.

Pork is one ingredient I have never considered in a dog food. I've always fed good quality dog food to my hounds, or at least those that are highly rated by Dog Food Adviser. I've gone back and forth between grain free and regular food as long as it did not include wheat, corn or by-products. Most of those dog foods were Chicken and Rice or Lamb and Rice blend. Most had fruits and vegetables added to the ingredients.

After years of researching dog food ingredients, even filling out a spreadsheet of their first 5 ingredients so I could compare foods at a glance ... there was one thing I didn't consider with Heidi ... maybe she has a chicken allergy.

Was she allergic to Chicken or chicken products? Or was the Canola Oil I found in the Taste of the Wild no grain food causing problems. I normally feed the Diamond Naturals Large Breed with Chicken and Rice or Fromm Chicken and Rice. When I decided at different times to go to a grain free food, thinking that might be Heidi's problem I buy Taste of the Wild .. not paying any attention to Canola Oil that was in the Salmon blend.

Last week I didn't like what I read in either of these two articles about Canola Oil now being added to dog food. Taste of the Wild has added Canola Oil to a lot of their different blends of dog food.

Canola article No.1 - click here

Canola article No.2 - click here

So the search for a new dog food was on. I hate the thought on how much dog food costs now, as they raise prices while reducing the size of the bag but I decided I would go with grain free, no chicken an no lamb. Since three of those people had results with a specific kind of dog food I decided to go with Merrick's Grain Free Real Pork and Sweet Potato. This blend also has Salmon Meal and Salmon Oil.

Yes, all of her allergies could be environmental and probably are but the issue is what I am doing now isn't working. When I combine what my friend told me about allergies and immune systems with the three people that got results using this specific food, I have to try it.

So to finally end this longer than planned post, I started the new treatment this past Saturday by giving her the medicated shampoo bath. I am mixing the old and new food 50/50 while gradually changing to 100% new food over 3-4 days. As far as ingredients such as Canola Oil, or Rice, might think those are small amounts and may or may not have an effect. I asked my vet the first visit if the Wheat in the Milk Bone brand bone would have an effect on her, the vet replied that even if the dog licked the bone, it was enough to be absorbed and be a potential problem. So, that is the way I look at individual dog food ingredients.

After 8 weeks and 60 Atopica Capsules, this is what Heidi looked like on Saturday:

Rear Hock


Atopica did improve her paws and neck area. So that improvement that made me consider that still being an option. Yet, treating her without harsh drugs is my first choice. I do not expect instant results and not even the two week results where those forum owners spoke about. All dogs are different as well as treatments. I plan do this food combination for months before I decide if any changes are needed.

I have started the Merrick grain free pork and sweat potato dog food and for relief of any skin rashes I will be using Baby Spa Shea Butter Diaper Cream based on my friends recommendation for dog skin care.

Below are the before and after pictures.

October 28
December 27

October 28

December 27

December 21, 2014

Checking In - Not a Lot to Write About

Since it has been a few days since my last post, I thought I'd stop by and write a post. Nothing has really gone one since my last post and as you see I've not posted any photos here like I have promised. Sorry about that.

I have found it very hard to take a lot of pictures when the temperatures are in the 30's. That's just me. I've never been a fan of really cold weather to hangout out outside, unless it was skiing in Colorado and Washington. Even though this winter in the 'tropics' of southern Indiana has been pretty mild so far. The weather experts are predicting a little snow this week, but weather is always changing here, so who knows.

Heidi is looking the best she has in a while. I know, I need to take some new photos and post them here with a before and after shot. By the vets direction last visit, I am now giving her 100mg of Atopica every other day instead of daily with plans of reducing her doses as much as possible.

Her recommended dog bath with medicated shampoo every 3-4 days ... I have failed miserably. It's such a hassle giving hounds a bath, even when they don't mind it. She is getting one this morning though.

I am still in my book reading mode, can't seem to stop. It must be the cooler temps outside that keep me reading books inside. Maybe I have traded my yard work in the good weather for book reading in bad weather.

A lot of college basketball on the television and I must say that I am thrilled with Indiana beating Butler yesterday. The college football bowl games are just starting, but I only watch the ones where I like the team match-ups. There are really too many football bowl games but as usual in sports it's all influenced by money. Even though many of the games are not attended well, I guess those few that do attend do bring enough income to the host city to make it worth it. Cities still want to host some kind of college football bowl game. You would think they are about to run out of sponsor names for those bowls.

Some colleges that are selected to play in those bowl games end up losing money for the trip. Yet at the same time a bowl for a college team gives them extra practices, a boost to their recruiting and an increase in alumni donations to their college.

For those following my house heating experiment, I have had to turn on the electric heat since the outside temperatures dropped to the 20's and 30's. A few times it was cold enough inside the house that I didn't see any need to be cold just to save a few dollars. Since I can see my kilowatt usage every day on the utility company website, I can tell from the usage, how to use my 1975 baseboard electric heat in an economical way. I am still spending below my budgeted amount.

This past week I was asked by a different people what kind of dog food I feed the hounds. It was kind of funny because these questions came from people that didn't know each other, were from different parts of the country, was asked via different ways of communication and all about the same time ... within a couple of days of each other.

Looking back at my list of dog food purchases, it looks like I have changed the food a lot, but it's all been good dog food. Some was 'no grain', some wasn't. The reason for the changes were the allergies that Heidi had ... I wanted to see if it was the food or was environmental.

A few years ago you might remember me taking photos of the cart full of eight 40# bags of Nature's Domain bought at Costco. That food is made by Diamond dog food, with the ingredients very very similar to Taste of the Wild, which is also made by Diamond dog.

With a 200 mile round trip to get to my closest Costco, last year I stopped making that trip and started buying dog food locally. At that time it was Diamond Naturals 60+, now called Diamond Naturals for Large Breeds. Recently they changed not only their packaging but also the list of ingredients. They have more fruit and vegetables added but still had 'grain' but has never had corn, wheat or soy. I can buy that at the local farm feed store, 40# bag costs me $33 including tax, cash or check, no credit or debit cards....yes, it's an old fashion feed store.

With Heidi's skin allergies, which she had when I bought her from Guardian Angel Basset Rescue in July 2011, she had those same allergies, and they were noted on my paperwork along with all of her medical records. In trying to find a possible source, I tried different dog foods, some of them were 'grain free'. A raw diet was never tried and 90 days of a Dinovite supplement did nothing for improvement.

Hoping I could solve her allergies with 'no grain' dog food, I tried Taste of the Wild and Fromm dog foods. Fromm is a family owned business in Wisconsin that deals in only manufacturing dog food. They are one of three dog food manufacturers in the USA, that only deal with dog foods. It's really a great dog food.

Well over a couple of years of trying the no grain food, then switching back and forth to the Diamond Natural for Large Breeds ... I didn't find that Heidi's allergies were dog food related. Her skin rashes did not improve by feeding her 'grain free' food. All three hounds have the softest coats and vets have told me multiple times they have never felt a basset hound coat feel so soft.

So the food I am feeding them is good, since the hair would be the last part of a dog using the ingredients of the dog food that is used.

Yes, for people that laugh (in a good way) about all of my Excel spreadsheets, I do have one that lists the top five ingredients of each dog food I have either bought or were interested in, along with the percentages for calories, fat, water etc. I can look at them side by side and compare them.

I have a different Excel spreadsheet I did a few years ago tracking the "true cost" of a bag of different dog foods, by adding using the miles driven to buy the food, fuel cost estimate and frequency of trips to come up with a cost per pound.

Even though it is a 200 mile round trip to my local Costco, that was the cheapest dog food per pound. Although it would increase the amount of fuel used for the month.

Am I crazy with all the analysis I do?  LOL ... at times I think I am slightly insane ... or maybe it's nothing more than curiosity.

Some have said you have to be a little crazy to keep from going insane.

I have deactivated my Facebook account, again. 

In case I don't make it back to blog until after the holidays ... Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday's to all that read this blog .. A Happy New Year!

December 16, 2014

My Electric Heat Experiment Continues

I'm sitting here with my North Face jacket on, hands are cold and I can feel cool air throughout the house. Both new and regular readers might be saying "turn your heat on" or asking why don't I turn the heat on.

Well remember in one of my recent posts I had talked about reducing my electric usage this winter. One, I was curious with different temperatures and reducing my planet footprint, I really didn't want to pay to keep the house hot because 65° is the maximum setting I have liked over the years during the winters. Also a factor is my utilities raised not only their rates this past September for the first time in three years but they have a schedule where the highest rates per year are during the peak usages per year.

Smart people aren't they? Getting the biggest bang for the buck? So let's charge 'em more during air conditioning and when they use their heaters.

With the new EPA laws on the horizon, and the future of Indiana's coal based power plants, no one really knows how much the cost of electricity will increase ... but most everyone that writes about it or reports it on television agree there could be large increases after the new laws are implemented.

So with that lingering in the back of my mind, I was somewhat concerned yesterday when my local utility company emailed me a survey to complete from a 3rd party organization. They asked all the questions you would expect and it took about ten minutes to complete. While I went through the questions all I could see was, "how will the radical changes to coal based power plants affect you as a consumer".

I am seriously considering having solar panels installed on my roof that faces due east with a clear sky above it. When I have estimated that cost in past years and compared to my low monthly utility bill, the cost to install solar never was justified. It may soon be justified in a year or so.

That also brings up the thought it might be time to go completely mobile, with solar already installed, and hit the road, dogs and all.

Yes, I am concerned that much about future increases to my local utilities since Indiana's power plants in my area and Indianapolis are coal based.

So, where was I? Ah yes, cold hands and a cool 'breeze' throughout the house. Soup for meals never tasted so good as recently.

This past weekend outside was high 40's and some low 50's ... I know not exciting to read about but it ties in with my inside house temps. My house stayed at 60°. It wasn't a sunny weekend but a warmer weekend. Prior to that when the temps had highs in the 30's with lows in the lower 20's, the inside of my house stayed between 56° - 60°. Cold to most people and Heidi but ok for me, Winston and Sadie.

Some will call this an act of boredom but I call it my analytical curiosity by nature. I tried different experiments.
  • Baseboard electric heat on until inside temps got to 65°
  • Only space heaters on until inside temps got to 65°
  • How long did each take?
  • How many kilowatts were used during each time.
No, unlike most things I did not start a new Excel Spreadsheet like I do for everything else, just written notes to compare.

If you have not made it this far, clicked a different site link on the left, I completely understand. Still there are some interesting findings.
  • It took approximately 2 hours to increase the inside temps from 60° to 65°.
  • Baseboard electric heater used 3 kw per hour.
  • Space heaters used 2 kw per hour.
  • If I used the heat late afternoon, it lasted most of the time I was awake.
Adding in my cost of electricity per kilowatt, it proved to me it was much more money than I wanted to spend just to have a warm house 16 hours per day. MY cost included kw used, what they call a PCA tracker fee, sales tax (7%) and a facility charge ($34). With those additional fees that brings my kilowatt cost from around 11.5 cents to 22 cents per kw.

My bill also shows a cost per day just on kw usage. One year ago they said my daily cost was $4.33 per kw and that has increased this year to $4.70 before adding in the fees I listed above. That is an 8.5% increase in cost.

See how much time I have on my hands??  (laughing)

I think by this time in this blog post I am probably talking to myself right now ... but I'll keep going.

Temps are due to drop back into the 30's for the next 10 days with a couple of days of snow predicted. Based on past years, even though I was gone most of the time during the day working ... the house will stay close to 60° no matter what.

Overall I will say my experiment is working out well, at times better than expected.

My new sports blog is staring off well with a LOT of traffic so far after a week of existence. I write there every day but basically am writing the posts a day in advance of posting.

I need to pick up a new tripod to use with my Nikon D3200 I bought last fall. I have a smaller, lighter tripod I bought years ago for the small Nikon  Coolpix 3100. I want to take some night sky shots and need a tripod to take those types of pictures. I have enough Best Buy credits that I can get the tripod for free.

From reading my blog list, it sounds like overnight lows in the SW are about my highs in the "tropics" of southern Indiana. That is still cold no matter where you are. I am glad to see Al and Kelly got their inverter fixed and are planning on more traveling, some revisiting of old favorites.

That's about it from here. I haven't got out much to take photos, after all the hounds and I stay inside most of the time under sleeping bags trying to keep warm ... lol

BTW ... getting a lot of blog visitors from the Ukraine ... you think they are trying to hack me? Do you get them in large numbers on your blog?

December 10, 2014

I'm In Total Hibernation

It looks like it has been a while since my last post, that talked about being a nester or an explorer. In the past 18 days since my last post I have turned into a serious hibernator more than anything. It's not even snowing yet, temperatures are fantastic for this time of year but that hasn't got me outside a lot. It's like I am almost house bound and I'll tell the reasons further down the page.

The hounds and I are fine and still get in the daily dog walk unless the ground is so saturated where it is just too muddy, soft or wet to walk through the field. With Winston's belly so close to the ground when he walks, it doesn't take much to get his whole underside wet if the hay is damp when walking. Sadie will walk in snow, rain, wind or fire ... she just doesn't care what the weather is doing when she hears the word "walk". Heidi on the other had is strictly a good weather walker. If she finds herself having to 'tip toe' through the yard or field, she does a 180 and sprints for the house and refuses to go.

Heidi and I went for a vet followup visit on November 28 to check on her treatment for erythema and alopocia. There was improvement but not as much as I thought would happen after a month of daily doses of 100mg of Atopica, medicated shampoo baths every 4 days and diphenhydramine (benadryl 50mg) every 8-12 hours to prevent itching. Yet, the vet was very happy with the progress. We walked out with a $16 bill or a 'check-up' visit and a month supply of Atopica worth $150 for free because he had started the treatment process. She wanted me to continue the daily doses for 2 more weeks than move to giving the Atopica every other day.

I will say in the past week Heidi has looked the best she has in a long time, skin-wise. All 4 of her paws have a thick growth of hair, along with under her neck and her rear hocks are starting to show a layer of hair coming back. Of course whenever there is some kind of allergy involved, the question lingers in back of the mind asking, is t the medication working or is it the season change where allergies are not as prevalent?

Anyway, either way she is looking much better and it's nice to know that steroid shots were not needed for the improvement. We go back January 9 for a followup. After that I am hopeful the skin problem will be under control with doses of Atopica maybe every 3-4 days from then on. The vet says that is the plan and it should work out to less dosage year round for her allergy control.

One thing I like about blogging is the function of record keeping. When I glanced back through 2011-2013 in the month of December I saw that last year I only posted one time in December. It was on December 9th, a picture of the Coachman was sitting in the back covered with 12" of snow. I had forgot that it snowed that early in the month. After seeing that I was pretty happy with the current daytime temperatures in the low 40's most of the time. Also it also showed me that I rarely posted during the month of December, 3 times in 2012 and 5 times in 2011 only a couple of months after starting the blog.

So I guess for me it's just normal not to post much in the month of December.

I do write on two other blogs that I have now. One is a personal journal that I write in every morning. I started that journal in late August. I like doing that because it kind of clears my mind. Plus I wanted a way to record my mood swings and health conditions. It will also give me a record for any computer issues and solutions, and a history of what the hounds have done. That blog is in the private status and I decided to use that format because it was much more convenient using Blogger rather than Microsoft Word.

The other blog was just started this week. As you know I am a sports junkie. Over the years I would send out an email before every game IU played in football or basketball, to a group of friends I went to college with, back 40 years ago. These emails would cover stories, statistics or previews. This year the 'roar' seemed to get louder from the small group of friends saying "you need to start a blog and write about all of this".  I thought about it off and on but thought 3 blogs were too much.

Then I decided why not? The purpose would be a little different than the private journal and this blog about my rv research, retirement life and future travels. Unlike this blog, I also wanted to add some Google Adsense and some sports affiliate links for some possible income. So this week I decided to take the plunge and started a new sports only blog, talking about no specific team or sports, just sports in general.

That small group of friends liked the first post so much they passed the blog link out to their sports friends and family scattered all over the USA and it is showing me through google states I am getting some pretty good traffic after just a couple of posts. One friend even said that I might have to go into hiding after writing in such a controversial tone about our favorite I even signed up for a Google + account, put all the settings to public to get the blog spread out as much as possible.

No matter what time of the year or where I am, my interest in sports is always there and I am always reading about it or watching it, so the sports blog should be pretty fun. I'll not have any problem finding something to write about.

Speaking of those Google stats that are provided to bloggers using Blogger as their blog platform, behind the scenes on your blog traffic, it showing this past month that the Ukraine not only passed Canada in number of visitors but also moved to the #1 spot above the blog visitors in the USA. How strange is that? Are they trying to hack me or do they just like the hounds? I don't know.

So I have added a couple of new blogs to the list of blogs for those that are interested in security news, online or shopping. One is the LastPass blog. It is the free service I use for all of my passwords to my banks, and any other sites, all encrypted passwords. The other blog is about security not only on your computer but also credit cards. That blogger usually has a new post every day M-F with some great information. Like today I found out that my browser updates did not run and install automatically along with the Microsoft Office for Mac. His blog will always be near the top of the list because he blogs frequently.

Since I am hibernating there might be some readers wondering if I am sitting in front of my computer 15 hours per day or am I still using that Nikon D3200 camera I bought a few months back and if I am why not any pictures?

I am spending very little time on the computer. Just enough to write, read blog updates and sports news. The rest of my day is including a lot of book reading, more than I had planned on but I can't stop reading and am finding books that I have bought but never read until now. I am still downsizing plus some normal indoor maintenance/updates that comes with home ownership. I pop in an occasional movie. I finally sorted all of my DVDs alphabetical. That will prevent this older brain from buying duplicate movies which I found about 7 different shows where I did that after I sorted them.

I use the camera almost every day but those photos are not much different than what you have already seen of the back field, sunsets to the west taken from my yard or the hounds. The hounds are not really doing much besides winter sleeping. Sadie won the war on changing the dinner time for her and the bassets. When we "fell back" in the fall for the time change, she would come and sit by the desk at 3pm not 4pm if she had not been fed yet. Then as Heidi started feeling better she started barking at 3pm wanting to be fed and Winston walks toward his bowl but just sits and stares as if to say "what are their problems". So we eat by 3pm based on the bloodhound's demands. So much for the time change.

I will say there have been a couple of close calls but I have NOT dropped the camera or lens, I haven't dropped the new iPhone or iPad Mini. I love the Mini iPad even more than the larger, heavier 1st generation iPad that I used previously. The retina display is fantastic and I can tell the difference with my eyes. My glasses are not needed to read the smaller fonts.

Well it looks like I have rambled on enough here. I'll try to load some photos on my next post and will try to start blogging her more. It's hard to decide sometimes what is boring and what is interesting to readers since my current lifestyle is pretty mundane.

I do enjoying reading my blog list to keep track of everybody. Weather-wise it sounds like the best place to be most of the time is in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

November 22, 2014

An Explorer or Nester?

One of the blogs I read hit home the other day, as she explained the differences and "the whys" some people are constantly in the exploring mode and some people are nesters. It was a subject I had thought about over the past 3 years but more this past year. I even had friends asked me if RVing was something I really really wanted to do. That's not a typo but two "really" for emphasis. It made me look at my situation more in depth and helped me understand why I changed my mind so much since starting this blog with an interest of living in an RV of some type.

I think I am in between an explorer and a nester.

Take To The Highway along with some of the replies to her post, brings out good information about the differences between people who love to explore and people that feel no need to get out of town. I thought this might help some readers that have stopped by my blog looking for the same answers as I about the lifestyle. If they have gone back into the blog archives and read posts from previous years they would see my mind changing a million times. Some people email with questions about traveling or my lack of traveling because they are also in the decision making process on whether they should, can or want to travel full or part-time. A lot of them have more than one dog, some large, some small.

I know that after reading her blog post the other day, I thought of just this past year and how this past spring, once retired I was so close of getting on the road. If you remember it was just 14 months ago in September 2013 that I bought the Class C, 2003 Coachman 258db, in great condition with one minor repair that I did myself. It sat here during some great fall weekends and never went anywhere. That was the first red flag that made me wonder.

Instead of loading up the hounds and heading off to a State Park or National Forest within a 50 mile range from home, I never left home for those weekends of great weather. I had more of a desire to do some outside stuff in the hours before noon, then spend the rest of the day watching college football. The hounds loved getting in the Coachman, they each had their own spots to lay down. They rode well on the few test drives we did. Still, we didn't go camping.

Then the spring came and after I retired in April 2014, I have nothing to keep me here. For years all of my banking, transactions, etc have all been electronic. Some of them are automatic and others only required an internet connection. So no problems there. I had just bought the Chevy 2500HD 4x4 pickup truck to tow a bigger trailer but only kept that a little over a month before buying the 4x4 Toyota FJ. That put me back into the range of a small fiberglass trailer. The desire to hit the road was strong at that time.

The weather wasn't a decision factor but it was very nice weather and enjoyable for that time of year, as was most of the summer being cooler than normal. With that I really enjoyed living here this summer.

Thinking back to my days of growing up, like I have mentioned before somewhere in this blog, my family did not go camping or rving when we grew up. My dad was a teacher/coach, so our time was focused around sports 12 months per year. That was many years before the current AAU system but we still spent the summers playing on more than one baseball team, summer basketball and preparing to play football in the fall.

Our vacations were a few weeks of traveling, excited that we were able to visit different cities and that the motel had a pool. Traveling included the Wisconsin Dells, the Smokey Mountains, and a lot of time on the beaches of Florida. We were more beach people than camping people.

I was the only one in the family that showed any kind of camping interest. I had a two-person tent that was used a lot during the summers at home. We would use it in someones backyard or a vacant lot in the new housing additions where we lived. Those camp-outs were during the ages before the driving age. Once I was old enough to drive, I don't recall that tent ever being used again.

I was never the exploring type growing up ...  but I did enjoy the traveling and liked moving down the highway. My cross country bicycle trip one summer was one of the best things I ever did, I loved it.

So, I think I am somewhere in between being an explorer and a nester. By that I mean, once on the road, or getting out to look at things locally ... I like that. It's just getting the kick in the butt to get started. Once I am out I love it. Still, I don't have that "burning" desire you read about with other people that just have to see the next adventure.

While I have hibernated in my house for the winter every year, I still had the urge to travel. This is the first year that I have time to do that traveling if I choose to do so. Right now I have more interest in riding my road and mountain bicycle next spring than packing the hounds up and taking off to travel the country.

Time is full of changes, some unexpected and some are planned out in detail by people. I'm no longer a "schedule" person. I do not have plans or goals listed anywhere. I have no expectations or burning desires but I do plan on doing things I enjoy. I am content with what I am doing and where I am.

I am still enjoying the camera I bought. It was a great purchase and used daily. I will be getting out into the local area more to take photos and post here what I find. A lot of the photos I have been taking recently are nothing different than what I have posted here.

Heidi has improved but not as much as I was hoping for. Her follow-up vet appointment is next Friday. Winston is good most of the days but at times his lower back/back legs will act up where getting up the two steps into the house is hard for him. Sadie is Sadie ... zero problems, my clock watcher and obnoxious as ever at the age of 6+ years.

Just back in from a great morning dog walk. almost 50°, windy, no snow on the ground and a lot of fresh smells for the hounds ... they were going crazy with their noses.

November 20, 2014

What Will the Three Months of Winter Bring?

If it's this cold in the month of November, with 50% of the USA having snow on the ground this week, what does that say for the months of December, January and February that are waiting ahead? We were warned. The Farmers Almanac stated months ago that this winter would be colder than last winter with more snow. It looks like that forecast is off to a good start.

Still the hounds are warm and that is all that matters. They don't care about the cold temperatures and would stay outside I think forever if I didn't go out to call them into the house. I mean only two of the hounds don't mind it. Heidi stays outside no longer than it takes for her to dump her tanks and she SPRINTS to the door to come back inside.

I am not sure what drove my decision to try this experiment but it might be ending just after a week or so of cold weather. Then again I may continue doing what I am doing now. You will probably think I have mentally lost it when you read what I am doing.

It's strange and laughable that I would never hesitate to put a $1,000 on a crap table with no hesitation nor worries, yet I hate paying my local electric bill every month. It is the same amount every month and then in May either I pay the difference due or they pay me a refund for paying to much over the year. Then they adjust my monthly payment for the following year, which may go up or down based on current usage with a little bump for extra use. I have received refunds in the past that have always been $100 or more.

The long time readers of my blog will remember that I love Excel spreadsheets and track a lot of different things with those spreadsheets, including my monthly electric usage. The kilowatts used really doesn't vary much from year to year for me but what does is the cost of electricity. My current utility company charges more per kilowatt in the "prime usage" months of Dec, Jan, Feb, June, July and August, than it does the other six months. In this past September they had their first cost increase in three years.

To me it just wasn't worth letting the heater run via a thermostat, keeping the house warm at all times, it wasn't worth the cost. I've never liked a hot or warm house but somewhere around 65° in the winter. My heat for the house is baseboard electric with each room having it's own control switch.

A few years ago when my cost for electric really jumped higher than I liked I tried using a portable electric heater, designed like the old steam registers. It worked so well that I bought a second one. What I found to be the difference, the house temps stayed at 65° but at 1/3 of the cost of using my 1970's baseboard electric.  

Since the month of May I have built up a pretty good credit amount on the account. I made it through a few weeks of very hot summer weather without using air conditioning as I usually do. I did NOT go as far unplugging electrical accessories if not in use, didn't feel the need to go that far to save energy.

So this fall I decided I would try to use the least amount of energy throughout the winter. I remembered back to 1977 due to the fuel shortage in the US, it was recommended to keep the inside temperatures at 55°. Any of you remember that? I was lucky because I was in the process of moving to sunny southern California that month so I missed most of it. I do remember how cold my sister's apartment was during my my last visit to see her before heading west.

Well this year I decided I could do that 55°. Even during the coldest temps of the winter. I have plenty of camping gear to keep me and the hounds warm enough and in the meantime I would be saving a lot of dollars that will be refunded in May 2015. That refund was tempting enough to try to save energy used.

As so far I have been able to use the heaters sparingly, even with the temps droping to the teens last week. Even now with the temps outside in the low 20's, my house is sitting at 60°. Slightly cooler than normal but the hounds are not shivering, have not lost their appetite nor are they whining. So they must be ok.

Am I crazy?

Is this financially motivated as a retiree making less income than when I was working a job.

Am I that bored enough to try different little experiments around the house?

Or am I somewhat concerned what the increase per kilowatt will amount to?

Those were just some of the questions I asked myself as I sit here wearing insulated long sleeve shirts under a sweatshirt. Or sharing my sleeping bags for the hounds to mix and match with their Mexican blankets while I use my down comforter. I must admit with the house at 60° - 62°, my hands are colder than I expected.

Those cold hands have prevented me from finishing my Mahjong games on my iPad Mini in record time. Each game is timed and I have over 80 of those games now under 6 minutes. That game has been my new form of entertainment. Much better than tv and definitely better than any news on the tv or Internet. I downloaded a cribbage app yesterday and it was the first time in many years playing a game that I use to play every day in the 80's. I had to go back and read the rules to play the game but was able to get back into the swing of things to beat the computer.

So at least in the Mahjong game and racing on the Playstation3 playing Grand Turismo, the cold hands are a factor. The portable heaters work well and they were only $37 each at Walmart a few years ago.

The thought has occurred to me lately, wondering if future costs of electricity and the cost of owning a home in this area with extreme weather 3-4 months out of the year, will increase to the point of that the better option will be selling it and relocating. With the change of EPA laws predicted in the near future, that could raise my utility cost substantially because large power plants in Indiana are coal based. Coal is the major factor.

In closing I will say I am pretty sure in the middle of the winter when the temps outside are in the single digits day after day, the heat will come on and will be used more than I am using it now. I will still be monitoring the cost of using the electric heat as I do all my other costs. In the meantime the hounds and I are managing the experiment of saving energy quite well and leaving a smaller "footprint" on the planet.

At least we don't live in the Buffalo area.

November 18, 2014

Fell Off the Diet Wagon and Paid for It

Addicts still use even though they know the results but luckily I'm only addicted to "ice cold milk". Yes...cold milk right out of the jug, anytime day or night. That is why some time ago I had to stop buying any quantity of milk, even if I were buying it for using on a morning bowl of cereal.

Since I am single and there is a very small chance of someone stopping for dinner and requesting to have milk with their meal out of that gallon container ... one of the bachelor benefits is drinking ice cold milk right out of the jug. It seems to taste better than drinking it from a glass.

So where is all of this going?

Saturday morning I bought some groceries and the urge for milk to use on morning cereal was too strong to overcome. Even though I thought I'd use it for cereal, I knew most likely that 2% milk (still 37% fat) would be gone within 24 hours ... the whole gallon. That would put the time around Sunday afternoon when my fix would be accomplished.

The problems I started having a few years ago was heavy heartburn and something similar if not a case of sleep apnea. There is not a feeling worse than waking up in the middle of the night and you cannot inhale, any kind of breathing has stopped. I noticed when I stopped buying dairy products of any kind those two issues went away. Later on the few times I would have some good Ben & Jerry's ice cream or drinking milk in quantity, those two issues would take place.

I knew the potential results of having dairy but at times would not be able to resist to buy it. Sunday night I lived through those results again.

Saturday night and up through Sunday morning I did not have those issues and I was getting up to drink that ice cold milk throughout the night on Saturday. No ice cream was involved. I did have some B&J's in hand at the store but put it back and didn't buy it.

By late 7pm Sunday night the gallon of milk was gone and tasted great all the way to the last drop. The difference was the list of food and junk I ate during the day, I think was a huge factor. I fell off the good food diet wagon and I fell of hard. Around 1am I started the payment for that decision of eating everything and anything that I had bought at the store while watching a couple of NFL games on tv.

I'll spare you of the details but at one point somewhere around 3am I thought I might have to get to the hospital and I was willing to make any deals to stop what was taking place. I was even willing to stop watching ESPN forever to stop what was taking place ...  that's a huge commitment ... lol. I was reminded about my eating choices ever hour until mid-morning Monday. All day Monday I felt worse than any hangover I ever had. From the local hospital website I mixed up 32oz of water, a level 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 6 level teaspoons of sugar and slowly nursed my stomach back to normal. With a lot of off and on sleep I was able to recover. By Monday night was I was back in bed by 8:45pm and got a solid 10 hours of sleep.

Has the lesson been learned? I guess I'll find out in a couple of months from now when I get the urge for some ice cold milk.

Now to other topics.

I heard last night this is the coldest November in 55 years. I wasn't outside since Sunday. The hounds were let out when they wanted but they were on their own. This morning when I got up around 7:30am, it was 16° but said it felt like 8° yet it felt warm in the house.

Heidi has shown a lot of improvement since the pictures I posted a few days ago. Her hair is growing back on all the raw red spots from 3 weeks ago. Her energy level is back to being normal. I don't want to confirm yet, but I think we are on the way to a regular treatment without giving her any kind of shots. Her next vet trip as a followup is late next week.

Sadie found out today what I was trying to explain to her. Staying outside walking on the frozen snow with temperatures in the teens will eventually make it hard to walk, you will lift your paw in the air with a look of what is going on and will not be able to walk in a normal manner. Plus your owner hanging out inside the house in wool socks, shorts and sweatshirt will not be able to come out into the snow and pickup your 90lbs worth of bloodhound to carry you back into the house.

Still she kept begging me to let her out, with her nose on my wrist as I tried to surf the internet. Luckily she knows no better, strong as a bull and enough motivation to get to the house no matter what she was feeling. She was rather confused why her paw was in the air.

She was more than happy to feel that warm kitchen floor when she ran into the house and was soon doing her happy dance spinning 360° and wagging her tail.

Winston has moved into the mid-winter cycle of hibernating sleep plus requesting to be covered up.

Will there be a warm place anywhere in the USA this year? I don't feel a lot of "global warming" right now a month before winter becomes official.

November 14, 2014

First Snow of the Year

You can stop laughing now .... lol

As big as the snow flakes were last night and how hard it was coming down you would have thought we would have received more snow than just ground cover. By this morning this is about all we had and by noon it was gone.  The snow doesn't bother Sadie, she loves it. Winston has a problem of being so low to the ground there is little clearance if any when he walks and Heidi only goes outside long enough to dump her tanks and then sprints back to the house.

I spent the past few days during my computer time, early morning and then late at night, reading and finally catching up on my blog reading. From blog lists on the other blogs I found some older blogs that I use to follow and added them back to my blog list on the left side. Plus I have moved most of the blogs from Feedly back to the blog list here. No reason, just me, similar to re-arranging furniture I guess.

I wasn't planning on writing anything today since nothing is really going on except the first snow of the year. I know the people in the upper part of the USA would not even call this a snow based on what they have and I understand that.

I was outside planning on taking more pictures when I saw I needed to recharge the camera battery. Then a senior moment occurred when I had no idea where the battery charger was. I looked in all the common places where I keep other battery chargers and then fifteen minutes later I remember putting it my camera bag. I'm afraid it's going to get ugly with my memory when I reach my 70's. Should be fun.

Heidi's skin condition is improving from the photos I posted here a few days ago. That redness occurs right after her bath with PhytoVet CK Antiseptic Shampoo. She is required to have a bath with that every 3-4 days until our next follow-up appointment on November 28. I know you would probably like to see pictures of her at least soaked in suds and water but being a one man operation, taking pictures during that time is not even possible.

She is great though, no fight back, just stands there and acts like she has had a million bathes before.  Her hair is starting to grow back on the bare, raw spots and that's a good sign. I believe within the next two weeks there will be even more improvement before the follow-up appointment. The best thing is getting away from those steroid shots.

My friends asked me on Tuesday what has changed in retirement besides the stress off a job. They are 10-12 years younger than I so retirement is still a few years away for them. I told them it was about what I expected if I were to stay home. Financially you spend what you have. I was told that would be the case and so far it has been like that. I'm still able to save some money just not as much when I was working. Life doesn't stop and there is always something unexpected financially every month. I will be curious to see what my taxes look like this year after working a job for only four months before I retired.

My local college team has their first game of the year tonight. I am not a happy fan right now and the season has not even started but I will keep watching them as usual. It's too long of a story to explain why I am not happy ... different issues with a few players and I'm not a fan of the coach. It will be a very interesting season because of their lack of size on the front line. Yet, they have recruited some great young shooters so that might even out some games with all the 3's they will hit.

This means on the nights there is not an NFL or college Football game, college basketball games will start to fill in the calendar. I can't say that I sit on the couch from start to finish every night and every game, only when IU plays, but I will have it on every night in the background and watch when something is happening. Just a habit that is many years old. Of course the tv is off when I am in my book reading mode.

I started glancing around again at some of the websites selling RVs and trailers. For the first time in a long time I have not been to the usual sites looking at cars and trucks for sale. That tells me the two vehicles that I have are the right ones. In the past I have gone through a lot of different vehicles but haven't had the urge for a change since I traded for the Toyota FJ. I'm still getting 21.4 mpg which surprises me, I was expecting more like 17 mpg with that V6 engine. The Mini Cooper isn't being driven much but is getting 33 mpg.

For future planning and from reading my favorite blogs, it looks like October and November will be the time to be in Utah. Still great weather, crowds of people have gone home and a lot of vacant land to camp and hike on. Then in the winter months I could hang out in SW Arizona and Borrego Springs area. Those bloggers spending time in Mexico have some great photos and it makes it tempting to spend some time there. My only experience being in Mexico was the time when I lived in Carlsbad California and we spent a lot of time in Baja at Ensenada and Rosarito Beach on weekends. I was dogless during those times in the late 70's and early 80's.

All of those carbs are hitting me from that large plate of pasta I had for an early dinner ... I'm headed for a short siesta before the ballgame comes on tv.

It sure doesn't feel like a Friday but that's what happens when you are retired ... lose track of days.

November 12, 2014

A Bitter Sweet Geek Squad Computer Repair

My first experience with the Geek Squad computer repair was bitter/sweet and very very frustrating. I am writing this post about my experience for a couple of reasons. One, it might help some readers if they run into this same problem and two it is somewhat entertaining for those looking from the outside in. It is a very a long post but I think an interesting humorous read.

Back in October 2010 I decided after using computers for almost 20+ years, to change from a Windows PC to an Apple iMac. I'll not go into the reasons why except to say it proved to be a great move and I have had zero problems with my iMac since the purchase 4 years and 1 month ago. I caught an article last Monday on November 3rd, talking about a professional company had found a breach in the new Apple OS Yosemite. Apple had confirmed his find and there would be plans by January 2015 to provide the fix. It was suggested in the meantime to run a program located in System Preferences - Security called File Vault. I also had a couple of friends email me the link to the article because they knew I had updated to the new OS Yosemite recently.

I decided, although somewhat hesitant, to turn on File Vault. I have always had the firewall turned on, I run flashblock and ad blocker but have never installed anti-virus based on the Apple geek's recommendations. I thought after reading the article along with the new OS, maybe it was a good idea to turn on File Vault.

I didn't get far with that decision.

After turning on the program, it was supposed to restart your computer and then encrypt the hard drive. After the restart I had a screen show up called "Reset Your Password", a locked padlock and 3 options or reasons why I could not reset my password. That seemed strange because it had never asked me for my password. "Houston, we have a problem".

I spent time trying to reboot my computer various ways, as a single new user, in the safe mode, and even as a last resort I pulled the OS cd from my original package and was willing to boot the computer from that cd, knowing it was going to reset my hard drive (reformat) back to a clean OS install. I would then use my backup to reinstall my files of documents and photographs.

That didn't work either.

I went over to MacRumors forum and did some searching for a possible fix and couldn't find anyone with that issue. I posted my problem with hopes of getting an answer within a few hours. By Monday afternoon I had over 300 views to my question and zero replies.

I was stuck with a computer that had locked me out. I found out a week later that File Vault automatically turns off your automatic log in and will ask for your system user password each time your computer boots up. The problem was my mouse pad did not move the cursor, nor did my tab key on my keyboard work to click enter on the screen and move to the next one. I wasn't in the panic mode but I was pretty sure that File Vault did not like my wireless keyboard and wireless track pad that came with the computer.  My computer was stuck on that one Reset Password screen.

The thought of trying a keyboard and mouse attached to the computer by USB never occurred to me. Were those even sold anymore since everyone had moved to wireless years ago? I had moved to wireless 7 or 8 years ago, even before switching to an iMac.

I decided by 6pm to drive over to the local Best Buy where I bought the iMac and see what the Geek Squad could do. I was hoping it was something simple and possibly be fixed right there at the help desk. Driving 33 miles away was a better option I thought than driving 90 miles to the nearest Apple store the next day.

The Geek Squad tech plugged the computer into power, he plugged in a keyboard and mouse via USB and we got nothing different than the locked screen that I had at home. He could move his cursor but instead of clicking the "next" arrow at the bottom of the screen he kept clicking "previous" arrow and that only moved to a screen that was blank. Why didn't he click the "next" arrow to see where that would lead?

I was prepared to take it back home, do some further research and fix it myself and if that didn't work, I had a quick thought of driving the 90 miles to the Apple store to use their Apple Care program. I changed my mind at the last minute before leaving and thought I was already there, I'd leave my computer and get it back within a couple of days. The Geek Squad agent said they had a 3-5 day estimate for picking it up, but most likely I'd get my computer back within a couple of days.

He handed me my copy of the service order, pulled a new cd of WebRoot Anti Virus for Macs and recommended the hard drive to be reformatted, a clean install of the OS and the Anti Virus. He told me that was the normal procedure instead of trying to get back into my system that might be corrupted. I told him to add that I did NOT want File Vault activated once they did the reinstall of all the updated software.

He had commented that my iMac was in mint condition and that surprised him since it was 4 years old. My first concern about Geek Squad was when I read the service order and beside "condition" he had typed worn and scratched. Also the purchase date was nowhere near the date I purchased the computer plus he never asked me for the date I bought the computer. When I brought that up to him he replied the date was just a fill in and "worn and scratched" was the commonly used condition for all computer submitted for repair. Then he stated there was not enough room to type that I did not want File Vault turned on in their forum so he would have a hand written note. He asked if I had a backup two different times and both times I answered yes.

I can't say I felt encouraged as I left the store but thought once the computer got back to the lab and the real techs would start working on it, there would be no problems. Little did I know what was in store for me and how this all would turn out.

Of course none of these things started until I paid the $200 for an 1-year membership. I reminded him they tried to sell me the same package when I bought the computer but I turned down the offer and consequently never had a problem until now. That $200 was to include the anti-virus software and something to remember later in this story.

As I drove home I figured I'd be coming back on Wednesday to pick it up. I mean aren't the Geek Squad techs a bunch of computer experts? What could go wrong when it wasn't a hardware but a software issue.

The story gets better.

Tuesday night after seeing my repair status was "assigned to a technician", I call the 800 number to get a status on my repair since their website showed it had been inducted for repair on Tuesday morning. The tech on the other side of the phone said she could not see anything in their system as far as repair updates and that was not normal. She suggested I call the store where I turned in my computer for repair. Another slight feeling of lack of confidence in the newly acquired Geek Squad.

The local store tells me they are working on the computer and I should be able to pick it up on Thursday with no problems. I made the mistake of assuming they were doing the OS install and all the updates would take a lot of hours to upload and Thursday would fall within their 3-5 days pickup window. Then she asks me what I thought to be a strange question .... Do you have a backup of your files? For the 3rd time I answered yes. I reminded her that I did not want File Vault activated because that is what started all of this mess.

Before I make the 66 mile round-trip drive to pick up the computer I call on Thursday as instructed, to see if it was ready for pickup like they told me the day before. "No, the tech is still working on it". I asked if they had found any unexpected problems because it was just just going to be a clean install of the OS and I would do my file backup install here at home. "No, no major problems found, your computer passed all the tests ran for computer and had a clean bill of health".  It should be reading to be picked up on Friday.

I call late Friday afternoon and they tell me the techs could not find a way to get the computer running but their boss had found a way to get around the locked screen and had the computer running normal and all my files were still there. I asked about the clean install of the OS but this time was told "We never do that if it's possible to boot up your system". Hmmm, I'm a little confused because the first tech told me they always did that in this type of situation.

So I remind them that since they are in my computer, go to System Preferences - Security and "turn off" File Vault because that is what caused this problem. They confirmed they had. He said "the boss" wanted to run some more tests and I could pick up the computer on Saturday afternoon.

After being told it would be ready for pickup on 3 different occasions and then each time I was given a different excuse I had decided by noon on Saturday that I would call them and let them know I was picking up the computer in it's current condition no matter what and that I would be there by 5pm. I was finished letting them try to complete their repair when they had told me on Thursday it was up an running, all the files were there and they were just going to test a few more things.

Well here is where the story gets exciting for some readers, frustrating for me and great humor for some of the readers I have.

During the half-time of one of the football games I am watching, I call them around 2pm and actually get to talk to the boss. This is the man that got into my system, had tested the system and everything is good. He said it would be ready by 5pm, the time I told him I would be there. That was great news to me. I'm expecting a simple pickup.

I get there, the man that did the repair boots up the computer with no problems and I move through my files of documents, emails, photographs without any problems. He hands me the service order for me to sign and right off the bat in the section for Repair Comments..."File Vault and Firewall are working properly". If I recall on 3-4 different occasions I requested that File Vault be turned off since that was what caused the problem. I couldn't believe it and told him I wanted that turned off. He replied that he found no problems running the program and it was a good thing to do.

I also noticed he was using a mouse and keyboard connected to my computer via USB. I asked him if they had tested it with the Apple wireless keyboard and and mouse pad since that was not only what I used but it was what came with the computer. He replied that they never used the wireless keyboards or mouses for their computer repairs because of the time it takes to calibrate them to the computer. That seemed strange to me because it's "plug and play", takes less than a minute.

I didn't even think of bringing my own keyboard and mouse, I mean they surely have that keyboard and mouse since they sell them at Best Buy plus they are "the experts" in computer repair. They surely have one sitting on their test bench somewhere. I was wrong again.

I'm excited but keep my speed at 60mph on the way home. I let the hounds outside, they are thrilled that I am home and have no concerns for my computer. They want to go out and then back in to get that "programmed" treat when they enter the house. To take no chances I don't plug anything into my computer as far as the printer, external monitor (my main one), external hard drives, speakers ... nothing. All I do is plug in the power cord into the surge protector and turn on the computer.

High anticipation ... 6 days of using my iPad Mini as my main computer as a backup, no access to my online banking or spreadsheets because they are backed up on the external drive that I can't get to and my passwords are locked inside of the program LastPass, which I started using a few months ago.


The computer boots up to the same exact screen I had last Monday on November 3 !! It was locked so my mouse cursor would not move and nothing on my keyboard worked. A frozen screen again.

I called Best Buy and asked for the man that fixed the computer and showed me my computer worked when I picked it up. Now remember Geek Squad has computer geeks that have had training and are the so called experts in computer repair. That's a key bit of information for this story to go forward.

He has "no idea" why it's doing that.

I suggested it might be possible that my keyboard and mouse pad may not work with File Vault. Then reminded him that 4 different times I told them do stop running File Vault because that started the problem and cost me $200 just to get this far. I am shocking myself that I am maintaining my cool ... that I have no urges to climb through my phone ... He was thinking but couldn't come up with anything except "to bring it back in and we will take a look at it". Didn't they do that between Tuesday - Saturday? Help me out here, is my memory fading already at the age of 62?

I suggested that I reboot the computer but only this time I would take out the batteries of the mouse pad and keyboard so they would not be a factor. Still I was sure that the damage had already been done and that same "Reset Password" screen would show up ... and it did.

So they close at 9pm, I glance at my clock and see its 6:50pm and I wanted my computer fixed now ... so I made an appointment to see him at 8pm so I would have priority over walk up customers. It was another 66 mile round-trip back to the store. I told him this time I would bring my keyboard and trackpad to make sure they worked before I returned home.

Computer works. He had to use the USB keyboard and mouse to get back into the system and it only took the mouse to click "next" to move to this screen:

I entered my password WITH the Apple wireless keyboard of mine and I was into my computer and I could move through all of my files without a problem. Notice what that screen says ... " may not be compatible with File Vault...etc".  I told him that I was going to do what I had requested them to do on 4 different occasions and was ignored ... turn OFF File Vault. With him standing there watching I clicked "Turn off File Vault" only to see a message would take almost 13 hours to complete de-encrypting my hard drive. I let it work a little and in a short time it estimated it would take 5-6 hours to complete.

He said I could complete that process at home once I turned my computer back on, it would pickup where it left off.

We shut off the computer and watch it reboot three different times with no problems and batteries in my keyboard and mousepad. He starts apologizing over and over for my troubles plus the 2nd trip in 3 hours driving to and from the store. Of course all that is leading to is "in the next few days you will receive an email from Geek Squad to fill out a survey on how we did and I'd really appreciate a positive feedback".

I am not sure what my shocked expression looked like nor after a slight "blackout" how long I wore that expression ... needless to say I did not reply ... not a word.

I'm happy on the way home. He and I have witnessed the computer booting up using my wireless keyboard and mousepad with no issues. I know I can turn it on and complete the 5 hours of de-encryption. What could go wrong after that?

I turn on the computer and go back to the File Vault to restart the de-encryption. It says it will take about 5 hours, it's 9:30pm by now. So I move to the living room to watch the football games I had dvr'd while I was gone. I check on it from time to time and its working, now with the estimated completion time decreasing. It looks like somewhere around 2am it should be finished. I'll reboot and get my computer back.

Well ... "not so fast cowboy".

It finishes the de-encryption and shows a screen to reboot my computer. I click the key ... but instead of rebooting it keeps asking me for my password ... over and over and over. Then it wants to encrypt my hard drive. Why??  I just waited 5 hours for it to de-encrypt it???  Now I am really confused and it's 2:15am.

I have a computer that the Geek Squad experts say was ready for pickup 9 hours ago and I am still sitting here not able to get my computer working.  I decide that even thought it's late, I'll drive to the local Walmart and see if they still sell USB keyboards and a mouse. I know if I have those I can get back into my computer.

Before I go I decided to get a 2nd opinion from the Geek Squad. I mean I have paid $200 for a year of their "expertise" and they are open 24/7 either by chatting with a tech rep or calling their 800 number. I call but I'm not expecting much as far as a fix.

I wasn't disappointed.

I'll make this short. I heard two things from this Geek Squad technician located in Salt Lake City, Utah at 3:00am my time. "That is above my level of knowledge" and "You should probably call Apple Care and I can give you the number for that but they are only open until 11pm".

Why would I do that since I paid the experts of Geek Squad $200 for their tech service for the next 12 months?

Of course she also reminds me I will be receiving in email, a survey for me to fill out so "I can help my clients better".  Sure, I'll get right on that ... laughing because I cannot believe the whole situation from November 3 - 9. Unbeeeeelieeeeevaaaaaable!

I drove over to Walmart at 3:20am and find 1 USB mouse and Keyboard on the shelf. It must have been waiting for me to show up. I get back home and by 4:15am using the new USB keyboard and mouse I am back inside my computer and turning off File Vault .... but guess what, it wants to de-encrypt my hard drive!!! I thought it did that between 9:30pm to 2:00am. Whatever......

I decided I would do whatever the computer wanted. I let it start de-encrypting. I went to bed expecting to see it completed when I woke up. It DID complete the process and even rebooted my computer so when I woke up I was looking at my desktop. My wireless keyboard and mouse pad work .... and since 10am on Sunday the computer has worked perfectly.

I can only guess File Vault didn't like the de-encryption being interrupted when we turned it off at the store. So it kept asking me for my password over and over at 2am then wanted to encrypt my hard drive again.

Why didn't Geek Squad turn off File Vault like I requested?  I don't know but I can only guess because of the amount of time they would have had to leave my computer on to complete the process. I only told them at 4 different times to turn off File Vault. Even the screen they saw said there MIGHT be a conflict between the keyboard and running File Vault. Why didn't they test the computer with the wireless keyboard and mousepad before I picked it up?

Oh, and one last thing. Part of that $200 was a $49 value for the anti virus that they did NOT install "because Macs really don't need anti-virus protection on their system.

Did I do too much of the work myself to get my computer finally running after they told me it was ready for pickup 12 hours earlier?  I think I did way too much to get my computer running after paying for their repair service.

Will I use them again if needed?

Very very doubtful.

November 11, 2014

The Hounds & I Are Doing Well

One thing I have noticed since my retirement started in April 2014, time passes much faster and days fly by. Unless you have a job where a calendar is involved there are times I forget what the date of the month is. I was shocked to see it's been almost two weeks since my last post. I basically got into a daily routine away from the computer where I had a days full of activity plus I spent many hours reading books that have been laying around. I haven't even opened my blog site for at least the past ten days, I think. I haven't read blogs from my list so there will probably be a lot of reading to catch up ... something I can do as the temperatures move to the 20s and more time will be spent inside.

Here is a recap of the past 14 days.

Heidi is starting her 3rd week of the new medications. The skin photos don't show a lot of improvement since we started, but the dry crusty spots have turned into soft normal skin with hopes of continued improvement back to where hair will grow back. These photos are right after her bath with the medicated shampoo. Later on the red spots calm down to where they are not as noticible.

She acts as if she is out of pain. Just this week for the first time in a while she returned to her demanding ways by barking when she wants something. She is returned to going outside with the Winston and Sadie as many times as they do, instead of staying inside. She has never lost her appetite no matter how bad her skin looked. She is also back to running around the yard and her tails is wagging much much more than when she was under the shots.

Winston is the same laid back lazy basset and Sadie as usual, Sadie ... seeking more and more time on the couch with the change of seasons. The switch of Daylight Savings time has affected all 3 hounds as they want to eat an hour earlier and they wake up and want to go outside an hour earlier. Instead of adjusting their dinner time to fit the time change, I have adjusted mine by getting up an hour earlier and feeding them at 3pm instead of 4pm.

Sadie is now a photo hound and likes to have her picture taken more and more whereas before she would either walk away or turn her head away from the camera. She likes either the Nikon or the iPhone cameras.

I had posted a few weeks ago that I had started my annual leaf removal. When I started, the trees had lost less than half of their leaves but it was the right decision that I started when I did, instead of waiting for all the leaves to be off the trees. The high wind I was hopeful for did show up and helped quite a bit in the leaf removal. As recently as yesterday and last night it cleared the yard fairly well after I had mowed the yard for the last time this year. This photo is from a couple of weeks ago and not the finished product. Those leaves you see in the yard were all blown away by two different days and nights of windy conditions.

 As the hounds and I did our daily walk through the field, I was hoping the farmer would make one final trip to cut and bale the field one more time before winter. Last week on a early Thursday morning I heard what I thought was a tractor in back and sure enough they were making a 2nd cut for the year. It's a small field and it had not grown very tall the past couple of months even though there was plenty of rain this summer to keep everything green. He was able to get 16 rolls of hay on this fall cut. The field is cut short enough it will be much nicer to walk through this winter and is also short enough that I have been able to ride my G2 Timberline Mountain Bike around the edge of the field for a good workout.

We have had some great weather this fall but the temps started to drop recently and as of tonight it's headed for the 20's and a 10 day forecast temperatures ranging from 20's to mid 30's and only a couple of days of snow. I know the upper Midwest is already getting pounded with snow, but here in the "tropics" of southern Indiana it has to be almost the middle of winter before we get a lot of snow. I am not concerned about the 10 day forecast.

There have been some pretty nice sunsets recently.

You might asking, with the temps dropping and a freezing winter hiding right around the corner, what is my thought process on whether to hang out here or head to the SW for winter. The answer to that question is, I haven't had the urge to travel since I announced a few months ago that I had decided it was just going to be too much of an issue traveling with 3 hounds. I also have Winston limping at times with his older lower back problem, then Heidi's allergies are causing skin problems worse than normal.

I might change my mind once I actually feel and not read about temperatures in the 20's but right now I don't see any traveling planned. I'll probably hibernate. I don't have to be anywhere so there will be less snow shoveling to clear the driveway than in the past and the Toyota FJ will be able to migrate through any depth of snow that I encounter here. I have really enjoyed shutting off the computer and spending a lot of days these past couple of weeks, and nights, reading books. Many of these books I bought the past few years and either didn't finish them or never started them.

I am still enjoying watching football games and college basketball is right around the corner. I don't see my days changing much from what they have been and there is enough going on to keep me and the hounds occupied. I am NOT saying I have turned to working my "to do" list because I like living everyday without a plan and just take it as it comes. Not having a schedule or a commitment is great. I basically do what I want when I want to do it.

Just last Monday I had my first computer problem in the 4 years since I have owned an iMac. It was really not hardware related but I made a mistake of turning on a program with the computer called File Vault. This would encrypt my hard drive and give me added protection against hackers. My paranoia had flared up after reading any article about a recent breach in the system and I made a huge mistake by activating it. It locked me out of my computer and $200 later, I found out that my Apple Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Pad was not compatible with the program File Vault being turned on. It's a long story that I will post about later in detail and tell about the disaster experience I had with the Geek Squad and their attempts to "repair" my computer. You will find it quite interesting and possibly entertaining since you are not  I did remain calm throughout the process, which surprised me since I was without a computer for 6 days and I had ran out of patience. My iPad Mini pulled through as a spare computer.

Well that's the latest update from the "tropics" of southern Indiana. I am going to make a couple of cups of coffee and catch up reading the blogs listed on the left. Thanks to those that emailed me asking if the hounds and I were doing ok. I apologize for the lack of blog postings the past couple of weeks and hope to get back to regular blogging.

Everything is fine.