20 February 2017

Double stuft garage

Our garage is filled with crap. Lot of different varieties of crap. Millions of files, old golf clubs, random stuff from Matt's parents, and who knows what else. Aside from my tools and our current golf clubs, we pretty much don't want any of it. We considered "fixing" the problem via fire, but that seemed like a bad idea during a major drought. Sorting through everything and having a giant garage sale was a much better solution, and one much less likely to end with being captured by a bail bondsman. So we started going through everything. That was in October.

Somehow we managed to get through nearly every box. The few things we actually wanted mostly made it inside. Everything else was either marked for selling or tossed. We realized we had so many extra files of paper that shredding it ourselves was a losing proposition. Hiring a shredding company to make it disappear was a much better solution. We had a plan for everything, and everything was going well. Then the water came.

Now, with the garage being an Official Mold Zone(TM), our lovely plans all went to hell. We can't have a garage sale with moldy water dripping down the walls. And we can't tear apart the garage with all sorts of stuff inside. Time for a new plan.

Calling a paper shredding company is still viable. But how to get rid of everything else? Craigslist! Anything with any real value (translation: worth over $40) gets listed. Everything else gets shoved in cardboard boxes for Goodwill to retrieve.

We spent the weekend curating the best items. I cleaned and photgraphed everything, while Matt researched prices. For now, we have seven excellent posts, with items ranging from luggage to a washer and dryer set. Buyers can contact me via Craigslist's awesome email relay or by text or phone. I have a burner number set up on my cell phone, so no crazy people have my real number.

I quickly got a lot of responses. Unfortunately, nearly have been from scammers. Scammers are the scum of the earth, and they all deserve to crash into trees at high speeds. Preferably on a rainy night in the middle of nowhere. Without wearing a seatbelt. Did I mention that I truly hate scammers?

The scammers all follow nearly the same script. Broken English, with the entire post title in the first message. No real person is going to bother typing out the entire post title into a text message. But, just in case it is the one in a million real person who does things differently, I always reply at least once. They either accept the price straight away, or haggle the exact same way. They want "to purchase it asap." Then they mention that "i won't be chanced to come around for check up due to the nature of my job." Perhaps that's because their job is to cheat people out of their money? Needless to say, I stop bothering at that point.

Of course, there are some real people who actually want to buy things. About half of them are idiots who clearly failed remedial reading. What color is the suitcase? Gee, perhaps it's red, as clearly shown in all the photos and written in the listing? Or can I buy just one speaker from the set you listed? Why on earth would I agree to that? I would never be able to sell the rest of the system, as a 5.1 speaker system needs five freaking speakers!

There are still more things to list, and hopefully everything gets sold eventually. Eventually had just better be sooner rather than later.

15 February 2017

In which the garage of dooooom gets worse

As previously mentioned, the garage has slightly way more water inside than out. I called a mold inspector to come admire the disaster, and guess what he found? Two kinds of mold! Thankfully, they are both in the garage. There is a damp wall in the house from the roof leak, but no mold there. Yay for small miracles.

The weird red dots on the back wall are one kind of mold, while the rest of the dark green blobs are the second. It's like the world's worst Christmas decorations! Actual mushrooms are sprouting from the green blobs as they spread out. I guess those are the ornaments on the mold garlands. Every time we dare enter the mold zone, more mold and mushrooms are visible.

As a stopgap, Matt suggested caulking around the outside. Armed with three tubes of silicone caulk and a caulk gun, I proceeded to shove as much caulk into the outside cracks as I could. The worst crack was more of a hole, and the silicone kept falling out. I ended up wedging a small rock in the hole, the caulking the hell out of the whole thing. I'm just going to assume that the rock is nonporous.

Now you may be wondering how I reached these high up cracks. Well, it involved a stepladder, bricks for leveling said stepladder, and Matt using his body weight to hold everything steady. Not exactly the ideal circumstances, especially since we were working quickly to finish before the rain started again. The worst part was using a utility knife to chop off mushrooms that were peaking out through the cracks. The only saving grace was the caulk claiming to be watertight in 30 minutes, which is about how much time it had before the rain started again. Needless to say, the caulking job is not going to win any awards for neatness.

The next step was to call the insurance companies. Not knowing which to call first, I just guessed and called home owner's insurance. I explained the situation to them and opened a claim. I didn't bother mentioning the roof leak, which will come in at maybe ten percent of the deductable. The phone agent wasn't able to tell me what, if anything, would be covered. I'd have to wait for the adjuster. Oh, and due to all the rain, the assignment of adjusters is backed up, so it would take a few days before one was assigned.

Luck me, an adjuster called the next day. He said he would send an inspector out to survey the damage, after which they could determine what was covered. He also said I should call my flood insurance company.

The flood insurance phone agent started a claim for me. Because Mercury was in retrograde, the claim system automatically rejected my claim since the garage is detached. Um, what the fuck? I asked the agent to wait while Matt and I rechecked our policy. Not only does the included FEMA brochure specifically mention that detached garages are covered, the policy specifically mentions that it is covered as well.

The phone agent offered to put through the claim despite the rejection, but she wasn't sure it would get anywhere. Clearly something in the system got fixed as an adjuster was assigned and called me the very next day. They, too, would be sending out an inspector.

The flood inspector came first to look at the damage caused by ground water. He looked at everything around both the house and garage, including the water under the raised foundation part of the house. He found even more spots growing mold in the garage ceiling. However, the flood insurance doesn't cover mold remediation. You would think that if anything, flood insurance would cover mold. What they do cover is just ripping everything out and replacing it. Now here's where it gets really fun. They fix the water and mold damaged areas, but they don't fix the cause of the water damage. Instead, they'd rather keep fixing the same issue over and over. For us, this means they will cover their portion of the garage, but not any digging to put in French drains or regrading of the yard. How freaking stupid is that?

The home owner's inspector came the very next day. He was very unsure as to how much, if any, that insurance would cover. They don't cover cracks caused by normal wear of a building, but they may cover the damage caused by them. Also, he was very displeased by the entire garage. He kept asking if we pulled permits and used a reputable builder. We did both, so we'll see what happens. Just for funsies, they also don't cover fixing the root cause. I declared them to also be stupid.

As of now, I'm waiting to hear back from both adjusters. There is basically no chance of anyone but ourselves paying to put in the necessary waterproofing and drains. The flood inspector confirmed that the entire rooftop deck needs to be ripped off and redone. The cracks were possibly caused by ground water moving dirt around underneath the garage, causing the garage to sink/settle and crack. This possibly makes the cracks and that damage fall under flood insurance, but since it wasn't ground water directly, that damage may fall under home owner's. The only obvious part is the ground water coming through the cinder blocks. In other words, the entire thing is a giant clusterfuck. And while everything gets sorted out, the mold continues to flourish. Maybe we can start a penicillin farm?

14 February 2017


A couple of years ago, the old BMW X5 died. We kept it around after Matt got his new car so we'd have something to put the dogs in. I considered selling my beloved 2008 Audi S5 in favor of an electric BMW i3. The rear seats fold down, making enough room for the dogs. When we needed it, we could just rent a car to take skiing or where ever. I decided not to for a few reasons, such as the house was still under construction and I couldn't put a charging station in the rental house. However, we still had a problem. Doggies are not allowed in my car, with it's "back seat." Doggies are also not allowed in Matt's. Our first world solution was to lease a BMW X1 for toting around the dogs and driving up snowy mountains. We figured by the time the lease was up, there would be more electric options and we could put a charging station in the completed garage.

Well, we still had three cars. Admittedly, it was a silly solution, made under pressure. And now two of the cars required monthly payments, instead of just one. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like selling my Audi was the correct financial decision. The only problem - I didn't want to.

I truly loved my S5. Red leather interior, manual transmission, and exceptional handling at 95MPH (don't tell Grandma). The interior was spotless, except for the red ribbon around the stick. The only deficiency was the carbon fiber trim pieces. For whatever reason, the carbon fiber glue failed and the pieces started peeling off. The dealer wanted $900 PER PIECE just in parts, since all four entire trims had to be replaced (two on the front doors, two in the back). I declined their offer and bought used pieces online for $550 total. The body shop was going to install them for a few hundred.

Before I could install the pieces, another asshat hit my car and declined to leave a note. Add another few hundred to fix the scrapes on the driver's side door. And then the clutch started acting weird.

When you ease up on the clutch, the pedal is supposed to automatically rise up. Instead, it desided to only come up halfway. I discovered this on a freeway on ramp when I stalled the car. I "fixed" the problem by pulling the clutch back up with my foot.

It only happened once the first day, so I chalked it up to a fluke. Sadly, it started happening more and more on subsequent days. Time to bring my car in for service.

It took the mechanics a day and half to be sure, and then my service advisor called me with the bad news.  The clutch fork needed to be replaced. The part itself was only a few hundred, but to get to the fork the entire freaking transmission needed tobe dropped. That's $3900 in labor. Based on experience, there was also a good chance that the clutch assembly would need to be replaced, for an extra two grand. Great.

I got a price from the dealer. After a bit of negotiating, I got him up $500 by throwing in the trim pieces I already bought. It was a $50 loss, but easier than trying to resell the pieces myself. I was thinking of trying to sell my car third pary, but that would require fixing everything first. Based on online research, that would only get me an extra thousand or so over what Audi offered me, if I was able to get top dollar. There was a reasonable chance that I wouldn't. My original plan was to drive over to CarMax for a second offer, but driving all the way there in the rain with a bad clutch didn't exactly seem safe. So, in the end, I just sold my precious car back to the dealer.

Good bye, my love.

25 January 2017

Water water everywhere. Especialy in the garage.

Last year, Los Angeles was supposed to be flooded by El NiƱo. It came and went, and the drought barely noticed. This year, however, we had more rain in two weeks than all of last year combined. At first, I was ecstatic. I missed the rain, especially nice, luod thunderstorms. Then the water started invading our house.

Off the master bedroom is a balcony inset into the mansard roof. It has stucco walls and a stucco ceiling. During rainstorms, water sometimes blows into the balcony and leaves wet spots. However, there is no known rain that blows up and soaks just one spot in the ceiling. Crap.
Ignore the different colors of stucco.

As the rain continued battering Los Angeles, the wet spot on the ceiling grow. Spots appeared in one of the walls, eventually connecting to form a giant blob of doom. The ceiling started dripping water. At this point we were convinced there must be some sort of roof leak. I constantly checked the master bedroom and the living room corners directly under the balcony for signs of moisture. Thankfully, the water seamed happy to stay on the balcony.

We emailed our contractor, who, while surprised, agreed to send out the roofer. The roofer found a leak, but, as of today, still can't fix it until everything finishes drying out.

Our garage is a completely separate structure set into the hill, with a rooftop deck covered in stone tiles. Clearly it felt left out, as it began leaking. First it was just wet cinderblock walls.
You can see some of the old stains on the left.
This was not entirely unexpected due to the waterstains all over the walls. As the rain continued, more water came through, until it was actually dripping down the blocks and pooling on the floor.

Cracks, hopefully from settling, formed between the deck tiles that wrap around to the sides and the wall stucco.
How cool would it be if they looked like the crack from Doctor Who?
Water penetrated the cracks, leading to water stains on the ceiling. By itself, this wasn't the moist worrisome thing ever.
Can you guess where this is going?
See that giant conduit? That's right! One of the leaks is directly above the electrical subpanel! Even better, the water is flowing down behind the particle board emerging where the wall changes to cinder blocks.
Even if the panel is waterproof, that outlet looks kind of skeevy.
Pools formed on the cinder block ledge, eventually overflowing to create nice puddles on the floor. We decided that the boxes of leftover glass tile were of low priority and left them there. Even if the boxes get ruin, the tiles will be fine.

Along the back wall was boxes of leftover hardwood flooring. I used the word "were" because Matt had to move the ridiculously heavy boxes away from the seepage. Hidden behind them, where the plastic wrapped boxes leaned against the wall, was a very odd pattern of water.
The garage has herpes.

We had absolutely no idea what the spots were until things started drying out and the spots turned red. Red? Yes, red. As in red mold. Later today I will call the mold company because it's such a large area and I won't feel comfortable until a professional looks at it.

23 January 2017

We can rebuild her. We have the technology.

Over a year ago, Reese started limping after a trip to the doggy beach. We initially chalked it up to too much running around and merely needing some rest. Alas, this was not the case. She would rest (read: not get her tennis ball thrown every thirty seconds) for a few days, then immediately start limping as soon as we ramped up her activity level. It was time for the vet.

The Dr. Vet poked and prodded her leg and knee, while Reese glared at him. The joint was swollen and clearly causing her discomfort. We tried everything Dr. Vet recommended, such as anti-inflammatories, but nothing produced a lasting result. Finally, months later, it was time to visit Dr. Orthopaedic Vet.

Apparently when dogs tear their CCL (cranial cruciate ligament, the doggy version of an ACL), it is usually degenerative rather than acute. That means instead of a sudden tear and lots of howling, it slowly tears over a period of time. Dr. Orthopaedic Vet further explained that the ligament can't recover from tears, but it can be replaced with string and scar tissue. She couldn't be 100% sure about how badly, if at all, the ligament was torn prior to surgery, but, in her experience, it was torn and needed to be fixed.

After much debate, we chose the less invasive option to fix her knee. Basically, a bunch of fishing wire is wrapped around the knee to hold it together, and eventually scar tissue builds up and keeps everything steady. As the knee heals, stretches and increased mobility prevent the scar tissue from locking the knee in place while simultaneously building up strength.

We scheduled her surgery for as soon as possible. Afterwards, Dr. Orthopaedic Vet said her ligement was 90% torn. She kept Reese in the hospital overnight for observation, after which she was very ready to come home.
The blue dangly thing is a leash.

Sadly for her, Reese had two months of rehabilitation in front of her. At first, she was stuck in her crate most of the time, to prevent her from trying to walk around. At first, she was groggy enough to not care.
Zero dragged over his bed to keep her company.
That lasted for about as long as you'd expect. With her normal imperviousness to pain, she wanted to run around and eat tennis balls. However, the doctor said she was limited to five minute potty walks and nothing else. Let's just say the two weeks until her stitches were removed were very loud.

Once the stitches were finally out, the cone came off and physical therapy could begin. At first she was super excited to be out of the house and meeting new people. When the therapist laid her on her said and began stretching and massaging her leg, Reese changed her mind and wanted out of there. It took at least one vet tech to hold her still enough for the therapist to do her job.

Next came the obstacle course. Normal dogs are lured through the course with treats, but Miss Picky Pants wanted nothing to do with the offered food. She even turned up her snout at cheese. Thankfully, she was willing to follow Matt through the course. I helped by pointing and laughing.

Finally, the water tank. It's basically a treadmill in tank with varying amounts of water. In Reese's case, the water resistance forces her to use certain muscles, strengthening them. As she still refused to be lured by traditional nom noms, they threw a tennis ball in the tank. That got her moving.

With increased activity levels and regular physical therapy, Reese's leg was clearly healing nicely. The only problem was that her other hind leg was getting worse. It is common for dogs with one CCL tear to tear the other one. What no one mentioned is that by favoring the good knee both before and after surgery, the good CCL can develop a degenerative tear. I'll give you guess as to what happened.

We got to repeat the entire process over again. Reese's other knee was fixed over Thanksgiving, as she needed to be boarded at the vet anyway since she couldn't run around at the normal place. She recovered more quickly this time, as there wasn't another torn ligament hindering her progress. And thankfully, she's out of knees to replace.