Grande Galerie

Spring Cleaning in the Autumn of our Lives

My wife and kids are away for Spring Break, as they tend to do each year. My wife’s a teacher, and my youngest is 1-1/2, so their schedules are flexible. They go to Alabama to see family while I stay behind and take care of the aging dog, get some sleep, listen to the Grateful Dead very loudly, and usually clean the house really, really well. This year is no exception, and maybe one for the records for projects. I’ve already replaced the air/fuel sensors in the old Toyota and they’ve been gone less than a day.

Our garage was out of control with “things” and what has been passing as my “workshop” has been a bunch of old bent, rusty metal storage shelves.  Considering the setup I once had that was an enviable, organized and roomy workstation, it becomes frustrating to have to look for a socket or a certain pair of pliers or set of screws/nuts/washers for 15 minutes, sorting through “organized piles” and a bunch of plastic sandwich meat containers. It has become a waste of time/life, annoying, not good for my tools, which I have a lot of and some nice ones I try to maintain, is an eyesore, and so on. So I spent tonight cleaning up the garage in preparation for a serious reorganization.

Along the way, I had to decide what to do with a lot of junk that I realized I’ve been lugging around for nearly 30 years in some cases, and even longer in others. Things I’ve kept for sentimental reasons; because I thought I could make or repair or do something with the item later, and never have; used to use the thing and stopped, but never disposed of it (like a lawnmower and dryer that really need to go); but things that I acquired somehow, and almost subconsciously have been carrying them around with me, very carefully, for many, many years. Decades.

For most people that wouldn’t be much of a big deal. But during the time I’ve accumulated this crap, I’ve lived, and moved among, 7 states. That’s a lot of back and forth and boxes and tape and sore backs. I’ve probably now lived in 20 different houses and crummy apartments. I know I once lived in 11 places in a 10-year span, which was a true nightmare. That’s a lot of packing, unpacking, carefully choosing where to put this stuff in my new place, and then doing it all over again without ever stopping to think of why I’m hauling all this stuff around. Also during that time I’ve had things that mean a lot to me broken, stolen, or just abruptly removed from my life somehow. Every time I’ve moved, something valuable has been broken no matter how careful everyone is. And we used to have 2 cats, now down to one because the male was so terrible, which destroyed a loooong list of my once-nice things. So I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of meaningful things in my life, so maybe it’s natural as we get older to not mind parting with material possessions as much. Just a theory.

Upcoming project next week: build an appropriate work bench and reorganize the garage to be useful, clean and navigable. I’m using these as a foundation. The reviews were flattering to say the least. And it is a great idea. Just add 2x4s and benchtops/shelves. I’ll be going for the deluxe model, however. It’s going to be pimp-tight as they say, and I’ll post photos upon completion. Here’s a taste of what I’m starting with. It doesn’t look nearly as bad as it really is, but as you can see it’s just piles of rusty tools:

tools and shelves and rust and unorganization

I’ve spent 2 days de-rustifying my tools, which were ruined during a stint of mine in Montgomery Alabama, when I had to use a front porch to store my things underneath. Basically just sitting outside in the dirt and elements. I had nowhere else to put them because of the size and layout of the house and no garage or shed. So at least 50% of my things I’ve collected over the years were ruined; wood, metal, power tools, drill bits, machinery, etc… I’m salvaging the rest using soap and water to clean them all and break the surface tension, then a chemical bath, which I’ve gotten in all my cuts on my hands. Who needs gloves when handling acid? But that should help to not have to replace every single thing at least. Tip: Dust and dirt attract moisture, so keeping tools and wood dust-free in your shop is important. Putting silica packs in your toolboxes will help, or using an old-school wooden toolbox to keep them dry. Not only are quality tools expensive, but they’re a pain to obtain a lot of the time, so save yourself some time and money and maintain them.

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How to Get Amazon Prime for Free, Plus Other Cool Stuff

How to get Amazon Prime for Free

All you need is patience, to spend at least $580 a year on, and decent credit. And before you click away after seeing me mention the word “credit,” bear with me. This is how to put a card to work for you properly.

This is simply an explanation of how I just managed to get it for free. You'll have to make some personal decisions, but to me this is a no-brainer. Free! (Well, about 10 minutes of your time)   

I’m already a member of Amazon Prime, which we get our money's worth out of in many ways: cloud storage, videos, music, discounts, 2 day shipping and all the rest. It's a great deal if you're a consumer. You can even have a free trial if you aren't sure it's for you.

It costs $99 a year. Order a few large items and you recoup that easily in shipping costs. But it offers many more benefits as well. Obviously I don't need to sell you on Amazon Prime, since you're here trying to get it.

Also, when you get the Amazon card, you get $70 credit in your account, which knocks that cost down to $29 already. I'm not here to sell you on getting a credit card either, per se. I hate credit cards, normally. It's just a step in a pretty smart plan. If you have credit issues, maybe this might not be the best idea. You'll have to decide. This is what I did.

Apply for the Amazon card, which along with the aforementioned $70 credit, you get 5% off Amazon purchases. That can add up, fast. And 3% at gas stations, restaurants, and some other places you probably visit. And 1% on everything else. And it offers some great travel perks, unlike most cards that give you skymiles that expire in 3 months. Check out the list of benefits; they're pretty good, and useful.

That card, after approved, becomes the default payment method for your Amazon Prime account automatically. Perfect. Then I set up for my balance to be automatically paid in full each billing cycle through my bank's website. Easy enough. 

So even though I'm technically using the card, it's just like using my checking account, with the money passing through the Amazon account briefly. I don't intend to carry a balance because the interest rate is WAY too high. I would advise you to avoid that as well. Note: You can call Chase, who manages the Amazon card, and negotiate a better rate, especially after using it for about a year or so, to build up a history of “paid in fulls” with them. That’s a good practice anyway with credit cards. You should be able to negotiate a much better rate if you pay your bills. If you like to carry balances, again, this is probably not the card for that, and it blows the whole plan I'm outlining here. The idea is to get Amazon Prime for free plus all the benefits of the Amazon card automatically and free. And build up some credit while you're at it. 

With the 5% you get back on your purchases, you only need to spend $580 in one year to make up that remaining $29. Or 3% on gas, food, etc… Should be pretty easy. That isn't going to be any problem for our household. Free Amazon Prime FTW, baby!

free money
Free $


My Sweet Old Dog Annie

Annie and I have been together for a long time, even though I adopted her when she was 5. She’s a great dog, and her health is great, even though she’s about to be 15 years old. Even by human standards she’s well-travelled. She was born in Asheville, NC where I got her and we’ve been to the beaches to the mountains to the snow to the swamps and everything else. We’re inseparable, and I’ve made sure she’s had a terrific life.

For example, I sometimes like to surprise her with a treat when she’s asleep for when she wakes up.

annie dog