The Summer of Septic

This Summer has been a mess. We have been dealing with septic tank issues and trying to get them resolved for over two months.

On Thursday, May 14th we noticed that a toilet would not flush. The bowl filled to just about the top but held steady at that point. After two toilets were still not flushing after attempts at plunging, it indicated the problem was not with an individual toilet but perhaps a clog further in the system.

I headed down to the crawlspace with a bucket, a snake, and some tools. I went to the cleanout pipe and used some channellocks to untwist the plug. Thankfully, I managed some foresight that the pipe could be full. I placed the bucket over the horizontal pipe and reached around to finish untwisting the plug. When the plug reached the last of the thread, it gave way and water came rushing out. The bucket pushed back with the force of the water but I was able to hold it in place. The water rushed out the pipe, hit the bottom of the bucket, and deflected away from me.

After the water finally ended, I looked down the pipe and saw some gunk down the pipe. I got the snake out and worked it down the pipe to clear any clog that was hopefully the cause of the problem. I put the cap back on the cleanout pipe and headed back upstairs. The toilets flushed properly. Yay! Crisis averted, right?

Continue reading The Summer of Septic

The dreaded standardized testing in dreams

I just woke up from a dream that took me back to college and high school days. The dreaded standardized testing was about to take place.

There were hundreds of us students in a large gymnasium. It was not a specific gym that I recall because it was larger than any gym I have been in. There were rows and rows of desks. Sitting at those desks were students, some I recognized from college, some I recognized from high school, most filtered into the “generic crowd” that I didn’t know.

I was seated in the back row, only a few aisles from the right-hand wall. I spotted my now-wife (when was the dream’s setting?) across the room, a few aisles from the left-hand wall and also closer to the front.

Testing proctors, whom I did not recognize, were milling about up and down the row. They handed out booklets and golf pencils. I could tell this was going to be fun… I thought to myself if we were going to be taking a test I should turn off my phone, so I removed it from my pocket and began holding the button down to turn it off. The head proctor walked up to me and made snarky comments that my phone needed to be turned off, put away, and he had better not hear it. I stammered out an objection that I was doing just that already but he walked away.

At this point, those of us in the back two rows were rotated to face the left-hand wall so that the front/stage was to our right. The room actually had a little wing off to its side in the back-right corner and it was also filled with desks. Rotating the desks put all of us in the same row. The guy now in front of me had actually rotated his desk so that we were now facing each other. He was a guy from high school that I never really interacted with and had not thought about since. We exchanged a little small talk about how unpleasant this was going to be and that was it.

Along with our exam booklets and exams, we were also given a sewing needle with a piece of silver thread through it. While I was waiting for things, I used the thread and needle to sew up a small hole in the left knee of my jeans, leaving the thread and needle dangling from that spot after the hole was stitched closed.

The head proctor walked towards our newly formed rows and said “I have 10 full-size pencils with erasers here. Only 10. Who would like one?” Almost everybody in our row raised our hand since we were some of the few that could hear his offer. He looked around, saw me, and turned to walk the row back towards the front, handing out the full-size pencils as he went.

It was at this point that one of the assistants handed out pillows down the rows. Apparently, the exam would keep going until we completed it and we would sleep in the desks over night. My small school desk was filled with the pillow and beneath it the exam booklet, a scan tron, a scratch sheet of paper, and my golf pencil sat in the pencil indent. One benefit of being in the back row and rotated was that a cabinet was to my immediate left now, trapping me in the desk, but at least it provided a spot to put my pillow, I thought to myself.

I looked down at the exam booklet but don’t remember what I read. I noticed that as I leaned forward to read the booklet and certainly as I would sit to fill out the scantron, my shadow was cast over the top of the desk. The shadow was so dark that I could not read any of the text. I leaned forward and leaned back testing the shadow confirming that this test was going to be quite a miserable experience.

I was about to ask if something could be done about the lighting when another proctor assistant worked his way up our row. He dropped a handful of dry but mold-fuzz-covered vegetables on each of our desk. Right on top of the booklet and anything else on the desks. I was glad I had set my pillow aside. I looked down in disbelief and saw carrot slices and other vegetables covered with the white fuzz of mold. We were told we would need this for a part of the exam. Don’t worry! We were given a separate mold-fuzz-covered golf pencil for this part of the exam as well. I looked around in disbelief but only remember recognizing more people as I looked. They were happy, chatting with others around them and their experience didn’t seem as miserable as mine.

That is when I woke up and escaped the dream. I don’t know what it means but I certainly see a pattern of having the deck stacked against me. As an adult, I think I was at my breaking point and would have called BS on this ridiculous scenario. I’m conflict-avoidance, so it takes a lot to get me to complain and if this was as my younger, fall-in-line self, I may not have spoken up.

Working with vendors

Understanding the quotes you get back from vendors in a thread from Reddit on why you wouldn’t tell vendors your budget for a project:

The goal is to accurately and narrowly define scope and requirements. Without disclosing budget to the vendors, as the “quality” (accuracy + detail) of your request increases, there should be less of an overall variance between vendors. For a very well written request, vendor quotes should come back in a tight cluster. Assuming your request is accurate, if this cluster of pricing is well below your budget, it suggests that you over-budgeted for the project. On the other hand, if the cluster is above budget, you under-budgeted and will probably have to sacrifice some of your requirements to get the price down. Outliers might suggest vendors who are trying to underbid their competition, or trying to overcharge you. Large variance (no cluster) or a large number of vendors going over budget suggests a broadly defined scope or vague requirements. Giving vendors a budget allows them to easily tweak the quotes to fit within your expectations while not knowing anything more about your scope or requirements. Proceeding with a quote scope that lacks the proper parameters and/or missing requirements is a recipe for disaster…

Book Review: The Millionaire Next Door

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanely, William D. Danko

I liked the message of the book, which was simple:

  • Spend within your means.
  • People with million dollar net worths are not necessarily the ones that look the part.
  • Money is just as much a trap as a means to financial independence.

Business owners started with humble beginnings but grew their net worth by living frugally, investing their time, money, and energy into their businesses, and are often worth far more than the people driving the luxury cars, wearing expensive clothes, and eating fancy foods.

It all boils down to the expression: “You don’t get rich by spending money.”

For advertisers trying to appeal to the affluent families, it might be eye-opening that the wealthiest people may live in middle class neighborhoods and drive US-made cars.

For me, it covered living frugally, investing in yourself, using this knowledgeable to consider services to these overlooked affluent. The UAW (under accumulator of wealth), AAW (average accumulator of wealth), and PAW (prodigious accumulator of wealth) were interesting to see that you could do even more than just living within your means but you could also set yourself up for success in the future with savings and investments. It also defines the difference between high income and high net worth. You could spend all of your high income or you could save a significant portion of a moderate income – which do you think would be better off?

The book spent chapters on affluent families that over-gift to their children financially and, as a side-effect, teach their kids to live outside of their means and put them on a spending treadmill. Along with the topic of inheritance, this was interesting to see the different sides to problems with large estates.

Ultimately, I thought there were too many examples that were used to emphasize the same point. As somebody that was already on-board, it was repetitive with examples that were too conveniently ‘Goofus and Gallant’.