If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it."
-Stephen Colbert

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Musings

It's quiet around here today. We went shopping early, 9:00 AM, and it was apparent that those who were going to celebrate the day were still sound asleep. That's a bad choice of words isn't it? "Celebrate the day". But, that is what will happen today. The fairgrounds are ready for a crowd on this last day of the fair.  With all of this sunshine there will be plenty of barbecues going this afternoon.

Some people that will not be 'celebrating' can be found at the downtown Plaza. Laying on the grass with a bedroll for a pillow. Some will have a dog with them. I know of another that has a cat that stays on his shoulder when traveling. Some will be drunk. Most all will be hungry - and sick. I know some of the veterans that are living rough, here, on the Plaza that has a large memorial to honor veterans at one end. Clyde is one of those veterans; Marine Corps in Vietnam. He has a dog and a guitar and a cup for donations. He also has a wheelchair. He had back surgery at a VA hospital in Sacramento not too long ago. He was discharged back onto the streets. He made it back to Chico and reclaimed his dog from friends. Now he sits and plays and talks. The police will come by every few hours and roust every one of them and the Plaza will be empty. It will fill back up again. Then the police will come. It's like a dance...

Back in the day; I was in the Navy for no good reason other than the fact that I was bored. Three of us joined together so that we could endure boot camp with a friend alongside. Two of us went to Hospital Corps School and our friend went to Electronics School. After graduation and now a Hospitalman, I was sent to Camp Lejeune, NC. North Carolina was not a good place to be in the late 50's and early 60's. And Camp Lejeune, home of the Second Marine Division, was not exactly a welcoming home for a sailor.

Once on base and working at the Naval Hospital, I learned some basic safety rules; never wear your uniform off base and never go to J-ville (Jacksonville) alone. Navy or Marine; we weren't welcome. And if you were a Black sailor or Marine, you might as well stay on base.

During my time there, there were at least four 'World Crisis' alerts that closed the base to all traffic and had the 6th Marine Regiment, our neighbors, out onto the beach and ready to board Navy troop transport ships. Twice, they actually boarded and set sail, only to return a few days later. Everyone was becoming interested in world affairs as it was obvious that 'peace time' was coming to a close.

Near the end of my tour of duty, the officer in charge of re-enlistment summoned me to his office. I  wasn't surprised and I had already made some inquiries into various schools that were available for someone that re-enlisted. We met and he told me about the STAR program, Selective Training And Re-enlistment. The Navy would pay me some great amount of money and send me to any school I wanted as long as I signed up for another six years. I wanted to do it and I had already decided on the Aviation Medicine School at Pensacola. Then I asked if I would be assured that I wouldn't have to stay at Lejeune, normally a four year duty station. I had only served two years there and wanted out! He reluctantly told me that he couldn't guarantee that but I shouldn't worry about it. Well, I was worried, as I wanted out. And I knew that if I stayed I would be put into the FMF which is where you get to learn battlefield medicine and other fun things. You even get a new seabag, filled with Marine Corps uniforms, just for you. The enlistment officer and I had several more meetings with the same results. So I left the active duty Navy and become  Reserve; at home. It was October of 1961.

Unknown to most of America, the war in Vietnam was just starting to heat up. It was known at Camp Lejeune. And in 1965, when I was given my final discharge papers, that war had indeed become very warm. I had made  the right choice when I gave up the school and re-enlistment bonus money. Blessed is a good word for that.



Monday, May 18, 2015

It's been awhile

It has been close to a month since the last time I posted here and during that time I have visited with my new neurologist - new to me -and found him to have great skill in developing a good patient/doctor relationship. I like him. He has a clinical psychologist in his office and she assured me that my memory problems were absolutely normal for my age and I didn't need to worry about dementia or Alzheimer's. I will be seeing him again in a few weeks to find out the results from the blood tests he had ordered for me.

In the meantime I have been going to the rehab center where a physical therapist pummels me into submission each time we meet. He says he's loosening up my hip. I hope it works!

I completed a 5K walk a few weeks ago and got my t-shirt. Did it 1:10 faster than the last one. And I didn't fall over; a good thing. The balance problems don't seem to strike when I'm walking somewhat straight. It's only when I turn my head quickly. So, I didn't look back to see who was close to me as the finish line came into sight.

The local art center, where I meet with 8 other artists on Tuesdays, puts out a newsletter every month and each issue spotlights a local artist. The next months issue will feature me and my art. Another local artist came over to interview me and take photos of my work for the newsletter. I think I'm the first featured artist that is an abstract expressionist.

Memories; Mrs. Burt, my seventh grade teacher at Pacific Ave. school in Manhattan Beach. She was flamboyant to say the least. She wore red dresses and bright red lipstick. Her hair was long and black and she loved life; it was so evident! She was also my salvation. She recognized that I was quite bored with class work. I really did "know it all" and was tired of having to listen to lessons about things I already knew about. So she rescued me by having me become the school AV expert and I would go from class to class and setup the projector and the screen and then show movies. Once the film was running, I could step outside the classroom and read the books I enjoyed. Then she made me  a 'Hall Monitor'; a position that allowed me to be outside the classroom for at least 15 minutes for each period. But the best thing she did for me was to plant the seed of 'Art' within me. She showed me that beautiful art could be found anywhere and everywhere. There were no limits as far as she was concerned. Art did not have to be on a canvas and hung in a museum.

It took me a long time but now I get to 'make art' just as she showed me so many years ago.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Memory; so very complex

A dinner conversation about my glasses. It seems as if they are always smudged. Then, a comment about how my glasses were always covered with dark flecks back back in the days when I was working with my tools. Then I remembered; most of the dark flecks were from the cheap paint on the  3/4" cold rolled channel we used for ceiling construction. The other spots were more permanent; sparks of hot metal burned into the glass when I was welding and didn't get my hood down in time as the arc began to flare. I remembered the cost of new glasses when the spots became too numerous and vision was impaired.

Only a minute had passed since I had commented on the smudges on my glasses. In that small amount of time I had gone back in time to the late 70's and the 80's. And had placed myself on a scaffold, 40 feet above the ground during a cold winter day.

It's all part of growing old. A comment or the sight of something vaguely familiar will trigger the most intense memories. Sometimes I will see a face in the crowd that closely resembles someone I knew 40 years ago. But...it can't be. They haven't aged at all? A few times I stopped myself, just in time, from walking up to them and saying "Hey! remember me?" A close call!

I saw our doctor last week and I asked him about memory; both the long term and the short term. He told me that what I was experiencing was normal, and from his observations, I was not in any danger from Alzheimers or dementia.

I've decided to enjoy the memories. I can't go back in time but I can bring those memories back to this present time.

At the meeting with my doctor I was proud to tell him that I had lost 56 pounds since August of last year. Also, that I was going to do another 5K walk. Just for the t-shirt of course. I will be doing that this Sunday.

To conclude our meeting with my doctor, he gave me referrals to the out-patient physical rehabilitation department of our local hospital. That's to help me combat the balance problems I have these days. My right foot was affected by the spinal surgeries I had  and has a tendency to do what it wants, That, and neuropathy for the right foot makes balance an iffy proposition when I'm tired, And I have a referral to a neurologist as well and for the same thing.

I went to the out-patient department today to set up the appointments and there I was, in a building that I had helped to build 25 years ago. Apparently the building had changed hands and was now the property of the hospital. More memories! I can't seem to escape them...but that's certainly better than the alternative!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our very own volcano...

Sometime in the near past, I read the story of Mt. Tambora and its eruption in 1815. It was an interesting story that explained the Year Without Summer, 1816. That frigid summer caused so much death and misery around Europe and the New World and all from a volcano in Indonesia. A volcano that a starving Irish peasant had never heard of.

Now Chile and Argentina are suffering from the near effects of the recent eruption of Mt. Calbuco. Tons of ash are already in the upper atmosphere and subject to the winds that sweep from west to east. But...maybe the eruptions will end soon and the effects will be minor. It's happened in the past.

Here in Butte County, I can stand up from my seat here at the kitchen table and look out the window to the northeast and see Mt. Lassen, a real live volcano and it's less than a 100 miles away; maybe 60 miles? It last erupted in 1914-1921 with a major eruption on May 22nd of 1915. The 100 year anniversary of that event is less than a month away. I'm not really worried (should I be?) as the USGS monitors the whole of Lassen Park for any increase in volcanic activity.

My wife and son have climbed to the top of Mt, Lassen and described it as thrilling. I was away on business or I would have joined them. We've been to Lassen Park in the winter and seen the plumes of steam rising from the vents in 'Bumpass Hell'.

The evidence of volcanic activity is all around here in Butte County. Even the buttes themselves are formed from volcanic basalt. The fields around here are littered with small chunks of lava that make them unsuitable for anything other than grazing. The residents of Paradise, a small town just east of here, routinely use dynamite to 'dig' holes for the planting of trees. A cap of lava covers the whole ridge and it won't yield to a shovel.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Vertical swimming

Friday has come and it's on its way out. And Fridays mean time in the pool for me. I am certain that I am an imposing figure as I stand close to the edge; flotation belt securely fastened around my middle, webbed gloves for more 'traction' in the water, headphones with my Sansa Clip holding all my music securely fastened to the headphones with rubber bands and a hat crammed down securely over the headphones so that my music doesn't get wet. I'm ready for 30 minutes of 'deep water aqua jogging', or vertical swimming as I call it.

Back and forth for the length of the pool. Over and over. I couldn't do this if I didn't have my music to cut through the tedium of it all. I have the music set to play randomly and that adds some minor excitement as Santana plays a set followed by Charlotte Church followed by Little Richard followed by Randy Newman...you get the picture.

And of course my mind wanders for the 30 minutes of boring exercise. I think there's something to be said for the 'wandering mind'. Being old, 74, I get to dredge up all sorts of long term memories. Short term, not so much. So for 30 minutes I get to wander through the memories of my teens, the twenties and thirties, the workplace and memories of watching my children grow. Yes, my wife is included in these memories; that goes without saying. I certainly didn't raise three wonderful children by myself. I also spend some time solving the worlds problems. But, important as that is, it's not as much fun.

I started the day without my usual cup of coffee as it was time for the 6 month checkup and I had to go to the lab for the blood draw. It's a 'fasting' blood sample that's needed so no coffee till that was done. I was lucky, it was 6:30 and I was first in line and first out, heading home for the needed cup.

I will be seeing my PA next week and I want to be sure I tell him about all the the health items that concern me. I'm writing them down and will email the list to him. Hopefully, he will have time to read it before I show up. The only hard part of this plan is the fact that I don't always remember what those items were. I have a feeling that 'memory problems' will be top of the list. Followed by neuropathy, balance, memory problems and how much longer do I have to take Neurontin?

I said memory problems twice because I just took a look at my previous posts and I have been repeating myself at an alarming rate. Sorry about that...


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Relief

Ah! Relief is here at last. The last steroid injection has done its magic and I can go to the gym once again.

I need to keep going on this fitness craze of mine; who knows when it will suddenly stop and you find me eating Butterfinger ice cream once again. Plus, I have another 5K race next month and I want to make a respectable showing. I made it down  to 191 pounds last week  and that's good enough. I can eat to stay at this level. But...I have grown quite fond of a certain brand of rice cake so it will still be my choice for a snack.

I've been spending a lot of time scanning the old family photos. The amount of images that I own staggers me and yesterday I took most of the unscanned photos off of my desk and put them away for now.

My fourth grandchild, my granddaughter #3 is a high school junior and is taking a class in photography for the second year. She has become quite good at restoring damaged photos and so I have her working on a dozen photos left by my great uncle. He was in the Army Balloon Corps during WW1; the war to end all wars. The photos show some of the balloons used as well as the terrible damage done to Ypres in Belgium. He also had some photos of the USS Mt. Vernon. The Mt. Vernon was a captured German luxury and was used to ferry troops home from the war. Wikipedia has an interesting story about the ship.


These are the photos before retouching via Photoshop





Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ouch!

The pain in my right hip has finally been identified and treated. It's been hurting me for the past 6 weeks or more and increasing in pain levels during the past two weeks. I finally got in to see my favorite pain doctor and she wasted no time in diagnosing the pain as an inflammation of the SI joint. Sacro-Iliac to most people. She made my day by telling me that I looked like I was in a lot of distress and she was going to see if she could fit me in right then for the treatment. She did just that and in a few minutes I was laying facedown on the treatment table. She uses ultrasound to guide the needle in to place. Like most doctors, she told me that I would feel 'a little pinch'. A pinch? Maybe a pinch by a gorilla! I gripped the edge of the table as hard as I could until she told me it was all done. A corticosteroid had been injected into the joint and I should start feeling the effects within a week.

It looks like I have my life back. I was taking an awful lot of pain meds during the past two weeks.

And, although the steroids do a great job, they aren't a permanent fix. I now have 3 different sites that have been injected. It's like driving a car that has 3 recapped tires. Wait...how many people even know what a recap or retread tire is?

The big news here is the drought. Now classified as California's worst drought in over 1,000 years. Well, we are breaking a record; is that a plus?

Now that the governor has declared a mandatory 25% reduction in water use we will see the lawyers rushing to defend the rights of their clients to use as much water as they want. The oil industry is going to be targeted as a water waster. Supposedly, they use 200 million gallons a day for fracking. Water that is now hopelessly contaminated. Another target will be the corporate farms that are able to drill deeper and buy more powerful pumps to water their almond and pistachio orchards. These are trees that require more water than most and they were planted after row crops were dug up because the price for almonds and pistachios is so high now. In the lower San Joaquin valley, the ground is subsiding almost a foot a year in places as the supporting aquifer is drained. All very serious stuff and a lot of money is involved. Although agriculture uses 80% of the water here, they only contribute 2% to the states GDP.

One of the more powerful sectors of the economy is technology. And strangely enough, no one seems to notice the amount of water used in microchip manufacturing. Here is a fine article that details the amount of water used in a 'Fab' or a 'Super fab'. These fabs can use between 2 to 4 millions gallons of water each day. These microchip foundries also use an inordinate amount of power. Here is a report on that.




Saturday, March 28, 2015

Say Cheese!

I'm sitting in the living room, perched on my chaise and trying to keep my mind focused. I have my faithful cat sleeping and hogging all of the space around my feet. Well, one foot on the chaise is about all I can manage right now. The old Piriformis nerve block is still a problem but I will see the doctor next week and I hope to get an early appointment for the new block. In the meantime I take far too many pain meds. But I used those meds this morning to make it possible for me to get in half an hour of deep water jogging at the gym. Walking was painful but the water and the meds combined to make it possible, and pleasant, to get in some much needed cardio.

Memory. Why is it going? And when will it all be gone? My short term memory loss is becoming a problem for me. I can't begin to recount all the episodes of memory loss I deal with every day. So far it's all lightweight stuff; nothing life threatening...yet. I keep telling myself that it's all normal and I will know when to ask for help. But will I? I have couple of lightweight pocket recorders; maybe it's time to put new batteries in one and start carrying it with me. I could record my name and address on it and then use it to record any memory joggers I might need during the day. "Buy gas for the car" or "Take your library books back".

Long term memory seems to be functioning quite well. My mind spends a lot of time 'back in the day'. I'm helping with that by cataloging the many photos we have. I'm scanning all the photos I consider worthy of being included in the digital photo album. And every photo brings a flood of memories with it. I've been working on this cataloging for years and I doubt that I will finish before I die. Sorry, kids, I tried.

I have thousands of photo that are digital and thousands more that need to be scanned and become digital. And I am the kind of collector that needs to collect everything. It's my ASD and that is also the reason for the 20,000 plus music files that I have collected. On the plus side, it does keep me out of trouble. Also on the plus side is the fact that Amazon Prime members can store as many image files as they want in the Amazon 'cloud' and all for free. I'm up to 73,127 image files and there will be more for sure.

Just to be clear; I don't have 73,127 photographs. a good portion of that number is taken up by my collection of the works of many artists. Those images are usually JPG files and Amazon treats them the same as any other JPG file. Thank you, Amazon.

I may have mentioned that I enjoy talking with a retired architect when I'm in the pool at the gym. We have common interests and memories of the construction of buildings, both large and small. After each conversation I regret not being able to find any photographs of the construction projects I hd been talking about. Cameras were not commonly seen on construction sites back in the last quarter of the past century. Cameras were only used to gather evidence of some wrongdoing on the part of the contractor or the subcontractors. Naturally, someone with a camera was suspect. It was only after I became a superintendent that I was free to take photographs wherever I wanted.

I certainly regret not having a camera with me during the first decade of my career as that seems (to me) to have been the most exciting part of career. That might have been because safety standards were mostly non-existent at the time. Hard hats were for sissies and don't even think about wearing a safety belt!

During my cataloging I have found a few photographs of my time in the Navy. Certainly not as many photographs as I would have liked. It's the same for the high school and junior high years. Imagine having an iPhone back in the 50's! Now imagine two of them...you have to have someone to call.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Keeping up with the times

I will be 75 in September and apropos of that I was looking at some photos (of me) that my daughter took just the other day. Yikes! I'm an old man!


I don't feel like an old man. Well, maybe slightly. I'm sitting on my chaise while I type this because my hip pain has returned with a vengeance. Mentally, I think I'm young. If not young, certainly not as old as the guy in the photo.  

One reason that I think I'm young mentally is that I embrace technology. I'm sitting here with an Apple MacBook Pro on my lap. I just wirelessly printed a chicken cacciatore recipe and heard the printer spring into action in the other room. My iPhone is charging its battery right now. My Kindle was used at the gym this morning while I was waiting for the swim time. During my workouts I have a Sansa Clip to deliver music or podcasts to my headphones. I downloaded the above photos from my daughters Facebook account and then cropped and edited them before posting here.

Okay, so what? Millions of elders do the same thing and more every day. But some important people don't do any of the above and are quite proud of the fact. Of course they are Republican lawmakers; Senators McCain, Lindsey Graham, Pat Roberts, Richard Shelby, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Shumer and probably a dozen more that were sufficiently ashamed and didn't reveal their stupidity to the press.

These are the people that make hard decisions about everything under the sun and they can't even email someone? This is the the 21st Century and they are stuck in the 20th...or 19th. The fact that they are acknowledged Luddites should be enough to have them run out of office.The question is; what else don't they know?




Running?

Sadly, it has started. And we are only into the 3rd month of 2015. Ted Cruz has grabbed the steering wheel and is now driving the Republican Clown Car in the race to the candidacy . I think Donald Trump is acting as navigator and occasional relief driver. I hope there's enough room in the car for all the candidates. But, of course there is! It's a Clown Car after all...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dry

Dry and drier. We saw some clouds today and there was a very light sprinkle of moisture that lasted less than 15 minutes. Nothing else is in the forecasts. There is no snow to measure and some experts are saying that California has just one years worth of water left. Things are going to get ugly here in the West. The western states have a historical record of water wars and the coming years 'wars' may eclipse all the previous water wars.

Sadly, the state doesn't even have an accounting of how much groundwater is in the state nor does it know the locations and volume of any aquifers. Water 'rights' in the state are extremely vague and written more than a century ago. They were written to protect the water needed for the mining interests at that time...think 49'ers. Lawyers and judges will be very busy this year.

Why haven't the 47 Senators that signed the seditious letter to Iran been threatened with arrest? I'm not so gullible that I believe that they would actually be arrested. But I do believe that the Attorney General and the President should make it clear to the 47 that they have crossed a line. I think that the rest of the world is watching.

Very Local news...our fence is falling down. We have about 175 feet of old (13 years?) wooden fence that has seen the last of its life and is in danger of falling over. When we lived in Orland we had similar situation but a providential wind storm blew the fence over and our insurance paid for it's reconstruction. I don't see a fierce wind storm in our immediate future so I'm calling the local contractors and asking for bids.

The weight loss program continues. I'm close to 195 now. I would be feeling great if it weren't for the fact that the right Piriformis nerve block I received about 6 months ago has faded away and I'm at the mercy of the 'Pain Monster'. I knew that the block would only be good for a limited time but I was hoping that I might be the exception. Wrong. So I have an appointment with the pain doctor in about two weeks; I'm back to  using more Norco than usual for the time being. I normally use 6 to 8 a week and now it's 4 or 5 a day. I haven't stopped going to the gym though; the gym is my salvation! I'm up to 5 days a week now and three of those days I use the pool as well as the gym. Don't think that I'm one of those 'gym rats' that spends hours and hours in the gym; admiring their own pec's and lat's. I'm into cardio health exercise and doing something to keep my COPD at bay. I'm into flexing my lungs and not my biceps.

We are also looking at removing our lawns and putting in drought resistant plants.  Lawns are not natural. I've been saying that for years and only once have I been successful at making that argument work for me. My wife has always loved a lawn so we have had one for most of our married life. But one time, in Roseville, I was able to convince her that the front lawn should go. And it was gone; replaced by beautifully designed drought resistant landscaping. When we sold the house we assumed that the landscaping would remain; but no, the new owners (the bank, because the initial buyers faced foreclosure within 6 months) paid to remove it all and install a lawn. Both sad and stupid. But this time I already have her support for the lawn removal. Our daughter owns a nursery so we should get a good deal on the plants and we will save all sorts of money because we can cut off the expensive lawn service we are using. Mow and blow. That's what they do.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Oops. High drama at the airport

A few weeks ago we went off to Arizona, Cave Creek to be exact, to spend a week with my sister and brother in law. Despite my increased good health, flying is the only travel option for the two of us. When I first retired I promised myself that I would never darken the doorway of an airport again. The years of business travel had taken its toll on my psyche. So much for promises...

We bought our ticket early for a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to Phoenix and back at 1/2 price! Southwest is not the airline it once was, back in the 90's, but it's hard to beat for value.

On travel day one we were at the airport around 10 in the morning and on a Wednesday the airport is fairly quiet. Almost enjoyable. Going through security we were shunted through a separate aisle and  given the 'preferred treatment' and never had to take our shoes off or be body scanned. We were smiling! We stopped at Peet's and bought a coffee apiece and a scone to share. I bought a cross word puzzle book and a copy of Mac World. (I'm hoping to accelerate my education all things Apple) We watched people as we sat in the comfortable departure lounge area. The airport was almost serene...and so were we.

Departure time came and we found some seats just aft of the wing. That's my preferred section to sit in as it takes awhile for the luggage to be unloaded and I would rather sit in the plane and wait for a awhile rather than stampede off and stand around the baggage carousel for half an hour. The flight was uneventful, a good thing, and once on the ground I contacted my sister and we texted back and forth as the plane slowly emptied. She told me that they would be waiting for us at baggage claim. All was cool...

At Sky Harbor, the Phoenix airport, you have to take a long, long escalator ride down to baggage claim from the arrival floor. We stepped on and began our long descent. Suddenly, very close to the bottom, a woman, ahead of us, fell backwards, towards us. The person ahead of me went down on top of her as the escalator kept on moving. Suddenly, I was down as well and felt someone landing on my back. The escalator kept moving. As I was falling, I remember thinking, among many other thoughts, that someone had to reach the emergency shutoff. Soon! There were probably 5 or 6 of us down and struggling to get out when someone, on the outside, grabbed the initial fallen lady by her feet and dragged her out. (she was very, very large) it was as if someone had removed a cork. We all spilled out onto the floor. Luckily, my wife, a petite 4' 11" had been pushed to the side of the escalator and had been able to hop over the over sized carry-on 'wheelie' that had caused the initial wreck. She was safely on the outside and fearfully watching the mayhem. Once on my feet and finding that I could still walk, I joined her and we quickly moved away from the scene and found my sister and brother in law just a few yards away and oblivious to the wreckage behind us. We told them our tale and on our return to the area not a sign that anything had happened there could be found. Odd?

I still find it hard to believe that no one was injured, seriously, in the mayhem. I know that I was stiff and sore for the next few days but no lasting harm was done.

The large lady and her luggage? Oddly enough, she had been sitting near us in Sacramento and we had watched her earlier as she had slowly pushed her 'carry-on' across the terminal floor. She was unsteady on her feet because of her size and we wondered at the time about her 'carry-on'. Someone had been asleep when she was allowed past the check-in area with that monster. Seriously, someone could have been killed.

ps
On our return to Sacramento we hesitated for only a moment at the top of the long, long escalator that takes you down to baggage claim. And there, over to the right and about 20' away was a bright  and shiny elevator. Empty and waiting just for us. We took it! It was the best ride on the whole trip!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

success

My training paid off. Today I walked the first 5K race since I had my back surgeries, 6 and 7 years ago. And with a recent diagnosis of COPD.

I did it in 45 minutes plus which worked out to 14 minute miles. I was hoping to make  15 minute miles and I was not certain that it could done. I had all kinds of negative thoughts before the start and then all my old training came back. I couldn't do a good race walking form because I can't move my hip as freely as I once did. But I did remember to shorten my stride and concentrate on turn overs; the number of times your foot hits the ground. If I could keep it at 70 a minute I would be doing well. And I did. I kept my head down and never faltered. But...at the finish I had a plan of making a final effort  and speeding through the finish area. Nope. The tank was dry...

But, I was right in the middle of the pack when it came to finishing times. And those numbers included runners and walkers; I passed a number of runners who were not prepared for the distance. And it looked good to see my name among all the younger contestants and showing a 14/minute mile pace at age 74.

Right now the adrenaline is still circulating in my system and I feel no pain. But tomorrow could be a different story...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

memories

When I switched over to an Apple computer from a PC I had a chance to clean house. I have tons of files, electronic tons. I have 3 desk top hard drives and they contain my backups plus a huge amount of music and images of art. Apple does a pretty good job of organizing all the files and I already have a small portion of my music collection cataloged and stored away on the new computer. The images are a little more difficult as duplicates are often stored under different names.

In the meantime, my old computer appears to have lost it's mind. I hadn't looked at it for a day or two and when I went to get some more files off of it, I found it unresponsive. I rebooted and the progress bar would go halfway and then stop. I did it again with the same results. Finally, I shut it down and will try starting it up again in a few hours. If it never responds again I am still okay as the 3 backups have everything I need.

I returned to cataloging my photos and that is when progress slowed. I ran across some photos taken at one of the quarterly meetings I attended when I was working. The company I worked for was the nations largest and most profitable specialty contractors. I had started working for them as a Superintendent for drywall and steel stud construction in the Sacramento region.. We were building high rise office buildings and hospitals at the time. Before I retired I had become an Instructor in the Strategic Development Department of the parent company and went to offices all over the country to train staff in the use of our estimating software. The quarterly meeting that had me so interested was the winter meeting and the Corporate Christmas Party. I think it was the one in 2004 and it was held, as usual, at the Hyatt in Kansas City. One photo in particular evokes memories of a tragedy. There is a large art piece hanging over the lobby consisting of hundreds of mirror finished balls, about 4" in diameter. They are suspended so that they resemble a giant pyramid. The picture of the pyramid was taken from the walkway above the lobby. The same lobby where 216 were injured and some 114 were killed as the walkways fell down into the lobby.  This happened in July of 1981. Now, there is nothing in the lobby or walkway above that would indicate that such a great tragedy had occurred. But, standing there, on the walkway, I felt a chill pass over me as I thought about it.

I moved on to other photos and then I decided to visit the company's website. I've only been gone 9 years but things had really changed. People that I knew as carpenters were now managers of branch offices. Those I knew as estimators were now now corporate executives. The company had always been great when it came to promoting from within. The CEO was a carpenter when he first started, as were lots of other managers. Construction has always been a great career for anyone that felt that college was not for them. If you were motivated you could easily be making six figures.

Okay, time to try starting the old pc...
                                                               

Thursday, February 19, 2015

199.8

I finally did it. The 200 pound barrier is broken and I'm on my way to 195. In In fact, I'm eating  a rice cake at this very moment. That's my new preferred snack food.

I fell on the steps of the gym swimming pool the other day and skinned my arm good. I couldn't go swimming the next day because of the bandage and I certainly missed it. I'm looking for a large sized waterproof bandaid today for tomorrows use. I need the exercise for the upcoming 5K race on Sunday.

I tried a race walking stride with hip movement the other day while on the treadmill and I think I will pass on using it during this race on Sunday. It uses up more energy than I have and the long term effects on a fused spine are unknown. I don't want to find out what they might be.

Back to the subject of weight loss; since I had promised myself a certain hamburger at a certain restaurant if I made it to 200, we had to go and order it that very day. It was close enough to our anniversary date that we combined the celebration and we split the burger. We've ben married 52 years and we have long since given up on celebrations with gifts and cards. We have all we need and we can always buy something if needed. I have a new laptop and my wife has an iPad; presents to ourselves a few weeks ago...minus the card and the party.

Ah! That hamburger! It was Niman Ranch beef cooked medium rare with spicy Guacamole plus all the other fixings. It was simply splendid. And worth every rice cake I had to eat.

We've been looking at a solid gray world the past few days as fog has socked us in. Still no rain forecast in the immediate future. This drought will bring out the worst in people and I've already read of impending legal action over water rights up and down the state. It's going to be a long hot summer.

California is unique in that they have no idea as to how much water they have. There's never been a survey of the groundwater and water rights have been handed down from the days of the 49'ers when 'ditch companies' were set up to move water from the mountains to a miners sluice box. These ditch companies grew up to be large public utilities and water districts plus a lot of large ranch's. And nobody is inclined to share. Who knows how it will all shake out.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Working

I'm so close! I'm at 200.6 pounds. I just need to break that 200 pound mark and I will have achieved my first goal. Then it will be down to 195 and that's where I hope to stay. I started dieting and increased workouts back on August 27 of 2014. I weighed 245 at that time. I figure it's close to 6 months and that works out to 7.5 pounds per month.

People claim that you feel so much better and have more energy when you lose weight. They are right. Also, you get new clothes! And you can wear the good old clothes from the past. I can now wear all of my favorite Hawaiian shirts that I so wisely saved.

I should be under 200 pounds by the 22nd of this month and that is when I will be entering my first race in close to 7 years. It's just a 5K walk and I used to do this particular one as a race walker; always winning fastest men's time. Now, I'm half afraid to use the race walking stride as it uses so much hip motion. (That's one reason it looks so funny to Americans. Not so much to Europeans who are well versed in race walking.) With four vertebrae fused and a having a cranky sacral nerve, I don't want to cause myself an injury. So I will probably go slow this time.

I've been keeping myself fit by using the gym and the pool. In the pool I do deep water jogging; back and forth, back and forth. For 30 minutes each time I'm in the gym. This is incredibly boring so I have fashioned a set of earphones with a Clip holding about 600 songs. I put a hat over the whole assembly to keep it from falling in the water.

Even with music, my mind is restless and so I find myself remembering some of the more memorable projects I was involved in. I replay them all in my head as I 'jog'. Here, where we live, there are no retired commercial and high rise construction workers to swap stories with. But I did find a retired architect to talk with. He had a lot more back surgery than I did but the gym and pool are helping him as well. Anyway, we do a lot of talking about projects, big and small. It helps.

My other blog Working tells some of those stories






Thursday, February 12, 2015

Unreal

The middle of February and it will be 74 degrees outside today. I've been wearing shorts for the past few days and it looks like I can do it again for the rest of the week.

Just came back from my yearly visit with my friendly nephrologist. (that's a kidney checker in my case) He says that I'm in great shape, kidney wise, and he won't need to see me for another 2 years. Exercise! That's what does it. It's good for every part of your body and mind, including your kidneys.

I have too many doctors. I like them all but still...I have a GP (PCA) of course and then a cardiac guy, two neurosurgeons, a general surgeon, an eye surgeon, a pain doctor, a nephrologist and an urologist. I think that's all? Oops, I forgot the dermatologist and the EENT guy. Fifteen years ago I had none. Unfortunately, I have had valid reasons for meeting these new 'friends'. I'm lucky in that I like them all. With a medical background, I can quickly spot a phony and I have met and 'fired' two phony's during the past ten years.

Speaking of phony's as I was; I think my abilities to spot one of any stripe will get a real workout soon enough; with Election 2016 already in first gear and moving out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

'kinda like facebook'

I'm home from the gym and I'm a little bit lighter. 202 pounds exactly is my new weight. I can clearly see my goal of 200 pounds from this not quite so lofty point. Maybe by the end of next week...

This is going to be a boring post; similar to the kind of writing skills I use when posting to Facebook. I spent the morning with our art group; 8 painters that gather for 3 or 4 hours once a week to paint and solve world and domestic problems. It's a great way to clear your mind of any cobwebs as we all have differing viewpoints and that leads to lively, but polite, debate. We rent a room at the Chico Art Center and the group has been in existence for about 20 years. I've been with them for about 6 years now and I'm still a junior member.

Okay, here's the reason for today's post; the railroad. The Art Center is located in the former Union Pacific train station and the tracks are about 30 feet away. This track is also a main north/south line for the railroad. It bisects the town and there are no overpasses or tunnels to get traffic through some of the major arteries when the train comes through. Good news and bad news. The traffic doesn't have to wait for a long period of time. Nope, the bad news is that the railroad has squashed all efforts to slow those trains down. They barrel through at 50 mph and higher. They speed by the University, apartment buildings and businesses. And the Art Center. The building shakes when they pass. And today I noted a string of at least 40 brand new tank cars; those black ones that can carry oil. And other dangerous cargo.

The railroads created California in the 1800's and they still have immense power in todays world. They fight all efforts to regulate them any more than they are now. Such as notifying local fire prevention agencies when they are moving dangerous and flammable liquids. Or modifying the speed limits through urban areas to  more sensible 25 mph.

Today was a day where I was particularly nervous as four fast freights thundered through town. Somedays, the good days, we might have one slow freight come by; hauling lumber out of the Northwest. And the only reason for the slow speed is the fact that a major marshaling yard is located in Roseville, a 100 miles away, and they will slow or stop the incoming trains when the yard is becoming congested with east/west traffic.

Scared by trains? Yeah, I'm a wimp.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

This is work!

I'm trying very hard to shut down the PC for good. And it had been off for two days before I woke it up to see if I couldn't gather up all of the files I have on it and put them all in one central location. I do have 4 different 'cloud' accounts and I'm able to dump up to 5GB on them. My Amazon 'cloud' lets me store image files for free and the space is unlimited; but they have to be image files. They have a 5GB limit on data files.

So, we were in Costco and I decided to look at portable hard drives; maybe they had a bargain. I found one. It's a Seagate 1TB drive and it's the size of a deck of UNO cards and it was only $70! My mind flashed back to the 'olden days' and the prices we would've paid for a drive with this capacity. They would have cost thousands of dollars and they would have been far too big to be called 'portable'. Costco even had a 2TB drive with the same dimensions for the low price of $90.

Yesterday I woke my computer, the PC, and after the usual 20 minute wait I began to add the contents of my old drive to the Seagate drive. I also had 3 older portable drives and I took what I wanted off of them as well. Now I plan on using these older drives as a combined 'cloud' for us. It may take some thought and some minor hardware to make it happen but I think it can be done.

I know it sounds like I have an obsession regarding saved files and although that might play a role here, it's really because I have watched others lose all their files because of a HD failure. Back in the day, when I worked as part of the IT group, I had to be the one that would tell them that, no, the data cannot be recovered. "We will have to use your backup" I would say and they would then wail with much gnashing of teeth. "I don't have a backup!" Okay, maybe no gnashing of teeth, but they certainly did wail! Multiple backups are always recommended and one should always be at a different location (cloud) so when the flood or fire comes, you are still covered.

Now I'm trying to understand Apple file structure as I download some of the data. And the thought occurred to me that since the drive is so small and is powered by USB and not a  'wall wart', I could simply put  the drive in the same case I use to cary the Mac. Now I can relax...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Frustration

The new computer continues to frustrate me. I know it's only a matter of time before I succumb to Apple logic and then it will become easier. I've already figured out some keyboard shortcuts and that helps. I'm also learning how to move music files from my backup drives and into iMusic. Since most of my music is from a different and much older era I have found that Apple has no way to put it onto the iCloud unless I convert it to a new format first. Since I now have about 22,000 songs, I can see that this may take some time. I am thinking seriously about just leaving the music on the backup drives and accessing them now and then.

Don't get the wrong idea, I didn't steal this music. It all came from the Usenet, a file sharing news group and the stuff I downloaded was way past its prime and had no 'owners'. The more current music came from my own CD's where I ripped the tracks and added them. I know there are some that say that it is illegal to take music off of a CD, even your own CD. I have a problem with that logic and I rip without troubling my conscience. My CD...my music.

Another frustration for me is Pages, Apple's word processing program. I have a lot of MS Word doc's and I heard that Pages would read the files and open them with ease. And Pages does that. It also changes all of my fonts and erases all of my built-in HTML links. I had HTML links in the documents so that I could move easily from one section to another. But, Pages does have some neat stuff and one trick I want to try is voice supported typing. Just say it! Though, I will have to be alone in the house when I do. It just feels weird to be in a conversation with a computer. Or any other inanimate object.

The Super Bowl is over and the team I favored has lost. Not the end of the world. Truth be told, I felt guilty just watching this NFL spectacle and adding a fraction of a penny to their coffers. I hope this is the year when we will see the NFL lose their tax exempt status. They have been robbing a gullible public for years. Buy an overpriced Sea Hawks ball cap and the NFL makes money. Tell me why they shouldn't pay a tax on that profit? Below is a link to an interesting article I read yesterday...just in time for the spectacle.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21641250-nations-favourite-entertainment-faces-many-charges-one-them-will-finish-it-end

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Dark Side

Yes, I have gone to the Dark Side; I now own an Apple computer. A MacBook Pro with all the latest in technology. No noisy hard drive and fan, just a silent flash drive that is lightning fast. I still have the old pc standing by while I make the transition to the Apple way of thinking. This may take some time as Apple logic is like no other logic. For instance; there is no Home key and no End key on the keyboard. And the scrolling is exactly the reverse of what you might think is correct.

But enough of that, there was a reason for my dismissal of all things pc. Since I had been involved with computers from ages ago, I had started out writing batch files for my pc using MS-DOS. Now it was time to start over as a way of making sure my brain was being stretched once again. And it's happening. Right now.

Here are are, in California, at the end of January and it looks as if our winter is over. The snow pack is minimal and it will be gone by the first of March unless some miracle happens. The desert is reclaiming California.

I can take a moment here to boast a little as I am proud of myself for losing 41 pounds so far. I still have 5 to 10 pounds to go as I want to get into the sub 200 range. And...I entered a local 5K walk. This is a 5K that I won three years in a row before my back surgeries. I probably won't be able to use the race walking stride that I used back then; the hip motion is limited these days because of the fusion. Still, I have been training at the gym 3 days a week and i'm up to 2 miles at a 15 minute/mile pace on an incline. That ought to be good enough so that I won't be embarrassed at the finish line. In fact, I would like to add the 4th trophy to my collection.

Next month we will be flying to Arizona to visit my sister. That will be a good break for us. The weather here is gloomy and it's cold and foggy...but not wet. Sigh. So a trip to the state where the sun is always shining will be fun for us; except for the flying, of course. We were able to get some 1/2 price tickets and that will help us to forgive the cramped seating and long lines.

To close...I've been typing here for over half an hour with the laptop sitting on my lap (duh! it's a laptop) and the bottom of the computer isn't even warm, Okay, it's warm; the same temp as my lap and no more......

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Finally

I left the Democratic Party quite awhile ago because they weren't liberal enough for me. I've been an independent voter that usually had to vote for Democratic Party candidates as there weren't any other candidates that came close to my ideals. And when President Obama arrived on the political scene I was quite happy to give him my vote. Twice. I think he's one of the most honest and intelligent Presidents we have ever had. I hadn't agreed with him on many issues and he he hasn't acted on those things that would have set him apart from other Presidents. Until the last few weeks. His decision to free millions of undocumented citizens from  the threat of deportation was a master stroke. Republicans were apoplectic! And now the show stopper...a connection with Cuba! This idiotic and misguided attempt to force Cuba to our will was doomed to fail and we looked like fools in the eyes of the world. We fought a war in Vietnam and now they are a trading partner of ours. We fought China in the Korean war and half the stuff in our house came from there now that they are a favored  trading partner. How could we possibly feel threatened by Cuba? This economic blockade of Cuba, starting in 1960, should have been lifted 50 years ago. What was the sense of it? Here it is, 54 years later and Cuba is still there and so are the Castro brothers. In the meantime we lost all chances of winning over the citizens of Cuba. For what? Stupid pride?

Thank you President Obama. I'm not rejoining the Democratic Party because of this but I do feel a little less embarrassed at being an American.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wet

The main thrust of the storm is past us. The flooding almost got to us. I say almost but the water didn't even make it to the sandbags arrayed in front of the patio door. The field behind us turned into a lake and then spilled over into our yard. An indication that the developer and the city failed. The existing drains just aren't big enough for storm like this.

As much as we enjoy getting this rainfall, we are dismayed at the lack of snow in the Sierra's. I used the Cal Trans traffic cams to see what kind of snow we were having at Donner Pass (7,200') and saw rain washing away the little snow that was there. And all of the rain will end up in the American River which joins the Sacramento River and that flows out to the ocean through the Golden Gate. Gone.

Since there is very little to do except watch the rain falling, I've been exploring Pinterest. This could be habit forming if it hasn't already done just that. I have a Pinterest account and have various 'Boards' where I collect images and share them. Pretty much normal. Then I decided to see if there were any old pictures of Los Angeles for me to collect. I was astounded at the number and variety of photos available. Pick any subject at all and type it into the Search field and chances are you will find that someone has a collection of images for your subject.

As a former IT techie computer nerd type, I'm impressed by the number of servers it takes to store all of these images; data. And I'm impressed by the wonderful resource this data represents. Pinterest is international, so you can find just about anything via their search engine. Now add in Google Images and Microsoft Bing and the data available is simply staggering! I almost forgot Wikimedia and Flickr. You Tube and Tumblr. Plus hundreds of thousands of blogs. Is there any image we can't find?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Waiting

There's a storm coming. According to the local news media, this is the BIGGEST storm since 2012. The news media is in it's full disaster mode; The hype gets very tiring after awhile. Yes, it's a good sized storm and some trees will be lost and a few fences as well. But I seriously doubt that we will see much more than that here in the valley. Now up on the foothills there is going to be a different story as those slopes were burned over during the past few summers. No trees, no brush or grasses to stop the flow of wet and heavy dirt. That will be dangerous!

Here;I asked the kids if they could find a dozen sand bags for us. We're at an age where moving sand bags is beyond our capabilities. Our future son-in-law came over and stacked them along the patio slider. This is where water rose pretty high a few years ago during a storm. Then he graciously put down some sand bags around the door of our neighbor. He's good son-in-law material.

Today was the usual day to get a few things at the grocery store and at the first store I saw a lot of anxious shoppers. 'Storm shoppers'. They were rushing from aisle to aisle in their quest to stock up for the duration. That was Raley's market and then I drove to Trader Joe's for some other items. Same kind of crowd! But Trader Joe's crowds are better behaved than most. I left the Trader and drove to Safeway for the final leg of my shopping. We have the time and the stores are close enough for us to shop for bargains among the three stores. Safeway was the worst of the three. People were frantic. carts were going every which way and I considered myself lucky to get out of there without any scars.

I was doing all of this shopping while driving my new car. We bought a bright red, brand new Scion Xb (Toyota) I wen t shopping for a vehicle to replace my Ford pickup as it was becoming more and more difficult for me to get in the darn thing. I had to use a hand to hold onto my cuff, lift and get it on to the floorboard. Then I would invariably hit my head on the door frame as I lifted myself onto the seat. So I set out to look for vehicles that would allow me to get in and out without injury. I tried the Nissan Cube and it fit me just right. We have a Nissan sedan that has been a great car for us so I liked the idea of owning another Nissan product. But...2014 is the last model year as was the Honda Element, another possibility. That left the Scion as the last chance. At the dealership I opened the door and sat right down as if seating myself in my living room. I was almost hooked. I drove the little car and it was surprisingly big inside; plus it had plenty of power. Under the hood is the Toyota Camry engine; that was a plus as Toyota's have a good reputation. Then I was hooked and bought it right then, giving up my old pickup in trade. I wasn't a bit sad to see it go.

It took a few days to get used to the car. It has such a short hood it seems as if you are very close to the car ahead of you. But I love the way it handles; turns on a dime. U-turns are a snap and I can get into parking spaces in a flash. And it's red. Very red. I had to have one. The dealer couldn't find a red one in this part of California and had to get one from a dealer in Reno. They drove it over the Sierras to get it here so my 'new' car had a 178 miles on it when I bought it.

Well, I'm rambling now...just waiting for the wind and rain. Time to close this before we lose power.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Big Day

A big day indeed. Today I reached a goal of sorts. I have now lost 30 pounds. I'm at 215 and I was at 245 in July of this year. I am headed to my goal of 200 and below. That was the weight  I was carrying when I was training for another marathon; almost 6 years ago. And that was when my spine began  to give me such pain that I had to give up the marathon and ended up with my having four different spinal surgeries.

I know I won't be able to do another marathon, but I can dream of doing some 5K and 10K races. Unfortunately, I won't be able to do anymore racewalking. The racewalking stride puts a lot of pressure on the hips. In fact, it's the hips that drive the feet forward when you're doing that 'funny walk'. I'll give it a try, but only for a few minutes; I don't want to hurt myself and have to start over.

I lost the 30 pounds with exercise and my special diet. I eat less. I avoid snacks. I avoid most but not all sugars. I drink more water. That's it. Forget Paleo and all the other fad diets. Eat less. Exercise more. Works every time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Facts

In a previous post I was talking about our local police force and how much money they make...the police here use scare tactics to convince the citizens that violence surrounds them and only a strong police force can keep them safe. Bull puckey!

Of course, the 'average voter' believes all of this and is quite willing to add more officers and more money to the police budget. No matter the cost! Local schools schools lack supplies but the police
have an armored vehicle for their SWAT officers. Makes sense...

I was wading through the internets this morning and across the following story...follow the link below.
americawakiewakie.com/post/97715879263/last-november-the-activist-post-ran-a-story-about

These are not made up stories. These are the same facts that I have been talking about (to friends and family) for over 20 years! Nothing has changed in that time. The police unions know PR and how to use it. I believe strongly in unions. I think the police need a union. But they need an honest union. That, they don't have.

Friday, November 7, 2014

More to come

Yes, two more years and we will be cheering or crying once again...

The election is over for now and now the pundits have even more to 'pundit' about. All these fresh new liars in Congress and so many lies to write about! Well, I'm not a pundit, just an ordinary independent voter. Being independent is the best! You can't blame me for anything. And about 20% of California voters are registered as independent, making California one of the smartest states in the nation. Looking at the election results, we have made progress in California by eliminating felony sentencing for drug offenses. Putting these people in prison made no sense and only harmed our society. No other state has done this and we lead the way once again.

I live in a bright 'Red' county and city, so it's only natural that local election results were not to my liking. The conservative winners for city council promised more jobs and more police protection as well as lower taxes. Of course none of them would give a statement describing just how they were going to attract new business or how to pay for a police force that is already paid in the top 25% of the state. Most policemen here make over $100,000 a year in salary and benefits. The last police chief makes $200,00 in retirement! The firemen make even more. Just off the top of my head, I would think that lowering taxes would be problematic at best, a disaster at worst.But these are Tea Party stalwarts and I'm sure they won't back down from their promise to lower taxes.

The local independent press, the one that conservatives hate; has an article about the latest demon capitalist; Jeff Bezos and his weapon of destruction; Amazon. The article was written by Jim Hightower and Mr. Hightower does have a reputation for playing fast and loose with the facts. Don't get me wrong, I get his newsletter and thoroughly enjoy it. He skewers people that deserve skewering. (is that a word?) Anyway, I had some problems with the article as I am a fan of Amazon and always have been. And I'm sure Jeff Bezos is a terrible person to work for. Which is why I wonder why the people continue to do so? Why don't they form a union and use that power to get what they want? Jim Hightower says that union busters are employed by Amazon to keep the employees from organizing. Mother Jones must be spinning in her grave to hear that workers are afraid to organize. (Google Mother Jones) There is no law against organizing as a union. Mr. Chavez ignored the threats and formed the United Farm Workers. He is honored today with a day of rest in recognition of his efforts.

No, I can't become angry with Amazon because of the way the employees are treated when the solution is simple. Stop coming to work for as long as it takes. Imagine what happens when Prime customers don't get their packages within two days. A work stoppage would change the way Mr. Bezos sees his employees.

Yes, it would require great sacrifice on the part of the employees. The history of the labor movement reveals just how dangerous it is to confront power. But the people who made that history, persevered and it's high time that others take up the good fight once again. This country needs it to happen.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Neuropathy and me

A quiet day here. I went to the gym and did most of the usual exercises. But while I was there I asked the sports physiologist there with the Senior Wellness program, if there were any good exercises that would help me with my recent? problem with a loss of balance now and then. I always recover quickly and have never fallen but it was worrying me. The day before, I had gone to our doc for a 6 month visit and I mentioned this problem to him. He told me it was probably due to the neuropathy I was enjoying in my right foot. Neuropathy caused by my back surgeries. He thought I should visit the local hospital for their outpatient service dealing in just this problem. (This story is getting convoluted but that is how my mind works these days.) Anyway, I thought I would try the gym first and maybe get lucky with just the right exercise. No such luck, but the swim exercise coach gave me some exercises to do in the pool. Oh man! I tried walking heel to toe as she instructed and I was lucky that I had the floats in each hand to keep me from falling over in the water. Apparently, I have very poor balance in a situation like that. I practiced for half an hour and she said she would have more exercises for me on Monday. Oh boy! I can hardly wait...not.

Another new thing in my life is a very red car. I bought a Scion Xb; a box on wheels. A lot of research went into that purchase as I had to be able to get into the car without hitting my head and without descending into the depths of the seat. Also, no climbing up into the vehicle; I had to be able to open the door and sit. Almost all car failed my tests. The Scion and the Cube were the only two choices I had and the Cube of 2014 is the last model year to be sold in the US of A. So, it was the Scion, And I like it. It's quick and it's maneuverable; getting into a tight parking spot is very easy. Best of all is the fact that it's red. Fire engine red.

We just finished voting today and our ballots will go out in the mail tomorrow. It's a tough year for the progressive voter in this county. The Democratic candidate for Congress is being ignored by the California Democratic Committee as she dares to be a candidate in a very Red part of the state. No support at all. That's another reason why I left the Democratic Party 10 years ago. That and the fact that they embarrass Progressives with their near Republican attitude.

There are 2 candidates for our city council that are Tea Party candidates and I'm afraid one will win. She's running with public safety as the main thrust of her campaign. She will try her best to give the police even more in the upcoming contract negotiations. We can't afford the police we have now. Our retired police chief gets $200,000 a year for retirement. Which is what he made before retiring. Their pay and benefits rank in the top 25 cities in the state and we're only a town with a population just under 100,000. Dozens of much larger cities rank below us. It's a crime!

Of course all the Tea Party types carry on about how dangerous  it is to be a policeman and they deserve more money because they put their lives on the line. Baloney. The police unions have the best pr in the nation. A carpenter, working in commercial construction has a better chance of not coming home at night. There are dozens of other occupations that are more dangerous than the policeman's. But who cares if a carpenter dies? No headlines there. I get a little worked up about this issue as I was a carpenter/lather and I saw two killed on the job and many injured. Hanging over the side of a high rise and guiding a crane as it drops a panel into a place next to you and where you will weld the connections; that's dangerous.

I never should have written anything about the election. I vote but it is so depressing and so is writing about it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Photos

I thought I would post some photos here, odds and ends I've collected since we bought the iPhones.

 Twin Lakes in a very dry state...probably 6' down

 My sister on the left and wife on the right as we slowly troll down the lake

 A 5 piece bowl set I made in a pottery class last year

 Collier's Hardware store in downtown Chico...wooden floors and a bit of everything

 My cat, Boo the Magical Cat. In her favorite pose

A crane at work on a new building at Cal State University, Chico. I could sit and watch this work for hours...even days. My memories are so vivid! I can see myself with my steel lunch box and a Stanley thermos. I have my hard hat on as well as safety boots. I will soon be putting a welding hood on as well as welding 'leathers' to keep from being burned by the hot sparks. I'm weighted down by the tools I will need. The crane swings a panels up and over to us. We catch the tag line and pull the panel in close to the building.We use clamps to secure it in place until we are ready to weld it. Using hammers and levers, we move the panel inch by inch  till it's at the correct height and it's plumb and level. Now we weld it into place, an integral part of the building. Darn it! I have to wake up and move on...

Recollections

Fall is here. Not that you would really notice it. Few leaves have left their homes upon the branches. The weather is hot to moderate and no rain in sight. Okay, a chance of rain next week. But I know how these 'chances' evaporate the closer we come to the appointed date.

Our trip to Twin Lakes is a memory now. A good one despite the poor accommodations. We all had fun and made jokes about the service or lack of it. After we came home I put up a review of Twin Lakes resort on Yelp; it was critical but fair. A few days ago I received a message from the NEW owners of the resort, apologizing for the poor experience. The new owners had taken over about 3 weeks after we had left. It was now obvious that the previous owners really didn't care about service; they were soon to be gone.

I'm still going to the gym 3 times a week for the Senior Wellness program. 30 minutes of resistance training and 1 mile on the treadmill. Then it's into the pool for 30 minutes of what I call vertical swimming. I have a flotation belt on and I wear swim gloves; with this setup I pedal and stroke back and forth the length of the pool. Water jogging.

I've lost about 22 pounds in the past 3 months and that's a good thing. My pot belly has just about disappeared. Luckily for me, the stomach muscles that I had developed over 50+ years in the construction trades had never deserted me. The fat had just accumulated on top.I still have 25 pounds to go if I want to return to my former training weight of 195...and I do. And since I can't run or walk very fast or far anymore, I must lose this weight by dieting. I would much rather run, swim or walk than give up my cookies. But I must; sob!

I'm still painting. I've entered some shows and put my name out there in the artistic community. I'm in the middle of an artistic funk right now; unable to complete anything. I must have a dozen unfinished paintings in my studio. One has wet paint on it which proves that I haven't given up yet.

This morning started off with a trip to Trader Joe's for milk and some low calorie cookies. But, seeing that it was Trader Joe's, I ended up with a few more items. Trivia fact; Trader Joe's is a German grocery chain. They operate under a different name in the EU. And they are very successful, worrying the likes of Walmart and Target.

In the past I may have (or not) talked about the fact that we are now iPhone owners and our land line is gone. In general, it has been a good move. Our phones rarely ring for political ads. Or any other ads. The perpetual commercial calls were the reason for the move to Apple; the FCC Do Not Call list is a joke. It never slowed down the calls and we registered our number at least 3 different times.

But, the move to Apple was not without its problems. I was a devoted Google fan and I had vowed to never own an Apple device. I relented only because Steve Jobs is no longer on the planet And it was time for me to see what new things Apple has to offer...you see, my first computer experience was on an Apple 2E and I liked it. But Apple changed and Jobs' position on open platform drove me to pc's very soon after. In fact it was the snooty attitude of an Apple salesman, back in 1993 that made me exit the store and go directly to an Epson dealer the very same day. (Epson made computers for awhile in the 90's. Today, I have an Epson printer on my desk.)

Back to iPhone problems; we installed the dreaded iOS 8 and then the problems grew. When one of us received a call, both of our phones would ring. We assumed that would be an easy fix; it was not. We were on the phone with Apple service for 3 days, hours at a time. I won't bore you with the details. Finally, a supervisor took over and fixed the problem in 10 minutes! Which makes you wonder why they ever hired the 4 or more techs that had 'handled' our problem up to that time.

Now that I've started this post, feel like continuing, but it is time for lunch. maybe I will post some more after lunch.
  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dry and drier

Drought. That's all we hear about these hot summer days. The local news delights in showing us parched reservoir and empty stream beds. Another favored news site is either Lake Oroville or Lake Shasta. Each week there are videos of the latest man made object to appear as the waters recede. Bridges, old railroad tunnels, the bases for transmission  line towers, the footings for old houses, churches and markets. They are all surrounded by the cracked mud of the former lake bed.

Still, despite all the evidence, there is no overall plan for the state to use if and when the next dry year appears. This state doesn't even have an accounting of how much groundwater is available. If next year is going to be dry, we are really in trouble. The promised 'El Nino' event is slowly becoming undone and that usually means little or no change in the drought for next summer. Woe is us!

I'm just back from a mini-vacation. We went to Twin Lakes, in the Eastern Sierra's, above the town of Bridgeport. The plan for our short vacation was to spend some time with my sister and my brother in law. We had a cabin and it had a kitchen plus 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Nothing else. When we went down the lake, Lower Twin, we found the lake level was down by about 3 feet. That meant that we had to traverse an area of rocks and steep bank to get close to the water. We tried a place that looked halfway accessible but found it too dangerous. I'm simply not able to do the things I once did at this same lake when I was 10, 20, 30 or 40. Plus, I was hampered by my COPD. We were at 7,100 feet and my blood/oxygen percentage was down to 88%. I was muddle headed and unsteady. An accident waiting to happen. So we rented a fishing boat, an 18 foot pontoon boat with a sunshade. Now we had a steady platform from which to fish. And the second day gave me a boost as my body recovered somewhat and I had a blood/oxygen level of 92%; much better!

I love the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. They are still pretty much undiscovered. The landscape is rugged and not serene. Trees are scarce.Granite boulders are common. To the east, the desert shimmers in the heat waves. We used to camp in these mountains and I would hike to distant streams and catch native brook trout, releasing them after a good fight. There are hidden hot springs and great stands of quaking Aspen. The towns are all small with few services. For instance, we wanted to buy some Squaw bread in  Bridgeport but the bakery had closed after Labor Day and wouldn't reopen till the spring. The winters here are brutal as the valley itself is at 6,000 feet and snow tends to drift as the winds are unchecked across the valley. Yes, it's my kind of place!

Friday, August 22, 2014

My cat, Boo the Magical Cat

She hops lightly onto the bed and then onto me. She quickly settles down and we usually fall asleep at about the same time. If I’m already asleep when she discovers me, she can slip up onto my stomach so quietly that I never know she is there until I wake.
Dogs, cats…they are simply animals that we can love for a short time and then they are gone. Trust me, there are never any winners if you decide to get into a war over pets and how they are treated. Some people think that pets are close to human and treat them so, adoring them and giving them all sorts of wonderful gifts. But, in truth, the pets are the gift to us.
So I enjoy the gift of Boo the Magical Cat while I can, knowing that she won’t be with me forever and some other cat will take her place, ad infinitum. I should mention that when I hold her close to me and look into those fantastic cat eyes, I see nothing there. No spark of human intellect. We’re from different tribes and although we can connect on an emotional level, it ends right there. She will never be able to answer my questions. Sigh.
Humans. We’re so darn complex! And still so elementary. We could be the most powerful force for good that the universe has ever seen, but we have decided to become the exact opposite. All because of ‘tribalism’, the curse of mankind. In the figurative Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve didn’t discover good and evil, they discovered that they were different from each other; that’s tribalism at its root and the good and evil came about immediately afterwards. Tribalism breeds evil. Us against them. From the playground to the battlefield, it’s exactly the same.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

a need for speed

It’s been awhile since I last posted something here. There’s just too many things happening in my life and finding some time to write is close to impossible. I think my medications may have a negative impact on my creativity and that would account for the long stretches of silence for this blog. I do take Norco in the evenings and that slows me down physically while the same drug wires me and makes ‘thinking’ a tough slog. But I digress. I do have time to write today and I might as well get to it.
What’s on my mind? The internet and its speed. We have DIRECTV for our entertainment needs and it depends on AT&T for On Demand offerings. We also have a Roku device to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime. All of these entertainment functions depend on the high speed delivered by the ATT modem. Which it doesn't deliver. A familiar complaint for most of us. Sigh.
Now I could switch my internet needs to Comcast where speeds are close to 3x times that which ATT delivers. But I hesitate. Comcast is evil. Since corporations are people I find myself not caring for this particular ‘person’. I think ‘he’ is a bully. A greedy bully and I would rather not give him any of my money. Now here is where I’m stuck. It’s Comcast or ATT. Both are evil. There are no other contenders for my fortune in this area.
As I stated, I’m particularly incensed by the slow internet speeds offered by both of these companies. You see, I once spent a week in the offices of ADP; the payroll people for the nation. I was taking a class in their Georgia headquarters and we were given access to T1 lines while we were there. T1, T2 and T3 lines are very, very fast. If you've never used one you wouldn't believe how fast they are. And once you have used one you will never get over the fact that you are stuck with third world internet for as long as the corporate ‘persons’ of ATT, Verizon, Comcast and others can milk this cash cow.
What speed do we get? We average download speeds of – 4 mbps. I just checked the speed a minute ago and it was 2.56 mbps. On the 17th at this same time I was able to get 5.04 mbps. AT&T tells me that I can expect UP TO 6 mbps. The speed is not guaranteed and I've never seen it even close to 6. As a nation we are in tenth place among them when measuring download speeds. We average 10.0 mbps. South Korea is #1 with an average of 21.9 mbps
What do I propose? I see the internet as a valuable public utility. Let’s cut the crap. The internet belongs to us; the people. We gave a license to these corporations to operate the internet. We need to take it back and set some rules and guidelines as to how it should operate. This is the Information Age. A time more important in human history than the Industrial Revolution. More important than the printing press and the revolution that followed that invention. This is not the time to deprive the people of their own treasure; the internet. The welfare of the people depends on it. The internet brings us knowledge and that is more important than ships and tanks and guns. We can’t allow knowledge to rest in the hands of corporate ‘persons’. Cities, towns, counties and States should take responsibility and ownership of the internet in the name of the people. It needs to be free, just as the streetlights and streets are ‘free’. The public is already paying for the internet but making that payment to the wrong people. What kind of an internet do you think we could have if we took just half of what we pay the ‘Persons’ now for the service and used it for ourselves?
Will it happen in my lifetime? Will the people of this country and a hundred others finally see that others are taking what is rightfully theirs, the internet, and stealing money from them by charging them to use it?

http://www.netindex.com/download/allcountries/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Internet_connection_speeds

That’s probably enough ranting. If I move on to some other subjects I run the risk of repeating some posting of months or years back. Memory; I miss it so, now that it is gone…

Friday, June 6, 2014

Graduation day

It's been a long time since I last wrote something here. I'm seeing the same thing happening with my Journal. I used to write in  it daily and I would write a full page or more. Now, I'm lucky if I write a paragraph every week. Aging? Of course, everything is aging. From the time I get up in the morning with whimpers until I fall asleep at night with a sigh of relief. Maybe it's the drugs? I have this feeling that I would like to start this pharma experiment over again. Stop all of the various drugs and begin again with just one. But which one?

Still on the subject of aging; at 10 this morning we're going to our grandson's graduation from middle school. He's 13 and the our two youngest grandchildren are 11. In two years they will graduate and go on to high school. We have no babies to pamper! And all of this reminds us of how old we are.

Enough of that...We're still going to the gym on a regular basis and our mental processes seem to be fine enough. I paint all of the time but at a slower pace. I can't stand in one place for a long time without pain. When I paint with acrylics, I need to be standing, as I paint 'large'. I like a big canvas. 24"x24' at a minimum. My dream would be to have a 30'x10' canvas and all the paint I needed. With watercolors, I tend to paint 'small' and I can sit down to do that. Same with oil pastels. Although...painting a big canvas with oil pastels would be great fun! And expensive.

We had company over last night and I was very pleased when one of the guests took me aside when they were leaving and told me that he thought my paintings were beautiful. Now these were very abstract paintings and I had never heard anyone tell me they were beautiful. I had told myself that they were because I saw the beauty in them. For someone else to see what I had seen was most gratifying. And stimulating! I will return to my painting with a renewed sense of purpose.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Tell me

Like Mr. Kuralt, this is a question I have asked many times and I have never received a reply...name one conservative idea or project that moved this country forward? There is no answer possible. Conservatism is all about 'don't' while liberalism is about 'do'!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

odds and ends...again

I checked the obituary page this morning and it appears that I made it through another day. Alright! Do I really read those pages? Yes, I do. It's a morbid interest, I know, but it is interesting to see where I place in the various ages represented there. At 73.5 years of age, I'm approaching the 'average age' for demise.

But I'm trying hard to stay in shape. I'm enrolled in the Senior Wellness program at a local gym and that's a 3 day a week commitment. For approximately 1.75 hours per day. I do do weights and resistance for 30 minutes and the rest of the time is spent in the pool, doing water aerobics. I love that part!

And I'm trying to keep my mind active; I read and I do puzzles all of the time. Plus, I paint. I paint in acrylics, watercolors and oil pastels. I just started the oil pastels and I love the feel of them. I haven't sold many paintings lately... but then again, I haven't had many shows available.

And then there is programming. Our twin grandchildren live in Susanville and that is very poor city. The schools in Lassen County don't offer much in the way of computer science and I know that's something our grandkids will need in their future. The programming that I used to do is obsolete, but I did some research and found 'Scratch', a computer language for kids and it was developed by MIT. Great credentials! So I bought the books for them and had Amazon deliver them right to their door. The kids came down a few weeks ago and we spent some great time together, learning how to use the language. I'm hooked! And I can put together simple programs... a shark chasing a penguin across the screen... then download the project to my computer and email it to them. I ask them to modify the program; have the penguin jump and add an octopus.

I'm guessing that the programming is also helping to keep my mind in good shape. But, if that is true, why do I try and put the salt and pepper in the refrigerator? My sweater in the freezer? I do silly things like that all day long; or so it seems.

Another 'mind' thing. I have become very much attached to the memories I have of my youth. I collect old photos of Manhattan Beach. Old images of Los Angeles. Each image releases a flood of memories and I delight in them!

My collections are all a part of my Asperger's side. I collected songs and I now have, after editing, 26,663 recordings. My art collection, now cataloged, has over 7,000 images. My photo collection, which includes the Manhattan Beach photos, Old Los Angeles, Old Lassen County, Old Westwood, Chico, Old Roseville, etc, etc has over 2,000 images. Luckily, I don't collect cars; I just collect images of each and every make and model ever made.

Speaking of cars. I'm looking for a car that I can get in and out of easily. I have a Ford Ranger and it sits far too high for me now. I bought it before all of my surgeries and now it's a struggle to get into it. I don't drive it very much, maybe 30 miles a week. Whenever I have to take my pain meds, my wife drives me in her car. It's an Altima and very comfortable... once you get in. It's the getting in that's troublesome.

I'm going to go to the local car dealer and tell him what I'm looking for... make, model, color, economy, appearance, horsepower are all things I don't care about. I have to get in and out of it easily. It's that simple.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Seasons

I saw this image of the 'tops' a few days ago and I was reminded of school days. Elementary school days; that was long ago. At our school, Pacific Elementary in Manhattan Beach, there were seasons for our playground fun. There was a time for marbles and a time for yo-yo's. Time for tetherball and time for dodgeball. And then time for tops. Tops and and marbles were the most competitive and personal of games. Marbles were easily lost to a deadly accurate shooter. And tops were easily destroyed in a game where the sharpened spike at the end of the top hit your spinning top. You would take turns with one spinning first and then the other attempting to 'Spike' the spinning top by spinning it directly on top of the hapless top, breaking it in two. I remember being devastated when my brand new top was destroyed by the school bully.

Everything I know about violence in human nature I learned in kindergarten...and elementary school. Well, maybe not all. Some of it I am still learning.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Your Show of Shows

Saturday night with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. I watched this show regularly along with everyone else in the family. I wasn't quite a teenager at the time, though I was one when the show went off the air in 1954.

Imagine 90 minutes of laughs. All on live television! Sid, Imogene and the cast were simply genius! Even now; how many years later? Yes, 60 years has gone by and I still laugh just thinking about some of their skits. Most of the skits. All of the skits! Can you think of anyone alive today that would even consider doing 90 minutes of live comedy before a television audience of millions?

I wish that there were more shows like this available. The Bachelor? You must be kidding! The Biggest Loser? Not even close! I really miss the comedy and there is no show on TV that comes close to the Show of Shows. Saturday night TV is simply boring. Thank goodness for our Amazon account. We're just into the third season of Downton Abbey followed by an hour of Foyle's War. Amazon plus the DVR saves the day...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stormy weather

Our storm? is over. And we added almost 4" to the season rain total. That means that we are only 20" behind where we should be.

A personal storm story; we had gone to bed about 10 after listening to the thunder and watching the heavy rainfall. With my head on the pillow I was all set for sleep...but what was that noise? Was it the dishwasher? My CPAP machine? The freezer? I listened for close to half an hour before I got up to investigate. I looked out the living room window and saw that the back patio was covered in water and it was getting dangerously close to the door. Where was my flashlight? After locating the flashlight, I rolled up the cuffs of my pajamas and stepped out onto the patio; I was looking to see if the drain had become plugged. I shuffled along, trying to stay on the unseen stepping stones. The drain was fine but right next to it was a river of water coming from the land behind us. The river had created a small waterfall and that was the noise I had heard. Well, nothing to be done about it so I went back in and just kept a watch on the water level. About 15 minutes later the water began to creep away from our door. Back to bed.

Okay, I know it's not much of a story. People east of the Rockies have far more dangerous stories to tell. I know, I've been there. Went through a hurricane in 1961. That was in North Carolina and I remember it as being very impressive; watching small trees being uprooted and flying off vertically. Then there was Nor'easter in Connecticut in 1965. Loads of snow! We couldn't get out of our rooms for 3 days. (we were staying in a small inn at Bantam Lake while I worked a construction job in Waterbury) From 1977 to 1987 we lived in Janesville, CA at an altitude of 4,500'. I worked in Reno and drove there every day; 75 miles each way. And I did that summer and winter. I learned to tuck my truck in close behind the 18 wheelers so that they could create a path through the snow. I would use my CB and let them know where I was and I would keep an eye on their rear tires for them...if they weren't spraying water, we were both driving on ice.

Being 73 years old, I could keep telling winter weather stories forever, but I won't. I'm quite content to have a heavy rainfall as my 'big story'.

Now, have you heard about the earthquakes?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Auto Industry

Big news from the Detroit area...

"Thanks to record North American profits, the Detroit automakers plan to hand out checks totaling more than $750 million to about 122,000 workers. Besides Ford’s $8,300, the most ever by a Detroit automaker, Chrysler Group LLC is paying hourly workers $2,250. For new Ford hires, who are paid about half what senior workers make, $8,300 adds 23 percent to their annual compensation of $36,000.
If General Motors Co.’s payout surpasses $7,325 when it reports year-end earnings Feb. 14, that would top the cumulative record of $17,875 set in 1999, when Detroit was awash in sport- utility vehicle profits, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research."
These are Union jobs. Why wouldn't you want to be in a Union? Partners with the industry