Sunday, February 22, 2015


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. 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


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


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


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


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


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 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.