Friday, December 6, 2019

Leaves, leaves, leaves and more leaves

The city of Chico is in the leaf removal business. All the homeowner has to do is rake the leaves up and put them in a pile next to the curb. The city comes along with dump truck and a tractor equipped to scoop up the leaves and put them in the truck. Once filled, the truck then goes to the site where they make compost of it all. This year it seems as if the leaves are overpowering the collectors. They even have a 2 block long space on a nearby road, dedicated to the dumping of leaves. This space is used by the commercial 'mow and blow' people and they fill it up every 2 days. Everywhere I go in the city, the leaves are piled high. We have a landscaper that comes by twice a year; fall & winter, to collect leaves and cleanup, then in February he will prune all the trees and shrubs. He left us yesterday with his trailer piled high with our leaves. And our trees, the neighbors trees and ? any other trees are still dropping leaves. It never ends...

Positively

I would like to be positive. Really, I would like to be.  But it is proving to be  difficult, as all of the news I get from my doctors is negative and my body just keeps falling apart. That wonderful life I enjoyed while working in construction keeps coming back to bite me. I know I've said it before, but I worked in the drywall & steel stud trade. I worked almost exclusively in commercial work, such as hospitals, office buildings and high rise buildings. Of course, I smoked. I had been since I was 17. I joined the Navy when I was 19, and smoking with a cup of coffee in hand is an old Navy tradition. Well, the coffee is for sure. I quit smoking about 40 years ago, but some damage was already done. The commercial work did even more damage to my lungs. Now I have COPD and I'm enrolled in a Pulmonary Rehab program at the local hospital. 3 times a week I can be found doing exercises with a small group of others with COPD or worse lung problems. We also do balance exercises, such as standing for 30 seconds with your feet heel to toe. I have to be next to something solid that I can hold onto while we do this. I try not to hold on, but after 10, 15 seconds I have to grab it. And I can only think of what I used to do, up high on a building, walking across narrow beams or standing on the edge of the building while holding a panel as the crane operator slowly swung it towards you while the wind tried to take it away.  I would have died if I had the sense of balance I have now. Now, in the exercise room, with both feet solidly on the carpet, I am probably the only one there that sees the ground, 100' below him.
On a different subject; I am spending most days collecting and filing old photo files of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. That includes the Los Angeles Aqueduct project, all the way up to the Mono Basin and Mono Lake. I probably have over 6,000 images filed away and I continue to find more of them. I know that sounds like OCS, but, it's actually autism. I found a website, Water and Power Associates, and they have thousands of images. And they have little nuggets of history along with the photos. But, there is a problem with all of this. My expensive (at the time) MacBook Pro is failing; and I have most of my photos on it. First, the Photos program stopped working altogether. Oh no! I researched on-line for a cure, for days without success. Then, I tried a simple hint and rebooted into Safe mode, opened Photos, closed it and then rebooted. Photos came back! Great news but a week later I lost all of my keyboard shortcuts, such as Cmd-C for Copy and Cmd -V for paste.

Plus all of the rest. I tried rebooting again. It worked...for about 2 weeks.Reboot again and this time it was cured for about a week. Now, it only works for a day or two. The Photos program is shaky but it is working 90% of the time. In the meantime, I am trying to move all of the rest of my photo files (36,000) to a stand alone hard drive with 4 TB of space. I would move them onto a new MacBook Pro, but the price is prohibitive. The same computer is now $500 more than what I paid, 5 years ago.

Here on the right is a 1910 photo of the steam pump belonging to Los Angeles Fire Dept. Engine Company #9 as it is pulled out of the fire house by 3 sturdy fire horses. I love these old photos, and I am sad that I never took very many photos of where I was working during my 48 year career. I have a blog "Working" and I have hopes that my children & grandchildren will read it someday. While I was working, I never seemed to have time to talk to my children about all of the things I did. They knew what I did, in a vague sort of way. my middle daughter worked for me as a secretary during the big Sierra Pacific Power Co, job. But most of the time she was stuck in our jobsite trailer, filing correspondence. My son worked for a fastener sales company, where for a year or so he sold screws, shots and pins for powder actuated fasteners, plus an assortment of safety equipment. Again, his exposure to my kind of work was limited. My blog isn't complete, but it is a good description of what I did for a living. I know I would have loved to know what my mom and dad did, before and after I was born in 1940. And my grandparents; I only know the titles for the work they did. One grandfather was a 'Timber Cruiser' in Minnesota and later, a farmer in Oregon. My other grandfather worked for a finance company, GM Acceptance Corp. I have the gold watch he received. But I would rather have his story...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

So much...

...to think about these days. We have a pig in the White House and other pigs scattered throughout the upper echelons of government. He has to go... Hopefully, those that protest but never vote, will see that it's a mistake to never vote and will come out and do their civic duty.
Civic duty is something that's rarely heard anymore. Maybe we need a law that makes voting mandatory. Australia does. And the citizens haven't rioted there. And if we had a program like the Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC, once again, I believe everyone would have a better idea of what civic duty was.
Perhaps compulsory military service would help us become a better nation. I know that not all can be soldiers or sailors, but all could be of service.
Many years ago, I volunteered to be a sailor. I joined the Navy. I stood before the flag and swore to preserve and protect the Constitution. This Country. I missed the Vietnam war by just a hair breadth. And I knew that the war was a mistake, a terrible mistake. If I had been held in Service for another month, I would have gone to that war. And as an E-5 HM2, attached to the Marine Corps, my survival chances would have been low. My wife and I were very much afraid, waiting for that letter from the Navy command that would recall me to service. Now, when I see or hear someone bragging about their patriotism, I wonder if they have ever gone to the recruiting office to volunteer for military service? If they have not, their patriotism is hollow. Patriots don't brag.
I was just reading about the tragedy in Japan. A tragedy that is rarely talked about. Because of the Fukushima disaster, Japan shut down all of their nuclear power plants and now use coal and gas to power the plants. Their carbon output went from the low 60% and is close to 90%. The U.S. is not much better off. Ever since the accident at 3 Mile Island, politicians have placed their heads in the sand and ignored common sense and science. No new nuclear power plants since then.
I was writing about a tragedy, and the tragedy is the number of deaths caused by lung disease. Preventable deaths. Unfortunately, we can't see the contaminants in the air. Contaminants produced by carbon powered generation  plants. Still, seen or unseen, they end up in our lungs where they build up until they shut down the alveoli that are part of the mechanism that transfers oxygen to our blood.
There are already plenty of people warning us about these dangers, still we refuse to look at nuclear power as the clean source of power. Accidents happen. People die. So why haven't we outlawed motor vehicles and mandated the use of bicycles? Ignorance is the cause for the accidents and that can be remedied; much as we are reducing the cause of motor vehicle accidents and deaths by mandating safer vehicles. Blah, blah, blah...it's all just noise until the politicians take their heads out of the sand and pay attention to the scientists.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Time really goes by...in a hurry!

It's hard to believe that 4 months have gone by since my last post here. In that time I did post some things to my Working blog, though I seem to have completed a written history of my working life there. I should say that I really enjoyed working. I suppose that's easy to say from the refuge of the retired life. I suppose there is some truth to that...
I started working early, as my parents were not giving me any additional funds beyond my .25 cents a week allowance. And I did not get the allowance unless I helped with the dishes; that's washing or drying. I had to take the trash out and clean my room, at least once a week. And...I had to mow the lawns. Of course I felt put upon, and I was certain that no other child was so mistreated as I was. But, my parents didn't budge. Instead they suggested ways for me to make money by working for others. I began by mowing lawns for neighbors. And it was at that point that I began my working life. rounds
My wife and I had similar working backgrounds, though she is 3 years younger. I like to think that created a culture within our small family where working was expected of our children. They are now middle aged and my oldest daughter has a grandchild. And all 3 of them have been and continue to be successful. My daughters have always held 2 jobs, raising children while running a household, and they worked outside the house as well. My oldest was a Single mother while earning her degree from the University here. My son didn't follow me into construction, which was a good thing. He has been an amazing single-dad, working full time while raising his twins from infancy; they are now starting their Junior year in high school.
I don't think all of this was good luck, I really believe it's genetic in origin. And when I read the stories of my grandparents, great grandparents and beyond, I am certain of it. So I have to thank some nameless ancestor for all that has come to us. He, more likely she, gave us the gene to pass along and we have.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Enough about me...

Let me talk about my granddaughter, Abby. I may have mentioned, a long time ago?, that she was struck with a terrible affliction, Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM. She was one of 100+ people in the US that were affected by it that year. And the statistics for the number of cases of AFM are very much the same, year after year. She was 13 at the time, and was going to be a freshman in high school in the fall, when she woke up early one morning, in great pain, and unable to move her legs. A long story, but after a wild ride in an ambulance for 2+ hours (the weather kept the airplane grounded) she arrived at UC Davis Medical Center where she was stabilized and then given this this terrible diagnosis. Weeks later and she was moved across the street to the Shriners Hospital for Children. More therapy and more pain for her. She remained smiling and very brave throughout all of this, though she saw her place on the high school volleyball team disappear and her weekly visits to Reno for gymnastics were gone. She was given her first wheelchair and adapted to it quickly and began her new life in high school.

Three plus years have now gone by and Abby just finished up her third year of camp with Ability First. This group leads a camp for children with disabilities and it's been a miracle worker for Abby. She changed immediately after her first camp. She came back with a 'can do' spirit that never left her. She now has a drivers license and car with hand controls. She is a member of the Track and Field team for the high school where she competes in Discus and Shot Put. At her second year of camp, she was given a scholarship for a brand new, custom made, Box chair. Mike Box is well known for his wheelchairs for athletes. She made a trip to Texas to compete in some wheelchair basketball games with her new chair. This year, in camp, she was able to master the single water ski (it has a chair) without any help at all. I have a video of her jumping the wake many times as the boat went down the lake. When she got home from camp, she and her father put her new racing wheelchair together. Her father had applied for a grant to buy this chair and this will enable her to become a full member of the Track and Field team. This week she returns to Texas for more basketball. She has one more year of Ability First camp before she is aged out at age 18, but they have already asked her to return as part of the staff for camp. She has been an inspiration and friend for many of the younger campers.

During the past 3 years there have been many more stories and tears along with the smiles. That's life, isn't it? As her grandfather, I would give anything to see her walking and running once again. But that's not going to happen. And she knows it, so she is moving forward with her life. She has the beginnings of a photography business; she has an eye for design and art. And I need to include the fact that she and her date went to the Senior Ball this year!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Time does go by...

I was reminded of a blog that I once followed faithfully, Time Goes By written by Ronni Bennet. During the time I wasn't reading her blog, she managed to fight off pancreatic cancer, surviving a major surgery in the process. Yes, time happens to us all. And I was reminded of that last night when I went to the local high school gym to watch my granddaughter play a game of indoor rugby in a wheelchair. The Chico State University rugby team were in wheelchairs temporarily while my granddaughter is in hers permanently. This is her third year attending the Ability First camp that arranges a full week of physical activity for a group of young people (under 18) that wouldn't normally be able to do. Waterskiing, tennis and rugby are just some of the activities. These kids come alive! But, I was unable to make it through the whole game. The pain in my hip was unrelenting and the heat and humidity undid me! My wife took me home. That's when I started thinking about the fact that it was just 11 years ago that I first felt the hip pain that changed my life. I was circling the park, training for my 6th marathon when I felt it. Within weeks the pain increased. I saw a doctor and he sent me to see another doctor. I had x-rays and MRI's, plus a few CT scans. Then a second opinion. The pain continued to increase. I saw pain specialists and acupuncturists. Still, the pain increased. It was soon unbearable. Then a surgery. The pain abated for a few weeks and then returned as I became more active. Another surgery. Pain was reduced but not gone. Another surgery for a spinal cord stimulator installation. Later, another surgery move it to a different location. Finally, another surgery to remove it altogether. The pain remains. Without the constant exercise that racing demanded, COPD showed up. And time went by....
Now I'm an elder that feels sorry for himself too often. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Black and White

I have been collecting digital photos and images for a long time now. I have 32,461 of them filed and identified. I have more that have not been filed and I have hopes of getting that done before I leave. I think there must be another 10,000, scattered throughout my electronic devices. Plus, I am not through collecting them. Being autistic, it's something to do.

I just finished collecting and filing away a large trove of photos of the Saline Valley and the the industry there. First, the Saline Valley is a the location of a fairly large and very shallow salt lake. This valley is located in a very remote section of Eastern California. There is a mountain range, the Inyo mountains, between this lake and Owens Lake; now a dry lake that the city of Los Angeles sucked dry. At the time of my story here, Owens Lake was full of water and had a steamship making runs from one end to the other.

In the early 1900's, some businessmen saw a market for the salt in this remote location. No one, that they knew of, lived there and there was only one, very bad road road, in and out of the valley. But, tramways were being used to transport ore in the gold and silver mining districts throughout California and Nevada; there didn't seem to be any reason not to do the same thing with salt. There was just one barrier, the Inyo Mountains. The tram would have to climb up 7,000 feet on one side and descend 5,000 feet on the other (Owens Lake) side. To make it even more difficult, it couldn't be in a straight line. They would have to build 'Crossover Stations' wherever the tramway had to change direction. Since this was in the earliest part of the 20th century, almost everything would be hand built and built of wood. All constructed without the benefit of tools, such as saws and drills, that were powered by electricity. They also had to build 'Dead Men', which were large wooden structures that, once they were filled with rocks for weight, were designed to hold the cable and the other structures - down, and in place.  The weight of the cable, plus the salt and the gondolas, could rip the supporting structures apart when traveling down a ravine before heading back up.   

The website that holds all of this history and much more, can be found at this link
It's an amazing website that does a good job of covering the story of the Owens Valley without becoming mired in the drama of the Los Angeles theft of the valley's water resources. As I said earlier, I collect old b&w photos for my personal use, and I would bet that I found 500 photos throughout the website. The photos elicit great memories for me as I have traveled up and down El Camino Sierra for many years. My Dad would take me to Twin Lakes each year for the Sierra Trout Season Opening Day. We would stop at most of the small towns along the way. He would recount to me the abuses of the Japanese Relocation to Manzanar. Manzanar is Spanish for 'the place for apples'. I doubt there are are any apple trees left. He took me to an 'upside down' Tungsten mine  just outside of Bishop, where you enter at the bottom and take the elevator to various levels of the mine. As a family, I have taken them to Mono Lake and camping at Twin Lakes. Technically, these places are not in the Owens Valley, but they are in my heart.

http://www.owensvalleyhistory.com/saline_tramway1/page50a.html

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Now, where am I?

I was engaged in one of my favorite things to do this morning, looking for memories by searching through old photos on the many webpages for the Owens Valley. I came across this link for historical maps put out by the USGS. On that website they have an amazing number of old topo maps, all in a PDF format, or in XML for Excel spreadsheets. I picked one at random, a map of the Doyle, CA area, one of three. That's a portion of it on the right. It looks just like one of the paper maps of that area that I bought about 40 years ago. I guess that makes it historical, now I have to wonder, am I historical as well?
Probably not. I do remember having a large roll of these maps stashed behind the seat of my pickup truck and I would use one or another of them on most weekends, when I would be out exploring in Lassen County. If I were going to be in an area that I had no map for, I would buy it at one of the big sporting goods stores in Reno. If I couldn't find it that way, I would send away for it at the USGS headquarters in Washington, D.C. I would usually buy two or three maps of the adjoining areas, just in case! My collection of maps grew steadily, and more and more fragile as the years went by. I used a lot of cellophane tape on those maps, just to keep them useable.
The downloads are  very fast and are free. I have not tried pried printing them, in any case, I don't have a large format printer, so the best I could do would produce legal sized map. Still, that's all I need for my travels while sitting on this couch.  Here is the link again...







Thursday, May 9, 2019

There's always a critic!

And that would be me. I wish it wasn't true, but I do tend to see everything in a critical light. It's part of my deep cynicism and yesterday that criticism was being projected at some 'artwork' at our local community art gallery. It was a new show in a yearly series, where 3 artists are given gallery exposure for perhaps the first time. This years artists were certainly different from what we have seen in the past. One 'artist' had suspended 8 sections of a white picket fence gate from the ceiling. They were parallel and about 3 feet apart. They were about 5' long and had hinge and latches on them; they were suspended so that they just touched the floor. There was no explanation for them. They simply 'were'. A second artist had used quotes from famous people and had pasted marked up photos onto dinner plates. The images were supposed to be a comment on the quotations. There might have been 10 of the plates hanging on a short section of the wall. The images and the quotation combined were very humorous, but that is all that they were. Another artist had used colored pencil to draw homoerotic images of himself. He had great skill in his use of colored pencils. But,  I saw far too much of the artist and nothing that showed skill in the making of art.

I know that criticising art is dangerous...but someone has to do it!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hard work

I'm just back from my hour at the gym and as usual, my muscles are overwhelmed by the whole experience. We go to a fairly large gym, but it does have a Senior Wellness program where you can use a limited amount of equipment and only 3 days a week, for 4 hours each day. All for a limited price. We decided to join about 7 years ago and it has become a good habit for us. Before all of my mishaps and hospital stays, I would use the gym for 2 and 1/2 hours and then the pool for water aerobics and another 45 minutes. 4 or 5 years ago I had become very fit and I was quite proud of it. "Pride goeth before a fall" is the saying I remember and it certainly applies to me. After attending a pulmonary rehab program for 8 weeks I knew I had to get back into shape. It has been challenging to say the least. I get onto the treadmill and begin walking. About 6 weeks ago I was walking at 2.4 mph for 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes on a device called a NuStep. All cardio/pulmonary exercises. I am finally up to 2.9 mph and have switched to resistance machines to gain some muscles. All the  time that I am exercising, I am monitoring my pulse and my blood oxygen levels. My pulse is coming back to its old levels of 80 to 85 after 30 minutes on the treadmill. Back when I was doing marathons, I was able to keep my pulse at 80 for close to the entire race. But that was 'then' and then was 13 years ago.

Gyms are funny places once you get past the intimidation period. Gym are usually crowded and noisy with some people sweating over weights while you hear the 'clang' of dropped weights. There's lots of 'posing' in front of mirrors while muscles are flexed. But, if you get past that and stick around for awhile, you see that there is a lot more to the gym. There are people in their 90's here along with a crowd aged 30+. There are lots of overweight and unfit citizens as well as people using walkers. And there's me; aged, long gray hair and using a cane. And, while you use the treadmill, you get an elevated view of the gym and its occupants for 30 minutes. If you are a 'people watcher' this is a great place for it. I think I could write a book about the people and their habits. For instance, there are the 'Fitness Flit'ers' that flit from one machine to the next, never staying longer than 2 minutes. I watch them, wondering if they will ever land on one they like. They usually travel in pairs and have headphones attached to their phones. At the same time they carry on a lengthy conversation with their fellow Flit'er. Some people come to occupy a machine while they fiddle with their phones, listening to music or a podcast. They never exercise. Then there are those that love to gather in larger groups, 4 or 5, and discuss world events or whatever, all sitting on or draped across the equipment and using very loud voices. And then there's me...I don't know what group others would put me in, but I'm sure I have been categorized by someone watching, just as I do.       

Monday, April 8, 2019

Very Colorful

My photos are being printed at Costco, even as I type. The 5x7 photos are the end product of my integrating Sketchbook and Rebelle software with my imagination. I have published a dozen or more of the 26 prints on my Instagram page, where I hope to get some favorable comments on them. Even unfavorable comments will be accepted gratefully; as long as they are not from any of the "Haters" that seem to infest the 'net these days.

I'm hoping to see what kind of a market there might be for some of these 5x7's to be printed on a 16x20 sheet of aluminum. The process of printing on aluminum seems to give the image a glow, not seen when processing on photographic paper.

Printing on aluminum is not cheap, so if I sell some of them that cost has to be covered as well...as well as for my talent!

On another subject; my youngest granddaughter. She is confined to a wheelchair and has been for close to 2 1/2 years. She started her high school freshman year in that chair and she will graduate in it. She will have her drivers license this week or maybe it was last week? She does have an older Explorer with hand controls, so she will be just as mobile as her twin brother. About two weeks ago we were able to see her when the high school track team made the long journey down out of the mountains to compete in a local high school invitational meet. Yes, she is on the track team, a  junior varsity discus and shotput member of the team. At the end of the day she had her personal best discus throw but she was unhappy with her shotput attempts. A few days later we got the news that she had just received a grant for a racing wheelchair and had been measured for it. It will be built for her and she will be on the track team next year, as well as the field sports. She is one happy young woman. And she has plenty of reason for that; last summer, at the camp for challenged youth, she received a scholarship for a custom chair, built for sports such as basketball and indoor rugby. That's now her daily wheelchair. It's a good thing that her Explorer has enough room in it for her two chairs and all of her sports gear. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Amazing. Simply Amazing.

"The Report" has been given to the Justice Dept. No one else. The Attorney General has delivered a 4 page recap of the findings as he sees them. That's it. More and more of the Trumpians, including Trump, have decided. They don't need to know anymore. If the Democrats don't roll over, as they are wont to do, the fight has just begun. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

What a waste...of time and energy.

I'm referring to my last post where I complained about the idiot in charge. It hurts my head  to complain about him. I can complain all I want but nothing will change until the people of this country gather up the courage we need to change it. The Democrats have entered into their self-destruction mode, as they usually do, just when we need them. How long ago was it that I left that party? At least 15 years ago. And when I left them, I did not make a turn to the Right. I'm not stupid!

I started the morning a little differently than usual. I watched a YouTube video of one abstract artist interviewing another abstract artist about the process of abstract painting...for them. I am an abstract artist, so I was able to relate to the conversation. The interview lasted a little over 48 minutes, so a lot was covered in that time. One thing that stuck with me was how and why they loved to paint 'Large'. That is something I crave. I have 3 or 4 canvases that are approximately 3'x4' and that is as big as I have been able to afford. One of those canvases is sitting on my easel right now. But...I can't paint in my studio anymore; or, at least for now.  My constant hip pain makes standing at an easel for any length of time, next to impossible. I may have mentioned once before that I have been painting digitally/electronically. I have a couple of good programs on my computer and after I have 'painted', I will send the files (jpg or bmp) to Costco to be printed as a 5x7 photo. Then I review them and go back to the original file to make any corrections I think they need. I have framed some of the good ones and have them hanging around the house. At the end of last year I became brave enough to order a larger print of a painting. My sister had seen one of my 5x7's and told me how much she liked it, so I decided to print it on 16x20 aluminum. It was outstanding! I used Costco for this printing and they do a nice job of it, adding a French cleat all of the way way around the back of it. I sent it off to her and she was thrilled to see it. But...16x20 is as big as Costco will print on aluminum. I will have to search around town to see if anyone else is doing larger prints on aluminum.

Money is the problem, as it always is. A 5x7 photo is about .60 cents and a 16x20 print is $60. With no refunds if it didn't turn out as you had hoped. A 3'x4' canvas can be $50, but, if it doesn't turn out as you wished, you cover it with gesso and start over.

So, the hunt is on to find another painting worthy of a $60 gamble. I have been going through my files and picking out some that might make the cut. Those I will tweak and print once more as a 5x7 photo print to see if I am on the right track. I am also painting some from scratch to see if I can come up with the magic to make them candidates as well. My one software program, Rebelle 3.2, allows me to tilt my 'canvas' and let the 'paint' flow in any direction I want. I can put as much paint as I want on my brush and I can wet the canvas as well as dry it. I can use acrylics, watercolors, oils, pastels and airbrush, by themselves or in combinations. I have thousands of brushes to choose from and I can choose the opacity as well as the pressure. I can use my other program, SketchBook, along with Rebelle. Each has their strengths and each is very powerful on its own. Now I have a third program and that's Affinity Photo; a poor man's Photoshop. I can use that to correct the image. No, you don't push a key and get a painting. You actually have to work at it and it's a lot of work. The big advantage you have with digital painting is that you don't have to get paint out of your hair or off of your clothes. And it doesn't smell.

Krista Harris Interview 
     

Friday, February 15, 2019

Emergency?

What a terrible day. Trump/Hannity have gone too far. Once again... when will Congress remind him that he is but 1/3 of the power in our government. Will the people have to remind him? After all, the people are the ultimate power in this country. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

And another month is well upon us

Another month and new beginnings for me. I finished my 8 weeks of Pulmonary Rehabilitation and I know how to breathe now; it's in through your nose and out through your mouth with your lips pursed. That's hard to turn that into an unconscious habit. But, I'm trying.

I also began driving once more. My pain hasn't left me but I am well aware of any deficiencies I might have after taking pain meds and I'm comfortable with that. Being able to drive again gives me an incredible feeling of freedom. I don't go very far, just to the gym and back  3 times a week. And I go to the Art Center once a week. A distance of 4.5 miles. The gym has made me stronger but I have a long way to go if I want to make it back to my prior life. I started Rehab by walking at 1.2 mph on the treadmill. In 8 weeks I was able to double that and that - 2.4 mph - is where I am. I use a pulse oximeter every few minutes while exercising and it's my blood oxygen levels that I watch. When they get down to 91, I slow down a notch until I have it back into the range of 93 - 95. Because of my prior marathon training, my pulse rarely goes over 85. The last time I was in the gym, before I ended up in the hospital a few times, I was doing 4 mph and going up a 3 % grade with no problem.

The valley is free of smoke these days and there is talk of rebuilding Paradise after the Camp Fire. I would be surprised if that idea had more than a few followers. The fire exposed a lot of sins in its path. No sewers is a big one. There is the rebuilding of there water service. And there were numerous illegal dwellings as well as roads to serve those houses. Building codes weren't always enforced. I am reminded of the fire every morning when I open the door to let the cat out; the early morning air smells like a fire that has been extinguished with water. 

I was using my nebulizer a little while ago, something I do 3 times a day using Albuterol to expand the airways of my lungs. As I was using it I was reminded of my mother having one for me when I was quite young and had asthma. The nebulizer was made of glass. The one I use today is made from some type of medical grade plastic. I was struck by the fact that we didn't have plastic in the early 40's. I'm sure there was some kind of plastic around then but it wasn't an ordinary consumer item. Bakelite was a type of plastic material and one of its uses was making jewelry, such as bracelets. I 1940 Ford had no plastic except for the Bakelite used for the distributor, coil and other parts that were in close contact with electricity. I am sure I have forgotten some other uses but I do know that plastics were not commonplace and glass was. Every once in awhile I will see some current use object and then find out that it has been around for longer than I have. I am always surprised...

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A new month

A few good things to report; I have been going to Pulmonary Rehab and I have just one week left. I am stronger and I have lost about 6 pounds. I have also started going back to the gym on the days when I am not going to Rehab. All good. Some negatives; it's very difficult to finish the tax preparations as we are missing some vital statements. They will show up eventually and the reason they are late mailing them is the complex Tax bill that benefitted only a few. No Congressman looked at this bill, investigated it to see what was in it. They were all Republican loyalists, representing only themselves. This will go on for years unless we can elect Representatives & Senators with ethics.

I was looking through Flickr this morning; looking for photos of the local area. I found a local professional photographers (Anthony Dunn) Flickr page and saw some great photos that I can use. It wasn't until I was near the end, that I saw a photo of his address. It was in Paradise. He had photos of his house and it was located deep in the forest. He had a lot of equipment, including a drone for his aerial shots. There were no current photos, so I don't know if he and his house survived. I will post some of the photos here. 




This is Bidwell Park in the Fall. I used to train in the park back in those days when I did marathons for a hobby. It's a huge park and it would take me an hour or more to go around the park at a 13 minute mile pace. And that was just Lower Park. Upper Park is much larger.








This is a bridge over Big Chico Creek in Bidwell Park. The bridge is made with Cor-Ten steel and is naturally a rust brown color. It won't rust and will remain this color without the need for paint. There are 3 of these bridges in the park that I know of.       









This is a great shot of the Big Chico Creek in the Fall. All of these photos were taken and posted on Flickr by Anthony Dunn. I can only hope that he he survived; as well as his house and property. 



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

So much has happened

November, December and now January. All passed without my posting a thing. I just took a look at my last few posts in 2018 and I can now see where I have to pick up.
In November (and December) I was just going through the motions. My pain was constant and not controllable. I was taking drugs and using a nebulizer to help with my COPD. Christmas came and went and during that time I resolved to join the patients at the Pulmonary Rehab center at the Enloe Hospital. Also during this time in November, the Camp Fire started in Paradise. This mountain town is just 30 minutes away by car and about 10 minutes in a straight line. We had spent a week or two  looking for a house in Paradise before getting smart and moving to Orland. We had seen all the narrow and twisting roads leading to houses with great views. We were tempted, and then we remembered our friends in Janesville, where we first lived in N. California. These friends were members of the US Forest Service and CDF, the California Dept of Forestry; now Cal Fire. They all lived away from the forest and out on high desert land just to the north of our forested land. We had a house on 8 acres of trees and there was only one paved road out of there. They warned us of the dangers. We remembered that about 30 years later.
Back to November...The fire started in the morning and we saw the large plume of smoke almost immediately. Looking to the south/east that plume soon blotted out the sun. By mid afternoon we had to turn all the living room lights on. The news reports were very sketchy and the reporters were very nervous. Soon the fire swept through Paradise and continued heading north towards us and east to complete the devastation of Paradise. I stayed by the television all night and into the early morning, watching and listening the progress of the fire. At one point the fire came into Chico, about 6 miles away from us and so I was not going to go to bed. We had all of our important papers out of the safe and ready to put in the car.
 This picture was taken looking over the corner of our garage at 3 in the afternoon. We were scared. We are both from Southern California and know all about wildfires and how fast they move. We have been scared before. I once watched a smoke plume in the distance turn into a menace within an hour. I had to tell my crew we had to leave before it got to us. As we got on the freeway, the CHP officer told me not to slow down and don't stop for anything. I passed a truck drivers trying to push flaming bales of cotton off his trailer. The center divider was burning and smoke was thick. Once clear, I headed home and as I drove into the Valley, I could see smoke and flames on the ridge to the north. That fire raced along the ridge and turned south, I met it again at the far end of the valley after driving for 30 minutes. I got through the smoke and the flames continued on into Malibu and down to the sea.
Here, the Camp Fire was finally contained after days of no progress. Air tanker flights were almost continuous over our house. But once contained, the damage was being assessed and it was monumental. 86 people died in terrible ways. Most were elderly as Paradise had always been a retirement community and housing had been cheap. Infrastructure was almost non-existent here and roads and houses had often 'just happened'. There were no sewers and water service depended on a community lake/reservoir. They had a police dept and they contracted their fire protection to Cal Fire, as many small towns here do. And Cal Fire had always been worried about this town. They saw it as a disaster waiting to happen. Yet, there was very little they could do to change things.
Now the fire is out but there is a new slow moving disaster happening. The City of Chico grew by 20,000 homeless citizens overnight. Most have moved on to friends or relatives. Making new lives. Some were able to buy houses in the area, but very few were available. There are about 600 to 1,000 people left living in tents, cars or campers, all in the County fairgrounds. The Red Cross said they were through and now local agencies are struggling. Traffic is horrendous. Shopping is difficult.
Yes, a lot has changed and it continues. 
  

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

I've voted-

-about a week ago. My ballot is already in the office of the County Registrar. I have been voting by mail since the mid 90's and can't imagine doing it any other way. The last time I used a voting booth, it was for a national election and that voting 'booth' was a cheap cardboard and canvas affair that offered no real privacy; no space or time to contemplate the decisions I was about to make. This 'booth' was located in the garage space of the local volunteer fire department for Janesville California; a town with no traffic signals and most houses had no number addresses. Okay, it was quaint, I will give you that, but after watching the election officials at work, I was in no way certain that my vote would ever be counted correctly or...at all. The officials were all close to the age of 90 and they seemed to be struggling with the process. By the time another election rolled around we had moved and I was able to use an 'Absentee' ballot. I continued to do that for many years, even when I was at home.

Before retiring, I worked for a large international construction company, with headquarters in Lenexa KS. I had to visit there quite often as our small group was headquartered nearby at Bonner Springs and over time I became well acquainted with that part of Kansas/Missouri; especially Johnson County KS. And that County impressed me because of their voting rules. Voting was actively encouraged! Voters were given a week or more to cast a ballot...I just checked with the Johnson County website and voting began Oct 22nd and will end on Nov 3rd. Then one day of voting again on Nov 6th. That adds up to 2 weeks of voting opportunity. 

Before giving me grief because of my criticism of 90+ year olds and their abilities, please know that I am 78 years old and I don't believe that I should be entrusted with anyones ballot. Vote by mail and a clerk in the Registrar's office will handle the process competently. Please, don't trust me or anyone older than I am to handle your ballot.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Independent

Independent. That's me. I may have said this once before but since I am unable to dredge the memory up...it didn't happen. Now that I'm in my late 70's, memory denial is handy!

Back to being independent; I have been an independent voter for at least 20 years. I became independent after many years of watching the ever increasing antics of both parties. My reasoning is this; if I were to remain a Democrat, I would be subscribing to the party and all of it's faults as well as any good it might do. Those faults were embarrassing to me and I had no part in them. It was the same with the Republicans, and the Peace and Freedom party, the Socialists and...all of them. None of them were even close to being squeaky clean!

After watching that Kavanaugh debacle I can only conclude that I had made a good choice. Was there even one good actor amongst the lot of them? I believe Dr. Ford was the only one. And I do not know if she belongs to any Party...Judge Kavanaugh was the one that was screaming out his Party affiliation.
  
What I saw reinforced my conclusion that there must be an age limit for these clowns. 65 should be the age for mandatory retirement for Senators and CongressClowns, and their brethren in black robes, the Justices. Or tie their retirement age to that of Commercial pilots. We mandate a certain retirement age for pilots because they have the health & safety of 100's of passengers resting on their shoulders. And our lawmakers? They have the health & safety of millions depending on them. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A quiet Saturday

My sister and brother in law have made their way back to their home in Cave Creek AZ where once more they will be surrounded by Trump-ites. They must grin and bear it. Since we live in a 'Red' county, it was a pleasure for us all (4) to be among like minded folks. It doesn't happen often enough.

I'm still in 'recovery mode' after my last hospital stay. I only use use oxygen at night, piped into my CPAP  machine. I use a nebulizer 2 or 3 times a day and I keep an eye on blood oxygen levels. I hope to be able to get back to the gym next month. My pain situation hasn't changed much and that's a good thing only because my opioid consumption is still legal...but barely. I just read that the Congress, in their infinite wisdom, wishes to stop all opioid consumption. Some doctors are touting a plan called Pain Acceptance. Here is a description of this marvelous therapy.

Pain acceptance is the process of giving up the struggle with pain and learning to live life despite painAcceptance is associated with lower levels of pain, disability and psychological distress. Relatively little is known, however, about how patients arrive at a state of acceptance without the aid of therapy.

"Relatively little is known" ? And this is how they expect to treat patients? People without pain get to walk around that way, live their life, 24 hours a day, with no pain except for the usual headache now and then...while I am supposed to just accept my lot in life? Even though there is an imperfect drug to give me relief? A drug I have been managing safely for close to 11 years now? If that becomes reality I will have to do something other than Accepting  it. I don't know what it will be. It won't be heroin or Fentanyl, (a doctor gave me Fentanyl once...never again!)  although I would bet the sales of those two drugs will skyrocket, as well as arrests for possession. Prisons will have to learn how to manage prisoners with severe disabilities and pain. But, here is the good part; Doctors and Congress will be able to congratulate each other on another job well done.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Been there and done that #1

This summer has not been kind to us. Life was humming along; I was going to the gym 3 times a week and using the treadmill for 30 minutes and 1.5 miles. My hip pain was still present and the DEA said I couldn't take more than 4 a day. My prescription was for 6 a day but I could see where this was going and I had already dropped my usage to 2 a day. This made my 30 minutes particularly painful. But I persevered, hoping that yet another pain specialist would be able to stop the pain. He could not.
Then, about a month ago, I woke up, totally confused as to where and who I was. I just wanted to lay down again but this person (my wife) kept shouting at me. She finally persuaded me to get in the car, At the hospital I was taken in and they found that I was oxygen starved. Testing gave me a diagnosis of pneumonia. I have no idea as to where that came from! I was admitted and given huge amounts of antibiotics along with steroids. In 3 days I was told that I could leave.  Which was fine with me; I could write a dozen blog posts about hospitals!
After a few days of home living I began to have a cough and it was increasingly hard to  get a full breath. Then, 6 days ago, I was really struggling to get a breath and we decided that it was time for another trip to the hospital. A pulmonologist became my primary doctor and he took a sample of sputum and cultured it, to find that antibiotics were next to useless and the drug to take was a sulfa type. Very old school....but it worked and I improved daily. After 5 days I was released from the tender mercies of the local hospital. I came home yesterday and now, you can find me by following the green oxygen tubing that decorates the floor.
I have oxygen for all of my sleeping times; running at 2 liters (per minute or hour?) and I monitor my blood oxygen level hourly. I also use a nebulizer to get the drugs deeper into my bronchial tubes. Luckily, my costs are covered by Medicare and AARP.  I do know that we would be looking at selling our house to avoid bankruptcy. Just to complicate things, I have become a neurological puzzle and found that typing helps me to communicate. I have neurologist and will see him soon. And I need to see my urologist. And the DEA has determined that I should not have more than 3 Norco a day.
Yes, I have been there and done that in the hospital. And I don't want to do it again!

Friday, June 8, 2018

The oh so popular opioid wars

I think I'm about to be a victim of those wars. The facts are this; I use opioids, Norco, and have for ten years or more. I have had 4 different surgeries on my back and those surgeries were successful in that they reduced the amount of intense pain that drove me to see a surgeon. Reduced is not the same as gone. Various levels and types of narcotics were used in the fight to eliminate the pain. Some of them, such as Fentanyl were tried and never repeated. It did eliminate the pain but it left me in a stupor. I was given Norco and that seemed to dull the pain without a lot of side effects. Because of kidney problems I wasn't able to use any of the NSAIDs. My prescription said I could take 1 or 2 every 4 hours. and for at least 8 years I have been doing just that and keeping track of each and every dose in a small notebook. I now have a pile of notes with date and dose written on them. I take four 75% of the time and two for the rest. There are rare times when I need 6. I review the notes every once in awhile and I see a lot more six Norco days back in the beginning. As expected, the Norco became less effective over time and instead of taking more, the doctor prescribed a timed release morphine drug that I take twice a day. With that dosage I was able to go back to the gym and start regaining some lost muscle mass and cardio benefits. Also I was beating back the advance of COPD.

All of this time I thought that I was a responsible user of opioids. As a former Navy Hospital Corpsman I was aware of their addictive qualities and had been documenting my use so that I would know if I were increasing the dosage. I was sad that this had happened to me. Fate, bad luck, karma? My earlier career as a 'sheetrocker' had not helped my back and then at some point I fell and broke my back at the L5 level. I remember an intense pain and it took a few minutes before I regained my feet. I finished the day working as if I were crippled. I was. The pain persisted but in the environment where I worked, you didn't take time off unless you had been taken away by an ambulance. I had broken my left foot on the job at one time and I had a walking cast put on and took one day off to let the cast dry, then I was back to work; climbing the stairs with my crutches and then climbing up a rolling scaffold where I remained, working, most of the day. Over time I forgot the pain in my back and what I didn't know was happening to my back. New bone was growing but it was growing wild and forming an enlarged shield over a portion of the L5 vertebra. I was told of my broken back about 40 years after it happened by my surgeon after the first back surgery. Now, 10 years after that the bony growth prevents doctors from injecting corticosteroids into that area where a nerve exits my spine. Doctors won't surgically remove the bone because the scar tissue from makes it impossible to see where to cut. Doctors have tried to inject there, causing me a lot of pain while they tried...to no avail. Fate, bad luck, karma? I still don't know.

Now the opioid war has started for me. Yesterday, we were told that the prescription we had given the pharmacy would not be filled. This was after we had called to ask when would it be ready? Our doctor isn't answering our queries. The pharmacy tells us that the DEA is stopping the filling of the prescription because "they were worried about heart attacks". An obvious non-answer in the hopes that we will go away. I've taken the last of my morphine time release and my Norco needs refilling. Yet, no one has contacted the person who has the most to lose...me.

My wife just left to see what she can do and she has her Kindle with her; she says she's not coming back without an answer.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Sci-Fi & My Kindle

Back in the day..."when the rocks were young" as my children would often say, I became a fan of science fiction books and short stories. In my hometown, Manhattan Beach CA, bookstores were as rare as unicorns and the library was downtown. This required a one mile walk to get there and a much longer one to return as there was a steep hill to climb. 

Then, one day I saw the construction of a store up near the Shell station on Sepulveda. It turned out to be a pharmacy; Stuart's Pharmacy. There were already two pharmacies in town but downtown and a little farther away than the library. Those two pharmacies had fine collections of pocket books and magazines plus a soda fountain so I was hoping that this new pharmacy would be similarly equipped.

I went to Stuart's on the day they opened and saw that they had a great selection of comic books, pocket books and science fiction books. There was no soda fountain but they had an impressive selection of candy. Stuart's was soon my default destination for reading material and candy. And no one stood nearby to monitor my reading selection. At the library there were two blue haired spinsters to prevent the 'Wrong kind of books' from being seen by a young mans eyes. 

The only comic book that I really enjoyed was the adventures of Plastic Man. If you paid attention to the dialog you would see a lot of 'adult' satire. That may have been the reason for the early demise of my hero. With or without Plastic Man, I had a fantastic selection of science fiction to choose from. Heinlein, Asimov and other greats had short stories every month.

Slowly, over the years, my tastes changed or the quality of the fiction was lowered until one day I noticed that I hadn't read any sci-fi for a long time and it didn't matter; I had better things to read. 

That was the way it was for many years and then I spotted a free sci-fi book on Book Bub with delivery by Amazon and it sounded interesting. Oh boy! was it ever! It was a series of books titled "The Expanse" and it went from a 5 book series to an 8 book series plus a TV adaptation of the first book. I was really hooked and I've read 5 of the books now and will soon order the 6th. Then I decided to try some others of that genre. I soon found some duds but I also found some promising authors. 

Along the way I came across "The Spiral Wars" which was a 4 book adventure with good chance for a 5th and 6th book. The author, an Australian, has a great track record or CV and the books showcase his talent. I'm on the last or 4th book and reading it slowly to make it last. When it's gone I will order the next book from the Expanse series. After that is gone I don't have any great choices...yet. 

When it comes to sci-fi I demand actual science. Nothing is faster than the speed of light and when the author has his characters breaking that speed limit he better have a darn good explanation. In reality there are rumors that it can broken but it hasn't reached any mainstream science that I know of. Ah! there's the rub; "...that I know of" and that means that I have to do some homework as well. I love it! 
   

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

First Nations

Another week, another month of high crimes by the idiot occupying the White House. There is nothing to say that hasn't been said about his behavior. He needs help but he will never seek it. So the day became much brighter when I got to the Art Center and found that the second painting had sold. I had offered a $20 discount if the buyer would take them both. It's really a miracle to sell art these days.

I don't know if I mentioned that I was studying art from the 1st Nation artists of Canada. I find it fascinating, as I find all aboriginal art. There seems to be something common to the art of Australian aboriginals, North American aboriginals and African aboriginals. I've started painting (digitally) in that same style and find it satisfying. I look back at my early drawings and it seems that I preferred to express myself this way; black outlining and bright colors with a central, mythical, subject. The artist that I watch for is Jessica Desmoulin, she is Ojibway of the Pic River First Nation. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Surprise Ending

I am an artist and have been painting for close to 20 years now. I like acrylics and I have done some watercolor work. Lately, because of my aches and pains, I have given up the use of my easel as I can't stand as long as I want to. More recently I have been using colored alcohol ink marking pens to satisfy my artistic urges. For the past 10 years I have been painting with a group of artists every Tuesday morning, meeting at the local art center. We talk and critique each other's work; if we want. I happen to be the only male in the group of 9 but that's not a problem. After all, we are quite civilized. Besides being the only male in the group, I am the only expressionist/impressionist/abstract painter among them. The women are all watercolorists,yet, despite all the differences, we all get along just fine.

So much for the background; on to the story. Some time ago I was talking to the manager of the center and, just for fun, mentioned that it would be great if we could use the two bathrooms as a gallery to display our paintings. The bathrooms are quite small and someone at some time had hung 4 or 5 large paintings on those walls. I thought we deserved some equal time and space. She was sympathetic but couldn't give me an answer. Two weeks ago she saw me and told me that the large (and ugly) paintings were gone and the walls were being painted for us. I told the group and found 3 others that wanted to show their art. We picked names out of a hat and I was lucky enough to get the first show which we had decided to call Masterpieces of the 'Loo'. It was just a fun kind of project.

I wandered the house and found 6 paintings, 3 per bathroom, that had not sold before. Afew were on our bedroom wall and the rest were in a closet. I hung them carefully, wanting whoever was sitting there to have a chance to contemplate them. A week has gone by and yesterday I went into the art center bathroom and saw that one had sold! I had used some card stock to scribble down the name of the show and the price, plus my website address. I had plucked the prices for each out of the air and used my imagination. They were all priced at $150, whether they were worth it or not. Apparently, someone sat there long enough to appreciate that particular painting; one that I had completed in 2012. One that had been in at least 4 shows. And one that had been on our bedroom wall for many years. I had made the frame from scrap wood and gone to Lowe's for a piece of 2'x2' 1/4" birch plywood and some 3/8" wooden base material to trim the frame. I had nailed it all together and given the plywood 3 coats of gesso before painting on it.

I have a feeling that Masterpieces of the 'Loo' will be become very popular and many artists will be eager to secure a 3 week showing of their art  in a 5'x8' bathroom.

The one that sold is on the left side of this photo; taken at the last show and where it was priced at $260.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What did he say?

I use Twitter. Not constantly, maybe once or twice a month. And my tweets are usually in response to one of Trump's notorious tweets. (it is hard to believe that I, a 77 year old male with a good IQ, uses words like Twitter, Tweet, Google and Blog...and thinks nothing of it?) But this morning I wanted to respond and I went to his home page on Twitter in search of his Twitter address. When I started looking around I was shocked at the number of Tweets and upon closer inspection, the quality. There was none. I knew he had a problem with the English language, but his Tweets are almost unintelligible. Twitter has increased the number of words allowed in a Tweet and that should have given Trump a break. But no, it has only given him more room for more errors.

I  formed my Tweet to him as best I could and sent it on its way. I had complained about the fact that he was doing Pentz a favor and banning transgender persons from serving in the military. This is coming from a man that did his best, and succeeded 3 times, in avoiding the draft and serving in the armed forces. Commander in Chief? I think not! 

Monday, March 12, 2018

The united? States...

3/12/18...This morning, two months after putting together this draft (below) that never saw the light of day, I decided to finish it. Coincidentally, Trump is visiting the state today and tomorrow. Hopefully, he will be met with resistance everywhere he goes...On a different subject...here is a link to my art blog

During the past two months the issue of marijuana sales seems to have become less of an issue with the weasel, Sessions. But like a weasel, you can't trust him and should never turn your back to him. The issue of immigration has become the centerpiece of Trump's visit to the Golden State and Governor Brown has made a mistake by answering the charges that Trump makes. You should never attempt to argue with an idiot like Trump.

1/7/18... This morning I was reading an article about the 'war' between Trump and California. Trump's flunky, Sessions, is tasked with upsetting the new marijuana market in California. The Interior dept has opened off-shore drilling to the oil companies. The new tax scheme of the Republicans will punish the 'blue' states and California is the biggest and 'bluest' state in the union. ICE is threatening public officials with jail because of our status as a Sanctuary State. The list of attacks goes on and on.

On marijuana, the citizens of the state and the nation approve of the legal sale by more than 70%. Sessions should know more about states rights than most AG's but he seems to have forgotten them. He will be met with many lawsuits and hopefully, California will prevail.

Scott Pruitt, an ambitious and amoral Trump soldier will do anything he can to damage the state through the use of the EPA. Again, lawyers will be called in to fight him.

Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE has a mandate to find and deport immigrants without a legal status. But he wants the state to shoulder the burden of arresting , jailing and transferring the suspects. If a suspect is arrested and detained without evidence, that suspect can sue the state for unlawful imprisonment. Medical care and feeding while in state custody becomes a state problem. ICE has a budget and it has facilities. I would say that they should do their job.

Of course, I am already an antagonist of everything connected to Trump. I am not without bias. I really don't understand his supporters. Of course there were all sorts of comments to this article and I read some of them. I try and avoid the comments on most articles, but, at first glance, these comments seemed interesting. The majority, maybe 60%, favored the stand of California. The others were more predictable and were in favor of punishing the 'land of fruits and nuts' as California is known by polite conservatives. There were also some that took every comment by an Assemblyman, Senator or Governor and believed those words described the actions or thoughts of the entire state. California is a very large state. Some people think we should be three states or two, to better represent us. I doubt that it will ever happen because, as citizens of this states, we rarely ever agree on anything.

On a different subject...here is a link to my art blog

Friday, January 5, 2018

A new year with old thoughts

I haven't been here for at least six weeks, though I did post some things on my art related blog back in December. As I read the headlines and the stories from the first week of the new year, I was reminded of my private thoughts concerning Trump, and now, Sessions. I was certain that Sessions was going to try and throw a legal monkey wrench into the marijuana market once California entered the marketplace. He says that he is only enforcing the 'rule of law' when, in fact, he is enforcing it to please the drug manufacturers...and his own weird Southern Baptist mentality. It didn't take a genius to predict what Sessions had planned for this week.

And Trump; every day brings out more evidence of what I and many others have thought about him and his mental state. This new book about the Trump White House may not be factually correct. and that would be a shame, as the premise is correct. If there are some exaggerations in the text, critics will pick those apart trying to discount the entire book. Luckily, for the author and publisher, Trump has responded with fury, threatening lawsuits right and left. You can't buy this kind of advertising. 

I was reading an article in the failing New York Times about the rise in employment for male nurses. I couldn't help but remember my own career decision struggle in 1962-1963 as I was leaving the Navy Hospital Corps and entering civilian life and marriage. As a Hospital Corpsman, I was entitled to be an LVN in California at that time. Being an LVN meant very low pay and poor chances for meaningful employment as a male nurse. I could have used my veterans benefits to go on to school and become an RN. Again, with poor pay and some bias against males in a female profession. At the time I had a full time low paying job as a stock clerk in a warehouse and a second job as a night shift  manager at a Texaco station. I also had a weekend job as a delivery boy for a liquor store. But...I was getting married and couldn't begin a married life and later a family with these jobs. And I certainly couldn't do it as an LVN. That was when an opportunity to become a union carpenter's apprentice came along with the promise of more pay than two of those jobs combined. I put the idea of nursing aside and moved ahead with a construction job.

It's only been recently; maybe, the last twenty years that nursing has gained the status, and pay that it deserved. It definitely takes a university education to become an RN now, where I could have done it with night school courses in the 1960's. I may have mentioned that I found and spoke with a former Hospital Corpsman, now an RN, while I was hospitalized late last year. He loved the job but lamented the fact that the hospital wanted nurses to specialize, while he had been trained, as I was, to do it all.  During a day shift on an orthopedic ward with fifty or more patients, there were three corpsman and one 'floating' nurse that covered three wards. As corpsmen, we weren't allowed to open the narcotics locker for the pain meds and we had to call the nurse to do that.Then, at night there was just one corpsman for the entire ward. There were no 'call buttons' that patients might use and so we had to patrol the sleeping patients constantly.

There I go again...dredging up memories. I will be 78 in September and memories have become good friends; dependable ones.

Along with the nursing story, there was a good story about automation (read 'robots') in Sweden and how it is accepted, even welcomed. They have a very strong union there and relations with management are very good. You might know that Sweden is one of the ten 'happiest' nations although they are taxed much higher than we are. The Scandinavian nations are often called 'socialists' as if it were a bad thing. I have been a socialist for years, though never a member of any political party. I used to be a Democrat when I thought that they were the polar opposites of the Republicans. Once I discovered that they were too closely related, I left. They never noticed. I still get mail addressed to me as  a ' Democratic leader in your community' and asking me to attend some function. I didn't realize or acknowledge that I was a socialist until recently.

The Sweden story had me thinking about the company I retired from at age 64. It was the largest specialty contractor in the US. We did the work that general contractors didn't do. Drywall, steel stud framing, plastering, fireproofing, acoustical ceilings, insulation, Clean rooms, and variations of all of those things, such as marine insulation or insulation for the piping in nuclear power plants. We were an all employee owned, all union company and very successful.

As I left, I had an occasion to talk to one of the vice-presidents and he told me that although I was retiring with a pension and a 401k, all of the new hires would see only the 401k. Project managers were now recruited from universities that had majors in construction management. Project managers, such as myself, had been recruited from the ranks of the union carpenters. The new project managers and estimators were paid much less. The company is still quite strong, still growing, still all union but I am no longer quite as proud of working there.

That's a lot of words. I think it's time to quit for awhile.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Yes, time does go by

I have to admit that I don't read as many blogs as I once did. Everything seems to be slowing down and reading blogs is a victim of that slowdown. Back in the early oughts, I was a prolific reader and writer. I have posted 7,344 times in the years I've owned this blog.

I was reading my Journal for the year 2009 and I spotted an entry where I was mentioning the fact that Ronni, of Time Goes By, a venerable blog, had asked me to write a guest column for her. I was thrilled to be asked as her blog was very well read. I had been reading her blog for many years, starting when she lived on the East coast; was it Maine or New Hampshire? Then she gladly exited the cold country and moved to Portland. Actually,  she moved to Lake Oswego which is just up the hill from Portland. In my working days I often stayed at the Phoenix Inn in that town and would do my training workouts on the hills of Lake Oswego. Beautiful town.

My guest column? I didn't keep a copy and it's lost forever...as it should be. I found it hard to write as well as she does.

I'm wandering...so I decided to read her blog again and I was angered to see that she was battling cancer. Angry is the only word that I could come up with. Cancer always makes me angry. But she is on chemo and seems upbeat about it. And Ollie, her cat, is still with her; that is a good thing. I know that Ronni is not a religious person but I am and will pray for her recovery.

Speaking of cats; I was reading, in that same Journal, about the antics of my cat. She was about 4 years old at the time, making her 12 years old more or less. She didn't come with a birth certificate so we are relying on the educated guess of the veterinarian that handed her off to me. She is currently sitting on a blanket, on a pillow, on the couch and next to me. She is asleep of course, snoring softly. She still has the ability to modify my pain, just as she did 9 years ago and she has continued to do that through the years. She did it this morning and she is doing it now....


Friday, October 6, 2017

I'm back at it

Here it is, October, and I can now walk without a 'walker'. People, including doctors, told me that the pain from broken ribs takes six weeks or more to fade away. I'm getting close to that number and the pain is very manageable now. If I stand for a period of ten minutes or more, the pain returns with a vengeance. But if I'm walking it is very easy to ignore. I see the doctor next week and I'm looking for good news.

Trump...what can I say about him that hasn't been said? I send him nasty tweets every few weeks but that's just to make me feel better. I'm sure he never sees them.

Las Vegas...it's the same as above. What could I possibly say that hasn't been said about this tragedy?

On a different note, our landscaping is complete. Although the landscaping consists of all native plants,  the incredible heat we experienced early on this summer damaged a number of the plants. Newly planted, they didn't have enough root structure to withstand the heat. And the heat continued through the summer and now into fall as well. We are seeing low 90's and high 80's this past week with some relief in sight about two weeks from now. The outlook was positive enough to remove and replant the damaged plants. While the crew was here, we added some rocks and some more lighting. Now, when we look out the kitchen/dining area windows, it's all flowers and beautiful plants.

I have to walk twice a day as part of my recovery therapy and so I get a close look at the neighborhood yards. This is a middle class neighborhood as is most of the city. And lawns seem to be the preferred landscaping material. I have to admit that I hate lawns. As a young boy, I had to push the family mower across the lawn as part of my chores. If I didn't mow the lawn I didn't get the .50 cent allowance. That started my hatred of lawns. Then, strangely enough, when I was 11, I decided to advertise my services for mowing lawns. .50 cents for the back lawn and .25 cents for the front lawn. Edging was included. Pretty soon I had half a dozen jobs and a partner. After one summer season of lawn mowing I had close to $10 and I made a vow to never mow a lawn again (unless I needed my allowance). I kept that vow all through my time in the Navy and then our early years as a married couple. We lived in apartments until we had our first child. That's when we rented a house and it had lawns, front and back. For a few years I was unable to keep my vow. Then we bought a new house and we had to have a lawn like all the rest of the new homeowners. We decided on a dichondra lawn for the small front yard and for the enormous back yard I decided on benign neglect. Dichondra was perfect as it only needed mowing once or twice a year. In our subsequent moves, we had large houses with very small lawns and I was okay with that. Then, 1977, we moved to our house in the woods, in Lassen County. With 8 acres of second growth pine we had a lovely carpet of pine needles with no hint of lawns. It was heaven! But all good things come to an end
and 11 years later we had to move to Roseville, suburbia. Where we tore out the lawns and put in native plants and concrete and sold the lawn mower. We were there for 16 years. Eventually we ended up in the far northern end of the San Joaquin valley. Here, I hired someone to mow the small lawn we had while we planned on this landscaping project that I love so much. 

I know that landscaping is something very personal. It's the image that you want to project to the community. And as I walk, I pass one perfect lawn after another. All mown and edged beautifully. On any day of the week, there are mowers and blowers creating an angry buzz on more than one lawn as the 'Mow & Blow' contractors make their rounds. Oddly enough, we have never seen a child playing on this perfect grass? With the chemicals that are applied to these lawns, I don't think I would want to let my child play on it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rinse and repeat

On Friday, September 8th, I will be checking in to the local hospital for surgery on my back. This will be the 5th time, but the first at the cervical end of my spine; the part that holds my head on. The years that I made a lot of money by installing  drywall ceilings have come back to haunt me. The weight of innumerable sheets of drywall pressing down on my spine, so many year ago, weakened the vertebrae and now they are pressing down on the many nerves that exit the spinal column at this level.

It's a fairly simple operation, microdiscectomy and fusion of 6 vertebrae. A few days in the hospital and then home with a brace to keep my head attached while the bone grafts grow into strong bones. I have looked at the entire operation on Neurosurgery TV and was amazed at how easily they perform such intricate surgery, all the while looking through a high powered microscope and wielding very small instruments and working within a 1" incision.

During the past few weeks I managed to make it to the age of 77. Watching American longevity dropping during the past decade, I'm happy to have made it this far. And thinking about that made me think of my life 70 years ago. I was in the 2nd grade at Center Street school in Manhattan Beach. At that age I was allowed to go as far as my legs would take me; except that I wasn't allowed to cross Sepulveda (101), about half a mile east of our house. There were sand dunes in every direction, but I used the sidewalk that would take me down the hill to downtown and then to the pier, about a mile away. Such great times...

September 18th...things have not gone exactly as planned. The surgery went well and I was surprised that I needed no brace. The vertebra, C2 through C6 are held together with titanium plates and that is supposed to be enough. Then, I was released on the 10th. we're pretty sure that was about 2 days too early. Later that night, I got up from bed, a mistake, and headed to the bathroom. I reached for the handrail but didn't have the strength to keep myself from falling into the side of the toilet. Sharp pain ensued. In no time at all I had a room full of firemen and EMT's. Back to the hospital I went, where X-rays determined that I had broken more than a few ribs on my right side.

I began another recuperation and was released from the hospital on the 15th. I feel very fragile at this point, though I do have a physical therapist, courtesy of Home Health. I have oxygen in just about every room. I have an oxygen cannula in my nose. Of course it could have happened to anyone...but it happened to me.  Now I have to move on with my life. And I'm feeling stronger every day. I have to use a walker now, but that will soon change.  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

There has been time enough

We have given him all of the time needed. He has wasted it. He wasted it with rallies designed to stroke his ego. He wasted it going after imaginary enemies and making new ones. The list could go on and on as he never works hard at anything. Pushing bills, mending fences; that's for underlings to do. And everyone is an underling. If you aren't sure of that, he will be glad to inform you. "I'm the President. You're not!" is a declaration that rolls easily off of his tongue.

I recently read a column where he was compared to Caligula. Strangely, history tells us that the comparison fits, And it was said that Caligula was mad, insane. Trump is not insane but he is mentally ill. Maybe it's dementia caused by aging. I'm not a professional and I haven't slept in a Holiday Inn lately, but he is sick. And that makes me wonder about the 'Annual Presidential Physical'. Is there any law, rule or regulation that makes it mandatory for the President to check in at a government hospital and undergo an annual physical exam? An exam by that unseen doctor of Trump's choosing, the one he used at the beginning of the campaign, should not be acceptable. The fact that this 'MD' spoke using the same vocabulary as Trump would make him suspect.

And then there is this Nazi business. You have to be of a certain age to remember them with the horror, hatred and contempt they deserve. And there are fewer of us to remember them every year that passes. That is dangerous. Then, to see the 'leader' of our country fail to use the power of his office to condemn them and the 'White Supremacists' tells me where his real interests lie. To top it off, he pardons the racist "Sheriff Joe" before he is even sentenced. Doing that tells the criminals of the Alt-Right that they have nothing to fear from the courts.

On and on it goes. Every day brings new controversy, new scandal. Will he ever do a day's work? For the people?

Friday, July 21, 2017

We're rich!

The strangest thing has happened; the Neilsen Company has decided to make us members of their survey team for television. Some months ago we received a letter from them asking us to tell them all about the radio stations we listened to. They included $5 to thank us for our cooperation. We responded with the fact that we didn't listen to radio. They thanked us for the information and gave us another $5. Then we received a letter with  $4 dollars in crisp $1 dollar bills and a request for us to join the TV survey. As long as money was coming in, we were more than happy to do it. They thanked us and gave us both $5. Today we received our 'diaries' to fill out daily, detailing what shows we watch. To be clear; we had informed Neilsen that we only watched streaming video and no video 'shows'. That didn't deter them. This letter came with $9 in crisp cash. Why $9??? I have no idea. I will have to go through all of the paperwork that came with the diaries and maybe I can find out the answer to that question and more. In the meantime, we seem to have a second income. It won't make us rich but we will never have to worry about overdue library books again.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

What's on tonight?

As I stated once before, we have cut the cable and disabled the satellite feed. We're streaming only...that and an antenna in the attic for the local channels. I don't remember when we did it but it was close to 6 months ago. And life has been great without the 'box'.

I may have already given you a list of the shows we watch, but as I am almost 77, I must be forgiven for any memory lapses. So, here are a few of the shows that we currently have in our little black book and in no specific order.
#1 'Offspring' on Netflix is the story of a OBS/GYN doctor, Nina, and her amazingly fragmented family; the Proudman's. This is an Australian show and if you can't handle an accent, this is not the show for you. Your loss. In fact, almost all of the shows we watch are foreign.
#2 'The Brokenwood Mysteries' Amazon. is a detective/mystery/comedy show from New Zealand. We are anxiously awaiting season 4. It's quirky and quite often the mystery is solved long before the end of the show.
#3 'Inspector George Gently' Amazon. Is an older (2007) British police mystery show that takes place in the gritty parts of Newcastle. Always enjoyable. Oddly, I am put off by all of the smoking. I can't even smell the smoke and it bothers me!
#4 'Inspector Lewis' Amazon. Is a police/mystery thriller taking place in Oxford. The scenery at the various colleges and Oxford itself are beautiful. The acting is great and the murders are always understated. The show is a spin-off from Inspector Morse, which was also a great show.
#5 'Winter' Amazon. Is a one season detective thriller and I really wanted to see a few more seasons. This one is also from Australia; Sydney to be exact and it's great scenery as well. There are more seasons but Amazon isn't buying them yet.
#6 'Bosch' Amazon. This is Season 3 of a great police/crime/drama. I really hope this goes on to seasons 4, 5, 6 and more. Like too many American shows, the violence is explicit. The acting and the writing help to counter that.
#7 Grace and Frankie. Netflix
#8 Happy Valley. Netflix
#9 Doc Martin Amazon
#10 Happy Valley. Netflix
#11 Father Brown. Netflix
#12 Crossing Lines Netflix
#13 Miss Fisher. Netflix
#14 The Heart Guy Amazon
#15 Delicious Amazon
#16 Pie in the Sky Amazon
#17 Lark Rise to Candleford Amazon
#18 Lillies Netflix
#19 Murdoch Amazon
#20 Agatha Christie Amazon

A lot of those that are on Amazon are actually on Acorn/Amazon. We subscribe to Acorn TV for all of the British/Australian/New Zealand/Canadian show they carry. Worth every penny. Between Amazon, Netflix and now, Acorn, we have more than enough to entertain us of an evening.

It's hot outside

And, until last night, it was hot inside. Our AC went out last Friday afternoon (why does this always happen on weekends?) and although I reported it to American Home Shield, our home warranty insurer, I knew we wouldn't see a repairman till Monday. Then we received an email from AHS that told us they were sending a repairman from a company located over a 100 miles away and they had 3 working days to respond to our needs. What? The temps have all been in the 100's and Saturday was 107. We started calling and found that AHS didn't take calls past 7 and never on weekends. I went to their Facebook page and tried venting there. That gained me a promise that someone would call. A promise quickly broken. What to do?

We do have a whole house fan but we don't like to use it as it pulls every allergen and irritant into the house along with the cooler night or morning air. We had to use it. I would watch out indoor temp and outside temp carefully and as soon as they were equal and the outside temp was falling, I would start the fan and keep it running all night. In the morning I would watch the two temps closely and then when the outside temp began to rise from its overnight low,  I would close the windows and shut off the fan. Then we would begin calling AHS. Finally, on Tuesday we got lucky. The initial repairman decided that the job was not worth their time and bailed. A phone call to AHS finally found a receptive agent and she arranged for a local contractor to call. He arrived Tuesday PM and after an hour or so in the hot attic, he found the problem; a fried circuit board. He called and tried to get a validation from AHS and find a local source for the board. He finally made all of the connections but he wouldn't be able to get the board and install it until Wednesday. He was back on Wednesday afternoon and after some more time in the hot attic he had the board installed only to find that the original board had failed because the fan motor had failed. More phone calls to AHS for authorization and then a trip to a supplier. He was back about 6:30 and began the repair. It was close to 8 when we felt the first chill breeze from the vents. We couldn't thank him enough. The temps are supposed to be way over 100 again this weekend and we had been dreading it.

What a wonderful sleep I had. Temp inside was 79 and I had a light cover on. What a life!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It's all fake news...

It is another busy week in The District of Trump. Of course most of the furor is caused by the rolling train wreck of the Trump family. I survive by attaching no importance to most of it. I trust the Special Prosecutor to do his job and when he is done I will have something concrete to look at. In the meantime it is all political theater.

The giant iceberg is certainly not fake news and it's more interesting than what comes from the lips of Trump...any Trump. The Larsen Ice Shelf, now a berg, is 1,150 feet thick or so they think. I wonder where it will go? Most bergs move by action  of wind and current. I have a feeling that this one will move very slowly and most ships will not be surprised when it appears. They will have seen it coming for days. No Titanic disasters with this one.

Our landscape was 'landscaped' during the past few months and we're really happy with it. It is actually xeriscaped with mostly all California natives and they are fantastically colorful. At the same time this was going on, the weather changed and we began experiencing some brutal heat. A number of plants hadn't been established long enough to survive. I would check the garden one day and then come out the next to see damaged plants where perfect plants were growing 12 hours previously. I raised the watering times by 50% and then watered twice a day to halt the damage. Plants will survive this heat with some care. I know that next year at this time the damage will be forgotten and we will be enjoying the color.  

I think we're going to have to become accustomed to this weather or move. The heat is here to stay. I was checking the long range forecast and it's not till November begins that we will see any relief. I saw no rain...but, it's a long range forecast.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Life goes on

It's been awhile since I last posted here and I have some of the usual excuses, pain and more pain.In fact I am sitting at home because of those excuses. But, I do have another reason for not sitting down to write. You may remember that our youngest granddaughter, now 14, was struck (overnight) with Acute Flaccid Myelitis at age 13 and is now unable to walk and has to use a wheelchair for her transportation. I would have been depressed if it happened to me, but she has been optimistic about it; certain she will walk again. It hasn't been a year since that day; her paraplegia happened at the end of October and her optimism has been showing signs of strain.

Then a miracle happened. Someone at the Shriner's Hospital in Sacramento recommended her for a scholarship for the summer camp that AbilityFirstSports.Org puts on. And it was being held on the campus of UC Chico. That's about 4 miles from our house and the house was the perfect place for our son and his girlfriend to stay while our granddaughter was at camp. (Facebook link)
Our granddaughter wasn't certain that she wanted to go to camp. During the past 9 months she has gradually become less adventuresome, but she was convinced by her father that it would be worth the risk. He promised that they would stay close by and would always be available. So off she went. And as her father was leaving, one of the coaches approached him and said "Don't be surprised if we hand you a bag of wheelchair parts when she leaves" It seems that the campers quickly turn their staid chairs into sports models. Campers who are returning for their second or third summer show the new campers how to strip the chairs and make them 'race ready'.

Our granddaughter did not make the expected phone calls on the first day. And then again on the second; no calls. My son went to investigate and found a happy camper in his daughter. She wa having so much fun she had forgotten to call. The camp counselor told my son that all was well and she was the kind of camper that they love to see; unafraid to try anything. And they did everything. swimming, tennis, basketball, skate park, water skiing, even rugby. Also, they only stopped to eat and then they were back at it until 10 at night. There were 31 campers and they were all different, different backgrounds, different colors, different talents, etc. Then we saw our granddaughter being interviewed by one of the local TV stations as the spokesperson for the organization and its program. Amazing! And she was now doing things that she once required assistance for. She fell over once while racing and got her chair back up and herself into it in record time and with no assistance. Parents are asked to stay away during that week while the coaches are building up their self confidence. And it works.

She was returned to her father this afternoon and we were able to see her for awhile before they left for the 2 hour trip home. She was a different girl. She was positive and mature. And ready for next years camping trip. And we're going to make sure she gets to go!