Air Rifles: A Buyer’s and Shooter’s Guide (Survival Guns) (Volume 3) – Steve Markwith

This book was written from a survivalist’s perspective, but it contains really good, practical information and advice about air rifles in general. It is well written in an interesting fashion. The author knows his stuff. If you want an introduction to air rifles, this is a good book for you. Don’t let the “survival” aspect of this book dissuade you. While that is the perspective of this book, the information is more widely applicable.

Finished 9/14/16

Advantages of Moving into a 55+ Park: How to Enjoy Your Retirement Even on a Budget – Jerry Minchey

Having read Mr. Minchey’s book on retiring in an RV, I thought I would see what he had to say about retiring to a 55+ retirement park. Guess what? He says pretty much the same thing. Indeed, much of it is word-for-word. Not that I’m criticizing; re-purposing your writing is a good way to make it go further and earn you additional dollars. On the other hand, if I had paid for both books it would have pissed me off, but I didn’t.

Still, good information, and at least half the book is specifically about living in a 55+ retirement park. I don’t think it is the lifestyle for me, though. Too many people too close together. I think I could more easily see myself retiring in a motorhome. Then again, you never know how the cards may fall.

Finished 8/20/16

Motorhome and RV Retirement Living: The Most Enjoyable and Least Expensive Way to Retire – Jerry Minchey

As I was going through my latest move, I was overwhelmed with all the “stuff” I have. I started to really feel that my life was being controlled by my stuff, rather than me controlling my stuff. I remember my mother hitting a point in her life where she went through everything in the house and started getting rid of stuff that was no longer important to her. I now totally understand that. Indeed, as my wife and I are trying to sort through everything that I moved back into our house, there is some discarding going on, but probably not nearly enough.

Why is that relevant to this “bookmark” post? Because if you decide that you want to retire and live full-time in an RV, you better be prepared to get rid of a lot of stuff, and the subject book is all about retiring full-time to an RV.

Besides the appeal of lightening your life by cutting your possessions back to those that would store easily in an RV, there is the appeal of travel. My wife and I have wanted to do that for years, and perhaps this lifestyle would finally allow it.

To get a handle on what it would take to retire full-time in an RV, I read this book. I’ve had it on my Kindle for a bit, though I’m not sure how I got it. It most likely was a deal, though it is only $2.99 to buy in Kindle format on Amazon. There are a few spelling and grammar issues, but unlike some Kindle books, not enough to distract from reading it.

Mr. Minchey give a good overview of what you will need to consider when assessing the lifestyle. Everything from shopping for an RV, to lifestyle cost considerations, to making money from an RV (money never hurts, particularly when you are retired), to healthcare and other subjects. The book offers solid information from a man who has done, and is doing, what he writes about. This may not be the “bible” of RV retirement, but it covers all the basics and will give you a good idea of whether the lifestyle is something you should consider or not.

I have to admit, the author makes it sound easier to do than I would think. The hardest part would be getting rid of the bulk of stuff I own. It would also require changes to hobbies. It’s a little difficult to pack a whole wood shop into an RV, but there are alternatives. Besides, maybe I’m ready for a change.

Finished 8/17/16

money for nothing, checks for free

Adding to the list of firsts in my life, today I received my first Social Security check, actually my first Social Security direct deposit. Even though I knew it was coming, when I checked online to see if it had been deposited it was the weirdest feeling to have money appear in my checking account without having worked for it. Of course, as my wife was quick to point out, I did work for it. I have been putting money into Social Security for many, many years (hmm, thinking about that, it has been fifty years – wow!). So while it may only be what is due me, it still feels a bit wrong to take that money.

I have to admit, though, that it is nice to have that income. Knowing that no matter what happens with my job, I at least have that monthly Social Security amount to carry me through, though it would be more like being carried through on a stretcher rather than riding in a limousine. Oh well, much better than the nothing that I would have otherwise.

As a senior citizen, now that I am receiving Social Security payments, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will fight just as hard as other senior citizens to keep that payment coming in, without being compromised by some cost-cutting politician. I don’t deny that the system needs changing, but you can’t yank something away from someone after they are receiving it. Well, they could do that, but talk about an open revolt! Instead, they really need to put individual retirement funds into the hands and management of the people who earn the money. No, not likely to happen. The government likes having those funds coming into their coffers. They can play games with that; they can’t when it’s in the hands of the people.

Odd how getting Social Security can change your way of thinking. Living on just Social Security (and that’s all I have for retirement) would drastically reduce my standard of living, but if I could accept that, or combine that with somehow reducing costs, it would mean that I could live anywhere and do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t cost money. That kind of freedom is alluring, even if it means living close to poverty.

All my life I have given my job priority. I have worked some ridiculous hours at some boring jobs for asshole bosses, and yet I did it because I needed a job. Suddenly I’m in a position where I could tell my boss to shove it if he required more commitment from me than I am willing to give. (The job I am in now and have been for almost twenty-one years has been a good one, with good people to work for – it was earlier employment that is described above.) I have to admit that it makes me feel not quite as dedicated to my job and unwilling to take on extra projects. Give that to the younger people who still are building careers, and who still need the income to pay the bills.

I’m sure I will get used to receiving Social Security, and it won’t take long. There’s no shortage of places to spend money and this will only help. Nice to finally get something out of the system instead of just paying into it.

Why is it that I get nostalgic for music that was before my era? The music of my youth is that of the 1950s, and mostly1960s and 1970s, so why does the music of the 20s, 30s and 40s resonate with me? If I was someone who believed in reincarnation I could easily believe that there was a World War II soldier who found his rebirth in me.

Then again, maybe it’s just the music. After decades of listening to music played by bands that consist mainly of four or five instruments, the lusher, more complex sounds of the big band era just is a more satisfying auditory experience. Maybe it’s just me getting older. The more primitive, tribal, feel-it-in-your-balls kind of music has lost its appeal to this testosterone challenged old fart and the richer, easier to listen to music provides greater comfort in my old age.

Maybe I am experiencing the same music time shift that my son feels. Seems that some of his favorite music is the stuff that his mom and I used to listen to when he was growing up. That theory would work if my parents listened to much music, but it really was a rarity in our house, at least as far as I can remember. My mom had some 45s that we played on our kid’s record player, but the only ones I can remember are Nothing but a Hound Dog, Love Me Tender, and How Much Is That Doggie in the Window, and I don’t remember her playing them at all. Then again, maybe she did and her music is a subconscious memory for me, but I don’t think so. And my dad? When I was a teen he used to listen to the radio when he was getting ready for work in the morning, but as I remember it, he listened to the same stuff I listened to on WLS, and that was the only time I recall him listening to music.

I do remember that when my mom and I were going somewhere together alone in the car, she would put on “the world’s most beautiful music” radio station (okay Chicagoans, which station was that?). It was mostly orchestral arrangements of popular songs from a slightly earlier era. I always enjoyed that, but such times were pretty rare.

Maybe it’s because my early years of music listening still held remnants of actual musical orchestration. This included the music of Johnny Mathis, Bobby Darin and, of course, Frank Sinatra. As well, I always appreciated songs that were more complex musically, though I do not deny the attraction of music that appealed to the more animalistic side of me.

Whatever the reason, today’s musical menu includes Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. And what the heck, it’s only four months or so until Christmas, so maybe I’ll sneak a few Christmas songs in, too.

By the way, for those trying to think of the radio station that played “the world’s most beautiful music,” it was WAIT. They actually trademarked that phrase.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders – Neil Gaiman

I’ve been disappointed a few times by Mr. Gaiman’s books. Never the whole book, but usually the resolution of the tale. With a book of short stories and poems such as this book, that doesn’t tend to be an issue. If you don’t particularly care for one story, you can find hope in the next one. In truth, only a few of the stories left me wanting more and several of them left me sitting back in my chair saying, “Now that was a good one.”

Previously published elsewhere, I was not familiar with any of the stories. I guess I don’t usually read the publications that the stories have appeared in before. It’s good that these collections become available for people like me.

Reading the stories really made me wonder if I could write something as good. For someone who keeps toying with the idea of doing some “real” writing, it is inspirational to read these stories. The stories were almost Ray Bradbury-ish, which is a good thing. Fantasy tinged with reality, or reality tinged with fantasy, it’s a good combination either way.

Finished 8/11/16

where did july go?

Well, July flew by in a hurry, but it didn’t go by quick enough. So what was I doing all of July? Moving.

If you have read this blog, you would have known this was coming from this post. But knowing it is coming and doing it are two different things. Though we have had months to be packing and preparing, we fell back on old ways and pushed it to the limit. We packed up the last of my stuff and cleaned the last of the house at 11:00 pm on July 31. An hour later and we would have been staying over my lease. That night we came home and left the van packed and just fell into bed.

While it was just my wife and I moving a lot of the smaller stuff to our house, we did hire two guys that worked their asses off for a day. I rented a 17 foot U-Haul truck for the day and we had to do two trips. If it wasn’t for those two guys, we couldn’t have done it. As it was, at the end of the second trip, not only did we have to unload the stuff at my house, but we had a couch and love seat that had to go to relatives over an hour away, some boxes of stuff for my son, who lives close to those relatives, and then back towards home to drop off a queen-size bed and bed frame at another relative’s house. The guys we hired didn’t go on the long distance runs, so we had to move that stuff, with the help of my son. That was another long day. I burned up a lot of vacation time during this move and am grateful that I had that much to spare. We needed it.

But if anyone thinks that moving is all about getting the stuff out of the old location, then they have never moved before. We have stuff stacked all over our house, so much so that it looks like a hoarder’s house, with only a small path to walk from the front door to the back door. At least there’s a path! Figuring out where to put what and what to get rid of is almost a bigger chore than moving. (That’s a lie – moving was the biggest chore – almost too much for two people old enough to be on social security.) As my wife is retired, she has been dealing with most of the settling in of the stuff, but even still, you can’t put ten pounds of stuff in a five pound bag. Not to mention that we are still preparing one of the rooms in the house for me – patching, painting, carpeting, etc. – so we don’t yet have the place available that much of the stuff is going into.

Still, with all the work and all the hassle, it is where I want to be now. I hope that my wife and I can coexist in the same space without wanting to move out, because I ain’t moving again! So far, so good, and I think things will work out fine. You get older, you learn lessons, and you work things out.

We are looking forward to having things get settled so that we can actually do something fun, in other words, unrelated to the moving process. We’ll get there, hopefully by Thanksgiving. If we don’t, it will be a little tough having everyone over for Thanksgiving. So there’s our first goal – get all the stuff out of the dining room before then. I think we can do it.

And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my wife for her patience and hard work in getting this move done. It has totally turned her world upside down, but she seems to be handling it well, for the most part. I hope this move is worth it to her as much as it is to me.

the usual election rant

This is going to be a particularly unsavory political season. With a sleaze-ball candidate for both major parties, there is just nothing good to look forward to. It’s disgusting when I have to agree with Clinton on many of the things she says about Trump. Trump is going to have to get on more solid ground with his criticisms of Clinton, something other than invective, if anyone (with a brain) is going to take him seriously.

It’s not like Clinton is hard to legitimately criticize. She carries more baggage than an Airbus A380. All Trump has to do is pound away at her with the facts, but he just can’t seem to do it without the playground name-calling. Yes, a very large part of Trump’s popularity is his propensity for “telling it like it is,” but unfortunately that does not seem to include presenting any hard, specific facts on how he is going “make American great again.”

Clinton has made very clear how she wants to deal with issues that concern me. I have no need to hear one more word out of her mouth this whole campaign (oh, I could only hope). Actually, it has already come to the point that when a political ad or the news comes on and either Trump or Clinton is speaking, I change the channel or turn off the sound. You just have to do these thing to help save your sanity.

The only greater fear I have than Trump being elected, is Clinton being elected. How I hate elections that come down to voting for the lesser of two evils. In elections like this, I have to vote my conscience and vote Libertarian. In truth, that is the party that truly reflects my values. One may say that a vote against Trump is a vote for Clinton, but when either alternative scares the hell out of you, what does it matter? I suspect the Libertarian party will do rather well this year. If so, it may be a sign that at least some people are starting to understand our country’s problems and who has the real solutions. One can only hope.

my wife’s turn

I spent some time in the hospital this weekend, only this time I wasn’t the patient.

My wife was staying overnight at my house, having kindly offered to help me do some cleaning to get the house ready for me to move out and back in with her. Very early on Saturday morning she woke up with a pain in her right arm, something painful enough that she couldn’t sleep any more. This was around 1:30 in the morning or so. She took a couple of aspirin and I massaged her arm for a while, but the pain did not go away entirely. She was able to fall asleep on the couch for a while, but woke up again with her arm hurting.

Thinking that maybe it was because she had overused it, or slept on it funny, she did a gentle version of her stretching routine and it seemed to help. While I was still waking up and getting ready for the day, she started going a little cleaning, dusting the whole of the bedroom. It got to be time for breakfast, so we headed for McDonalds, but as we were driving there she started to feel more pain in her arm, and into her armpit, and then into her back. Eating our breakfast, she was only able to have a couple of bites of food before her pain really started to worry her.

Now, I’ve been there, done that. If you have a severe pain that you can’t explain, it is better to be safe than sorry – GET IT CHECKED OUT! She dithered about it for a while, but in the end decided that she would not be comfortable going on with the day without knowing what was going on. So it was off to the emergency room.

By this time she was feeling the pain in her chest on the right side, too. With these kinds of symptoms, particularly in women, it is pretty much a given that they are going to take your situation seriously, and they did. They gave her all the normal tests but nothing seemed out of place. They tried some medications but they didn’t do anything to relieve the pain either. As we were at a satellite ER, they decided to load her up into an ambulance and take her to the main hospital.

Once there she went through a couple of other tests, and then it was a waiting game. The whole time, though, her blood pressure was considerably higher than normal, and they tried several things to get it down. Personally, and in hindsight, I think that they might have over-medicated her, but I’m no doctor. Anyways, I stuck around until after 5:30 in the evening, but I needed to get something to eat and get some rest myself, so I left her in the good care of the hospital.

Sunday morning I woke up and, checking my cell phone, saw that my wife had texted me, saying that she was feeling better and to come get her in the morning. While I was getting ready to leave, she called me and told me that she was going to be going home and that she was waiting for them to release her and she would call me when she knew more. In the meantime I went and got gas in the car and got some breakfast. I went to my usual eating place and read for a bit, and then decided to go ahead and go to the hospital. Just as I started driving there, my phone told me I had a voice mail. It was my wife telling me to come get her. Good timing!

Well, it seems that it wasn’t her heart. Everything checked out pretty well. She still had no relief from the pain she was suffering, so eventually they brought her a heat pack to put on the spot. Lo and behold, that took care of most of the pain. Indeed, my wife said she was feeling one-hundred percent better now, which was a good thing. So we walked out of the hospital and headed for Starbucks for a little caffeine to relieve her caffeine headache (and why do they only serve caffeine-free coffee in the hospital meal service?).

We had earlier planned on doing a little grocery shopping for her, so we headed to Walmart. We managed to get a couple of things she needed, but then she started to feel a bit weak. I suspect it was the medications they had given her to try to fight the high blood pressure, which was probably now too low. She sat down and thought about what else she really needed right then, and then we quickly picked those few things up, checked out and left. Back in the car she was hungry so we went to McD’s for some lunch for her, which did help.

The rest of the day, though, she was a bit of a basket case. She was feeling better overall, but was very tired and feeling a bit “loopy.” Again, I think it was the medications they had given her. At least she didn’t have to do anything and could just sleep it off, which she did. Later in the afternoon I needed to get going myself. I had a couple of things to do and I needed to get something to eat. I talked to her later in the evening and she was going better.

So that’s one long story that seems to have no interest to anyone other than her and me, but allow me to attach a moral to the story. If you don’t feel right, get it checked out. At our age, it is ever more important to not ignore pains and feelings that you cannot explain. Sure, it may cost you something to have it checked out, but it can cost you one hell of a lot more not to check it out. I have never had a hospital staff person say anything other than that they are glad you came in to have it checked out.

It is a bit depressing that we have reached an age where our minds go first to “am I having a heart attack” rather than “wonder what I did to make myself hurt,” but that’s just the nature of the beast. Being older and out of shape, it is easy to over-do the physical stuff, which puts us at greater odds for that kind of pain, but if the pain is not obviously related to something we have done physically, then we have to consider, and act upon, the alternative. Better a check-up than to check out.

bookmark: shakespeare: the world as stage

Shakespeare: The World as Stage – Bill Bryson

This is a nicely done summary of what we know of William Shakespeare, which can pretty much be summed up as “nothing much.” It’s interesting how knowing little about someone can actually be the subject of a book, but it works very well. Bryson does not fall into any particular Shakespeare camp, preferring instead to remain as objective as possible about all things Shakespeare. He writes as a skeptic and I certainly appreciate that point of view.

In addition to covering the life and works of Shakespeare, Bryson addresses several theories that Shakespeare was not the author of the works attributed to him. It’s fascinating how people who are typically centuries removed from Shakespeare’s time believe that they have conclusive evidence that he was not the true author, in spite of the lack of any contemporary hard evidence to back up their conclusions. Again, Bryson’s skepticism in this area is much appreciated.

If you would like a concise overview of Shakespeare without getting lost in the weeds, this is the book for you.

Finished 5/22/16