Archive for April, 2011

a new boid

It’s always fun to find a new bird at your feeders. Today I had not just one, but two, rose-breasted grosbeaks popping in and out all day long. They are a welcome addition to the family. Now, if I could only evict the damn grackles.

mowing begins anew

Time to mow the lawn, but first some mower maintenance. New spark plug, change the oil, sharpen the blade and I’m ready to start. Well, almost – first I have to go around the yard and pick up all the branches and twigs that have fallen so that I don’t wind up ruining my freshly sharpened blade. OK, good to go, all I have to worry about is the aftermath – my poor, old sore knees. No getting around that, though.

I always enjoy the first few mowings. It is good to get out in the fresh air and I love the smell of freshly cut grass. About the time that summer arrives and it gets so hot and dry that the lawn goes dormant, I’m ready to do the same, so it works out well. Fall weather kicks the lawn into gear again but then it’s nice being outside as much as I can be before winter locks me in again. I do hate winter.

This has been a very late spring this year. Just within the last few days have the flowering trees started to flower, and not all of them at that. Temperatures have been cooler than normal, too, which means the furnace has been running more this year than normal. The only consolation is that it hasn’t been hot enough to use the air conditioning. Unfortunately, a year like this seems to go from a cold spring to a hot summer without an extended period where just having the windows open is enough to keep the house at the right temperature, and I’ll take fresh air over having the house closed up anytime.

Posts like this are no small reason why I am not a “successful” blogger. Nothing exciting to say and not said in a very interesting way. Good thing I’m not trying to make money off this thing.

dead dog

Had to put our dog down today. Cancer is a bitch for human or animal. If I had my way, all animals would die by going to sleep at night and never waking up. That’s the way I want to go, and if it’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for my dog. Wonder if someone is going to wind up having to put me down, too.

I am writing this almost three weeks later and I still cannot write what I want to write. Maybe more time will ease the pain and I’ll be able to revisit it, but for now, this is all I can do.

He was a good dog.

let’s play grown-up

There sure is a lot of gloom and doom out there, with plenty of people yelling warnings from the rooftops and just as many saying don’t worry, be happy. Personally, I think the gloom and doomsayers are to be listened to more than the Pollyanna’s cheerfully trying to keep us complacent (probably while stocking their own bombshelters in preparation).

Then again, I don’t need a pundit to tell me to worry when the handwriting is on the wall, or on the gas pump. When I filled my gas tank yesterday, the price of gas was thirty cents more a gallon than it was a week ago. Of course, I’m not supposed to worry about the high price of energy. It’s necessary for us to spend more and do with less, or without, so that we can get green energy started in this country. Who do they think they are fooling?

Price of food is creeping up. Not by much, but a few cents here and a few cents there. Actually, what is more likely is that you are paying the same price for a package of food that contains three-quarters of what it used to contain. Nice hidden inflation. But I’m not supposed to worry about that either. The Fed can continue to print money until we can paper our walls with it for less than it would cost to buy wallpaper and still they will say they have it all under control.

Of the three people closest to me, one has been out of work for more than two years, another has only worked six months out of the last year and a half and is unemployed now, and the third is working at a wage rate way below his worth. The employment numbers are improving each month, they say. If so, where are the jobs? Or am I supposed to just play dumb and actually believe those employment numbers that don’t report the grossly underemployed or those who have stopped looking?

Want to talk about a pay raise? Pay raise? Hah!! I consider myself damn lucky to have been one of the seemingly few who have managed to, so far, hang onto their jobs. There is no guarantee in that, though, and when the state government decides to raise business (and personal) income taxes, you can bet the company’s owners are considering a move to a lower cost state. Or am I once again worrying about nothing?

Shall we talk about the world? Let’s narrow it down; let’s concentrate on Libya. What the hell are we doing there? Why in the world did we get involved? Yeah, we don’t like the guy running the country, but do you know how many countries have leaders we are not fond of? Are we going to start wars in all those countries, too? Since when did it become the job of the United States, or even the United Nations, to tell a country how to run itself? If there was an armed rebellion in the United States and President Obama moved to put it down with the military, does the United Nations, or France, or China, or Russia, or take your pick, have the right to come in and tell Obama that he can’t use force to quell the rebellion, or better yet, have the right to come and bomb our capital in an attempt to get Obama out of office in support of the rebels? What the hell is wrong with this picture? Do I need the mass media soothing my concerns over one more American involvement in a place they shouldn’t be? No, I don’t think so.

Does all of that send me into a tizzy? No, not exactly, but I’m not going to hide my head in the sand, either. I like my thinking to be grounded in reality and do my best to make it so. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way, but at least I’m honest about it. I prefer to keep those rose-tinted glasses in their case. I sure wish the media and the politicians would do the same. Don’t panic, but for chrissake let’s be adults and deal with the real world.

The Pen Turner’s Workbook – by Barry Gross

This was the second of two books that I have read on turning pens and pencils on a lathe. I think that either book would get you started well in this hobby (or business, if that is your intent). I like the artistic layout of this book, but to tell the truth, the book could easily be half the number of pages if they had tightened up the layout.

In the end, I think that I would recommend the other book over this one if someone wanted to buy just one book on pen turning, but I also would suggest that owning both books would be desirable. It is always good to have more than one perspective on how to do something, and there are a few things in this book that were not covered in the other book.

A couple of small things bugged me, though. First, when presenting his finishing technique the author promotes the use of something called “EEE cream,” but nowhere does he say what the heck this is or what it is supposed to do. Sheesh.

Secondly, the author talks about a pen he made, stating, “This pen was made for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, United States Senator Dennis Hastert.” I sure hope it was some boneheaded editor who made that slip and not the author. If you don’t know what is wrong with that quote, you must have failed American Government in school, or else you’re not from the U.S.

(Finished 4/8/11)

So what the hell is up with my fancy-schmanzy “atomic” wall clock that is supposed to receive time signals over the air to keep it on the minute? I get home and . . . what the heck? Is that really what time it is? How did I gain two hours? Oh. For some reason the clock has decided to reset itself to two hours earlier than it actually is. I wonder when, and if, it’s going to correct itself.

Do you think that we will ever be able to rely on computers to run our lives without fear of them ever making a mistake? I know I have grave reservations about that idea. Thank god my atomic clock wasn’t running a train, because there probably would have been one hell of a mess to clean up today.

It seems that every medical test I have requires me to have at least two more and a visit with a doctor. No surprise, then, when a CT scan of my chest resulted in a follow-up echocardiogram. Nothing immediately life threatening (I hope); it was more to verify the CT scan and to establish a benchmark for future evaluation. During the echocardiogram – which is basically an ultrasound examination of your pumping heart – a couple of interesting things occurred.

In addition to visualizing the action of your heart, the ultrasound probe picks up the sound of the blood moving through your heart. Normally the technician didn’t have the sound on, but whatever the reason, the tech occasionally turned on the speaker. I’m guessing it was so he could more accurately locate what he wanted to see, but what do I know?

The first time I heard the whooshing sound of blood traveling through my heart and the opening and closing of my heart’s valves, I was immediately struck by a sense of my own mortality. Someday – sooner probably than later – that sound will not be heard coming from my chest. An ultrasound probe would find nothing but silence. That thought was a bit unsettling, but there was also a strangely soothing part of the test.

The technician doing the test was not real tall and a bit stocky. In doing the test, I had to lie on my left side while he reached over me to position the probe where he needed it. As he was holding the probe, he essentially had to lean on me to do the test.

I did not expect it, but it was oddly comforting to have him leaning against me with his arm over me. I’m guessing that I have been feeling so alone and have been so “touch starved” that any non-violent physical contact with any other human being was a small relief from that condition.

There is something called “therapeutic touch” that is all dressed up in new-age bullshit whose practitioners claim to be able to manipulate a person’s “energy field.” Reiki practitioners claim something very similar, as do all manner of other “alternative medicine” quacks. But who needs to postulate such idiocy when the simple truth is that normal human beings crave physical contact with other human beings. It’s as simple as that, and I’m no exception.

Babies need to be handled and touched to thrive. We old farts are just big babies. Then again, isn’t everyone?

an online banking oops

Here’s a cautionary tale for you. The other day I decided to close a business checking account that I hadn’t used for almost a year due to a slowdown in that business. Stopping in at the bank, I told them that I wanted to close my account. No problem, do you have your account number? Yep. Hmmm, we can’t seem to find the account. Hold on a minute.

Into the back room he goes. A few minutes later he comes back out with the branch manager, who also proceeds to try to find the account. Hmm, it looks like the account is scheduled to be closed out. What about the balance I had in it, I ask. Maybe it has been sent to the state, he says. He suggests that when I get home I call the bank’s 800 phone number and that they will probably be able to help me better than they can.

So when I got home, I did exactly that, and guess what – my account was indeed closed. Since I was going to close the account anyways, I wasn’t really upset about it, but I did suggest that if the bank was going to close an account that at least they could notify the account holder. Umm, they did.

Many banks, credit card companies, and other businesses encourage their customers to handle accounts online. It cuts down on the paperwork and in some ways can be more secure than having stuff go through the mail. I’m an online kind of guy, as a rule, so that suits me just fine. There is, however, one little catch that caught me this time.

When you agree to have your bank statements delivered to you online, you also agree to receive any special notifications online as well. Apparently, last year the bank put a note on my online bank statement telling me that if there was no activity in the account within thirty days, the account would be closed. Since I knew there had been no activity on the account, I had not been looking at the online statements and never knew about the impending action. Oops. My bad.

So, if you have accounts that you handle online, don’t forget to look at the statements, even if you know there has been no activity on the account. All my inattentiveness cost me was a closed account. (Well, that and the $7.00 that was still in the account – they charge $30.00 to close a business account but called it even by taking my $7.00. I can deal with that.) However, if there were changes such as account fees or penalties, one could really get into trouble. It’s way easier to head off any potential problems by reading the online statements on a regular basis.

Lesson learned, and now you know better, too.

sheen magic

I just heard a brief news report about Charlie Sheen’s first show in Detroit last night, which is moving to Chicago tonight. People were complaining that they thought the show sucked and that they didn’t get their money’s worth. The show consisted mostly of videos with only a little speaking by Mr. Sheen. To top it all off, he was an hour late to the show. Well, I would say that those people stupid enough to spend their money on the show got exactly what they paid for.

Charlie Sheen is a narcissist and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone except himself. What the hell did people think he was going to do for a show? Ramble on for a few hours about how great he is and how the world has abused him? Could you even listen to that for that long?

I don’t know, maybe the people who wanted to see Sheen would have loved it. Or maybe they would have been happier if he had just started drinking and rambling at the beginning of the show, accompanied by a few whores in scanty outfits, and ended with a few rounds of drugs and being rushed off stage to the hospital; nothing is more fun than watching a man self-destruct. Or maybe they would have preferred to be threatened by him physically.

Stupid people with too much money spending it on a sorry example of a man; they deserve each other. Quit your bitching.

my future in health

It seems that I’m firmly in the repair stage of my life. Since no one is willing to take this old body in for trade on a new one, I don’t have much choice. Better that, I guess, than being hauled off to the junkyard for scrap.

I just got the results of a couple of CT scans I had done last week. The details aren’t important here, and overall I’m happier with the results than I could have been, but it is obvious that parts are wearing out. When the tests you just had have your doctor sending you off for more tests and to see more doctors, you know that the unending cycle of old age health issues has begun.

I told the nurse that gave me the results of the CT scans that it’s hell getting old, and she said that at least I was following up on my health issues, which gets me a step ahead of a lot of people who let things go until it is too late. Small consolation, but at least it’s something.

I had to laugh, though, when she told me that part of what I need to do to keep myself healthy is to keep my stress levels down. That would be one good trick on my part. Hell, just getting old is stressful, let alone all the other shit in my life. I really don’t know how to change that, but I guess I better try.

The other thing I need to do, and that millions of other people should do, too? Lose weight and get more exercise. It’s a bitch to do when you’re in the shape I am in, but I’m trying. Maybe new knees are on the docket for this fall. If I make that far.