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Saturday, May 31, 2014


I got an email from Sister saying the doctors guessed Dad would die early this evening.  He hasn't, and I'm not surprised; he is tenacious...

My siblings and close in-laws have been holding vigil when they can.  But Dad is in a coma and he's not aware of their presence and they have jobs. And I am hours away.  There is little good I could do there, so there isn't much point in driving there.   He might not make it until I arrive, or he could live a week.

My understanding of Mom's death was she was aware right to the last moment.  It mattered that Dad was right with her all that time.  But this is not one of those times.

I have written the obituary.  That was singularly weird.  I probably won't write another in my entire life.  I think it is a good one, but not adequate for his total existence.  So I've written a longer post to place here after he dies.  Its not like there will be anything new to add in a few days if he lives longer.  He;s in a kidney-failure coma after all.

He was a special person to ME because he was my Dad, but he was a pretty unusual person on his own, so he deserves more than just an obituary notice.  We weren't identical people (well some Fathers/Sons are, (and they worry me)) but most aren't.

I expect The Call Sunday, but if Dad wants to stay around a few more days, I won't be terribly surprised.  He never gave up easy about anything.

I've spent hours tonight unspooling his life as I know it.  And its not like he told me everything.  But I'll mention the good things I know.

Everyone deserves that!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I try to avoid politics here.  Everyone has their opinions and I don't really want to upset my friends.  But I just have to say something today. 

I've voted both Republican and Democratic over the years; "party" hasn't historically mattered much to me.  I'm not especially liberal or conservative.  What I AM is "progressive".  I believe that government has a legitimate function in organizing society to advance The General Good.  I believe in empowering the will of the citizenry to improve the lives of as many people as possible.  I believe that democratic (small "d") government is a protection against the sometimes overwhelming influence of the very powerful.

And I have a degree in "Government and Politics", so I know a little about the inside game.  And heck, when the local newspaper  is 'The Washington Post', you can't help but stay informed about the political games. 

But some things are going on politically that just baffle me.  FLOTUS (First Lady Of The United States, Michelle Obama) is being attacked for (please don't snort milk out your nose) "supporting healthy lunches for schoolkids"!  What a shockingly outrageous idea...  How DARE she!

Well, that's how current Republican politicians are reacting anyway.  "Governmental over-reach", "Nanny State", "Regulations", they are screaming.

OH COME ON...  Now its a political crime to suggest that kids should eat healthy lunches?  This is a controversial idea?  For many children, the lunch they get at school is the best meal they get all day.  Who can be against healthy meals for children?  I probably don't have to tell you (except by mentioning I haven't voted Republican lately)...

And then the MSNBC (yeah I watch that a lot) host mentioned something I had not thought about.   Those kids who only get their one healthy meal at school have been getting them there during the Summer too.  Never occurred to me (and I am embarassed not to have realized that).  Now Republican politicians want to stop THAT too.  For URBAN kids...  Wait, don't all children need healthy meals equally?  They want to continue it in their rural districts of course.  Where they consider government support contemptible...

I want all children to be fed well enough to grow and thrive.  Children are growing brains as well as bodies, and healthy children grow up to be more productive and skilled adults.  Even if I just looked at it selfishly, healthy children today are going to support the world I live in tomorrow.  Of course, I'm not just looking at it selfishly.  Children should be helped to a healthy adulthood for their own sakes.  I cannot conceive contesting such a basic premise.

But I want to close on the politics of this idea.  The proponents of this idea of reducing the schoolyear quality of childrens' lunches and the idea of eliminating their lunches during Summer vacation are all conservative Republican polititians.  Can't we at least agree that children are not to blame for the poverty or lack of parenting skills of their parents and agree to feed them enough decent food to help them become mentally and physically healthy adults? 

I don't even care what political views they have when they reach adulthood.  I just want them to be healthful and mentally clear-thinking adults. 

Some Background

I mentioned being well off and know many of my blogger friends arent, so I thought I should explain a bit.  It wasn't easy at first.

I failed out of college in the early 1970's because I was screwed up.  I worked years at minimum wage in some department stores.  I took a government exam in 1976 and scored a perfect 100% in several categories.  "Screwed up" doesn't mean stupid. 

And all THAT got me was a temporary summer job as a GS 5.  At the end of the 3 month job, I was offerred a permanent position as a GS 5.  In 1976, that was $8,000 annual.  At the time, I was kiting checks to pay the rent, had 4 other really crazy roommates, and could barely get a decent night's sleep. 

My job was to keep track of furniture, and purchase carpet and drapes to other government offices at the General Services Administration.  Which meant I was at the very bottom of the heap.  But we also purchased those things for Congressmen and Senators, and Presidential Committees and Commissions.  There were 4 older guys who had been doing the same thing for years before me.  

I did it a LOT better!

And believe it or not, geometry does have some practical applications.   I could calculate office space areas better than my co-workers, deal with drapery contractors better than them, describe available government equipment better, and as minor as it sounds to me today, just process the daily paperwork faster.  I realized I was in "my right place". 

I was quickly assigned to the Congressional and Committee offices.  I probably talked to more Congressmen and Senators than some professional lobbyists. 

From that, I was assigned to write telephone orders.  No idea why.  Maybe I was just good at finding out what people needed.  Maybe because my resume' included programming in Fortran and Cobol.  That stuff was easy.

From there, I went into telecommunications policy management at the HQ.  Well, I always could write instructions clearly.  And I spent 20 years doing that.  Bought my house with that promotion. 

I'm no computer genius, but I figured out ways to translate vendor telephone records from proprietory and damn secretive files into Windows Access and then Excel spreadsheets.  Created an entire video Conference network and records-keeping.  Much acclaim.

But in the last 3 years, top-down decisions sent me into an office that didn't have the slightest idea of the program I was managing.  Worst 3 years of my career.  Fortunately, the last few months involved a new supervisor 2 levels above me from private industry.  He invited us to describe what we were doing.  My co-workers had 1-3 items.  I had 25.  He was shocked.

He talked to me privately in his office a few days later.  He had talked to folks at his old company.  They told him they had 5 people doing what I did.  Well, I sort of knew that, but the statement was very satisfying.  He asked me a very interesting question "how do you manage it all"?  I answered honestly "In constant desperation, its just me and I have to".

I'll give the private industry guy some credit.  He said I needed some serious support, but he didn't have the funds to do it.  To which I responded I was retiring March 2006 (in 3 months).  I had told my immediate supervisor that I was retiring then, a year earlier but apparently she choose not to tell him that.  I did not know that.

I am told that I was replaced by 3 FTE (Full Time Employees) and the program fell apart in spite of that. 

Sorry, but I'm kind of glad about that.  I offerred to stay employed as a contract employee at my current salary to train my replacements and they just dismissed the idea.

I do often have nightmares where I am still employed in the various offices I worked in, but mostly because the jobs I held are done so badly.  Nightmares are weird.

I WAS offerred the job of my immediate supervisor because she rather suddenly retired 2 months before I did (gave a week's notice).  But her job was really stupid and I did not want it.  To be precise, her job and the job of all the other people in my last office was to coordinate policy among the other offices.  Nothing to do with what I did.  Oh sure I could have done it, but I was already on my my to retirement.

Just wanted to explain all this.


Every couple of years, I get this thought stuck in my head that I should move.  I'm tired of the stairs, the garden is too shaded by neighbors' trees, I've lived here 27 years, etc.  What I want is something more modern-wired (or communicationally wireless), one level, half-walled rooms (except for bathrooms and bedrooms, of course), on a few acres of sunny land.  Ridiculously expensive...

It may be almost genetic.  My paternal grandpa used to design homes to be built into the side of a hill for environmental reasons.  Long shafts of mirrored skylights, massive passive temperature control, wind turbines for electricity, he was ahead of his time.  He never built any of his designs of course, they were all impractical in the 1940s and 50s

Dad was a very practical engineer.  The closest he got to radical ideas was a "Yankee Barn" in NH, and only then because the structure was standard in the planned community he bought into in 1979.   But even then, he redesigned a lot of the structure (and did lots of the actual work - you just can't stop an engineer from building stuff).

So I have this idea of a house I would like for myself.  I found a basic layout on the internet that I'm adapting (because really, I have some ideas but also, you have to stick with professional water supply and toilet connections close together.  Some things just have to go together, and the basic water-stack is one.

I'm going to start diagramming my "perfect house".  I could buy a CAD program, but quite frankly Excel offers sufficient line drawing for the basic design and I would need an architect to turn it into a real design anyway for the details. 

What holds me back is a fear of actually packing stuff up and moving.  I've mentioned this before and gotten good advice and I appreciate that.  It's just scarey to contemplate, is all.  And I have the thought of buying a new house outright and THEN selling this one after I fix it up after moving when it is empty.

I don't want to sound morbid, but I am practical and realistic.  Dad is 92 and entering hospice care.  My inheritence will be about the cost of a new house.  I neither consider that something I am due or that I have "earned" in some way.  But it is going to happen soon.  Its not something to  ignore.  Just as I will die someday with a similar estate and pass it on to my siblings or their children some 20+ years from now. 

And, for the record, "yes I know I am exceedingly fortunate to both have some accumulated wealth of my own plus anticipated wealth from my parents".  If I'm being too honest, feel free to complain, borders are not my strong point.  I lived much of my life "hiding my candle under a bushel basket" (as my paternal Pennsylvannia Deutch gramma would have said). 

But I wrote all that to explain why I am rearranging the house to get rid of excess junk...  I'm a pack-rat.  Not a hoarder; there are not stacks of newspapers or weird stuff in the house.  But after 27 years, you just collect a lot of "stuff" you would not really need in a new house.

I double-stacked the bookcases in the computer room and packed 7 boxes of books into wine boxes.  I filled the recycling bin with "useful stuff" that I never use.  I filled 5 bags of trash.  I cleaned all the living room bookcases and arranged "decorative stuff" in them.  Looks great.

Next week, I will attach plywood sheets to the attic joists to store good moving boxes up there.  No books or old clothes, the humidity is too high.

But I spent 12 hours working in the house today and accumulated enough stuff to get rid of, that makes the flat rate landfill fee reasonable.  All I have to do is fill up the car as much as possible to take advantage of the flat rate per car.

I'll probably regret saying some of this, but Dad was big on honesty and I think  talking about reality is important.  Not everyone has the same situations, and in my life I've gone from roach-filled apartments shared with 5 other guys to a decent home.  So I can say "been there, done that".

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Back To Work

I spent the last week getting over the 2 teeth extracted.  But I got back to yard work yesterday morning.  One thing I read about was growing corn in bins. Well, guess what, I just happened to have some!  THe County recycling system changed from carryable bins to one huge one, and they didn't want the old smaller bins back. 

So now they are 3'x2' x18" planting containers!  So I'm recycling recycling bins, LOL!  I'm goin to use them to empty out soil in the raised framed beds and plant corn in them in the sunniest part of the the yard.  But thaose bins needed soil, AND I had to clear some space in the old garden for new raised beds.

So first, I had to level the old box with a butternut tree and some roses.
It took 30 minutes of hard chopping and digging to clear the first framed bed out.  Here is just part of the butternut tree and roots.  They actually spread 10' in all directions.  Digging and chopping them out took most of the time.
Then, it was on to the old lost herb bed. 
There were still herbs in there, but things had gotten so confusing that I decided to just start again.  I dug that right to ground level.  I'm any herbs survive that I recognize, I'll save them.

Then I started emptying the old trellis framed bed into the bins.  Which I discovered were WAY too heavy to carry.  I tied a hand cart, but even with a strap around it, it was too awkward to move (with all the dug-up carpet, there was no path out of the garden area). 

So I switched to 5 gallon buckets to carry to a wheelbarrow.  That works, but it was slow work.  And quite frankly, after staying up all last night and doing this hard work in the morning, I went to bed.  Best I could do was strapping the bins to the handcart, and that was too awkward to move around.

Mowing The Lawn

Sometimes mowing the lawn is not so easy.  In early April, I pulled up some chicken wire and laid it to the side of the garden.  I wedged up some 4'x4' posts to and set them on the chicken wire.  On top of that has come a series of dug-up carpet (still solid after 25 years) black plastic, landscaping fabric, and at the lowest level there was synthetic burlap (also un-degraded).  I can't imagine I ever used some of that stuff.

The removal of all that stuff has been brutal!  Each layer has required spade work under each layer to pry it up then yank it away from the intruding vine roots by hand a few inches at a time.  Each exposed layer has had tree roots running through from the neighbor's yard.  It terrible!

But the grass was growing throught the chicken wire and I had to do something about it.  I pulled the chicken wire up, and it was like ripping asphault off the driveway.  Each 25' piece took 15 minutes of hard pulling up from the grass.  And then there were all the previously pruned pieces of thorny rose bushes and tree trimminings.

It took 45 minutes before I could even mow the overgrown lawn area.

And then it took multiple mowings over the overgrown area to get them down to height.  The grass won't like that.  The rule is never remove more that a 1/3 of a grass height.  I removed 4/5ths .  I'll have to tend to them kindly for a few months.

I am so far behind this year...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I have this blog for myself, and I have a separate blog for my cats.  I try to keep this one for my own thoughts and I try to leave the cats to theirs (with some usually unseen help on my part).  But sometimes, both blogs intersect.

Yesterday was a case in point.  I read about 80 cat blogs every few days (for my own pleasure and to help my cats keep in touch with their friends).  You never know what you are going to find when you visit one.  One cat will have just caught its first mouse, another may report the death of a beloved old cat, another may have had a trip to the vet. 

Sometimes I read a serious story about a cat that brings me to tears.   I have read many of them over the years.  Sometimes about lost cats, sometimes about cats killed in sad ways, sometimes about rescued cats.  Isn't it odd how both happy and sad stories can bring tears to us?

Today I'm writing about an old neglected cat who found a friendly home to pass her last days.  I won't repeat the whole story here; it is written so much better at Max, The Psychokitty.

There aren't many sad endings that also feel happy when you stop crying.  If you haven't read that post, go there now!  Go there NOW!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Well, this is a bit embarassing.  I thought I had this simple graphic above scheduled for earlier today but apparently I only had it saved to draft.  I only just checked it now because there had been no comments in my email folder.

I spent today somberly and with reflection on the events in our history that this day is about.  I watched a few ceremonies on TV, cleaned house a bit, mowed the lawn.  Things my WWII generation parents would have approved of...

But celebration is not out of order.  Engaging in cookouts and happy events celebrates the "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" that my ancestors fought for.  I'll just let it rest with that.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meteor Shower Fail

It was a dud!  Here, for me.  I sat out on the front steps for an hour with my back resting against the door.  That had me staring at the correct spot.  After 5 minutes in the dark, I was seeing all the Big Dipper, Casseopia, and several Little Dipper stars.  So I was light-adjusted. 


I tried some tricks.  I focused on one spot for a while.  I let my eyes go out of focus for a while.  I looked slightly to the side for a while.  None of my usual tricks of seeing in darkness had any effect.


If they were there, they were too faint for me to see through the light pollution.  But I could see most of the major constellation stars, so I should have seen some meteors.  I will be interested in finding if others did see them.  But for now, I'm just disappointed again.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tooth Pulled

Well, I ended up having TWO teeth pulled Thursday!  It was much less bad than I feared or had read about.  The novacaine worked well enough so that I never really felt anything during the extractions.  Oh, there was some pulling sensation, and I got poked on the other side by accident a few times, but the most disturbing part was the tooth-breaking noises and the dentist complaining that the main tooth just didn't want to come out.

He gave me a prescription for vicodin, but I didn't really feel that bad after the novacaine wore off, so I took the minimum dosage.

But I also had a plan to get through as much of the first 24 hours as easily as possible!  First, I stayed up all night and day before the appointment.  Then after the novacaine wore off about 5 pm, drank 2 bowls of soup (cream of mushroom and chicken noodle). 

I went to bed at 8 pm!  Other than taking another vicodin whenever I woke up after 4 hours, I stayed in bed until 4pm.  Yes, 20 hours!  And I only got up then to feed the cats...  So I had a bowl of spaghetti.  It seemed like the softest solid food I had.  But it meant I pretty much slept through the 24 hours after the extractions.

A curious part of the whole operation was that the dentist put a blood pressure cuff on me that automatically inflated, displayed my blood pressure, then deflated.  And did that every few minutes the entire time.  I'd been wondering about my blood pressure for years.  Sitting in a dentists chair, awaiting the operation, it was 120/70.  The highest it got the whole time was 157/85.  The dentist was surprized too.  When he saw the first one, he laughed and said "You're going to be just fine".

I don't consciously do meditation or related relaxation techniques, but as I was sitting there waiting for the novacaine to take effect, I recalled snippets of a mantra from the sci-fi book 'Dune'.  I basically came up with "Fear is the mind-killer.  I will not allow fear to control me.  I will adapt to the requirements of the moment."  I don't know if that actually had any effect, but it seemed to do no harm either.

Naturally, I looked up the quote when I got home.  It reads, in full, 
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

But there is another part to my scheduling plan.  There is a brand new meteor shower that will be visible in all of North America from 2-4 am EDT Saturday (as in 2 to 4 hours after Friday midnight, Washington DC time.  It may be a spectacular Meteor Storm (1,000+ meteors per hour) or it may be a dud.  The meteors will come out of a spot dead north (just to the right and down from the Big Dipper.

So be staying in bed so late today, I will be awake at that time!  And for once during the regular meteor showers, it will be warm AND the sky will be clear.  I sure hope it is spectacular.  I've never seen a good in my life!  

Back to the dental work.  My tongue tells me that there is a HUGE GAPING HOLE in the back right upper side.  The jaw hurts to open fully, but that's from the novacaine shot (I've experienced that from past dental work).  I suppose I will wait longer than necessary to chew on that side of my mouth agai.  Well, I've been chewing on one side for a couple months, so another week won't matter.

But I seem to have gotten through...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Funniest Jokes

Since I will be pretty loopy and really unhappy after the tooth extraction at 2 pm today, I am leaving the 4 best jokes I ever heard, for your amusement.  I'll be back online Friday (I hope) or Saturday (If things are difficult) when the extraction heals and I don't have the painkiller pills messing up my mind...

Laughter is sometimes the best medicine...

1.  Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls 911s. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's actually dead." There is a silence, then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"

2.  Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go on a camping trip.  After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire to their tent for the night, and go to sleep.
Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes” replies Watson.
And what do you deduce from that?
Watson ponders for a minute.  “Well, 

Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. 
Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. 
Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. 
Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. 
Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. 

But what does it tell you, Holmes?

Holmes is silent for a moment.  
Watson, you idiot!” he says.  “Someone has stolen our tent!

3.  Two guys are in the woods when they see a grizzly bear running towards them. The first guy runs away and the other follows.

Surprised, the other man says " What are you thinking, we can't outrun a bear!  The first guy says "I just have to outrun you." 

4.  A research group was engaged in a study of longevity in mammals and had recently focused their attention on a particular species of porpoise. They came to believe that, if fed just the right combination of nutrients, this particular porpoise could, in theory, live forever.

To put this to the test, they studied the world's flora and fauna to see if any naturally occurring organism would fit the bill. They finally narrowed the selection down to an unusual species of mynah bird, and they sent a team of researchers off to gather a specimen.

It turns out that the mynah bird in question was quite rare, living only in a single tree in Kenya. The research team finally arrived at the tree to capture a bird, only to find that the tree was surrounded by a pride of very hungry lions, precluding any reasonable attempt to approach and climb the tree.

A suggestion was made that the lions might be manageable if they could be fed, and a couple of fat cape buffalo were captured and offered to the lions. The hungry lions devoured the hapless beasts and lay down upon the grass to digest their meal.

One of the researchers then gingerly tiptoed past the lions, climbed the tree, and had little difficulty capturing one of the mynah birds. He climbed back down the tree and walked past the lions to rejoin the group when a game warden appeared and arrested him for (what else)...

"Transporting mynahs across sated lions for immortal porpoises." 

Hope you liked them 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Happy Birthday To Me.

Today's my 64th birthday (sounds of the Beatles "When I'm 64" running around my head),  Tomorrow, I get a tooth pulled out,  and I mean yanked right out of my jaw like it was done 100 years ago.  Well, OK, painkillers are better today.

Um, "woo hoo and yippee"...

And I'm not even allowed to have any wine afterwards even with dinner for 2 days because the painkiller pill is serious stuff.  The dentist says I should have someone "with me", but I don't so I will just stay in bed with the cats, have some soup ready for reheating, and wait the healing out.

He says I can't even drink through a straw ("negative pressure").  I bet I can. But I may not test it.

I hate having been too stupid to have avoided easier solutions, but sometimes even intelligent people do stupid things.  Seriously, 8 years ago, I could have just had the damn crown reglued back on.  All I can say is that ignoring it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Don't ignore dental stuff!!!

Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday you stupid idiot,
Happy Birthday to me.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thinking Outside The Box

I'm a very law-abiding person (well, before and after my college days).  But I do think of myself as creative.  So I saw something today that really blew my mind.

I was in the car waiting for the left turn light to come on and a guy in the straight-through lane came to a complete stop in the intersection.  And stayed there.  This is something I have never seen before.

I pondered that while the various traffic lights cycled around to my turn and I carefully drove around the stopped car.

Then it hit me!  No, not the car, just a sudden realization.  The intersection has one of those "automated traffic-ticket cameras".  They work by taking a picture of your back license plate after you drive through the intersection after the red light comes on.

OMG, he stopped in the intersection so that the camera couldn't take a picture of his license plate.  When the light turns green again, the camera won't take a picture!!!

I'm not supporting drivers pushing red traffic lights; its dangerous to them and others.  The driver probably has other bad habits.  In fact, it's likely that he's a jerk.

But I just have to admire the thinking of anyone who figures out a way around some of the minor daily rules of life.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Well, I had a deck builder come by yesterday to discuss replacing the old deck.

When I moved here 27 years ago, one of the first major things I did was build a 2-level deck.  The main floor had sliding glass doors 10" above ground level and a pre-made fence section nailed across the outside so that no one could accidently open the doors and fall out.

But below that was a sunken patio with a cinder block wall around it.  So it seemed like a good idea to use the cinder block wall to support deck posts, and I sort of wanted to use the sliding glass doors for "something".  I bought a book on building decks, designed one, ordered the lumber for delivery, and recruited a friend and a friend-of-that-friend to help.  I'm a by-the-book builder.  I follow "the rules" (Dad was an engineer, and certain habits get passed along).  Like bracing posts using small boards to anchor the posts.  The friend had the carpentry skills of a hippo (zero) and his friend was a "just do it fast" type.  It was not a good combination.

But it worked out OK.  They did the initial cutting away of some vinyl siding (I couldn't watch that part)  and heavy lifting to get the ledger board attached to the house.  I did all the rest myself so I could do it "my way").  Even today, the deck guy pounded and jumped on the deck and said it was still "damn solid".  But even pressure-treated wood does not last forever, the deck was never build "to code" (I had no idea there were codes at the time), and it is ugly as hell.  You can build something to engineering specifications and still have it "ugly".  My artistic skills are not outstanding.  If I had design physical things for a living, I would starve to death.  Let's just say that if life was a ballet, I would be a hippo!  My constructions are very functional, but that that's about it.

Plus, it is a 2-level deck.  The higher level is 12'x12' and the lower level 12'x16'.  I had in mind throwing parties in my new house.  I learned I couldn't fill a closet with "friends" and I'm am not a party-thrower...

So the new deck will be a slightly larger upper one and no lower deck.  The new 16'x16' deck will have very sturdy composite flooring (it used to be cheap and flimsy, but the current stuff is as solid as real '2" by 'wood, and will last longer than I will.  And it is colored right through, so no staining required. 

It will take a several weeks for the deck guy to get the building permit, which is good because it gets me past my dental work next week and also into the drier time on the year (the front yard is muddy in April/May and it is a LOT easier for him to bring the lumber into the back yard by small truck).  I can't wait.

BTW, I mentioned only one builder.  I'm good about competitive bids.  I had 4 estimates last Fall.  So I took the one I preferred among those and asked him for a revised estimate.  Since the revised estimate was so close to the previous one (even with a couple of changes) I just accepted that one.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why Do I have Books?

Why do I have books?

I had to really ask myself that question today.  And the answer is "because I used to read voraciously" and "because I am very information-oriented".  I am the reason bookstores used to exist.  More succinctly, I grew up "pre-internet and pre-cableTV" and needed books if I wanted information or entertainment.  I used to come home from work, make dinner and then sit in a chair reading a book with a cat on my lap (back in the days of Mischief, Cat Ballou, and Sport-Sport).

I spent 50 years collecting books on varieties of subjects.  I have 60 linear feet of science fiction books, for example.  I also have nearly as many books on science, history, cooking, gardening, philosophy, evolution, fishing, nature, cats, geography, general reference, etc.  OMG, I even have a 3' long set of 40 year old encyclopedias!  What possible value do those have today when the internet is at my fingertips?  They do look impressive though...

But because I decided not to move, I thought it would be a good idea to de-clutter the house and make it look more open.  One thing I realized was that I seldom read books anymore.  So the first project was to reduce all the bookshelf display space. 

I was astonished at how much sci-fi I had.  I was also astonished to realize that I hadn't the slightest idea of the plot of at least half of them.  I packed those into 7 boxes for storage (I can't get myself to simply dispose of them, though I may donate them to some worthy cause later).  I kept the rest, but double-shelved them in the computer room bookcases to save space. 

Then I moved most of the information books from the living room bookcases to the newly-freed computer room bookcase shelves.  I could probably pack up most of those too, but I at least want to display my interests, and even with the internet, many of them are still useful.

The living room bookcases will become mostly for decoration and display.  I have some sets of books that are either valuable (anyone ever heard of "Real Books" or "All About Books"?), presentable (like the uniform 20something book set of gardening and the similiar fishing and hunting set - both from those "once a month" subscription series popular in the 1980s), or impressive (like Winston Churchill's 6 volume series about WWII).

[Speaking of Churchill, I have to mention one of my favorite anecdotes.  Churchill was seated at a fancy dinner party next to a stuffy old dowager who intensely disapproved of him.  At one pointed she hissed "Winston, if you were my husband, I would poison you".  To which Churchill famously (and immediately) replied "Madame, if I were your husband, I would let you".  Damn, I wish I could think that fast!]

Well, anyway, back to the books...  Almost all of the non-decorative books are in the computer room (my cookbooks are staying near the kitchen).   Some of the books I discovered I owned amazed me.  Books on magic tricks, odd things to do with common household items, Gray's Anatomy, World Almanacs, Twain's 'Life On The Mississippi', the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe,  college textbooks from the 1970s.  Just amazing stuff.

I might even start reading again...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dental Visit Results

Well, the dentist visit today was just an exam, but the news is awful.  I have to have a tooth removed (I had expected that, but hoped I was wrong).  I have 2 teeth with partial filling loss and one may need a crown.  And there is one he wants to examine more closely later (not urgent).  Its my own fault; I avoided things for too long.

The tooth removal is scheduled for May 22nd.  I gather that it really is pretty much the "pliers and yanking” process.  Well, OK, he says its fancy "screwdrivers" to rock the roots back and forth, but he will still be kneeling on me and pulling hard and I will actually have to hold my head UP while he pulls DOWN.

I love that they take digital xrays these days.  I had an internal one and one that revolved around my head outside.  Instantly on the computer screen!  I looked at it carefully, and could see my gum line (very healthy) but WOW do those tooth roots go DEEP!  They are like icebergs, 90% hidden.  It's NOT going to be fun.

I’ll be really unhappy for a couple of days after that and I don’t even get to have any alcohol.  Apparently, the pain-killer can only do so much BUT it  reacts badly with alcohol AND you are a bit loopy.  I may have to disconnect my computer before the extraction so I don’t type insane stuff.  Can’t upset my friends with crazed rants from a drugged blogger.  In fact, I think I will arrange for a pre-scheduled post to that effect that day, just in case. 

The tooth extraction is unavoidable  and further work is necessary and I am going to hate this next few weeks.  But the dentist is good.  Well, OK. He is highly rated on Angie's List.  But he is also honest.  He told me the bad parts, he understands my physical problems with the dentist chair, and described how he will adjust to them as much as possible.  I can't ask much more than that.

I think I will ask him to email me the digital xrays.  That would be cool to look at!  And show.  Well, medical stuff is fascinating to me.  I love seeing my insides (the better to understand my self).

Tomorrow, back to normal stuff, like planting my tomatoes...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

An Overdue, But Unwanted Visit

I'm sure you have all had to eventually to something you avoided as long as possible.  Tomorrow is my day for one of those.  Tomorrow, I visit The Dentist.

8 years ago, the first week of my retirement, I was having lunch with a friend to celebrate my retirement.  A filling came loose.  Well, it didn't bother me to have it missing, so I delayed going to a dentist to replace it.  My previous dentist had just retired and I didn't like the rather odd attitude of the 2 guys who bought his practice.  Somehow, the oldr dentist's motto of "We cater to cowards" because "Deal with it you coward". 

So not feeling any immediate problem, I figured I would just find a new dentist.  Besides, I had some problems in the dental chair, so I kind of avoided doing annything.

No one likes the dental chair, but my reasons are not (I think) the usual ones.  I don't mind the drilling.  I don't feel it, I don't care.  The dentist could just as well be drilling my name in a concrete slab on the wall.

But I have some problems that cause me to avoid the dental chair mightily!  And if you are sqeamish, just stop reading.  Those of you you who accept that bodily functions vary and are sometimes annoying, may read on.

I have smoked for 45 years, and there are consequences.  I cough a lot, I have a constant nasal drip at the back of my throat, my nose runs, I swallow constantly, and as soon has my jaw is open, I salivate.  And there are some problems I had before I smoked.  I have a small jaw, my teeth are crowded (when I was 30, one dentist wanted to remove 1 forward molar in each right/left and upper/lower part of my jaw to let the remaining teeth "spread out",  I can't open my mouth very wide (a standard thick sandwich is a problem, and a thick sub is impossible).

So when that lost-filling tooth twinged a few months ago, I became worried.  It subsided, bit there were a few days months later when I detected some problems.

A month ago, I noticed some "pinkish"  as I expelled my toothpaste.  And then a tiny bit of filling.  Then pinkish regulary.  I recognized that I had to do something about that and  started cutting done on cigarettes.  The connection there is that I sure wanted to not cough and have to swallow in the dental chair.

Last week, I suddenly felt a slight movement at that bad tooth.  I suspect that there is a broken piece of tooth at the gumline.  Fortunately, there is no pain (I think I had a root canal work there 20 years ago). 

But it meant that I couldn't put visiting a dentist any longer.  I had had Dad living with me for a year in May 2012 to 2013 nd he had a tooth problem.  So I had searched Angie's List for the best local dentists.  And the one I found for him was very good. 

I visited his office today and made an appointment.  He's not going to be happy with the problems I have described above.  But he specializes on children an old people, and in my experience watching him work on Dad's bad tooth, he will be the most tolerant dentist I can find.

I will see how the initial visit goes.  He may simply pull out bits of a broken tooth  and drill out the roots.  I wouldn't mind the tooth simply being removed.  Or he may see I can't handle the dental chair concious and suggest sedation dentistry.

But this is a big step for me right now.  I'm not scared of the dentistry work; just my body's annoying reactions to all that stuff in my mouth.  The dentist doesn't scare me.  But I'm afraid I might choke to death while he does his good work!

If I don't return, then something went really wrong.  Seriously, one never knows...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

To Move or Not To Move Part 2

Wow, I can't imagine two more perfect sides to my internal argument about moving than the first 2 comments to yesterdays post.  I'll stick to given handles in reference...

Fuzzy Tales expresses my desire to move to a better place.  There are things I don't like here.  Some of those things would be very difficult to fix and leveling the annoying english ivy-covered ridge is not a simple task.  I can't get rid of the stairs to the basement, and some days I have to walk carefully down them.  There is something that often gets stiff in my left knee at the bone.  I want a house easier to get around in. I may only be 64, but I won't be getting any younger.  The stairs will get more problematic in the next decade.  That possible new house doesn't have to mean "fancier", just "more suited to me".

But Megan makes the argument in the other side of my head.  I like much of where I am and I do not like change.  I live on a dead end street, so there is little traffic.  It is quiet here, and I like that.  I am separated from one neighbor by a drainage easement and the orientation of our houses are relatively far apart.  On the other side, the neighbor is practically non-existent, and that is fine with me. 

I'm not not quite a hermit, but privacy is good.  I'm friendly to talk to to and helpful when asked.  But I'm reminded of something I read about Daniel Boone in the frontier days when he noticed smoke from the chimney of a new house across the valley and decided it was time to move because it was "getting crowded".  There is a difference between "alone" and "lonely".  I don't feel "lonely" here.

I expect I can find a place I would like slightly better than this one.  And again, not bigger or fancier, just "better".  But slightly more suited comes with a lot of effort.   I have contacted a moving company to give me an estimate of "what you see is what you pack and move" and I have contacted a Buyer's Agent, who according to what I have read, represents ME in the house-buying process.

It will be interesting to see where this goes.  I have to admit that, if I could just show someone the house and just say "move it" that would be a great relief (at a cost).  I don't think I can do it on my own.  Then I could choose how much to do on my own.  And if I have an agent representing ME in a purchase, that takes a lot of worry off my mind too.  What I've read about a Buyer Agent suggests that I would save more than the cost.

When I sat down at a table to sign the contract on this house there were 6 lawyers sitting at the other end just daring me to ask any questions.  They knew what they were doing, and I didn't.  They didn't want me to read the contract (I did anyway - mostly), and whenever I asked a question it was either "that's the law" or they all asked a bunch of questions back at me. 

But there was was no one on MY side.  I won't do that again!  I will have an expert on MY side of the table who knows how to read the contract and who represents ME and not the seller.

I look forward to hearing from  several moving company (highly rated ones from Angie's List).  This move might actually happen sometime in the next year...  After 27 years, I can hardly imagine it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

To Move Or Not To Move

Every couple of years, I get an urge to move.  I've lived here since 1986.  I go through the same procedure.  Contact some random real estate agent in possible areas in Maryland, ask about available houses that might meet my desires, then give up and stay here.

I'm not doing it for the fun of it.  I analyze things reasonably well.  The equation is that the problems I want to leave behind are just about equal the the time, cost, and trouble of moving.  Staying in place just seems easier.

I keep coming up with lists and evaluating the lists is all subjective.  If they were numbers, the additions and subtractions would come out about "zero".  For example:

1.  I'm getting older so I'd like not to have stairs.  But spread-out 1 floor houses are more expensive.
2.  I'd like a open style house with 3' walls.  But that means everything has to stay clean.
3.  An open style house give more appearance of space.  But then there are few walls to put tall things up against.
4.  My gardening here is shaded too much by neighbors' trees, but a larger open yard costs more.
5.  My D-I-Y home improvement work over the years has not exactly been terrible, but not admirable either.  I can live with it a lot better than I could sell it to someone else.
6.  The things I dislike about the yard would be nice to escape.  But most of them also fixable.
7.  I know this house so intimately.  I can walk around here in the dark.  In a new house, it would take a year of turning on all the lights at night just to find the bathroom.
8.  Speaking of knowing the house, I knew last year that there was a problem with the A/C just by a slight change in the pitch of the sound.
9.  After 27 years, I have found about the best place for EVERYTHING! I can't imagine how long that would take in a new house.
10.  The cats know how not to get lost here.  That stands by itself as seriously important.  On the other hand, I kept Tinkerbelle inside for a month before I let her out on a harness/leash every day for a few weeks and she didn't get lost.
11.  I'm used to this place and the structures.  Like the 2 sheds.  They fit everything perfectly.  But there isn't anything here I can't replicate on a new property.  And a new larger one would be nicer than 2 old ones.
12.  My garage is so tight that I have only 6" on each side as I pull in.  That seems like a lot more than it is.  Naturally, I don't do that fast.  And I've managed to get some white garage paint on every car I've ever owned.  I could live with a larger garage.
13.  Living here 27 years also means I have long-standing relationships with a Dr, a Dentist, a Barber, etc.  I know where every store is.  The butchers and wineshops know me.  One special orders my favorite wine jusy for me.  Giving that up is hard.

But almost all of those statements could be reversed.  A new house means new possibilities for better arrangements.  No stairs would be easier in the coming years.  An open lot would let me apply the things I've learned about gardening to a new space.  I might find that a new house arrangement is much easier to move around in.   There is some excitement in designing new flowerbeds.  The cats might love the extra yard space and new places to explore.  Unlike when moving here, dead broke with my bank account flat-lined, I have money now (not much D-I-Y work needed).  And unlike when I moved here in my first house and didn't recognize the cheap, cheating ways of my builder, I have some experience in evaluating an existing house or especially one being built new. 

There are other issues.  I could have a solar energy roof and a geothermal heating/cooling system.  I could start with extreme energy-efficient appliances.  In short, I could go from 27 years ago to up-to-date all at once, and probably good enough for the rest of my independent life.  At some cost and a lot of effort...

So it's "familiarity" versus "excitement",  "no effort to stay here" versus "much work in moving".

So I'm asking of those of you who have moved and liked the decision, and those of you who have chosen not to moved and liked the decision, what do you think?  What did you like about your decision to move or not move.  Both decisions are valid, and I'm stuck between them.

I don't often ask for help in making my decisions, but I'm really on the bubble and could use some thoughts.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Swamp Yard

OK, the lower front yard lawn has been sinking the past 20 years.  It was originally an erosion gully and I had it filled 20 years ago.  I had an entire dumptruck of regular yard soil added there and I spent a week spreading it out.  But it has sunk over the years and any rain collects in there; its a swamp now.  I dug a trench from there to the street drain, but it always fills up with tree debris and gets blocked. 

I need more soil.  But how much?  Well, I'm going to set up stakes with strings on them at the level that seems best.  I'll measure severel places under the strings to estimate the soil needed. I am good at geometry.  Then I'll add 50% for packing the soil down a bit.  Not too packed, but it has to be packed enough to resist just being washed away in storms until new grass grows.  And a bit too high would be better than too low.  After all, too low IS the problem.

I'm tired of half the front lawn being squishy to walk on for days after every rain (and unmowable).  Last year, I thought the drainage ditch I dug would solve the problem.  It doesn't.  Time for a more permanent solution.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Difficult Subject

A botched execution by lethal injection of a condemned convict has been in the news lately.  I'm not going to discuss that.  But my thoughts turned to the chemicals used to humanely euthanize our pets.  I thought they were the same chemicals. 

Most internet searches suggest that they are (some listed other chemicals that are used).  It is difficult to tell how up-to-date these articles are because sites discussing the subject seldom have publication dates.  The news reports about the botched lethal injection stated that the chemicals previously used are no longer produced (one article I read, and lost track of, carefully said "for US prison executions").  If they are not available for executing convicts, then are they available for our pets? 

I am worried that the routinely most humane pet euthanasia protocol has been eliminated by the concerns over the ethics of human lethal injection execution.  I worry about the future of humane pet euthanasia...

I have personal experience.  My cat, Skeeter, was euthanized in 2008 in the extremity of kidney failure.  I was there.  He was sedated and then administered a dose of sodium thiopental while I held his head and looked into his eyes.  The vet was listening to his heart.  5 seconds later, he said "he's gone", but listened another 30 seconds to be absolutely sure.  Not a twitch or eye movement.  I was so grateful for the ease of his passing.

So what happens now for our dear pet friends if there is no sodium thiopental?  Or is it still produced for veterinary use?  I can't find the answer on the internet.  And I want to know.

I'm not worried about my cats right now.  The oldest is only 6.  I'm sure the future will bring forth better chemicals for the sad need of pet euthanasia.  But some cats are older and I know that many are euthanized every day. 

What of them, now? 

It disturbs me to raise this question.  But the need for an answer is strong.  If the best chemicals for humane euthanasia are no longer available, what IS being used now?  And if not the BEST chemicals to free our dear furrends from difficult painful lingering ends, WHY NOT?