Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Goodbye 2008!

May the New Year be bigger, better and brighter for each who visit here (and if I'm lucky, for myself as well)!

My birthday found us with Dottie juggling the books as is becoming common each month; I'll be hitting the bricks this next month or so to find a job. After she deposited some of the cash we'd saved for the weekend (what with Bill moving and all) I paid the last bill due for the month. Between my back and the cold she brought home from work, I didn't really feel like going anywhere, so after we finally ate breakfast we spent the early afternoon putting together a scrap wood riser to fit the new scanner I mentioned onto my desk as it's to a point the only way to go is up! I spent the rest of the afternoon deleting old software and installing new.

John, my nephew and a friend of John's dropped by to lend me an anime series I had read some good things about so I could watch all the episodes in order and not have to Netflix it. Dottie made me a pumpkin pie for a "birthday cake", since she's made pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas but we never ended up with any of our own except the cherry one I made a while back.

I got cards from Dottie's family in Vermont and phone calls from the grandkids and Noel. My sister sent a nice e-card; our New Year's Eve tomorrow night at her house will also be my family birthday party.

My mother didn't call, though last week she could find the phone each and every day for something inane. I'm sure she'd have wanted Galileo imprisoned as well for saying the world didn't revolve around her!

Since Bill and Laura hadn't paid to take their cats to the vet for the last 2 years, ours said keep them apart from ours until he could give them their shots and do bloodwork on them this Friday (after I get paid). Meanwhile, knowing they had "food issues" Dottie let them have full bowls of food anyway and the last two nights have been spent cleaning up gallons of cat puke. Thank goodness we covered the spare bed and love seat in the room they are in with plastic and old sheets first...

Bill called last night a bit after midnight; they made it to Alexandria safely. Laura called earlier to say that she had hung up Bill's heavy winter coat and an hour or so later uncovered another; mine. I guess it will be returning to me by parcel post; hopefully before we go back to zero again!

Bill was at work; tonight they planned to unload the rest of the stuff in storage and return the Budget truck. They have until Thursday, so hopefully if they don't return it tonight they will tomorrow.

As 2008 winds down I thank you each for your visits, your kind words, your support and for "being there" this last year!

May 2009 be kind to each of you!

Happy New Year!

alan

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Life in a cat house!

Christmas went well- both days of it. Yesterday we ended up at my sister's to say goodbye to my nephew before he returned to western Kansas; the next time we see him will be his brother's graduation in May. The 2nd round of Christmas took place with her family then Dottie and I came home to try and get Angel and Frankie settled before Bill and Laura arrived with their cats.

Up until now Bill had been renting a bedroom from someone with plans to get an apartment or house when Laura joined him. He's not allowed pets where he is, so until they have a place Dottie and I are keeping her two male cats, 8 year old littermates. Both "large" for housecats, one a very "type A" personality, the other very not a type A (thank goodness)!

We shut our pets in the back of the house to let hers acclimate a bit, then let Angel in. Willow immediately hid; Alley immediately was hissing at her, bu tfinally started to settle down.

So then we let Frankie in. 2/3 their size, he has claws, they don't. It's his house, but Alley immdiately tried to put him in his place which Frankie wasn't having any of. Dottie squirted them both with a water bottle to try to convince them they didn't want to do this, which only irritated them both even more!

This all starting at midnight, finally Laura took them both to the front bedroom to go to sleep at 2, we put Frankie in the bssement; they haven't seen each other since.

Today Angel and Alley have seen each other, but there was no hissing, though Alley won't leave the front bedroom. The only time we've seen Willow is when the breakfast ham was frying.

John and my younger nephew Jordan are helping move Bill because I couldn't really deal with 6 flights of stairs to their apartment. Laura's Mom, Dad and brother are there and most of their stuff they sold or is books and clothes now. Bill's treadmill is the only heavy piece that has to come down the steps, and they should be able to handle it.

So, that leads me back to my header...I'm petsitting!

I keep thinking my back is better right up until I let the meds wear off, then it convinces me otherwise. I'm going to eat something and take the next round and start trying some of the stretches and therapy things they had me doing last time and see if I can loosen it up a bit.

Dottie is off until Tuesday, so I won't be around much in the next few days. Perhaps if I'm feeling better we'll slip out to a movie on my birthday, but we have more than enough things to watch here at home if we don't. One day next week John is going to help me put some more memory in this old Gateway (it's a 256) which should help with Photoshop and such...

Hopefully I'll be around to visit you each before New Year's Day but just in case, I hope each of you has a wonderful Happy New Year and that your dreams all come true in 2009!

alan

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"I'm dreaming..."

and it actually looks like it will be a "White Christmas" this year!

My sister called a bit ago and despite the "black ice" on the two-lane last night my nephew made it home for his birthday (today) and Christmas. He won't be around to celebrate mine on Monday as he has to work on Saturday, but given the current job market, there are worse things than having to work on Saturday when you're 22!

We finished the wrapping last night, me stoned on pain-killers and muscle relaxers doing the "easy" packages and Dottie doing the ones you had to "think about". She is at work now but when she is done this evening she is off until next Tuesday. Most years I end up making my own birthday cake (except for the year I bought one at Costco) and fixing dinner. Perhaps this year I won't!

Tomorrow we'll go to the nursing home to take my Mom presents in the morning, then go to John's house to have Christmas with the grandkids. Bill is flying in from D.C. as we speak and this year my sister is coming with her family as well because Brett has to leave on Friday to go back to work, so there won't be a chance for the "family" Christmas party later.

New Year's Eve will be a combination New Year's/November-December birthday party at my sister's. Dottie works the next day, but said not to worry about it, because New Year's Day is actually rather quiet at the nursing home. I don't know whether that would have more to do with New Year's Eve or football, but I think I should just be happy for her!

As we speak I'm waiting on UPS to deliver what we're calling our Christmas to each other; a new flatbed scanner. The one I have is "Ok" but doesn't do exceptionally well dealing with anything but a "good" print. The few slides I scanned with it in the early days of this blog I was less than happy with the results.

I have every negative that Dad and I shot back to 1967, and slides back to 1950. He and I both shot a lot of larger format film (2.25 square, 6x7cm, 4x5; Dad even had an 8x10 view camera and I have transparencies he shot with it). This new Epson will scan all of those formats and has the "good" digital enhancement software with it for scratches and such. I've needed to sort through them all and cull the "unimportant" stuff and digitize the others for "posterity". Next will be breaking them into the right size packages to "burn" to disc and filling a file cabinet with hanging sleeves!

The 20% we saved on the scanner I selfishly spent on an "infrared" Hoya R-72 filter that had been on my wishlist for 4 or 5 years now, along with a stepdown ring to fit it to the telephoto as well as the normal lens of my Nikon. At almost $90 for the filter I really didn't want to buy two; the step down was less than $10. It will also let me put the "cross-star" filter I bought before Bill's wedding on the telephoto, since I hadn't thought about "not being able to" before and since I didn't get to use it at the wedding (I planned on a "starry-eyed" bride and groom shot that I was told wouldn't "look right") perhaps some icicles will find their way in front of it.

So, as the sun starts to drop behind the hill to the south and I start to contemplate dinner, I wanted to take a chance to wish each of you the Merriest of Christmases and to hope that tomorrow finds you close to someone you love, be it family, spouses, lovers or friends!

Under my "Christmas tree of life", you have each been a gift richly appreciated!

alan

Monday, December 22, 2008

Muscle relaxers and painkillers...

and suddenly things feel much better!

Dottie needed to get antibiotics for the cold she's been fighting for the last week, so she called at noon and got us in to the Dr.'s late this afternoon. I came home and took two of each and for some reason I'm not hurting nearly as much!

Perhaps tomorrow I can start trying to stretch things a bit and start doing the therapy excercises I got last time I went through this...longer ago than I thought, actually it was 5 years ago, as the Dr. was digging back through my chart.

Dottie is off now getting apples to make pies for Christmas dinner at John's and when she comes home I may try and sit at the table and do some of the wrapping so she isn't stuck with all of it.

Thank you all for the kind wishes!

May the rest of your week be kind, and may Christmas and the holidays be especially wonderful for you this year!

alan

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Walking wounded!

Or, alternate title: The Price of Stupidity!

Last night: 11PM

Dottie and I just finished watching "Southland Tales" and as we got ready to settle back in to watch the "extras" there was a commotion in the street in front of out house.

In it's efforts to save money, the city didn't bother plowing for 4 days after the snowstorm; on Friday after they were predicting the subzero stuff we're in the middle of now, they laid salt on half the street. On a wicked hill, with two curves on it, in opposite directions...

The neighbor two doors up couldn't get in her driveway the other day and slid across her own front yard and through the next one before she managed to get back onto the street; she still did better than she did 3 years ago when I pulled her out with my nephew's 4-wheel drive Dodge I was working on at the time.

Another neighbor down the hill on the outside of the other curve had someone go down it and over their 3.5 foot railroad tie retainer wall, through the yard below them and back out, taking the top of the wall with them.

So when we looked out the window we saw a full size Ford 4 door pickup, long bed, "dually" stuck in the corner of our front yard. In their effort to get enough traction to drive out, they kept backing up until the hit the telephone pole between the neighbor's and us. Though I really didn't want to get involved, the idea of them totalling the neighbor's Continental (that I know she can't afford to replace, she's a widow on fixed income) and possibly knocking her gas meter over as well (right next to the car in the driveway) finally made me bundle up (it was 2 above 0F., or -16C. with a 25-30mph wind).

I drug the barrel of sand I keep for my driveway around to the front yard and started throwing sand under the tires on the street, the ones that were spinning. Dottie climbed in the bed over the spinning tires (no weight in a dually on ice...stupid people...)

It almost got out after the lady's brother got there and started trying to ease it out instead of just heating up the tires...between my sanding and his rocking it was one tire short of going over the curb when I started to push to help...

and I shouldn't have!

It still didn't make it out...I finally gave up and had Dottie pull her Malibu out so I could get my truck out, along with Dad's log chain. When I got partway down the driveway to my truck I knew my back ached...by the time I had the receiver hitch in and the chain out of the garage I knew it was pretty bad.

I pulled onto the other side of the street, where they had sanded, we hitched the chain from my hitch to the recovery hook on the passenger side of the dually. I locked my transmission in tow-mode and low, and pulled the truck that weighs half again more than it out without slipping a tire.

They thanked me...told me that they would get some weight in it today...the whole time the brother was chewing the girl out in Spanish...

I knew I ached last night, but thought I'd be walking it off today...

So far there's not a lot of walk to it. If I hadn't had Dottie dig the cane I used last time out of the closet I wouldn't have managed to get around so far today.

I'm dreading the idea that anyone might show up at the door because I really don't want to get dressed...

My Dad used to joke about "no good deed going unpunished". Hopefully by the time we need to load Bill's truck on Friday for their move to D.C. I'll be getting around a bit better!

I hope you all are warm and dry!

May the week be kind!

alan

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

1-2=5!

Just climbed out of the shower after spending 3 hours shoveling the inch to two of snow that is a lot more like 5 or 6, then spending another half hour cleaning off my truck and digging out my sandtubes and their safety box and loading them in it...

Now I know why I've been spending what time I can downstairs!

Hope everyone else is warm and dry!

May the rest of your week be kind...

alan

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You know you're living right...

when you get up on the morning of your 32nd anniversary as your wife is leaving for work...

you trade her car for your truck because it's 59F (15C.) outside and you really need to change the oil in it.

You eat breakfast...

you drive it far enough to get it good and hot...

you come home and pull the drain plug...

and the wind that's been howling ceaselessly for the last two days swirls (20-30mph with gusts over 50mph) down the hill and under the car just enough to cover the side of your face with the oil, and give you a nice lingering taste of it. Though Mobil 1 is about $5 a quart, I can assure you it doesn't taste any better than regular motor oil!

You let it drain and drip until it's done...

when you go back out it's 25F (-4C.)...

Which is twice as warm as the high is supposed to get to tomorrow!

The wind is still howling...

The rain is due shortly, to turn into freezing drizzle and an inch of snow of course!

And after I take a quick shower I'm going to go trade her car for my truck so she has the car for the drive home, and so the truck is in the driveway first, before it gets any colder!

Never wonder why they say truth is stranger than fiction!

May the rest of your weekends be warm and wonderful, and may the work week be kind!

alan

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday fly-by...

The Christmas box from Vermont just arrived; hopefully the one going will leave tomorrow.

The letter I still have to write; the shopping's at about 98% but the stuff isn't wrapping itself very quickly. Tonight we're keeping Dillon overnight and my sister is keeping Talia and Caleb so John can take Noel out for her 30th birthday. Tomorrow we're taking her "antiquing" for her birthday and perhaps part of Christmas, since we hadn't gotten a list from her yet.

I shopped yesterday and bought what I needed for Noel's "birthday dinner" tomorrow after we come back...she wants chicken breasts and mushroom and pepper skewers in Italian marinade off the grill.

A friend asked what I think of the bailout package...I had pretty much said my piece a few weeks ago but seeing the fiasco of the last few days has made me wonder...

Not very long ago the entire "raison-d'etre" for the GOP was "America First"..."Country First"...

Yet we have the "Senator from Toyota" (Richard Shelby of Alabama) and some others ready to flush not the 3 million jobs they count as UAW workers down the toilet, but also all the related ones, with the additional foreclosures and repos and everything else that will entail, to please their contributors from across the ocean who above all, beyond losing their tax breaks beyond losing their incentives, fear having to deal with a unionized workplace.

The payscales in the plants that Toyota, Nissan and others have scattered through the South are within a dollar an hour of what I made when I retired. In the last contract the UAW signed with the big 3, they agreed that new hires would come in at half that, and not only would they not come up to scale for 3 years, but if they are involved in anything except putting parts directly on the car (sub-assembly, material handling and delivery, sanitation) they never come up to that scale!

They also gave up pensions for anyone hiring in from this point forward.

Retiree health care, mine included, was no longer the companies responsibility after next year.

So the "wages and benefits" argument was already slain; it just makes nice soundbytes...

The thing that those other companies fear is being told "you can't"

You can't fire someone because you don't like them...

You can't fire them because of their skin color,

their gender,

their sexual indentity,

or their religion...

You can't fire them because they asked you to make something safer...

You can't fire them because they told you you were wrong about something...

You can't fire them to cover up your own mistakes...

You can't fire them because they needed to go to the restroom...

You can't fire them because they missed a day because they were sick.

You can't fire them because their parent, or child or their grandparent died!

It's sad that those who would like to wave the flag come election time don't think those are important things!

It's sad that those who would claim "Country First" as their mantra mean as long as it suits the shareholders.

I never built as "tight" a car, or well-engineered a car as the last ones I built. Finally, after 30 years of my banging my head against the wall, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel...all that was left was letting the last vestiges of "old management" retire and move out of the way.

Had the credit market not "locked up" like it did, there would have been no need for any of this discussion. The fault lies not at the door of the "big 3" but the door of Wall Street and the Treasury that did nothing except throw money at the problem and hope it went away!

Already the ripple effects had begun here...lay-offs, downtime, people knowing that by the end of January they will be drawing unemployment without any of those additional benefits everyone thinks we get because they don't have enough seniority...those were given up in that last contract as well for those new hires I spoke of.

Hopefully, the whispers of someone finally acting like a President and doing something about this are true and by Monday it will be "old news".

It won't save the 350 being laid off from my old plant, or the thousands across the country in the same shoes.

But that number will swell into the millions very shortly if something isn't done; and for every one of those others are going to lose their jobs as well.

The writing is on the wall for those who would care to read it...

Or even those who don't!

Sorry to be such a downer at what should be a happier time of the year, and on a Friday no less!

May your weekends be kind!

alan

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My life in post-it notes...

Saturday morning-note on bathroom mirror:

"The floor feels wet, I think the toilet is leaking".

Sure enough, when the first plumber came last spring and pulled it to run his auger because there wasn't a clean-out in the front yard, he put it back down the first time and it still didn't flush right, so he pulled it a 2nd time and found the tree roots that had dropped out of his auger. Sadly, when he put it back down, he didn't use a new wax ring, because he had just put a new one down. That night the toilet "wiggled" so I tightened the bolts and thought all was fine.

Apparently not...

The underlayment was already screwed up and the tile was as well from the other times it had overflowed. I was planning to replace them this spring and had started looking at tile...guess that got moved up in the priority list, though at least for now a new wax ring seems to have solved the problem.

_______________________________________________

Sunday morning- note on mirror:

"The furnace smells like exhaust".

Years ago when I replaced the original Winkler "closet furnace" because I couldn't weld up the liner in it that kept splitting open anymore, I put in a Sears "wall furnace", as the house didn't have central heat and air and I had two new window unit air-conditioners and didn't plan to be here the next time it needed work.

To put a 50,000 btu furnace in a foot square 7 foot tall box, the burner liner in it narrows down very quickly at the top, and when it was about 5 years old it did this same thing. Turns out that it tends to carbon up the inside as it necks down for the flue. That time Sears came out, charged me over $100 to clean and check it because they had to do that first, then sent someone else out for another $80 to hitch a vacuum hose to it, string it out to something that looked like a parking lot sweeper truck, and vacuum it out.

Ever since I've cleaned it out myself every other year by running an old piece of steel cable up inside it and beating on the outside of the liner with a rubber hammer.

Sunday I went and bought a "flue brush" thinking it would be easier, got as much stuff out of it as I usually do, and all seemed fine.

_______________________________________________

Monday's note on mirror:

"It's going to be 50 today and you said you need to change the oil in your truck".

Yep, found out last week that I had used the last of my free oil changes from the dealer, so it was time to change it over to Mobil 1.

Did that and was getting ready to rotate the tires on it when some kind of commotion started across the street, and someone's brother I don't really want knowing what exactly I have in my garage showed up, so I pulled the door down until things settled down. Of course it was almost dark...I finished what I needed to do, put new "winter blades" on and put things away just in time for Dottie to come home, so I put new "winter blades" on her Malibu as well. (I love not having to knock the ice out of the tensioner arms all winter long...try a set, you'll love them unless you drive over 80 in the winter time!)

_____________________________________________

Tuesday...

Dottie was off...we went to "Australia".

One helluva good movie!

"Famous Dave's" had a sign out for a Tuesday special and it was too good to pass up, so we picked that up and eased our way home in the snow and ice, then settled in and watched "In Bruges". An odd, dark, unsettling comedy I guess I would describe it. A beautiful place, though!

_______________________________________________

This morning's note:

"The furnace still smells like exhaust".

So I just cranked it up to 80 to get it warm enough in here to shut it down for a few hours as it's only 20 degrees outside. Instead of just using the flue brush this time I'm going back to my old tools and try again...if that doesn't work I guess I'm going to try to call someone and figure out how to get one of those trucks out here again without having to pay Sears for the service call first. Being stupid, I didn't write down the name on the side of the first one...

I haven't managed to make it downstairs to my little gym in a week!

And I thought retirement would be "living the life of Riley"...

Guess I hadn't counted on "Murphy"!

Having been a Navy helicopter mechanic, I should know better!

May the rest of your week be kind!

alan

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Into the sunset...



Metaphorically, at any rate!

It's taken me a while to gather my thoughts to write this post...since before Veteran's Day.

35 years ago, the day before Thanksgiving, I boarded the USS Kittyhawk at North Island. At 17, I had Thanksgiving dinner away from home for the first time aboard her, and soon after we departed for points west. I celebrated my 18th birthday aboard her.

I rode her all the way to Mombasa, Kenya visiting Hawaii, Subec Bay, Hong Kong, and Singapore along the way... with some time off the coast of Vietnam along the way. With over 5,000 of us on board, there were places we had to pass up that smaller ships would have been able to visit. We rode out a typhoon off the Phillipines with not only our own aircraft aboard, but more that they flew out to get them out of the islands because they were safer aboard ship! When we left Kenya we were the first carrier to ever sail into the current hotbed of the world's attention, the Persian Gulf. Along the way, I became a "Shellback", and somewhere lost my boyhood as well.

Not all of us that left on that cruise were lucky enough to come home.

The above photo is the Kittyhawk arriving in San Diego for the last time. The photo is from her archive...I don't think they'll mind me using it. The following is a snippet of the press release announcing her arrival:

"As the oldest active-duty warship and last diesel-fuel powered aircraft carrier in the Navy, Kitty Hawk made history during its return to the U.S.: it is the only aircraft carrier to have more than 100,000 launches from one of its waist catapults.

Throughout its lifetime, Kitty Hawk has had 407,511 arrested carrier landings and 448,301 launches."

Amazing numbers!

If anyone would be interested in more of her history, this link has a summary of the service of the first "super" carrier.

My Dad spent a lot of time through the years trying to convince me that I couldn't keep cars as pets; I realize that there is no way we as a nation can afford to keep a fuel-oil carrier sailing one minute longer than necessary. I also know that the sailors serving on the nuclear carrier that replaced her won't miss the fuel oil/jet fuel cocktail (in my day there was also avgas mixed in for flavor) that found it's way into our freshwater through the tank venting...



That photograph is her entering Puget Sound for decommissioning. I shall hope that not every city that wants a carrier for a museum has one yet! I shall hope that perhaps that although most likely she'll never launch another aircraft, that destiny has something else in mind for her besides being scrapped or sunk as a reef.

I have met men who served aboard before me, and ones who have served aboard her since. She is a touchstone in millions of lives at this point, and I shall hope that she finds a way to remain "alive" for each of us!

May the rest of the week be kind, and may your weekends be wonderful!

alan

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tuesday but it's Monday for me...

Took two buckets of cleaning stuff, a mop, paper towels, a gallon of Simple Green and a vacuum cleaner bag and spent 4 hours cleaning yesterday (not counting my travel time). I stopped by my sister's as I was leaving and she was on the phone with Dottie discussing how neither of them could imagine calling my Dad to come clean their house...lol!

Since it was the 1st and I did get my retirement check (thank you very much, GM!) I was supposed to make the shopping run yesterday, but didn't. I'm off in a few minutes to do that and if I'm lucky get my flu shot (finally)!

Bill coming home to surprise everyone for Thanksgiving was a treat, even though I ended being the one to pick him up at the airport with Laura because her car was "down". It also brought to light that she has been accepted at American University for her Master's program and will be moving to D.C. with him at Christmas. Yesterday came about because she is in finals right now, and trying to sublet their apartment so they don't have to break their lease.

So, except for possibly shampooing the carpet after their stuff is out, the apartment is essentially clean; time I wouldn't want to give up at Christmas!

I'm finally down one size, (about 30 pounds and at least 4 inches) after all these months, though I'm still not getting the time in my dungeon I planned or hoped for.
When I retired I never dreamed that there wouldn't be enough hours in the day! I had planned for those numbers to be at least double that!

Thanks to all who have left such wonderful comments while I've been "riding the whirlwind" and hopefully after CVS, GNC, the Chevy dealer's, Costco, Sam's and Wal-Mart I'll find time to visit a few of you before I start dinner...

Missing each of you very much...may the week be kind!

alan

Monday, December 01, 2008

Another day, another phone call...

"Alan, it's Laura...I have a chance to show our apartment this evening but have class 'til 3 and don't have time to clean..."

Off to Lawrence again!

I promise this "whirl" will cease soon and I will catch up with each of you...

May Monday and the week that lies ahead be kind to each of you!

alan

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Together again!

In so many ways!

I couldn't really "see" what was wrong with Laura's car on Wednesday, only that there was a major coolant leak and I didn't have enough tools to be able to take it apart, a manual, or a light I could really see with. She had errands to run that afternoon, and as it turns out she and Bill were planning to surprise the family with his coming home for Thanksgiving. I ended up "in on it" as it was me that took her to the airport to pick him up.

Everyone else was completely surprised, though...Dottie, my sister, the grandkids...

When we picked them up for Thanksgiving dinner I copied down her VIN number and spent the afternoon deciphering it and reading up on 3800 Buick engines, then picked up a manual and a rechargeable "drop cord" yesterday. Bill and I (it took both of us to get it apart) managed to take it apart, put the $6 seal in and put it back together in about 4 hours in the rain/snow/sleet/drizzle, pressure test it and refill the coolant just before dark. I came home, and they drove it into KC for dinner last night, then left from here to have Thanksgiving with her family about 2 hours northeast of here this morning.

They are coming back through in a little while to say "goodbye" as Bill has to be at KCI at 5AM because they couldn't afford a later flight tomorrow.

Sorry about my lack of bloghopping of late! I promise to catch up starting Monday!

alan

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My secret garden...

My better half returned to work this morning, leaving her lesser behind in comtemplation...

Though she knows nothing of my life "here", she benefits in ways she could never dream of. She, still in horror that my youngest and his wife actually travelled last summer to go meet and stay with someone they met through their guild in "WoW". She refuses to believe the connections people can make "through the ether".

How truly lucky I am!

Here in this "garden" of my soul, each of you who visit me, and each of you I visit are constant sources of fuel for my soul; fire for my imagination; beauty; inspiration; striking awe into my heart with your words, thoughts and deeds. Knowing my weaknesses in life, that you think of me as "good" drives me to become "better", knowing that each of you is on a plane far beyond my own.

I have said many times before that when I take stock "Counting My Blessings" I count each of you...

Tomorrow, at our Thanksgiving table, when the question goes around the table "What are you thankful for?" my answer, as always these last few years, will be-

"Being here".

What it will mean, among all it's meanings, is

"Being here"!

I thank each of you, for every word, every thought, every smile, and every tear...

I am honored that you share your lives with me!

May those who share our holiday tomorrow enjoy and travel in safety!

May those who aren't so lucky still find joy and happiness in their day!

May the rest of the week be kind to each of you!

(My plans for bloghopping and visiting my dungeon changed a few minutes ago with a phone call that Laura's car "smells like it's burning", so I'm off to gather tools and make a trip to Lawrence. Hopefully Friday will be more cooperative, as I miss each of you very much right now! Saturday my nephew plays in a state championship game, and we don't know what Sunday has in store yet, but Dottie is off work, so I may be "in limbo" 'til Monday, especially if Laura's car doesn't decide to cooperate! I hope you will forgive me!)

alan

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Just a quick note...

while my keeper is in the shower to say all is well here...

I've gotten some of those things I needed to done; picking ones I needed help with from through the list, of course...changing the 56 year old "frostproof" outside faucet on the back of the house because it was too corroded to take apart to rebuild it...rearranging some more things downstairs.

Caleb came on Tuesday afternoon, and we traded him for Talia this evening to stay until Sunday.

Dottie's birthday was a good day yesterday, with phone calls and cards from the family, although there won't be a party until next weekend most likely. She goes back to work on Wednesday, has Thursday off, works Friday and then has the weekend off again.

I'll catch up with you all when I can!

May the weekend be kind, and the work week as well!

alan

Monday, November 17, 2008

GM and rainy days...

Robin Andrea asked about my thoughts on "the bailout". No, I haven't heard from any coworkers; Dottie was upset enough when I was getting texts from some of them after I retired that I have cut off all of them...

Until October, GM's sales had held at half the loss of the other automakers including the Japanese and Korean ones. Led by the Malibu and the Cobalt, there was hope of them making it to 2010 when more of the new products hit the showroom floor and "holding the line" became "turning a corner".

For those who don't realize, part of financing themselves until 2010 was GM selling 51% of GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation) several years ago. The company that bought that 51% bought DiTech and rolled it in with them. GMAC ended up dealing with it's share of "subprime" woes, and when all of that "hit the fan" they quit loaning money, just like so many other places.

So in October, if you wanted to buy a GM car, you either had to bring your own financing, or go to a dealership large enough to have banks backing it; GMAC lent no money for GM cars in October!

Sales dropped 47%...dealerships closed...thousands lost their jobs in support industries...this culminated in the assembly divisions cutting production, re-rating the assembly lines, and workers being cut in the plants.

For every worker in an auto plant there are 10 people in support industries, be it the modular assemblies (instrument panels, heater and air conditioner assemblies, seats, headliners, door pads, facias...) shipped in for us to install; the truckers hauling in those parts and others, the railroad workers handling the boxcars that bring in more of our parts; the truckers and railroaders that ship our cars all over the country; the people to thread the bolts; the ones that make the glass.

For each of those jobs above there are at least 10 more affected, be it the grocer's, or the department stores, the farmer, the textile worker...

The largest taxpayer in my county is the assembly plant I worked in. They are also the largest customer of our utilities. A friend who was a bookeeper for the power company told me once that "when things are tight we ask GM to pay a month ahead to get us by"...

So when you've given $750 billion to support Wall Street that may or may not ever be seen again in light of the news last week that they've decided not to use it the way it was intended, re-routing $25 or even $50 billion of it for use not as a "bailout" but a loan that will be re-paid, to an industry that supports so many, seems like a no-brainer!

Besides the Malibu and Saturn I was building, besides the upcoming Volt electric; the first generation of hybrid full size trucks had just come out last spring, and the next generations would be on the street by 2010 if they don't have to halt development.

To those who think of Detroit as dinosaurs as I heard a Senator say yesterday, you haven't looked lately. Dottie's Malibu averages 29.7 city, and I've gotten 37 out of it on the highway at 80 with the trunk full and the air on. Yes, it's a 4 cylinder, and if you think it doesn't run I'll happily put you in the passenger seat at freeway speed and watch your eyes open wide as it pushes you back in the seat when I step on it...

A piece I caught on Speed channel last night spoke of the "Smart Car" as getting 36 mpg. If Dottie's Malibu averages 29.7 with room for 5 and trunk big enough for a couple of bodies, is GM really so far off the mark?

My full size Silverado pickup? The V-6 is averaging 18 in the city; the only time I've checked it on the highway I was pulling my boat two summers ago and it was getting 24...

Yes; I think that loaning the auto industry what it needs to weather the financial storm created by Wall Street is a no-brainer. Throwing "the big three" to the wolves at this point will create a loss of jobs that will send unemployment well past the 7.5% they are already predicting for next month, and into the double digits. The losses created by not doing so will affect each and every person you know somehow, be it the loss of jobs, or the loss of tax revenue or payroll.

I also have no doubt that this "lame duck session" of Congress will find many already licking their election-day wounds using it as another soapbox, never minding the backs of the people that the soapbox is perched on!

I've probably prattled on quite long enough here...I'll just say the weekend went well, and that things are OK here. Dottie starts a week's vacation on Wednesday, so if I leave this up for a day or two I may have a hard time updating until she goes back to work...

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Friday, November 14, 2008

Week's end!

Shopping lists assembled along with the "cooler bags" I'm headed out to make the weekly shopping run. By the time I get back, put it away, and vacuum, Dillon will be here to spend the weekend.

After he picks a movie, I plan to slip downstairs to my "dungeon" until time to fix dinner for he and Dottie. Disappointed to find the shelf at the "front" of my basement wet again this morning, I discovered that the leak isn't in the cinder block wall as it appeared, but is the drain bucket in the dehumidifier leaking and running that direction! Lowe's has been added to my list...

May the weekend be wonderful for each of you, and may Monday be kind as well!

alan

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sometimes...

it's hard to write something you're proud of, then follow it with the "drivel" of everyday life!

After my breakfast/bloghop of yesterday, I spent the afternoon scanning documents to prove that my wife is indeed eligible to remain on my health insurance for the 3rd time in 5 months and mailing them. In between I fielded a phone call from my buddy in Colorado, who was just east of Abilene, KS and headed eastbound. He had made arrangements with someone in Abilene to pick up a load of firewood at 11 yesterday morning, and got there only to find that the guy had decided to go to Wichita despite their appointment. He called me to Google up some phone numbers and when I talked to him last at 5:30 yesterday afternoon he was in Topeka waiting for someone so he could load up and make the drive back to "almost Denver".

This morning, I did the b&b thing again, then went out to try and caulk up the gap between my front foundation and the sidewalk that lies next to it. I had planned to replace a section before winter caught up with me, but it's not going to get done, and the last two heavy rains have found a bit of water leaking through the front wall of the basement from it.

My workout yesterday was the best/heaviest "chest day" I've ever done, though it was cut short with phone calls and John and the grandkids coming by at one point. I'm getting ready to go down and hold a shortened "leg day" now...

This link ties into my last post...if I am still around at over 100 years old may I still be so active both mentally and physically!

May Friday be kind to you all!

alan

Monday, November 10, 2008

11/11/18-08

Tomorrow.

The 90th anniversary of the end of what was called by some "The Great War". Only 10 of her veterans survive. Their memories of the horrors of the hamburger-grinder that consumed not only 3 generations of so many families will soon be relegated to the pages of books and the oral histories they have recorded, and they will join those whom they knew so very long ago.

I heard last fall of a book being written by a woman in Britain who had found her grandmother's journals and realized that her grandmother had lost her grandfather, her father and his brothers, her own brothers, all of her cousins and all of her 2nd cousins. The maelstrom created by modern weaponry combined with century old tactics sucked down the lifeblood of all the families in all the countries that were touched by it without regard!

When I first started reading history many years ago I was amazed to hear this conflict called not only "the Great War", but by another name even more confusing to my young mind.

"The War to End All Wars"!

Surely, if such a war had been fought then man wouldn't desecrate the service of those who died in it by shedding even more blood!

Yet, later that year in my 7th grade history class, while even more lives were being fed into yet another conflict in Southeast Asia, our teacher pointed out that since the "War to End All Wars" there had been over 500 wars fought in various parts of the world!

I am sure that now, these 41 years later, that number is probably over 1,000!

So tomorrow, on what is "Veteran's Day" here in the U.S., instead of reflecting on my own service and that of my wife as I am prone to do, instead of mourning "my" ship upon her passage into "the mothball fleet", I plan to spend some time thinking of those who gave their lives so long ago in the noble thought that no one would ever have to do so again!

Tomorrow, if you can, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, please take a moment and remember these survivors of that terrible war; those who fought and died; and those who were forever changed by it!

Please?

alan

Sunday, November 09, 2008

ker-flu-ey

My "Election Night Jitters" when the electoral count hung at 200 turned out to be the beginnings of a nice bout of influenza. Since Dottie had gotten her shot, she's remained just fine through my continuing battle. Of course, many in her nursing home are sick, and she's brought home a cold to go with my current predicament...

So this is just a short, quick "I'm alive" for those who might be curious.

Anyone you'd like me to go breathe on?

May your Sundays be wonderful and Monday be kind!

alan

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Today!

Today we awaken as a better nation!

A better people!

We have thrown off the shackles of Empire and reinvented our Republic!

With our pennies, our dimes and our dollars we have wrested the levers of Government from an aristocracy that sought to reduce us to serfdom and told them that we will not accept their crusts when we make the bread! They may own 7 houses if they like, as long as we are allowed one!

That those who jammed the governors and bypassed the safety valves in their melting down of the engine of our economy along with those who have looted the Treasury should be held responsible will be debated. Yet it is a time for forgiveness and unity; not a time for a "reign of terror".

They should, however, be held under continued scrutiny if only to guarantee that their hands are in their own pockets instead of finding their way back into ours!

As we take our first tentative steps on the path out of the wilderness where we have wandered for 40 years, we look around us to see the graves of so many beloved; so many more wounded, maimed and injured both physically and mentally and we must remember that with each step we take into the bright sunlight of a new day, that we must bring each of them with us! There is no "i" in "we"!

We the people!

Yes, we can!

May the day, the week, and the future be kind to each of you!

alan

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunrise? Sunset?

Our money is spent...

Their money is spent...

The race is run...

Our votes are cast...

Now we await the results!

When the election of 2000 was (in my view) hijacked, for the first time in my life I knew I had to do something, so taking the "easy" way out I signed up for a payroll deduction to the UAW's V-CAP fund. (It is a fund that helps educate the electorate and funds get-out-the-vote drives among other things.)

At each turn as the Constitution was (again, in my opinion)ignored, along with the ideas that the "Founding Fathers" held dear, I increased that deduction. There was enough going to it that it became a bone of contention between Dottie and I as things grew "tight" financially at different times. In 8 years, enough went that direction that put "half-down" on a new Cobalt...

This year for the first time ever, we both agreed that we needed to contribute to some of the candidates as well, and though it wasn't as much as it might have been if I hadn't retired this past summer, we still gave to my Congressman; the one who answers each and every petition, letter and e-mail he's gotten from me for the last 6years as I have grown more and more active (my wife says a pain) in things. (Unlike my two Senators who, if they reply, send out a form letter quoting their party's line. One of whom, a member of the Intelligence Committee, I just took great joy in voting against.)

Besides giving to Obama/Biden and Dennis Moore, I also kicked in to the DSCC and DCCC funds, knowing that as long as things can be filibustered or tabled in committee we aren't going to get anywhere, ever.

I talked, I pleaded, I cajoled...I think/hope that some votes were swayed.

I came home after I voted and called and offered to keep Caleb so John and Noel could go vote before the older two get out of school and people start getting off work.

I know there are many who did more, so very much more than I did.

I'm hoping that there are so many who have done more than they ever had before that perhaps tomorrow will bring a very brilliant sunrise, despite the storms that are in my weather forecast.

Because I'm not sure I can deal with sunset!

Now I'm going to fix a bit of breakfast, then go out and clean my gutters before the deluge comes and try and rebank a place along my foundation that has leaked in the last two storms.

Surviving all of that, I'll be off to my dungeon for shoulders, arms and neck. Then it will be time to fix dinner and cross my fingers...

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"If She Had a Set of Wings...



I know she could fly!"



When Talia was here last weekend I walked outside with Angel because there have been a couple of (very) large strays running around the neighborhood, and at 13 and having arthritis in her hips, I didn't want her having to defend herself even if they only wanted to play. (They ran up two nights later and knocked down the landlord of the house next door to me just trying to play with him.)

Of course, the rain had stopped and she wanted to swing, so after I dried off the seat I let her and went back in to grab the little point-and-shoot I bought last year.



I've been trying to get a good photo of Angel for the last few months, not knowing what lies ahead through the winter.

I've been trying for longer than that to get a decent one of "Frankie", the cat Noel tamed from a stray and then couldn't keep because he tested positive for feline leukemia. She had 3 and so asked if we would take him. He's so black that without a flash he's indistinct and with one his eyes are scary, so this is the best I've gotten of him so far.



When she was off on Tuesday we ran a few errands and got her the last pieces to make her a "rodeo clown" for her Halloween costume for work. Tonight she works late as they have a "Trick or Treat" party at the nursing home so the residents get to pass out candy to their families and those of employees.

I spent yesterday bloghopping and doing a light work out; this morning I started picking things up to vacuum and started catching up laundry because we're keeping all 3 grandkids this weekend while John tries to finish spackling their ceilings and getting them ready to "re" texture.

It's probably not nice to say, but I'm glad it's him and not me!

After I vacuum I'm going downstairs and see how many sets of squats I can do and still come back up the steps; last week after 10 sets and leg extensions and curls, I had to stop halfway for a bit...

:o)

May the rest of the week be kind, and if I don't see you between now and then may your Halloweens be fun! I probably won't be around much over the weekend (something about Dottie being home and us having all 3 grandkids tends to fill up my time), so enjoy!

alan

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quirks 'R Us!

Tagged by Zillachen a few days ago, I'm just now catching up with it...

These things always seem hard to do because (I'd like to think) most of my quirks are readily apparent...like B.B. King's admonishment to Bobby "Blue" Bland in a live recording so many years ago; "I ain't a refrigerator, I don't keep nothing in"!

The rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged bloggers’ blogs letting them know
they’ve been tagged.

1. I believe if mechanical things don't have souls (I'm still not convinced) that
they at least have personalities. I talk to them, have spent a fair amount of
time coaxing them through the years, and have felt guilt at abandoning the ones
that didn't leave my hands "alive"!

2. I tend to overthink things to the point of inaction. Be it spending more time
reading how to do something than it would take to just go do it, or reading so
many viewpoints that they all become mush in my brain and lead to confusion. This
is one I'm working on.

3. Closely related to #2, I have poor budgeting skills concerning time. If I make a
"to-do" list for the day, I'll be lucky to be 1/3 of the way through it by day's
end. This may or may not have anything to do with the distractions of Blogger,
MSNBC, G4TV, FuelTV, or MusicChoice...

4. As I've grown older, being in crowds bothers me more and more. From sharing an
aircraft carrier with 5,000 other guys 35 years ago being "normal", I now cringe
at the thought of a mall during the holidays.

5. Which leads to the fact I've been Christmas shopping for months now, though not
as much has been put away as I'd like, having to do with those lists that never
show up until Thanksgiving. Of course, the ultimate goal of having it all wrapped
by Thanksgiving like my Grandma used to will never be achieved!

6. I've never been an "assertive" person, part of why I don't capitalize the first
letter of my name here or when I visit you; part of why I always ended up with
extra work on my jobs through the years that no one else could or would do; part
of why I just can't bring myself to tag people when I do things like this. Many
of you have gotten e-mails from me through the years that open with my apology
for intruding, etc.. More of you would have had I an address!

So, now that those who are still here are bored to tears...

Dottie was off yesterday and after our errands, we went to Lawrence to watch one of my younger nephew's last football games as he graduates this next spring. John, Noel and the grandkids also went, and though it was very cool and had rained most of the day, we all had a good time. The grandsons talked Cindy into keeping them overnight, so Dottie invited Talia to come home with us. She is in the living room watching Barbie's "Nutcracker" as I write, and has a model she picked out, a C5 Corvette, that she wants to put together later this afternoon or tomorrow. (I'm very glad I won't be keeping her in rolling stock when she comes of age!)

When I click "publish" I'm going to wander downstairs and spend some time lifting and doing laundry, and decide which way I plan to grill the chicken for dinner tonight. I bought some "raspberry chipotle" marinade, but Talia isn't much for "different" things right now (neither is her Grandma, actually, and that word chipotle drew quite a reaction when it was seen on the bottle).

About 3 times a year I allow myself a glass or two of wine (some years not at all) and the other week, having been through all my bloodwork and such for the year, I thought a treat was in order so I picked up a bottle of chardonnay...Newman's Own "Top Hat"...

Since tonight will be the first IRL race since Paul departed, and since Carl Haas announced earlier in the week that as long as there is a team, Paul's name will stay on the cars (that had been decided in advance, he said) it seems like a very appropriate time to pop a cork and think fondly of someone who did so much for the world!

May the weekend be kind to you all!

alan

Monday, October 20, 2008

You've Got to "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

Eliminate the negative"
_______________________
Not to interrupt Mr. Johnny Mercer's lyrics, but that's been a goal for some years now; always trying to "stay positive" about things, be they my life, my hopes, my dreams, or the energy I try to give the Universe...
_______________________
"And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene"
______________________
Perhaps like it has these last few weeks? These last few years?
Hmmmmmm...
______________________
"To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?

(Man, they said "We'd better accentuate the positive")
("Eliminate the negative")
("And latch on to the affirmative")
Don't mess with Mister In-Between (No!)
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

(Ya got to spread joy up to the maximum)

(Bring gloom down to the minimum)

(Have faith or pandemonium's)
(Liable to walk upon the scene)

You got to ac (yes, yes) -cent-tchu-ate the positive
Eliminate (yes, yes) the negative
And latch (yes, yes) on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, don't mess with Mister In-Between"
______________________

I first heard this song as a child and just thought it was cute. I grew a little older and thought the lyrics were a nice outlook if you could achieve it. Life was contributing much to help my outlook at that point.

As I grew bitter and cynical in my early 40's I began trying to (though I couldn't have said it this way at the time) change my life by changing my outlook on life.

Here came those words again...

Never did I think of them as a manual for trying to get out of this life sane!

Finally hearing this over the weekend, I realized I've been trying to do just that for a long time now...too bad I wasn't smart enough to listen the first time I heard it!

I found a clip of one of the original versions; it also has some other "goodies" in it if you have time to stick around; some humor, a dedication... It's from something that was filmed "for the boys" 64 years ago.



We picked ourselves up by our bootstraps and put things back together then when no one really thought we ever could. We can do it this time, too!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Friday, October 17, 2008

Here Comes the Sun!

Maybe...for a minute...if we're lucky!

Woke this morning to an unexpected thunderstorm...bloghopped, put together my shopping lists and called in prescriptions so that I can run errands this afternoon. Dottie is off this weekend; Laura flew to D.C. yesterday to spend the weekend with Bill and won't be back until Monday; John, Noel and the grandkids are busy this weekend.

So it's supposed to be a nice quiet weekend with just Dottie and I...for the first time in months I think!

She wants to see Mark Wahlberg's new movie "Max Payne" so we'll be doing an early show of that either tomorrow or Sunday. If we do two this weekend, "Appaloosa" is also on her list. I'll be waiting for "Nights in Rodanthe" to hit DVD, along with "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist". I like both of the "kids" playing the leads in that one...

And though they're in their 20's, I guess I'm at that point where if they're less than half my age, they're "kids"!

We have some Netflix that have been "sitting" while life "whirled" around us these last few weeks, and I bought "Leatherheads" last week when it came out; one I had really wanted to see "on the big screen".

So, there's probably already more on the list than we can get done before Monday morning!

I spent yesterday rearranging the basement and moving her plant stand and plants inside for the winter, along with rigging the plant lights and a timer, as we got down to 40 the night before last. I also, not being as hardy as some of my friends, vacuumed out our main furnace and lit it off, for which we were grateful night before last.

May the weekend be kind to each of you...

alan

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And speaking of escaping!

I was released from jury duty and home by noon yesterday. Dottie was off and I got home just as she was leaving in my truck to go the post office, so we had lunch and then ran errands for a bit.

I figured out through the course of events the other day that the shut-off valves I put in 20 years ago had their rubber washers disintigrating and clogging aerators on faucets and the fill-valve on the toilet, so I started in changing those to a newer type that have no washers, a steel "ball valve". By the time I changed all 6, making a parts run in the middle, it was 8 something last night, lol.

Thinking I was done, I carried all my tools back to the garage, we both showered and finally sat down to watch something. Before bed I checked them each, and found a slight drip in one. I placed something under it and in a bit I'll go take all the stuff out of the cabinet and crawl back in to see if I can fix it...

Then I can put everything in the basement back where it started and put my little gym back together!

Still holding at around 280, which is good as I'm not gaining like I would have been had I stopped excercising while I was working (I'm eating less than I did when I was working, and probably healthier...at least until we stopped at Krispy Kreme yesterday). Hopefully I can start driving that number down again soon!

May the rest of the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sometimes the demons escape their cage...

I hope I'm forgiven for needing a bit of help getting that one back in (referring to my last post). I've never talked about all of that with anyone; my family seems to have all dealt with it or blacked it out; my wife keeps telling me I just need to quit thinking about it...somehow it's not like a light switch that can just be flipped off...

Friday while Dottie was off we changed the water pipe out of the hot water tank. I had rebuilt the "header" line in the basement 20 years ago, and then as we lost pressure again I had changed the line into it a few months ago, but still to get a warm shower there was so little pressure that it would barely keep the diverter button in to make the shower work.

When we got the 1/2" galvanized line out, we carried it outside and even pointing it at the sun there was not even a pinhole of light through it. I replaced it with 3/4" CPVC and for the first time in about 5 years, not only do we have hot water to the shower, but the sinks and washing machine as well! The shower you actually have to turn down because you can't stand the pressure of it on full!

Right after we had that hooked back up and had bled the lines out, Dottie was in the basement and I was headed up the steps when there was a loud "pop" and she started yelling something. Having a hunch, I ran to the "furnace room" and found one joint had unglued itself and hot water was spraying everywhere. I threw a towel over the pipe and reached past it to turn off the shutoff on the inlet...then had to take the bag out of my shop-vac and start vacuuming up water again, pulling up some of my mats again...I'm really getting tired of floods!

Anyway, when I tried to find my glue for the plastic pipe it was missing, so I ended up making another trip to Lowe's to buy new. Where there used to be only one, there are 3 kinds of it now, so after reading the labels to figure out what I needed I didn't read all the cautionary things...like the one that said "for hot water use allow two hours dry time"...

The last time I tried to get hot water to the washing machine I twisted off the stem of one of the valves Dad had put in 49 years ago when he moved the washer down into his newly finished basement. Yesterday I shut things down again and replaced both inlet valves, as well as cleaning the screens in the machine itself. I also tried to change a "hydrant" on the other side of the basement that had a drip that didnt' want to stop; even though I had bought my valve in advance, it turned out that I needed one more piece to attach it; I've been in Lowe's almost every day this week...

Now, as I finish my morning coffee, I'm going out to clean out the gutters as they are full of fall leaves and it's supposed to rain for the next 3 days.

I have "jury duty" starting tomorrow, so not knowing how that's going to go, I may not be around much for the rest of the week.

I'm truly hoping I don't run into a bunch of these people while I "do my duty"!



And yet when John Lewis says that the current tone of things reminds him of the days of George Wallace McCain's campaign demands apologies...

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The anniversaries don't get easier...



though I had always thought they would!

The memories are never far from the surface...the months of being sick while he fooled around with the family doctor that had delivered my sister, myself, and my Mom; the one who had never told a patient they had cancer (including my Grandma who had 3 colostomies and went through radiation each time before there wasn't anything left to reconnect) since the first one he told killed himself in his parking lot. Being told we'll try this test; a week later that it hadn't shown anything, so next week we'll try something else- this went on for over two months!

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer when he finally went to someone else that only took a day; the news that in something that didn't have a high survival rate even then that this had gone on much too long; probably less than 6 months, no more than a year...

The man who had never taken a sick day from work in 35 years finally having to take a terminal leave; getting to take a few chemo treatments that left him so weak that the man who could pick up a hindquarter or foreleg of beef to butcher it was left at the mercy of strangers when he had a flat tire and a trucker stopped to help him.

The final 5 months spent in a hospital that began with him in ICU trying to get my pocketknife out of my pocket while I stood there alone with him; when I asked "why" he wrote on his little "Mickey Mouse" slate (because he was on a ventilator and couldn't speak) "End this bullshit!". My guilt at telling him I couldn't do that because my Mom would have filed charges on me.

Mom telling me it was all my fault he got the cancer because he was so stressed out worrying about me. Her telling everyone else in the family that he wouldn't give up and die because he knew how badly I'd fuck up my life if he wasn't around.

Dad telling me the last time he was off the ventilator that if there was anything in his garage I wanted I should probably go get it and take it home, because he wasn't sure what was going to happen after he died; then asking my wife and I to look after Mom when he was gone.

The doctors asking my sister and I to please talk to her and let them disconnect some of the pumps and things that were prolonging his agony; her telling us that we didn't have enough faith, that he was strong and he was going to get better.

Watching for 5 months as he went from 260 to 80 pounds...his veins so "shot" that the IV pumps would balloon his arm and leg on one side 'til the moved them to the other. The cancer eating his spine until his arms moved uncontrollably and his legs not at all.

Watching his eyes change as his brothers told stories from when they were boys, about him and each other, when everyone knew he was in a coma and that he couldn't hear anything.

The final hours watching his heart slide down out of his chest because there was nothing left to hold it, until his aorta burst.

My mother trying to legally change the conditions of his will after he died and threatening to take me to court if I didn't go along...

Finding out when she wanted the carpet in their bedroom pulled up that while he was sick she had moved into my sister's old bedroom and that the purple place on the gold carpet that bothered her was where the chemo had made him throw up and "he hadn't cleaned it up"...

Sometimes it's so hard to remember the happy times...the good times...

Especially today!

alan

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Flyin' Home"



(Actually, since I'm the only one around who probably remembers, that was the name of an old Lionel Hampton classic...)

Dottie shot this out the back window of my truck Sunday evening as we turned east and headed for Hays, Kansas on our way home from moving my nephew and his girlfriend. I was rather shocked to find out while we were there that we were closer to Amarillo, Texas than Denver, Colorado! (My sister was reading the little "welcome to town" guide.)

The trip went well, despite a slow leak in one of the trailer tires (the guy who hooked it up checked them by banging on them with his fist; the front one had 70 pounds in it instead of 65, the rear was flat but sounded exactly the same). I have to be the only dummy in the world who checks things like that I guess, especially with a real gauge...

We took the trailer to Lawrence and drove to his girlfriend's to load her toolboxes (she is a mechanic as well as he), bed and TV, as well as his tools which were there because they had been working on some things there. Then I put it in my sister's driveway (last house on a dead-end street, one of those fun ones to back into) and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening loading it along with having my brother-in-law's birthday party.

His girlfriend's birthday was several weeks ago; his isn't until Christmas, but knowing how "tight" things were going to be for them (especially since his last boss fired him when he tried to give his notice two weeks ago) we made both of their birthdays and Christmas come early for them so they would have a bit of cash as they settled in after the move.

We took our car as well as our truck that afternoon so we could leave the trailer there overnight instead of dragging it back and forth. We got home in time to get a decent night's sleep before "the haul".

Up early the next morning, I laid out a nice breakfast for Dottie and I and we rolled out of home for Lawrence just before 7. We got there as they loaded the last few things in the trailer, my sister's van and my nephew's "little truck", stopped to air tires on the trailer and his pickup, then headed west.

We drove into the rain a couple of hours in, just as I had figured. Letting my nephew pick his route (as the crow flies) we ended up spending 4 hours on two-lane with no shoulder, most of it in the rain. Unloading took less than 30 minutes (the friends he went to school with and will be working with were there waiting) and an hour later we were headed north, because I wasn't taking the same route home in the rain. An hour on a U.S. highway that was wider with shoulders brought us back to the Interstate and we headed east at 70 instead of 60...the trip took the same amount of time as it was further, but the better road was worth it! (That two lane was so narrow there was no "wiggle room" before the trailer tires would have been off the road and I hate to think of the "flip" that would have ensued!)

We stopped in Lawrence on the way home and picked up Dottie's Malibu, and got home in time for her to get her normal night's sleep before work on Monday; all in all a very good run!

I got up yesterday and returned the trailer and took the tools and floorjack and such out of my truck (the just-in-case gear). As I settled in here to upload Dottie's sunset pictures and bloghop the phone rang. It was my daughter-in-law in Lawrence, the Buick that was her grandmother's that she's been driving was acting up and showing "low voltage" on the voltmeter in the display. I loaded the tools back up and made another run to Lawrence, changed the alternator and brought her "dead" battery home with me to charge. She has classes today and walks to campus, and I'll meet her when she gets home at 5:30 to put the battery back in and she'll be set for the rest of her week.

A lot of people think that the battery will just charge back up after an event like that, when you run off it instead of the alternator; and it will if you drive 5 or 6 hours without shutting it off, running the fans, lights and other accessories. Most people don't drive long enough to recharge it before they shut it off and "crank" it, drawing back out whatever they've managed to "put back in". Then you get a cold morning, or run the defroster or the A/C and wonder why you are having to find a jump start.

That battery drew for two hours on the "fast" side of my shop charger, and for two more on the "slow" side last night. I went out earlier and restarted it just to make sure it is fully charged when I return it...

So that's my life in a nutshell these past few days. I hope it's been kind to each of you in my absence!

May the week be kind as well!

alan

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ebb tide...

After Ike's remnants visited I had been up on the roof every 4th day trying to clear my sewer line. Each time it decided to act up it was Dottie's day off, twice it was just after dark so I was up on the roof and it was midnight by the time things were over.

I had already made up my mind that I was going to dig it up over the weekend and call the plumber on Monday to come put in a clean-out "T" and cap in my front yard. Last Thursday night accelerated that...a lot!

Before I even tried to clear the line last Thursday night I called and asked for "1st call" on Friday; they said I'd have someone here by 8:30. I got up at 7, and was digging by 7:30.

(I had promised myself no photos of me were going up here before I was back down to the "low 2's" but life seems to be thwarting my best efforts at working that down...I hope you forgive me!)






The plumber showed up about 8:20, just as I got to the very top of that clay pipe you see between my feet in the photo. Having had to cut tree roots up to the size of my wrist had slowed down the progress I thought I would make.

He assumed that it was a 4" line (normal residential size) and went to get the supplies to put a "T" in while I kept digging. I started digging down the sides of it, and he came back and took a turn on the shovel because I was pretty well frazzled by that time.

It became apparent that, since this neighborhood was built as Red Cross replacement housing after a flood in 1951, they had used whatever they had, and that apparently they had 6" clay pipe and weren't afraid to use it.

I finished digging under the clay pipe while he went back to trade the 4" stuff for 6". When he returned, he cut the clay; it had such a solid core of tree roots in it that he had to use a "sawzall" to cut them and lift the piece out. There were roots on both sides of the piece he cut out of the line as well...



The plumber's comment was that he "wished those were a pair of fish"...

The shorter of those two is 32" long, 6" in diameter and very dense; picking it up to bag it for disposal, it was like a very dense sponge and weighed around 50 pounds. The other piece was about the same.

The line towards the house he cleared with a small auger, then a medium to clear the line into the house, then he ran a 6" one to the end of the house line. He turned the other way, and after pulling a foot or so of roots out of the line towards the street, it was clear! Meaning that the tree roots weren't from the huge tulip tree in my front yard, but my neighbors elm trees!

So, $1200 later, the on and off again problems of the last 20 years are dealt with, hopefully for much longer than I plan to be here!

Having taken care of that, backfilled the cleanout and packed the earth back down around it, and bought grass seed to fix my lawn there; the rest of my week now gets sucked aloft "in the whirl" again.

My older nephew is taking a job in western Kansas, starting Monday and moving on Sunday to get there. His Dad's birthday party was supposed to be on Saturday, so now it's going to be a combination of birthday and going away. I had volunteered my truck (the only full size in the family) for moving things, and they've put rain in the forecast, so to keep his tools and their furniture dry, I reserved a covered trailer last night (6'x12') to load them into.

So today I mow, tomorrow I shop, and Friday I get my truck ready to go; Saturday I pick up the trailer and take it there to pack, along with dinner and the family party, and then on Sunday I get to drive 850 miles with unloading splitting the miles in half...

I hope you will forgive me if I'm not around much again until next week!

Thank you all for the kind words on my last several posts...I will fill in some blanks on the courtship/wedding one when I get back...

May the rest of the week be kind to each of you; may the weekend be wonderful as well!

alan

Monday, September 29, 2008

There is nothing I could say today...

that would be more eloquent-



Thank you, sir!

alan

Thursday, September 25, 2008

She asked...

so when your eyes cross it's Zilla's fault!

33 years and just a month or so ago, I met my future wife. We were introduced by her cousin, a Navy Chief Petty Officer that I had known for a bit over two years at that point. He was the 4th person I met in California when I arrived (August, 1973) at the base I was sent to after jet mechanic's school. The 1st was a guy sitting on the curb in front of the barrack's scraping gasket material off the rocker covers of his 1965 Barracuda (he'll pop up again later); the 2nd was the barrack's Master-at-Arms who assigned me my room. When he took me to my room, one of my new roomates was "in" and saw the trumpet case in one hand, and recognizing it, said "I play too". This led to an impromptu "jam session", about 20 minutes into which there was a loud knocking at our door. Opening it, we found a Navy Chief in khakis and we both assumed we were in trouble for disturbing someone's Sunday afternoon.

Instead he told us that "that sounded really good", and that he ran the counseling center in the middle of the barracks quadrant, and that we should come down and play there sometime.

He turned out to be the counselor for the guys coming back from Vietnam with problems; the guys going through drug rehab; the guys dealing with the divorces that 9 month WestPac cruises tend to cause. By the time I left for my own WestPac we had gotten to be pretty good friends.

I also ran into the guy with the 'Cuda a few times as well. He was a harmonica player, very into "blues"...John Mayall, early J. Geils...

When I came back from my WestPac I was heading home on leave the next morning; that Navy Chief not only picked me up at North Island when the Kittyhawk came in, but took me home, let me spend the night and then took me to the airport the next morning to save me from cab fare.

A few weeks later, leave over, I returned to San Diego with a bike I had bought while I was in Memphis, a 1971 Yamaha 650. I took it by to show it off to Cas (the chief's name) and let him take it out for a ride.

When I ran across the guy with the 'Cuda he told me he was putting together a '56 Triumph 650 and that I should come by his barracks room and see it sometime. I did, and was told he was moving out to share a house with his girlfriend and I should come by there sometime.

I moved out as well, into an off base apartment with a couple of squadron mates. I'll just say it was the 70's, it was California, and it was "party central" and let it go at that. A guitar player I had met on the Kittyhawk was playing in a band that worked a club in Chula Vista and I spent a lot of nights sitting in with them. Wandering down to the beach in the evenings was always good for an impromptu jam session with someone who played guitar, and invitations to some parties I wish I could remember!

At some point one of my roomates blew the shifter forks out of the Yamaha transmission one night when we had traded vehicles and I was driving his 442 Olds. I sold the bike for what I had in it and bought a '64 Falcon. I ran into the guy with the 'Cuda again as he had rotated to nights in the same hangar I worked in. He was looking very dejected and when I asked what was up, he said he had walked to work because the 'Cuda was "down" and he didn't know why. I gave him a ride home, had him crank it a few turns and told him the timing chain was shot and it had "jumped time". We went and bought parts, and by late that evening the 'Cuda was running again. He was rather amazed that I could diagnose that so easily; all these years later I know how lucky I was that was really the problem...

I met his wife that night, the girl he had moved out to live with. Her name was Debbie and among other things she made the most amazing homeade doughnuts!

Rick and I hung out together more and more; I spent a lot of nights sleeping on their couch having been there working on something or helping put that still unfinished Triumph together.

I got out off "active duty" in June of 1975 and went for a ride in my Falcon, up the coast to San Francisco, stopping on my way back in Oxnard to hang out with my guitar playing friend, now stationed there.

While I was gone, Rick and Debbie were in a motorcycle accident; after lingering for a few days, she died of her injuries leaving behind a 6 week old daughter and Rick with a broken leg, arm and shattered wrist. The bike they were on was one he was tuning for someone.

I returned, his Mom and Dad took their grandaughter to Santa Cruz while Rick was still in the hospital, and I started putting the wrecked bike back together. I met the guy he had bought his '56 Triumph from, and ended up buying a '58 of my own.

While Rick was "gimped up" I rebuilt the Barracuda as well, engine, driveline and front suspension. I slept on the couch, he moved in two other guys to split the rent of their house, and I made my spending money by working out of the garage and donating plasma. One of them wrecked my Falcon and ended up buying it for what I had in it...I knew it wouldn't ever be "right" again.

August of 1975 found me working out the final assembly of my '58 Triumph when Cas, the Navy Chief called. He had two cousins visiting, one just stationed in San Diego after two years in Hawaii, the other taking a semester off from college in Vermont.

He invited me to dinner; I cleaned up as best I did in those days, and walked to dinner as the Triumph wasn't "road ready" at that point. Through the course of dinner I found out that the older cousin was getting ready to leave for Indiana that weekend to marry a guy she had been stationed with in Hawaii.

Being the smartass I was, I offered to play "Taps" at her wedding. We all laughed...little did I know what would transpire!

I kept in touch with Jane, the sister taking time off from school, and worked the bugs out of my bike, as there wasn't a lot to do in San Diego with "no wheels". By November, when I had the bike where I trusted it, I called to ask Jane out, but found out she had gone home to Vermont to enroll in school.

The cousin that had gotten married that fall was at their apartment the 2nd week of December that year, 1975, preparing Christmas dinner for herself and Cas (the Navy Chief, if you've forgotten. Since he was doing "sea trials" at the time, this was the only time before the holiday they were both going to be "off".) when the phone rang. It was the guy in Indiana, the one she had married because she loved him and he wanted to split her BAQ money (the payment for living off-base) so he didn't have to work.

(I found out later that in Hawaii, when they were living together, when she told him she loved him, he had told her "he loved her as much as he did their coffee table". She of course, was certain that he would grow to love her as much as she did him...)

On the phone he told her that "his ex-girlfriend had just gotten a divorce, and she wouldn't go out with him until he got one, so he wanted a divorce".

When she hung up, for some reason the phone came right off the wall!

After she had a day or so to "cool down" Cas started telling her she should call me to see what I was up to. Finally, she did.

Dottie and I went out for the first time on my birthday, December 29, 1975. I went to the plasma bank that morning and had gotten enough to fill my Triumph, buy a pack of Marlboro's, and had $3 left over. We went out for a long ride through San Diego, over the Coronado Bridge, and back up the "Strand" to Imperial Beach. I stopped at "Jack in the Box" offering to buy her dinner; she knew by looking at me (5'8" and at the time about 126 pounds. She later joked about "taking me in because my ribs showed".) that I couldn't really afford that. I insisted on buying her something, so she settled on a chocolate shake. I only bought one, telling her I couldn't hang onto one and drive...

We talked that night until 3 or 4AM; the next day we just "hung out" and talked away the afternoon and evening again. The next few days we were either on the phone or together most of the time she wasn't working.

The first week of January, 1976, she asked her cousin would it be all right if I stayed over...we moved in together and have been together since.

Cas's Mom had lived with him for a while in 1974 and I had gotten to know her then. Aunt Ruth came back to live with him after Dottie and I moved into a house that March. The guy in Indiana had to get a job to pay for their divorce and paying the lawyer took him a while. I kept asking why she didn't point out to him he could get an annulment (she flew back to San Diego immediately after the ceremony) and she said "if he wanted a divorce he could pay for it"!

Aunt Ruth was already telling Dottie she should marry me...I already knew that married or not I wasn't going anywhere...

My grandparents came to visit during this time as well. Grandma and Grandpa Fritz (my mom's parents) had come to California to visit his brother in Long Beach and came to visit us on a side trip. Dottie planned to give them our room and one of us was going to sleep on the couch...Grandma was having none of it! She told us that it was our house, that was our bedroom, and we'd best be planning on sleeping in it. She said that living together and figuring out whether we got along was much better than all the divorces that people were going through, and that she just wanted to see BOTH of us happy!

That fall her divorce finally came through. She was more than a bit wary of getting married again, however, after her first experience. (My riding and partying didn't help matters any, most likely.) Finally, around Thanksgiving, she said that if I was really serious about it, that we could get a marriage license in December. I called her Dad and asked his permission to marry her...not that a "no" would have stopped us.

So we did get a license. When we worked out the duty schedule for her, for her cousin, and the Reserve time I was finally making up (I had skipped some drill time through the course of my "wild times"), December 14, 1976 worked out to be the magic day.

We met at a San Diego judge's house after his day in court was through. She wore bibs and a T-shirt, I wore jeans and a T-shirt with a Levi jacket with my Triumph wings on the back. Her cousin "gave her away"; he and the judge's mother were our witnesses.

Life has taken some twists and turns since then. It took me a "long time" to grow up, and through the years more than once I gave her cause to regret "being badgered into marrying me" by her Aunt Ruth, Cas and myself. That we are still together says much more for her stubborness than how easy I am to put up with...

Perhaps, if there is reincarnation, then next time she'll end up with the guy she deserves...

But for now, she's stuck with me for as long as she wants to put up with me. I can't imagine starting over; I can't imagine life without her!

So, as I said at the top, if you've made it this far, it's Zilla's fault, not mine!

Dottie's off tomorrow and I have both grandson's tomorrow night, Saturday and Sunday. We usually try not to do that when she has to work Saturday and Sunday, but John and Noel have plans, so we're going to hope this works out and she gets enough sleep to survive work!

My presence might be scarce in the meantime, so if I don't get to visit any of you 'til Monday I hope you understand!

May the rest of the week be kind and your weekends be lovely!

alan

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sometimes you just get lucky!

We had our first rain last night since Ike's remnants rolled through. I don't know what the amount was, just that I got woken up by the thunder 3 or 4 times.

I've been trying to time my getting up so I'm not in Dottie's way in the mornings, so when she left I turned on the kettle then went downstairs to check the basement;

It was dry!

So I laid the last line of my mats back down, then came back upstairs to eat and bloghop a bit, along with paying some bills. In a few minutes I'm going back downstairs to try to ease back into my lifting routine again.

I didn't end up mowing on Monday, as Bill needed a birth certificate for his new job and when I tried to order them I found out I needed a notarized statement and to fax it to them before they would process the order. By the time I got those errands taken care of the mosquitoes were out, and I wasn't going to be eaten alive again this week.

So I finally mowed yesterday; 3 passes on the front lawn to make it look "decent" without the furrows of clumped up wet grass lying on top. Part of the "extra passes" as that I took it down shorter than usual so if the sewer line acts up again I can start digging. The plumber and I had discussed them putting a cleanout box in the line after it exits the house, and if I do the digging the price comes down quite a bit. Hopefully, if the misalignment in the sewer line is where we both thought it was the box can be used to correct that as well, and then we can hope my problems end. If not, then at least I'll know where I'm beginning to dig my way to the street!

Apparently the back corner of the house has shifted a bit since that last rain as well, as I have a crack in the sheetrock that wasn't there before...those are nothing new in this place, as it sits on a cinder block foundation.

I hope the week is being kind to each of you!

alan

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hope floats...

though at a lower ebb some days than others!

Talia had a great time, though she didn't end up with the whole weekend as we thought she would because her Mom and Dad had something to do earlier on Sunday than they originally thought. Between the time she arrived on Friday and Caleb's party at 2 on Saturday we still managed to assemble Obiwan's Jedi fighter and a Corvette, along with watching the first two episodes of the original "Addams Family".

At 7, she's not too sure about them...I bought the first season last week thinking Dillon was the same age (9) I was when I first saw them and would love it. (Yes, I know I'm ancient!) We'll find out this next weekend...

We're still getting over our colds, so decided not to do a movie yesterday. We went to Costco and gassed Dottie's car and just decided to go for a ride; something we haven't really done all summer.

20 some years ago we attended an auction at a historic property I had heard of my whole life but never visited. Since then it had changed hands several times and gone through a battle in which the city tried to keep it from being allowed to crumble. Called "Sauer Castle" there are many legends about the place, most of which are just that.

Though the photos at the link above are about where things still stand, a better explanation of events is here.

It's truly sad to see something that could be so lovely allowed to fall apart...one window we could see from the front doesn't even have glass in it; this with all the rain we had last week.

We looked for "stickered houses" as we wandered the hill above Argentine, then rolled through it on our way home. There aren't nearly as many vacant "stickered" houses there as there are in my neighborhood. Rather odd considering the housing there is turn of the century through the 20's, and here it's newer (50's); perhaps explained by most of those being much larger than the ones here are...

Which brings us back to my title; though things look rather bleak at the moment, I have to try and keep a sliver of hope that somehow, it's all going to work out one more time...

May the week be kind!

alan

Friday, September 19, 2008

Falling tide...

Outside and inside at this point!

The water stopped trickling in from outside the basement two days ago. I had vacuumed up about 6 gallons (lesson learned, empty the shop-vac each day as it didn't smell too good).

The sewer line seems to be behaving as well, with nary a gurgle since I used the "drain kings" the other night.

Since I live halfway down a terraced hill, the water flowing down it finally quit crossing my driveway yesterday, so now there's just the mud left behind on it.

I shopped yesterday because the grass was still too wet to mow; after Dottie calls at noontime, I'm going to go out and knock it down so I can get through the shower before Talia comes to spend the night. She's spending tonight and tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we'll have her little brother as well as he turned 5 yesterday and in the morning they're going to decorate for his family party tomorrow afternoon.

My cold seems to be subsiding; I'm hoping Dottie's is as well. Tonight I'm supposed to take Talia to meet her at a hobby store when she gets off work so Talia can pick a model or something else to do while she's with us this weekend. Last time she made a purse...

Tomorrow is the monthly "hazardous waste" collection for my county, and I have Bill and John's oil changes to drop off. The collections end for the year either this month or next, and I'd rather not have them hanging around all winter. (My garage is small enough as it is!) Dottie's is due, but life hasn't exactly been cooperating of late. At least since I run it on Mobil 1, there's more leeway there!

Depending on how the rest of the weekend goes, perhaps I'll get my little gym put back together now that the floor is dry.

I'm watching the news, and it's hard not to let it "get to me". Tens of thousands of people losing their homes didn't matter, but when Wall Street implodes then we're going to save them...the exact pattern of the "Savings and Loan" crisis...

Thousands along the Texas coast without lights and water, yet we deliver them food that needs to be cooked! At least a jar of peanut butter doesn't need to be heated to eat and refrigerated to keep!


"America, how many times do you have to be hit over the head before you realize who's hitting you?"- Harry Truman


May the weekend be kind to each of you!

alan