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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008


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...


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!


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!


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!)



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!


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!


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!


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!