Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve...

strains of Guy Lombardo's "Auld Lang Syne" remembered from my childhood playing in my mind...

Off to my sister's in a bit for the family birthday/New Year's Eve parties. My nephew (Christmas Eve), myself (the 29th) and Bill's wife Laura (Jan. 30th, but, hey; while she's here)!

I've often spent this last week of the year in a funk of reviewing and lamenting (see my last post) but not this year. I refused to wallow in it and have actually succeeded, though I'm not sure how much is due to my own free will and how much is due to how busy things have been.

Last year I said I was going to try to keep things here on a more positive note; that ended up with my not saying things at times because there just wasn't anything positive to say and my feeling guilty when I wrote things that weren't; neither was much good for me. So this year, I'm just going to write and let it fall where it falls.

I've made many wonderful friends here; each of you has touched me in ways that have helped me, guided me, healed me...I owe you all so very much!

So I'll hope that tonight finds you somewhere you'd like to be; that tomorrow you are still somewhere you'd like to be and that both of these days, the weekend and the New Year that begins tomorrow are all very kind to each of you!

alan

Monday, December 28, 2009

The day before...

always abounds in 2nd guessing and other musings; rather like reliving your life in short order...

What if?

Should I have?

Would it have been better?

The voices all whisper and this time I'm going to fight them off, because I know, deep down, that none of what is past can be changed by any amount of giving in to them!

This time, I will look forward not behind!

Ahead lies the time that is left me; the only things I can change are "now" and "the future".

So bring on 54 and we'll see how it plays!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve...

and after a madcap week of shopping, cleaning, rearranging the house for guests, wrapping and more shopping it's all come down to these last few hours.

Bill and Laura and Obie just got here after a 19 hour drive straight-through from Maryland. Obie apparently did well on his first road trip, especially for a shelter dog who was so very sick when they adopted him. He's made friends with Angel and peace with Frankie, so that bodes well for the human's holidays!

What the poor dog doesn't know is that the rain they drove through for about half their trip is starting to freeze right now and we're in for some of that good old Kansas ice before 8 inches or so of snow comes down over it. Apparently he wasn't very happy with the blizzard they had last weekend in D.C. and here they've driven him into another one for Christmas!



Dottie works today and then since she just had her annual review, a slight pay increase and a warning that it's very hard to use up 4 weeks of vacation so she should spread it out, she turned around and said "OK, what about next week while my son is here?". Her boss said that would be great and (so far) none of the higher-ups have rescinded it so we're hoping she's off until New Year's Day!

So that will be a treat for the whole family...

I hadn't planned on her being off on my birthday (the 29th) and had planned to bake my own cake, along with maybe sneaking off to an arthouse movie that I know she wouldn't have liked; instead I'll be trading my movie for her making her Mom's chocolate cake, the "Miracle Whip" one that has been my favorite chocolate one since the first one I ever tasted...I remember observing that if they buried the Pharoah's with things for their next life, she needed to bury me with one of those cakes! That was before I settled on cremation; there's no way I could waste one of those cakes that way!

I am adding all that because with extra houseguests and my antiblogging spouse at home, the chances of me getting here are slim to none!

May Christmas find you near to those you hold dear, in your hearts if not in person. I hold each of you that way; you have all come to mean so very much to me!

And may 2010 be the Happiest of New Years for you all! We are all due for some bluer skies and maybe that silver lining I keep hearing of...

Though in truth, the silver lining is here...with each of you!

May your days be Merry and Bright!

alan

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another day, another letter...

I wrote my Senators last week (that word "my" is kind of sticking in my craw at this point; they sure as hell don't represent me) asking them to support the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell". I even started my letter with "I know that next week I will receive a letter from you saying how much my thoughts on this matter mean to you, and then you both will proceed to tell me you support the status quo"!

Which is exactly what showed up a bit ago...

Mr. Brownback wrote to tell me how much my thoughts matter, then how wonderfully the current policy has worked and how "he'll listen to the military" when it comes to making policy...

Had Harry Truman listened to the military 60 years ago it would still be segregated!

The laws of inertia are that a mass in motion will continue in the direction it's going unless it's acted on by some outside force.

That "change from within" is impossible would be evidenced by the fact that during the Revolutionary War the army WAS integrated, as it was during the War of 1812, yet by the time of the Civil War it became segregated...outside forces had their influence and it stood for over 100 years!

I remember the rants in the 70's that there would never be women on carriers or their escorts; that there was just no way that could ever work. There was no way you could put women on ships that were going out for 8 or 9 months and have it not cause a problem.

Yet today women fill every billet in the Navy, just as they should.

'Tis truly sad that good lives are being ruined by those who reap political hay!

Didn't mean to start the week with a rant...

May the week be kind to you each!

alan

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Silver Bells..."

a bit of Christmas time from the city...



I was doing dishes at my sister's the other night as my wife packed up and my camera was on top of her pie safe. They found it yesterday afternoon and brought it when we did the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving "family movie". Walking back from where they were parked to where we were parked I shot a few frames, handheld, 1/15th wide open aperture 100 ASA setting.

I hope each of you who celebrated had a lovely Thanksgiving; may the weekend be kind to each of you!

alan

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh to be a mouse...

inthe corner of this wonderful room...

or a trumpet player growing up in love with music...

New on my Christmas list:

"The Jazz Loft" by Sam Stephenson; photos by W. Eugene Smith! Like the author of the Vanity Fair article, I can only hope someone starts editing down these tapes for release!

W. Eugene Smith had already been a leading light at "Life" magazine; during WW2 he island-hopped across the Pacific with our troops. He is attributed by many to be the originator the "photo essay" which he used to help bring world attention to Minamata disease, a horrific form of mercury poisoning named for the city in Japan where the chemical was dumped into the bay, poisoning the food chain. Smith and his wife moved there in 1971 to help document the ravages of the disease; for his trouble he was beaten in 1972 by those who wished to suppress his work. He lost part of his vision in one eye and never fully recovered.

I'd like to think that perhaps these memories of an earlier happier time finding their way into print would please him!

May the rest of the week be kind to each of you! May those who gather 'round tables the day after tomorrow be blessed by those you care for most; may those who will be other places in the world know that each of you will be counted among my blessings!

alan

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Slip slidin' away..."

Another week rapidly disappearing "over the hill"...

but while scanning and Photoshopping things for that project I mentioned my sister working on, I took some time to go through some of what I shot while we were in Vermont in August.

Each trip we try and work in sightseeing as well as spending time with family; this time we managed a family trip to "The Shelburne Museum". I'll put some other photos up soon, but when I saw these I was as awed now as I was then.

I read this exhibit card and think of all the hours I've spent sitting in front of the TV or surfing online...

(Click to enlarge and please forgive my handheld 1/8th and 1/15th exposures, and the lack of a polarizing filter to kill the glare on the glass case? Next time I'm going back with a tripod!)












High wire acts, bicycles...the Wild West show...an amazing creation for the hands of one man!

Coming later...motorcycles...Tiffany lampshades...a paddlewheeler transported overland from Lake Champlain...

Well worth a visit if you ever get a chance to!

May the weekend be kind to each of you; may it be warm and dry (especially for those of you floating away in the UK) and for those who get to celebrate next Thursday, may your preparations for Thanksgiving be filled with love and knowledge that I'll be saying thanks for each of you next Thursday!

alan

Friday, November 13, 2009

One of the best photos I ever shot...

I've been scanning some old things for another project and though I couldn't get this one out of the "sticky" album it's been in for almost 40 years (it started to tear) I scanned it anyway...



Old Rolleiflex, Plus-X Pan developed in Edwal FG-7 and printed on #3 contrast Kodak paper.

I've tried to get this effect a dozen times in the 38 or 39 years since I shot this and never ever managed to...yet!

May the weekend be kind to each of you!

alan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happier things...


Dorothy and Toto; an aerialist wanna-be; and the Man from Brown...

Somewhere there's a photo of a little boy on his way to kindergarten next to that tree; I need to find that!

Hoping that no matter what's going on in your world, somewhere there's some kindness in it!

alan

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How the other half lives...

Not what I had planned to put here today...had planned on putting up a Halloween pic of some grandkids...

It really saddens me to see how much delight some of our electorate takes in disenfranchising others. Elsewhere this morning a wag pointed out that had abolition been subjected to popular vote in 1866 it would have lost as well...

I think it's time for me to start collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to ban ice storms!

No doubt I can get the necessary signatures; I am sure it would pass with a number that would stagger the pundits, pollsters and politicos! It would become the law of the land and every major winter storm could be touted as illegal from then on!

That it wouldn't change a damn thing doesn't matter, I'd still get to gloat over my victory!

May the rest of this sad day and the rest of the week be kind to each of you...

alan

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Excuse the dust...

as I settle back in here, please?

The time away from here was interesting and not just the "net withdrawals" though they were in abundance, along with the worrying and wondering about each of you. Between a very sore wife sleeping on the couch in the living room and a very sick dog not understanding why her body was letting her down, the first two weeks were especially rough. Having to scoop the dog up with a sheet and carry her outside once she could sit up again after what I still think was a stroke was awkward for both of us, though she was grateful not to be "messing" herself and having me trying to clean up her and our (thankfully bare) floor.

She has gradually regained about 85% of her use of her hindquarters, is very stiff turning one direction and her head still lists as she gets tired; I'm very much hoping we don't get much ice this winter as her hips roll one way or the other without warning and I fear her "going down" on the ice like the German Shepard we had that had belonged to Dottie's Mom.

Dottie finally moved back into our bed last week, fearing if she slept on her side before she was mostly healed the "mesh" they sewed into her would not heal evenly. She was very grateful to be off the couch when she finally did and with the arthritis that has settled into her back, very grateful to be off of it! She returned to work yesterday and came home very sore, but OK.

There was a lot of quiet time that first few weeks when she would "nod off" for a while and so I started a book I'd had put away for many years, having spent more time reading shorter and lighter things. I stayed up on "current events" by leaving the TV in our bedroom on as I cooked and cleaned and such, with it set on "closed captions". Some of what I was reading intersected with those current events in ways I never dreamt of!

"The Reconstruction Finance Corporation is made up of fine men, honest, and mean well and if it was water they were distributing it would help the people it was meant to help. For water goes down hill and moistens everything on its way, but gold or money goes uphill. The Reconstruction loaned the railroads money, medium and small banks money, and all they did with it was pay off what they owed to the New York banks. So the money went uphill instead of down. You can drop a bag of gold in Death Valley, which is below sea level, and before Saturday it will be home to papa J.P. [Morgan]."

Will Rogers, 1933

Whether you look at the money that was supposed to take care of refinancing the homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure; the auto industry bailouts; the credit card companies raising our rates and such; the billions of dollars profit that the health care industry is making while they fight any change to the status quo; the Wall Street companies paying bonuses to their execs...old Will seems to be pretty spot on!

I was thinking last night that the last time we saw real "for the people" changes come from Congress it was what L.B.J. called the "Great Society" legislation. Perhaps if we called healthcare reform "The Healthy Society Act" or something similar the it might be more palatable to that "upper crust" who think they're the only ones entitled to society...it's so funny to hear them screaming that healthcare reform might change Medicare when they fought tooth and nail to keep Medicare from passing all those years ago!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A house full!

Dottie's feeling enough better she asked for all 3 grandkids this weekend. Giving up the couch for the first time since her surgery meant she's actually sleeping in bed again...not comfortably, as she's still on her back, but at least in bed.

So it's 8am on Sunday morning and I'm sitting here with 2 of them watching "Snorks" on Boomer while she's gone to the store with one of them to get some "Children's Tylenol" for the one that woke us up crying with a fever. Glad I got my flu shot last week!

Hope all is well with all of you! Miss bloghopping and keeping up with you all!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quick note...

4 weeks out now, Dottie is healing slowly. She still can't sleep on her side, so she's still on the couch, but the outside parts of things are healing and we're hoping everything inside is as well. That she can "feel" the mesh at times is worrisome...

Angel is back to about 80%, maybe 85% of where she was before her stroke/ear infection/brain tumor struck. She's finished all her meds, still wobbles and falls sometimes as she walks and her head lists more the tireder she is through the day. Bill made it home last week to spend 4 days with her and really brightened her days! He always considered her "his" dog anyway, though she lived here with us...

Winter is setting in, I've had to vacuum and light furnaces the last few days, along with patching another limb-punch in my roof. Had I worked this last summer I'd have replaced it as it's 25, but next summer will have to do...

Sorry for my lack of time here of late; rather closely supervised right now!

:o)

May the days be kind to each of you!

alan

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

14 days...

and Dottie's checkup today was fine; she hadn't "coughed" anything loose and the surgeon said that everything seemed to be right where he left it, despite the cold that lingered into a 2nd round of antibiotics.

Angel is stronger and walking further each day; though her head is still at a 30 degree list and her balance is very "off", she walks to the front door now and only wants a finger on her collar to steady her as she goes down the two steps to the yard; yesterday she walked the 100 feet to the backyard for the first time and wandered around her favorite haunts, then back to the front door.

Of course, eating canned dog food for the first time in her life seems to be her favorite part of the whole thing! (That and dinner rolls with her meds in them...)

Dottie is on the phone now talking to her sisters and updating them; thus my chance to do the same thing here...

May the week be kind to each of you! Thank you for all the well wishes and warm thoughts!

alan

Friday, September 25, 2009

Walking the dog...

though I still have to carry her outside, she's walking/staggering about now; walked at least 60' today and other functions have started again as well! I'd have never thought an ear infection could strike so suddenly or lay someone so low!

Fingers crossed, things are looking much brighter today!

May the weekend be kind to each of you!

alan

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Strange days...

Dottie's surgery went well and she finally got her drain out yesterday. Sadly, the day before our dog of 14 years collapsed, showing all the signs of a stroke. We got her to the vet yesterday, who came out to my son's van and spent a 1/2 hour checking her over and then drawing blood, etc. and he said he hopes it's just an ear infection throwing off her balance and with her already weakened back legs (arthritis) that that's the reason she can't stand or walk. He started her on antibiotics and steroids...he also said if it's a brain tumor the steroids would help with it for a while then things will start slipping again.

Meanwhile, she's eating, drinking and loving all the extra attention.

Gotta go because if I walk away she'll crawl to try and follow me and Dottie's gone right now (the minute the drain came out she was ready to be "out and about") to pay the vet and pick up some canned food for her since she can't seem to deal with the dry she's always eaten and we've been cooking burgers for her on the George Foreman.

May life be kind to each of you!

alan

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

She's home...

very grumpy, very sore, but happy to be "out"!

alan

Monday, September 14, 2009

Krzysztof Kieslowski...missed so very much!

Those of you who "know" me know I love film; you also know how easily I fall under the spell of people and things.

When I used to read the "New Yorker" at work I would read the film listings and saw rave reviews for a retrospective of Kieslowski films ahead of the release of his "new" one at the time, "The Double Life of Veronique". There was only one "art house" here at the time and with the hours I worked, getting there was pretty much impossible. Luckily, it wasn't all that long after I noticed on Cinemax that "Veronique" was playing. I recorded it, caught up with it not so long after and was completely spellbound. The film; the story; the music; the cinematography...a perfect magical package!

When I discovered a local video rental that handled foreign and early cinema, I was in heaven. I started exploring some of Krzysztof's earlier works. The brothers that ran it told me that had just ordered "The Decalog" and that I really needed to watch it. When it came in, 5 volumes of two pieces each, they were constantly out and I only got one tape watched before they lost their lease on the theatre they were running. Thankfully, they've moved up and onwards and now run the best "arthouses" in Kansas City, but the video club never began again.

In the meantime I acquired DVD's of the film trilogy he did; "Three Colors: Blue", "Three Colors: White" and "Three Colors: Red"

So when my younger son gave us a Netflix subscription a year ago last Christmas I was delighted to find a lot of the old silent cinema I'd been unable to find locally, along with Kieslowski's ouevre and so many others. (My queue is 384 movies at this point.)

These last few weeks I've been going through "The Decalog", in order 1-10 and find myself captivated and replaying them in my mind while doing other things. Loosely fit to the "10 Commandments", I got to "Decalog 8" last night and have no doubt that I will be haunted by Kieslowski's poignant "ethical hell" for the rest of my life...

Knowing Dottie would be wanting to come to bed soon (I was watching in our bedroom), I watched some of the extra features on the disc. One was "100 Questions", a group of film writers in an interview with him.

Several times the great man insists that he doesn't believe in the power of cinema to change people or society; that if people see a film and "choose to reflect" on it and then change, that is their choice.

I'd like to think he left them no choice but to reflect...

If you don't mind subtitles, these are all wonderful; both the movies I mentioned and "The Decalog" as well!

As an aside; I've never heard film music more wonderful than the scores by Zbigniew Preisner! I first fell in love with the score he wrote for "Veronique"; it has echoed in my soul since the first time I heard it...

Dottie goes in for surgery in the morning then she's on sick leave for at least 6 weeks, during which I'll be going back to work to keep us "afloat". I don't know how much time I'll have here, given her "anti-blogging" stance, but will post an occasional update while she's in the shower or something.

May the week and the ensuing weeks be kind to each of you!

alan


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Slip-sliding away...

The year...life...my leisure...

I've finally shaken "the cold", grateful to have it "gone" but worried as Dottie is starting to cough and she has surgery next week. Hopefully her constant exposure to things at work will protect her a bit.

In the moments I had where I felt good last week I managed to drill the garage floor and bolt down the new air compressor; wired it; spent some time drawing a manifold system for it (air distribution) and made trips to Lowe's and Harbor Freight to accumulate the pieces for it. I assembled most of it yesterday and discovered I was one $1.08 piece short of finishing it; I've already been out today to get it and am waiting for the rain to subside so I can move the boat out enough to move my roll-away and assemble the last bits and leak check it. Having watched pipefitters do this kind of thing for 30 years at GM paid off handsomely. Having always worked at the long end of too much air hose at home, perhaps my "lug gun" will actually break the ones on my truck now instead of me doing it by hand!

Not much else going on at the moment...

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wheezy...

Having caught a cold from the guy I slept with while "on the road" for the funeral (my son) I've been more than a bit under the weather these past few days. Not the usual, perhaps because it's a late summer bug, or early winter given our temps, the mucus isn't the problem, it's just the cough from hell that won't stop until you get halfway through the bottle of syrup...I've been sleeping on the couch (much to my cat's dismay) so I don't disturb Dottie; by the time she gets up I'm "liquored up" enough on Tussin DM to sleep about 2 hours straight in our bed before I wake up and start coughing again. Annoying is the little "squeaky toy" wheeze that wakes me at the end of each breath 'til I get there...

My air compressor blew a hole through the tank 2 days before I left for Vermont; inherited from Dad, it was a 28 year old "Sears Best" that they no longer stocked parts for (the regulator had been leaking for about 5 years and I couldn't get them anywhere else either). Before he died Dad had been assembling a collection of air tools to do bodywork, jitterbugs and air files, etc., that even that 2 horse 220/volt wouldn't quite "pull". If it didn't have other problems I'd have tried to weld the tank up (couldn't make it any worse, lol).

So in a last binge of deficit spending before I return to the workforce, I caught a Craftsman Club sale and bought a 2.5 horse, 150 psi vertical (stands up like your hot water tank) with a 60 gallon tank. I brought it home last week, getting John and Dillon to help me unload it as it weighs more than I do (and that's getting up there). Yesterday, while slipping out for cough syrup, I bought a cord and new outlet to wire it with because I couldn't match the old plug.

I also have to build a manifold system for the "out" side of things; rigid pipe still being cheaper than the fancy plastic systems they sell, I'll pick that up this afternoon after I eat something and down some "non-drowsy" cough syrup. I picked up a filter/water separator and a regulator, as I don't think I have a bit of hose newer than 30 years old and one regulator is cheaper than replacing 150 feet of air hoses right now should I blow them up at 150psi.

Later I'll add a 2nd "drop" and a dryer for spray guns; I painted a few cars "back in the day" and grew up watching Dad do about one a year, if not for himself for someone else, on top of his own touch up work.

He got his first compressor when I was 4. My Mom was pregnant with my sister and had decided she had to learn how to drive (she was 29). While he was at work, she took me and his pride and joy '55 Ford Fairlane to the courthouse for her exam. Somehow she passed it, then on the way home turned a corner "short" and raked it from front wheel to rear on a set of concrete steps...he couldn't afford to pay someone to "do it right" so like so many other things, did it himself. According to her the only reason she came home was because she was pregnant and knew he wouldn't kill her...

Through the years I watched him paint the '47 Studebaker truck he put together from the wrecking yard ($25 with a blown engine) and used to dig the basement under this house I'm sitting in; watched him 2-tone a '55 Chevy for a neighbor's son because he liked the kid and liked the car. I watched him rebuild and paint a '59 Rambler for a nephew he felt was being deprived. He put the front of that same '55 Fairlane back together after he sold it to Mom's Mom after she learned to drive and got hit by someone running a red light. Having promised it to me when I got old enough to drive, I think he felt guilty about having to sell it and had hoped she'd keep it 'til I could drive; it didn't work out that way.

After he moved to that bigger compressor and a bigger spray gun, I used his old ones and painted several myself, my own and others. Though my knowledge is passe at this point (you can still buy lacquer and enamel, but not many people use them because the newer finishes survive abuse so much better), there is still a place inside me that wants to learn how to spray a set of flames...I've got a nephew that can and if I can't learn on my own I may have to twist his arm a bit...

Which is rather funny actually, because not long ago I was cursing because I couldn't lay a straight line of masking tape on a window I was painting!

:o)

Enough prattling from me...

May each of your Sundays be amazing and the coming week be kind!

alan


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reflections

It's been a few days now since I returned from the funeral. Seeing Uncle Bill was great and my cousins as well. I never knew the rest of my Dad's side of the family as well as I did my Mom's or my Dad's Mom.

The service was in the "small" chapel of a "mega-church". Though beautiful, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the little churches my Grandfather had pastored would have fit inside and what he or Uncle Walter would have thought of it. Grandpa's last church, the one he wasn't supposed to take after he retired, had 13 regular members on the Sunday we attended...

Thinking of the 62 years Uncle Bill and Aunt Frances had together is cause for much reflection. Him at 85 and her at 84, Dottie and I will be almost the same ages should be "make it" that long. Right now at 33 years together, that number seems impossible if only from the viewpoint of longevity!

My parent's 60th would have been next year had cancer not claimed Dad in '83. I'm not sure what he'd have done when Mom's MS progressed to the point it is now...at least Uncle Bill got to keep Aunt Frances at home despite the Alzheimer's she had developed.

Uncle Bill lost a kidney a few years ago to kidney cancer; now it seems his remaining one is shutting down and he has to decide whether he wants to spend 4 hours a day at the hospital 3 days a week for dialysis as he isn't a candidate for doing it at home. Though healthy in every other way and seemingly in good spirits, I fear learning what his decision will be.

The trip to Oklahoma and back was interesting; they are replacing the old 2 lane state highway with 4 lane. Much of it lies parallel to a railroad right-of-way still in use. In places the old telegraph poles still run alongside the rails, wires drooping or on the ground in places, poles listing like drunken sailors after a long voyage as they rot away, some lying all the way down, others held in mid-air by the wires they were supposed to be holding, the glass insulators so prized a few years ago still atop them. The tracks are 2-4 feet above the old highway surface; standard practice to save a railbed in case of flooding.

The new highway is 2 to 15 feet above the railbed!

If that southeast corner of Kansas ever floods high enough to need that elevation, there will be a new Great Lake in the Midwest! As flat as it is (the rolling hills don't start 'til north of Chanute) 3 or 4 feet of water will spread for miles...

The juxtaposition of old against new was much in evidence these last few days...old windmills long forgotten along with barns, fences and silos against the newer rural water towers and newer homes in places.

Old row motels abandoned along with service stations...

Santa Fe #1079 sitting at Coffeyville for all the world like she's just waiting for someone to wake up and quit burning oil...

I wonder what my grandkids will see if they retrace these steps in 40 years?

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

alan




Friday, August 21, 2009

Settling and unsettling...

With the errands close to caught up, the laundry almost done and put away and the dinner menu figured out, I'm catching my breath for a minute...

My "little" sister turned 50 while I was on the road; at first determined to delay her party for a while as "she wasn't in a rush" she's now decided that "she'll always be older than me" and therefore we started trying to work things out for this weekend.

Yesterday as I got back in my truck at Sears I found a text from her saying "call me"...

"Uncle Bill called a little bit ago; Aunt Frances died this morning."

My Dad's only surviving brother, I never saw that much of him until a few years before my Dad got sick; when my Dad was dying of cancer, Uncle Bill was a rock. Always there, always the right words or the right story...his wit and smile were a great comfort.

We're still having Cindy's birthday party but it's been moved up to tomorrow; Sunday I'm driving to her house and we'll be driving to Oklahoma to spend the night. The funeral is on Monday and we'll return after. My younger son is planning to join us...

Dottie and I had been talking all summer about trying to put together a 3 day weekend to go down and see them...Aunt Frances had apparently been fine 'til the last two weeks when pneumonia "got ahold of her" and refused to "let go".

Instead of putting off the "local" relatives for the "long distance" ones, now I get to regret not doing things the other way 'round!

If you have a chance to make a phone call, write a card, or visit someone; do it while they're in your thoughts...you just never know!

May the weekend be kind to each of you!

alan


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Road Warrior...

After 14 days "on the road", for the first time ever I felt "jet lag" when we got home last night. Actually, before we got home; yesterday we spent trading drivers every couple of hours and napping when we weren't driving.

I-70 to Maryland was a run...until Dayton, one we're used to; from there it was unfamiliar territory. Tunnels in West Virginia, some short and some much longer; construction back-ups that went on for 10 miles in one instance, thankfully for the westbound lanes instead of ours. It's the first time I ever saw people actually out of their cars talking to each other, they were backed up for so long! We decided then we were going home a different route!

We unloaded Mr. Penske's truck on Friday and returned it, very grateful to him for it's use, it's V-8, it's CD player along with the AAA discount he gave us. Bill actually paid for the truck, giving us cash in return for renting it which funded the rest of our trip.

Originally we had hoped he and Laura would get to ride to Vermont with us, but he had a meeting to attend on Tuesday and Laura wasn't sure she could get away from work. We drove up on Saturday, about a 12 hour run at the pace we do things, about 20% over the MapQuest time, with our bellies full and our legs stretched. We got into Shelburne about when we had figured and found things just as our brother-in-law said they'd be, grateful to be there and for the loan of his house while he and Dottie's sister Jane were at their cabin on Lake Champlain.

Sunday we arrived at the lake at the designated time; Ed had wanted us to come and surprise Jane and we pulled it off. It was supposed to be "family day" and he hollered into the cabin that one of her sisters was here and was even on time and she was saying something about which one she thought it would be when she came through the door and saw us...

Jane has always been very active, sports, skiing, etc.. Several years ago she had to have an ACL reconstructed; now the cartilage in one knee is gone and she's in a brace part of the time. The surgeons keep telling her to fix it; she keeps stalling until it's worse...it's starting to "get to her" and that's part of why Ed wanted to arrange something to cheer her up.

Dottie's other sisters, Verne and Deb arrived a bit later with families in tow and a great afternoon was had by all.

Monday we spent at the lake as well, though it was a bit of a dreary day; much like most of the year has been in the Northeast from what I gathered.

Tuesday started that way, but cleared by noon; the temps rose and Ed wanted to take his Sea Ray out for the 2nd day all year (he and Jane love the water and boating). We got out for about an hour and a half that afternoon, stopping part way through so I could tighten a pump bracket that was "buzzing" that his mechanic hadn't found in a year of looking.

Ed's daughter took the boat out for a bit after that and came back with it sounding like an unmuffled stock car; what we thought was a blown exhaust manifold gasket turned out to be a head gasket when he took it to the shop the next morning. The boat was "done" for the week...

Bill and Laura flew up on Wednesday; we picked them up at Burlington and though Laura had to do a couple of teleconferences while we were there we still found time to get she and Bill together with all the families and do some of the "touristy" things as well. (More about those later, along with pictures...)Shelburne Museum, Smuggler's Notch...lots of fun for all!

Saturday we made the rounds on our way out of Vermont, saying goodbye to Jane and Ed when they got home from the lake at 9AM, then Verne and her family; driving to Northfield to say goodbye to Deb and so Laura could see where Dottie grew up. From there, out through the "gulf" where I've asked for my ashes to be spread when my time comes, then back onto the interstate to Springfield to meet up with Dottie's sister-in-law Irene and her family. We left there at 4 heading over the mountains through Bennington to Albany then retraced the route we took going up, going back through Scranton and Harrisburg to avoid Philadelphia and New York City. We were back to Bill's at 3AM on Sunday so they could get up and get their pets out of the kennels early. We spent that day a bit lazy, sorting circuit breakers in his house (labelling them) and wiring a doorbell, then went to bed "early" so we could start our journey home on Monday.

Deb had called to remind us we should take the Blue Ridge Parkway south as we left; taking it then coming across on I-64 only added 70 some miles to the route and actually knocked several hours off because there was so little construction. I never thought I'd hear my wife say the mountains were making her claustrophobic, but the passes in West Virginia did...

We spent the night in Kentucky, then drove the rest of the way in yesterday. Our cat spent the hour we used unpacking the car to tell us exactly what he thought of us; we went and picked up Angel at John's and though a bit gimpy, she seems OK. Today neither of them particularly wants me out of sight.

Off to move laundry and figure out what's for dinner...glad to be home!

I missed each of you...

May the week be kind!

alan

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Slick trick!

I was looking for some W. C. Handy blues for a friend, because (for me anyway) one of the best cures for the blues is a dose of them! I ran across this, though and have watched it a half dozen times now.

I've seen "modern" drummers with 97 drums and 35 cymbals and assistants that can't do what this man does with a standard trap-set with one extra floor tom and one added cymbal. (Of course, he or Krupa could do it without those additions I'm sure, along with a short list of others like Louis Bellson!)

So while I get things ready to hit the road for a couple of weeks on Wednesday, I'll leave this for your enjoyment:



May your weekend be as fantastic as Mr. Rich's solo!

alan

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Inspired...

by Ange's comment below:

"Education is in need of an overhaul. It's scary, the budget cuts, but on the other hand, the human mind will not be held back. Lincoln read by firelight. We have Lincolns among us. Tomorrow's great minds will crave and appreciate the knowledge they've gained BECAUSE it was more difficult to come by."

I recalled a similar thought by another great mind:

"Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don't they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the Prohibition one did, why, in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth." Will Rogers



Thank you both for the smile!

May the weekend be wonderful for each of you!

alan

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sorting out a lifetime!

Since my oldest son moved east last fall, he's bought a house and asked for some of the things he left behind here when he left. Textbooks, notebooks, furniture and the treadmill he left at his in-laws. We've been sorting things for weeks now on Dottie's days off to find them all, as they had taken residence in different closets and corners of the basement.

This weekend in the midst of yet another tote-full of notes and notebooks she called to figure out if he wanted all of them, or only the physics and astronomy texts, she called him. He decided he only wants the college physics and astronomy ones for now because "a lot of the physics I learned in high school was wrong"!

He went to one of the best science and academics schools in the state...

That sentence has given me pause in the two days since it was relayed when my wife hung up from talking to him. Pause because he's had to unlearn things that were wrong; erase the data and replace it; much harder than the initial learning, or it always has been for me. I usually remember, for now, the things that have been that way for me; it's another reason I always go back to "the book" for a torque on things even if I'm sure I remember it. The Navy taught me well there!

I'm also given pause knowing that he and his brother attended that school at a time of economic plenty; new books, smaller classes, new computers...the world was their oyster. Given that the State is slashing money right and left and the easiest target is always education, I fear for the things the kids there now will have to unlearn!

My grandmother, having spent much time on the reservations through her and Grandpa's 40 years "in the ministry" said she always thought the Cherokee had it right when they said that the result of every decision should be pondered not for it's immediate result but how it would affect those 7 generations from now.

Wisdom lost or wasted, I fear!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Annual inspection...

I had hoped to put off my physical until after Dottie's vacation, but my prescription for my blood pressure med was exhausted and I'm not down to a weight where I'm comfortable going without it. My little excursion into the front yard last winter and the resultant back injury not only cost me what progress I'd made since retirement, but the ensuing depression over it all and watching the demise of all I'd poured my heart and soul into for 30 years along with worrying at every step about it's result on me had me seeking sunshine and other things and I haven't made any real progress towards dealing with it since!

That said, all the "numbers" were good except for the one from the weight scale; after they drew my blood last week they faxed in a prescription for my bp med. I got him to write two extra scrips, one for the cream the dermatologist prescribed for my eczema and one for the eye drops the ophthalmologist had prescribed last year as they had both expired and I couldn't afford the office visit to the dermatologist right now and have lost my vision care along with my dental.

The prescriptions that last month would have cost me $11/5/11 now cost $25/10/25; I'm grateful the bp med is a generic or it would have cost me $50.

2 years ago we had gotten 5 office visits a year paid for; when I retired last year they took those away from the retirees but told us that "your max annual out-of-pocket is $328" and that when we met that they would be paid for. My wife heard from the wife of another retiree the other day, one who has been trying to get things that were supposed to be paid taken care of, that they have changed that as well but haven't bothered to mail us the fine print. I guess that $300 bill we got for Dottie's office visit to the surgeon last month may be mine in it's entirety! I can't imagine what I'll owe by the time she's "put back together"!

Yet the Republicant's in D.C. think "stopping Obama" is much more important than stopping my financial bloodloss!

I keep getting letters back from my Senators telling me how much they value my opinion and that they will keep it in mind as they vote, then they proceed to tell me that they have concerns about "this" or "that" and that they are going to go right ahead and vote the way they intended to all along. My choices for representation in the Senate seem to be to move or move...

I know many of you are tired of the vitriol; tired of the words; tired of the pleas. But if you stop listening, stop writing, stop calling then nothing is going to change!

Please, keep an ear to the ground...if you live somewhere where an e-mail or a letter or a 2 minute phone call can change some Senator's mind, please; I'm begging; take the time!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bandage free, at last!

Though not healed completely, my leg finally is closing and as long as I avoid shoes most of the time I'm getting by. Never thought I'd be working in the garage wearing flip-flops!

Yesterday I put the lattice work over the last window on the garage, the hubcaps back on my truck after re-torquing the lugnuts for the 3rd time, then John came by and changed the oil in both his vehicles as the hazardous waste drop off is this next Saturday and I didn't want 4 gallon jugs of engine oil hanging around for the next month (I already had one from Jordan's Galaxie and will catch Dottie's Malibu one night this week when she comes home to change it before our trip).

One of the benefits I "lost in the shuffle" was the 5 free office visits we had won in the last contract; they actually took those away last year about a month after I retired. With our slowly sinking financial status I've been avoiding the clinic ($55) or the doctors office ($65 and up) except under the direst circumstances. Tomorrow will begin a round of that as I need to refill my blood pressure medicine so have to go in for my "annual". The one "they" don't like to pay for...

Timing being everything, at least the bill won't come in 'til after Dottie's vacation! When I bought the manual for my truck last week the guys at the parts house made sure I left with a job app and though it's further than I'd like to drive, I won't be quite as worried about leaving at closing time as I would be in my own neighborhood.

We're still in the "rain cycle" here and since it's been dry for about 36 hours and the next batch is about 2 hours west of me, I'm heading out to mow...

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Monday, July 06, 2009

Regeneration...

of hide is coming along nicely, thank you all who were concerned. It was itching so badly yesterday that after Dottie re-wrapped it I took a couple of Benedryl, slept 6 hours, woke up and took 2 more along with a melatonin and slept 'til 9 this morning. Something like 18 of the last 24 hours...I needed to as I was pretty burnt out anyway!

I had some JP-5 burns (jet kerosene) back in my late teens as I was the smallest jet mech in my squadron and when we had a bunch of fuel cells leaking (coffin-sized rubber bladders under the deck of the helos I worked on) I ended up being assigned to change them as I did a couple that didn't leak afterwards (should have known better) and didn't mind the "buzz" that came from breathing the fumes for hours on end. They assigned a metalsmith to pull the deck, an electrician to pull the wiring and me to pull the lines, the pumps and the bladder itself. The Maintenance Chief also offered up a case of beer for each one we changed that didn't leak...the two guys assigned decided that they'd rather work than do their 15 minutes and sit and listen to me rattling around underneath the deck for a couple of hours, so we started pulling them 3 at a time.

The helos had been defueled, but that doesn't get all of it and the "sump" in the bottom of the bladder always had a bit in it. The first time I came out with a silver dollar sized spot on my dungarees the Chief told me to spray "Right Guard" on it as the aluminum chorhydrate would keep if from blistering and therefore peeling.

Had I only thought of that last week before I went to bed!

It was so hot last week (heat index in the 110's) that when I felt my ankle start to burn, I knew I was 2 hours from done for the night and just ignored it. I should have gone and washed my leg off, but in that heat I wasn't thinking clearly...that was the culmination of too many days in a row in that kind of heat and I really wonder if one's brain doesn't start to cook after a while!

Instead my 2 hours turned to 3; I finished and showered, figuring out it was blistered, but the burn stopped. I went to bed while my nephew and wife sat up watching movies, got up and dressed the next morning without thinking about it and two hours later felt the burn even worse as the top of my sock had taken all the hide off the blister, the skin under it now raw and being ground up by the elastic and the sock rubbing away each time I moved.

I still managed to mow and get things ready for the family 4th celebrations; yesterday was the first day I've managed to avoid socks since this began and plan another for today.

I hope all is well with each of you and none of you are ever so foolish as to not go wash something off when you feel it start to sting!

May the week be kind!

alan

Friday, July 03, 2009

DEET and me...

Things continue at their usual pace here, even if I'm only at half warp...

I had mentioned elsewhere I had a bad reaction to some bug spray last Saturday while working on my nephew's car; the fuzzy photo is from 5 days later...



Since then even more hide has come off and the bandages grow bigger. I finally got my wife to relent yesterday and let me use Neosporin on it instead of zinc oxide (her favorite) and am hoping it heals a bit faster now.

The Galaxie went home on Sunday afternoon, running pretty well. Think it needs a set of plugs and I still have an oil leak to hunt down once it's been degreased. Sorry I didn't get any pictures of it; the heat index was over 100 and I was lucky to be thinking at all...

Off now to help John cut up some brush and haul it before the 4th; I just wanted to apologize for my absence and wish each of you who gets to celebrate tomorrow a very Happy 4th of July!

alan

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The hurrier I go...

I've slowly dug my way into the garage further than I've been in years...3 corners I've repossessed, as I shelve and organize and try and find things and get them more readily "to hand" than they've been.

Tomorrow my nephew arrives with the 42 year old Galaxie I've spoken of before; having driven it for two years, he's getting ready to take it off to college but it hasn't been a "highway driver" all that time; no one has checked all the things that need looking at before it goes "on the road".

(Ball joints, tie rod ends, steering arm, idler arm, drag link, motor mounts, transmission mount, u-joints, shocks, brakes, front wheel bearings, hoses, water pump, fan clutch, belts, marker and parking lights...I have a page long list at this point.)

Of course the cool front we were promised didn't break and it will be 99 tomorrow as well...

Hope I'm forgiven for not getting around as much as usual; I've been trying to flip my hours and be outside before I'm usually even up to "beat the heat".

May the weekend be wonderful for each of you!

alan

Sunday, June 21, 2009

27 years ago today...

my Dad and I planned to go fish a powerplant lake about an hour south of here. Instead of taking his pretty new bass boat (the one now in my garage), I talked him into letting me bring the old 14 foot V-hull and the 1954 Sea King 12 horse outboard he had bought new; the rig I grew up fishing out of with him. He said that although the seats were "too low" and bothered his back and knees that since we needed to be home by 1pm at the latest, that would be OK.

So I picked him up, and on a beautiful Father's Day morning we fished together as we had for so many years, neither of us knowing that by the next year he would be terminally ill and already in the hospital, slowly withering away from pancreatic cancer that would claim him in October.

We fished that powerplant lake a lot as it hadn't been open to the public very long, there wasn't a lot of pressure on it and the largest bass he had caught since Bull Shoals in the 50's had come from it. Indeed, the largest fish in the state seem to come from it each fall...

Just like the weather cycle we're in this year, electrical storms were popping up frequently and fast. We launched and headed about 20 minutes or so north to fish the area where the cooler water from the river flowed in and if we weren't particularly "loading the boat" with fish, we were both enjoying being "away" from the cares of our lives for a bit; me with GM and the constant boom-bust "overtime/layoff" cycle and worrying about having a paycheck; him about his own job, the photography business that consumed his spare time, my mother and her constant antics...

As we fished our way down a bluff bank that turned back toward the main lake, we realized it had "blown up" into whitecaps and also heard the rumblings of thunder, though it still seemed quite a ways off. I asked should we head back; he said no, let's fish a bit more.

So we did, starting down one of the many "rip-rap" walls he loved to fish with a fluorescent "Bomber" crankbait. As we did the boat was getting harder to handle; between the two of us and our tackle, the trolling motor batteries, etc., we were far over the Coast Guard weight placard in the old 1964 Lone Star.

Finally when he realized I wasn't getting in any casts at all, only trying to run the trolling motor (a stern mount) and keep the bow into the wind he said perhaps we should go...

I pumped up the 6 gallon fuel can he had adapted to the old Sea King outboard when I was Dillon's age and pulled the rope; he had done the last tune-up on the outboard before he gave it to me 2 years earlier and she fired on the first pull, just like she almost always did.

As we motored around the point and into the current of the main lake, it was waves running about 3 feet, wind in the mid 20's or so and the first bolts of lightning hit the powerplant side of the lake as the clouds opened and the deluge began. He and I had discussed before that the powerplant seemed to "draw" lightning and as I tried to keep us into the waves heading into the gale; as we were soaked completely through despite the rain gear we had slipped on; as the old Lone Star started to fill with water; we watched strike after strike "walking" down both sides of the lake, knowing we were the tallest thing for 150 yards east or west and as the lake widened we were an even better target.

When the water started to overflow my shoes I reached down and unscrewed the transom plug just as he had told me I might have to someday to drain the boat as it ran down the lake; the water started going down inside and he sat in the front seat completely soaked looking as miserable as I'd ever seen him in my life.

I throttled back a bit, to be able to speak over the noise of the old outboard (from before they started exhausting through the prop) and said:

"Happy Father's Day, Dad!"

He looked at me kind of funny for a second and then started to smile...

I'd give anything to fish that lake with him again, or see that smile!





Happy Father's Day, Dad! I miss you!

May day and the week be kind to each of you; if you are a Dad I hope your Day is wonderful; if you have a Dad, treasure him...you just never know...

alan

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Duck and cover...

Working in the backyard today, stripping the masking from a window and heard two shots, followed by a 3rd that was fainter, but I think the same caliber. I think they were on the cross street below me. Saw the cruiser come down the hill before I had the garage locked...

Give things 20 minutes to settle down; go back out and start in with a razor blade and here 8 in a row, fast, a bit further away.

I had hinted that my neighborhood was "slipping" again; a while back the bridge two blocks down was tagged; then there started being clusters of boys with their "britches" around their knees hanging out in the next block and blocking the street and such.

Then a few weeks ago the break-ins started. Thus my interest in securing my unattached garage while we're going to be away...or even when we're just going out for an afternoon!

We've been through this before and the cycle generally lasts about 8 months 'til someone gets in enough trouble they move on. Meanwhile, I'll be keeping my head down!

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

alan


Monday, June 15, 2009

Straight flush!

Having given up all hope after their bankruptcy filing and resigned myself to cutting even more corners than we already were, I received a check in the mail on Saturday that re-imbursed me for the tax penalty I paid in March in full. GM actually paid an overage to cover all the taxes and other deductions to make sure I cleared the $4500 they owed us.

Now accepted by the bank and deposited without any flashing lights saying "Tilt" or anyone chasing me down the street aftewards, a huge sigh of relief is breathed!

Part of this will go back to the card it was placed on to reduce our monthly bills; part will make up our monthly shortage for the next two months so that Dottie will end up with the vacation we've been trying to plan for months now, that way I can continue the "life of Riley" until we're back and then find a job.

Thank you each for the good thoughts and best wishes that somehow must have made this happen!

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

alan

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On a lighter note!

From an e-mail I got this morning from a gal I used to work with:

"The first testicular guard (Cup) was used in baseball in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1934.

It took 60 years for men to realize that the brain is also important! "

About right!

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

Tomorrrow we (hopefully) get Dottie in to see the surgeon; Friday I'll be in Lawrence swapping out the vacuum advance in the distributor of my nephew's Galaxie (kicking his gas mileage up about 40%). The weekend may or may not be filled with grandkids, so if I'm not around know I'm thinking of each of you!

alan

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bankruptcy papers...

arrived in the afternoon mail from GM's appointee; 3 envelopes full. After reading, thinking and re-reading, I think it's probably safe to say I'll never see that $4500 for the tax penalty they slayed me with!

So on a very low note, I sat down here to escape for a bit before I go back out to paint and clicked a link that made the sun come out despite everything!

Thank you Ange and Jack!

alan

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Updates...

Thursday morning as Dottie was in the shower getting ready for her appointment the doctor's office called to cancel her appoinment as he had been called into an emergency surgery. Since her days off during the week are the ones he's out of the office, we're trying to figure out how to get her off this next Thursday for the rescheduled appointment.

So she called work after they hashed through the reschedule and ended up going in and working over to make up the time, then had her regular day off yesterday. Of course I was already obligated to work on my nephew's car in Lawrence, so the afternoon we lost there, then came home and we caught up on other things 'til dinner.

So life is in a holding pattern at least 'til Thursday...again!

I'm going out to mow before it rains and then "putter" 'til Dottie comes home...

May the weekend be kind and wonderful for each of you!

alan

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Follies...

Trying to get the monthly errands all done in the rain in a single cab pickup without a shell yesterday didn't pan out so well; after I go put a coat of topcoat on two windows I have to return one item from yesterday and finish the rest of it.

The windows jumped up my priority list because someone came to the door last week, claiming to be from GE and telling me four of the houses in the block below me had been broken into last month and they had just sold an alarm to one of my neighbors ("you know Bill from down there, don't you"? "No, I don't...") and offering to pay me to let them put a sign in my yard if I didn't want an alarm...? That still doesn't make sense to me...

Anyway, my single unattached garage sits 37 feet behind the house, two windows on the yard side that I can see along with the front door, one on the uphill side I can't. Through the years 4 of the panes of glass had been cracked between my kids and others in the neighborhood with BB rifles; I hadn't worried about it much and just taped them...until now.

A year before I retired I had to take a detour for a few months and saw someone else with a similar set-up had screwed "lattice panel" like you might use around a porch over his windows; no it won't stop someone determined, but it will frustrate the lazier and send them elsewhere, just like my double key deadbolts. So that's my plan for now...I have far too much invested in tools to start over and there's a boat full of tackle out there, along with the lawn mower and trimmer and such.

Dottie goes in tomorrow to see about her hernia; Friday I am supposed to go try to fix a waterleak in the trunk of my nephew's Galaxie in Lawrence (depending on what they tell my wife tomorrow) so I hope you forgive me as I get a bit "caught up in the whirl" of life again for a bit!

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

alan

Monday, June 01, 2009

The axe has fallen...

the die is cast and perhaps the candle flickering at the end of the tunnel will burn bright again someday...

The crux of the meeting for me the other day was that when the new improved concession contract was approved that retirees would lose their dental and vision care; prescription copays would go from $11/20 for generic/namebrand to $25/50; there would be no more funding of ed drugs or pumps for acid reflux (thank goodness neither of those affect us personally). There are other changes, but they are smaller; those are "the big pills".

I'm still hoping to see some kind of health care reform that not only makes these points moot, but addresses all of our needs; 'til then I'll be muddling through grateful for what I have.

That contract was approved, btw, by about 72% and by all the plants, even the ones that knew they would be closed; it isn't like there was an alternative. By approving this before the filing of bankruptcy this morning, we were told that the judges can't alter the agreement and that we will get to keep our pensions.

The funding for our medical will be contingent on what the stock prices do as instead of the cash that GM was supposed to pay into the fund, set up in the last contract, for it to be taken over by the Union next year so GM was no longer liable for retiree healthcare has now been replaced with stock.

I spent yesterday walking among steam engines and reapers and other old farm machinery, taking a head count of how many it used to take to do things that are now done at the push of a button; I've watched those same changes transpire in my own life. I know I won't be the last.



I don't know the answers to it all! Do they lie in population control, better education, new technologies...?

I hope my grandkids see a brighter future than I do right now!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

p.s. For those who click on the photo, if you happen to notice "John Milner's Deuce Coupe" on Dillon's t-shirt, the irony isn't lost on me...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New days, new deals...

Off to the Union Hall in a few minutes to listen to the details of the "new" concession contract...less than 1/4 of the way into the 4 year concession contract we approved last year. I'm hoping to glean some details about what happens to the retirees; there aren't enough of us to outvote the active workforce anyway!

Still stuck in my "craw" is the "Prop H8te" decision that came down yesterday; now that the "majority" has managed to take away the rights of other citizens to marriage, what's next? Since I'm not a Bible thumping church-going God fearer, do I lose my right to vote? A fair trial? Which inequality will they decide to force on someone next?

I realize the court could only rule on the the questions presented and there will be appeals; I hope this travesty is overturned in one of them. If not, then someone needs to draft a new ballot measure, one written to withstand the inevitable challenges, and then not only make sure that everyone with a vested interest is registered to vote but actually gets there! The vote was too close to stand if everyone who knows someone disenfranchised by this casts a ballot!

Dottie seems to be doing OK, though there's some "taking it easy" going on that isn't her usual forte. We made it to "Angels and Demons" yesterday and both enjoyed it. She's very enamored of the books and had made a point of finishing that one last Thursday night before our planned viewing last Friday, before we woke up and found that hernia.

The liberties that Ron Howard took with the book she was very happy with; I won't spoil anything for anyone with details.

Lots of good previews for things coming out this summer; hoping that our gift cards hold out for the best of them!

Now, to go stand under that sword of Damacles...

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

alan

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day...

Dottie is at work and as I catch up with Monaco and Indy from yesterday I can't help but think of the generations past. My Dad and his enlistment at 17 during WW2; his 2 older brothers, one in the Navy, the other in the Army Air Corps, shot down and hidden by a Belgian farmer to keep him from capture. My Mom's Dad enlisting in the SeaBees because the Navy said he was too old; her Mom's 3 brothers enlisting, one to never come home again, one to die of cancer when I was 2, the 3rd captured and held as a POW in Germany, starved from 180 down to 80 pounds and never in good health again. Grandma and her sisters building B-25 Mitchells in the plant I would later hire into after GM bought it from North American.

Dottie's Dad, unable to enlist because he'd had "yellow jaundice" and you coudln't enlist if you couldn't give blood, giving up the Green Mountains of Vermont to go to Boston and work in the shipyards building sub-chasers and mine-sweepers. Her Mom, Marion, a mechanical engineer hired by Pratt and Whitney to lay out assembly lines and staff them for their various plants.

Marion's Dad, a mechanical engineer as well, enlisting during WW1 and serving in France; I have an aircraft identification book of his from during the "Great War". My Dad's Dad, fresh out of telegraphy school for the railroad, enlisted and sent to join the Signal Corps as a telegrapher in the trenches where he was "gassed". He had heart and lung problems that plagued him for the next 46 years 'til they finally claimed him. His brother, Jesse who served in the Navy during WW1- I have a letter he wrote Grandpa from a VA home in 1962 telling him whatever he did he didn't want to end up there, that the screams at night were horrific. Some of their older siblings were in the Spanish-American War, though our family history gets a bit hazy as it spreads out.

Their grandfather, Hiram, dead of measles contracted during the "War Between the States" in Tennessee in 1864. In the Confederate Army...I know from my Mom's Dad that he had family on the other side of the lines then, though I don't have names to put with it.

On the wall in the house Dottie grew up in in Vermont is the Union Army discharge certificate for her Dad's namesake, his grandfather.

I'm sure for each I know of there are others...I am sure many of you have just as many in your families who have served; some forever!

Please, collect the stories you can, where you can and pass them on to those who will be here when we aren't?

From a Vietnam era sailor married to another Vietnam era sailor; the names, the stories, the sacrifices are too important to let fall away; we can't let this become just another holiday!

May this week be kind to each of you!

alan

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Never count your chickens..."

could pretty well apply to the last couple of days!

Thursday, having saved some old window sashes for their glass when I replaced the ones in the house, I spent some time chipping out a broken one in the garage, having re-puttied all the ones that didn't need glass, then even longer carefully chipping a 24x36 out of it's sash to make a 24x24. Never having had luck cutting my own, I eschewed Dottie's Dad's cutter along with my Dad's and used a brand new one. Nicely scribed line; supported the "keep" side the length of the cut, tapped it...I had about 10" of straight line then it angled away from the cut. Tapped it again to try and "clean it up" and blew up the entire edge.

As I was sitting on the tailgate of my truck hearing all those "sailor words" in my vocabulary "in my head", smiling because they weren't out loud, I decided I was buying glass for that one and the other two.

Friday morning, up a few minutes before Dottie I started the kettle for coffee and slipped in here to check e-mail and check in with some of you. Put a note on Facebook to explain our plans and that I wouldn't be playing WordScraper, then I heard Dottie call me.

She started to get up and it hurt, not badly, but just a "something's not right". Lying on her back everything was fine, but the minute she stood up there was an obvious knot on one side of her lower abdomen, normally symmetrical. About the diameter of my fist, as thick as my hand.

We are assuming at this point it's a hernia.

7 years ago she had a kidney and her gall bladder taken out; they split her from almost her sternum to a handwidth below her naval. The surgeon left a resident to staple her up; he overlapped the layers and gave her a wicked scar that has caused problems ever since. When I saw her postop she looked like she had a zipper...

Phone call to our doctor; he's busy, leave a message, wait for the phone call back; if there are any of a number of other symptoms, go to the ER, otherwise, call the surgeon. Call the surgeon, no openings 'til June 4th...if there are any other symptoms go to the ER...

So now it's noon; we should be coming home from the movie and I have one sash in the garage with no glass in it. I went and got the 3 pieces I needed cut, came home and got the one in in case the rain started early. Then it was time to pick up her paycheck and run a few other errands.

She told her boss she wouldn't be doing any transfers (moving patients who can't move themselves; she's not supposed to have been doing them since her joint replacements) or moving tables and chairs 'til we know what is going on and was told "Good" because her boss thinks some of the others leave things they don't feel like doing because they know she will.

Meanwhile, knowing that most likely GM will file bankruptcy on the 1st, I wonder if I'll even have insurance...I "know" somehow that I will, but that nagging fear is still there.

Dottie works tomorrow and then is off on Sunday for my nephew's high school graduation. I'll be watching Indy off tape for the first time in many years; I usually time shift Monaco, but watch Indy beginning to end.

Go Danica!

May each of your weekends be kind!

alan

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My last...

was much more about the rest of the world than my own little corner...wishing I could deliver hugs and chicken soup and some car repairs for those who could use a bit of help. I am after all, someone who always tries to "fix" everything and despairs when he can't!

Though somehow a nice Italian dinner sounds much more "the ticket" than chicken soup right now...

alan

Monday, May 18, 2009

If I weren't bald...

there are times I'd rip my hair out, I swear!

Having been forbidden from blogging before I ever began (by several years), this haunt has been a secret for many years now. It's not that my sons, my sister and my nephews don't know; I even shared the URL with a trusted few from work what seems like ages ago now. I don't think any of them have been here in years...my sister let something slip about my Facebook page a while back and I expected to hear more about it, but there was a grimace and silence...so far...

Keeping secrets from the one who knows you best is frustrating! Trying to keep a lid on the emotions when someone you care for is going through something, no matter whether it's small or life-threatening; when you know that were it a different life you'd be "there" at the drop of a hat (or a plane ticket).

So when asked what's wrong you say "nothing"...or cite something else.

Wish it weren't that way, but I'm not about to pull the plug on this or my friendships or my heart. So, I'll deal somehow...the double edged sword of regret flaying me the whole time...

Not what I was planning to write today; forgive me!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nice guys...

the first words that popped into your mind are exactly where we're going, sadly...

A few months ago my older nephew moved to western Kansas for what he thought was going to be his dream job. It fell through, though he immediately found another. He's had a "gift" for mechanical things and his education at WyoTech has stood him well; he can troubleshoot things on the fly, fabricate, whatever he needs to do.

Raised well by my sister and her husband, he's always been one to help anyone he can, no matter what it took. An Eagle Scout, in every sense of the word and as nice a guy as you could ever hope to meet, let alone be related to!

This "other job" he took was partly as a mechanic and partly maintaining the equipment for an assembly line. A month or so ago the 2nd shift manager asked for a key to his toolboxes because when he goes home they had no access to tools; he was promised no one else would be in his tools.

It didn't take long before he found things lying out when he came in to work, but didn't complain about it. He didn't complain when things weren't brought back for a day or two...then suddenly the keys went missing.

Still trusting, he left them unlocked, trying to do the right thing, to help keep "the line" running. (Something I remember all too well!)

Last Friday they laid him off. He went through his boxes and told them that about $400 in tools were missing and asked for the tools or the money. He was told it wasn't their fault if he couldn't keep track of his tools and that he had no way of proving he hadn't lost them instead of the company!

We talked on the phone when he called to wish Dillon a "Happy Birthday" at the party on Saturday and I got him to tell me what he really needed that was missing; they had taken every wrench he had from 3/4" up and most of his screwdrivers. The other things that were missing he had duplicates of and still had his sockets and impact wrenches.

He was going to the unemployment office on Monday (today) and to try to start job hunting on Tuesday. I talked to Dottie and went through ads and the online sales and figured out how to replace his wrenches and screwdrivers and call them early Christmas and birthday presents and since he'll be here for his brother's graduation next week he can take them home with him instead of me shipping them. I even managed to buy Craftsman through the sale ads and the "Craftsman Club" ad, so he'll get the warranty.

It's really sad to have him treated that way, though an open toolbox is always a magnet. I was lucky because when I hit my squadron in the Navy your box was issued, every tool was marked not only by engraving but by reflective tape in color codes as well. If they found one of your tools in a jet intake, on the flight deck, or anywhere except in your toolbox you were up for "captain's mast" (non-judicial punishment)!

So you didn't loan anything to anyone unless you really trusted them or you stood right there with them to get it back when they were finished!

At GM things were so bad that just using the locks built into the boxes didn't work, so they would have extra brackets welded onto the boxes for long locking rods and padlocks. It wasn't that there weren't ways to open them still, but it took so much effort they were usually left alone. When we shut down the plant and contractors were working inside, they would load them all into trailers and have them taken away from the plant 'til we came back to work!

I grew up at the end of the days where you could leave your windows open, or a car unlocked and not worry about what you'd find when you returned. When a handshake meant something; when if it wasn't yours you didn't take it; when if you borrowed it you returned it in the same shape or better than you got it!

There are many ways in which I love "now", but there are some that truly sadden me!

For my nephew a lesson learned, hopefully; yet sadly, a bit of trust extinguished.

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

For lack of a nail...

I've let a week slip away since my last missive; I've started to write something more than once, but thought better of it.

I still have enough standing water behind the garage that I could plant rice, but it's too wet to try and grade it to make it drain and more rain is inbound. In a bit I'm going out with a hoe and try to trench it just a bit. After 5 days since the last heavy rain, it's finally quit draining down the hill and across my driveway. I mowed, except for the swamp next to and immediately behind the garage; as I finished the landlord up the hill sank his tractor in the center of that yard on his first swath through it. We pulled his Cub Cadet out and he decided he'll pay his grandsons to mow it by hand this weekend...I don't envy them!

Dillon's 10th birthday party is on Saturday, a joint affair with his best friend Andrew. Perspective has me thinking lots about him turning a year older than I was when I lost Dad's Dad and 5 years older than my oldest was when he and his brother lost my Dad; anytime I start to get depressed, that is enough to make me know I'm lucky!

Having watched a minority share of bondholders throw Chrysler into bankruptcy, I don't have much hope for GM avoiding it. I'm not sure that killing Pontiac will leave GMC and Buick viable on their own, though perhaps if they bring them in under the Cadillac dealerships they can pull that part off. When they say that 42% of their dealerships are going to close through this whether they go through bankruptcy or not, it sure doesn't bode well for a lot of jobs...let alone the factory and supplier jobs!

I look at the railyards each time I head south; the largest switchyard in the midwest, knowing it used to bustling, almost all the rails full, seeing it half empty kind of tells you where the economy is, along with all the empty billboards around town!

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

alan

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sometimes...

I forget that the smarter people in this world don't follow the news all the time. There was a point at which I didn't either, but 30 years in the auto factory drove me to NPR because between the commercials and the continual cycling of 100 or so songs on mainstream radio, I just couldn't take it anymore! Plus, having jazz as a first love led me down to the left end of the radio dial as well...

So I apologize for the vagueness of my last post! Knowing I'm not the smartest guy in the room, I tend to assume that if I know something the rest of the world does as well. Whether it's the horrific beating to death of Angie Zapata with a fire extinguisher, or the women of Zimbabwe that are in such fear of the stigma of having a "legal" abortion that they are instead showing up at doctor's with sticks broken off inside them, or ground glass, or battery acid. Whether it's the lady in Dallas yesterday, waiting 2 hours in the doctor's office with a 103F. fever because she's 8 1/2 months pregnant and fears she has "swine" flu, or the ongoing lack of real body armor for our children in Iraq and Afghanistan I figure that by the time it trickles down to me, the rest of the world already knows.

For those of you who don't, I'm glad! I'm glad you don't feel the ache that haunts me as I listen to the stories or read them; I'm glad you don't wake up wondering what you might have done to change things, or shed the tears of empathy for the victims. I've tried to "wean myself" away from the radio and the TV and the things I read on-line and actually have cut down since I retired, but like the moth and the flame, I just can't stay away. My addictive personality has found yet another way to let me down...

In the old days when I worked the assembly line I kept a little notebook in my stock rack and when things got to be too much words would find their way into it...

From those years:

“A Life Lost”

“Shiny brown hair
strewn over the snow,
her eyes staring
sightless
at the sky”
Says the article
in the New Year's
“New Yorker”.

Someone's daughter?
Sister?
Wife?
Mother?
Kosovar freedom fighter?
Serbian rebel?
Another sacrifice
on the altar
of ethnocentricity...

How many millennia
have we left to learn
that teaching tolerance
brings life and
happiness
for our loved ones;
teaching hatred
reaps death!

_______________________

Words fail me more often now. Whether it's their futility, my lack of reading of late failing to expand my vocabulary and my thoughts, or the onset of cynicism and old age, I wish more and more often now I could just pick up a trumpet and bend a blue note or two...

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

alan

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At last...

After too many deaths...

too many snickered jokes...

too much pain...

justice!



Rest in Peace, Angie!

alan

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sinking curveballs...

This was "the weekend" for the family birthday party we usually throw for our two sons. We rent a shelterhouse at one of the local parks, take the grill, the bicycles, play baseball...those of you who have been around a while have seen pictures from some of those outings.

With our oldest living in DC now, we hadn't counted on him getting home. That's the 1st time in 31 years he hasn't been here for his birthday; we've gotten pretty lucky to get this far into life before it happened.

Saturday my oldest grandson had a car entered in a Cub Scout "Pinewood Derby" for the first time. He and John had spent an afternoon here last week cutting and shaping it then took it home to paint. Dottie was off, and Noel and the other grandkids went and it was quite an affair.

Since their troop holds it at the GM plant I used to work in, an affair in more ways than one. It was my first time setting foot back in the door since I retired; though it wasn't a production day, I saw a lot of Union officials I hadn't seen since then, along with management, some currently employed, some who had been forced out last fall but were there because of their involvement with Boy Scouts. We got to see the final production ready version of the new Buick that we were getting in parts for the preliminary builds for as I retired; it looks very good and if the quality we've always built with holds then between it and the Malibu the Fairfax plant's future should be assured as long as the corporation's is.

Though Dillon's car didn't do as well as we'd have liked, for his first time entering he was happy and we learned much of the technical stuff we need to know for next time. He had a great time and was still carrying his car around yesterday at the family birthday party to show it off.

Saturday evening we cooked a birthday dinner for John and his family and gave him some of his presents. Though we've cut our spending we shopped well and he seemed delighted with our choice of Wii and DS games.

We had rain Saturday morning, then thunderstorms Saturday night with a real deluge we didn't need. When John put his dogs out Sunday morning he lost a sandal in the mud things were so soaked and Dottie and I woke to water in our basement again, though we caught it before it became a major issue.

On top of that, the temps had dropped into the mid 50's with a 30mph north wind, so the party at the park got revised into a party at my sister's house in Lawrence. The only things that really changed were us not having to take a grill or crockpot and baseball got changed to basketball in their driveway late in the afternoon when the wind died down and the sun finally came out for a bit.

Since they had bought a Wii "Fit" to go with their game machine, we watched the grandkids attempts at snowboarding and soccer while cooking brats and such...quite interesting, lol!

Saturday my sister had taken my nephew to Emporia to enroll in college; he is all set, classes picked, ID/debit/key card made and ready to go. She on the other hand isn't ready to let go and will cry at the drop of a hat if you mention it. I keep reminding her that at his age (19 now) I had already been halfway around the world; she doesn't want to hear that either!

So now it's Monday and I'm running laundry and getting ready to wander back out to the garage to try and sort some more and organize things. I should mow, but think that with the water still draining down the hill I'll give it at least until tomorrow or Wednesday just so I don't tear up more than I cut!

May the week be kind to each of you!

alan

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I guess it really is Spring...

though it feels like it's been drug kicking and screaming into being!

After more rain than we've seen all winter (we're actually ahead for the year now) they called for another frost on Monday evening. These are what I had before...I really figured they were so wet that covering them wouldn't help, but did anyway.



So when I uncovered them yesterday, unable to even stand up, I wasn't sure they would open, but when the afternoon sun came around the corner of the house and down the driveway...



Angel has wanted to be outside every minute she could; at 14 she has one hip that bothers her a lot and has been on MSM for it for over a year now. In the beginning it rolled the clock back to where she was like a 5 year old again, but now she has good days and bad days like any 100-something human would. We already clipped her fur because she was panting a lot more than she used to and would always feel "hot" under it when you patted her, so she may get clipped 3 or 4 times this year instead of the usual spring and summer ones.



Things are ramping up for the annual trek to the park for the spring birthday party this weekend. It used to be we split the difference between Bill and John's birthdays but with Bill living in DC this year, we won't have him home on his birthday for the first time ever. Guess we're lucky we got to 31!

My nephew was in Orlando with his choir, singing at Disney World when his birthday went by in February and with his preparations for graduation, college and job we haven't managed to slow him down enough to have his yet so he'll be finally having his this weekend with John.

Of course, after these last two days in the upper 60's, they're saying 56 and showers for Sunday...

May the rest of the week be kind to each of you and some glimmer of green brighten your spring as well!

alan