greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Yeah, I still exist, but in a very low-key, nearly zero social media version. I will have to catch up on LJ happenings soon, but I felt it necessary to say hi.

Peace and love...

Happy Xmas

Dec. 24th, 2015 11:38 pm
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
My posting here hasn't been frequent, as most of you reading have probably noticed. I still peek in a couple times a week to read and comment when I can, so, rest assured, I'm still reading everyone on my friends list, even if I don't always comment. All that being said, life here has been pretty much okay for the most part, I've been busy as hell, with our own needs as well as helping out a couple friends that haven't had it so good in recent times. I am happy that, for the first time in six years, I am able to enjoy a Christmas day not immobile with pain and drugged mostly out of my senses. I've decided that this gift of normalcy is one I am sharing with people, lending a hand where I can. Money for me is very tight, so physical gifts are small this year. I feel happy doing what I can, and it certainly proves something I've known for a long time, that the gift is in the giving.

I hope everyone here in LJ-Land has a wonderful Holiday.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Pardon me if I'm not exactly filled with Christmas spirit. The weather outside is frightful, with lots of rain and even thunderstorms battering the area for the next couple days. The fire is so delightful, however, as I have the woodstove cranking to offset the dreary, cold, wet mess outside. Jeff and I have both been hit with a very nasty gastrointestinal bug, where we got it isn't clear. I've had these before, but this is by far the worst I've gotten slammed with such a thing, which made me violently ill. I think the worst is over, for I tried to have a little bit of chicken soup tonight and no warning sirens are going off yet. Jeff thankfully has off tomorrow, and with both of us under the weather, our dinner plans might have to be changed to something very light, if anything at all. He has to work Friday, unfortunately. We were planning of heading up the see his family and make a nice dinner, but that looks like it might out of the question given our messed up health. We will see. I was hoping to make it through the holidays without the usual, inevitable winter maladies dropping by to say hello, so instead we got something different and just as unwelcome. Ah, well, it is what it is. I got a couple nice presents for Jeff, he apparently has a couple for me, and we have no idea what we are getting. So that's good. Little surprises, lots of love and warmth.

Our little pooch Kodi needed to have some serious surgery done to remove a number of bladder stones. These were discovered during examinations for something unrelated, and these had the potential to wreak havoc on the little guy had those stones moved into and blocked his urethra. Little trouper he is, after the surgery he was mostly his cheerful self, but kept having accidents around the house. These have subsided, fortunately, and he's almost back to normal. In fact, it seemed in recent months he'd beg to go outside to pee more often than usual, and the frequency is less than before. So I think we had something taken care of before it could get a lot worse. Today I promised him he'd have his stitches removed, but that turned out to only be partially true. When we initially picked him up, he had of course been fitted with The Cone of Shame for obvious reasons. A day or two later he somehow managed to knock the thing off, and he went straight for the surgery site and the stitches. Jeff saw this in time and stopped him from doing any damage, but apparently he pulled one loose and created a large scab. So all but two stitches are gone until next week, where hopefully the disturbed area heals up a bit more, the scab comes off and the remaining stitches that are all caught up in there can be taken out. The Cone of Shame remains on as well, but Kodi has gotten used to it in some ways. Around here, to make the little guys feel better, we don't call the collar the "Cone of Shame," instead it's known as "The Bowl of Kisses," because all you have to do is hold that bowl in your hands and put your face inside, and you will get lots of happy licks.

As for me, well, I'm still down and out from the crumbling spine issues. Only a bit less pain, but unable to do much to the point I have even stopped climbing the walls in frustration. The pain that radiates down and concentrates on my lower left leg has resulted in now shocking amounts of atrophy. My calf is about the size of my forearm, and my thigh is about the size of my biceps before I began having all these old man issues. These days, the biceps are pretty much gone too, my clothes hang off me like a scarecrow, and everyday objects feel heavy. Some of my tools and equipment that are normally quite heavy are nearly impossible for me to deal with. On Jan. 6, I will head in for one last chance at a needle in the spine to help matters. If this doesn't do the trick, I will either have to have very invasive surgery to bolt my back together, or resign myself to pain and disability for the rest of my life. Honestly, with my track record under the knife, the latter choice is looking more promising.

I figured I owed y'all an update, unfortunately it isn't all peaches and cream. But I'll get by. I had so many opportunities to exit the human race but defied the odds. I was born prematurely, with low birth weight and needed resuscitation before spending my earliest days in an incubator, I've been hit by lightning, been electrically shocked hundreds of times during work and tinkering, been in nasty accidents, a round of misdiagnosed peritonitis that had one day left to kill me, and any other number of near misses, bad ailments, stupid situations and close calls. But I'm still here. Too bad that old saying about that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger is pretty much bullocks, because I'm the weakest I've been since most likely elementary school right now. I should be the world's strongest man.

All the best,

Phil & Jeff & Kodi & Snickels
greatbear: (panic panic panic)
Sometimes I can't catch a break. After hassling with Amazon about how payments weren't registering right (one screen would say everything's fine, the other says something is still wrong) I slept on it (a far-too-long, drug enhanced, nightmare cinema sleep). Checking on things today I see the same problem is still there. I call the credit union which is the issuer of the backup card, wondering if the sudden uptick in activity was resulting in balked payments. Lo and behold, I find out the card was shut off quite some time ago. WTF? The account is there, big and proud in my lists of accounts, and I use it as a buffer at times, what could have gone wrong? I'm told it was reported lost. Who the hell did that? It's not as if I woul...

Oh. Yeah. From when I lost my wallet. Six months ago. D. U. H. I had forgotten about this completely, and even though I encountered similar with my secondary debit card several months ago, the credit card completely slipped my mind. Forwarding to today, I am faced with a conundrum, which was a timing-specific purchase of "Cyber Monday" goodies and gifts at considerable savings, and the timeframe for getting payment to Amazon before the transaction was canceled was looming. Well, I was told by the exceedingly friendly woman on the phone that they offer same-day issuing of credit cards if I come in, so I thank her and muster my hunchbacked self into the car and headed over, less than ten minutes away. I got to talk to my favorite associate, Jill, who got everything straightened out along with some extra things I needed to accomplish. My visit took nearly an hour, not because of slow processes, but the two of us catching up on life, love and other stuff. She asked how Jeff has been enjoying his new car. We talked about our pets, which she had met at one time. I lamented about my poor health at the time, she told me about her current home life, and we just had the nicest cawfee tawk overall. In this impersonal world, there are a few oases of direct, personal and genuine contact still to be found, and these little happenings always brighten my day. Customer service, when done well, will make you feel like more than just a customer.

I waddled back home, new card in hand, and now a bit of Xmas won't be spoiled, plus I was able to discover something wrong while being able to immediately tend to it instead of finding out at a bad time, like away from home and no gas in my tank, with no means to pay. Granted, I still had other means to be prepared (my days in the Cub/Boy Scouts weren't totally wasted), but I'd rather the shocks hit me while not far, far away.

Tomorrow I will be drugged, blasted with radiation, and have very long needles stuck into my spine in hopes of returning to a better life. Jeff will once again have to come home early and be my driver, since I won't be in a condition to drive after the procedure, according to the doctor. While I tend to mostly be even more wobbly and weak after having this done, I doubt I would've been unable to drive the relatively short distance home myself. Even though I hate imposing on Jeff's time with work, I feel more comfortable with him around. It's part of the therapy. Wish me luck.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks for being faithful readers over the years. Your gift to me. :-)
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Jeff and I hustled up to his hometown on Saturday, it was our last chance to be with his family before Christmas, being that the holiday falls in the middle of the week this year and Jeff couldn't get time off for the real thing. He was also determined to visit his mom in the nursing home as well. The last few visits we found her pretty much not sure of who we were. Earlier in the week I was daydreaming as I am wont to do a lot these days. I was hoping his mom would be a bit more "herself", unlikely as that would ever be, for just this time as a Christmas present to Jeff. When we arrived at the home, mom was just finishing up having lunch. We watched her from the big windows around the cafeteria as the nurse went in to bring her out. When the nurse pointed to us outside the window to tell her she had visitors, we saw her say, plain as day, "that's my son." I could barely contain my glee, and Jeff was ecstatic. We sat with her in a side room, presented her with the xmas gift we brought, which was a lap blanket to help keep her comfy. She held the box tight as we helped her open it up, she looked at and touched the blanket and seemed, at least to me, like she was trying to process what was going on. We all sat and talked for a while, then me, dad, and Jeff's sister left to go and get a little something for the nursing home staff, for all their work and care, while Jeff and mom had a chance to sit quietly together by themselves. At the shopping center across the highway from the home, we found a gigantic box of Whitman's chocolates. The trek in and out of the home plus to and from the store as well as the shopping took a toll on me, and I sat in the truck with the pooches as dad and sis took the gift in for the staff. Jeff returned with everyone soon after, with an undeniably happy look on his face. While we were out, Jeff had turned on the little stereo in the activity room we had been in, and Jeff and his mom quietly listened to Christmas music together. He had given the staff the chocolates, which they were thrilled to receive. It seems not a lot of people consider all the work that staff does, and visitors probably don't bring much to them as far as gifts or tokens of appreciation. I have a feeling more than a few of the residents are forgotten this time of year, as unfortunate as that truly is. We could never be like that.

Later that day, Jeff's niece, her hubby and their adorable little one came up for an early Christmas with all of us. We had picked up a little Disney Princess powered three-wheel scooter for our little grand-niece, and she was thrilled to get it. Once assembled, she rode it around the basement and was having a blast. It was also the chance for Jeff's niece to break the news to dad that she is pregnant once again (we already knew). To do this, she got a jar of Prego tomato sauce, stuck a post-it with the word "I'm" above the Prego name and a copy of the sonogram below. Once dad figured it out, it appeared he already knew, which is not surprising given the gossipy nature of small towns like theirs. If all goes well, we will have a new addition to the family in or around early June. Dad was happy to get some tomato sauce too.

One Sunday, we, along with Jeff's sister, hubby, and two boys, had our early Christmas dinner together. It was also nice because the oldest was home from college for the holidays, so we got a chance to catch up. Even our pooches had some fun, especially when sis and company brought their little ankle-biter over and Snickles and her chased each other around the house having a blast. After all the fun, food and frolic, we headed back home to the land of Mayhem where Jeff watched his Dallas Cowboys squeak out a win while he yelled obscenities and cheered touchdowns on the teevee. Our dinner at home was more sandwiches and snacks rather than anything official, given we already had a big meal mid-day. The evening is quiet now, as I sit in the Mayhem Bunker writing this while a new PC for the lab bench gets set up, filled with updates and more updates, and gets my standard loadset of software. A little bit of music rounds it all out.

Indeed, sometimes life is good.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Okay, I'm gonna try to play catch-up on some postings I shoulda been doing all along. No thanks to LJ having a case of the butt when I did try. Anyway, enough of that, let us see if there is to be some success.

Jeff and I filled out paperwork today declaring us as domestic partners to be able to share in medical insurance. Our wonderful credit union witnesses and notarizes things like affidavits for free (membership has its privileges!), and the folks there not only don't bat an eye when presented with stuff in that realm, but are genuinely encouraging. The morning's pleasantries done, Jeff had a new task with his new position in his new job that had him doing a cooking demonstration at a D.C. hospital. When I asked him about it, I tried to have him liken it to various Food Network shows. "Well, was it Kitchen Nightmares? Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? Restaurant Impossible (woof @ Robert Irvine)? Iron Chef (Today's secret ingredient is... BEDPANS!)?" Jeff answered with what was to be my next choice, "More like Rachel Ray." Hee, figures. He said he had a good time, people said he put on an amazing show, and he came home smelling of garlic and onions. Someone assisting Jeff got him a chef hat and said, "Here, I got you a 'torque'." This was a demonstration all about cooking and eating healthy. On his way home after 8pm, despite all that cooking, Jeff hadn't eaten anything to speak of. Before getting back to La Casa Mayhem, he stopped to pick us up a little dinner. Of course, after all the healthy cooking and eating schtick, it was McDonald's.

Here at Mayhem Acres, things are a study in contradiction and contrasts. The water heater needed a shot of refrigerant. The no-frost freezer needs to be defrosted. The refrigerator stopped making ice cubes and is instead making puddles. My work is never done.

Verizon just installed a fiber optic connection solely for the landline phone here because the 50+ year-old copper lines in the area are in too bad of shape (I've had ongoing problems with line noise for over 20 years). To this technological triumph I have connected my 1957-vintage, black 500-series Western Electric rotary dial telephone, which is fully functional and has never sounded better. Sadly, there have been a number of growing pains with my newfangled service. Aside from noise, the old copper lines had 99.99% availability.

We had a delightful visitor just before Xmas. [livejournal.com profile] erstexman was in the midst of his whirlwind, several-state tour and paid us a visit. It's been a while since I've had a known-you-on-Livejournal-for-ages-and-we-finally-meet meetup. Evan is a delight, and though his time where was limited, we are talking about doing something sometime in summer. Here's my best attempt at a social-media ready, arm's-length self-photo of us:



Unfortunately for Evan, he had an unexpected bumper car ride in one of the roundabouts about a mile from the house. Mind you, I love me some roundabouts, when there's no one nearby and I have the Mini Cooper all warmed up. Unfortunately, there are too many people around to make this joyride happen every time, and they are no fun when I haul around 50 feet worth of loaded truck and travel trailer though them. I normally have to pass through 3 or four of them in succession, and there are nine(!) such circles within a less-than-2 square mile area here, with a couple more to come. That HAS to be some sort of record. None of these nine circles of hell existed here 15 years ago. At least they aren't traffic lighted intersections.

Next time, [livejournal.com profile] erstexman says he's not driving here. I don't blame him. ;-)

Speaking of Mini Coopers, we were mulling what to get Jeff's grand-niece Kylie for xmas. She turns 3 soon, and we wanted to make her holiday special. We found a KidTrax electric Mini at Costco. We knew she'd love it and be the only kid in that old coal town with one (turns out she has a Jeep already, but, up there, everyone has one of those). I personalized it with custom stickers that said "Kylie's Cooper" in a playful font (no, not Comic Sans!). She kept getting inside while I was trying to put it together, when that task was finally done, we headed out in the blustery Pennslovakia cold so she could test drive it in the yard. For not even three yet, she's a pretty good driver. We might be looking at the next Danica Patrick.



Jeff's father had been making noises about getting a big flat screen television ever since he spent a few days with us and fell in love with ours. We got him a wall mount and a set of high-def cables, wrapped them up and gave those to him the same time Kylie got her ride. We didn't say that we got the set too. Though he didn't say it, we could tell he was just as giddy as our little girl once everything was set up. Being that the Newtown tragedy happened only a couple days prior to all this, it was nice to see a bunch of kids smiling and happy and safe. Dad included.

I wish I could say that the holidays were full of goodness and light, but sadly it was not to be. Jeff's mom has been falling deeper into the clutches of Alzheimer's, as such, the inability of the home care nurses to keep up with her needs, her increased incidences of falling and such finally forced Dad to put her in a nursing home. They treat her well there, and we know she's in good hands. The future in all this is uncertain, as it is for anyone similarly involved.

This weekend we are headed up to the homestead once again. Dad is lonely, being in the house by himself, and looks forward to our visits more now than ever. The silver lining in the recent clouds there is Dad is afforded much more time to himself, and can get out and around more. As such, we will hit the huge farm show in Harrisburg. This will get him (and us) out of the house, we can peruse tractors and livestock, see sheep being turned into shawls (well, their wool, to be precise), partake in greasy yet delicious fairgrounds food and be farmers for a day. We will also pay Mom a visit too, and bring her lots of love. We plan on sneaking Dad down here again soon so he can have a change of pace. He manages to fit in well in his own unique way. We take him out of Amish country but we bring him to our local Amish market. Wouldn't you know, he manages to find people down here who know the people up there. Dad is given a tray of whoopee pies along with a note written in Pennsylvania Dutch by his new-found friend to take to his relatives up north. Dad shuttles the Amish around as a sort of taxi service for extra money, so he knows a lot of them. The Amish are interesting folk, and, ironically, I can somewhat relate to them, beards notwithstanding. I go to a local Amish hardware store. A delightful place, there is no electricity, the place is only a few years old yet is lit by natural light from large windows, or gas mantles among the aisles. They have great deals on power tools, cordless stuff, high-tech lighting, solar power equipment and other items you can't find at the local big-box. Go upstairs and there is furniture, games, dinner ware, and clothing. The clothing is mostly what you'll find the Amish wearing, including those familiar hats. Dad keeps telling me he's gonna get me one of those hats, since my beard is starting to rival some up there. I guess he's right about that, the last time I was at that local Amish market down here, someone started asking me questions about the baked goods. An honest mistake, I guess. It made my day. It made Jeff and Dad howl with laughter.

This post is brought to you by hyphens.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
I know, I am not exactly Posty McPostalot, maybe that will change. There's been a lot going on, most of it fun and happy. Visiting people, people visiting, smiles on kids faces, all good stuff. I will elaborate later.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Happy Christmas to all my dear readers out in LJ-Land. You have buoyed my spirits in bad times, humbled me, made me laugh, cry and think. I feel an inseparable kinship with so many of you. I never thought my little broadcast of text would find an audience, much less one as special as I have these days. You guys are beyond awesome.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Apparently the "captcha" problem I was having was a (increasingly typical) LJ glitch. It has not reared it's head today. So, I guess I'll stick around a while longer. *grump* ;)

Today was a good day. I took Jeff to the cardiac clinic to return his portable heart monitor ("Holter") that he had been fitted with for the prior 24 hours. Since I had some banking errands to do, we headed from there to my credit union then stopped into Mimi's Cafe for a nice little lunch. We had Kodi with us to get him out of the house, once we returned from lunch Jeff was greeted with a dog laying in the passenger's seat next to a big pile of doggie puke and a sad look on his face. We cleaned that up, we couldn't be too hard on the dog given some of the stress he's been through lately, then headed home. After dropping off da KodiPooch we decided to through all caution (and sensibility) to the wind and head to Columbia Mall to do our (now delayed) Xmas shopping for each other. We took our time, the crowds were not too bad in the mid-afternoon, and we successfully buoyed the economy with our gift purchases. After a little break among the increasing crowd, we headed home. The mailbox held a nice little surprise in some unexpected (and expected, thanks guys!) well-wishing cards for Jeff, as well as a check from work along with a letter wishing me well on my recovery and an explanation for the check. This was not unexpected, as it was payment for unused vacation time for the year of which I had quite a bit left. I had simply forgotten about this standard payroll procedure, and although it was a simple form letter, the words and the tidy sum of money made me feel better about work than I had for months.

Jeff and I spent some quiet quality cuddly time on the sofa together watching teevee, we were soon accompanied by both Kodi and Pinky, our apparent new family member. This was also a first, all four members of Team Mayhem curled up together, and a milestone for Kodi in the "acceptance" department. I was enjoying the warm schmoopie feelings for a while until the phone rang, it was [livejournal.com profile] rockybear02 calling to wish us well and catch up on all the latest dish. More good times.

Our efforts to decorate for the holidays have unfortunately been futile. The wind and weather thwarted my attempts to hang out the too-cool LED icicles on the house for the past couple weeks, and Jeff's sudden medical crisis put the brakes on completely. So, the new lights and other decorations go back into their boxes and up into the attic for next year. For a tree, we literally have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree I picked up at Sears a while ago, complete with the single red ornament and wooden base. We wrapped a light blue dish towel around it in lieu of Linus' blanket. How ironic that this unassuming little Christmas tree stands (well, bent over is more like it) proudly for my best Christmas ever. I have my honey with me, and thanks to the efforts of so many wonderful people from all over, that's all I ever wanted.

Happy Holidays, everyone.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
A couple weeks ago I bought a few strands of rather expensive "programmable" LED Holiday Xmas Christmas lights, but have yet to put them up, mostly because of it being windy enough to knock my already unsteady self off the ladder and general blase attitude this year. Still, I thought these would make for some impressive displays for a clever hacker. Well, I went looking around on YouTube, and I was right. Take someone who has a love for hardware hacking, video games, and over-the-top light displays, and you get these two incredible examples. The choice of music on the second makes it that much better.





This user also had a very impressive Halloween display as well. Naturally, YouTube is filled with videos from all over of people outdoing one another in light displays, most often to various Trans-Siberian Orchestra tunes. Geeks, hackers, creative types. I love my kind.
greatbear: (goatsmas)
I'm an atheist, most people know that. I let people live their lives and quietly let those who attempt to press dogma on me that, thanks, but no thanks, it's not how I roll. That being said, I do have a soft spot in my heart for certain religiously-themed music (and art, films, etc) as a genre. There's no denying the energy of a gospel choir (think of The Color Purple) or the intricate interplay of a quartet singing in a cathedral with soaring acoustics. Now comes a time of year when there is almost no escaping the Songs of the Season. Yeah, it's Christmastime, and everything from television commercials to background Muzak systems are belting out all the old standards. Some radio stations here switch programming right before Thanksgiving to an all-holiday music format. And most will slip in a Xmas-themed song into their playlist at times. I admit having a certain fondness for a lot of Christmas music. Not for any of the messages, mind you, but for the sake of my family traditions and the memories the tunes often evoke. I'm an old softie. But there are certain tunes that just rub me the wrong way. By far the worst is that sappy, manipulative dreck called "Christmas Shoes" by Newsong. I was thumbing through radio stations earlier and came across the song being played on a country music station (go figure). I. Absolutely. Detest. That. Song. But rather than try to explain to my dear readers as to why my bile rises when I hear that tune (though most can figure it out pretty easily), I'm going to let comedian Patton Oswalt perform a perfect deconstruction of the song along with the most hilarious graphics in the following video:



I'm not mean spirited, but this sums up my feelings about that song, and others in the same vein. Sad thing is, some people just soak up this stuff, and lots of money gets made. If it makes people happy, though, I guess it can't be all bad. Maybe just a bit misdirected.

What's my favorite song of the season? It might be a bit long in the tooth by now, but when I first heard this on my way to work one cold morning, I ended up cranking up the megawatt Alpine audio system in my old truck to the point I smelled the speakers' voice coils burning. Here was my love for classical music that I acquired at a very young age coupled with my absolute need to rock (also acquired at the same young age) mixed in with the memories of all the fun Xmases of my youth, seasoned with a bit of the Russian flavor of my heritage:


Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve Sarajevo


Do yourself a favor and crank it up with me.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Just in time for...FYFF )

Happy Christmas everyone! ;)
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, the best of days, from Phil and Jeff.

Happy Xmas

Dec. 26th, 2008 01:02 am
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
It was indeed a merry little Xmas here at the GoM. While Jeff was off at work, I was working both in the garage and in the basement. I needed to make up some spacer blocks for the safety sensors on the new garage door opener, So I rummaged through the scrap lumber and found a suitable piece, cutting and working on the stationary sander and table saw. The wood was southern yellow pine, and few wood odors come close to making the entire area smell like a 'real' workshop. I called it Santa's Workshop for the day. The smell still lingers, and reminds me of days gone by for some reason.

When Jeff got home from work (yeah, I know), we had our exchange of gifts. He got me an L.L. Bean three-in-one parka that I actually had been needing, along with some nice gloves and earmuffs. Since we will be taking a trip up to the Poconos soon to frolic in the snow, he thought this would be the perfect gift. And it was. I needed everything, including the earmuffs, which until now I didnt own. I usually rely of knit caps or tuques to keep my big flappy ears from freezing off. I got Jeff a Chef's Choice meat/food slicer, which he was pretty happy to get. I mean, what do you get a chef for xmas? lol

Jeff is home tomorrow and we plan on being mostly domestic. I might shove the Dart out of the garage and install the second opener. The second time is always much easier. ;)

I hope all of you had a great Xmas day.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Here's to everyone a Wonderful Holiday, Merry Christmas and Joyous Yuletide, wherever and however you celebrate it. May your best gift be something completely unexpected and grand. And thanks to all those here on LJ for being the great gifts all year long.

Cheers!
greatbear: (fuzzy)
I made it relatively unscathed through another major holiday. The last couple days were spent with Jeff's family in PA. It was a very low-key affair, which for me, was good.

Monday morning had a trip to an new Amish hardware and general store. This was a first for me. Upon walking into the place, it looked at first like any local small-town hardware store. It then becomes apparent that the store is somewhat dim inside, as all the light is coming from windows and skylights. Yep, there is absolutely no artificial light. Nor is there any electrical fixtures of any kind in place. Along the aisles were gas lamps consisting of open mantles and valves. These I assume were used in the evenings or when it would be rather cloudy. Below one of the gas lamps was a display of the latest power tools from DeWalk, Makita, Milwaukee and other professional brands. Lots of decent pneumatic tools as well. Plenty in the way of automotive and electrical wares, all goos stuff, and at prices comparable to big-box stores. Upstairs was an area filled with housewares, toys, furniture and other goodies. There was a large selection of those black Amish hats on display. I was told I really looked the part when I tried one on. I bought some electrical connectors for use on the truck and the camper that were actually packaged for use on Amish buggies. As odd as it seems, the lighting systems on current Amish buggies are more high-tech than a lot of current automobiles, with LED safety lighting and efficient charging systems that keep the batteries charged as the buggy is pulled by the horse. The checkout area did have a pair of modern electronic cash registers. They were being run on batteries. The more I associate with the Amish, the more respect I have for them. Hard working, helpful, devoted to their beliefs yet will never press them upon anyone.

Later, I occupied myself with cutting down a tree in their yard which had become an obstacle for new utility lines. I dispatched it in about 45 minutes time and we loaded the logs into the truck for firewood next year. Various auxiliary family units came and went, and socializing was abundant. I kinda kept quiet for the most part, my mind was often elsewhere. We opened our gifts on Xmas eve. I did not ask for anything, nor did I want anything from anyone. Jeff had been itching for weeks to give me his present, but I kept the surprise till the appropriate time. Seems he did some pretty remarkable mouse clickery on eBay. Turns out, he managed to snag a Wii, and for less than the 249 bux normally asked for in stores. Major eBay god points there. I connected it all up when we got home, after dinner. Another new distraction!

Today we all had an early dinner of ham, chicken, and lots of other goodies. Later tonight after coming home we had a quiet supper of shrimp scampi with wine.

The gifts Jeff got for his nephews ended up being the highlight of the day for them. His sister calls grumbling about the fact that the kids are playing mostly with those things, and Jeff looks at me with a smug grin and a quiet fist pump.

Still, I still feel out of sorts today. I feel very alone, despite the warm welcomes I always have up there. I miss Mom, of course, and I tend to gather more uncertainties than I reconcile at times. But for the first time in years, the house is decorated and there is a feeling of warmth and hope.



Here is our tree, now devoid of the gift payload. Much happiness has ensued.

A while ago, I picked up a little keychain-style photo viewer. My plan was to use it as an ornament. I filled it with pictures of Mom, Patches, and of her with me and Jeff as well.



I hope everyone had a great day today. I think I did.
greatbear: (fuzzy)
It's been ages since I did a proper update of the current goings-on around and about The Garage of Mayhem. Really, there is not that much outside of the usual happenings. Work is still a soul-draining experience. Too bad the pay is decent.

In nearby Columbia, the continued big-boxification continues at a startling pace. Finally, there is a Costco nearby. I signed us up, Jeff has become enamored with the food, clothing and other sundries. I bought a new floor jack among other things, including a Nintendo DS Lite. The latter raised Jeff's 'oh jeez, another gadget' eyebrow a bit. But guess who's become addicted to Brain Age 2? And he's kicking my ass to boot.

In somewhat sadder news, I have finally begun the process of dealing with Mom's belongings as I tackle different areas of the house. This has been a mental sticking point for me since her death, and conquering it has not been easy. It's made me out off the process for over a year now. I want to find good homes for her stuff whenever possible. I find myself stopping everything and having to go into a 'neutral' part of the house and collect myself before I can go on. This emotional stumbling has slowed my progress to a crawl. Still, not all of it is bad, or heart-wrenching. I discovered yet another trove of forgotten photos, with a good amount of them from the 70s. With me in them. OMG the hair, the clothes. A lot of them were of Mom and I doing various things. I could not stop smiling. Maybe if y'all are good I will share some of the more amusing photos.

The aforementioned box of treasures was found as I was clearing out and redoing a big upstairs closet that was originally intended to house a washer and dryer but was used for storage instead. I have three big file cabinets along with new shelves to go inside, it will also be a place to hide a couple networked color printers. A drain pipe had leaked slowly over the years and made a mess of a section of drywall, I repaired that and began to repaint the closet interior. I did not buy enough paint to finish it off, so I rectified that tonight and will finish up this week. The new shelving, cabinets, lighting and a couple runs of gigabit ethernet into the space will go a long way towards organizing the upstairs.

Another detour on the way home from work tonight netted me a Sirius Stiletto 100 satellite receiver. I have not activated the thing yet, but it looks cool. Everything I wanted in a little receiver. About the size of a cell phone, it can receive signals via it's own built in antenna, fall back to wi-fi indoors when a signal aint there, plus record live programming and timeshift, and can double as an mp3 player. What's not to like? Oh, yeah. Pay radio. At least there are no commercials in the music.

Jeff has convinced me to decorate the house for Hallowe'en. To that end, we have acquired lights, big swaths of faux spider webbing (with spiders), a screaming animated skull, a howling animated ghoul-thing, an animated, protesting caged skeleton, and more than the usual amount of candles. Jeff has carved two of three pumpkins which turned out pretty good. He has one more to do. All I can say is that I hope we get more trick-or-treaters than last year. Jeff is even going to work in costume. As a beer bottle. I guess there is truth to the news that Hallowe'en is becoming the most 'celebrated' holiday. There seems to be more in the way of costumes and decorations these days than ever, and it's approaching what is usually seen at X-mas.

Speaking of X-mas, the decorations are already in full force in some stores. One of which is what I felt was to be inevitable. It's a set of three outdoor white trees, prewired with illuminated ornaments. What makes the set different is the lighting is coordinated to music. Yep, ever since that guy installed a lightshow and set it to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter" and became a national sensation, it has become a turnkey affair. The three trees sequence their multicolor LED ornaments to several included songs, one of which is the aforementioned TSO tune. The whole ordeal is weatherproof, including an outdoor speaker that you can annoy the neighbors with as it plays the limited included library of songs, and it has a remote control to boot. Thankfully the lightshow's price of $299 bucks will keep it from appearing in every other yard this holiday season. Expect the price to go down, numerous imitations to appear and the setup to become as clich├ęd as icicle lights.

Bah, humbug.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Here is an ad that I stumbled across the other day for DirectTV:



(Translation at end: "Some are good only on Christmas, others are good all year long.")

Who says Christmas can't be commercial?
greatbear: (big beard)
Stephan Pastis must know my thoughts all too well:

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Phil

December 2016

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