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: (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.

Looking up

Jun. 26th, 2014 10:54 pm
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Good news! I found my wallet. Bad news, I lost my beard. Well, a good bit of it, at least.

By tomorrow evening the yard will have more tents in it than if Cirque du Soleil were performing here.

The front door here at La Casa Mayhem is a rusty, ugly disaster. I had hoped to replace it before the big day, but I had to postpone that project a multitude of times due mostly to physical health issues. When I finally decided I was in good enough shape to tackle the project, when I tried to order it up, the lead time was too long. So, I bagged that project. Instead, I did a quick and dirty paint job to the door itself, the frame and sidelight. It took about half the day, since the paint was peeling furiously and it needed a lot of sanding and other prep work, but for a door assembly I plan on ripping out in a couple months, it looks damn good, better than I expected. I had to *try* not to obsess over the details like I am prone to do, just slap the paint on and be done. Now I won't have to be ashamed, and the rest of the outside entryway which I fixed up a couple years ago doesn't look shamed by the last remaining part that was to be replaced. It was embarrassing to see that pitiful entry to the house we've been working so hard on lately.

Right before I had found my wallet the other day, we were running errands (one of which was getting a replacement driver's license). We stopped at the dry cleaners to pick up Jeff's work duds and I walked over to the suspiciously quiet area which is our favorite local restaurant. It's a little Chinese place called Hunan House, it has been there for close to 30 years. I've eaten countless meals from there, everything from a lunch grabbed to eat while building the house here to sit-down meals with friends. Never had a bad meal in all that time. The staff got to know us by name, knew our favorites, always asked about how we were doing and what was going on in our lives, etc. To my utter dismay a sheet of paper was taped to the glass saying they were regretfully closing after all these years and thanked everyone for their years of patronage. I drove home sobbing. In fact, though finding my wallet did cheer me up somewhat (it was more like a big relief), losing our favorite haunt was like a kick in the groin.

Our friends that are joining us for our wedding begin to arrive tomorrow from out of state. We still have a lot of work to do, but it is now mostly the setting up and getting ready variety. Tomorrow morning I will put the final touches on the cleanup before putting away the pressure washers. A bit if the walks up front need to be cleaned, as do the two long asphalt drives. The carport is spotless; this is where the caterer will be set up. The Garage of Mayhem is looking beauteous, and the big concrete area in front is clean enough to eat off of. The trailer is in its rightful parking spot as well. I have to cram all the big equipment into the building tomorrow when I'm done, that should be a chore just by itself.

My back has been mostly holding up, but I have been trying my best not to overdo the exertion and whatnot, and sometimes failing that I get a not-so-gentle reminder that I am still a feeble old man. All I am hoping for is it holds up for our big day and for our PTown trip next month. After all that, I can truly take it easy. We need this vacation badly, and more than ever, it seems.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel, and this time it's not a speeding freight train.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today Jeff and I had one of our most productive errand-based type of day. He started earlier than I, going to work as usual while the sun itself was still snoring away. I got up before the dogs bothered to squirm about in the bed to get me up, whereupon Jeff came home and took me to one of my myriad doctors for more jamming of needles and chemicals into my spinal column. After that, we headed up to the auxiliary courthouse building to get our marriage license. We got a bit confused because the building didn't look right, and I tried in vain to get my now-worthless smartphone (Thanks, Obama Verizon!) to work, making me frustrated and beating it on the dash. We stopped at Wendy's for a breakfast/lunch (it was lunch as far as food type) while I waited for the several reboots of the phone in order to get more details of where to go. After the meal, we headed back to the sprawling government building, where we found the marriage license department first off. The process was remarkably easy and quick, aided by every one of the office staff genuinely happy and congratulatory over and above courteous and helpful the entire time. As we finished up in the last minute, and gave our thank-yous among the well wishing, it really started to hit us. Both of us were trying and failing to hold back happy tears as we left the building.

From there, it was to the Mall in Columbia (Don't call it The Columbia Mall), for wedding and vacation clothing. I'm not fond of clothes shopping at all, but today, buoyed by our almost giddiness, we had fun with it. Bonus points for both of us getting smaller clothes this time as well (I haven't worn a 34 waist in probably 34 years). I managed to get some loud shirts and shorts for vacation(s) among more sensible stuff, and had an uncharacteristically good time doing so. We were also there for giftage for the wedding "crew", but our initial idea had gotten way too expensive and impractical when we inquired about the personalization. I'm way too practical, and our initial idea did kinda fly in the face of the practicality, and it hit with the force of a slushball in a heavy winter snow when we got specifics. We discovered that several very unique stores had opened in an outside area next to the mall and we went exploring. We hit the jackpot. I told Jeff that I think we just found our "practical gifts" and his face lit up like mine. The deal was done, and we pick up the goodies tomorrow. I have a neat idea for personalization too.

From there we put the final monies down on the wedding cake and cupcakes, plus another gift addition for the "crew." The bakery came up while I was making small talk on the operating table at the doctor's, as the x-ray tech and the doctor were familiar with the place, and the tech told me of the little, slightly run-down little convenience grocer in the same area that had good deli salads. So, I wrapped up the day by picking up some of the homemade macaroni and potato salad before heading home. The salads accompanied some mega tuna melts I made on the panini grill/press in an effort to give Jeff a break from cooking. We ate our dinner on the deck, continuing the nearly non-stop talking and planning and still frustrating things that still need taking care of. The next couple weeks will be insanely busy. I hope my back can withstand the rather serious labor I'm about to put it through (hence the trip to the doc today) as the deck, house and gazebo get pressure washed, the front door, frame and sidelights replaced, deck repairs, house and yard cleaning, landscaping and other stuff to make our paradise just that for our big, big day.

Outside the courthouse I attempted a selfie of us. I botched it in my nervous glee, and a couple going in for their license, despite taking our pic with the phone, didn't manage to do it right. so this is what we have.

As the cool kids say, shit just got real.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Well, just as I had promised by not seeing my shadow on my birthday, winter has been a PMSing bitch along its last six weeks of existence. Jeff got called Sunday afternoon to head down to the hotel near the hospital in preparation for the winter nastiness, and plans on being there until Tuesday afternoon along with other essential personnel keeping the patients fed and cared for. Yeah, I'm bummed some, but it did come off of a four-day weekend with lots of accomplishments and fun. We saw BOOK OF MORMON at the Hippodrome (Latin for "Horse Arena") theater in Baltimore Saturday evening, our sides are still practically sore from laughter. I had a friend come over yesterday to help me run network cabling in La Casa Mayhem, and I've been generally busy if not held back by pain trying to get on with daily life, at least my version of it. All this goodness became soaked in rain and sleet before turning into snow overnight, whereupon I woke (late) to yet another picturesque winter scene. I plan on tackling this latest mess tomorrow morning. In the meantime, By-Tor, the Snow Dog and I will have what is likely our last days of snowy fun and frolic. They love it, becoming a white cloud of snarling, yapping energy chasing about in the yard.

Now, for those who made it past the seasonal visuals, I must let it be known that Jeff and I have been very busy with some very important preparations that will culminate in an implosion of extreme fabulousness and celebration at the end of June, and I invite all who are reading this to please make yourself part of the festivities with us. Jeff and I are getting married on June 28! I know that I know many if not most of you reading only via the interwebs, but I sill consider you as family, and would love for you to attend. If you desire to be a part of the nuptials, along with with an incredible catered food extravaganza all being held here at Mayhem Acres in Maryland, drop me a PM with your address and the names of anyone else you'd like to accompany you and I will send you an invitation with additional details and RSVP card. It's gonna be a good time, guaranteed.

Yes, I've been a bit cagey with hints and details in the past, but that's my nature. I want this to be a fun event, open to all. I also have to overcome a bit of personal fears as well, and I think that has been progressing well. No fears about being wed to Jeff, mind you, that's a given and not subject to pause. No, my problem is associating it to the greater world of friends and family. As a pretty serious introvert I have some issues, but I want to cast them to the wind while having the most important day in my life, which I swore for nearly half a century that I would never get to experience for myself. So please, be a part of it. It's a huge reason to celebrate!

Pink tears

Feb. 24th, 2014 09:41 pm
greatbear: (half awake)
Why is it I can hear a song a million times, have minimal reactions to it for the most part, but suddenly have it hit me like a ton of bricks on a speeding train falling off a bridge? It happened today, and the song was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Mind you, I've had the album since it came out in 1975. I used to play the guitar parts by recording myself on tape then following along the same way the song does at the intro, singing in my terrible voice all the way through. I know all the words. I know the meaning, which is basically missing someone or feelings of loss, as Roger Waters wrote as he and the rest of the Floyds lamenting the departure of band-mate Syd Barrett due to increasing mental breakdowns. Yet here I was, being domestic during the day and taking the opportunity to give a high-dB listening to my recently purchased Wish You Were Here Immersion box set. I had the 2009 5.1-channel mix playing while I did various tasks and cleaned the living room. When the subject song came on in full surround splendor, as "Have a Cigar" sucked itself into tinny nothingness and into the opening segment with the radio being tuned among the static, until the now famous guitar lines are found was coming from the back surround speakers, with the harmonizing "lead" feeling as if it was in the middle of the front of the room. I dropped what I was doing and sat on the Swiss exercise ball I use for my back rehab. And I sat there dumbstruck at first, slightly swaying by the all-so-familiar lyrics.

I then began bawling my eyes out.

I thought of how I lost Mom, and how I lost so many good friends over the years, even my long-gone pets. This entirely too familiar piece of music, albeit one of my favorites, took on a new life and feeling as it swept me into a totally not unpleasant trip through my thoughts. Even Snickles, who was playful and carrying on not a moment before, sat for a moment watching me staring blankly into the room with tear-filled eyes before standing between my knees and gripping my one leg in a kind of hug with his head tight in my lap for the rest of the song. He's never done that before. It might've been a painful five-and-a-half minutes in some ways, but it was wonderfully cathartic, completely unexpected and it left me with a warm, comfortable feeling for the remainder of the day. Jeff came home and I played some of the other tracks from the set, including the original quadraphonic mix not heard since it was originally released on Quad LP and 8-track. Even Jeff didn't mind the half-kilowatt plus of amplified goodness while he was making dinner. He usually tells me to turn the music down when he gets home after a long day at work. For Jeff, it was a chance for him to relive a wonderfully relaxing moment we had at Hillside along with some friends we've since lost touch with. It was a quiet night, alongside the creek that runs through the lower part of the campground. I had my iPod filled with lots of Pink Floyd, and we played this as well as DSotM at an elevated volume enjoying the solitude the moment brought us.

Ah, memories.

greatbear: (forearms)
Aaaand, we're back. Too early to tell how great any successes are, being I am masked in a fog of pain killers and other numbing agents, but I think there is some improvement, I will know more in the next couple days. Big test is soon, if I can sleep properly in bed without the searing pain I had for months. I did conk out in the truck on the way home from exhaustion though. :-)

Thank you for all the kind words, thoughts and well wishing. Y'all's gots some powerful mojo!
greatbear: (kmfdm icons)
I guess I should post an update regarding my health sitch, it has been a while. As usual, when I am sick or hurting, I tend to keep quiet and to myself. The quiet part is up for debate lately, as not a day goes by that I am not growling if not downright shrieking at the top of my pipes in pain at least a couple times a day and/or night. The sound effects are not nearly as bad as early on in my ordeal, but opportunities do present themselves, unfortunately.

I have a surgery date set for this Monday. Originally scheduled for December 11, then moved up to the day prior to Thanksgiving, this latest date is much better, earlier relief notwithstanding. Not so close to the holidays, better chance of getting resolutions if anything were to go awry by not being up against the holidays. While not as involved as my first back surgery, I am still slated for 90 minutes of operating room time. I should give Jeff the laptop so he's not bored out of his skull waiting.

This time there are two procedures being done, a revision laminectomy and a disc fragment excision. The former is a cleaning up of scar tissue built up in the aftermath of my much more invasive laminectomy procedure from 2010. Apparently the scar tissue has increased over time and coupled with my latest injury this has put pressure on the spinal cord in that general area. The other procedure is needed to remove a "free fragment" of ruptured disc that has split off from the mothership and has wedged tightly in the spinal canal in an area where lamina remains and is pinching off the spinal cord. This chunk will be removed as well. I will see if the doc will put it in a jar for me to bring home for show & tell. Like an old car being taken in for repairs, I like to get my old parts back.

I'm hoping the recovery from this operation is not anything like the previous. There were complications apparently and it took months before I could feel much from above the knees down, and I was beset with balance problems and lots of falling down. This time the operation is not as widespread (mostly confined in a space between L3 and L4, originally was L4, L5 and S1 plus a bit above and below) and no bone saws are needed. I will most likely need a round or two of physical therapy afterward once I've healed up enough to accommodate the exercise.

I am also on track to set a new record for myself, but not for the right reasons. Once all is said and done and before I am adequately recovered, I might end up weighing less than 200 pounds for the first time since 10th grade. Normally weight loss is a good thing, especially before and after a difficult medical procedure, and this will help me out in most respects. My appetite is not the best when I am sick or hurting, and given I've been in lots of pain and taking all manner of nasty drugs since late September, my want for food is not at typical levels. Some of the drugs and side effects caused food not to taste or smell the best either, compounding the issue. This is fine in and of itself, but the yucky result of drugs and bad eating habits resulted in near constant bouts of constipation and a badly impacted colon. So there is an insult to injury at play here making me want to eschew food entirely. This is tough to do with a chef with a career in healthcare food services watching out for me, and I thank my honey for providing well in the sustenance department. Dealing with the impacted colon is a matter I took into my own hands, saving Jeff another trip in the middle of the night to take me to the ER again. I'll spare y'all the TMI. The sadder part of the weight loss comes from the rather severe atrophy of my legs and other muscles, especially the left leg which is the main target of the nerve pain. Apparently the leg pain, despite it being "virtualized" in my lower back by scrambled nerves and not a result of actual injuries to any part of the leg itself triggers a kind of wasting process the same as if the leg were somehow actually badly injured, in my case and by the type of pain, badly burned. Jeff told the doc it is if I were affected by polio, my left leg being practically a stick compared to the right, and the right leg itself being atrophied by all the non-use. I had already lost a considerable amount of muscle mass in both legs the result of the previous nerve problems and a really bad case of Achilles tendonitis in the left leg a couple years prior to that. This has caused me a great deal of body image issues in those years as I was rather proud of having very powerful and muscular kegs. This can be remedied, of course, if all goes well with the operation and I am back on my feet and can do some decent working out to bring back at least some of my former glory. Being a middle-aged old fart with too many years racking up on an increasingly creaky old body precludes my ever having 21 inch calves that doubled as a car jack in my younger days.

I guess the latest, most unexpected slap in the face came today when the surgery center called to confirm my appointment and to make sure I brought along all the recent MRI films, required paperwork, insurance cards and ID and all that stuff and to, oh, make sure to bring along about six thousand dollars for my share of the procedure costs. I mean, WTF? I guess they don't believe in billing patients after procedures anymore, or that everyone has six grand in their pockets. Granted, I live in one of the richest counties in the US (We're number two! We're number two!), but really, c'mon. I knew I would be socked with a lot of costs (again) but I never expected to be plunking down a big wad of cash coming in the door as if I were putting a down payment on a Lexus. Thanks, Obama!

I moved a hunk of money out of my normally untouched savings to deal with the health issues as well as some needed (and wanted) upgrades to the house, so the shakedown by the Piccard Medical Center (make it sutured!) won't have me panhandling, but it's the psychological hit that only added to a long punch list of frustrations, emotions, cabin fever, stir craziness, self-worth crises, boredom and a litany of mental sandbags weighing heavily on my brain of late. I am honestly doing my best to hold it all together, as it were, but cracks do appear. Luckily Jeff is only a party of a smaller portion of these, but the ones he witnesses can be doozies. My cane came out from under me as Jeff took me to the doc yesterday for the final consultation before being knifed in the back, I beat the cane on the asphalt until is was more like a boomerang. Thankfully the consultation meant everything was in line for a relatively easy procedure and we went out for dinner afterward. I get cranky when I am hurt, and I am almost completely unable to do all those little (and big) projects I love doing that keeps my mind healthy and leaves me with a sense of accomplishment. You've read about them many times. Yes, I like to relax and unplug once in a while, but my mind is far too active to shackle with inabilities and disabilities. I did upgrade the home theater setup with a new Onkyo receiver and Oppo everything-disc player in anticipation of a winter spent quite a bit more inside and in low activity than usual; Jeff and I had a few movie nights recently and it takes my mind somewhat off of other "things." I've been doing my best to keep a date we had with other friends of ours to see Jersey Boys at the Hippodrome in Baltimore Saturday evening, and I think I can make it. I can sit for a while in a seat with only a bit of difficulty, I will make sure I take Rush Limbaugh's drug of choice prior to the show to keep the pain in check. It will be good to see some of our friends who will be joining us that night, the complete lack of visitors since being hurt hasn't made me feel any better about myself, so this will do my mind some good having fun, as long as I don't run into any issues walking to and from the theater and my seat. Jeff and I did a Costco and Wegman's run earlier in the week after a trip to my primary care physician and I did quite well. Of course, I was hanging off the back of a shopping cart those times, it was my arms that gave me hell from carrying most of my weight that day. No shopping carts this time, and I have a couple undamaged canes and five lovely people that can help if needed.

Thanks for reading.
greatbear: (fucking painting trees)
Here's a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the underground bunker at La Casa Mayhem. What am I doing, you might ask? Well, once again I am directing the full power of my fully operational battle station awesome IT infrastructure to bear on an innocent old man in hopes of making him cry again. In other words, I am fixing and printing more family photos lost to the fire at Jeff's parents' place.

He has "officially" moved in today, getting his permits signed off. Jeff's phone rang this evening, announcing the number as originating from the landline rather than dad's cell, something that made us both smile. There are some relatively minor tasks that need tending there, railings for the stairs into the basement, walkways and landscaping, some of which I will help with this weekend. The trailer gets moved back to its storage space in the driveway so the yard can be repaired and grass planted in remaining areas. Right now it's raining, and the yard is pretty much a mud bog. This is typical during construction. By mid summer, the place should be looking mighty fine. Dad can finally begin to relax and start making the new house a home.

I spent a bit of a beautiful yesterday trudging around in a junkyard auto dismantling and recycling facility yesterday helping a friend collect parts for one of his cars that recently got wrecked. I managed to find a rare item, a compass/mini trip computer out of a 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible. This is the same JA body series as my '00 Stratus, and I had wanted to hack the computer into the Strat, as it was never offered as an option. Today I took some time to tear into the dash and wiring, splicing wires and modifying the dash to accept the computer. Success! I also lucked out in that the yard also had a section which had tractors and other outdoor equipment, and I found a steering wheel that I could adapt to my old Gravely garden tractor. The original wheel is still available from Gravely, but it goes for a downright silly $160. 12 bucks later I had a perfect replacement which also got installed today while I did yearly maintenance on the tractor. So, garage duties today were productive.

My aforementioned friend and I go way back, to the 6th grade. For years he had operated his own auto repair shop, but hard times as well as disability forced him to close down. I took a lot of the equipment off his hands and set it up here at Mayhem, and there's still more to get as I make room for it. Sadly, he's not going to be in the business anymore, even the relatively short walk through the junkyard wore him out. His health has never been stellar, at 6'8" and 400-something pounds, all that weight finally is taking a toll on his well-being. While he has tried to address some issues, old habits (and a healthy appetite) are hard to break, and the lack of income and job opportunities keep him from obtaining medical help that could help. He says he is not going to undergo surgery on his back that is the major issue. I am far from a glowing example of successful back surgery, and I am one of the many examples of people he knows that are no better if not worse off after surgery. Still, he could be better off losing the ample belly he's had ever since I've known him. I've suggested it many times with no success. I worry about his future.

A week ago Jeff and I roused the pooches before the crack of dawn and took a weekday trip to the beach. We wanted to get Snickles accustomed to crowds, walking, other pets and the beach. Well, we hit on all points but the last. As it turned out, Rehoboth beach no longer allows dogs on the beach or boardwalks between Memorial Day and Labor day, and we missed the opportunity. We could've taken a trip north to the state park where the dogs are welcome, but that is a pretty quiet area and we wanted immersion education for da Snick. We were disappointed, but rather than waste the two-and-a-half hour trip, we hung out downtown and walked the dogs while doing some shopping and eating. Snickles did pretty good once he got acclimated to the surroundings. He's naturally very friendly with people, and surprisingly good with kids. He barks loudly at anyone on a bicycle. Little does he know the next step in his preparation for a Big Gay Life with us will involve not only getting used to Jeff and I on bikes, but riding along as well. I got a new pannier carrier for my bike as well as a made-for-the-purpose pet carrier which attaches. Kodi has his front-mounted carrier on Jeff's bike, with mine being a full suspension bike the best I could do is a rear mount. I will soon be taking the little guy for rides in the neighborhood. If that is a success, he and the rest of us will be ready to ride through the streets of PTown together, where the dogs are certain to be rock stars. People got a kick out of Kodi riding with Jeff, a pair of pedaled pooches is certain to bring out the smiles of passerby. Not to mention hunk/babe magnets deluxe. ;-)

Well, damn

Apr. 2nd, 2013 11:56 pm
greatbear: (static)
This was supposed to be a post detailing how Jeff and I, along with his dad and nephew plus his nephew's friend I had all picked up from Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon, spent the last several days in a truly kick-ass cleanup and beautification project here in Mayhem Acres. Trees were cut, brush removed, dumptruck loads of mulch spread, debris chipped and shredded, you name it. Not only was a lot of work to be done, but time off to get good food, play video games, watch movies and go shopping and sightseeing in the downtime hours. It was something we had planned months ago to coincide with the arrival of spring as well as spring break from school. We were finally to attend to yard damage and general neglect going way back before the blizzard of 2010 that brought down big trees, spoiled landscaping and an accumulation of tasks that had been put on hold because of health issues and injuries and all manner of problems we'd been beset with. Lemme tell ya, we definitely got to a great start. We tromped outside after a hearty breakfast on Thursday morning and fell into a cooperation of work duties with an almost military-like efficiency. By that afternoon, the northeastern quadrant of Mayhem Acres was entirely different. We began Friday in much the same way, albeit a bit sore from the previous day's exertions. Cleanup began to turn to tune-up, as debris was hauled away and chipped, areas brush-cut and hit with the flamethrower to sterilize the grounds against weeds and a nice thick layer of mulch put down. We ended the day a bit early seeing we were way ahead of our informal schedule, and another load of mulch was ordered and brought in for Saturday morning's festivities. We were all collectively surprised what two well-fed teenagers, two old guys with health issues and one old man with a sense of effort even he was surprised with having could accomplish. We headed into the house that evening thinking we could get the work done early enough on Saturday that the rest of that day would likely be spent going out on the town for fun, frolic, shopping, eating and sightseeing. Everyone slept like logs. Then on Saturday morning, around 8am, the phone rang.

Jeff's parents' house was on fire.

We were out of the house and on the road in only a few minutes, and I drove at (quite) extra-legal speeds in the big truck to get back to PA as fast as we could. A trip that normally takes over two and a half hours on a good day of traffic (and nearly 4 hours Wednesday due to accidents and such) was done in slightly under two. While on the way back, Jeff and his dad were on the phones, and we were coordinating with the fire departments, calling insurance agents, notifying people and all manner of of tasks while traveling 95+mph at times. Speed was limited by traffic and the built-in speed limiter in the truck. Despite all the talking to the people on scene, we still couldn't be prepared for seeing smoke in the air 20 miles or more away and the smoldering shell of the burned out house. We had been spared from seeing the actual blaze, but I obtained the full set of photos from the fire department photographer (always carry a thumb drive!). This is what they saw when they rolled up:

The house is a total loss, and practically all the contents were incinerated. Because Jeff's parents live practically in the middle of nowhere, with the closest fire department being at least 10 miles away, the need for water to fight a fire having to be trucked in by tankers and the general time delays from witness to calling to dispatch to arrival and setup, the majority of the house was consumed before the first water hit the fire. The focus also moved to preventing fire and heat damage to Dad's truck as well as our travel trailer which was being stored in the driveway for the winter. Despite being about fifty feet from the house, both the truck and trailer sustained damage just from the radiated heat, which melted plastic parts on both vehicles as well as buckling the aluminum siding on the trailer. By the time we arrived at the scene the fires were mostly out and the firefighters were removing charred furniture and other objects from the house as they doused hotspots.

Once the danger of fire subsided, we were able to look at the damage up close. The living room and one bedroom had collapsed into the basement, and nothing the firefighters brought out from any area of the house wasn't burnt, charred, melted or coated black by acrid smoke. Surprisingly, the firemen allowed me and others into the more stable parts of the structure to search for belongings ("Watch out for that hole in the floor"). Two of the local newspapers were on site, gathering information to spin into stories fit for their readership. We began to find bits and pieces of jewelry, trinkets, objects of daily life, etc. Firefighters managed to extract the cabinet containing Dad's cabinet containing antique rifles and shotguns while fighting the blaze. The heavy wooden desk, chest and dresser, despite being badly charred, protected some treasures from incineration. A tightly closed jewelry box held a few bits of his mom's necklaces and such but the smoke managed to get inside even there. As the day wore on and the firefighters left, I kept digging for more. I did manage to find a box containing wills, deeds and other important documents that were in practically perfect condition despite the nasty smell. Jeff, Dad, Jeff's brother-in-law and sister also managed to pluck more items from the wreckage, easing the feeling of total loss and giving a bit of hope to Dad, still shocked at all that happened that day.

The firefighters and subsequent investigating personnel were unable to pin down a cause of the fire. Even myself, having had a bit of fire prevention, fighting and investigation training through work in the past couldn't make sense of the wreckage. The house was a double-wide mobile home on a block foundation basement and such structures always burn quickly with intense heat. The roof was two layers of metal which acted as a "lid" keeping the fire from burning through the roof and ventilating the rest of the rooms, instead bottling the flames up and making them spread from end-to end in no time. There wasn't anything left of the entire structure to determine where it had started. "Unknown origin."

I am always amazed at how people manage to operate during times of stress despite not having prior experience in it. We managed to call in all the utilities to have them turned off. Insurance companies were called in, More family and friends were notified. We cooperated in gathering retrieved belongings together and made lists of contents of each room as we remembered. Fire personnel, police, and many other people on scene in a professional capacity were helpful and courteous. But I was not prepared for the outpouring of help, kind words and assistance that was coming throughout the day from friends, neighbors and acquaintances. The Amish of the area, with whom Dad has a tight relationship due to his "job" acting as transportation, and whom always had a lot of respect from myself, were ready to step in and begin the cleanup and rebuilding that very same day. While a process of assessment has to be done by the insurance companies, this should be done in the next day or two and by Saturday, the wreckage should be packed into big roll-off dumpsters. The agents and specialists from Erie Insurance were on site Sunday morning, and in a couple hours time not only assuaged Dad's fears and concerns, but had him pointed in a direction of reestablishing a home and life with a check for immediate accommodation, clothing and food. Enough money should be on hand soon to pay the outstanding loan (this is done automatically and foremost) put up a new building and furnish with all the basic items needed. I'm sure that between all the amazing offers of help and assistance coming from individuals, groups and churches, Dad should be able to resume a somewhat normal life in several months' time.

It should be noted that Jeff's mom is currently in a nursing home. While this is sadly due to the ongoing care for Alzheimer's, and she is no longer in the frame of mind to comprehend what had happened, she was away and safe from the ordeal. The biggest silver lining in this is the fact that we had Dad safe with us at the time. The obviously fast and unpredictable fire could have caused a lot more damage to more than a replaceable house.

More to come as I can manage...
greatbear: (arethahat)
Okay, trying to change the course of late winter weather here at Mayhem Acres according to Groundhog Rules literally has it colder with accumulating snow in the front yard, and warmer melting snow in the back. The front yard faces south, making the little microclimate anomaly that much more interesting. Hey, I'm trying. lol

Thanks to everyone who brought me happy birthday wishes. It made my day. It does help the aging process be a bit of fun. I did a lot of sleeping yesterday (and this morning) while letting the painkillers deal with the latest injuries, aches and pains. Today is all about having TV sets on showing everything football related. Not to mention a lot of cool commercials. I can take a break from my somewhat anti-commercial stance while the ad industry actually tries to show their really creative sides, rather than the constant race to the bottom.

Many years ago, a German family down the road a bit were good friends with Mom and I. They were delightfully old-school in a lot of the things they did, as far as dinners, companionship and personal touches. One of the things me and Mom delighted in was the homemade cards they would bring (rather than mail) to us on the special days like Christmas and birthdays, often accompanied by incredible baked goods still warm from the oven. We were saddened when they moved away, but Mom had kept in touch. Those cards would still come to her in the mail. I had missed that sort of personal touch as the years alone moved along. That was until a year, and a day ago. Unbeknownst to him, LJ's delightful [livejournal.com profile] designerotter/Joe has kept that tradition alive, not just for me, but also to those whom are fortunate to have him in their circle of friends. He draws uniquely personal and contextual cards based on the life and interests of his recipients. Not only does this act showcase his incredible talent, more to the point it demonstrates his involving himself in the lives and entries of his LJ friends, something even more meaningful. He makes and posts dozens of whimsical cards each year, and brings smiles and happiness to everyone who sets their eyes on them. Proof positive that even online-only friendships are just as valid as long-term next-door neighbor friendships. Truly an inspiration for me, and, given my difficulty in even making stick figure drawings, a real art form.

How can that not make your day?

Thank you, Joe, and everyone else who sent well wishes. I am humbled.

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.


Nov. 22nd, 2012 01:05 pm
greatbear: (old graybeard)
Despite some setbacks recently, I still have a lot to be thankful for. Not the least of which is a thriving LJ family. :)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Feb. 14th, 2012 08:04 pm
greatbear: (oh squee indeed)
So, today is Valentine's Day. The day has meant something quite different for me over the years, compared to the traditional meaning that it has for the majority of people. In the case of the latter, most love, loathe or pretty much ignore the holiday. As is typical with "Hallmark Holidays", as they are derisively known, it is when the prices for flowers and chocolates rise to meet the inevitable demand. However, like so many things in life, it is the thought behind the gestures that has the meaning. For me, it was always a day to do something nice for my Mom. Even though her birthday was four days ago, the day had its significance because "Valentine" is my mother's first name. It is pronounced "Valentina", but during her emigration from the Soviet Union during WWII, she had misspelled her name on various documents. Rather than change it to the more common spelling, she kept it as is. It was unique in comparison to so many other names. As a kid, I always said it was "her day" and went out of my way to make it nice for her. These days I think people understand why, like on the day of her birthday, I feel downtrodden and sad, yet another reminder of loss. It's not all bad, though, as I have many fond memories going back four-and-a-half decades.

So, this morning started early, but I was mostly preoccupied in my thoughts and memories. A good friend of mine is currently closing down his auto repair business due to various economic reasons, so I am helping him move his tools, machinery and such from the building to his home, where it will stay until he finds new digs and a place to hang his shingle for business, hopefully with business partners that know how to better run an auto repair business other than into the ground.

Before I left to go help out, I had noticed the latest Google "doodle" on the home page. As much as I often distrust Google as a huge monolithic enterprise bent of taking over the internets, these little bits of date-specific artwork often make my day. Today was definitely one of those times:

This little piece of cuteness really "gets it." Watch carefully at the end for the funny and thought provoking other reasons why this works so well. I had forgotten all about what I searched for, the little distraction made my day as well as choked me up a bit.

I then go and help out my buddy, moving tools, stock and machinery that was far heavier than I should have attempted. I ended up with some of it as my own, the rest taken to his now stacked-to-the-rafters suburban garage. He is having the same, if not worse problems with his back as well as other health issues, where just trying to function normally is oftentimes beset with excruciating pain. The thing that really got me, though, is the look of abject defeat in his expression. A beaten man, the garage and home is also under a dark cloud of foreclosure. I wish I could do more to help. I can't help but feel how unfair life can be, and my faith in humanity turns into a cold stone of contempt for those who have made this poor guy's life so difficult (it's a long, convoluted story I won't delve in to here, mainly out of respect of privacy).

I collect my share of the pickings along with my now overworked body and come home, smelling of stale racing gas and other garage odors. Jeff is home, of course. I start to go off to the bathroom to clean up and wash the stink off, and I notice the beautiful bouquet of roses, the chocolates, and the card. Once again my hardened heart cracks, I become a gushing sop, I go back to Jeff, give him a nice long hug, and appreciate the reminder that I do indeed have someone still in my life who cares a lot for me. Outside of this house, those who do are few and far between, making them that more precious to me. I'm including those of you here on LJ that have shown me kindness and love through the years. So, today might be a dubious holiday for some, but it still has a special meaning to me, even if it's not like it had started out all those years ago.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.
greatbear: (Default)
I have lost just about all faith in LJ. Because of the unfortunate circumstances that made LJ a historically significant primary blogging platform for Russians and the fact that anyone from the region that happens to post something critical of the Russian government or political groups causes those parties to unleash a tsunami of DDoS attacks making the platform completely inaccessible, well, let's just say that a rusted out Honda Civic with a blown head gasket and a dead battery is more useful. Were it not for the really cool people remaining in my circle of LJ peeps, I would have pulled the plug (permanently) a long time ago. However, the viability of this thing has become so poor that I am finally going to move on to other pastures, but I won't (as of yet) leave entirely. I do have a Dreamwidth account, as well as one on Blogger, both of which are idle at the moment. Perhaps I will hang my shingle there, if I decide that "blogging" (whatever the term means these days) remains something something I still want to participate in. Granted, I am beyond frustrated now with the bullshit that crops up and I might eventually change my mind (again). I should actually be patient with the course of events that affect the service because it has huge political and free speech/information ramifications, but I am sick of being collateral damage. Oh well. For now, I am going to kick this thing in the corner and weather the storm while I take on other meaningful tasks.

Lest many of you miss my social intercourse and presence, I will attempt to post something truly interactive in the meantime. If you manage to get to this post, use this entry as a reminder of good times. Try not to leave fingerprints on your screen.

greatbear: (Default)
Despite the last couple days of mid-90s heat, I wanted to cut the grass, finishing up what I started the other day. Well, the tractor was balking at that because of a bad electrical connection. Me being me, well, I decided to rewire the better part of the thing. I replaced a couple switches, and updated the electrical system to use modern blade type fuses in a centralized block rather than a bunch of random fuse holders and glass fuses. This was not to be finished before I had to move my project inside the garage amid the rumble of thunder and EAS warnings on the radio. So, my hot weather project is done, and the old beast works better than new. And the grass is soaked and will have to wait.

Bob Mould showed up on the Scruff grid, I guess there's a Blowoff in town for DC Pride. While these bear-heavy dance events had their genesis many years ago almost right in my back yard, it was not until last summer in P-Town that Jeff and I finally went to one. We had a blast, despite my inability to stand without extreme pain. I guess watching Jeff having so much needed fun was enough for me. We plan on doing it again this year. And just maybe I will enjoy it more as well.

Speaking of Jeff, the poor man is being overworked like never before, and it's due to some rather sad circumstances. His general manager is out until further notice because his mother has leukemia, and does not have much time left. She is leaving the hospital and coming home, hospice care has been set up, and the waiting begins. These are the folks who had us over in April for the Passover Seder. His boss' mom is a wonderful person, quick witted and quite progressive for her years. Kinda like my mom was. Unfortunately, things have taken a rather quick turn for the worse. I just hope she won't endure severe pain.

My health has been stalled a bit on the upswing, I get a nagging cough at night when I am trying to sleep, the remnants of the sore throat I had a bit over a week ago. Just once I would like to fall into bed at night and get a good night's rest without some part of my body wanting to keep me awake in some fashion. It's hell getting old, but I guess it could be worse.

Finally, in a rather excellent nod to Les Paul's 96th birthday, the folks at Google have one of their awesome "Doodles" on their homepage for the occasion. Not only cool in that you can "play" this one, but you can actually record and save your "jams" as well. Go check it out.
greatbear: (Default)
A quick update and some words. First off, and most importantly, Jeff and I went to his doc this afternoon for the results of the biopsy performed on his thyroid a a couple weeks ago. The growths are benign. This was a huge parting of dark clouds for us. Still needing to be addressed is the cause of and the symptoms (tiredness and lethargy primarily) from these growths. This will take place in the near future. Thankfully there is no push for surgery and treatments the worst of the news would have brought upon him. So, I can't yell "YAY!" loud enough or from too high of a mountaintop as an expression of relief and joy.

Now I can get on with my own health issues. These have gotten me quite bummed, but I will work it out.

And here's the part when I stand humbled, with hat in hand. In my post from a while back I lamented my dissatisfaction and disappointment in regards to "social media" and its varied and uncertain value to me at times. Well, in the posts since, I was (once again) reminded of the value of the phenomenon. While I still feel that it often exacerbates the disconnect I feel between friends because of the inevitable distances involved, there is no denying the connections offered. There are real people, with true concerns and even love at the other end of the posts, comments and messages. Yeah, I get frustrated that people I know I'd have an awesome time being around are hundreds or thousands (or even just a few) of miles away. So, I will try harder to measure the real folks with real words coming from the glow of my screen against the occasional disappointment I feel because they are not in the same room. I will also endeavor to rectify the latter as much as possible with more travel, trips and invitations. I might have been rather quiet here as far as followup replies to comments and such, but rest assured your words have a definite effect. And I loves yas all for it.

So, it's with a bit of extra sunshine that the plans we've been making for travel and fun despite what has been unfolding for the past few months. We've got tix to see Elton John this weekend, Cirque du Soleil's Totem in a couple months, four trips to Hillside and an extended trip to PTown. And we'll do more I'm sure. And I hope to make real more of the virtual connections I have.

I humbly thank each and every one who have left words of concern and encouragement. You've done more for me than you know. And, well, more than *I* know at times.

greatbear: (blackness)
(Warning, lots of personal meanderings ahead.)

Well, I guess it has come down to this. At first I thought it was just a passing feeling. I tried to work around it, doing what I could to make a presence here and on the very few other social media sites I still use. Granted, the posts are of little substance, videos and failed memes, etc, but at least it was an effort. But I've come to the conclusion that my use of various "social media" outlets has left me more hollow and wanting than if I dispensed with the things entirely.

I realize there are many of you reading this that don't understand what I am feeling. I see a lot of people who absolutely rock their various online self-media outlets. Lots of dialog, on- and off-line gatherings and get-togethers, those sort of things. In my case, I only feel the "illusion" of a robust circle of friends. If I don't initiate a conversation, or join one already happening in another venue (in the case of LJ, this means posting something here or making a comments in someone else's entry), nothing will happen. No "hey, what's up" or other outside initiator will happen. Often if I send a message to someone I might not get a response, or the conversation will cease if I don't make the last entry into it. I generally chalk it up to folks' increasingly busy lives. But when the results have approached 100%, I tend to get the message, even if I am slow to realize.

I've long realized that my personality is not everyone's slice of cherry pie. But as I've found myself going through a lot of terrible things in my life with no one beside me to speak of save for maybe Jeff, I've come to some pretty indelible conclusions. The one that pertains to LJ, and by extension, any other online interpersonal sites like Facebook, etc., is do I continue to pin an increasingly false hope of actual friendship and support based in a "virtual" world? What I mean to say is it seems that doing so has only increased to disconnect and made me realized how little I have in the way of close friendships and camaraderie. Having friends halfway across the globe online is well and good in itself, but in reality it's nothing more than a circle of pen-pals. Human beings thrive on interpersonal contact, something that is sorely lacking in my life in not only recent years, but throughout my entire life. I grew up in an isolated little community where I had no local friends. People that I could call "friends" lived at minimum a few miles away. This involved a car trip or a time-consuming (and dangerous) bike ride through rural roads to get together. As time rolled on, this situation has not changed. I still live in a mostly rural-suburban setting with no neighborhood friends. The few people I counted as friends growing up are the same ones I associate with now on a somewhat regular basis, with the incidental traveling conundrum still in effect.

Throughout all of this the one aspect what bugs me the most is the near perfect record I have with meeting people in person that I have gotten to know via previous online interaction who I apparently have a good time with together, but once we've gone back to our own respective corners of the world, it rarely if ever recurs, Also in many cases the online tête-à-tête diminishes if not disappears entirely. I might not always be the sharpest crayon in the box, but for the life of me I can't figure this one out. Am I the victim of differing expectations? Do I smell bad? Did I not pick up the tip for dinner? I'm totally dumbfounded. When it happens now and then, I can chalk it up to various things that make humans incompatible with one another for whatever reason. When it occurs with nearly the same regularity as a sunset I don't know what to do. Suffice it to say, it does hurt, and I no longer want to expose myself to those kinds of situations.

Where does this leave me now? Do I keep being the one that has to initiate and carry conversations? Do I expend the most effort in trying to buoy a budding personal friendship? Do I send out repeated status queries to everyone involved to basically ask "are we still friends?" I'm no longer going to subject myself to unreturned messages on social sites and apps, no-shows to party and meeting invitations or similar. And, sad to say, I wont expect much more out of LJ other than entertainment, news and mild comment interplay. Pinning my hopes that "social media" leads to being more "social" has only reinforced my belief that the opposite is in fact what is true. It brings well-intentioned people together through often vast distances, raising hopes in people like me that there are indeed people out there that I share lots of interests and whatnot with, but in the end those vast distances remain. And in most cases when those distances were breached, the hope of lasting friendship gets quashed for whatever reason I have yet to figure out.

LJ has become a nearly unusable morass of failed entry and comment postings, delayed or nonexistent comment notifications and for some people a disgusting display of advertising and spam. The latter is not always apparent to LJ users with paid accounts, but the basic stuff is a mess, with all users being subject to all kinds of scripts and mechanisms designed to make money and track user movements and habits. The failure of the various scripts end up blocking the actual content, and people stumbling upon our journals from outside are often forced to watch an ad or video before they can even get to actual entries. I did not originally sign up to be subjected to such bullshit, and I've had enough. What little meaningful contact I do have here is interrupted by what amounts to the Russian Mafia. I'm done with it.
greatbear: (walken)
So, I can't sleep, as usual. Peering outside (not peeking, doing so seems to result in a flurry of BASIC commands =D) I see it snowing it's ass off. Not good. The area was not supposed to see this until later in the day. I warn Jeff to be prepared on his way to work. He calls me upon arriving there and said all the roads are a mess despite the~2 inches or so on the roads. I think the storm caught the road crews sleeping. Anyhoo, I look outside now and the snow has become a freezing rain. Just as predicted by the weather folk, except early. It's supposed to become snow again later today. The result of all this is a slushy lasagna of difficult-to-remove mess everywhere, and two guys not able to deal with it very effectively. If the snowblower can handle it, I'm set. I checked it out last night, it started on the first yank.

Normally, I like snow and winter in general. Recently, though, with my injuries and such, plus Jeff's health issues, I'm starting to give Old Man Winter the stink eye more often than not. At least I don't have to go anywhere today, having run my errands two days prior. Jeff has not only to drive back from work, but attend his cardiac rehab session if it's not (most likely) canceled. I have my doc appointment tomorrow morning, I hope everything is dealt with as far as road clearing 'n' such.

In other news, it's looking like nearly everything in the driveway is needing new batteries. The new truck is showing signs of battery weakness, this is common in the diesel models from what I've gathered, and the fact that it takes two batteries is a smack in the wallet. The Mini Cooper ate it's third battery again, this makes not one, but two Optima deep cycle batteries that decided to take a crap. I hope it can be warranteed. No more Optimas for me. The Stratus was dead the other day after not driving it for about a week, I am not sure if it's Optima battery is toast or there is a parasitic draw killing it. The Strat batt took a charge and came out happy. The one in the Mini is a goner. I took the original battery out of the Stratus after 8+ years simply because a battery that old is living on borrowed time. Little did I know it would outlive about a half dozen batteries in the three years since I swapped it out. I just installed a new battery in Jeff's ride several weeks ago. It never ends. Vehicle maintenance, house repairs and now a huge medical bill, and me no worky and no pay. My poor savings accounts hate me.

Why no posts of a more personal nature in a long while? It's not that I don't have a lot going on, relatively speaking. I just seem to have lost the desire to talk about stuff online. Perhaps I'll be more in the sharing mood in the future, if I don't abandon personal posting altogether. I'm just not feeling it any longer. It's "social media overload" for me, or maybe more of a pushback. I have no idea who reads these things ♠ (the cat managed to walk across my keyboard just now and made that spade sign, I decided to share it) beyond those on my f-list, and some days I feel like some crazy dude mumbling loudly on a subway platform. I'm finding myself reverting to my old, quiet self in the past several years. Rest assured I value my friendships and like to chitchat, but I'm a wallflower by nature, and a wilting one at that.
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The last few days have been rather productive given the circumstances I guess. I spent a good amount of New Year's Day and the day after in a buddy's garage (call it Mayhem South) working of Jeff's truck doing some tasks I put off due to both our physical conditions. I had replaced the leaky intake manifold gaskets AGAIN (the 4.3l Vortec engine the truck has is prone to water leaks from the intake manifold, it's a design flaw in the gaskets and the aftermarket redesigned versions were completely out of stock when I first did the repair) as well as a few other tasks. As it turns out, not only do I have to take it slow and easy attempting work while hunched over under a hod these days, my long-time buddy had just been beset by the same sciatic nerve pain that I had been dealing with and ultimately became major surgery to fix. This made a few hour job span two days because of this as well as wanting to spend more time at our respective homes for the weekend. I drove Jeff's now nicely-performing truck home, then noticed in the last mile or so the heat started to disappear and the temp gauge rising. Not good, but I figured there still might be air in the coolant cavitating the water pump or something. Coming home I added more than a gallon of extra coolant. NOT GOOD. No leak to be found in the work area, and nothing going inside the engine. Putting the pressure tester on the engine I discovered a huge leak at the water pump. Cthulhu dammit. I installed this water pump early last year and had fits with the included gaskets. Apparently the alternate ones I installed were no better, one just blew out, apparently from the engine's regained ability to build up proper cooling system pressure. Oh well, that project will be tackled in a few minutes. A couple hours to replace a fifty cent part. Two, actually.

Jeff is back at work since Monday, and doing okay so far. Despite the organization's reworking of his duties to be in an office mostly solo doing less-stressful work, he still came home very tired the last couple days. I hope he does not overstress things while there. Try as I might, I hope his life at home is not such a bother. We both have doctor's appointments on Thursday for our respective ills.

I had put some of the house upgrades on hold for the time being. The very cold and windy weather we were saddled with over the past several weeks was not conducive to cutting two large, 2ft by 6ft holes in my living room ceiling (Ceiling Bear can see Russia from here!) to finish off the skylights only to have frigid air from the attic howling into the house until I get the framing and drywall into place. No fun there. No hurry there, I will do this in the spring when I can also do some painting and other upgrades/repairs as well. Since I have to reframe and replace two exterior doors, I'd prefer there to be warmer weather for exposing the indoors for hours at a time. in the meantime, I am doing small stuff like installing and upgrading the outside fixtures to LED versions. I also have a lot of work to do on other vehicles in the Fleet of Mayhem. The Stratus needs an oil change, new shocks and struts, new plugs and wires and timing belt, the old truck needs a ton of work, and the new truck gets minor attention. Not enough "me" to go around.

My garage buddy showed me his MRI pix. I told him to get ready for the same sort of surgery I had in all likelihood. This is going to be rough on him, as he's the sole breadwinner in the family who runs his own business, and is having mortgage problems as well. I hope he gets through his ordeal a lot faster than I did.

I found this astonishing video via Bearbook. I always found that radio personalities never look like what you imagine from their voices. Also, knowing a few people in the radio biz, I've come up with a not-exactly-kind term of "radio face" to describe people who would not generally be considered anywhere near the vicinity of gorgeous. Here's a case where the face and the voice do not match, yet make for a very uplifting story:

I am always amazed when someone's voice does not "fit in" with their personality or other perceived traits. Look at Susan Boyle, for example, who waddled onto the Britain's Got Talent stage to dismissive words from the judges, only to totally floor them and win not only the audience's hearts, but those of entire countries. It seems Ted's rather unique request for money has paid off too. Expand the comments on the YouTube page for more info. He has the perfect face, and the perfect voice, for radio. I wish him well in his turnaround of life.


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December 2016



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