greatbear: (gay men like rush too)
I know it's been a while since I posted anything, By request, I am reposting this from Facebook.


This weekend was Jeff's birthday weekend. I was hoping for decent weather among all the things we had planned. The weather did not disappoint, and the weekend, which included Friday afternoon, really couldn't have been better. We made a last-minute decision to go and watch the Orioles play. Unlike other time when we purchased tix beforehand, we took a shot to see what we could find at the ticket booth at the stadium. I splurged a bit and got us club level seating. The O's squeaked in a win at the last possible moment at the bottom of the 9th and everyone went home happy. We got an early start on Saturday, heading off to Home Depot for more garden supplies, bits to make one more grow frame and some other goodies. After a bit of a break, we headed down to Bristow, VA to see Rush on the R40 tour. 40 years! I was there nearly at the beginning too.

Seeing Rush is an experience unlike any other rock band I know of, and that experience begins well before getting close to the venue. Checking into the hotel 4 or so miles from the venue had people in the lobby in Rush clothing and swag. The TGIFriday's where we got our late lunch/early dinner had I would say 3/4 of the clientele going to the show. But, unlike any other fanbase, there were old greybeards like us, young couples, teens, old folks, grandparents, great-grandparents, you name it. A couple at the restaurant had two young boys, the oldest maybe six. They had Rush shirts on. The crowd entering the venue looked more like what you'd see heading into Disney World. My boys put on an amazing show, as always. We stayed overnight rather than taking a bleary-eyed trip home nearly at midnight. It was a good decision, we picked up late night grub at Wendy's to take back to the room. I slept mostly like a rock for a change.

We headed out early, and integrated our trip home with our weekly grocery grab. A cool bonus was getting there early, at the time when the Burtonsville cruise was in full spring. This little local event, held every Sunday in the spring and summer has grown quite a bit. We walked among the varied cars, trucks and rides. Jeff got his first glimpse of the Slingshot three-wheeler and immediately fell in full lust with it. After snapping lots of phone pics on top of the dozens from last night's show, we got our goodies for the week and headed home to a pair of very appreciative pooches. we took it easy for a change, then had steaks on the grill, big baked potatoes, veggies and an ice cream cake I picked up while Jeff was cooking dinner.

This was the most walking and activity I have had since last September, when my spine gave out again and left me immobile for the entire winter. I managed better than I expected, but dealt with a lot of pain due mostly to having to (try to) stand for the entire performance. I've got the walking part down pretty good. I can even do some not-so-light work if I am able to take numerous breaks. But the thing that is death to me still is standing motionless for more than a few minutes. I was nearly delirious from pain after the show, but I was too blown away from the concert to worry too much. Here's where the overnight stay helped a lot as well.

This was a great weekend, one not so full of work for a change, and one that we had deserved for the longest time.
greatbear: (me and mom)
I know not everyone has the best of relationships with their mothers, I was fortunate enough to have the greatest mom ever, in so many words. It's pushing nine years since I lost her to cancer, and I still get upset at times, as though it just happened. I miss her so much.

I was fortunate enough fifteen years ago to be accepted into Jeff's family, with his mom and dad treating me like one of their own from the get-go. Jeff and I make it a point to head north and visit for both Mother's and Father's Days. Last year, in the legal sense, Jeff's family became mine when we got married (here's another take on "for better and for worse" being that some of the extended family are, to say it nicely, not easy to live with). Mother's Day is a somber sort of affair, since she's now deep in the grip of Alzheimer's disease and is pretty much off in her own tiny world. Every now and then we will be treated to a little ray of light from that tiny world.

I've been fortunate enough to have two moms, but having lost one and now having one so far out of reach, this day gets harder and harder to take.
greatbear: (aerial me)
That famous holiday, a favorite for the florists, chocolatiers, restaurants, candy makers, wineries, Hallmark and others, has come and gone. I hope everyone was able to make the best of it, and didn't fall into the "Singles Awareness Day" negativity. Valentine's Day can be whatever you make it. A coworker from years ago would get gag chocolates from another friend who worked at the company. It was a highlight of his day.

This week had been a downer for me, as it happened every year. My Mom's name was Valentine, and being that her birthday is four days prior, we used it as an extra day for something nice. Mom would say that my birthday fell on a holiday, so she was in her right to claim the next closest for hers, and none other would be more appropriate. Yeah, it was in the realm of silliness, but it was our little bit of fun. About two weeks apart, we had out own personalized days, mine thanks to that weather prognosticating critter from Pennsylvania, of course.

For whatever reason(s), the last week or so has been rougher than usual on me. Another winter in a row filled with constant pain and the side effects of narcotics play a part, so does the colder-than-usual weather, feelings of uselessness for greater than in the past, getting one more year older, I could go on. I've mostly salvaged the days for the better, and today seemed to be no different. Jeff had been asked to be a personal chef for some friends of mine. It seems he and his partner have decided to change up some things in their lives, and coupling that with buying some sort of business, he asked Jeff to take a shot at helping them entertain in a little bit more formal fashion. Tomorrow is the gig, a sort of test run for them as well as Jeff. We went to Wegman's today to pick up the fresh ingredients for the meal as well as our own weekly supplies. Well, wasn't the store a total mob scene, with the typical batches of self-absorbed Columbia patrons that normally tend to block aisles and snarl traffic with their carts and clustering, except at least three if not more the usual number of them. We didn't get into the store for more than two minutes before declaring it to be an absolute disaster, with Jeff's already busy mind planning the event and being more easily frustrated as a result, I put the single loaf of bread I managed to pick up on entering the store back on the rack and we both went back home. I went for a nap, and apparently Jeff did the same in order to cool off. After a while he went to our local supermarket instead, with me staying behind this time. I said we should just take care of this gig tomorrow and deal with our bit some other day. I conked out again while he made his run. Just as well we put off our grocery run, as our mostly empty fridge became filled with food for the party. Because of the setback, we ended up changing our dinner plans. We had picked up a really nice rack of lamb and other stuff to have for our VDay dinner. Because Jeff had to do prep for tomorrow, and I didn't want to overburden him with even more kitchen mayhem, I made us dinner for the night. My appetite has been shot for months now, and rather than attempting to enjoy an involved meal after a day of stress (and pain for me) we had a nice, relaxing meal of sandwiches and soup and chips and samples of tomorrow's big dinner. And you know what? For that moment, it was just as good as that lamb dinner would've been. If all goes well, we will have our postponed dinner in the early evening on Monday.

I ended up being more than a bit on the cranky side today, anyway. I know, what else is new. I slept worse than usual the night before, with the weather alert radio going off four times in the middle of the night, warning of high winds and extreme windchill from the nasty weather system currently beating up the northeast. During most of the day, the weather was very calm, and a late afternoon snow had begun once Jeff returned from the store. So much for all the noise that kept me up the previous night. Jeff couldn't get a couple items while out, the store was out. So I did the deed going to another grocer nearby. There was already a couple fluffy inches of snow everywhere, and during the short time I was out, perhaps 15 minutes or so, the snow had erased all the signs of me leaving the house. The footprints, the dry area where the truck had been, the tracks on the street were completely gone. I had recently bought a little cordless snowblower to keep the walkways and deck clean, and I've been jonesing to use it since. Knowing how my actions here at home can affect statewide weather patterns, buying this snowblower as well as getting the big monster blower all set for use at a moment's notice meant there was a good chance our area would remain snow-free. Sure enough, though it amounted to maybe three inches of accumulation before stopping, the long-promised wind had finally shown up as well, and unless there's going to be some drifting, my maiden voyage of the new toy snowblower might end up being a disappointment. I love how technology is blasting ahead in so many ways. For years, I used an electric snowblower to keep the decks clean. I used to shovel the snow from the deck, and I had engineered in a means to make this task a bit easier. The railings have a six inch space between them and the deck floor. All that is needed is to push the snow off the edge rather than heaving it over the top. I hadn't considered what would happen to the snow once pushed off the deck. Being a story in the air, and with bushes and shrubs below, the snow would crash onto the plants and break them. So, I had gotten a little electric blower to fling the snow well beyond the area of the plants, with the bonus of giving Mom something very easy to use as well. A couple years ago, though, I inadvertently ran over a stray bungee cord hidden in the snow, and it wrapped around the spinning axle and blade. The resulting friction melted the plastic housing and the bearing mount. In my attempts to cut the tangled rubber with a utility knife and slicing open three fingers quite badly, the damaged blower has been sitting in the basement since, waiting for me to fix it. Last year became the time that cordless, battery operated outdoor tools such as lawnmowers, edgers, trimmers and even chainsaws and snowblowers had finally matched the power of corded electric and even some gas engine powered equivalents. I decided replacing the old corded blower with this new cordless thing would be even easier for me to use than the old one. It's lighter, I don't have to bend over and pick up the icy cord, and it's even more maneuverable. I really, really detest not being able to do even a fraction of the tasks I would think nothing of. I've been spending a lot of money on effort-reducing things to help me along. And I am that fucking stubborn to want, nay, need to continue doing some stuff on my own. I mean, I already am burdening Jeff with a lot of things. And this is a man that suffered a heart attack not long ago. I have to pull as much of my own weight as I can, no matter any consequences. And I absolutely can't change that.

Since I'm in the social media space here, I can talk about things I can change. I'll be cleaning up my LJ presence, streamlining it some, perhaps freshening things a bit. I paid for it, so I might as well use it. This will remain my primary point of presence on the net. I already ditched a lot o other things, and those remaining, like Facebook, will most likely only have links to here rather than any substantial posts over there. I have gone on a lot about how I don't like FB and how it handles information. Sadly, most, if not all of the people I knew from LJ have migrated over there, and seem to have lessened their once detailed posting for lighter fare. The remaining few that have continued their long-form posting style have ended up being boxed in by the format of other social media, and more often than not, I never see these posts because Facebook decides to let me see what they think is important, and not what I want to see. A good many if not all of my posts are not seen by anyone there at all, once again due to how the site works and not including my stuff in what others might want to read. Of course, I can pay the fucker(berg) to put my posts in the streams of friends. Nah, never going to do that. If people really care, they'll come looking.

Tonight the wind is howling outside, gusts so far at least 30mph. And it is only 8 degrees F as I write this. However, we are reaping some of the benefits of my earlier work last year. The drafty front door is gone, the cold air that used to come in through the recessed lighting in the kitchen is gone too. These were the most major air infiltration points upstairs, and there is a big difference in comfort levels as well as energy usage. As I write I am also babysitting the upstairs woodstove, keeping it filled with wood and making it undeniably cozy. When the wind blasts outside like it does, it blows across the chimney and creates a vacuum. This "turbocharges" the draft through the stove and makes the fire burn very hot. The stove has a catalytic converter, similar to the ones in cars. This captures and burns unburned smoke and gasses from the wood fire, and adds to the heat. The studio here is a balmy 80 degrees. Snickles, who never misses a chance to sleep under the covers with us, is instead parked in front of the stove hearth. A warm dog in winter is a content dog, that's for sure. Since having these damn spine troubles, my legs absolutely can't take the cold anymore. I park a little space heater under the desk to keep them warm, also so I can keep the rest of the house cooler. I don't need it now. This was also planned way back when I was designing and building the house. A woodstove was intended as a form of backup heat and as an occasional thing to use, like a fireplace. It didn't take long to find out the stove is much more enjoyable in the winter than previously thought. And on a night like this, it's one of the few things that make me feel secure and happy in a time where I feel less of these things.

Anyhow, I've rambled on enough for one night. I hope everyone has some way of escaping the cold if it's currently causing grief. And I hope you had a good Valentine's Day. Even if the highlight was only sandwiches.

ETA: I almost forgot to include this lovely little ad for the holiday. It's from a Spanish department store chain called El Corte Ingles (colloquially: The Tailor's Cut) As such, it's in Spanish, but you don't need to speak the language to tell what's going on. Click the "CC" button on the bottom right of the frame to turn on English subtitles) If you click the YouTube button on the bottom right of the frame, it will take you to YouTube itself, where you can also see it closed captioned. Do what I initially did. Watch it in Spanish, and see if you got the gist of the story. My Spanish is rustier than the Titanic, and I got pretty close. Love knows no language barriers anyway. The guys are adorable, with an awkward, dorky charm that's nearly squee-worthy.

greatbear: (forearms)
I guess it is that time once again. Another year drawing to a close, taking me with it to places unknown. I have to say that this year has been one of my best, despite having a great deal of medical issues. The highlight, of course, was getting married. I keep replaying snippets in my head of that wonderful day. So much love, happiness and warm feelings condensed into a single day that the effects keep lingering. I got to meet people I haven't seen in way too many years, and yet we picked up right where we left off. There was so much worry about making sure everything was right, that all melted away on that lovely Saturday in late June. As quick as it all came together, it faded away, though, yet left us both giddy and excited and, well, "different." Hard to describe, but it's a real feeling.

We had already planned our vacation to PTown last year, and we used that as our honeymoon of sorts. We had our usual good time, and the two of us felt refreshed in the way a proper vacation should, with maybe a bit extra. We had a lot of momentum and enthusiasm. Life felt worth living.

As some of you who read this on a regular basis, you know I began the year with health-related issues centering on my deteriorating back, with the year before leaving me in the worst condition yet. I metered my abilities and worked toward the big wedding day as best I could, and I did have a few setbacks. Once the ball was rolling, though, we busted ass. Mayhem Acres, rather neglected over the past few years because of my problems, became a beautiful garden once again, one that would've made my Mom proud. People who didn't attend the wedding who saw photos would wonder which park or resort we had used for our big day, and were astonished when we'd say it's our home. Those were words which made me smile every time. I've worked hard over the years, building this place from an overgrown vacant lot into a home where we can do whatever we want. Both of us vowed to be a lot more social/sociable and share in our good fortunes more often, inviting friends over for parties and other activities, as long as my health kept up.

I began making up for lost time by doing needed upgrades on the house, with a number of renovations, from a new front door and entryway, to new kitchen lighting, home automation, enterprise-grade networking, security and alarm systems and a number of other bit meant for making life easier and more comfortable in the future. Jeff decided it was time for a new car, and he got himself a nice Subaru Forester with all the goodies. This has been perfect for extended trips needing a lot of room as well as good gas mileage. I indulged my geeky kid side with a quadrotor drone and some other toys because I deserved it. Life was pretty damn good.

As that old saying goes, everything good must come to an end. Or, in my life these days, I can only get so far before my degenerative disc disease rears its ugly head once again and shuts me down in my tracks. In September, much like last year, I went from flying high to once again hunched over in lots of pain, unable to move without a cane, and in need of nasty painkillers to survive. I began the usual easy treatments with no success, then had the corticosteroid injections in my back before the holidays. This left me slightly better off, but still unable to get far without the cane, and with continuing atrophy in my legs making me weaker with every passing week. I guess I am used to this, I lived each day in a slow fog, with few accomplishments. It was also looking like I just might make it though the holidays without getting my usual cold/bug/flu/seasonal malady, but right before Xmas the two of us got a nasty lower GI bug, with mine being outright nasty. We made it past the worst of it by Christmas day, but our original dinner plans of a nice ham and trimmings with other goodies gave way to frozen French bread pizzas, potato chips and holiday cookies for dessert. Christmas day itself was almost surreal for me, after waking up I meandered into the living room and stayed there the entire day. We exchanged gifts we said we didn't want but we got anyway, we managed our little dinner after a week of gastrointestinal apocalypse, and the day closed with the ISS making an appearance in the night sky above the house. I stood outside, watching the flyover for the first time, smiling and misty-eyed, waving at the little dot fading over the horizon as it helped carry my hopes and dreams given to me as a kid with my love of science at a very early age.

Last night we wondered about what to eat, and I told Jeff I was in the mood for lasagna, though we had nothing of the sort, nor the wherewithal to make it after Jeff's long day at work, so we decided to get take-away from our local favorite Italian place. I should've known that thing were not quite on track, as it took Jeff longer than expected to return with the food. Apparently they messed up our order, gave part of it to someone else, then Jeff finally returned home exasperated with our dinner, minus some. That experience alone was making us rethink our patronage, but it wasn't until we sat down and I began eating the lasagna that the other shoe dropped. My lasagna was bad. Not improperly cooked, but spoiled. Like most restaurants, certain dishes are made ahead of time and refrigerated, and cooked when ordered. Well, apparently my lasagna carryout was made about a month and a half ago, and when I got far enough into it, my stomach turned. I endured another night of intestinal distress as a result. I've still not fully recovered.

I've had a lot of ups and downs in the past few years, and despite the setbacks this year, this one was overwhelmingly positive. The first week in January I will head back to the doc once again, for a second booster shot in my spine. As had happened with a setback in May that had me crawling back to the doc for those frighteningly long needles in my back, the second time did the charm, so I am hoping this time the double shot does the trick. I know my time hiding from the knife is fading, and one of these days I have to decide if I want to fuse my back with plates and screws giving me permanent limitations for the rest of my life is the thing to do, or keep going as I have been, hoping for the best. The other thing is the ultimate realization that I can no longer function as I have for my first 50-some years, and finally apply for disability assistance. My savings are running thin, and I'm too far away from collecting my pension. My ego keeps me from doing this, because, despite knowing and being told differently, I feel this is giving up. I've been too independent in my years, and I am used to doing things my way, on my own terms, to build and maintain my existence. Mom and I were practically dirt poor, and I did my best to use all my abilities to change that completely. Those abilities did well for me, Mom, Jeff and many others through the years, and I hate seeing them fade. I'm hoping this new year brings some surprises of the pleasant type rather than an early gateway into assisted living.

May you all have a fantastic 2015!
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: (jeff and me)
Jeff and I met 14 years ago on October 23, 2000. That was yesterday (Thursday). Until we got married, Oct. 23 was our "unofficial official" anniversary date, one we'd always celebrate with a dinner out. While our marriage date has become the "official" anniversary, we will continue to celebrate both days. Why? Well, because it's fun and nice and we get to have a special dinner in unusual places and we can get all sappy and lovey and just plain be happy. So, as has been our tradition all these years, we went out for dinner, trying to pick some place where we never had been before. As it turns out, we didn't have to travel more than about a mile from the the house to a restaurant that opened a couple years ago but one we had not explored yet, saving it for, well, a special occasion. Funny how that turned out. This new place, Sushi Tendou, turned out to be a delightful little Japanese steakhouse. The menu was packed with selections, and we were settling on some interesting things we never had before. Now, I'm not sure exactly why this happened, perhaps being a stone's throw from La Casa Mayhem, or the way that strange things seem to happen to me, but the system they have playing new age-y styled Oriental-tinged music begins playing a song very familiar to me, but one I had not heard in many years, "Midnight in Moscow," also known as "Moscow Nights." Why a Japanese steakhouse would begin playing a very Russian song in a light new age style is beyond me, and it took me a few seconds for the minor keys to register in my brain. Once that happened... I lost it.

This was my Mom's favorite song.

A little bit of history is needed. In the mid-1950s, Mom was settling into her life as an American citizen, having left stateside Army duty as a WAC during the Korean war, and starting to build a domestic life that eventually settled in Maryland not far from where I am today. She got married, Mom and Dad moving into a new home yet still remaining connected to the Army at nearby Ft. Meade. She had come a long way from her early life that began in Kiev, Russia. Around this time "Moscow Nights" was written, being initially penned in 1955 then reworked a bit to become what it is to this day. In 1956 the song was recorded for use in a documentary movie. The movie didn't get very far, but the song became unexpectedly popular. The song won an international song contest, and became popular worldwide, especially, oddly, in mainland China as well. My mother had become more than a tad homesick, as you would imagine, by the time she was settling down. Via shortwave radio, she heard the song first via Radio Moscow. A few years later, this undeniably Russian song was recorded by, of all things, a British jazz group called Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, which had a U.S. hit that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 right about the time I was born. So now this Russian song that made a circuitous trip from Mom's homeland and eventually finding it's way to our shores as a New Orleans-style jazz makeover, became permanently attached to me as well. In 1966, when she figured I was old enough to travel, Mom and I made our way back to Mother Russia, where I was shown off to her family. I actually remember quite a bit from back then. I was very big and strong for my age, and when Mom's mother asked what she was feeding me, she told her I ate a lot of oatmeal. It was then that I was introduced to Russian oatmeal. I think it was more like oats they fed to horses. Blecch! It was also the time I was introduced to Mom's old friend Alyosha, who worked with electronics and I believe was an aerospace engineer. He also spoke English and he and I hit it off immediately. He saw my very early precociousness with mechanical and electrical things, as well as my extreme interest with things that fly. He and I made several forms of paper airplanes, flying whirlygigs and other fluttering, twisting and soaring bits made from paper. By several, I mean lots. Hundreds, maybe more. We tried different things and tossed them from the window of Alyosha's high-up apartment. I don't know how many things were "designed" and flown from that window. but the street below looked like a parade had gone by. Paper littered the area like autumn leaves. Somewhere in La Casa is a Russian kid's book that I used to be able to read quite well from back in those days, though now I can only at best fake a Russian accent. More importantly, inside that book is a paper airplane that Alyosha made for me. Alyosha and I had a lot of fun. Much more importantly, he worked with me using some of his electronic and electrical bits he had at home. He convinced Mom that I had a natural talent for this sort of thing, to the point where he was practically astounded. He urged Mom to have me pursue these interests as my vocation. It was then she realized I was not taking my toys apart just to be destructive, but I was using the parts to make my own versions of my toys. I have vague memories of a lot of things Mom and I did on that trip, which took us not only to Russia, but had stopovers in Prague, London and I believe France. I got lots of interesting toys that may have strained Mom's meager wages, the one thing I remember well was a die-cast model of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball, which was equipped with all the awesome gadgetry as the one in the film. I wish I still had it (it'd be worth a mint if mint), it was lost or stolen soon after I had gotten back home. Mom's beloved takeaway from the trip was a 78rpm recording of the original version of "Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights)" on the Russian state label Μелодия (Melodiya). That record remains safely ensconced in the record collections here. My life took a turn for the better on that trip, and upon coming back to the states, we began visiting hobby stores, and it was that time I discovered Radio Shack. That, dear readers, was my heaven. As things turned out, a seemingly agonizingly long 16 years later, I took an electronic engineering and test job which was involved in the building of fighter jets and radar systems. Funny that, from paper airplanes and little electrical and mechanical experiments to this. And from Russia with love, apparently.

Fast forward to last Thursday once again. Jeff was suddenly confronted with me doing a total 180 from our happy perusal of dozens of sushi and seafood items to me having a complete breakdown in less than five seconds. It took me a while to regain enough composure to tell him why and to ease his worried look. I was being bombarded with memories too fast to sort them all out, but I began rambling with stories from my deep past. I managed to gather myself up enough to give my order to the now somewhat concerned waitress then sat there awash in pleasant memories. Jeff said it was Mom's way of joining us for our special night. He's right, I suppose, and what better way to make an entrance. We had a very enjoyable meal, and added the little restaurant to our must-go-again-especially-with-friends list. And if the initial shock and aawww from hearing the song didn't make me feel there was something more to this special night, hearing it being played once again(!) just before we were finishing up kinda made it clear.

Happy Anniversary, Jeff.

Hear the music )
greatbear: (forearms)
So much has been happening around these parts since last week, most of which has been continuing work on the house, of course. There have also been some nice diversions, some with their own surprises. Those of you following baseball would know that the Baltimore Orioles made it into the playoff series, first among their own American League division, and more recently moved into the league champion series. If they win this (hopefully), they move onto the World Series. While not a big sports guy, I always had a fondness for baseball, since Jeff is the sports guy of the family (and we are an honest-to-goodness family now), he always had the desire to go see a championship game if not a World Series game. Through some searching he came upon a reasonably priced pair of tickets, and on Friday morning, we headed into the big city to spend the day at the ballpark. We headed out about two hours before the game, since it was a sellout and they were expecting a lot of crowds, traffic and general bustle. Couple that with this all occurring during working hours, I expected pure hell. Imagine our complete surprise when we rolled into town and got parked in about five minutes! Granted, my handicapped parking plaque helped shave a couple minutes from the parking search at best, but once we got parked, I told Jeff, "I think something is wrong." But we happily trotted out of the parking garage and spent a bit of time strolling the Inner Harbor to use up some of the time before the ballpark opens. After warming a bench but the water, we headed up to the park, had our tickets scanned, and off we went to find our seats. Quite often we are anxious when we buy tickets from a third party, not knowing for certain if everything is legit. We both breathed a sign of relief when we heard the happy beeps from the barcode scanners. So far, we haven't had any trouble of this sort, but we we worry just the same. We had a bit of a issue finding the seats, and being that we passed the escalators a while back, I headed up the stairs though Jeff was unsure of my success. We climbed and climbed, and as I neared the very top, I felt an uneasy feeling of weakness in my legs and some dizziness. I sat on the steps as this passed, and upon getting up to the highest level, we still couldn't find the proper gateway. We asked a staff member, and they said we had to go back down to the green doors that we passed on the way up. To our surprise, we had scored club-level seats! Things kept getting better! It's been years since we had club seats, and in the past it was from work connections. We grabbed a nice lunch from the more upscale concessions on the level and headed to our seats.

We had a fantastic view near the left field foul post. The game started, with the O's picking up two points in the bottom of the 3rd, then the Tigers got 5 at the top of the 4th inning, and the Orioles one more in the 4th. Then... nothing. The game went on with no more points and looking bad for the home team. At the top of the 8th, the Tigers got another run, bringing the score to 6-3. Then the Detroit pitching staff began to fall apart. The fans got loud again. The bases got loaded and the Orioles get a grand slam homer that could not happen at a better time. When the Orioles took out the Tigers at the top of the ninth, the sound in that ballpark was deafening. I've never been to such a squeaker win before, and it was a sweet victory. The cheering kept on even as 50,000 peop0le were heading out of the ballpark.

While I've never put a lot of thought into sports in general over the years, and I tend not to get much excitement watching on television, there's something to be said being a part of a crowd rooting for their team. It becomes downright exciting, especially in these high-stakes games, and a win is a complete thrill. There is palpable positive energy in the air, and Baltimore takes their wins and losses in stride. Baltimore hasn't been in a playoff position in a long time, and the entire state gets a nice little bump in happiness along with everything that goes with it. It genuinely feels good.

However, our day wasn't over yet. It was closing in on rush hour, on a Friday afternoon. Rather than trying to beat the traffic out of town, we toddled back down to the Inner Harbor, hoping to get a table at Bubba Gump's for dinner. With a lot of people streaming toward our destination, I worried we'd be suck waiting. After all, I can't walk very fast anymore. But we got a nice table, picked a nice dinner from the menu (they have fried shrimp, baked shrimp, shrimp sandwiches, shrimp creole, shrimp scampi, shrimp gumbo, shrimp kabob, shrimp...) and even met up with a guy that Jeff had been talking to on Growlr. We made a new friend while enjoying dinner and dessert, and we got out of town just as fast as we had got in. The day couldn't have turned out any better. Jeff had to work this past weekend, and I went to visit and have dinner with him on Sunday night. He was upset that he couldn't watch the game, but had a live game score update running on his PC. Nearing the end of the game, Jeff had to leave his desk to finish business for the night. I watched the screen for him as the numbers changed. Wouldn't you know it, it was a last minute 8th inning charge much like Friday! There I was, alone in the office, getting excited as some numbers changed on a screen. Even cheering. Jeff then came back, looked at the screen and cheered too.

I did a lot of work on Saturday and Sunday on the house, and the home team bookended a practically perfect weekend.
greatbear: (tools)
Finally. After postponing this for years due to health issues, money issues, time issues, timing issues or just plain procrastination, I finally ordered up a new front door for La Casa Mayhem, and I picked it up today. I had to convince the people at Homo Despot that I had a nice big truck, and the wonderful shipping pallet it was delivered to the store on was ideal for me to get it home with the least chance of additional damage. The material handlers, obviously walking around with "Loading..." graphics floating over their heads were having problems processing this. The forklift drivers were out to lunch, and the guys rolling the door around the store seemed to be colloquially in the same place. Both me and the cool gal in the millwork department I had been dealing with were basically saying the same thing. Finally one of the forklift operators returned and all of us humped the thing onto the truck, where I tied it all down and headed home. Jeff came home soon after I did, and the two of us wrangled it off the truck and onto the carport where it will sit safely until I begin work. I'm glad I had the pallet to keep the thing safe and upright, if anything were to knock it over before I installed it I would be fit to be tied. I took a couple quick shots of the thing still cloaked in plastic.



Another one with glass detail )

In addition to taking out the original door/sidelight assembly, I might have to resize the rough opening slightly for best fit, plus reroute the doorbell wiring. I also plan to affix a hidden alarm switch as well as I am doing the work. This should complete the basic door installation. While I am focused on that part of the house, I will also take out a small section of an adjacent wall where the light switches are in order to consolidate some of the outdoor lighting controls as well as prep it all for ongoing home automation. ALso, for over 25 hears, my OCD has been bugging me because of a small electrical hack hidden in that wall. After the house was built and all the electric hooked up, I found there was no power to the outlets in the front part of the living room. Turns out the electricians who wired the house forgot to run a branch to the five outlets there. To fix it, they popped a hole in the one living room outlet box and the outside lightswitch box in the entryway, and connected the two with a piece of ratty UF cable. I discovered this when I changed a light switch in the entry years ago. It's been bugging me since, because the composite boxes have large pieces missing, and this also puts those outlets in a lighting circuit. While I have the wall apart I will replace the boxes, reroute the branch feeder to a different circuit, and put in a larger device box for added controls for the outside lighting along the walkways and the two post lights. All four of these circuits will have automation-/remote control-ready switches installed. My janky motion sensor setup for the outside front door light will be replaced with a setup that integrates with the lighting control system. I will also install the little dome camera in the ceiling outside the front door, part of an extended remote monitoring system I am putting together.

If my body survives the exertion and labor needed for these projects, I will hopefully be able to complete the living room skylight project that's going on four years now, and the sunroom, which, sad to say, been on hold for eight years. Neither of these are really backbreaking work, but involve working overhead for extended periods, something that was impossible for me for a long time. Not too long ago, I refitted several light fixtures in the Mayhem Lab with new ballasts and bulbs, and I found I didn't have a single problem or flash of pain during or after. The lighting project was a test for this, as I could've simply done one fixture at a time or dropped that project temporarily had it become an issue. Go me!

When I headed outside to snap the pics of the door, I discovered Jeff had quietly come home and was sitting in his new car, airconditioning on, grooving to Pink Floyd and answering messages on his phone. I realized I didn't take any pictures of the car for LJ, so I did, and also snapped one of Jeff in his work duds, hat, and his beard, which I remodeled a little while ago. :)

More pictures and text behind the cut, since everyone seems to surf LJ on tiny things anymore )
greatbear: (old graybeard)
I've been laying low these past several weeks as far as social media and socializing. Part of the reason is I've been busy, or at least trying to be, with everything from work on the house, cars, tractors, yard, and whatever my body allows me, as I play catch-up. The other, more sinister reason is I have basically been detoxing. It's nearly a year since I was beset with my last round of serious back injuries, with this bout being far worse than any of the previous, inasmuch as pain levels, discomfort, disability and recovery time qualify. I'm still nowhere near 100%, and, unfortunately, I shall never be, not even close. However, I am able to more or less fake a normal lifestyle from an outsider's perspective, getting out and about, taking trips, even a nice vacation. As it usually is with trying to maintain a facade, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. None of this has been accomplished without some residual levels of pain, and while I can suck it up and make do, there comes a time, usually later in the day, or, mostly, evenings when I am getting ready to hit the sack where getting comfortable was impossible without chemical assistance. Every trip to the various doctors, surgeons and physicians that had their hands and tools on or inside me gave me scrips for heavy duty painkillers and other goodies, often at my behest. This was needed because, without the strong stuff, my ability to get anything resembling quality sleep was near zero, and my disposition wasn't doing anyone any favors either. Nothing over-the-counter would give relief. So, for the past three seasons, give or take, and out of sheer necessity, I was locked into using a set of narcotic substances I really didn't like taking.

'Tis true that I finally had relief and comfort, and sometimes it was a warm, floaty, stoner sort that was far from unpleasant. In my mind, though, I would constantly grouse against a backdrop of pain ranging from mildly irritating to beyond excruciating. The side effects were few, but sometimes ugly. My mental state, if it were to take a roller coaster form, would injure and maim a lot of the riders. I lived in my own world of quiet despair, mostly unbeknownst to those around me, even Jeff. I tried my best to keep the worst of it outside out family life, but I had my moments where it was best I remained alone. A few times I sent Jeff alone, or with one of the pooches on the trips up north to visit family that we would normally go together. My mental state would often make me angry, as I would totally lose my train of thought in mid sentence, or my mind would completely blank out and fail to come up with the right word, or, worst yet, I would become a stuttering, incoherent mess when I had to think and talk at the same time. I normally pride myself for being able to multitask and think fast and well on my feet. Unfortunately, during these foggy mindtimes were were beginning to lay some of our most important plans ever, the marriage, the preparations before, vacations, renovations, and lots of other intensive thinking was needed, and, especially in the beginning of the year, I was in no condition to handle it all at my normal pace. I knew the painkillers and other stuff were the main cause, and peripherally my inability to get proper sleep made for the one-two punch. I knew, for our sake, I needed to get myself off these meds and back to my normal self. Cold turkey was not possible as you might expect. I weighed my pain and discomfort levels as the summer approached and adjusted dosages in order to get so much of the hard work done yet be able to get good rest and still not turn into a blithering, blathering idiot anytime I processing more than two thoughts at a time. I/we made it through the wedding plans and prep without too much issue, though Jeff was at times frustrated at my slowness and lacking input on certain things. As impossible as it seemed at the time, so much of the big event went off flawlessly and with many added surprises as I had written of earlier. We had our vacation as well, and, luckily, time had come where I figured I could deal with my daily levels of pain and I can now ramp my intake of the hard stuff to zero. If only things were so easily done...

After taking less and smaller doses over a period of a few weeks, I finally stopped. Life was actually quite good, so to speak. I did have my days where I would be hurting from exertion, and, with maybe an Advil or two, I could mostly live with it. The problem came when it was time to head to bed. As I would begin to nod off, that's when the racket would begin. Rather than it being loud neighbors or dogs barking, this was all inside my head, or body, as it were. I would get restless and uncomfortable, hot and cold and totally unable to drop to actual sleep levels. Earlier I found a fractional dose of the hard stuff would put things right and I was off to the land of Nod like nobody's business. But even this was more than I wanted to deal with and the cycle needed to be broken for good. So, for the past three or four weeks, I endured the on-again, off-again battle of the bed, trying my damnedest to run the gauntlet of nerves bent on anarchy on my way to sleep. Once this would happen, I was fine as frog hair. The next day was refreshingly normal, albeit at times with soreness and discomfort for the ordeal the night before.

I could get through this!

I did have a side effect, one that seemed to make me irritable around people. Even if thing were going well, I had this slow burn of aggravations running underneath it all, but that was simply my greater personality being amplified, and I knew the best thing to do was lose myself in my thoughts and tasks as I have always, and hope that I could break out of it all without much difficulty. I'm pretty proud to say that this challenge has been accepted and my goal has been achieved. I can make it through the entire day taking nothing but one unrelated prescription pill a day and nothing else. If I am hurting, I can take a break, or if that doesn't work, I pop a Naprosen and ride it out. Sleep is an occasional issue, with the nerve problems caused by my first surgery and the electrical storm below the knees a permanent feature now. The hair on my lower legs is still missing from the kicking and rubbing them together constantly when detoxing. I use a TENS unit when it's bad, otherwise, as they say down under, Bob's your uncle.

So, there's been a lot going on, and I had not been in a mood to write about it. As i kick the blast doors open which protected me from the world at large (and, more importantly, vice-versa), along with support from others, I hope to be back to my old, gregarious self. Concerts and shows will be attended, ball games enjoyed, parties gone to and maybe hosted, seeing people and making new friends, it's all been happening and will happen soon. I finally ordered up the new entrance door to La Casa, a new car for Jeff has been bought, lots of normal activities take place like, well, normal. And the happiness and security that all comes with is the best medicine I could ever have.
greatbear: (forearms)
Jeff came home early Thursday for a doctor's visit, the last few days he's been having mild flu-like symptoms. We made a trip together to the doc and tests seem to indicate it is viral in nature, so it is mostly a rest and wait it out situation. I went with him to see if there was anything I could help with at home, and to get an idea what it was, since chances are good I would get it too. I've been battling a form of exhaustion for a few days too, I can only do so much before I need to take a nap. Problem is, I sleep and nap during the day and by night time my body clock on its graveyard shift time zone keeps me awake. So, when Jeff along with By-Tor and the Snow Dog head to bed, I head into my little lab and fix stuff. This time I tackled my failing Dell 30" display. After a half hour of thermal testing the display lamp driver board I narrowed the trouble to what seemed like bad soldering in a 1 square inch section of the board. There is about three dozen components about the size of sesame seeds in that space, and out came the tiny iron and other tools I have for such work, including the 3.5-90x stereoscopic microscope I got for such things. After more thermal stress testing after the repair with good luck, I threw it back together and am now using it while creating this entry. I hope it holds out, I absolutely love this display, but I relegated it to lab bench PC duties. The irony here is the particular computer and display is connected to the aforementioned microscope. I could've had a nice panoramic view of the board on the display it it weren't the one in pieces under the scope!

Our latest pup, Snickles, aka By-Tor mentioned above, had his first day of doggie school this evening. He had fun, and seemed to react well. He's finally growing out of his puppy-ish stages and has become a very loyal companion for the two of us. He needs to learn some discipline for his (and our) sake, and I think with some "official" training he will be a model pooch. Kodi did well in his schooling about 7 years ago, and I am hoping for the same results with Da Snick.

Jeff is very close to buying a new vehicle. His '00 Chevy S-10 has been decent for these fourteen years, but it's getting long in the tooth at over 185,000 miles, and given the fact that I have two trucks as it is, he's in the market for a wagon/small SUV sort of ride that gets decent mileage, can haul stuff as well as people and will be reliable. So far he's narrowed it down to the new Jeep Cherokee, the Subaru Outback, and the Subie Forester. Friday we are going to kick tires and take test drives. Hopefully this will be with as few hassles as possible. I had a decent time with my last vehicle purchase once the dealer was finally able to get the model I had settled on to the lot.

I'm happy to see some more old, familiar faces showing back up here in LJ-Land. The more I sit here and take the time for a "real" entry as opposed to a handful of words scooped up and thrown at Facebook, the better I feel about "socializing" online. I see usernames in my friends list of people who have cast off this mortal coil and are no longer with us. Those names seem like pictures hanging on a wall, and their journals acting as memorials as well as places to visit and remember the days gone by. None of the other popular "social media" behemoths have this. Nor do they have the control or accessibility of everyone's posts like LJ does. I think people are feeling this too, and while making entries here is a bit more work, it definitely pays us back in the depth of contact and interaction. Let's keep up the good work.

Well, the display has been performing like new as I've been writing this between other tasks and not flashing and shutting down like it had begun to do several months back. I wasn't about the scrap a thousand dollar display. These things are supposed to come with 3 year warranties, but I bought this from Newegg, and, disappointingly, it showed no warranty from Dell when I started the process. I've since reconsidered a lot of purchases from there, a shame, since I've generally had good luck over these many years. I hope my repair lasts until it somehow becomes obsolete, which I don't see happening for at least another ten years or more.

Cheers, everyone!
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Despite my working in aerospace for over 30 years, and my childhood years on being a bit of an aircraft aficionado, I never tire of seeing promotional and action photography depicting what the aircraft are capable of. Being that I worked with warplanes and military craft the closest, our promo video showed a lot of really cool planes being totally awesome. I'm no warmonger, and I didn't like what some of these bits of handiwork would be involved in, but the flip side being many were used to protect our own people and allies. A good amount were also used in science, research and civilian fields. And there were the boring, workaday commercial aircraft that many mostly ignored. What is rarely seen outside of industry people and enthusiasts are promo films and video of those big commercial beasts outside the workaday world. Many people know of the Boeing (Boo! Our competitor!) 787, aka the Dreamliner. This in the newest, most technologically advanced commercial airliner ever built to date. Advanced materials, computer systems, powerful and efficient engines, it's got it all. While it's had some growing pains (pesky fires, structural issues, etc) not unlike any new plane, it's still one of the most anticipated and talked about airplane in years. Boeing is bringing the Dreamliner to the Farnborough Air Show in the U.K.. Before this big event, pilots gave the 787-9 a few test flights. This Boeing promo shows what the big gal is a capable of, without even breaking a sweat.



Amazing how something so big and otherwise utilitarian can look like it's light as a feather and maneuverable as a Cessna. I think it's one of the sleekest metal tubes in the air these days. Nice to see this bird with a chance to play before it begins its daily grind.

As for us? Well, we're off. Not flying, unfortunately, but instead, we're dragging the Travel Trailer of Mayhem up the coast to PTown for about a week and a half. This trip, planned last year, was so close to our wedding day that we are considering it as a honeymoon of sorts, but not the only one. Not sure yet what the real deal is, but I'm happy for this one. This time, I'm heading up in the middle of the night, with the traffic being lighter and, hopefully, little or no construction. Unlike our trips departing from Pennsyltucky, this is the first time in years we are heading up straight from MD. This should, with luck, get us up to Provincetown in the fairly early morning, were we then can set up, take disco naps and enjoy the afternoon in style.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
My how time flies when you are having fun. And it flies even faster it seems when one is very busy and there seems not enough time in a day to get everything done. My apologies for not updating everyone since our big day. It's almost two weeks ago, and yet it seems like just yesterday. We've had some time for things to "soak in" and to get a feel for any "changes." Well, in so many ways the days after don't appear any different. But for the two of us, there's a new feeling of belonging, of protecting, of being closer. Hard to describe, but it's definitely something. The days just after the wedding seem to be a blur. The cleaning up, the opening of gifts, the catching up on work set aside while we were tying the knot. The following weekend was July 4th/Independence Day. To beat the holiday traffic, we headed up to PA at zero dark-thirty Friday morning for our monthly visit with family there, despite many of them coming down the week before. Jeff really wanted to visit with his mom at the nursing home. We got there early to find her in good spirits. Since we got there earlier than we usually do, we spent our time with her before lunch, and we hung around as she had her meal. With Jeff's help, she ate heartily. He and I along with Dad concluded our visit as mom began to fall asleep, looking quite contented. Some of our visits in the past were quite depressing. This one was different. We hung out longer than we usually do. Everything seemed more upbeat, especially after Jeff told her that we had gotten married. Somehow, I have a feeling she understood.

Later that day we had a chance to meet the newest addition to my family. There, I said it. My family. With the loss of my mother, I had no more family I could truly call my own. No longer cast adrift, I now am part of a growing family. I guess that is one of those "different" feelings I have now that me and Jeff are married. No family is perfect, and mine (I said it again! Wow...) has some fraying at the fringes, but the core is solid, and I have more relatives than I ever had in my life. Anyway, sorry for the aside, but, well, something hit me as I was putting these words down. I also needed a couple tissues. Where was I... Ah, the new addition. Jeff's oldest niece, her husband and their adorable daughter (who was to be our flower girl) had been slated to join us for the wedding, but had to bow out, as she had just given birth to a beautiful little girl. The many pictures being sent and shared through Facebook can only go so far. We finally got to set eyes on the little gal, and she stole our hearts in an instant.

Meet Brooke:



Once again, Jeff and I are grand-uncles. Only a bit off from being grandpas. I have the perfect bald head and white beard for the role too, I suppose. But here we now have another focus for our love and attention. I couldn't be happier. Brooke is a delight and full of facial expressions. She's so tiny, barely more than a handful for me. But she snuggled in my arms and fell asleep, a contented look on her face not unlike we had seen earlier in the day. Our spirits lifted high, we headed back to dad's with smiles on our faces that I don't think have worn off completely even now.

We scooted home on Saturday afternoon, traffic-free and started bringing things back to normal at La Casa Mayhem. I've been sorting through pictures, wrestling with a new VPN/firewall/router as well as the (hopefully) final work on the LAN and PC upgrades for a while. Vehicles needed tending to, as well as some of the outdoor/garden equipment and the trailer. We finally got new cell phones, and Jeff finally meets the '10s head on as the proud owner of a smartphone. The rush begins anew as we get things done and ready for vacation. Yeah, PTown again, during Bear Week, but due to work constraints with Jeff, we won't get there until Thursday. We'll be saying through the week after, and we'll be running into quite a few of the folks who were down here with us on our big day. I keep saying we do PTown "in spite of" Bear Week, instead enjoying running across our extended friends and "family" during the days. I have a feeling we'll be enjoying ourself like we usually do, but with a little something extra. I won't know it until I sense it, and I'll try my best to share. It might be a bit late, but, well, that's me I guess. ;)
greatbear: (jeff and me)
So, I've been a rather busy sort for the past few months, as some of you might know. The level of busy-ness began to reach a fever pitch until this past Saturday. It was on that day, under the most beautiful, sunny skies, where Mayhem Acres was transformed into a beautiful garden park, in the company of our most beloved friends and family, accompanied by beautiful music, where Jeff and I literally tied the knot in marriage. Yes, after fourteen years together, through good times and bad, sickness and health, comedy and tragedy, mellow and mayhem, you name it, we did it. We wanted this day to come for the longest time, as hints of civil unions and then legal gay marriage began to show in the US, but rather than go off to some other state (or country, for that matter), we were holding onto hope that the state of Maryland would one day allow same-sex marriage. On November 6th, 2012, MD voters were to vote on a statewide referendum that would allow same-sex marriage to become the law of our little, merry land. Jeff and I stayed awake after doing our civic duties with our eyes glued to the television as the votes were tallied. At about 2am, it had become clear that Maryland had become the first state to legalize SSM through the popular vote and marking the turning point in the fight for marriage equality. It was at that point, with tears in our eyes that we decided to get married ourselves. Our little hopes and dreams blossomed that night, and they slowly began to take shape.

Fast forward about a year or so. We began doing work on the house and yard that had been long neglected because of my ongoing health issues. While we made progress, we ran into roadblocks. Some were serious, like me reinjuring my back even worse than before, and Jeff's parents' house fire. I managed to get back into the grind, albeit very limited, but we kept on doing things. Jeff had nailed down a date that was compatible with work, the weather and the potential for having as many friends and family to join us. Jeff, party planner he is, pulled some strings with a caterer, found a nice florist, we contacted our little, local, gay-owned bakery about the cake, set up rentals for a large tent and tables & chairs. By the middle of spring I had recovered enough to feel like I was actually adding to the process, and in the last couple months, I've been knocking myself out. In June alone I did the most I could with the house and yard. The carport, the driveways, and even the concrete work area in front of the Garage of Mayhem became clean enough to eat off of by the waving of my magic (4000psi pressure washer) wand. I wanted to replace the terrible looking old entry door for years, but with my physical condition being what it was, I kept putting it off. When I tried to order the new door assembly, the lead time was too long by now. At the last minute I threw on a coat of paint and made it look beautiful once again, just in time. Our little wedding had gotten more bells and whistles added on in the last month or so. A DJ. A dance floor. More and more flowers and landscaping. A cellist. Music, music, music. Lighting. More tents. We added so many unique and cool ideas, often from suggestions from our friends. Jeff began to panic wondering if things would work out. Some snags were hit, but most if not all of them came with silver linings that only added to the day. Once Friday afternoon rolled around, and friends began coming in from out of state, our preparations were solidified, anything else that was missed would have no more consideration. It was, as they say, showtime.

I've been to a few weddings in my time, as has Jeff. We didn't want your "typical" ceremony. There was to be no "gods" involved. This was to be a very personal event, one that involved everyone attending. I mentioned in the beginning of this entry about tying the knot. Like so many over-used expressions, this comes from an ancient Irish or Celtic rite also practiced in Great Britain, and has recently gained a bit of a modernized revival as a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan custom. We tweaked it a bit more to make it work within our special day. As happy and uplifting as we wanted our little ceremony to be, there was an unavoidable, deep feeling of sadness about the otherwise happy day. My Mom is no longer here to experience a day she had given up hope early on to witness. Jeff's mum is currently in the ever-increasing grip of Alzheimer's and is just about immobile in a nursing home, unable to see the last one of her children married. As it turns out, both of our mothers had a special love of butterflies. So, to honor our Moms during our wedding day, we incorporated butterflies. Rather than a cake topper with two grooms, a pair of butterflies representing both our love as well as the spirits of our mothers sat proudly on top of our cake. The cake itself was decorated to describe us through our interests and hobbies. The bottom-most layer illustrated the things we each love that aren't common to one another. Me with the cars, tools, electronics, Jeff with sports, cooking and culinary arts. The second layer is something we have in common, yet still different. Music, with Jeff being country at heart, and me being the rocker (and being so before the smarmy Osmonds sung that song). The top layer depicted our love of camping and the beach. Our good friend Doug Poplin honored us during the ceremony by playing cello. I had ordered a "handfasting cord" to be used during the ceremony. We hit a big snag when the supplier of the cord failed to ship the thing and refused to send another. When we talked to our good friend Tim Snider, who was to perform our wedding, of our dilemma, he said other items could be used in place of the cord, including a scarf. I still have some of Mom's belongings, so I took out the drawer that still held her beautiful scarves. After pulling out a couple scarves, we found the one she had which depicted several colorful butterflies along with their scientific names. We had found our perfect solution. At the bottom of the drawer was a booklet showing various ways of wearing scarves. The booklet was titled Tying the Knot. It was almost as if we were being told something.

Our good friend Jim Martin has suggested on a whim that we should release live butterflies during the ceremony at the moment we have been declared married. As with so many other aspects added in, a box of butterflies, a pair of Monarchs for us and Painted Ladies for the rest of the attendees was ordered all the way from California. Each butterfly was contained in a personalized triangular box. These were passed out to everyone during the ceremony. The handfasting, originally meant to be done "a year and a day" prior to actual marriage, was instead modified as a "seal" instead. Doug played an old Celtic piece on the cello at that time. His emotional playing and deft touch made the cello sound as if it was breathing. The music was alive. It had become time to say our vows. Jeff had written his down beforehand. I, being the professional crastinator of epic proportions, never got around to it. I ad-libbed on the spot from my heart, trying to keep myself together. The rings were given to Tim, we placed them on each others' fingers. We were married! I had one more task, as well as a surprise. I directed our friends and family to open the boxes along with Jeff and I to release the butterflies as I told of the significance of this action. Upon release, the butterflies whirled and spun among everyone. Along with the flash of color and motion was an unmistakeable feeling of energy or presence. I stumbled in my words a bit as everyone quietly gasped. Jeff's butterfly stopped right above his head, landing on one of the flowers attached to the gazebo for a bit of nectar before flitting off with the others. I regained my composure enough to finish with the unscripted surprise. I produced an additional pair of rings, attached to gold chains. These were my mother and father's rings. My Mom, during her last days, had asked me if I was going to marry Jeff. I told her that we probably would marry (if he didn't get fed up with me beforehand) if it were to ever become official. She wanted me to use those rings. Well, Mom was always a petite woman, and dad was pretty damn scrawny, so the rings would barely fit our pinky fingers. To carry her wish into our day, we put the rings, on chains, around our necks as our last action. We were now a married couple, with all the benefits granted thereto, with many wished fulfilled.

Now, I am an extremely emotional old sot. I cry at movies, listening to music, and, of course, at weddings. My biggest fear was that I would become a blubbering, incoherent mess for most of the day. Today was so different though. There was so much love, support and surprises through the day. I did lose it when I saw folks I consider to be my adopted family show up after many years and even decades apart. Same with other friends who came to our big day. But I surprised myself. Somehow, probably buoyed by the love, support and help everyone had given me, I kept myself together and enjoyed everything that was happening to the fullest. I did let myself go a few times, when it really mattered. It was wonderful too.

We did lots of planning. Did a ton of work. We hit snags, often at the worst possible time. But somehow, everything fell into place. Perfectly! I was awestruck and dumbstruck at so many beautiful and incredible moments. People began telling us our wedding ceremony was the most beautiful and touching they have ever seen, including their own. I have endured so much in the way of bad things in my life. I have lamented on countless occasions that my seemingly bad luck timed to coincide just when things might be looking up had made me unable to enjoy myself. If I were to experience happiness, for sure I would have something terrible happen. For one very special day, however, I experienced the happiest day of my life. Well, my luck being what it is, Jeff had picked our big day many months in advance. It took me a while to realized it, when it was too late to change it. Our wedding day was to happen the day before the eighth anniversary of my Mom's death. But here instead, my luck was symbolic. Yes, I had my sad moments on that Sunday after. But if ever I had a feeling that Mom was with me, it was on that day. In the smiles of friends we both knew for so many years. In the notes of beautiful music. In the seemingly impossible way that everything turned out perfectly. In all of the flowers, landscape, perfect weather, blue skies and beautiful, warm sunshine. And in the beats of a hundred butterfly wings.

Nothing can ever top this amazing, wonderful day.

DSC_0245


Thank you to all my LJ friends too. You've been with me through thick and thin. I have hundreds of photos and thousands of megabytes to process. I hope I can share more of my big day with you soon. Much love.

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.

Registered

Jun. 20th, 2014 12:40 am
greatbear: (jeff and me)
I am not one to solicit things from people, but I am doing this since a few people have asked if we had a wedding registry. At first, it wasn't going to be, but after being asked early on, and given our common use of Amazon.com for so much stuff, we put two and two together and I created a wedding registry for us there. Now, I am new to this in more ways than one. We originally were going to eschew (gesundheit!) any gifts for ourselves, however, for many, the gift is in the giving. I am in that camp as well, I like to be generous in any way I can, it's how I was raised, after all. I myself don't like to be denied the opportunity to give of myself, and such is the case with more than just a few of our friends as well. That being said, Jeff and I have been trying to come up with various items we could use. As I said before, I am new to this, and once I figured out how to get it going, it should be easy. Well, it's tough to think of desired gifts. We've been slowly adding to the list. It hasn't been without a humorous side effect though. Adding a registry to my account also added an extra button on every product page. I use a wish list to bookmark items to compare and to hold off until later. Well, the registry button took the original position of the wish list, and by accident I had been adding all sorts of totally unlikely "wedding gifts" to the registry. Tools, computer parts, hardware, car stuff, you name it. Jeff wondered why some odd shit was there and I had to laugh. I took most of it out but left a couple things there for the laugh value. I mean, a receiver hitch for the car? Heck, we are getting hitched... lmao

So, here it is. Our wedding registry. We'll be thinking of stuff to add as the day grows near.
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)
Today is Jeff's birthday. Together we are over 104 years old. I feel every bit of those years too. To celebrate, I took Jeff to Outback Steakhouse (g'day, crikey, fair dinkum, crocs, you call that a knife and all that stuff). On our way home he got a call out of the blue from a former coworker he was very good friends with. Hearing them catching up and recollecting old times and seeing the smile on his face was a treat. I seriously ate too much, and in the last few days, I've been eating more beef than in a long time.

I had gotten him a new bicycle as a birthday gift, his old one was never fun for him to ride, as the frame size was too small. I took him to a "real" bicycle shop where I had gotten mine and we looked at a few and tried a couple out. He came back from a test drive of the one I picked out after a very short ride and said he loved it. It's a GT "comfort" or "hybrid" bike, essentially the frame, gearing and components of a mountain bike, but with less knobby and overall softer tires. It also has 29" wheels, better able to deal with bumps and other hazards. I got a pannier rack delivered today for it as well, and put that on while Jeff was talking to his dad. Our bikes will be the primary mode of transportation when we head up to PTown in July. I can't walk for any distance at all in my condition, but as has been the case with this back ordeal, I can get around quite well on a bike. Jeff's old ride was not comfortable for him, this time I think we'll truly be set.

I've been offline as far as social media goes while I tend to personal issues as well as computer troubles. the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that powers my primary computer went bonkers a while back. The malfunction made everything plugged into it go on and off like a car's turn signal. Other than perhaps dropping a computer into sea water or hurling it from a cliff, cycling the power is one of the worst things that you can do to it. Consequently, the hard drives were scrambled, the BIOS corrupted, and a few other minor bits of hardware were hosed. While I had mostly current backups of files, all of my current work, saved web pages, and the like were all unavailable. So I had to stumble around on one of the other PCs for a while as I worked on the beast machine in the studio. It's back, but it has some corrupted registry entries and other annoying problems (Photoshop registration got borked, Windows update doesn't function, some other software is screwed up in odd ways, and the like). A while back I had taken the original main hard drive out and replaced it with a nice, big 1TB SSD. This SSD is what got beat up by the UPS, but it was not physically damaged. The original drive has been hiding safely in the Underground Lab of Mayhem, I can simply make a copy of it again, but only after I get through some stuff. The copy would put the PC back to December of last year, when I did the upgrade. There are more computer stories to tell, but I'll save that for some other time.

Jeff has been busting his ass doing work in the yard, and it shows. The flower beds, rose garden and other areas are looking better than they have in years. I wish I could be more help with that, but the required stopping and bending is just too painful. I managed to do some serious suspension work and other maintenance on Jeff's truck last weekend, a friend came over and basically gophered tools and parts while I did the work. This saved me from having to constantly get up and down. I have to do the same on my old Stratus, but I will wait until after the wedding. It does need rear brakes, so those will most likely get done this weekend, it's only about a 45 minute job. Safety first.

As more aspects of our big wedding day begin to coalesce, the two of us are excited as well as still in a bit of a panic mode. It's less than a month away, and there's still a ton of stuff to get done. This is where I'm glad I'm stuck at home. I just wish I was able to do more. Having my back fail again was the worst thing to happen that I was worrying about, and loading up with narcotics to control the pain has the unfortunate side effect of scrambling my thoughts much like the hard drives in that PC. I lose track of time, forget what day it is, and forget things while I am having conversations. Even writing this entry is a chore, and this is one of the prime reasons for me hiding from the world. I just hope this is not a sign of something more serous. Given my luck of late, it's quite possible. But I refuse to let anything get in the way of our big day.
greatbear: (old graybeard)
Earlier in the week I pulled the plug on my LJ. I had mostly run out of uses for this, and, to be honest, no longer felt the need to have an outlet for what I would call "personal" matters and discussion with the internet in general. It has been about 20 years (!) since I had ventured out onto the internet in a personal capacity, rather than a technical/professional way for work reasons. It took a lot of courage on my part to make that change, and it wasn't long before I was pouring my heart into online interactions, making literally hundreds of friends along the way, even enjoying a bit of both figurative and literal rock star status along the way. I soon learned that much of this was fleeting, with the vast majority of people eventually moving on, leaving what I thought was some incredible friendships, relationships and great causes to founder and die. Perhaps it was the value I had placed in these relationships, or my investment in them, emotionally, mentally and physically, that left me not only disappointed but also feeling left behind once they had evaporated. It took a while, because for the 32 years prior I had been very much a loner until that time, but I learned to reconsider the experience as more of a crucible, or distillery that helped to separate out the fleeting and leaving the best behind. Maybe more like how maple syrup is made I suppose, where it takes a great deal of sap to be carefully boiled until the sweet syrup remains. What came out of these hundreds of fun (for the most part) interactions and countless good (with a bit of bad) memories is a sparkling core of truly great friends, that to this day still amaze me with some of their actions. I sought to leave my online world as I had formed to to simply concentrate on the product from it. After a couple days (I bet you didn't even notice) I switched this back on, not so much as a continuing place for me to pile my thoughts, but for the few remaining people I know and love who remain here. Without my LJ being active, I had no way to interact with y'all. My analogy is this is like a small town of bygone days where people would run into one another while out and about, or take the time to walk from house to house to say hello and talk over the fence. I guess I can't board up my place yet still remain neighborly, given how this system is set up.

This is not the Livejournal I set up shop in over ten years ago. Like so many other online "spaces" in the past, what began for me as a thriving community has become rather barren. Those who remain, however, and still making great use of the medium, and maintaining fantastic connections. What skeeves me these days is the reduction in quality of the service, the politics of the Russian owners and general disregard for the stateside users that really made the community what it is. The latest technical hell here is the never completing page loads. Sure, the pages seem to render properly and mostly stuff works, but some connections never complete, with the page loading indicator spinning away. This is often a sign of bad server configurations, and sometimes of a more dangerous nature, with open connections lying in wait for malware or other bad mojo. This has been going on for a few weeks now on my end, regardless of what computer or connection I access the site with. Aargh. Oh well, the neighborhood falls apart even more, the landowners letting the place fall apart around the remaining denizens.

I will keep my door open for a little while longer, I guess, at least until the wedding and a bit after. Then, well, we'll see. These days I am busy with as much as my day can hold, trying to get the house and yard fixed up, putting the final touches on a huge network upgrade to accommodate new home security and automation now and be usable into the foreseeable future. La Casa Mayhem is my only true home, I built it with my hands as well as a lot of outside help, and I plan on living the rest of my years here. As my health has taken several downturns in recent years, I now have a sense of urgency to get lots of things done while I am still able to do them in order to be able to have some years later to relax and simply enjoy the spoils of all that labor and thought. I am lucky to be able to (sometimes barely) be able to get around, and I am measuring my time wisely. With the wedding coming up in less three months (!) now, I gotta kick it into high gear. I am overlapping projects to my best advantage. I will be redoing the entryway to the house, with a new front door, paint, floor, lighting, landscaping, and more. I am sitting here configuring and testing security cameras I will be installing while I crawl around doing these other upgrades. Several hundred more feet of network cabling has to be installed too, and I am pleased with how this all is shaping up. In the spirit of the days past, here's a photo of the goings-on as I test one of the cameras down in the Underground Concrete Bunker before I finally get it put where it belongs on the outside.



I just hope my creaky old body holds up as I do all this work, if not, I am truly screwed. Our little wedding is shaping up to be a big deal. Certainly it's the most important day of my life in decades. I can only hope all turns out as we are working and planning it out to be.

Seeyas 'round.
greatbear: (forearms)
You might've noticed a bit of quiet around here. This is mostly because I've still being Mr. Crankypants due to an ongoing cold-like thing that both Jeff and I have shared in. Jeff got it first (he probably got it as a free gift from the hospital) and I got the BOGO deal a bit later. Needless to say, days since last week have been a coughy, phlegmy, hacky joyfest, and the absolutely bipolar Maryland weather isn't helping either. Last weekend was nice, practically t-shirt 'n' jeans-like. Monday I awoke to a foot of snow. I grumbled out of bed, opened the door to let By-Tor and the Snow Dog outside to make yellow snow, snapped a couple front door glamor shots of the snow (it was very pretty), then slammed the door on the outside world once the dogs returned. I was in no mood to go and deal with the stuff, and I knew it would be short-lived anyway. With no help from me, by Wednesday afternoon the snow had practically vanished and the more typical March weather had returned. Me and the pooches enjoyed a nice long walk that we hadn't had in a few days and were better off because of it. Today Jeff had come home early due to rejiggering his schedules and we took the time to do some shopping and get some lunch at the Columbia Mall ("Mass-murder free for 53 days!") and run some needed errands. He has to work for some time on Saturday, and possibly next weekend as well, but we can deal with that for the most part. We are moving ahead with wedding plans and prep as well, and both of us are getting excited as the day approaches.

I am almost finished with the computer/network overhaul here, only a few hundred more feet of cable needs to be run as I am able to wrangle my assistant into visiting. The most difficult parts, running cat-6 cabling from the Mayhem Bunker into the attic (two runs) and several runs along with some RG6 and wiring for the security/home automation through the underground conduits to the garage remain, and I hope to get these done sooner rather than later. The garage wiring runs were put off since my initial back issues and surgery in 2010. I have all the supplies, the switch and other sundries needed for the job, I just need a bit of warmer weather and an extra pair of hands. I am hoping the conduit is not broken or flooded. It currently has old phone lines which are still in use and the remains of the original thin-net LAN I set up about 25 years ago that were abandoned once I switched to Fast Ethernet in the house. I just want to finally finish this project so I can completely forget about it for about the next ten or fifteen years. Only some hardware needs to be changed over to upgrade the mess to 10GBEthernet, and beyond that I don't see too much of a need for much more bandwidth in the foreseeable future. I laid enough cabling from various points in the house to be able to trunk them together for higher bandwidth, and the big Synology NAS is already using four cables to hook into the backbone, with four for the main server, two for the small server, and two each for two workstations so far, with more planned. La Casa has intranet bandwidth that rivals what I had when I worked for Northrop Grumman by far.

Another reason I want this computer crap over and done with is because spring is when I turn my attention outdoors. I have a shit-tonne of work to do in the yard as well as some house repairs I need to finish before the wedding. I got sidelined and didn't do a damn lick of any work needed outside since last September, and that includes cleaning up a huge toppled tree taken down during Sandy, lots of general cleaning, and finally erecting the greenhouse in the garden that has otherwise been hogging up space in the garage with all its parts. La Casa will have a new entryway and lots of other goodies. I need to pressure-wash the gazebo as well as apply some stain/sealer to make it look spiffy, since that's where the actual ceremony will be taking place. I hope I can get all of this done. In the middle of all of this, I still have unfinished work on the vehicle fleet, serious cleaning up of the garage, yard beautification, the veggie garden, etc, etc. I sincerely hope I don't have any more health/physical troubles in the meantime, or I will be seriously fucked and moody, not the sort that anyone would want to marry.

Finally, the wedding. If you are reading this and want to be a part of the festivities, which are shaping up to be totes awesomesauce, btw, drop me a line with your mailing addy, and I will send out one of the truly neat invitations we had made up. I want to share my happiness with all my friends.

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Phil

December 2016

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