greatbear: (aerial me)
Oh hay sup LJ, it's been, what? Since Xmas? I guess it has.

The ol' blog thing has been neglected since I have made a decision to minimize so-called social media in my life. Most of the people who I used to interact with here have moved into that noisy barroom brawl otherwise known as Facebook, so I grudgingly left that venue as the last one I would keep mostly open for business on my end. Even so, I rarely post much there either. It's just me being me, or actually the old me, the one who just keeps quiet and watches the world around myself doin' its thang. Just about everyone I would interact with on here has ended most extended contact anyway, no phone calls, emails or other off-LJ interactions too. So, social media has become more isolating than ever for me. Sad, but it is what it is, I suppose. I still try to keep up with what few regular posters are up to, but even that is getting more difficult. Nearly every time I start reading my friends list, I have to first go and find the giant photo(s) that people post that blow apart my friends list view. Despite having all high resolution screens, a 16 megapixel photo or worse brings about the scroll bars of doom on my end. Some of your selected formats constrain large photos in your view, but not others. I get hugeness in all its grainy glory. Some days I open this thing up, find my screen is three sizes too small, and just give up.

Life here has been interesting. Jeff and I took our first winter vacation, a ten-day Caribbean cruise last month. We had a blast, made new friends, did many strenuous activities like kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, bicycling all over Puerto Rico, you name it. Here's the best part: I did this all while relatively pain free, a first for this time of year since 2008. Last year at this time I was laid up with spine troubles, but this winter has been mostly normal. This had the side benefit of making winter itself fly by. Now with spring in the air, I've been busy outside in the yard and garage, catching up on projects I started years ago. It feel great. I'm still cautious, of course, and sometimes fear I will cause more injuries if I overexert myself. So far, so good though.

Not sure what I will do insomuch as continued use of this venue. I will try to keep current, or at least try to post comments when I read. I miss the good old days.
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.

Surfacing

Oct. 30th, 2012 09:55 pm
greatbear: (Default)
Now that Mother Nature has moved her sandy vagina past Mayhem HQ, I cracked the hatches and did some damage assessment. Other than a torn canvas canopy that is part of the pergola on the deck and lots of leaves on just about every surface, there is no damage to report. The cable internet was out for a day, the cell phone hotspot provided backup until this evening. Other than a few glitches, the power remained. The farm opposite the back yard was a source of interesting fireworks when the power lines began galloping in the wind, releasing the uppermost cable from the insulator allowing it to drop on the lower neutral cable, lighting up the night. This took out the service leg that supplies the farm as well as a couple neighboring houses. For once the roar of generators is not coming from my place.

Jeff and I had our emergency contingencies in place, the vehicles fully fueled, lots of fuel for the generator, plenty of food, etc., all the usual. All Sandy had to do was bring it. Though we weren't hit hard, it was a serious storm that did lots of surrounding damage. Ma Nature is angry, and this is yet another example of her wrath.

Life here has taken another turn to uncertainty. A week ago today I lost my job of just over 30 years. I'll talk more of that in a possible later post, but suffice to say I see this as a mixed blessing.

Jeff's new job is a nice new challenge for him so far, he seems to enjoy it and the staff have been decent. Now, I think I've said this each time he's arrived at a new gig, and, well, you know how that has gone. I'll keep my fingers crossed that this will be a good one. Jeff enjoys his work in healthcare, the government services gig was full of way too many spoiled entitlement babies.

I continue to battle injury issues with my spine. Once I know where I stand job-wise, I will head under the knife to have the herniated disc taken care of.

I hope anyone affected by this storm, including friends and family, are doing well. I'm playing catch-up on news, LJ and such.

Back

Oct. 2nd, 2012 02:52 pm
greatbear: (Default)
I think it's only fair, given my post out of the blue from last night, that I should follow on with some news and other blather on what's been going on in the past months. Far from a comprehensive list, this is just going to highlight most of the major bits.

One of the things Jeff and I had been looking forward to more than anything this year was to have a longish vacation. We had talked many times about extending our stay in Provincetown beyond our usual week. It would always seem that we'd run out of time to do all the things we wanted to, as well as explore the greater part of Cape Cod. So, this year we did just that. However, and interesting thing occurred. We had two full weeks to play with, yet we did far less than we would on our week (or less) of time in the past. We got caught up on just relaxing, there were a couple days where we never left the campsite. We had the perfect shady spot, all of our canopies, tables and cooking gear set up, comfy chairs and tables, lots of music, and wonderfully mild weather when the majority of the USA was experiencing record setting heat along with some severe weather events. Despite not hitting the clubs and trekking all about, the relaxing was precisely what the two of us needed, especially Jeff. There is something to be said about just disconnecting from everything and, well, doing what feels good. By far, this was our most relaxing vacation yet.

If anything put a damper on our enjoyment it was the fact on the day of our arrival La Casa Mayhem and the surrounding vicinity got nailed HARD with a severe storm, knocking out power for over five days. In fact, as we were getting into Massachusetts I noticed a convoy of utility vehicles, bucket trucks and such heading the opposite direction. My comment to Jeff was that I figured the area had gotten hit with one of the myriad summer storms and now the trucks were heading back home. It wasn't until later that evening I read on the news that the Maryland area was hit badly and help was coming from many surrounding states to restore the record power outages. My attempts to connect with great computers filling the hallowed halls of Mayhem HQ failed as well, and I knew we were without power. Normally when I am home, it's just a simple task for me to connect the generator and fire it up, and life becomes normal. Unfortunately, this is not an automated process, and the power failure lasted over five days, taking with it two freezers full of expensive food, plus everything in the upstairs fridge/freezer as well. I had a local friend check on the house occasionally while we were gone. When the power was finally restored, the water system failed to come back up (I have a well) and this prevented the automatic watering of the veggie garden. So, I resigned myself to having lost not only the food inside, but some of the garden crop as well. It was searing heat and drought the entire time I was in PTown, and that took its toll on the garden. First thing I did when I got home was to figure out the problem with the water (a screen in the system got fouled with sediment that squeezed out of the empty storage tank, a simple fix, rather than the well running dry or the pump failing) while Jeff assessed the now re-frozen messes in the freezers. Later on we'd document the losses and toss out a portion of the mess each week on trash day, and the now empty freezers got totally dismantled inside for a much needed good cleaning. What we now have stored is streamlined and all inside of one freezer. There was way too much old stuff lost in the deep confines of the freezers, so not everything was a true loss. Most of the meats, however, were a different matter.

Work for me had become quite a bit better, with the folks there realizing they had the only one left from a large loss of retirees which jumped ship for retirement or early buyouts who know the most about the breadth of equipment and processes, so once they found out I had been saving their bacon upon my return from disability, I finally got some of the respect I deserve. It had actually become somewhat enjoyable for once.

I had been riding a slow wave of recovery from my back issues since the beginning of the year, but Jeff was increasingly plagued with health problems caused by his thyroid and the large goiter that had attached itself there like a face-hugging alien. Between that and some time constraints we decided to cancel the usual long weekend camping trips to Hillside that we had been doing continuously for a dozen years. This allowed me to have a chance at catching up on projects around the house and garage. I tore apart the Stratus that got whacked on the front corner due to an idiot in one of the traffic circles (one in over a dozen in approximately 2 square miles of area, this has to be some sort of record!) here at home. I put off this project until after PTown since I had other vehicles to tool around in. All the while Jeff kept being delayed over and over again by the staff at Johns Hopkins hospital increasing his frustration during a time where his workplace was becoming a living hell. I don't see how such a world-class medical facility can have such a totally inept and unprofessional support staff. The doctors are awesome. Their office staff, however, is the pits.

At work I had succumbed to a minor back injury while moving a heavy (and very expensive) piece of electronic gear using the aging, rickety carts provided for such purposes. The cart tipped rather than rolled, and I caught the 80 pound signal generator from hitting the floor. I strained my back and was out for a couple days while the worse of the pain subsided. A few weeks later the same thing happened, this time with a different lab cart and a similar piece of heavy equipment. No sudden back pain that time, but I hadn't become pain-free since the first accident. I had issues with an achy and increasingly bothersome back for a while, then I had awoke one night in the same intense, searing pain shooting down one leg that I had dealt with before the surgery in 2010. I took my cane out of mothballs and started seeking serious medical help. It was then when I found out the new medical insurance company I had to get through work was something I wasn't qualified for. I spent my own coin on the first couple visits, but I needed some expensive tests which I had to delay for about three weeks while the benefits department switched me over to a different company. Last week I was finally shoved like a torpedo into the tube of the MRI scanner. Rather than getting a huge envelope full of films this time, I got a CD with all the scans as well as the same utility the doctor uses to move through the various layers and scan depths. I made my own diagnosis just for kicks, and a little while ago the doctor's office called and confirmed what I had seen, which was a new protrusion of the L4-5 disk onto the spinal cord, against some swelling of scar tissue left over from the laminectomy and apparently made worse by recent injuries. For the past month I have been once again off of work, in sometimes ridiculous pain and unable to do a lot of things I like and/or need to do.

Frustration is the keyword of the moment I guess, but it has not been without a side benefit. I was able to be home with Jeff as well as taking him to and from his surgery and doctors visits. His surgery was a success, and he's been recovering nicely. As our odd luck would have it, during the time Jeff has been off for recovery, his mother took a nasty spill at home and broke her hip. Unfortunately, she's been succumbing to Alzheimer's for a while now, and since her surgery has been placed in a nursing home. Jeff's (and my) time off has afforded him (and me a couple times) a chance to visit as well as help out his dad. Mom has recovered from her surgery fairly well, but her return home has been stymied by her fear of getting up to walk, which is a condition of her release. She's afraid she will fall again, and refuses to walk many times. If she's distracted by some other thought, she does just fine, but when it's in her focus, it's a no-go. So sad, since she wants to go home to familiar surroundings. I'm hoping in these next couple weeks she does what she needs and can go back home. Unfortunately, she needs increasingly intensive care, something dad can't provide, and is reaching the limits of what in-home care is providing. Seeing her in bed when we last left the home was heart-wrenching for me, I can't help but flashing back to those days when my own Mom was declining. I wish I could do more, but I am frustratingly unable to do so, once again. Life is a wondrous thing, but it can be fraught with sadness and pain too.

Big change for Jeff today. He had been working at a government facility that relocated to Fort Meade from Virginia. I warned him to expect a bit of self-entitlement out of the clientele that is so (unfortunately stereotypical) of that area. Well, it was more than just a bit. Jeff had to contend with some of the most selfish and downright hostile people he ever had to deal with especially in a (very) professional environment. Couple this with a racist and homophobic client he finally had enough. Prior to, and while he was out recovering, he made a lateral move within his company to a healthcare facility outside of DC. Today is his first day at the new place, and he has high hopes for it. I sure hope this will be a good one, since Jeff worked most of his life in healthcare, he feels the most at home there. Wish him well. I head off for my doctor appointment in a few minutes, and I already know there could be some new surgery involved. I hope I can put it off for a while so I can get back to work, catch up there as well as here, and plan on a specific time for any needed cutting so I have a feeling of control and pace, rather than uncertain waiting and lack of income. Wish me well too, while you're at it.
greatbear: (Default)
I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend. There is a lot happening here at Mayhem Headquarters, mostly good, some bad. I'm letting the good stuff trample the bad stuff. I know I've been a terrible blogger of late, what with very sparse updates and little interaction. I will put forth some effort to change that as well. Some ADHD bullet points:

  • Work sucks, but I am managing.


  • Jeff has gotten good news on the status of his heart health, and can safely have his thyroid removed without fear of another heart attack or severe bleeding.


  • We are slowly catching up on things that had to wait while we dealt with our various health issues.


  • We are looking forward to some quality downtime going camping in upcoming days. Next weekend to nearby Deep Creek Lake, and in a month, not one, but two weeks in PTown. We are both stoked.


  • We've been making time for entertainment and cultural outings. Sporting events, shows, concerts, and spending time with the extended family. Lots more of this is in the works.


  • There are some bummers along the way, I have to contend with a wrecked car, I'm behind on some repairs on the house and some other projects. If things keep on the current track, I'll get to them.

    I hope this finds everybody well.
    greatbear: (seasons greetings)
    So, 2011 will soon be history. Good riddance. 2011 kicked both our asses, and not in a good way. Health issues, no income for me, lots of unfinished projects, uncertainties, a big decline in Jeff's mom's health due to Alzheimer's, the list goes on. We had some fun things happen to break up the bad stuff, of course, the trip to PTown, a few weekend getaways, visits by friends, that sort of thing. The good stuff give us hope for more as 2012 approaches.

    Here's hoping that 2012 is a good one, and all that Mayan gobbledygook is just that. In the meantime, I'm gonna go work on cars.

    Happy New Year, everyone.
    greatbear: (jeff and me)
    Today I took Jeff to Lutherville for carpal tunnel surgery in his left wrist. The procedure was successful, and surprisingly quick. It was not even 45 minutes before I was led back into the recovery room to see how he was doing, help him fill out paperwork and get dressed. I collected my groggy cub and took him to lunch on the way home. I then took him to get his prescriptions filled and to get some groceries, a stop at the donut shop, then home once again for more doting before I made pizza and salads with ice cream desserts. He's going to be mostly out of commission for several days before being able to return to work. Couple this extended stay at home with his vacation from last week, and he's sure to be sick of seeing my mug and begging for a return to work. ;-)

    Once he's fully recovered from the left side surgery, the process gets repeated on the right arm, this time with the ulnar nerve included. I plan on making his life just as it was today when that time comes. I gotta take care of my Jeff, he's all I have.

    Once again, Halloween was a bust, with no one coming to beg for candy. This leaves us with a big dish (on legs!) full of unhealthy snacks. Some of these will probably got with Jeff to work, unless a friend of mine that stops by on occasions doesn't dive in first.

    Just stuff

    Dec. 6th, 2010 09:16 pm
    greatbear: (Default)
    It might be a blustery, cold evening here, with temps in the mid-upper 20s and some insane winds, but the house is nice and toasty with the woodstove cranking out the heat, and with a nice bonus of a loaf of whole wheat bread baking, making the nice warm house smell like absolute heaven. A few minutes and the bread is done. Jeff has been on a bit of cooking and especially baking binge the last couple days, and tonight is no different.

    I'm currently taking new meds to deal with the nerve damage left over from the spine surgery. It's toned down the electrical storm that has wracked my body since the day my vertebra were sawed up, and I am able to plop myself in bed and sleep like a baby for a most part. I'm still plagued with the numbness, but that might not be quite as bad. The tasering feeling is much diminished, but still there too as well as weakness and occasional loss of control. The only side effects are a slightly loopy feeling and a bipolar appetite.

    Still taking it easy and holding off on building the roof window light shafts into the living room. I'm spending the time doing little tasks for the most part, and have been cleaning/lubing hand and power tools while not using them. I have almost a quarter mil invested in tools and machinery (really, it even surprised me) and I try to keep things in good working order. It's tough to find decent tools these days, and good ones are seriously expensive. Most of what I have will easily outlast me. Tools are something special to me. They are a way one practices their craft, earns a living, helps others out, creates and fixes. Tools are an extension of a person, and deserve the same respect. During the recent times I have not been able to use my tools I saw them filled with history and work. Taking some time now and then to exercise some TLC on a lot of my tools was a relaxing and fulfilling task. Since the surgery I've sorta jumped the gun to get back into some work, and it was it's own sort of therapy. I guess I'm one of those who has hands-on work burned completely into my very being.

    During this post the bread had finished baking and we sampled it warm and fresh. Yeah, a little slice of heaven.

    Have a great week, everyone.
    greatbear: (Default)
    Things have been slowly returning to the normalcy of such happenstance here at Chez Mayhem. Note that I did not use the word "normal" as it generally never applies. =)

    I had to reschedule my PT from Friday to Saturday when the folks at G.E. decided to move their warranty repair visit from the morning to the afternoon. Me and the tech had a good talk about what was wrong, how it can be fixed, etc. It also became evident that not only am I on par with his abilities, I might be doing some of the repair work myself. I don't mind a bit.

    Speaking of repairs, more and more little things have been breaking down here at the homestead. One of the two wi-fi access points bit the dust, as well as one of several digital TV converter boxes I have attached to perfectly good television sets that I refuse to simply throw away. Also, one of the power supplies used to charge a jump-start battery pack conked out. The problem with all three? Bad capacitors in the power supplies. Each of these seemingly unrelated items use a switch-mode power supply, either internally or as a plug-in box (wall-wart), made in China. The poor quality Chinese electrolytic capacitors literally blow their tops, venting electrolyte gas pressure and die. These items are not too difficult to fix, I have a stock of compatible, high-grade replacement capacitors, and a few minutes spent with a soldering iron generally not only brings whatever the device is back to life, it will not have a recurrence of that problem in the future. In the case of the wifi access point, the wall-wart was not only solidly sealed shut, it also had been potted with silicone rubber as well. Trying to scoop out that mess is not worth the hassle, I can find a compatible power supply as a replacement. In most cases of modern electronic gear that has suddenly quit working entirely or has constant erratic operation, the trouble can be traced to a low-grade, Chinese-made capacitor (or several) in the power supply that has failed in this exact same fashion. Most people will simply throw out the device because the repair, despite being easy and cheap parts-wise (the typical failed cap only costs a couple bucks at best) is too expensive. DIY rules here.

    In a related note, I had predicted that DTV converter boxes would become scarce soon after the transition from analog to digital TV. I am surprised at exactly how scarce these boxes have become. No local retails stock them anymore, and can't even order them. Name-brand units are nowhere to be found for the most part online, with a smattering of totally unfamiliar brands to be had otherwise. These off-branded units often come with very low user reviews. I need a couple more of these for two more sets, plus a spare, but I am ready to throw in the towel here. Those days I have gone to the local landfill/recycling center, the 20 foot dumpsters have been brimming with analog television sets, CRT, projection and LCD/plasma. I am willing to bet that 95% of those sets have not a thing wrong with them aside from the lack of digital reception. Such a waste. I refuse to participate.

    On the health front, I've been enjoying the physical therapy, along with the e-stim session at the end of the visit. The therapist has realized he needs to set the initial stim level higher for me than most people, and he also gives me control of the box. As I grow accustomed to the level, I ramp up the output to keep the feeling strong. It feels good, of course, but also jump starts (no pun intended) the nerve mending process. This has good and bad points. The good, obviously, means returning to the old me if all goes well. The bad, however, has been a bit more insidious. Since about two seeks from surgery, I've been experiencing strange, involuntary artifacts of the healing process. Just as I begin to relax and fall asleep, my body's IT department decides that since campus is closed, it's time to start fixing the network cabling. I feel little twitches in random areas from the waist down. Odd sensations out of nowhere. The worst are the sudden jumps, kicks and spasms that not only wake me up, but can hurt like hell. My left foot as of Friday has a constant bzzzzZZZZZzzzz, bzzzzZZZZzzzz, bzzzzZZZZzzzz not unlike standing in a motorboat or bus with a raucous diesel engine. I'm taking this as a good sign that the IT department is getting things done, as there is less actual numbness now on that side. So far, an occasional, sudden inability to control my right leg pops up out of nowhere for a few seconds makes life a tad dangerous. I've stumbled and lost my balance a couple times, but nothing bad as of yet. The numbness in my feet is still there, making my walking gait more like a stoner wandering outside a Phish concert.

    Jeff and I were walking through Home Depot yesterday as I was picking up more stuff to use on the house fixits. A youngish, bearded guy behind the counter in the door and window section called out to us in praise of our beards and how he no longer feels out of place in the store. Beards seem all the rage these days. Not necessarily a bad thing.

    I met today with the roofer to begin work on (FINALLY!) replacing the roofing on the various building that make up Mayhem Headquarters. I have to clamber up into the attic space and frame up the openings under the roof for the skylights and the sun tunnel. This is not strenuous work, but I do need to gently contort myself between the trusses and make myself comfortable for a little while to measure up the spaces, leave the attic to cut the various lumber and plywood bits that make up the framing, then head back up to screw it all into place. There is a huge advantage to this being with the framing in place, I can drill a hole in each corner once the roofing is stripped off, the draw lines on the top of the roof decking once the roof is stripped bare. The resulting rectangles are the rough-in cuts to be made for the skylights. Five minutes with a circular saw and the openings are perfectly made and the skylights only need to be fastened down and the underlayment and flashing installed as the new shingles go back down.

    My interactions with the roofer, the guy from GE and the salesmen at Lowes where I bought the skylights and accessories highlight how smoothly things go when I educate myself ahead of time and have all my information ready. The salesdude at Lowes had an easy time with me (and kept reminding me of that fact) because I knew exactly what I needed beforehand and did not have to constantly ask for his opinions or help. Zip, zap, boom it was all done, all the pieces were accounted for and properly sized. My bit of OCD researching and the wonderfulness of the internet in providing all the literature, specs and relevant info instantly made life infinitely easier than the days before when I had to seek out information from distributors, salespeople and manufacturers in person or over the phone, collect all this together to make a decision then still need to get more information regarding my selections to make sure everything is kosher. With all the proper blueprints, specs, installation information and required supplies right in front of me whenever I need it, things have gotten almost too easy. I also minimize interactions with people who might not be in the best of moods, or just plain surly and stupid. But one of the best results from being well prepared is the instant respect I get from the people I am dealing with. I'm less likely to be taken for a ride, or ripped off, and the people doing the work for me don't have to contend with a ditz.

    Tomorrow is Jeff's last vacation day out of the last four (excluding Wednesday) he took from work to get away from the hectic nature of his business being an UberChef. I'll miss spending the time at home with him. While we had planned to possibly go somewhere like the beach for a day, we decided just taking time off at home, doing some cool things and just taking it easy was a vacation enough for him. I just hope this week does not turn out to be hell for him. You know how it is when you go back to work after an extended absence. When I finally return in a month or so, it will be a shocker in so many ways. My department has been moved off-campus, no one like it except for the delusional upper management, and my complete loss of respect for everyone there that became cemented during my disability will make returning very difficult, and I will more than likely seek a transfer out of that completely failed hell before it gets outsourced. Won't be easy, but, hey, I've been through worse lately.

    Here's hoping for a good week for everyone out there.
    greatbear: (wwf)
    I've noticed an increase in my friends list. Welcome, dear new readers, to my (fill in the blank) Of Mayhem!

    Why is it, whenever I see a Panera Bread sign, I think to myself, "Pantera Bread! RAAAAWK!!!!11"? Probably because years ago I did the same thing with Au Bon PAAAAIIIN. Must be something about heavy metal, endorphins and baked goods.

    I've discovered a lot of cool stuff at the local Goodwill store. I replaced the old, cheap Pioneer receiver I used to drive the studio nearfield monitors with a 2003-vintage Sony surround receiver. While the surround channels will not be used, as a stereo amp it works wonderfully, driving the speakers at a higher volume level undistorted. The Pioneer was resisting my efforts to clean the switches and pots and will likely be given away to a friend for a shop stereo. The Sony had fully electronic switching and attenuation. Plus the 90w/ch rawks. I also managed to find a Sony 50+1 CD changer to go along with my old faithful Sony DVD player in the home theater rack. The beauty of this is, the DVD player does all the controlling of the changer, with the on-screen display and remote control integrates perfectly. It's hidden away in the rack, and sounds totally boss. Not a bad haul for 55 bucks for the pair. Once cleaned up, they both looked brand new.

    Tomorrow I go back to the doc for a far more serious round of shots in my back. I'm not holding much faith in this doing much (if any) good, the last round was completely ineffective. The last several days have been spent in worsening pain and less mobility. Writhing on the living room floor in pain and unable to get up (cue MedicAlert jokes) last night really sucked. Before that a prior 30 minute bout of extreme pain leaving a store with Jeff after work and unable to stop the spasms at the restaurant we went to afterward practically ruined the evening. Our overenthusiastic waiter kept coming to the table, "Are we ready to order yet?" Me: *uuuurrgghh* "No, give us a few more minutes." Repeat this at least 4 times. Eventually things settled down and we enjoyed our meal.

    Mimi's Cafe food totally pwns (see above).

    Despite the pain, setbacks and slow progress, I try and keep at various things here, mostly time-consuming tasks that I've put off for too long. I've been cleaning and reorganizing the tools in the garage and doing little repairs. As long as I can do the bulk of the work sitting crosslegged on the floor or rolling about on my mechanic's creeper stool, I can keep busy. I can stumble back into the air-conditioned house periodically to take needed breaks, and just drop the garage doors leaving everything there for the next day. The last few days, however, have not seen a lot of activity at all.

    Except for one person, none of my local friends here have asked about me or offered to help out in any way. Not a single note or call from anyone at work. I've gone from disappointed to angry about it, now I'm just resigned to going at whatever completely alone, aside from Jeff. He has enough on his plate anyway, bringing lots of work home. I'm used to being a loner, but I thought all the effort I put forth in helping others would give me some sort of karmic payback. No dice. When things get back to normal, however, the same people who begged for help before will find the garage closed, the IT department outsourced, the advice column gone, etc, with nothing but the bird flipped in their place.
    greatbear: (Default)
    I racked up just shy of a hundred miles today just running errands. Buying parts for the travel trailer, a stop at Woodcraft to pick up an Incra miter fence (it was on sale!) and for some odds and ends, and Lowes for some supplies before heading home. Basically, a big loop around Baltimore. The weather was halfway decent, meaning it least it held off of raining. Jeff took Kodi to the groomer while I was away as well as did some mulching, I did work in the basement.

    The weather has me a bit off; I cant stand the hot/dry followed by cold/wet over and over without feeling a bit exhausted. Depending on what the weather decides to saddle me with will determine what I do tomorrow. The Stratus needs a front wheel bearing, it was damaged a while ago when I hit a nasty pothole that bent one of the new rims. It took a couple years, but sure enough, it's growling the past few days. Everything needs normal maintenance, oil/fluids/cleaning, etc. I just wish I could get some help beyond what Jeff and I are doing in the yard, I'd be able to get more done.

    Saw Milk tonight finally. Excellent movie. Sean Penn was amazing in his portrayal of Harvey Milk. Had this movie been released a few months earlier, I think the whole Proposition 8 debacle would have merely been a sidenote in history.
    greatbear: (forearms)
    I know I have not been posting a lot here. Been instead sequestering myself in the basement doing electrical and lighting work, fixing up some of my old machinery and generally being a hermit. It's what I do best. Since signing up for Facebook I have found instead of giving myself another outlet for my thoughts, it seems to have put me off on posting things anywhere, be it FB, LJ, various forums I linger on, etc. Perhaps this is just a phase, bit I will sequester myself mostly in LJ as if it were my basement. Complete with the sawdust and upgrades.

    Some updates I guess are in order. Jeff and I have nailed down our Hillside camping dates, so as it has been for a while now, Bear weekends 2 and 3 and Wrestling/Car Show weekends are a go. We have our favorite site for all of them, which is really only one of a couple available that can accommodate our trailer setup plus any friends we manage to have on the site. So, that fills out our planned camping excursions for this year. Deep Creek Lake, MD at the end of May, Hillside for July and August, and P-Town for July for Bear Week. Anything else is going to be a surprise for us.

    Cut down yet another tree over at Jeff's parent's place. While I am not fond at all to his dad's scorched-earth clearing of trees in the yard, I can see what he's up to. These are trees along the creek that divides their lot from the farm behind, and opening this up allows a rather awesome view of the farm and the buffalo being raised there (they are delicious, btw). It's getting tougher for him to deal with the yard and the leaves, so this also helps in that respect. Still, I dont like seeing healthy, viable trees taken down. It's my nature. There are some dead and dying stuff that will come down as well. Of course, the bonus here is that I get to bring home all sorts of good firewood gratis. The lower part of this tree filled my truck up, with the remaining wood needing two or three more trips to being home.

    While bucking the tree into stove-length logs, one of the roughly 30-inch diameter logs slammed onto my foot, leaving me with a nasty bruise and a woeful limp. I am hoping nothing serious has happened, I am going by the assumption that a break would hurt a helluva lot more. I've busted toes before, so I know the pain.

    While Jeff's dad and I were at the hardware store, his mom took a bad tumble and broke her arm. I feel awful about this, since it's affecting the last family I know. She took it in stride, and will be seeing a specialist tomorrow to determine a course of action. Hopefully it's not involving of surgery, screws, pins and brackets.

    It's snowing it's ass off outside at the moment. On tap to receive 3-6 inches and possibly more, I am sort of skeeved at March coming in like a crazed lion after a relatively snow-free winter so far. Nothing I can do about it other than wake up tomorrow morning, haul the snow blowers out and deal. The aforementioned firewood, roughly 1000lbs, will give the truck that much more added traction.

    The last of hopefully any more hard drives have been acquired and installed into some enclosures I have here, plus one more enclosure bought for the occasion. These will be near-line regular backups that get connected every week or so to back everything up and taken off line and put in safe keeping. A pair of 1.5TB drives, a second pair of 1TBs, plus a third TB drive set aside as a spare for the servers. If this does not make things all set and wonderful, I dont know what will.

    I have a feeling my hermit-like behavior will be around for a while. So if there's a lack of online activity from me, that's why. It's not like I am terribly missed anyhow. I still manage to make my usual comments that are often misunderstood and taken as the opposite as the obscure humor I intend. You've been forewarned.
    greatbear: (forearms)
    Long day at work that was actually pleasant and productive. I hope the next three days are like that. After coming home and having a bite, I started getting things fixed up and ready for the trip. Our 10x10 easy-up canopy we take camping suffered a broken strut when it was used for a function where Jeff works. Tonight I brazed up the broken metal piece, cleaned and painted it and reassembled the frame. Good as new. I packed the truck with some sundry items and gave it a mechanical once-over. It's good to go, though I'd really like to wash the thing before the trip. It's a mess inside and out. I have a pair of folding reclining chairs that need repair after a rather large individual from LJ that shall remain nameless bent part of the mechanism. That will happen tomorrow. Most everything else is ready to go.

    Put a 500GB drive in an external enclosure and am currently backing up this laptop. The new server has settled down and is behaving nicely (click on wood), though I still have to find out why the DNS service wont load properly at startup, yet runs without issues after starting manually. The server itself has it's own automatic backup schedule, so it takes care of itself. I realized that in the past several months I have accumulated nearly 11TB worth of hard drives. Newegg loves me. I await the inevitable day that I can look back and call that ridiculous amount of storage 'quaint'.

    N.B. All those drives are not part of one computer, instead some are library drives for the HTPC, a couple small ones and one big one for the new server, a couple external drives, and about half that will make up the uber file/media server. The same data in a bunch of locations. And I promised myself no more god boxes. Sheesh.

    I am reading where the NHRA, the sanctioning body behind professional drag racing (with cars, not with heels and dresses) is considering shortening the track from it's historical 1/4 mile (1320 feet) to 1000 feet in wake of the death of one of it's more famous drivers, Scott Kalitta. I'm sorry, but that is total BS. Yes, the cars are hitting record speeds again and again, and it's getting tough to haul them down from 340+ mph in the remaining track length, even more so when the cars or their systems are damaged. Racing of all kinds has always evolved the safety aspects as speeds increased. Much of this safety tech works it's way into our everyday cars. Time has come to advance the safety technologies once again to keep pace. Making the track shorter reduces trap speeds and leaves more room for stopping. But changing the track length invalidates comparisons of past record achievement with what will happen in the future. And some things should remain sacred anyway.
    greatbear: (fuzzy)
    Took a few moments tonight for some LJ 'admin' issues. Seems I had picked up as well as lost some friends that I was completely unaware of, despite having things set to notify me of such events. To all my new readers, howdy! To those who left, sorry I pissed ya off.

    I'm staring at a three-plus terabyte pile of hard drives on my desk that are going into a new server that's slowly taking shape. The PC 'infrastructure' here is not the greatest. Jeff needs a new setup, I need something workable in the garage that can be made from old stuff I have around here, and the old server will be replaced with a pair of machines, one big file/media/streaming machine with the terabytes of RAID and a small, simple, efficient one to be the gateway/webserver/router/proxy. My current setup has all the eggs in one basket, and has done pretty well with probably 99% uptime since 1999. Not a bad record for this vicinity.

    The weather is starting to get nice, which means more time outdoors in the fresh air. This helps my mood out. Which is a much-needed good thing right now.

    It's soon time for spring maintenance on the cars, trucks and the fleet of little engine powered things around here. A trip to the Dragon's Tail in less than a month and a half is in the works, as well as a camping trip at the end of May. Little trips to get out in the world, which is something I have not been doing a lot of in recent months.

    New pictures will soon be hitting my Flickr account, and some stories about them will show up here. It'll be more cathartic than artistic, that's for sure.

    Hope y'all are doing well.
    greatbear: (fuzzy)
    For the past two days I have mostly been moping around the house and sleeping while a pulled muscle in my shoulder/back makes my life miserable. Today we got socked with about four inches of snow/sleet/rain that is currently fusing itself into an immovable mess. With that, I am going to take off one more day and hope I will be up to dragging out the snowblower to clean it off the driveways. I really dont want to deal with the mess driving to work and the deadly parking lot at work. Lemme tell ya, it's hell getting old. Anyone planning to do so might want to make other plans.

    Been futzing with the PCs while not able to do anything physical. Time has come to start revamping the LAN and the server. This one has been running continuously since 2000, and does not owe me anything. While the weather is nasty, I want to get some more Ethernet cables run to where the home theater setup will be (again) as well as the closet that now houses the big color laser. The wireless access points are working fine, but are way too slow for serious video streaming and file backups. Gigabit, here we come.

    A lot of sad news on LJ today. This seems to be happening with increasing frequency in the last couple years. I've been hoping this is not a trend.

    Jeff and I are trying to solidify travel plans and other recreational stuff for the year. Since starting his new job, he has only a piddling two weeks of vacay to start off with, so our big trip will be for a week in Provincetown during 'bear week'. Unlike last year, we are not planning on signing up for the week's events, since last year we only partook of one thing. No, this will be simply our vacation once again with the chance of running across some friends along the way. It looks like anything else we try to do will end up being mostly of the 'extended weekend' variety until Jeff gets more time off.
    greatbear: (fuzzy)
    It's been ages since I did a proper update of the current goings-on around and about The Garage of Mayhem. Really, there is not that much outside of the usual happenings. Work is still a soul-draining experience. Too bad the pay is decent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bah, humbug.
    greatbear: (big beard)
    So, so, so busy lately. Most of it good. Patiently waiting for the new truck deal to gel, it should be home by the end of the week if nothing goes awry. Had a great time in Hershey Park this past Saturday, eight fuzzy friends frolicking in the heat. 'Twas a nice change of pace, and will be something that happens every year at this time if everyone is up for it.

    The yard is a parched study in brown and crispiness like it has never been before. Rain seems like a novelty, and watering seems almost futile. It's beyond depressing.

    We have a good friend coming into town who will stay with us for a couple days during his summer whirlwind tour of the country once again. Should be another nice diversion and a chance to open up the house for guests again, which is something we really need to do more of.

    Apologies for my blog being mostly in a holding pattern, my heart aint in it during the summer months. Hopefully things will change.

    Cheers!
    greatbear: (Default)
    Decent, busy weekend, albeit with ongoing connectivity issues. I headed off Saturday morning to Westminster to pick up chainsaw, tractor and shredder parts from Taylor's Outdoor Power Equipment, a little mom 'n' pop outfit that's been around for ages and one that I have dealt with for over twenty years. I take the time and drive over 40 miles to this place because the service and people are second to none, the equipment they carry is first-rate professional gear. I can safely say that I have spent over ten grand in equipment and parts purchases over the years with this shop. Imagine my surprise and sadness when I pull into the parking lot only to find that the store was empty, the signage removed and a "Coming Soon" sign in the front boasting of an unrelated masonry and landscape shop. The relentless march of time claimed yet another reliable small family business. Strangely, I heard nothing regarding the closing of the shop or any reasons why. For all the years I have been doing business with Taylor's, they were never slack for work. In recent years though, "Old Man" Taylor had suffered some health setbacks, including a nearly fatal stroke. He was not at the shop for quite a while, but one day he was back and he and I did a lot of catching up. The stroke definitely did nothing to take away his memory, as he remembered not only my name, the equipment I have and where I work, but even smaller details too numerous to mention. The only indication I had of any impeding troubles was my last visit, where I had problems getting parts that were normally stocked. Apparently the recent storms down south and the ongoing cleanup efforts have caused shortages of new equipment available for sale. This is a widespread issue affecting a lot of businesses. I assume that the family decided to quietly retire the business at the end of the year while the getting was good. Or at least I am hoping this is the case, rather than some family tragedy. I now have to try and find another dealer that I can do business with that can at least partially live up to the standards set by Taylor's. I'm going to miss that entire crew.

    Saturday evening Jeff and I headed off to see Brokeback Mountain. The movie, at least for me, did not have quite the 'tissue factor' as I had been expecting, but was powerful nonetheless. In fact, this was one of those rare movies that had me doing a lot of quiet mental post-processing. I guess I was not alone, since I dont recall hearing much spoken by anyone else leaving the theater that night.

    Sunday was mostly a day of working around the house and garage, as well as installing a new cable modem in hopes of fixing my severe packet loss, to no avail. More tinkering around the house, plus a weekend of playing with the pico-pooch "Bear" (who is getting cuter by the week) and lots of running around made me sleep like a log on Sunday night. Also, sadly, I gave in and shaved down my beard, which was getting too scraggly in addition to starting to get caught in some of my work. The bathroom wastebasket looks like a ferret is sleeping in it.

    Tonight my connection is not too bad. I hope it holds out long enough for me to get this post in.
    greatbear: (fuzzy)
    It's raining again, and that can only mean one thing.

    The phones are out. Again.

    This is the third time. And by the time of the appointment to get a technician over (the problem is in their lines, not here at the house), things have dried up and the problem goes away. They cant find it, or in my case, there is no problem and the workorder gets closed. Well, it appears that they (Verizon) cant send anyone out no earlier than Thursday. That's right, Turkey Day. In this case, I hope it is raining, the phone is dead, and the guy has to work all day to locate the short. Things were much better service-wise back in the days when you leased the phone from Ma Bell.

    Had a nice little outing in Harrisburg Saturday night. Met up with the bears for happy hour at the Brownstone. Got to catch up with old friends, as well as meet people for the first time in person. Also got to meet some LJers for the first time ([livejournal.com profile] scottcub, [livejournal.com profile] psuweightlifter and his muscles), plus a couple guys from Bear411 (who I dubbed for the night "RC and Moon Pie") as well as [livejournal.com profile] cutepacub. Only downside was the smoking got to me and my clothes smelled like an incinerator malfunction.

    Not feeling anything in the way of 'holiday spirit' yet, and doubt I will. However, if I could round up some lighting controllers and rig up something similar to this (10MB Quicktime), I might be inspired. Or just plain frustrated.
    greatbear: (fuzzy)
    I haven't been posting anything lately mostly because not much for me has been postworthy, and also because I've been battling yet another round of diverticulitis and it's accompanying ills. I tend to keep to myself when I'm sick, and I sleep more than Garfield until I'm over it. It's my built-in therapy. I snore like a sawmill though, so any seismic activity around my area is nothing to be alarmed about. CT scans and awful-tasting contrast fluid is in my future. I'll spare any more gory details.

    Mom is heading to San Fran on Saturday, so if anyone from the Cali contingent finds an old lady looking for the various concert halls and operas, it's probably her. Say Hi for me.

    Projects on the house, the Mini and other stuff is on hold while I get over this. My new doors have not come in yet, though were due in by now. So much the better I guess. Still dealing with oddball PC issues but have no desire to sort them out right now. New monster needs more parts. When I'm richer.

    Thanks to everyone on my friend's list for occupying my time the last week or so. It helps more than y'all know.

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    Phil

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