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: (walken)
Well, the snow has been falling since about 8pm, the wood stove is packed for the night, the house is toasty warm, generators on standby if needed, plenty of food is in in the house, two dogs are with me in bed with one snoring under the covers. The house is nearly silent, the only sound other than breathing pups is the tiny fan in the laptop. It is practically the pure essence of comfy cozy warm fuzzies. But what is wrong with this idyllic scene? There is no Jeff. Sadly, he took off right as the storm arrived to stay in a hotel close to the hospital where he works in order to be there in the morning. He's considered essential personnel, so he gets no snow days. While I am not exactly thrilled by this situation as I'd rather have him home and part of this cozy mayhem, he is safe where he is, does not have to drive to get to work, and has everything he needs close by. He will likely stay until Friday and return after work if all goes well.

Tomorrow, after the snow finally settles down, I will attack the walkways and driveways with the snowblower, which I gassed up and got ready earlier today. I will then send By-Tor and the Snow Dog out into the fluffy stuff, where they will undoubtedly have a blast like they did in the last snowfall. I'm hoping Jeff doesn't have a lot going on the next couple days and he can come home Friday and have a relaxing weekend.
greatbear: (me and mom)
Today would've been Mom's 88th birthday. While time has indeed soften the edge of loss, it doesn't take a lot to bring me into that sad, cold feeling of loss. The first half of this month, in fact, once a personal period of happiness in our tiny family, with my birthday, then hers, topping off with Valentine's Day by simple fact that Valentine was Mom's first name (it's pronounced "Valentina," but an error in translation/spelling when she came to the states in the early 50s made the unique spelling stick, not such a bad thing really) makes a good excuse to have another celebration day. After all, I get Groundhog Day by dint of sharing my first name with a certain weather prognosticating furrball in Pennsyltucky, so why not make cozy wintertime hay with it? As one might expect, coupling these days of yore and the pleasant memories they had entailed with the remaining cold, grey winter and my disabilities and pain puts me into a bit of a funk. I try my best to push on, remembering all the good stuff, quietly playing records I haven't spun in decades, surrounding myself with the two little pooches who obviously sense something, and waiting till Jeff gets home. We went out for a nice little dinner at a local place, and some more minor parts had arrived while we were out that pertain to the IT infrastructure at Mayhem Acres, so while Jeff studies for a seminar tomorrow, I am down in the bowels of electronic underpinnings of La Casa putting the final touches on a new server, listening to obscure prog rock and classical and trying to keep myself composed. It's all I really can do these days, as Spring slowly arrives in six more weeks, more attention will be focused on some very important changes here and the frigid grey funk a memory.

I lost Mom nearly 8 years ago, but her birthday will always be a special day for me. I celebrate with her spirit that lives on around me.
greatbear: (forearms)
As everyone seems to know, a lot of snow fell here recently, and I waited until the next day (Wednesday) to hobble out of the house to the garage, fire up the snowblower and have at it. It wasn't a huge snow, only about 6-7 inches. Anyhow, since my back is in absolutely no shape to even touch a snow shovel, mostly hanging from the handles of the big, self-propelled snowblower is fairly easy, and I have to say, sending a rooster tail of snow high into the air that blots out the sun in my general vicinity is kinda fun. It does, however, fly back at me quite a bit, and after about an hour I pretty much look like the abominable snowman by the time I'm done. I park the thing in the garage, trudge back into the house where I strip myself of my snow-covered outerwear, boots and whatnot and otherwise dry off. While I got most of the snow off of me, I didn't realize there was close to two inches on top of the geeky Mad Bomber hat I use to keep my big flappy ears warm. I set this in the kitchen sink to thaw out, and shook the copious icicles out of my beard. I relax a bit, sore and hurting from the exertion (which I still am as of this writing). I play with the various four-leggers in the house, including the stray cat that makes herself all-too-comfy here. A little while later, I head to the kitchen for a snack, and I notice a furrball on the kitchen counter. The damn cat is always jumping up, looking for anything she can to eat. I yell like I usually do to shoo her off. It was then I realized I was yelling at the hat I put in the sink earlier.

I had a good laugh at my own expense.

Bonus irony points: It was at this time the doorbell rang, it was UPS delivering one of my purchases. A new, black Milwaukee electrically heated jacket. That would've been nice to have on while doing the snow. Well, I know how my irony goes. I was wearing my old red version while slingin' snow. Take that, old irony monster.
greatbear: (walken)
What a way to start the New Year here at Mayhem Acres but with a nice winter snowstorm! Jeff had to work on New Year's Day (I always get the earworm thanks to U2 when I see or use the term) as well as NYE, the weekend before, plus yesterday and today, so he had a long week already. On his way home yesterday the snow had already begun falling. Thankfully he got home without a hitch, I had walked the dogs before the airborne crystalline assault began to gather ground troops and we were safely ensconced in wood-heated bliss for the evening. By early morning when Jeff was ready to head off to work (he's critical personnel) about six+ inches had fallen. By virtue of living off of a road deemed critical for emergency traffic (a police station, fire and paramedic department is about a mile-and-a-half away), and this road intersects three major highways, the road was clear enough for Jeff to carefully drive in to work. Once near the hospital, though, it was a different story, ironically the roads right up to the hospital were a mess. He got in without incident, and had an otherwise normal day. I waited until he got home before I attempted to tackle the snow in the driveways and walks, just in case I would fall, get hurt, or have some other unkind fate befall me. I'm pleased to say I managed to clear the walk and most of the driveways before the snowblower ran out of gas. I have maybe a fifteen minute job remaining, if even that, for tomorrow. After the dig-out we headed to the pet store and grocer for our week-plus of food and supplies. It was only after all that work and walking that I was finally breaking down and in need of a rest. All if this without a fall, a sudden burst of pain, a heart attack, shingles, athlete's foot or any other nasty body problems. Go me!

The PT I've been undergoing has been doing me some good. I am quite sore the next day, with enough DOMS to make me feel like I am accomplishing something at the gym. I weight less now than I did as a sophomore in high school. I'm not too concerned about the weight loss at this point since I don't need be be trying to haul a lot of bulk around. Part of the therapy involves electrostim treatments on my lower back. The therapist always comments on how much "energy" I have them set the machine for, apparently more than most people can handle, and I only increase it through the run of stim. I tell her that in addition to 40+ years of working with electricity and having it "greet" me on its own terms countless times, I've been hit by lighting as well. Makes for amusing conversation if nothing else. One of the things I'm going to try for is to get a decent home-use e-stim unit, the therapy does do my body good, and it might also have some, ahem, extracurricular use later on. I still have a long way to go until I can no longer walk looking like a stand-in for Quasimodo trying to imitate the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I'm getting there.

Speaking of working out, weight loss and gyms, Jeff has been going to a local gym here trying to better his health and lose some weight. Earlier in the year he was attending a kettlebells gym. While he was increasing strength and flexibility, it was doing nothing for weight loss, something his doctors were insisting on as part of ongoing work since the heart attack. He found a decent deal that also includes a personal trainer, who not only set him up with specific routines and goals at the gym, but some pretty strict initial dietary guidelines as well. Since starting this about a month ago, he's down a good 14 pounds or so, with obvious changes to his physique to boot. Woof. The two of us will be heading through '14 leaner and meaner. I'll definitely be rockin' the meaner part, as I'm turning into a grouchy old cuss as 52 rounds the corner in less than a month.

I've also been getting back into some studio-oriented work, mostly with "remastering" some of my favorite music and making my own mixes. If I finally get the nerve to try without getting frustrated, I might pick up the guitars and basses here and give the old fingers a workout. I love music, and recent upgrades to the stereos, home theater and digital music servers are part of my getting back into serious listening and involvement with music. My recent setback after surgery with becoming quite deaf in my right ear is either beginning to subside, or I am getting used to it. I will soon upgrade my studio monitors, I was using headphones as my primary monitoring means, and a recent purchase of a different style of headphone hasn't really made a difference in my discomfort in using cans as monitors that has crept in recently. I might spring for that pair of Mackie bi-amped nearfields I've always lusted after. I can crank them while Jeff is away, and resort to the cans for nighttime listening.

As I often do when it snows, I poke my camera lens out the front door and take spooky, available-light shots of the snow falling on the trees in the front yard, so this is my first photo for the new year. Kinda blurry, but it's a handheld shot for a second or less.



Tomorrow, since Jeff is (finally!) home during the day, I might take shots of the dogs frolicking in the snow. Last year, Snickles didn't want anything to do with the white stuff. He'd stand around shivering, picking his feet up one by one and generally be miserable in the snow. I worried this year how he'd handle it, but it appears he's beginning to love the stuff. Kodi was always a snow-dog, he can't get enough of it. Snickles can potentially get around better in it than Kodi, thanks to his long thin legs. He still gets cold after a while, since he's a shorthaired pooch with less body hair than I have, apparently. We have a little jacket to help with that issue.

I hope everyone is starting off 2014 on a good note. I know I am trying to do so, and we'll see how it turns out as it progresses.

N. B. It seems LJ has been lazy with comment notifications with me lately, I didn't realize my last few posts had collected a fair amount of comments until tonight. I'll probably be going into my previous posts and answering some of them. Damn Russians!
greatbear: (picard kick)
Today Jeff and I did some things that were way past due in order to get with the season. Firewood is brought up to the house, the snowblower is ready, vehicles are good to go, freezer and fridge fulla goodies, generators ready if needed. The weather radio sent up a couple of SAME alerts for impending winter weather doom. Other than the unfortunate fact that Jeff might end up driving in it Monday, we are all set. Since we live next to a primary road that must be cleared for emergency vehicles, the worst we usually see is the quarter mile from the driveways to the main drag, the to major roads which already have been pretreated. I probably won't go anywhere.

Here's an engaging little ditty in honor of the imminent Weatherpocalypse:

greatbear: (glasses)
In my earlier post I lamented on not having the frame of mind to make creative posts (or posts in general) here on LJ. My reasoning was not entirely forthright, because there have been times I wanted to make a post, but external factors thwart my attempts. One in particular, actually.

keyboard kat


This is Pinky. Beneath Pinky is my keyboard. She insists on laying in my keyboard drawer practically every night, or practically any time I am in front of this particular computer. I push my keyboard as far back on the surface as I can lest she provide her own input, and she settles in for the evening. I'm allowed the use of my mouse, but alphanumeric input is verboten. Actually, since the keyboard itself (as well as the mouse) is Bluetooth wireless, I can remove them both and let Pinky have the full 16 by 24 inch surface to stretch out on. The table itself is a dire mess, so ol' Pink can't lounge on the upper deck yet. You can also see a bit of my now-scrawny legs lost in my jeans. I hope to change that soon.

I also lost one of my USB hubs a while back and with it, my flash card reader connection. I remedied this tonight and can now go through some photos that have piled up on the SD/CF cards.

We are currently experiencing a notable SNOMG Event as I type this. The power has been on and off, lightning flashes in the distance, and a sticky/wet snow is clinging to everything it touches. I expect more busted up trees and shrubs from this one similar to what happened last winter during the numerous snowpocalypseses. I hope Jeff does not have to go to work (he is considered essential personnel who have to trek in even during facility closure, which is lunacy IMO), and I hope my doctor's appointment gets axed. Jeff had a wild ride home today, it's not gonna be nice tomorrow morning. My two snowblowers, By-Tor and Snow Dog, are squared for battle.

There's something quite assuring about a nice, warm house, a fire going in the woodstove and everyone home safe and sound while Ma Nature breaks bad on us right outside the door. If the power goes, no big deal, the warmth and safety continues unabated, and the generator is ready if the power gets knocked out for the count.

On a final note, youse guys make it pretty darn difficult for me to go skulking off into that dark, cold night. I acknowledge and cherish the friendships I have beyond my cat-covered keyboard, and like any friendship, it takes a certain amount of effort on my part to keep it thriving. Yeah, I could close up shop here, but the one who would ultimately suffer the most is me. I ain't gonna let that happen, trust me. Thanks to all of you who have kept my head in this space.
greatbear: (walken)
Today was partially spent digging out of over 2 feet of Mother Nature's dandruff. This just might be a record setting snowfall for the area. It was not easy getting started, as Jeff and I shoveled and trudged our way around to get to the firewood and all the way to the garage, where I keep By-Tor the Snowblower. Kodi, despite is small Poweranian stature, loved the snow, despite how deep it is. It was fun dropping him into the deep stuff, with a muted "foop" he would vanish, then start jumping up trying to plow his way through. He would follow us in our footsteps as good as he could, enjoying every minute of it all. We were all dug out after a couple hours work. There was one casualty so far due to the snow, one of my 40ft blue spruces toppled to the ground from the lopsided weight. I expect a lot of broken branches and ruined shrubs as well. but the stuff is too deep. We tried our best to dig out or unburden some of the trees and shrubs, but this snowfall is going to be too much for some of the trees to handle.

Snow for me is almost always beautiful, interesting and fun. Here's my one lamp post doing it's best Marge Simpson imitation:

IMGP0471


A few more are behind the cut... )
The whole set can be seen on Flickr.

Not all of the day was spent frolicking in the white stuff. I fitted a new heatsink to a (yet another) new PC build and did some overclocking action, plus took a nap. The latter was needed since an electrical surge scrambled the alarm clock/radio, blasting us with the local classical music station and leaving us unable to shut it off. Turning down the volume fixed it for the time being, the next little power failure reset it to working normally. At least we kept the power through the whole event.

Tomorrow will be a little bit more digging out and cleaning of vehicles, and, hopefully, the street will be cleared as well. I also got a bit of work I want to do in the attic for the support of plumbing vent pipes in preparation of the new roof this spring. It's always something, being a homeowner.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
So, the Great Snow Of Doom of 2010 rages on as I type this. This continues the highly unusual trend of measurable accumulation for each "snow event" around these parts, since my little patch of Maryland more often than not gets little flurries, false alarms, sleet or winter rains instead. This winter, if a single snowflake fell from the sky, it has been accompanied by a craptillion family relatives in a blanket party of varying depths. Currently there appears to be about a foot of sky cocaine on the ground, piling up since about 2pm this afternoon. Various weather websites say anything from a few more inches to a doubling of what's currently here is expected.

This is a view from my front door, taken a few minutes ago. It's shot using what available light there is.

Snowpocalypse


Yes, it's both pretty, and pretty ominous. The power has flickered a few times already, leading a chorus of clicking relays and little beeps around the house as a half-dozen UPSs dutifully come to life and one of the printers resets. While power failures during bad weather are rare here, those which do happen are quite often in it for the duration. This will cause a bit of minor bummage, but at least we will stay toasty warm from the heat of two woodstoves and there is the 15,000 watt generator in the garage that will run everything if the outage lasts more than a day. The view from the back of the house is less interesting, as the scene simply fades to white after a couple hundred feet. No sign of the neighbors, no lights, nothing. Just a whispering roar of a slight wind and the combined decibels of countless billions of little ice crystals crashing to the ground, all joining the White Party orgy.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

P.S.: Many thanks to everyone who sent emails and left comments here and on Facebook with all those birthday wishes. You guys (and gals) are pure win, and it helped make my 48th year on this rock a lot easier to take. Y'all are the best.
greatbear: (face)
Mother Nature stopped by yesterday, leaving us with about 24 inches of snow as an early Xmas present. Today Jeff and I dug out. Jeff was worried about an all-day task. I said not to worry. About two hours, and it was all cleared.

fling


Power tools save time, and one's back.

First snow

Dec. 5th, 2007 11:03 pm
greatbear: (Default)
I am wondering of today's weather portends a severe winter ahead. Usually in these parts, we get a few insignificant flurries before any major accumulating snowfall. Not this time. The first few snowflakes to hit the ground was soon accompanied by countless kajillion brethren throughout the day, leaving me with about 4-5 inches of the stuff. I decided to poke my lens out the front door and take a single shot, using whatever settings I had leftover from whatever I was doing with the camera prior. This ended up being an 8 second handheld shot at ISO 320 in the murky darkness:



Kinda spooky, no? Maybe I should be glad there are three different 4wd trucks in the driveway.

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greatbear: (Default)
Phil

December 2016

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