Thursday, May 29, 2008

THE GAZA SOLUTION

There is a guy at work who has some amusing viewpoints from time to time.
Recently, he was impressed with irony of a news article.
The article related how some Palestinians in Gaza were protesting because their electricity had been cut off.
The article explained that Gaza gets its electricity from Israel and a Hamas-fired missile had hit a sub-station in Israel, knocking out the electricity.
The irony of this situation was not lost on my co-worker.

"So, they shoot missiles into Israel and knock out their own power," he mused out loud.
"And then they protest because they ain't got [his words] no electricity."

"I think I have a solution for this problem," he continued.
"It's called the Gaza desert.
"It will include the Gaza lizard sanctuary.
"All it will take is just a few big bombs and no more Gaza.
"No Gaza," he concluded, "No problems."

The logic was flawless.

THE NON-RUN

I tried to compensate for my non-run on Saturday by going back to my running course in Research Park on Sunday morning to try again.
My hope was that my back would be a bit better than it was on Saturday morning.
Not.
I could barely go one hundred yards before the pain became unbearable.
So I walked.
The office complex where I park my car has several buildings in it with lots of parking space around each of them, so, rather than walk for distance, I walked for a set length of time.
The goal was thirty-five minutes - about the time it takes me to walk two miles in my neighborhood.
So round and round I went, circling some buildings twice, other just once.
This effort was successful (such as it was).

I am looking forward to my run this coming Saturday. 8 )

THE POUT

My time of Ecclesiastical melancholy has passed, as I knew it would.
They seldom last more than a day or two.
Nothing has really changed, so the mood changes are all the more baffling. (well, my back is getting better.)
Stranger living through chemistry....
.
SUM PICHERS




This is a shot of the new access door I made for my tub/shower wall.
The old version was not a door at all but just a piece of plywood nailed over the hole in the wall.
Since this picture was taken I have painted the new door with primer.
Eventually it will be painted the same color as the closet when I decide on a color.




For some reason, my little rose bush next to the mail box has exploded with blooms this spring.
I thought this event worthy of some bits and bytes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

GRASPING FOR VAPOR

I don't often whine, but I thought I would share this negative side of me with both of you.
(So you will know that I am a rounded person.
Whether I am well rounded is for you to decide.)

My first week of retirement has ended on a bit of a down note.
Nothing major.
Just an accumulation of little negatives.

Part of it stems from my back problems, which even as I type is bothering me.
I do not take pain medication so the back pain is what it is.
This forced me to cancel my run Saturday and thus I have missed my endorphin-adrenaline cocktail for the day.
So I am, no doubt, suffering from withdrawals.

Physical problems are a part of getting old.
Diminishing strength, more frequent ailments, new ailments, decreasing vision and hearing; I am dealing with all of these.
I am not enjoying these changes.

I have been blessed (and spoiled) with good health all of my life and that makes the decreasing ambulatory acuity all the more bothersome.
It is something that I will have to deal with.
Period.

Another part of my downishness comes from the few hours I spent yesterday researching small towns in the American Southwest.
Part of me would like to move out there and spend my last years in the great American desert.
I love the desert and there are certain areas that I find very beautiful.

But as I read postings on bulletin boards and statistics on house prices and crime rates, I saw little to encourage such a move.
The scenery would be pretty - even spectacular - but for every decision (as I have often pontificated) there is a price.
What about family contacts?
What about friends?
Can I afford it?
Will I like it out there once I get there (other than the scenery)?
Will it be worth the major jack around it will take to get me and my little pile of junk out there?

And my present situation is about as ideal as one could be.
My expenses are low, my needs are supplied, I am close to my children (should we choose to visit it is not a major undertaking).
I am familiar with the territory (I should be, I have lived here for thirty-nine years.)
I like my little house (one reason is because it is little.)
So, because of this, part of me does not want to rock the boat.

Oh, and one more thing.
I HATE to move.
And this would be a **major** undertaking.
So I would hate to go through all the gyrations to relocate and not like it when I got there.
Something to consider....

Another reason for my recent negative feelings is I am alone.
I am a loner, and most of the time that is okay, but once in a while I miss having someone around to share life's little moments with.
This has been true for the last fifteen years or so.
(The last few years of my marriage were very lonely.
Whether that was my fault or not does not change the result.
One of the reasons I chose to end it was because I believed that I would not be any more lonely living by myself; which has proved to be true.)

I have times of loneliness that make me feel depressed and restless.
(and when I say "depressed", I do not mean clinically suicidal.
Just sort of mopey gripey whiny.)
Most of the time I am reasonably happy.

And when I get in this mood I think of the words of Ecclesiastes:

1:2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher.
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.

I call it my Ecclesiastical mood.
It usually lasts only a day or two.
But it is easy to be negative when they descend on me.

This, too, shall pass.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

CANCELLED!

Every few months my lower back gets twisted some way and when I move certain ways, sends pulses of deep, stabbing pain through my body for a few days.
I am not sure of the primal cause of this malady but it recurs two or three times each year when I move "wrong".
I set it off one time when I twisted my sitting position on the couch.
I did it another time when I leaned over a piece of furniture to adjust the blinds.
Silly stuff.

You would think that I would provoke the injury when I was lifting weights or some such.
But, no.
Just simple moves, and BANG!
I can barely stand, or sit, or bend, or move without powerful blasts of pain shooting through me.
It takes anywhere from two days to two weeks for the problem to fix itself.
And it always does.

One time I did it while visiting my sister.
It happened the evening before I was supposed to leave.
Imagine trying to carry your luggage through the nice big Portland airport, stow your carry-on case in the overhead bin of the plane, then jackknife into your tiny little seat on the airplane, then get up out of your tiny little seat, retrieve your luggage from the overhead bin and carry it through DFW to your next flight and do it all again.
That was not a fun trip.
It took over a week to recover from that episode.

This week was the time to endure this affliction again.
I am not sure what set off the problem.
It started Monday and has stayed with me in varying degrees all week.
Interestingly, I have been able to walk and do my weight workouts all week - except one exercise.

So, this morning, I was wondering if my back problem was going to allow me to run.
In times past, I have been able to run with the problem and it actually seemed to ease the pain.
Other times, I have had to cancel the session.
What would happen today?

I did my usual preparation with occasional twinges of pain if I moved too fast or bent or straightened too abruptly. (moving slowly seems to ease some of the discomfort.)
I drove to the usual spot and gently got out of the car.
It was 6:03 AM and the weather was mostly clear - about 66 degrees - perfect for a nice run.
I took a few tentative steps.
Every step sent a micro burst of pain out from my lower back.
I kept going, wondering if the movement would ease the problem or make it worse.
The farther I went, the worse the pains became.
I had barely gone 200 yards when I stopped.
Today's session would have to be canceled.
With great disappointment, I walked back to the car.
This is the first time I have had to cancel a run because of an injury since I resumed running last year.

Plan B was to walk some distance if I could not run, but I was in such discomfort walking back to my car that Plan B was also rejected.

I walked Friday morning (a new time facilitated by my retired status) and was right on the edge of debilitating pain the whole way (two miles).

Very disappointing....

Hopefully, I will be able to run next week.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Retirement in the Twilight Zone

DOCTOR OFFICE INCIDENT

My third day of retirement was a bit strange.
It was a surreal moment.
I went into a local clinic to see about getting a skin problem on my hand examined.
I told the young lady at the little window that I was new and asked how soon I could be seen by a doctor.
She told me that the earliest I could be seen would be June second.
Good thing I was not bleeding to death.

I told her why I wanted to see the doctor (the skin problem) and she said that they would probably examine me then refer me to a dermatologist.
I thanked her and left without making an appointment.
If I was going to be referred to a dermatologist, I might as well refer myself. (for free)

Then I drove to a location were, according to the phone book, the office of a dermatologist was located.
Wrong.
Empty parking lot, dark building, big sign out front, “building for lease”.
So, I drove to another location where, according to the phone book, the office of another dermatologist is located.
Lots of cars. (actually only one lot, but still many cars)
Better luck here, methinks.
Sort of.

I walked into the nearly full waiting room and told the young lady behind the counter, that I was a new patient.
She asked my name, I told her and she began looking in the log book on the desk and looking in her computer.
“I don't think I will be in there,” I said.
“You haven't made an appointment yet?” she said.
“No. That's why I'm here,” I replied.
“Oh,” she said. “We encourage all of our new patients to call to schedule an appointment.”
“So,” I said, feeling the increasing weight of irony settling over me. “You want me to leave to make a phone call?”
“Yes,” the lady said.
The tone of her voice indicated that the absurdity of this circumstance was dawning on her.
“Okay,” I said and walked out.

Two questions hung heavy in my mind.
1) How does the office “encourage” new patients to call for an appointment if they are NEW patients and are not in regular communication with this office?
2) Would it not have been easier to schedule an appointment while I was standing there live and in color?

I went home and called some other dermatology offices.
The first and second said September was the earliest appointment possible for new patients.
It appears that there is excess demand for the amount of doctors in the area of dermatology in this locality.

So I called the office I had just visited.
A lady answered my query that I could have a appointment in July.
I was a bit disappointed.
I did not really want to do business with these folks because of their silly new-patient rules.

But that is how it is going go, I presume.
I will play the healthcare game.

CIRCUS TIME AGAIN

Once again, the commanders of our petroleum corporations have been called to sit before a committee of our Senate and listen to the pompous airbags pour forth prodigious piles of blather about high oil prices.
The gist of the proceedings is that the Senators want to blame the oil companies for the rising cost of oil and gasoline.
Easy theater if one is uninformed – which the politicians are counting on.

The facts are another matter, to wit:

The rising cost of oil is the result of growth in other parts of the world, mainly India and China.
The petroleum-producing cartel – OPEC – is reluctant to increase production.
One reason is because they are near production capacity now.

What the news media and politicians do not want to tell you is as follows:

1 - Oil drilling in known reserves in the United States is prohibited on 68 percent of all federal land.
2 - They are prohibited from drilling in ANWR, where it is estimated there are between 4 billion and 20 billion barrels of oil underground.
3 – Environmental hurdles (read: costs) are so high that it is not feasible to build more oil refineries in the US.
4 – There are billions of barrels of oil under the territory of the United States that cannot be pumped out by our oil companies because of restrictions placed on them by the U.S. Congress.

Yet, these same congresspeople are grandstanding in front of the executives of the oil companies (and the network news cameras) demanding that they pump more oil so the price will go down.

The oil market is not a free market where supply and demand constantly interact with each other to find the most supply to meet the most demand at the least cost.

Supply is restricted and restrained by congress on one side and the oil cartel on the other.
Demand is expanding outside of the United States faster than it is inside the country.
Expanding demand against a fixed/controlled supply equals higher prices.
(remember – prices always follow demand in the supply-demand equation.)
Add to limited supply, the potential for disruptions in oil production in Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and Nigeria, and you have more reasons for speculators to bid up the price of oil.
Which they are doing.
Duh.

The “solution”?
The mentally challenged congresspeople want to add more taxes to the oil companies.
An “excess profits” tax.
Brilliant.
Ponder this if you can:

Where do the oil companies (or any company) get their money (profits, excess or otherwise)?
They get it from those of us who buy their oil and gas.
If congress raised the taxes on the oil companies, where do you think the oil companies will get the money to pay the extra taxes?
Yep, you and me.

Remember this - ANY tax on a company/business is ultimately paid by the customers of that company/business.
Raise the taxes on a business and you have raised the taxes paid by the citizens who do business with that company.
This is why I am opposed to ANY taxes on business.
Because all taxes are ultimately paid by individual citizens.

We might as well let each of us see what we are really paying to the guvment instead of hiding our tax bill within our business transactions.

(takes a deep breath)

Woo.
Okay.
I'm better now.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big Change And Some Small Stuff

THE BIG STEP

Friday was my last day at work for the year.
I have officially retired.
For the rest of this year I will busy myself in many of the things that I have wanted to do but for which claimed I “did not have the time”.

The most common question to me was, “what are you going to do?”
As if, there is nothing to be done in life outside of work.
So, if this question is in your mind, here are some of the things I am planning:

Sleep
Eat
Cook
Clean
Insulate the walls of my humble abode
Write an autobiography
Write a science fiction novel
Write a spy novel
Finish my western novel
Help more at church
Do more in-depth Bible studies
Read some books
Tend my yard
Take a trip to Newark, Ohio campmeeting
Take a trip to Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah (it is spread over each side of the border)
Hike the Grand Canyon
Run (more)
Workout
Take naps
Whatever comes to mind

I prolly left some things out, but you get the idea.

OTHER TIDBITS

Let the Royal Chronicles show that my Economic Stimulus check (actually it was an electronic deposit) went to my dentist – and then some.
This was for a new crown on a tooth that had broken next to a big filling.
The official determination was that the tooth could not be rebuilt and it was just a matter of time before the filling fell out, sooooo... she (my dentist) pronounced the “best” way to “fix” the problem was to cap it.
Total: $788.00.

My preferred solution was to leave it alone and fix it when, if ever, the filling fell out.
Sometimes people die before their fillings fall out. :)

THE RUN

It is almost June and the temperature this morning was 48 degrees at the house.
This is ridiculous.
So the session the morning was attended with long sleeves and leggings.
And some mental griping.

This week at work has been very quiet (read: boring) so there was little residual strength loss expected.
However, because of the low level of effort at work, I jacked up the level of intensity in my weight workouts.
This morning, my upper back was a bit sore and my front delts were mumbling mild complaints during my get-ready activities.
I piddled around the house more than usual for some reason and so I did not get started running until 6:10 AM.
I was just barely into my first half-mile when guess who started to complain?
Yep.
My left hammies.
The complaints were actively ignored and soon went away.
(I still find this amazing. A portion of the body begins to indicate discomfort/something “wrong”, then after a few seconds/minutes it just “goes away” somehow. Obviously, these must be relatively minor physical problems or they would get worse or re-appear after the session, but most of the time they do not.)

The mental set for this session was one of building.
I am getting ready to kick up my physical training effort a notch or two for the rest of this year and this run was to be a step of progress in that direction.
So, mentally, I was pushing myself ever-so-gently to go just a bit faster on this (4.45 mile) course.
The next increment will be to lengthen the course to six miles.
And then to start running the Cotton Row course again. (Not the race, just the course.)
I also plan to start walking a couple of miles in my neighborhood each morning.
And maybe run two or three miles on Wednesdays.

Anyway, I chugged along today in the pea-soup fog and when I crossed the finish line/crack it was 6:51.
Wow.
Forty-one minutes.
I was a bit surprised.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pushing it

We have been working in more difficult confines this last week at work installing the last few pieces of equipment and cables in the shelters.
This often involved squeezing into twelve-inch wide spaces (or less) to snake a cable behind a post or to insert the plug of a cable into the socket of an electronic box, neither of which you can see.
We do a good bit of work by braille.
The physical effort to accomplish this amounts to performing inclined isometric twisting crunches for minutes at a time.
It is tiring.

I said all of that to explain that the run this morning was a push.
I did not feel tired enough to settle for the short 3-mile route.
Even though I was tired from work, I was mentally ready to push the session all the way around the 4.5 mile course.

The weather was mostly nice for the run – temperature, about 60-65, a light breeze of about 5 – 10 MPH.
I could have used less humidity, but it was not a big problem.
I started out at 6:03 AM.
The sun was already up above the eastern mountain.
Somehow, the light made the session feel less intimate and personal.
I like running in the semi darkness.
Just me, my thots, and the weather.

All systems were go for the first three miles, though I could tell that I was not up to my best strength.
Early into mile four (where I used to think I was in mile three) my left hamstring began to announce its discomfort with each step.
The unanimous response from Running Central, the Coach, and the Runner in me was “Shut up and run”.
Which we did.
And no further deterioration in ability or performance occurred.

As I trotted into the intersection of Old Madison Pike and Voyager Way I twisted my left ankle.
Fortunately, there were no ill effects from the incident and I finished the run with no problems.
I do not think of it very often, but one of the side benefits of running is the strengthening of ankle, knee, and hip attachments.
In some people, no doubt, this degree of twist would have resulted in a sprained ankle.

Somewhere in the last quarter-mile, my breathing increased to the accelerated level.
I was not concerned.
Given the physical effort at work that last couple of weeks, this was expected.
But I was daydreaming and did not realize that this had started until I was almost to my finish line/crack.
That being the case, it was even less of an issue.
The end came at 6:46 AM – a 43 minute session.
Not bad, considering.

I am looking forward to running the Cotton Row course again.

BIG DEESISHON

I have decided to retire.
Interestingly, there is enough work to keep us busy through most of the rest of this year, but I want to jump off.
There are some financial consequences to this decision but they are relatively minor.

And there is the possibility that I can work some next year at my current place of employment.
That will supplement my income sufficiently to help me preserve my IRA accounts for another year.
I also have a backup plan to take a tax preparation course with HR Block this fall and possibly work for them next Winter/Spring.

My last day at work will be either Friday, May 16th, or 23rd.
I feel a bit strange jumping overboard when I have a good job.
But after weighing all (both) of my options, I do not see much benefit to staying on.
And I am increasingly less able to handle the physical demands of the job.
At some point I fear that I am going to damage some part of me permanantly.
The most likely candidates are knees, wrists, elbows, or shoulders.
Oh yea, and my back.

Plus, Hillary has promised that she is going to take care of me.
Yea, right.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Wet and Runny

(with Fourplay playing in the background)


This was one of those days that I committed to that afternoon in the fall of 1999 when I was deciding if I was going to become a “runner” or not.
The decision then was to commit to do it no matter what the weather or “feelings” of the moment.

This morning it was raining.
The lightening was passing to the east, so I felt it would be safe to proceed with the planned trotting session.
Preparations were made and when I stepped outside to get into my car, I found that it was still raining lightly.
No problem.
I had brought my “rain resistant” top.
I was about halfway to my running course when the dark gray sky light up for a half second.
Not good.
The pyrotechnics were supposed to be over.
But I continued on my usual course in faith that “things” would be okay.

I parked my car and prepared to begin the jaunt.
A nice steady light rain was falling.
Suck up time.

I got out, locked the door and began running, dancing around the nearly continuous puddles.
It was 6:04 AM.
The temperature was about 65 so it did not feel too cold.
As I topped Hill One a gigantic lightening bolt snaked down to near the sub-station about a quarter mile from my location.
The jagged white trace stayed lighted for at least a full second then slowly disintegrated into hundreds of dots of light that held the same path as the original bolt.
Seriously cool.
And scary.

I panted out a prayer for protection.
I was running down the middle of a three lane road with no other structures for hundreds of feet.
I consciously willed my electrical resistance to increase.

Because I have been working overtime again this week, I choose to take the shorter path this morning.
Actually, I felt pretty good, considering, but the lingering lightening was another factor that helped me cut the party short.
Somewhere in the last mile, my right hip began to whimper.
Running Central duly noted the complaint while the Coach in me said the usual “Shut up and run”.
All systems complied.
I was thoroughly soaked by the time I reached the finish line/crack.
I resisted the urge to go straight to the car and walked past it to cool down a little.
THEN I got into the car.

On the way back home, I saw a car with a bumper that read as follows:

It takes a village
to elect an idiot.

Next to the words was a picture of Hillary Clinton.

I did a LOL.

Right on, brother.

At home (at the risk of TMI) I washed my running clothes and hung them up to dry, washed me, cooked breakfast (a cheese omelette), washed the dishes/pan dressed for work and drove to my place of employment for four more hours of overtime.