Friday, March 20, 2015

4027 Winter returns

Friday, March 20, 2015

We had a string of beautiful days in the high 40s and low 50s, and today we got a shock. Heavy snow, big flakes, all day. Several inches out there now.

For most of this week there was a small rabbit eating what little green still showed in the front lawn. He was kind of cute because my coming out the front door and standing on the porch eight feet away didn't faze him at all, but if a car drove past on the street, he dove for cover under the van.

There was also a male robin who spent every day scouring the front lawn for munchies. I don't know what he was finding, but every so often he stabbed with his beak, picked something up, and swallowed it.

It felt like Spring.

Oh well, the forecast for tomorrow is 50 degrees.

I hope the robin can manage one day without dinner. Tomorrow should be better.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

4026 Forty years of regression

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Binge-watching '70s shows. There were a lot of good ones!
Mary Tyler Moore
All In the Family
Carol Burnett (but I could never stand Tim Conway....)
Bob Newhart
Barney Miller
Laverne and Shirley (loved Lenny and Squiggy)
Happy Days (until Fonzie took over the show -- yuck)
Rockford Files
Flip Wilson (and who didn't love Geraldine?)
... and a few others I don't remember offhand.

The days of real people writing real scripts about real stuff.

Actors with real bodies and real teeth.

That's one thing that struck me --- the teeth. These days, everyone on TV, even on the
"reality" shows, has perfectly even, perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth. It's like a law. You can't be seen on TV unless your teeth are blindingly white.

Forty years ago, teeth were more natural.

It must have changed somewhere about the late '90s, because I remember an episode of Friends where Ross got his teeth whitened, and everyone made fun of him. Now everyone on TV has those ridiculous teeth.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

4025. Blasts

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wind today.  Strong, steady, cold, almost icy wind.  After several days of balmy breezes in the 50s, it's a miserable reminder that winter isn't going to give up so easily.

The cold wind is getting into my house somehow.  Even hurricane Sandy didn't accomplish that.  It may be coming in through the bathroom and laundry vents, I don't know, but when there's an especially strong gust, I feel a draft.


Between January 1976 and May 1977 there was a television show, five evenings a week, a soap opera parody named "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".   It was very unusual and very popular.  I was not aware of it at first, watched very little TV in those days, but there is there was an aspect of the show that I can't go into here that applied strongly to my life at the time, and many people asked me, "Oh, Mary Hartman, yeah, is that why you [blah blah]?  Wow.  That's great!"  Well, it wasn't, and I had been proud of being unique in that blah blah, but suddenly everyone was blah blahing, and it pissed me off, since I had been blah blahing since long before the show was even on, and people should have known that. Plus, in groups it was the main topic of conversation, so if you didn't watch it you were left out. I  So, of course I had to watch the show.

I got hooked.  It really was fun.  Unfortunately, it ended shortly after I started, and in those days there was nothing like VCRs so if you missed a show, unless it went into reruns you were out of luck.

Well, all these years later, just within the past three weeks, somebody has uploaded the entire series, some 300+ episodes, onto Youtube.  I wonder where they got them, and how long the copyright holder will allow them to stay.

 I've been binge-watching, all the episodes I had missed, and enjoying them thoroughly, hoping I can at least get to the point where I had picked up the story in late 1976.

What's interesting is that I'm getting some references I suspect I might have missed back then.


Anyone else out there remember Mary?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

4024 Spring?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring is almost here!  I got so excited I wet my plants!

Birds are arriving in large flocks.  They fill the trees and make a racket early in the morning.  I think they're just stopping over on migration, though, since they stay for only a day or two, and then are replaced by a different bunch.

Yesterday I had a flying bug in the kitchen, one of those tiny almost microscopic black things that come through the screens.  Not looking forward to that part of Spring.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

4023 Jasper, update

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jasper allowed me to check his neck this morning.  There's still a lump there, a small one, maybe a bit smaller than a ping-pong ball.  I wish I'd been able to check it right after the vet had drained it yesterday,  so I'd know if this what what had been left or how much it has already refilled.

I guess I'll be finding out soon.

Monday, March 09, 2015

4022 Jasper

Monday, March 9, 2015

Jasper had a vet appointment this morning.  Given that he freaks out in the car (as in seizures) I was very happy to find that the vet in the van is still making house calls (not in the house --  an enormous fully equipped office he parks in the driveway).

The initial possible diagnosis was very bad, but in the end, it was much better.

You have to understand Jasper to forgive me for not noticing earlier that he had a problem.  He was feral when I brought him home eight years ago. I'd been staying in a hotel near Princeton, the kind of hotel where you have a kitchen, livingroom, bedroom, and bathroom.  He was a few months old, and was begging at an entrance near the parking lot, "performing" by being cute, and sometimes getting food from guest's kitchens, and sometimes getting kicks.  It took me three days to get him to let me touch him.  When I left, he went back to the country house with me, crying and seizing.

He's very timid.  He's never been a lap cat.  The only time I'm allowed to pet him is when he comes to me and asks for it, and then only on his forehead and back.  I am not allowed to touch his undersides, legs, paws.  He doesn't want to be picked up, ever.  He won't hurt me if I do anything he doesn't like, but he will struggle to get away.  He sleeps at night against the back of my knees.  And everything new, strange, or different scares him.  He trusts me, but that has limits.

So, anyway, last week I noticed that his collar was riding unusually high on his neck, practically under his ears.  I stuck a finger under it to check that it wasn't too tight, and discovered that although it was loose, it wouldn't go down.  He actually let me run my fingers around his neck, and I discovered a lump, firm, a little larger than a golf ball, on the underside of his neck.  Took his collar off and called the vet.

I might have been able to get an earlier appointment with a different vet, but that would mean a car trip, and I decided to spare him the stress.  He's eating, drinking, piddling, pooping just fine, his activity level is the same as always, weight hasn't changed, doesn't seem to be in any distress, so I figured a few days would be fine.  Plus, one other factor that I really feel guilty about ---

I think he's had the lump for at least six weeks or so.

Jasper loves to play with his drinking water.  He has always loved to splash in it.  One front paw, then the other, over and over.  It's almost like he's fishing, or washing his paws after using the litter box.  So the water dish has high sides to lessen the splashing on the floor.  But, since like the end of January, he's been fighting with the water dish.  He'd hook it and pull it off the tray.  He'd try to dump it on the floor.  I actually saw him grasp it with one paw on the inside and one on the outside of the rim, and try to lift it.  I read online that some cats don't want the water near the food dish, so I moved it.  Didn't help.  I then put it under a chair, and he seemed to accept that.  What I did notice, but didn't think about, was that to drink, he was standing on the rail under the chair.

When I felt that lump under his throat, I immediately understood.  Reaching over the edge of the dish to drink hurt. It bumped the lump.  Poor baby!  I felt so guilty!  I gave him a shallow bowl, and he's happy.

So, the vet.  He felt the lump, and said that whatever it is, it's wrapped around Jasper's trachea.  And that area is full of important blood vessels and nerves, so no surgeon will touch it without an MRI, and even then probably not.  (His van is equipped for x-ray and minor surgery, but not fancy stuff.)  If we decide to treat it, it would probably be radiation and chemotherapy.

He thought about it a bit, and then decided to do a needle biopsy (he has a microscope) so maybe we could have some idea what we're dealing with.

The needle went in easily, the doctor's eyebrows shot up, and he aspirated about an ounce of fluid.  It's a cyst!  It didn't feel like a cyst because it was so firm.

We have options.  It will fill with fluid again, but we can just drain it again.  The only danger then is infection, which can be handled.  If it turns out that it refills too rapidly, or if it causes breathing problems, then surgery is an option.  Cysts are easier than tumors.

Poor little boy has been traumatized, plus he got his distemper shot which might make him feel a little under the weather, so he's been downstairs for a snack and for some petting only twice today.  Mostly he's hiding out on my bed.

He has no idea how relieved he should feel.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

4021 The usual NJ Meetup

Saturday, March 7, 2015

There's a woman who lives about 4 blocks from me who is very active in Meetup.  Back when I first arrived here she was hosting a waterfront walk and lunch  a few times a month that I participated in, but the past long while it's been mostly bar happy hours and so on, which don't interest me.

Yesterday evening she had a party at her house.  That's more my speed, but I didn't RSVP right away because, well, I've become increasingly reclusive lately, and I wanted to see how I felt about it closer to the date.  She had restricted attendance to 40, and the 40 slots filled up quickly.

Yesterday late morning she sent out a broadcast email saying that 15 slots had opened up, so I went to the group website, and sure enough the excuses were pouring in.  Family obligations.  Have to work late.  Sister is coming for the weekend. Worried about ice on the drive home.

This seems to be typical for this area.

The hostess, cheerful as always, said oh well, 25 is a more comfortable number in her small home anyway.

This morning I checked again.  17 people actually showed up, and having seen her counts for some of the walks I'd been on, I know she tends to pad the numbers a bit.  I suspect it was more likely fewer.

Even using her numbers, that means 40 people snapped up the places (to make sure they had something to do on that Friday night in case nothing better turned up), 15 cancelled the DAY of the event, and 8 or more didn't even bother to cancel.

I really don't like the people around here.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

4020 More snow

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It has been snowing all day, about 7 inches on the driveway now, and I guess it's supposed to continue into tomorrow.


I've said several times that I tend to read literally.

This morning I found the following headline on Yahoo News (famous for hiring high school dropouts to write the articles):

"Family of California Girl Left Brain Dead After Tonsillectomy Sues Hospital"

The way my mind works, first interpretation:
- How does a tonsillectomy sue a hospital?
- The whole family is brain dead now?  What?

It took me about three readings to "get" it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

4019 IRS again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I am livid!

To recap:
The IRS had sent me a notice that I owed an additional $61,000.00 in taxes for 2012, which was patently ridiculous.  It turned out Schwab had sent info on trades that did not include the cost basis.  I sent it all off to The Angel, who sent in an amended 1040, which showed that I should actually be getting an additional few hundred in refund for 2012.  I don't know who screwed up, or how, neither do I care, as long as it gets fixed.  The IRS refigured my taxes using the new amended 1040, and sent me a letter saying that I will be getting a check for $121.00.  Why the reduction from Angel's recalculation?  I don't know and I don't care, as long as the IRS goes away.

Ok, that's where it stood as of mid-February.

Early last week, I received a check from the Us Treasury for $127.82, dated 2/23/15. Duh?  Is the extra $6.82 interest?  Seems a bit low for interest....

Last Monday I received a letter from the IRS, dated 3/2/15 (yeah, dated the same day I received it), informing me (again) that I would be receiving a check for $121.00 within the next two to three weeks.

Um, what?

Yesterday and today I spent literally hours on the phone to the national IRS number and the local IRS office trying to find out why the difference, and can I get into trouble for depositing what appears to be an incorrect check (which of course I have already done), and will I really be getting another check in the smaller amount, and if so, what do I do with it?

You will not believe the problems I've had getting through.  There's the usual "high call volume  try again later".  There's the enter your birthdate, month now, two characters, so I enter"10", and hear "must be two characters" along with a kindergarten example of what two numbers look like, but I already know, because I can see the "10" I had entered on my phone's screen, so they say to enter the month again, so I do, and again I see the 10 on my screen, and the mechanical voice says "call again when you have the information", and HANGS UP!!!

I finally managed to get through on something like the fifth try and got on the queue, "calls are handled in the order they are received, so stay on the line, do not hang up", and listened to horrible jangley music for 40 minutes, when I heard the music stop, and a clicking sound, then silence --- silence long enough, about 5 seconds, that the cell phone figured the line was dead, and DROPPED THE CALL!!!!

I went to the IRS website, and there's no way to ask my question there.

I called the local IRS office.  They don't see people in person.  All inquiries are handled by the phone system, which, by the way, has no option to leave a question to be answered by a human, and,by the way, rejected my two-digit birth date and hung up on me THREE TIMES before I was able to get to the part where I could ask (sort of) about the 2012 refund, whereupon I was informed that I would be receiving a check for $121.00 in two to three weeks.

And people wonder why I hate telephones.

And the IRS.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

4018 More snowy mess

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It snowed again this morning, fast and hard, but only 2 inches worth.  Not so bad ...  except that it immediately turned to drizzle, which has formed a thick icy crust on top.

It's below freezing out there.  How can it be drizzling?

I don't understand.

Friday, February 27, 2015

4017 Bad winter?

Friday, February 27, 2015

I don't understand why everyone around here is grousing about what a bad winter this has been.  I absolutely understand why people to the north and east of central NJ would feel that way --- they've been slammed.  But it hasn't been that way here.

Yeah, we've had some snow fall almost every week since early January, but we've measured it in single digit inches, usually 2 or 3, 5 or 6 at the most.  And in between, we've had enough sun to mostly melt it, so there's not more than maybe six inches remaining on the ground.

Yeah, the temperatures are lower than usual, but I don't think we've gone negative yet, the few teens have been only during the night.  We've had little wind, and lots of sun.

So yeah, it's winter, but I don't think it has been that bad around here.

I don't understand.

Maybe people see on TV  that it's so bad in other areas, so they feel they should have the right to complain, too?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

4016 Hair

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My hair is getting long.  It's now to my mid-back.  Last summer it was so thick and shiny (ack! no spellcheck on the notebook pad whatever this thing is!).  For the last six months or so, it's been shedding heavily.  The long stuff is getting thin.  There's a lot of new baby hair near the scalp, but that's no help.  Hope, but no help.

People will say to just cut it short and then it will be thick again.

I DON'T WANT TO CUT IT!!!!  (Lying on floor and kicking heels.)

My hair is in excellent condition.  I don't have a single split end or shaft break on my entire head.  I've been so careful.  No heat, ever.  No French barettes.  No bare rubber bands.  No rollers.  No dyes.  No bobby pins.

I've always preferred my hair long, no bangs, and I figure now is my last chance to GO FOR IT!  I want to be able to sit on it before I die.  I want to be that old lady in the grocery store with the hair down to her ass and the hippie headband!


The one complaint I have about my hair is that it doesn't shine unless it's straight.   It has an odd texture, not wavy or curly or straight --- it crinkles.  No other word for it.  Seen against the sun, I have a corona.  So if I want it to look really nice, I have to straighten it somehow.

How, without heat?

I found a way.  Vacuum cleaner!

I sometimes dry it with the vacuum cleaner,  with the doflinky open for a gentle suction.  Not often, just for special occasions.  I happen to have a piece of hose extension that has never been used, so it's clean inside.  Does a great job getting from damp to smooth and dry, without heat.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

4015 Seat up, seat down

Sunday, February 22,  2015

"The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none." 
-- Thomas Carlyle --


Toilet seat up or down has never been an issue in any house I've ever lived in, because I have one simple rule that is not open to compromise, and every person I have ever lived with has come to see the wisdom of that rule and agree with it.

The Rule:
1.  Except for when the toilet is in use, the lid is closed.
2.  The lid is always closed before flushing.

The advantages:
-  Not a temptation for small humans.
-  Not a water bowl or drowning pool for beasties.
-  No flush spray filling the air and settling on toothbrushes etc.
-  Seat available for sitting, drying feet, setting things down, whatever.
-  Neat and clean appearance.
-  The Rule requires the exact same effort from both sexes; no one can complain about feeling put upon or disrespected.

Plus there's something inherently ugly and distasteful about the sight of an open toilet glimpsed through a doorway.

I don't understand why the "seat up seat down" argument even exists.  it seems stupid when such a simple solution exists.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

4014 Bacon

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Arthur Schopenhauer: "Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world."


l got 1.5 lbs. of bacon with my last Peapod order.  I divided it into 6 portions, froze them on a tray, put the frozen portions in a ziplock bag and into the freezer.  (I do that with ground beef, too.)

This evening I cooked up one portion, one quarter pound, intending half of it on this evening's salad and the other half for tomorrow's breakfast.

I ate it all.  Before I'd even made the salad.

I'd never tasted bacon that good! (Or maybe I was just especially hungry for bacon.) It had exactly the right mix of sweet and salty.

I had thrown the wrapper away when I had divided it, and was disappointed that I might never find it again --- and then I found the Peapod printout.

In case I discard the Peapod printout, I'm immortalizing it here, where I can always find it again:
Oscar Mayer bacon butcher thick cut Applewood smoked  24 oz pkg  $7.99

If you know something awful about it, don't tell me.  I don't eat bacon more than once month anyway, so short of it containing kittens, I don't care.

4013 Slow days

Saturday, February  21, 2015

People who are stupid, unskilled, or incompetent are frequently too stupid, unskilled, or incompetent to realize how stupid, unskilled, or incompetent they really are. That's basically known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.


Did you know that cats reserve open-mouth meows for when addressing humans?  They never meow to each other, or to anything else, or for any other reason.  Just to humans.   It's like they invented a whole language especially for talking to us!  And every cat speaks it.

I've had cats pretty much all my life, and I'd never noticed that, but now, yeah, come to think of it, it seems true.  I wonder how they learn that.  Mother cats talk to their kittens in a closed-mouth sort of "mmmmrrrrrrrr", which is sort of almost but not quite a meow.  Perhaps cats consider humans equivalent to hearing-impaired  kittens.



I'm writing this on my little tablet, because a few days ago the Wifi finder and hooker upper thingy on my laptop stopped finding and hooking up, and finally it simply declared it no longer existed.  As far as I'm concerned, no Internet = brick.   Monday I'll take it in for service.

In the meantime, the tablet (or whatever Sony calls it).  Onscreen keyboard.  switching back and forth for numbers letters punctuation.  Bleck.  I had bought a wonderful little Bluetooth keyboard for it that worked beautifully, but I can't seem to get it to charge this time, so that also will get a checkup on Monday.

Sigh.  And it's snowing.  Again.

I've had a cold that seems to swap back and forth from nose/throat to sinuses to throat only and through the cycle again.  Bad cough for two days, then slight cough with severe body aches for two days, then all fine except for hot throat for two days, then start the cycle again.  No fever at all so far, but today I've got a new one --- my voice is completely gone.  I have nothing above a whisper.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

4012 Southern situation, and Measles

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous
than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
 --Martin Luther King, Jr. --


Well, Ex#2 was transferred to a rehab facility last Monday.  He was told it was because he's at risk for falling (true, his balance is not good) so he's there to work on that, and he accepted that.  He'll be there for two more weeks.   The place is close to home, so his sister is visiting frequently.  So far, so good.  Daughter is hoping that maybe there he'll learn how to take better care of himself, but I suspect she's hoping for too much.


When I was a kid, doctors made home visits.  Not always, sometimes you had to go to their offices, like for followup visits, but the first appointment for a new illness was often at home.  Then at some point it changed.  You had to go to the office or to the ER no matter how sick you were, drag yourself from your deathbed, call an ambulance, whatever.  People complained, but I don't remember ever hearing an explanation as to why it changed.

People just thought doctors got lazy or greedy.

Well, with the current measles mini-outbreak, I think I figured out why.  The lightbulb flash came when I read a story about a child fighting leukemia who was exposed to measles in a doctor's waiting room (along with a small herd of other kids).  That's why doctors used to come to our homes!  There were a lot of very dangerous and highly contagious diseases around, and in the days before vaccines they wanted a diagnosis before allowing you to spread your infection around the waiting room or other folks.  After vaccines, polio, measles, diphtheria, and so on were of less concern, since it was assumed most of the herd was vaccinated.

There's a lot of discussion on the internet about "measles parties" in the '50s and '60s, where mothers would arrange playdates with kids who had measles (or chicken pox) to get it over with at a convenient time.  Some people remember them vividly, others who were also "there" swear they never happened.  I was amazed that no one arguing about the topic seemed to know that there were two versions of measles when we were kids.  There was the regular measles (rubeola), and then there was German measles (rubella).  Although the are not related, the two looked pretty much the same, fever, red spots, etc.  Rubella/German measles was fairly innocuous (except for pregnant women) and rubeola/measles was dangerous, potentially fatal.

There a pretty good comparison of the two at

I had rubeola/measles.  I did develop encephalitis and was in the hospital for a very long time.  I was young, and don't remember anything except how everyone was so nice for a short time after I returned home, but according to Mom (who, it might be noted, cannot be relied on for any kind of medical report) I was in a coma for a time.

What I do remember is that there WERE measles parties for rubella/German measles. Women wanted to get it over with during a time when they were sure they weren't pregnant.   Rubeola/measles got you and your whole family quarantined.  Sign on the door and everything.  No parties for rubeola.

 I am frustrated that in all these articles about the current measles outbreak, they don't say which measles it is.  With all the excitement, I assume it's rubeola, but maybe not?  Anyone know for sure?

4011 Respect

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"He who praises you for what you lack
wishes to take from you what you have."
--Don Juan Manuel--


I  have no idea what that green quote up there means, but for some reason it resonated with me, so I saved it.  Anyone want to take a stab at interpreting it in the comments?


I found this, and it also resonated with me:

(BTW, I am not an atheist, but there is no human-defined religion I know of that fits my beliefs.)

There's been a lot of discussion lately about violence and religion.  Christians tend to forget that Christianity has been responsible for a lot of violence, too.  Here,, is a pretty long list of atrocities in the name of Christ.  It's enough to turn the strongest stomach.  Christians have no right to criticize any other group.

And the US can't say "Oh, well, that's history, we don't do that anymore."  Americans have a recent history of free-lance lynchings and burnings.  It's still happening.  Like last year in Mississippi.


I've been watching videos shot from quadcopters, and I WANT ONE!  A quadcopter, that is.  But I know durn well I wouldn't use it,  I don't go anywhere interesting anymore, I barely walk at all.  Daughter and Hercules would make much more effective use of one - so I bought them one.  A DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, with extra battery, extra propellers, and propeller guards.

It arrived last Wednesday.  Daughter is not very enthusiastic, but Hercules is thrilled.  He called this morning to say that he read all the materials, researched the local laws, and will be taking it out today for a trial run.

I had told them that there IS a string attached.  I want to see all videos shot with it.  

Thursday, February 05, 2015

4010 Followup from the south

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Well, Ex#2's lab results came back, and he does have (did have?) Stage 1 colon cancer.  Apparently no big deal.

Mentally he's not doing so well.  In the ICU he apparently kept trying to get dressed and leave, so they finally had to strap him to the bed.  Daughter has been talking with him on the phone, and he thinks he's in a hotel. "I don't know the name of it.  The cleaning ladies are nice, but they won't  let me out of bed."

Daughter had a nice long heart-to-heart with a case manager, and the plan now is not for him to go directly home, but to spend some recovery time at a skilled nursing facility, where maybe? they can evaluate? his ability to care for himself.  "The family", his sister and all those other family members down there, have a very strong prejudice against admitting any kind of mental problems, they see it as some kind of unacceptable weakness, a character flaw, so Daughter has to work against them, too.  She's been choosing her words carefully, and that's a strain itself.

In the meantime, Hercules's maternal grandmother, who pretty much raised him, died on Tuesday.  Not unexpected, she's well into her nineties.  The funeral is tomorrow.  Hercules's mother is just plain nuts, certifiably, seriously, the only way she avoided incarceration in North Carolina was by agreeing to psychiatric counseling, whereupon she promptly moved across the country, well anyway she is currently at nasty odds with everyone else, including Hercules, and she will be there.  Daughter and Nugget were supposed to go to the funeral, too, but Nugget suddenly developed an abdominal malady while visiting me yesterday, and she was throwing up last night, and lethargic today (but a bit more chipper this evening), so Hercules left for Pennsylvania today alone.  Poor guy.  Daughter is, I suspect, guiltily happy she doesn't have to deal with her mother-in-law.

The MIL hasn't seen the Nugget in --- gee, maybe more than a year, not since she moved to Arizona or wherever the hell she is now, and I'm worried that since Nugget isn't there, she's going to change her flight plans and insist on coming back here with Hercules.  That may be more than Daughter can handle right now.  Probably more than Hercules can handle.  Likely more than their marriage can handle.  I hope he has the strength to say no if she demands it.

Well, things have been very tense across the street for a while now.  I hope things will loosen up over the next few weeks.

Monday, February 02, 2015

4009 News from the south

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove
that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."


I've said many times that I don't understand how Ex#2 is still alive.

He has actually gone into diabetic crash at least once in the past.  He was warned that he has to watch his diet.  He doesn't.  He subsists mainly on junk food.  Stuff that comes in crinkly bags, you know?  He doesn't check his blood sugar, doesn't even think about it.

He had an old injury to his lower back that messed up the nerves to his lower body, which led to some continence problems (both) all his life, which he never admitted to a doctor, and about two decades ago he landed in the hospital with what they thought was an abdominal tumor, but was discovered to be an enormous bladder - he had become unable to empty his bladder.  They did something, I don't know what, but then they taught him how to use a catheter to empty it.  That was supposed to be a temporary thing, and he was supposed to be getting therapy to learn how to control it, but he didn't bother.  When he could no longer get prescriptions for sterile tubing, he just bought aquarium tubing and used that.  Still is, as far as I know.  How has he avoided massive infection?

He was diagnosed as well into congestive heart failure about ten years ago.  Doesn't seem to worry him any.

He doesn't bathe.  Maybe once a week, if that.  He brushes his teeth only when he leaves the house, which these days is almost never, but that no longer matters because he lost all his teeth twenty years ago.

For a long time, Daughter fussed over him like a mother hen.  She felt guilty that she couldn't "fix" him.  It took me a long time to get through to her that he can't be fixed.  All she can do is stand back, let him be himself, and be available.

He'd been having tarry stools for a few weeks, and I guess someone talked him into a colonoscopy, and ....

Daughter is down there (far south NJ) right now.  She just called to fill me in.  He had surgery today, a laparoscopic bowel resection to remove a tumor on one side and some large polyps on the other side.   Don't know yet whether it's benign or not, but with everything else wrong with him he's not a candidate for chemotherapy anyway.

As usual with him, he went his own way.  They wanted to do another colonoscopy before the surgery, so they had given him three bottles of that icky cleaner-outer stuff to drink last night.  He drank two, and decided he'd rather sleep than be up on the toilet all night, so he didn't drink the third, with the result that he was so dirty in there they couldn't do the colonoscopy.  Sigh.

They plan to send him home Wednesday, Daughter says, because they are severely short on beds.  Daughter originally planned to stay until he went home, but now she says she'll come home tomorrow.


He lives in a studio apartment built onto his (late) parent's big old south Jersey farm house.  His sister, her son, the son's girlfriend and their toddler, and the ex-husband of the sister's daughter, and who knows who else (and I'm not sure of all that, it's weird) live in the main part of the house.  They are there in case something happens, and I guess the sister will be picking him up from the hospital, but they long ago gave up trying to ride herd on Ex#2.

The sister was very angry with me when, after 13 years of marriage, I left him.  I suspect she's no longer mad at me.  I think since he's been living there, she understands.  It's amazing that I lasted as long as I did.

He bought that house from his mother after his father had died and his mother got sick, with the idea that, having no savings, she could live on the money from the house.  She lived in a hospital bed in a front downstairs room for nearly twenty years.  She kept saying she wanted to "go", but she kept on breathing.  I think she was in her 90s when she finally found release.  (I figured as much as she said she wanted to die, she was afraid to.  Afraid to meet her Maker.  Yeah, I'm awful, but she was worse, and I think when she thought the end was near, she realized how much she had to answer for.)

So, what Ex#2 is driving everyone crazy about now, and for the past few years, is his will.  There's the house, and a bunch of money.  He set up a trust containing the house and the investments.  There are all kinds of conditions.  The house is not to be sold - it's to be kept for the use of several family members (those living there now and a few others, three or four generations worth) for as long as anyone wants to use it. It can be sold only after none of the dozen or so people want to live there. Household expenses (including groceries!), utilities, repairs, upgrades, real estate taxes, etc. are to be paid from the trust.  And on and on.

He doesn't seem to realize that there are a lot of beneficiaries of his trust, and if only one person stubbornly decides to continue to live there, only that person will consume the trust.  Daughter asked me if he has some great attachment to the house, if his purpose is to ensure the house stays in the family, is never sold or demolished.  No, he never lived there until just lately.  He didn't move there until after his mother had died.  He should have no emotional attachment to it, except that his mother died there.  I think he just never thought it through. I think he has a vision of "providing for his family, a roof over their heads" in perpetuity.  Paint that in gold with beams of light around it.

For the past several years, that trust has been his sole occupation.  He runs spreadsheets over and over, and has been harassing everyone else in the family to contribute their personal financial information so he can "manage" that, too.  It's all he talks about.  Daughter got sick and tired of his wanting to go over spreadsheets over the phone every week, and I got sick and tired of her complaining about it, so I finally gave her a piece of her own advice - either quit complaining, or DO something about it.  So she told him she didn't want to hear about spreadsheets any more.  

Daughter was originally the executor of his will and manager/trustee of the trust, but after finding out some of the details, she wants out.  It's simply too complicated, and she wants no part of writing checks for household expenses ("I'm not going to write checks for toilet paper receipts!").  Too many ways to get everyone angry.  Recently he agreed to add his sister and his niece's ex-husband as co-whatevers.  The sister has told Daughter not to worry, that the three of them will simply agree that majority rules.  If two want to sell the house, it will be sold.  End of problem.

(I worry that the damn thing might be written such that legally it won't be that easy.  I was tempted to ask to see a copy, but then backed off.  No way I'm going to step into that.  Besides, the sister went to law school or something... anyway, she's smart.)

I simply don't understand how he's still alive.  That household has guns.

4008 More snow

Monday, February 2, 2015

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.
--Frank A. Clarke--


It snowed about 2 inches overnight.  By the time I got up this morning, it had turned to light rain.  Slush everywhere.  

Today is a garbage day, so the street was lined with full garbage cans.   I was in the kitchen when I heard a loud bang, hard to describe, but my first thought was a natural gas line explosion, it was that loud.  I ran to the front porch, and discovered it was a town plow truck plowing the slush in the street, and hitting every garbage can the whole way down the street.  Garbage flying everywhere.

Guy oughta be fired! 

It's now 2:40 pm, and the garbage crew is coming by, unusually late for them.  They usually come through by 10 am.  I wonder what their opinion of the plow driver is.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

4007 It was all a trick...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What's past is prologue.
--William Shakespeare, The Tempest.--

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ get us to buy gas, milk, and bread.

We had snow overnight last Monday into Tuesday.  It was predicted to be a huge blizzard, with this area on the lower edge.  We were supposed to get between 18 and 24 inches.

We got maybe 6 to 8. 

It's hard to tell how much because it was a light dry snow and there was a lot of wall-shaking wind, so it drifted.  One side of my driveway was completely bare, and the other side had maybe 10 inches.

Some people were angry that the weather service had misled us, but I can understand why.  Better to be over-prepared than to be caught short.

What annoyed me was that the past few winters I had been unable to find anyone to shovel my driveway.  This year I was able to contract for the winter with a local kid who now is paying for a car.  He'll shovel (actually run his snowthrower) for an exorbitant price that my sensitive back is willing to pay just to get it done.  $30.  My driveway is exactly the footprint of four cars parked two-across.  

That part is not the problem.  It was that suddenly kids willing to shovel for anywhere from $4 to $10 were crawling out of the woodwork.  I had seven, count 'em, seven offers to shovel.  

Where were those kids last year, and the year before, and the year before? Where were they at the beginning of this winter, when I was looking for someone I could count on whenever it snowed?

The  tax documents and financial statement are coming in, and I got a pleasant surprise.  I have two index-based mutual fund IRAs and a 401K, and I ignore them.  I don't fiddle with them, and usually have no idea how much is there.  But this year I have to start withdrawals, and the amount to withdraw is based on the total in them, so I looked.

Shocker - Since December 2011, all three have doubled!  They doubled their value in three years.  

Piper has a lot to answer for.   I pull about 3% out of my account with him per year to supplement my retirement and SS checks, and yet the total in the account hasn't moved much in the past ten years.

Two weeks ago I got mad, and sent him an email requesting that he pull all of my money out of wherever he's got it, and move it into five mutual funds, preferably no-load index-based, and then leave it there!  No more playing the market.  No more moving stuff around.  Forget bonds, forget money markets, stay away from foreign stuff - go all US stocks.  Keep about 5% in cash that I can get to easily.

Yes, I'll take a hit this year, but in the long term, it will work out.

He went into a panic.  Seriously.  I thought he'd have a heart attack.   He doesn't seem worried about my money - he seems worried that I'm telling him I'm unhappy with his management.  Well, I didn't tell him that, but yeah, I am.

When my ignoring is doing vastly better than his active management, yeah, there's something very wrong.


In case you're wondering, the IRAs are with Janus (research fund) and Vanguard (S&P index).  Very low management fees (less than 1%).

Monday, January 19, 2015

4006 The State Resort

Monday, January 19, 2015

The minute you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.
 --Peter Pan--


In 1967 into '68 I lived near Schwenksville, Pa.  I was living with and trying to leave Ex#1, and temporarily  teaching at the high school  in Lansdale.  (There's a whole story around that period of my life.  Maybe someday....)

The apartment was part of a large old house surrounded by fields.  I had heard that there was a prison just over the fields, but there were trees between, and you couldn't see it from the house.

One day there was an escape.  Lots of excitement, police everywhere, "lock your doors", and so on.

I was thinking about the prison the other day, wondering exactly where it was in relation to the house, what kind of prison it was (high or low security) and so on, so I went to Google maps and looked for it.

With Google maps, sometimes if you click on a labelled spot, like a hotel or resort, you get all kinds of information, including reviews.  So I clicked on it.

I got reviews.  They are funny.  Note the "impromptu activities".

State Correctional Institution at Graterford

3 stars  -  Set in the rolling hills of the Perkiomen countryside, Graterford stands out with this prominent industrialized complex. It is a diversified self-contained facility with many activities to keep guests entertained. Scheduled activities include ping pong, weight lifting, exercise class and book club. Special impromptu activities include hide and seek, man hunt and “you’re getting hotter/colder”. . Short-term and long-term visits can be scheduled through the department of corrections.

5 stars - It's an all inclusive resort for some of the states finest criminals. The experience is second to none, that is why many return multiple times.

Later edit - it's a maximum security prison. They even have a death row, although executions are not carried out there.  A proportion of the prisoners are under 23-hour lockdown, one hour a day out for exercise, only one visitor allowed per month.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

4005 Hands, Furnace

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Is it better for a man to have chosen evil, than to have good imposed upon him?
--A. Burgess, A Clockwork Orange--


I'm having a weird reaction to hands lately.  Whenever I see hands in a photo, or even more recently in a video, my immediate thought is that there are too many fingers.  Especially if the fingers are spread.   I have to count them to be sure.

So far, in real life, hands remain "normal". 

Something weird going on in my brain?


I woke up this morning to a very cold house.  I still had power.  I still had gas - the stove worked.  I checked the box and the circuit breakers were on.  I checked the gas bill and I'm paid up.  But BOTH thermostats were dark and unresponsive, and there was nothing coming from the heat vents.

I have two thermostats, one upstairs, one down.  I have two furnaces in the attic, one for upstairs and one for down.  It freaked me out that both were dead.  Both, at once.  Both?

It took me several calls to find someone who would come out and check, but I finally found someone willing to make an emergency call on a Sunday.  A rainy Sunday.

The problem, it turned out, was in the thermostats.  The batteries were dead in both.  Yes, they do run on house current, and I had assumed the batteries were just for backlighting when you need to see the display in the dark, but apparently not.  According to the service guy, the batteries do a lot more, and allowing them to die can burn out the thermostat.  We put new batteries in, and now everything's working.  (Yeah, I was aware the batteries needed replacing, but I couldn't figure out how to open the case.)

"But, both at once?  Both during the night?"

He pointed out that if the upstairs one had gone out first, with the heat coming up the stairs from downstairs, I might not have noticed for a long time.

...Yeah, I did notice the last few baths and showers have been a bit of a shock when I got out.  With the bathroom door closed (to keep a curious Jasper from falling in the tub; he likes to splash water) there was no heat in there.

Lesson - change the batteries in your thermostat occasionally.

4004 Friends

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
--Martin Luther King, Jr. --


A few days ago I mentioned that I talk to no one much now  other than Daughter and store clerks.  Yeah.  That's quite different from four years ago in the Hudson Valley.  I was very active there in Mensa and the Albany and Poughkeepsie/Newburgh Meetup groups, and a few other things I belong to.  A lot of going out to movies, luncheons, dinners, hikes, activities --- a lot of conversation.

Here,  nothing.

I checked out the local chapter of Mensa.  There seems to be two subsets of the group.  The bunch near me seems to be overweight male basement-dwelling WoW types who don't much talk at all.  The more interesting folks congregate around Princeton.  They are fun --- but Princeton is a bit of a distance on a busy highway, and the drive just doesn't feel worth the effort.

I tried Meetup, but there are few dinner-and-conversation groups.  It seems to be mostly oriented toward booze, bars, and bands, or very young folks doing very physical things.  All that's left after that is special-interest groups, mostly woo-woo types.  Also, the people are different.  They are not as aware of what's going on in the world, not as well-read, not as intellectual as I'm used to in the Albany area.  They seem pretty xenophobic and racist.  I just don't fit in with any of that. 

I tried starting my own dinner and conversation Meetup group, and discovered that even if nine people reserve a spot at the table, that doesn't mean any of them will actually show up.  That is a major problem here, all of the organizers complain about it, and I guess it's the main reason activities are of the happy-hour type.   Then it doesn't matter so much; if 50 people sign up and 30 blow it off, who cares.

I looked for a volunteer group, like the RSVP (Retired & Seniors Volunteer Program) I had worked with up north, but although there are literally thousands of sub-chapters within 20 miles of here, 99.9% are in NYC.  The few things in NJ are hospice and animal rescue groups, and I know me well enough to know that I have to stay away from anything where I'll get emotionally involved.  I DID find the volunteer tax-prep assistance locally, something I did back in the Hudson Valley, but believe it or not, the classes for that ended January 17.  Today.  Missed it.

Upstate I was also into volunteer civil/small claims court mediation, but there doesn't seem to be anything like here.  


Yeah, I've got neighbors, but, frankly, I'm not into that kind of thing.  I'm actually more than a bit of a loner.  In fact, I'm very much a loner.  I really don't want people who are there all the time.  I guess I don't really want friends.  Not that kind.   I've often in my youth been hurt by friends who, now that they know a lot about you, suddenly turn on you, and know exactly how to hurt you.  I never understood that.  It seems like friendships take a lot of work, and steel emotions. 

I think I got turned off by stuff I saw happen in the upstate NY Mensa group, too.  Like what happened with May.  May and her husband, I'll call him Joe, hosted a weekly Happy Hour in Kingston, with a core group of ten or so people every week.  That went on for like ten years.  And every year they hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for all members without families.   And then Joe died.  The night he died, sitting in his recliner at home, May called me, I rushed over there, I walked her through making the necessary calls, took her to the undertaker and lawyer over the next few days, and so on.  No one else, of all those people, helped her.  I called the editor of the newsletter to tell him to put a notice in the next issue, and he refused, because Joe "was not a member".  I was furious!  Everyone knew Joe!  He was always with May at every event.  Everyone knew May.  How can you just ignore his death!?  How can he not matter!

And then there was NJ.  NJ was one of the founding members of that local Mensa group. She was the newsletter editor for years, and was the treasurer for decades.   She hosted three of the biggest and best annual parties every year, including food and champagne for all at her own expense (and she was far from rich).  Everyone went to them.  Then she came down with colon cancer.  No one knew until we all went to her annual Moonlight Madness party and discovered she was wearing a chemo pump.  When she had to resign her job in White Plains (under threat of layoff) just before her surgery, like three weeks after that party, she asked the group for assistance clearing out her personal belongings.  That Saturday, one other guy (the aging hippy) and I were the only people to show up.  Nobody else even acknowledged her need.  That really pissed me off.

I thought May and NJ had a lot of friends in Mensa.  Maybe not bosom buddies, but still a lot better than mere acquaintances.  I guess not.  Once they seemed no longer useful, once they weren't throwing parties any more, they were pretty much cast adrift.

Let's not forget my experience with FW, she who started out a friend, and ended up scaring me half to death with her demands and accusations.  The one The Man called my psycho exgirlfriend.  She was poison to my mental health.  I made a serious mistake there.   (Actually, she turned out to have problems with others, too.  She had been elected president of the local Mensa group, but was relieved of her duties under threat from national, and ultimately resigned from the group altogether after some unpleasant interactions with others.)

I don't get it.  I really don't.  I don't know how this "friends" stuff is supposed to work and I'm afraid to try.  It's just too hard, and I don't understand the rules, I guess.  I don't want friends anyway.  All I really want is compatible people to converse with occasionally, that's all, and I can't seem to find even that.  Not around here, anyway.

On the other hand, I am perfectly comfortable with my own company, especially these days when my body rebels frequently, so I'm not suffering any, either.

(Daughter seems to have a lot of friends, but I've noticed the friends she has now are not the same ones she had two years ago.)