Thursday, August 17, 2017

The older I get... No regrets please.




The older I get, the more I realize how much time I've wasted that could have been productive. Not for one second do I think I should have played more. As I've written before, the reason for this is a deep need in myself to prove my worth to my dad. He always set the work bar very high and no matter what I did, I never felt I measured up. Did he intentionally put this burden on me? I think not and probably went to his grave not understanding my plight.

The older I get, the more valuable my time has become and this is also a conundrum, as in my retirement years, I am actually trying to put the brakes on and attempt to create recreation. I'm not sure I know how to get off this merry go round. Almost every day I have to remind myself that I am not on a schedule and if I want to stand and talk to a stranger for 5 minutes, I can. So on one hand, I am trying to squeeze the most out of my minutes and on the other, waste some by enjoying not having to go, go, go.

The older I get, the more I realize how spending all those hours working alone have robbed me of the most important option in life; meeting and talking to people. I spent hundreds of hours with my camera documenting everything from mountains to spiders and looking back, I should have been photographing friends faces. What is more fun than people?

The older I get the more I understand that repeating a person's name when talking to them is the key to their soul. It is the most precious word spoken when we hear it. Dale Carnegie taught us this years ago, but few of us practice it. Hearing our name is to our ears as seeing money on the ground to our eyes.

I imagine most of us would finish the older I get with a regret. I don't want to. It would be easy to write a tome on regrets. Most of the things I could regret, I can still repair. I could say I wish I spoke another language, but if I really did, how come I am not actively pursuing it? Maybe its the effort that stops me? Old dogs - new tricks got me?

The older I get, the more I wish I would have learned to dance and kiss every pretty girl I could. Like most young guys, girls were as unapproachable as the Hope diamond. I always felt so awkward and just found it easier to try to pop a wheelie on my bike or make funny sounds with my mouth, thinking that would impress them. I had no idea that just being me, was probably good enough and they suffered from the same confusion I did.

The older I get, the more I struggle with cynicism and this is something I really need to work on. Many things I once believed to be solid are crumbling around me and those vested to represent me, often are found to be fallible or untrustworthy. When I was a child I never thought I would live in a time when people in cars could be as rude as they are today. I remember people waving at each other as they passed. Maybe driverless cars with remedy this? If so, I say the quicker the better. My cynical side says it will simply further alienate us, as people will hunker down inside the coach with the electronic distractions and not even bother to look out the window.

The older I get, the more I enjoy personal customer service. It is rare, but I see it reemerging and when it does, it brings a warmth with it that is so nice, it is worth sharing. This is one area social networking is a positive force. People talk and when a company or a friend does you a "big", we tell everyone. It can literally make or break a business, so my question is this - if you own a business, why not put the most cheerful and helpful person out front?

I have been to the new hardware store on Business 146 three times and each time when I walk in, the first person I've seen has looked like they are attending a funeral. Not really inviting, although the store is well stocked. In my opinion, that person ought to be the happiest person I've met that day. Walking around one of our larger home improvement stores, every sales person  is doing their best to appear they are on a anti-collision mission and flee like foxes before I can ask a question. I guess this isn't taught in their sales motivation meetings.

The older I get, the more I want to be content and enjoy the world around me. I want quality food, quality friends, and the stuff in my house to keep working so I don't have to fix them. I want to go to bed at night and know the woman I married nearly 40 years ago is beside me. The older I get, the more I realize it is the little things that really matter.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Right or wrong, Loki's law is real.



Have you ever noticed that if you drop the cap off a water bottle, it will inevitably roll under the refrigerator? Or if you absentmindedly set your car keys down after coming inside, the next time you look for them, they have moved? How about filling the gas tank on your mower, leaf blower, or string trimmer? Yup, no matter how careful you are, it will overflow a bit.

Some folks will automatically and quite smuggishly announce this is Murphy's law at work. I'm not convinced it is. It is a mystery, kind of like the word smuggishly. It's there because it has to be to fulfill a purpose. What that purpose is, is sometimes unclear.

How many times in a lifetime have we stubbed our toe on an invisible projection, or shut a finger in a door? While barefoot I couldn't count the times, I've stepped on a hard dog food pellet and it had the same effect as stepping on a pointy rock. What mysterious Lokian force was at work there to guide me to place the exact center of my heel on that agonizing and pain-inflicting protein-rich pellet?

There is some sort of... can I say deviltry at work in our daily doings. Can I say daily doings without grinning? One fellow remarked after finding a 1/2 drive shiny socket that he lost while working on his car, "I found it in the last place I looked!" It was on top of the air filter the whole time and he looked for 10 minutes. Now tell me there isn't some heinous trickster at work there because I also find stuff in the last place I look!

I was eating a delectable morsel the other day and bit my lip and I mean I chomped down on it to the point I was bleeding. Why? Why me? Why then? I mean, I have been chewing since the day I discovered food and here all of a sudden... CHOMP! It's that hidden prankster of the universe that deliberately alters our path so we can experience new and sometimes painful things. That is the only logical conclusion and I invoked Ockham's Razor for that one. You know it, right? If there is more than one explanation for something, the simple one is usually the correct answer.

Sometimes this law works in our favor, like the time we had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and I got out and there was folding money on the ground. Or the other day when in a crowded restaurant, I reached for something and almost knocked over a glass of a sugary beverage. Like a striking cobra, I righted the vessel and then looked around expecting a 4 foot tall trophy. The Force was strong in me that day, but alas - no trophy was forth coming.

Two days later while walking my dogs around the Blue Heron Parkway trail, I spied my first double rainbow and again, this unwritten law put me in the exact right place to experience this visual rarity. Sure, I prefer the benefits of this mischievous law, but I am more than often, it's victim. I've noticed that if I open up a wound on any part of my head, hand, foot, elbow, or knee, somehow this law will direct me to bump into something to compound the pain and it will happened repeatedly until it finally heals. Then I cease to bump into anything. The Loki law ran its course, closing the loop and I am safe once again.

On a serious note, do I really believe there is an invisible imp sitting on my shoulder waiting to cause me discomfort or possibly let me peek into the sublime? No.  I do not, but then again it is an easy way out and lifts the embarrassment of admitting that self-infliction is the logical solution. "My fault?  Seriously?  No way!" I can't find my keys because I put them down anywhere that's handy and the reason my injured finger doesn't hurt after it heals is because it's no longer injured. The reason a bottle cap will roll under the refrigerator is because its round and rolls until it stops.

Dang that Ockham's Razor!  It's more fun to think an imp named Loki is causing it, but the truth is life and gravity are two things we cannot completely control and sometimes it gives us stubbed toes and other times, double rainbows.
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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Hiding an evil geocache!



Hiding an evil geocache primer
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Past Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

I've heard this term thrown around over the years like it is a common occurrence. Sure, the first light pole cache I found was evil, but guess what, it took me exactly ONE before I didn't fall for it again. But let me say the first time I stumbled upon an LPC or skirt-lifter, I thought it was danged amazing. I didn't know about phoning a friend, or reaching out to social networking or even what that was 10 years ago. I actually lifted the skirt and it was like a rainbow came across the sky.  I looked around feeling extremely gratified and waited for a marching band to come across the Baytown Blood Donor parking lot right here in my hometown.
 
As of today, I've hidden or hosted 463 geocaches or events, so I think I can speak on this subject with some clarity. When I hear the word 'evil" in relation to a cache, I am cynical enough to automatically believe it is a "mean" cache or better explained as a "needle in a haystack" hide.  I have unwittingly been guilty of these very hides in the past and currently own a few, but not because I hid them that way.

It is nature's fault.  Here on the Gulf Coast of Texas it is quite possible to hide something in winter where it can be spotted by Blind Melon Chittlin' from 200 meters away and by spring time, Tarzan couldn't find it with one of those fancy magnifying glasses for the lush foliage.  This is not what I am talking about.

For instance, in some climates where they have white cold stuff fall out of the sky 6 months of the year, a cache could be buried under 6 feet of the crystalline H2O, so that's not an evil hide either. Okay, now hold up here.  I'm going to break it down and using the (KISS) keep it simple stupid rule, I am going to define an evil cache.

When you hide a geocache in plain view and people don't recognize it, dismissing it as "not it", then you have hid an evil cache.  Anything else is most likely a mean hide. Now realize, I am exempting tricky hides, which fall into a separate category and depending on the generosity of the finder, may get a favorite point. There are also "cool" hides, but that is not what this primer is about.
Placing a nano on a wall with 7000 look alike bolt heads is not evil; it's mean.  Double bump it if it's in a conspicuous place that makes the cacher uneasy. How many times have you looked through the shrubbery just outside the tinted window of an office or restaurant for a "micro" that turns out to be the smallest bison tube ever made?  Evil?  I say it's mean and I do not want to hide caches that put people in that position.

Here's another scenario.  You arrive at a stand of bamboo because no one can find it and that's is when you realize it is a micro and only a miracle will help you stumble upon one of the million places it could be. I'll be honest and tell anyone who asks, that I immediately call anyone I know who found it and chances are, they did the same thing. Evil?  Nope.
 Now, let's look at a true evil hide.  IF you find it, you probably won't tell anyone because you want to save the integrity of the hide and to keep it truly evil.  You will feel like the cache owner (CO) deserves that for their awesome effort.  THAT is the difference. Evil hides are amazing hides that no one wants to give away without making the person looking for it - LOOK FOR IT.  There is a cache (GC36NF3) in Highlands, Texas that probably had a thousand hours put into finding it.  It has a 5 difficulty and a 1.5 terrain and two days after it published, it looked like a herd of buffalo had descended on the area, but still no find. The catch was hidden by my friend, thacatfish.

Go read the logs and then ask yourself how many real evil hides have you looked for? My name is there, whining and crying and it was right there in front of me and others the whole time. After 4 days, of which I spent in excess of 30 hours looking, Muddy Bones alone found it; a Force Recon US Marine, who just wouldn't take no for an answer. He arrived at sunrise, alone, and after 2 hours, discovered this heinous cache. It wasn't his first time here.

Now, let's take a look at his log:  "I will honor the CO request and not give out any hints." Eight more DNF's followed his log and then, 8 days after it published a group of 4 descended upon the area determined to look again. I am Air Force and Rambetta is a retired US Army Colonel and we simply could not let the Marines have this one unchallenged.

GeoGeex, our puzzle-solving guy suddenly started laughing and we had it. After all the time we had been here, this day took 2 more hours and honestly, there is not much to see at the location. Months later, there was a whole string of finds, which pretty much tells you social media was working, because everyone before them gave it favorite points... Evil hides?  Please give us more of them.  Mean hides, no thank you.
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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Robotics and Socialism - Welcome to the future



My bride and I were sitting in the back yard the other evening enjoying the lower humidity, a slight breeze, and waving at the steady stream of people hiking and biking the Blue Heron trail. She was in her swing and I, a chair and the subject of robotics and the future came up. I'm sure this is something you and yours have mulled over ad nauseam, but hear me out.

Now before I go any further, let me answer your first question. Why were we not out hiking and biking instead of sitting on our thinking caps like a pair of contributors to America's obesity epidemic? Because we are morning exercisers and had already did our daily quota. With that out of the way, what about those robots?

She was pondering the idea of possibly marketing a product that was unique and would suddenly become popular enough to mass-market. "It might just make us rich!" she exclaimed. Now seeing that I lived in a Third-World country for 2 years, I already know the majority of Americans are rich already and I felt compelled to bring up what some would call a "Debbie Downer" statement, but I believe is our future.

"If you have an idea that will suddenly become popular enough to mass market, companies like Amazon with their robotic warehouses will put you out of business. There is no way you can economically compete with machines that run 24 hours a day, without a break, benefits, or any sort of human interaction," was along the lines of what I just quoted.

"Using the same advanced technology, they can manufacture an improved variation with more efficiently and probably cheaper." Her reply was that if machines will be doing everything, "What will people do?" This is a conclusion that every human should consider and make plans, if it isn't already too late. The truth is we will be given tasks by our government in exchange for credits. For nostalgia's sake, we will call it our job. It will be a bumped up welfare system that nearly everyone will be required to partake of, or starve. Of course, the elite will be excluded, as in all past systems including our current one.

It could be a called a tax credit, or a food credit. One way or the other, the long term vision of our government will be the management and well being of the population. Along with this comes total control of us. As in George Orwell's book, "1984" the government's job will be to keep us occupied. The easiest way to do that is create "make work". Make work is defined as "an activity that serves mainly to keep someone busy and is of little value in itself." Kind of like using a fidget spinner, except for 8 hours a day and calling it your job.

Anyway, our true preoccupation and one the government will endorse is recreation. The more "work" credits you earn, the more recreation time you can enjoy. There will be weekly lottos held to reward a certain percentage with more extreme recreation. Everything good and fun we now take for granted will be served as recreational credits and regardless of your current station in life, you will be herded into this system. It will be a brave new world dictated by automation and an all powerful, but nearly invisible one world government and like the matrix, there won't be any option to opt out.

Now wait a second there, Bubba.  What if we don't want to be a part of it? No worries here (notice I didn't say no problem) your children's children will openly embrace a life of ease without the nasty hassles of having to earn an education and get out there and go toe to toe for a slim to non-existent job market. This inevitable and unstoppable change will come into play by invitation, not by invasion. What you now see as freedom of choice, the future generations will see as chains and shackles and giggly embrace their government caretaker.

There will be no need for anyone to invent anything as artificial intelligence will be dictating our course "for the good of the people" and the entire human population will be regulated. Birth rates, ecology, environment, law and order, economics, health care, and recreation facilities will all be dictated to and for us and compliance will be mandatory and strictly enforced. "Remember the Smith's in C sector? Yea, they disappeared yesterday.  I knew they were heading for trouble when they started complaining about the credit system."

"Why fight and grapple for your place in the workforce when all you have to do is earn credits and then you can play?" I concluded and suddenly looked up at my bride there in the swing. "Too much information?" She told me it wasn't and said she hopes to never see that day. I agreed with her, but that is the direction we are heading. I am sure of it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.


Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with a Moe Howard hairdo. This insidious enigmatic parasite has somehow invaded our consciousness (and the rest of the planet apparently) and folks are blissfully unaware it has taken up shop inside their head. The ultimate goal of this demon is to distract or make us forget stuff. I say stuff because I can't remember what it is exactly.

Take our leadership as an example of the stuff I'm trying to write about. Evidence couldn't me more apparent even if Donald Trump held up a huge sign with the words "I dinna ken!" boldly displayed. Of course, the far left would claim he does indeed dinna ken and then the argument would escalate. John McCain would somehow throw a gavel into the spokes of the argument by possibly agreeing with the President or not and Nancy Pelosi would demand to find out exactly what George Bush dinna ken. I know, right?

It's confusing to half of us and the other three quarters of the population are too busy to take the time to stop doing whatever it is we might be doing in the next ten seconds. People are losing their ability to not only retain, but as Jethro Bodine so aptly put it, "Cipher it out.". Take this question a fellow recently posed as an example. "Two rather odd-looking women moved in next door 3 months ago. They are different to put it mildly and I've never seen a man enter their apartment. Do you think they are Lebanese?"

I was speechless in that I had accidentally swallowed a fly and bobbed my head fiercely trying to dislodge it and I heard him yell out, "I knew it!" before he stormed off. I was going to say maybe Sri Lanka? You see, I didn't have a chance to actually answer his question because he was off on a tangent and this is where people are these days;   Tangentville, Texas.  "Honey, I'll be home sometime in the future! I'm going to Tangentville whether I want to or not."

This mysterious place exists only in our heads and Baby boomers are not exempt from a visit or 2 at the worst possible time. In our self-righteousness, we blast away at the younger Millennials over their constant need to text or stare at their phones, but the truth is we don't need electronics to forget what we are doing or to be distracted. All we have to do is have a conversation and blam!  Tangentville, Texas suddenly blocks out what we were talking about. We take a side trip and can't remember our way back into the conversation.

It's embarrassing to say the least until whomever we were talking to can't remember what the subject was and we stare at each other like a pair of potheads and giggle.  "Oh yea!" we suddenly exclaim and rush to get it out before another side trip hits us. More giggling follows until all of a sudden you realize you can't remember again.
I think this pandemic is caused by sensory overload. Those two words, if you could weigh them, come in right at 20 pounds. Trust me. I have a scale. I bought it on... a web site. It's guaranteed to be calibrated and everything and if it breaks I can return it for a full refund - if I can remember which web site I bought it from. Remember when everything came from Sears, JC Penny's or one or 2 grocery stores? I can't either and that's the problem. I've slept since then.

Too much info.  I now spell "information" as info. Just like I've shortened "Yes, indeed" to "Yup". The truth is half the time I can't remember how to spell information and frankly, I have side trips to take and just don't have time for propriety. For one, I have to drive on our streets. Do you realize how long it takes to strap into my Jeep so when someone texting slams into the side it won't kill me? I simply cannot go to Tangentville when I am driving if I want to survive and I can't control those who couldn't care less (read: apparently a whole lot of people).

Military and police keep their head on a swivel and that is how we have to drive these days, but is that what we see around us? Nope. What we see are glazed over eyes staring at their electronic devices as they pretend to pay attention to the road or they are sunk down so low in the seat all they can see is the top of the steering wheel. When people walk into light poles texting, why do they think they can do it going 40 miles per hour?

So which is worse, a momentary lapse of memory or a major distraction such as operating a smartphone in public? The first one is probably inevitable, but the second is preventable, or is it? Maybe not. The intoxicating lure of Tangentville is simply too strong to resist. Wait a minute! What were we talking about?
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Customer service is not what it used to be




I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. I explained that the technician hadn't completed the job and they had accidentally broke an expensive valve on my pool equipment and I was told I would have my pool back in service today. This happened Friday. The guy was friendly and an expert and I thanked my lucky stars I didn't tackle the job.

The lady told me I was paying for the part of the job that was originally scheduled and I wouldn't be charged for the other repair. I told her that is not how it works. Once I pay, what is their impetus to finish the job? She informed me that they have other jobs scheduled and they would fix it Wednesday, but would I kindly update my information so they could be paid. At this point, I realized all logic was out the window and I told her I would get back to her.

Then she threw down this catch phrase, which any business or customer service should eliminate at all levels, "No problem" and she hung up. I will never, ever pay for a service until it is completed satisfactorily and her implication that there was no problem told me all she was interested in doing was clearing my ticket. I fully intend to make a very civil complaint to the owner.

I will pay extra every time for excellent service, but I have a problem in that until I experience it, I inherently don't trust it. In other words, I don't believe everyone who claims to be an expert, or a professional knows what they are doing. My pool guy was very good and an expert and seeing he is being paid to do what he was doing, he is a professional, so understand my complaint is not about him. Stuff happens and in my case, it meant replacing the entire pump motor, housing, and pump assembly.

It was a simple PVC job right? NOT and that's why I decided I would turn it over to the pros and just pay the labor charges, as I had the entire replacement assembly already. You see, there are specifications on how high the discharge of the pump is to maximize flow, etcetera and I could see that by cutting into the pipe, I would probably have to modify all that and sure enough, I could mess something up.

And it happened and the manual valve to direct flow was cracked on the bottom and I thanked my lucky stars that I did not do this. He assured me it would be covered and then schooled me to make sure the tech who worked on it did certain things if it wasn't him. Okay, I can let my 18,000 gallon salt pool set for 3 days, but then we had a lot of storms which blew a barrel of leaves into the pool. In our climate, letting your pool set for 5 days is a big no-no. No problem.

What I needed at this point was customer service calling me Monday morning checking on me, but this didn't happen. By noon I called and had the above conversation. No problem. No problem? Are you kidding me?  I have half a dumpster of leaves in my pool and my injured neck has more twists in it than a pretzel. I got my 15 foot pole with a net on the end and tried to get them off the bottom while my pool cleaner sat idly by laughing at me. No problem.

This company needs to worry less about closing out tickets and more on the care and follow up they provide, but am I just talking about a single pool company here? I think not. I think it is endemic these days and many businesses should see a red flag. The bottom line is people, customer service, and how they feel treated. I hate when someone tells me "No problem" when I have a problem. Tell me you will fix it, or that you are here to get rid of my problem instead. "I appreciate it!" "No problem..." Geeze. Spare me.

Note: Five days later my pool was restored and only after I asked for a complimentary pool cleaning, they agreed, but why did I have to ask?  No problem. 
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Can't you smell that smell?




I guess I'm out of touch with current trends and basically uncouth and white trash when it comes to cologne, but I like the smell of Old Spice. I still like British Sterling and Hai Karate, Brut, and the clean scent of Brylcreem. I also like Lava soap and Mrs. Butterworth syrup, regardless of what it does or tastes like and I've tasted both, believe me.

Butch wax is still a smell like none other and if I caught a whiff of it today, I'd say, "What, that's Butch wax." It is akin to vanilla extract; there's nothing like it. Now I was at Como en Mexico the other day to get some authentic Mexican ice cream and I got a generous dip of Rum Raisin and I looked up and said, "Why this tastes like egg nog." Now whether it tastes like egg nog to anyone else, is relative, right, but that's what it tastes like to me. On second thought, what exactly is a nog anyway?

When I was in Southeast Asia, on more than one occasion I was around the odor of burning opium. It has a very peculiar smell and once you've been exposed to it, you would never mistake it for something else. The closest smell to it in my olfactory memory bank is slightly burnt peanut brittle.

Have you ever noticed how a certain smell can launch you back in time to a certain place or event? It may not have been anything to remember, except the smell took you there. The smell of fresh cement always sends me to Cleveland, Ohio when I was visiting my Aunt Jean. I was very small and riding a tricycle on the sidewalk near her house and cement workers were pouring forms. It is a very pleasant memory.

Certain ailments can give us bloodhound smell abilities and almost everything smells either way too strong or repulsive. I went through this not too long ago after doing a 32 day mega-blitz of prednisone. Coming down off that stuff took about 5 nauseating days of smelling everything magnified and very little of it was pleasant. I remember passing a couple of ladies in my favorite grocery store on North Main and their flowery perfume almost gave me nose rickets!

Have you ever noticed how some kids often complain about certain smells being too strong? We dismiss it, but what they are trying to tell us is they have magnified smelling ability and we don't recognize it. To me, it would be a curse to be able to smell 100 times what I currently can. Imagine your neighbor coming in from work and you pick up on every odor they've been exposed to for the last 12 hours.  Pee-you!

I knew a lady who was in a car wreck and after that, she lost all sense of smell. Food lost its appeal and she ate rice with the same amount of enthusiasm that she did spicy Mexican food. Another curse! If this happened to Charlie Farrar, his love of super hot chow-chow would be gone and he would lose something precious and be boring.

Hawaiian surf!  That was the name of the (cheap) cologne I bought when I was a senior in high school (yes, I bought it with money I earned working). Man, I thought I smelled like something a female couldn't resist and then the Air Force sent me to Montana and the Great Plains where there was purportedly a woman behind every tree. I never had a chance to prove it's worth. No trees and no women. Of course at 18, I was as clumsy around the fairer sex as I am now, so maybe I really needed that cologne. It's too late, they discontinued it just like the Hollywood candy bars I loved so much.

I worked a couple of years in a restaurant ran by a Greek and he told me that burnt food spells catastrophe in a restaurant. "If it ever happens, scrape the grill, throw butter and onions on it and within minutes, people's mouth will be watering."

Geeze, I don't ever want to loose any of my senses and it does look like my hearing is taking a hit, but to lose my sense of smell would be tragic. I remember being around cows as a kid and not realizing cow manure had an offensive odor to many people. It just smelled like grass and cows to me. To tell the truth, I kind of like it.

I heard that savvy real estate agents will bake cookies in the house they are showing and folks immediately want that house. Well, it sounds like a good idea to me, because I like cookies and have been known to eat a wide variety when given the chance. Throw in a cup of black coffee and I'll sign the papers.

Each of us have a signature smell or odor if you will. If you don't believe it, ask your dog. Many of us mask it with unnecessary deodorant, but it is a very subtle part of our identity and one that each of us with a partner unwittingly enjoy. That is the one smell that is the most precious to me and the one I never want to lose.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

"You ain't seen nothin' yet"



I've been duped! At least I think I may have been. Time will tell the full story. Mind you, I don't like anyone pulling the wool over my eyes, but when you are raised to believe one thing and then discover "it ain't quite like that" is suddenly revealed, it isn't mildly funny. Yes, I'm talking about turning or making 65 years of age. Racing to get to retirement is not all its cracked up to be. There. I said it.

Turning 65 has suddenly been a wake-up call where all I have to talk about is my aches and pains, my meds, the grocery deals, and yes, my bowel movements. My first indication that I had hit this mile marker was people quit asking me "How're ya doin' there big fella?"  Now they wave and mention the weather, which I've also become quite a sage on the subject.  "Back in the 70's..." I begin and they immediately get a text or a phone call and holding their communication device up to signal it's priority over actual face to face interaction, step off for a moment that eventually leads them away.

I talk to people in elevators and the grocery story, often grabbing at their arm when they fake how precious their time is. Never mind that we are strangers. What's more important than people? Any interaction with my fellow humans in now important and I have a witty anecdote to share and by golly, they should slow down to savor it.

"You ain't seen nothin' yet," half joked the old Korean War veteran who I met at the VA. Recently, I had CT scan to rule out other more significant problems so I could continue pain management via acupuncture for my neck issues. The good news is I do not have a tumor, but I have cranial calcification, which I immediately knew better as "bone head" caused by aging. So it appears, my narrow range of topics is a direct result of said calcium deposits.

I was afraid it would reveal the dreaded "dirty mind" deposits that go with being an elder male of the human species, but I guess they didn't run that test. Other men my age have explained to me that being a dirty old man is as common as litter and is fully excusable due to the fact that most of us are or will become inert and harmless and that is quickly recognized by intended targets of our risk-free witty banter.

I see this performance at the gym in the mornings when other "old goats" are drawn to the female gender to spread friendly double-entendre.  Before I turned 65, I would explain to my bride that "they really like women" and that's why they always come over grinning. The other day I was tempted to engage in this social behavior. Drat! At least I wasn't drooling. Not yet any way. The dang truth is, I am 65 and not 35 and I can't do a lot of the things that I did when I was younger. 2017 has been mean to me physically.

I was talking to Barbora Cole the other day and when I got on this subject (which is my new staple conversation), she laughed and explained how it was only going to get worse. Her husband Leo nodded in agreement. Yikes! I'm trapped. I was at their house repairing their computer and I swear, my first thought after I left was what was on sale at Aldi's and that I had to pick up a prescription at CVS.

I've done pretty well on getting away from the pain in my "nasty neck" and sure as the world, I semi-twist my back.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's that pain you get when you turn wrong, or step in a hole. I did it innocently enough by changing a flat tire on my Jeep. Never mind that the huge tire and wheel weigh 80 pounds. I was trying to stab the wheel on the carrier on the back while feeding the 3rd brake light cable through the middle of the wheel.

Of course it slipped a bit and I jerked to catch it and ouch! When all this stuff started with my neck on March 21st, I was on a single blood pressure med. Now I have 8 meds and 2 topical analgesics. "You ain't seen nothin' yet" comes to mind.

Our VA is a wonderful place in my experience, but the other day my doctor looked at my chart and declared, "Well, you get 2 shots today!"  I chuckled and asked what it was for and why.  "You are now 65, so you get a tetanus and pneumonia shot." Zap, I got em and 5 days later my arms are still sore. I guess I need to go get a walker from the prosthetics department, as at this accelerated pace, I'll most likely need it soon.

Here is the real skinny on all this aging business. It is inevitable and not entirely avoidable. I have to be smarter and admit to myself that I must back off some activities. Larry Houston told me he never gets hurt changing a tire because he calls AAA and I think he's right. I know he's right. I just don't know how to stop being 35.
 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's never too late to change

At the gym named after the clock, I got off my stationary bike and walked briskly to the front to see if I could locate more 2.5 pound hand-weights. I wasn't instructing this particular class, but we instructors often work together to help members achieve their fitness goals and we suddenly had more people arrive than we had weights.

I found a few in the stretching area and came back and at the door was a man watching the class. He appeared to be maybe 10 years older than me. I asked him to come and join us, as we had at least one bike left. "Oh, no, I think this is beyond my ability. I think I'll just stick to the recumbent bikes out on the main floor."

We exchanged a few more words where I explained that it is never too late to give it a go and that seeing the class is quite strenuous, he could come in and give it 10 minutes sometime. Well, it turns out he was 80 years old. Now he looked dang good for 80. In fact, he looked good for 75, but he was right. It was too much for him... at that time.

90% of people who venture into what we call a Group-X class is not prepared for what happens in the next hour. I know I wasn't when I first began and I thought I was in good shape. I took my first Spin class (stationary bike) about 3 years ago and this was after hitting the treadmill and elliptical machines 5 times a week. I figuratively crashed and burned every class for the first 6 months.

Now let me clarify this, because it sounds like the class is too demanding. The class is as hard as you make it. Being a competitive person, I felt like if I couldn't do every little bit that the instructor asked, I failed. When they said "give the resistance knob half a turn", I did. Every single time and usually 20 minutes into the hour, I looked at the clock and prayed for it to get moving. It took me 6 months of 2 times a week before I could "hang" and that is when I realized how much I loved spinning. Never mind that 80% of the people around me were half my age.

Spinning is the ultimate cardio Group X class, but you don't have to do the full 60 minutes wide open to benefit from it. You do not have to spend months preparing to make that first visit either, but using the treadmill and elliptical machines prior to attempting your first class will give you a measure of your fitness and boost our confidence.

Make no mistake, walking through those glass doors the first time is dadgum intimidating, but if you have an instructor worth their salt, they will welcome you inside and get you set up on a bike. This is crucial because if the bike is not adjusted for your body, you will either work yourself to death, or possibly get hurt. After I've helped a person get the adjustments just right, I always ask them to take a photo of the settings, "So the next time you come in and adjust the seat, you will look like a pro."
 
I took my first Zumba class last Saturday at a Group X Instructor event in Midtown and for 45 minutes, I did something that only slightly resembled Zumba - but I did it and was pretty danged proud of myself.  I'm not a dancer.  I'm a linear karate guy. This makes me look like a robot or an Egyptian when I try to do circular movements, like Salsa or Rumba. The good part is everyone in the room was an instructor of some discipline and all of us who aren't dancers looked like spastics. It was a blast and I laughed the whole class.

Since my neck became a medical problem, I've had to stop lifting weights for the most part and seeing I do not need weight lifting for my lower half, I decided to try Zumba for more cardio, flexibility, and just plain exercise. Now here is the intimidation factor I talked about and even though I instruct in this Group X environment, walking into a Zumba class to participate brings a certain amount of anxiety, even for me.

Now add in the fact that it is basically an all-female class, and this bumps it up considerably. Well, at my home gym, I know many of the ladies and they were happy to have me embarrass myself, so I went this past Monday and took a full hour with Emily Haynie at command. Wow!  I sweated a lot and like I realized last Saturday, it is all about the feet and having fun.

Is it too late in life to take something like this on you ask (and you stand staring at yourself in the mirror).  The answer is no.  It is not. The first step and the hardest part is walking into that gym and inside the gym are many doors.  You simple walk through them one at a time.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Withering Weather Wilts Writhing Woman



I was making chit chat with a customer at my favorite grocery store on North Main the other day and of course, the weather was casually mentioned by me. We both agreed it was hot and summer had arrived. The lady suffered from DVM - defective voice modulation and was talking real loud and I didn't realize she could be heard at the far end of the aisle. She was also hard of hearing and repeated the word "humidity" a number of times. She walked away and I proceeded to shop.

We were in the cold food section and when I first spotted HER, she was neck deep in the burrito case and as I perused the various frigid delicacies, I couldn't help but notice she remained frozen in place. I pretended to take an interest in the plethora of fish stick options as I obliquely observed her. Her dress was rather large and loose-fitting and she was wearing those old school thick brown nylons and heavy boots.

I couldn't stick around too long, or she might suspect I was doing something nefarious. I imagine a woman dressed like she was, suspects she attracts a certain amount of lewd glances. As if a premonition took her, she jerked her head out and facing me, gave me an icy glare. Now normally, I would have looked away and shuffled past, but as she pulled her head out of the frosty case, she had a package of frozen taquitos stuck to her forehead.

Being a responsible Baytonian and a past State certified emergency care attendant, I did the only thing I knew to do and that is laugh. Well as the frosty package fell away from her head, she deftly snatched it mid-air and like Otis Thorpe in his prime, she slammed it home with the other tasty treats.
 "You can have your humidity any day of the week," she said and pointed a bony ring-clad finger at me. I found it peculiar that the knuckle on my side of the ring was at least twice as big as the jewelry.

Holy smokes, this lady was not a fan of humidity! Is anyone a fan of humidity? The more she talked, the more I envisioned the wicked witch of the west when Dorothy threw water on her. Mind you, the sweating woman looked nothing like the gorgeous Margaret Hamilton... this lady was blond and missing her front teeth. "My humidity?" was all I could muster. I am usually pretty quick on my feet and back in the day, when it came to fast responses, I could go all night like a lumberjack.
"Yea, your danged humidity! I plan to move somewhere that I won't be sweating like this and do it soon!" With that, she opened the case and snatched two 3-pound packages of beef and bean burritos and put one under each arm. This effectively not only repulsed me, because I like bean burritos, but drove home her point astoundingly well.

"Ma'am, with all due respect, I happen to have a keen interest in our weather and checked it on the Interweb (I used this phrase to gain advantage and most likely convince her that I was indeed educated - possibly past her own level of study) before I left home. The humidity is low today at 48% because the wind is coming out of the north." I had just about decided the woman was afflicted with that aging virus women get somewhere in their 40's and attempted to deftly maneuver past her.

I guess my grin was taken wrong and she stuck her brown size 12 brogan out and blocked my buggy. "So you say. My great uncle was a radio weatherman and he always got the weather right and it runs in our family!" She drove home her point by raising her voice an octave and 10 decibels. 

Well, I've never been one to turn down a sound argument and I explained to her that I spent 2 years in the tropics and "this is really not that bad!"
 
With that, she opened the chilled case and with skills Tony Romo would admire, she launched them 2 bean and tortilla-wrapped projectiles back with solidly impressive impact.  I could see it in her eyes. The lady was heat stoned! I looked around for a manager and indeed I saw 2, but both of them had been observing the heated exchange and they took off like they were on a water slide.

Now I have quite a bit of grappling experience, but this was clearly a case of fight or flight and the person in front of me was beginning to assume charge mode. When a person drops into a 3-point stance and places their knuckles on the floor, it is a sound bet, they plan to go for it.  I've seen hormone-imbalanced women get this same look and everyone knows how unpredictable and violent they get.

She lunged and I side-stepped and she went down and such was her launch at me, that she slid a good 10 feet before piling up in front of the frozen pizza cases.  The last thing I heard her yell as I zoomed my cart toward the check-out line was "I'm moving back to god's country... Channelview!"


Thursday, June 15, 2017

You get out what you put in



 My dad was a man of many talents, but conveying them was not his strong suit. I've written about this before that I learned more from him by accident than instruction. It wasn't because he didn't try. I just couldn't see it the way he presented it. I suppose it was the same way he and his dad interacted.

My son in law and I were sitting on the back patio the other day after my grandson's fourth birthday party and we were tying knots. Mike Sievers is an Eagle Scout and I was a Scout master of sorts, but never learned all the stuff he did to get to that level.

I was showing him a short-cut to tie a clove hitch and realized my dad taught it to me. It is a quick way to make the knot and only works if the rope can be slipped over the end of whatever you are tying. I first realized this was odd when I did it during a training session at the chemical plant where I was employed and the goal of training was to educate us fire fighter/rescue team members to use rope for rescue.

Some of these guys prided themselves on their knot knowledge and with all of us being alpha personalities, it was difficult to admit they had never seen it. There was precious little actual mentoring present. It was basically every person for themselves. Learn it or not - who cares?

I asked Mike about a knot he used earlier to tie off a tarp and he called it a fisherman's knot and demonstrated it. I said "huh," and then showed him the way (once again) my dad showed me to tie that knot.  He looked at it and admitted it was superior. We talked about various knots for a bit and then got off onto other subjects.

The thing about Mike and I is he knows a lot of stuff that I don't and in this environment we both learn from each other. It is my experience that there is precious little of this one on one sharing of knowledge going on. What we have substituted is electronic instruction. Want to learn something? Watch a YouTube video. If you get it, fine. If not, fine. You can fake it till you make it.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin  Old Ben once again comes through with the simplicity of sharing knowledge.

When a person decides to become a mentor, things don't always go the direction they hope and here is a humorous example. My grandson who just turned 4 and I were having a one-sided serious discussion about dinosaurs, as he was having that theme at his birthday party. He has two small dogs that he really hasn't connected with, so to attempt to raise his understanding, I began like this, "What if you could have two little animals like dinosaurs living in your house to play with? These type of animals have been around for millions of years. Would you like that?" He looked me in the eye and just as serious as he could be, he said... "6 dollars!" I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

The key is connecting and this is the hard part.  I like this quote to explain it: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

The last few years of my career in the Chemical Plant industry, I observed there was precious little mentoring. It was completely absent at the top and of course, trickled down to the bottom rung. No one appeared willing to give anyone a boost. I mainly worked with chemical engineers and watched the new engineers flounder and fail and all because none of the veterans were willing to throw them a lifeline. When I questioned my friends, they shrugged. "Sink or swim".

The reality is they didn't need a simple lifeline, they needed someone to tie off next to them and teach them how to fight off the sharks until they could float on their own. Is it because people don't care anymore, or they simply don't have time? There must be some logical reason the golden rule is ignored. Way back in 1977 when I hired on with ARCO, I heard young guys like myself complain "No one will show you anything because they don't want you to take their job." Some of that was true I guess, but pales in comparison to modern times.

William Arthur Ward would spin like one of them newfangled gizmos if he could see the absence of compassionate instruction in today's society. Many appear to have had no guidance whatsoever. We met a considerate person of maybe 25 years the other day and my bride commented that they must have been taught to be polite from childhood. It was obvious that they "got it" and in their day to day interaction with other living creatures, they proved it. Each one, reach one, teach one. Boy, I wish it were that simple.

The older I get... No regrets please.

The older I get, the more I realize how much time I've wasted that could have been productive. Not for one second do I think ...