Wednesday, December 29, 2010

back pain

I'm 55 years old, which means that all my parts are 55 years old. Which is why, after moving about 2 tons of snow on Monday (say a shovelful every 15 seconds, at an average weight of, say, 16 lbs., over the course of so much time...), my back has been giving me pain.

It was actually worse Tuesday night into this morning than it was before; I could barely get out of bed in the middle of the night. Luckily, I have today off, and I've been sitting on the heating pad and sucking down Naprosyn (couldn't find a refill in the stores today, so I've got ibuprofen for a backup). My wife will tell you I hate taking pills (I had a bit of a problem with drugs and alcohol between the mid-70's & mid-80's, and I don't want to risk a relapse, even after 27 years of recovery), but this has been enough to make me take 'em regularly.

It's worst first thing in the morning after not moving all night. I may take to leaving a water bottle and some pills at my bedside... although the med's take a long time (like, dozens of minutes) to kick in. And I may get that picturesque cane out of storage.

I've gained a couple of pounds since the beginning of the month. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

Monday, December 27, 2010

HOW much snow??

Snow. Gevalt. About twenty inches, according to the newscasts.

I got the robocall last night that my company would be closed today. Wife's county social service office was open, but nobody was there in her unit (and I checked my county social service office - they were closed, too).

I began shoveling last night before the snow stopped; I got wife's car partly shoveled out, but when I got out this morning at about 9:00 am, you couldn't even see where I'd been (not only that, but the plow had been through and left hard-pack across the bottom of the driveway). I shoveled a path to her car, then shoveled out her car from the driveway, then shoveled out MY car which was street-parked (I know I'm going to lose that spot tomorrow), then helped one neighbor get her minivan out from the middle of the street, and helped another neighbor get her car shoveled out. That took about 90 minutes (and I'm counting it for an exercise credit).

Went out again about noon for half an hour; the snow is the cold, dry loose flakes, and the wind had kept up and blown snow over much of the shoveling out. Wife had suggested that we may want to park both cars in the driveway, so I shoveled out enough to get both cars in, and cleaned up what snow had blown around the cars; I also shoveled out a path to the back door. The contractor fellow can do the rest of it (we live in a condo, and have a contractor who charges the association usurious rates to clear the paths and roadways; he's supposed to do the driveways, but not the cars... but you wouldn't want to have to wait for the contractor to get to your driveway).

No post today, unless the blowing show covered the footprints of the mail delivery fellow. Whatever happened to, "Neither rain, nor snow, nor heat..."? (Oh - it's apocryphal (although note the source...).

Spent much of the day with the heating pad nursing my lower back, and I'm not looking forward to my return to work tomorrow. After all, the coworker is out for the week, it's already a short week for me, and I'm gonna hafta reschedule the folks I didn't see today - including two (a father/daughter pair) who are waiting on standby for the next available appointment. (And I bought a pair of sandals to replace the ones that gave up the ghost in Hawaii. I decided to do something to make it feel like spring might come; it's been too long since I got a decent bike ride in, and I feel like winter's gonna last forever.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

so this is christmas

My Polish in-laws grew up celebrating Wigilia (the Polish name for Christmas Eve), and, when they moved to this country, were surrounded by locals, for whom the big holiday was Christmas Day. So, in a generous (and, for them, a rare un-American) display of intercultural outreach, the family does both the big, traditional Christmas Eve celebration (with the traditional dinner with many meatless dishes, and the breaking of the opłatek, and the singing of koledy [while the kids grow ever more impatient waiting for the opening of the presents]), AND the big American no-holds-barred eat-anything-you-can feast of Christmas Day. The Wigilia is the territory of my 80-something-year-old mother in law (and sacrosanct territory it is), but my wife has hooked the Christmas Day feed as her donation to the annual family celebrations. So yesterday, we were up by 7:00 to get the turkey in the oven, and did all the setup and serving (that is, the stuff that hadn't been done in the weeks of preparation), and didn't get to stop until the last guest had called for directions when she missed her exit on the way home. That was about 6:00 pm.

(I made gravy. Did I tell you I make dangerous, kickass gravy? I do. I probably contributed to two heart attacks yesterday.)

Now, the family is rolling chaos (as what family is not?), and we heard that some of the folks were going to be late. We had already decided to make this dinner a more-or-less buffet ("We'll have dinner on by 2:00, but you can eat whenever you get here"), and after a bit of rage about their callous lack of attention to our efforts, we remembered that this was precisely the reason we had chosen to do the buffet. We have a friend who makes this kind of entertaining look effortless (my wife says, "She gets it that it's really about getting people together"), so the watchword of the day became, "What would Taylor do?".

Today is recovery day, and I'm shot. I haven't exercised, I'm not quite out of my pajamas (at 11:14 am, when I've been up since about 5:00; people who know me will tell you how unlike me that is), and I'm barely getting around to writing this post.

However, looking over the loot under the Christmas tree, it's time to reflect how good life is. My latest hobby is the bicycles, and there's a bit of bicycle loot (including the Sprintech bar-end mirror, Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance, and Tom Hammel's NJ Bike Ride Book). Also, the obligatory winter clothing (scarves, gloves), and some fripperies that we love, but won't buy for ourselves (and, of course, some useless stuff from clueless, but well-meaning donors).

Wife has just gotten back from part-time job; snow is falling (looks like I may get some exercise today anyway), and I'm trying to stay away from the stacks of yummy leftovers in the other room. In an effort to maintain my junk food abstinence, there may be a nap in my near future. (And with some luck, there will be snow enough that the office will close tomorrow!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

am i lazy or stupid?

We've got a Food Bank in town, and one of the drop-off points is at the library.

I volunteer at the library once a week.

My wife bought some cans of food for the food bank. We left them near my briefcase so I'd remember to take them out to the car on Monday, when I was planning to go to the library afte work. To volunteer. Like I do every week.

I remembered to put the cans in the car.

I went to the library to volunteer on Monday.

This is Wednesday morning, and the cans are still on the passenger seat of my car, where I'll be sure to see them when I go to the library. The day before yesterday.


I want to make a special trip to the library to get the cans to the food bank... but my wife says that's a waste of both time and resources. And I really don't want to make a special trip.

Stupid, or lazy?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ezra Jennings on Republicans

Jennings said, “Every time I hear a Republican speak, it always boils down to the same message. It's not even as if there are variations on the message; it's always the same. Whether it's health care, gay marriage, access to college loans, gays in the military, school lunches, unemployment insurance, they're always saying the same thing: 'I got mine, Jack, f--- you.' “

Sunday, December 19, 2010

all in all...

After the plumbing got fixed, we had two holes in the wall: one where the plumber fellow had looked inside the closet to see if the leak was there (no such luck), and one in the living room where he actually accessed the leak and fixed it.

WE did NOT need this a week or so before Christmas, with a dozen people to be served dinner.

So, a little bit of leftover sheetrock from an earlier repair, a bit of fiddling with some scrap lumber and screws to make some nailing surfaces, a bit of slathering in the joint compound to cover the joints (now there's a skill I've lost over the years, for the not-usin' of it), and then out comes the paint. I have paint left over from ten years ago when we first moved in, and the color matched reasonably well. The can, however, didn't survive as well as the paint did; it was rusted, and the top of the can broke up where I was using the screwdriver to pry off the top. Oh well... time to call the township or the county to see about the disposal of paint.

Then it's time for Industrial Strength Vacuuming, and sponging up the carpet where I dropped some of the (thank heaven, water-soluble) joint compound, and putting away all the tools, and putting way-too-many scarves and hats and gloves and coats back into the closet (and just what is all that stuff?).

In other news, I also found two FULL gallons of the wall color we used ten years ago. Overestimated a bit on the need, didn't I? Maybe I can use it to do the insides of closets (yeah, like that's gonna happen...)

Friday, December 17, 2010

more plumbing

A week ago, I wrote about the unplanned installation of our new furnace. Today, I had the planned repair of an exterior faucet, which may have been out for over a year. Some time (last summer? The summer before? It was summer, because I was wearing sandals), I walked into the living room to discover that a considerable portion of the rug was saturated, as was the carpet of the neighbor on the other side of the common wall. It turned out there was a leak somewhere in the line to our outdoor faucet (there are two emerging from the wall between our units; the controls are inside our separate units). My wife and I put off the repair, thinking that it would be in the territory of $1,000. We finally called Roto-Rooter of New Brunswick about a month ago for a quote, and the engaging technician said he thought he could bring it in for under $450. I was off today, and so we scheduled it.

It turned out he brought it in under $350, despite having to chisel out part of two studs and the firewall (he did not break all the way through). Instead of running the copper line through holes in the studs, the builders had run the line tight between the studs and the firewall; it appears that electrolysis and friction (of the expansion/contraction of the seasons? Of turning the faucet on and off?) had worn a pinhole in the copper pipe where it contacted a (probably aluminum) H-channel between two sections of firewall. After chopping out enough material so he could move the pipe enough to turn the tubing cutter, the tech made short work of soldering in a new section... then was dissatisfied enough with his work to re-solder one of the joints. It didn't leak, and the tech fellow hung around long enough to make sure the outdoor faucet worked (in this twenty-something-degree weather), and made sure I knew how to protect the system from freezing, before he left.

Plumbing is never an inexpensive proposition, and both the furnace and the faucet line were fixes, rather than planned upgrades. That said, I've had good experiences with both of the plumbers I've used, and we had the money to do both repairs. Life could be worse


Dad's birthday was yesterday, and we forgot to call.

Oh, doodies.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

two random thoughts

Two random thoughts after the events of the past few days:

First, even though we keep the thermostat low, it is much more pleasant to come into a house at 66º than one at 56º, especially when the expectation is 66º.

Second, some time in October or November, I decided I wanted to ride the bike at least once in every month, even in the cold weather (meaning a ride where I get suited up and spend at least thirty minutes riding). The temps got up into the high 40's today, and I did my basic twenty miles -- so I've ridden at least once in every month since April, and I've completed that goal for this year. (Have I mentioned how much I like that new drive train on my bike, the SRAM Rival setup? Oh, boy...)

Friday, December 10, 2010

expense and trouble i didn't need

I came home from work yesterday to a condo at 56º, and I shortly developed the clear knowledge that I wasn't going to be able to get the furnace going. I found a plumber who looked at the furnace and said he could get it to start again for about $700 when he got the parts, or he could put in another for $2200. Now, we've already replaced the water heater, the stove, and the fridge, and the dishwasher is on its last legs... so as I type this, two not-unpleasantly-grubby young guys are walking back and forth to a truck in the driveway, swearing under their breath, and installing a new furnace.

I've learned a few things in the last day or so:

  1. A notation in the yellow pages or on a website about "24-hour service" just means the phone might get picked up by a human (or it might not; you might have to wait for a human to check the messages and call you back).
  2. When the phone clerk tells you, "They'll be out tonight," there's a chance they might be out tonight. There's also a chance you'll get a call in forty-five minutes advising you that no, they won't be out tonight.
  3. It's marvelously helpful to have your wife tell you she thinks you're doing a good job, when you haven't got a clue what you're doing about this stuff.
  4. It's incredibly reassuring when you wife tells you that there's money set aside for this sort of thing, and that if there's a discount for cash, she can probably manage that.
  5. A ceramic heater can heat a fairly big bedroom, with a cathedral ceiling, from 55º to too-hot-to-sleep in about four hours. Holy bananas!
  6. The day the heat is out is a good day to set the oven to do its self-cleaning-at-600º-for-four-hours thing.
  7. There's Standard Time, Daylight Savings Time, Geologic Time, Quaker Time, Howdy Doody Time. Then there's contractor time, meaning when they show up. It's a mystery to which I've not found a solution.
  8. Despite all your swearing about the inadequate insulation in the house, when you come home from work and the house is 56º, and when you wake up at 4:00 am and the house is 53º when it's been on the low twenties outside, the insulation in the house is pretty good. Even considering we ran the oven and three electric heaters for a while.
  9. Exercising in a house at 53º is a mixed blessing. You do warm up, but you sweat, and the sweat is remarkably chilly when you stop. And let's not talk about getting out of a warm shower into a cold bathroom, shall we not?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"a vast right-wing conspiracy..."

Do you know why I now believe in that whole "vast right-wing conspiracy" jazz?

How else can you explain Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars"?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Every now and then, I get to speak to a group about substance abuse. I used to do it two or three times a year for the Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Mercer County, until they changed their program. Today was the second time I've gone in as a guest lecturer for the graduate Occupational Therapy program at NYU.

It's marvelous fun. The students are young and hopeful. Most of them just go along for the ride, and a few are IMMENSELY bored (though I suspect they'd be bored with anything), and a few get engaged in the presentation, ask good questions, and make the time pass quickly.

My evaluations indicate that I'm a good lecturer for this kind of group: they find me entertaining and informative. I get paid a little money, but mostly I do it because I like to (and because I like the guy who runs the class and asks me to come it).

Today, I lost my cell phone on the way in; later, I had to go replace it. On the way back, the trains were delayed a few hours, so I took the bus back, and had to walk about a mile in the rain to get back to my car. And it was still a good day.

Anybody need a lecturer on substance abuse for a class of motivated neophytes?

anchor house ride - commitment & conflict

Anchor House is a home for runaways in Trenton. Each year, they have a bike ride (the "Ride for Runaways") as a fundraiser. I'm thinking of doing it this year, because of a unique opportunity that we need not go into here.

The dates of the mandatory training rides (use the dropdown under "Training", then click "Training Rides") are given as April 24th, May 8, and May 23. April 24 is a Sunday, as is May 8. But May 8 is Mother's Day. And May 23 is a Monday.

I've emailed the chairs of the ride committee to see if these dates are correct, and if the requirement is cast in stone. If they are correct, and inescapable, I may not be able to do the ride.

That's disappointing. It may also be disappointing to the few people I've gotten to agree to support me.

Addendum: It turns out those were last year's dates. D'OH!