Hell of a Guy
I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them - Isaac Asimov

Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on 2012

12/31/2012

Here we are at the last day of another year, and in the balance of things, a pretty good year.  As with most years 2012 had its tragedies and its high points, its eccentricities and its weirdness, but as with most the good far and away outweighed the bad. 

2012 was my first full calendar year as a retired senior citizen living on a fixed income.  I have had mixed emotions about my retirement; some days I wish I had held on another year, but most are spent with satisfaction at the decision I made.  I am very much a happy dude.

I suppose the low points for me were at the death of my sister Barbara in February after a lengthy illness and just this past month with the school shootings in Connecticut.  These put a damper on my “The Best Day Ever” spirit, but not for long.  Neal Donald Walsch’s “Conversations with God” has helped me so much with understanding why bad things happen to good people, though sometimes it is still tough to accept.

I have no complaints.  My life is good.  I have a great wife, great kids and wonderful grandchildren, and, I think, the proper attitude toward all things.  I get frustrated once and a while, most of the time with myself for allowing the frustration to creep in, and I only allow myself a few minutes to ruminate and be angry.  You see, a few years back I accepted that I am fully responsible for what happens to me in my life.  It just makes it all so much easier to blame myself for my circumstance and not others.

So tomorrow we begin another year.  I am looking forward to 2013 and all that comes with it.  I am not in control and, yet, I am in control.  I am the source of who and what I am, and I get to decide.  I get to create my day and my week and my year, and that, my friends, is all I have to say about that…

Happy New Year!   

 
Monday, December 24, 2012

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

12/24/2012

As I prepare to enjoy my 69th Christmas on this the third planet from the sun, I cannot help but reflect on Christmases past.  It is kind of funny how these little tidbits from yesteryear pop into the conscious mind today, but here they are and I am most happy to have them.

My dad always bought our short-needled Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  I remember very clearly how my little brother and I would get so excited on Christmas Eve morning when Dad announced it was time to go get the Christmas tree.  I could never figure out why we waited so long to get one.  All our neighbors and all of my friends had theirs and they had been up and decorated for a long time, some for weeks.  We would go from lot to lot looking for what I always thought the purpose to be of finding the perfect tree.  Dad would look over them, pick one, and then asked the price…most times he put it back and moved to another.  It never struck me until many years later that what he was looking for was a price, not a tree.  I was somewhat embarrassed by his choice of Christmas trees, at least until they were decorated.  Then they always looked fantastic.  Dad was a smart guy, but a frugal one, at that.  After all, there were seven of us living in that small house at one time, and as he often said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Christmastime was the only time of the year I can remember having soda in the house, and it didn’t last long, but, then, how far can you stretch a six pack of 6oz Coca Colas, as they were referred to in the 50s.  It was the same with homemade cookies: once out of the oven and those suckers disappeared very quickly.  There were always nuts in the house during the Holidays.  Generally, a big bowl of them with a nut cracker gizmo that hurt like hell if it nipped a finger – my mother loved the Brazil nuts and the filberts.  Me, I loved to crack any of them just to see if I could keep my fingers from being pinched.  It never worked. 

I have never been a good sleeper, and Christmas Eves provided little if any.  I would toss and turn and look at the clock in my room about every three or four minutes…well, it felt like it, anyway.  I seriously doubt there were many Christmases in that old house on Valley View Avenue in Baltimore where my brothers and sisters and I were not up prior to daybreak and by the time daylight broke the horizon all the gifts were opened and the party was over and we were all ready for breakfast.  We called it “The Breakfast” and it included fluffy pancakes with melted butter and a heavy coating of thick, sugary Kayro syrup and, best of all, perfectly cooked pork sausage links (another once a year treat).  Yum! 

Dad always set up the most exquisite Christmas garden when we were kids.  It seemed to be immense to me, but in reality it was just four feet by six feet.  It was mystical.  There were little houses that I think my dad made and they lined streets made of salt, and there were little trees and bushes around them and tiny cars on the roads, and the best part of all was the Lionel steam engine with its coal tender that hauled three passenger cars, and the realistic engine actually spewed an oily smelling smoke as it traveled around the oval track.  After I was a little older Dad let me run the transformer and guide the massive three-foot train around the track as long as I kept it at slow speed, though I rarely did and he rarely corrected me, even when the engine tipped over.

The more I think about those days, the more I recall.  Those were wonderful days, happy days, and I truly believe the thing that made it the most special was that this time was all about family and not, as it seems to be today, about stuff. 
Christmas is a special time for me.  I cherish it.  I am not a religious person, but I do respect the reason for this season, and honor it as such.  With that said, allow me to wish all of you the Merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year and the creation of new memories.

And that is all I have to say about that…

 
Thursday, December 13, 2012

My New Gadget…

12/13/2012

I’m using my new gadget to write this. A couple of weeks ago I saw a TV commercial for this, so I bought it.  It is a software package called “Dragon NaturallySpeaking” and as you are reading this know that I spoke it but did not type it. It is amazing what 90 bucks will get you these days; and only time will tell if this gizmo was worth the money.

I am not a technological giant, so these kinds of innovations, such as being able to speak into a microphone and have your words recorded on a Word document, is a little more than weird to me. Not being a techie, I’m mighty impressed there are people out there who can come up with this kind of an innovation.  While I have some computer skills, mine are of the most basic variety. Yeah, I can write stuff using my fingers on the keys of this here computerized thing, but talking to a gadget that is strapped over my ears just blows my mind, especially as the words appear on my computer screen. It is really too cool!

So here I sit talking out loud to myself as my words magically appear on my computer screen, causing the cat laying at my feet to look up at me once a while as if I’m crazy, knowing that she knows full well I really am crazy because I generally talk at her all day long anyway. Cats are smarter than we think they are.

My good friend, Dale Harris, from Albuquerque New Mexico recommended that I read the book “The Mobile Wave” by Michael Saylor.  This book is about how mobile intelligence will change everything, and I think it certainly will and already has. I’m not sure I am smart enough to keep up with all of the new technology that seems to surface almost every single day. In any event, I will do my very best to keep up with the ever-changing technology that effects me, even if it drives me more crazy than the cat already thinks I am.

So, as you read this and are probably bored out of your skulls, I will sign off for now and continue to play with this on my own.  Thanks for going this far.
And that is all I have to say about that…

 
Thursday, December 06, 2012

Baggage Wars…

12/06/2012

Over the years I have purchased suitcases of many shapes and sizes, and over the years they have enjoyed numerous trips on a wide variety of airlines.  Some even survived that ordeal well, some others not so much.  A horror story follows, so get out the Kleenex.

The past summer The Nancy and I enjoyed a trip to Ireland.  We knew when we booked our Irish vacation we would need to give thought to how in the hell we were going to pack just the right amount of clothing to last the eight days we would be there.  We quickly realized a new luggage purchase would be in our future, so we made a trip to the Samsonite store at a nearby outlet mall where we met Mr. John Q. Salesman, an affable guy, seemingly knowledgeable, sincere and believable.  John talked a good game as we looked at what is supposed to be latest innovation in lightweight, low-cost, nearly indestructible luggage.  The bag was the type on rollers that can be pushed or pulled, and was of a size we could fit all our stuff in and still weigh less than the 50lb limit. 

My only concern of this bag was the material it is made of, it seemed to be flimsy – it had a lot of give to it, and looked like something might puncture it easily.  I worried how it might hold up under the “care” airline baggage handlers routinely dole out, which basically is no care whatsoever.  John either did not know, did not care or just lied like a politician, but to top off his sales presentation told us the bag had a warranty covering materials and workmanship.  We bought two of them.

Fast forward to October 11, 2012; these bags take a trip to Phoenix so The Nancy and I can attend a conference.  We arrived at the Phoenix airport about 7:30 local time (10:30 eastern), tired and hungry.  I retrieve the bags from the carousel and notice one of the indestructible bags has a huge split on one of the corners and a long crack on another.  I am pissed…but tired and hungry as previously noted.  We left the airport with me figuring I would file a complaint with the airline as we checked in for the return.  I screwed up, which The Nancy has only reminded me of fifty or sixty times.  I was told I had just four hours to report the damage.  What to do, what to do?

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I complained to US Airways via their website.  I got a very nice email back with some forms attached apologizing for the damages and asking me to provide details and make a claim.  I did.  I followed the instructions in their request.  I assembled all the information, took photos of the damage, and even made a short video of it.  I explained to them I could have claimed this damage took place on the return flight, but my integrity would not allow me to lie. I was encouraged US Airways might take pity on this old senior citizen living on a fixed income. I faxed the information to US Airways on November 30th, and within about 10 minutes…count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… got a reply letting me know I hadn’t filed this complaint within four hour time limit after discovering the damage and therefore US Airways was turning down my claim but hoped I would continue on as a loyal customer.  I then counted to 10 before dropping them another email expressing my displeasure in using “guy words.”

The second part of this goes something on the order of a request to Samsonite to replace the bag.  Not so fast, Zoo Breath!  Samsonite tells me the warranty I have does cover materials and workmanship but, get this, but not airline damage.

It appears both US Airways and Samsonite had a form of sex with me.  I just have to ask, where is the love?

And that is all I to say about that… 

 
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