Saturday, May 31, 2008

Entry for May 31, 2008

Storms came through here Friday morning; multi-directional winds hit speeds of 60 MPH according to the weather service. Quite a number of trees and branches twisted to the ground. Electric power dropped off at 11:30 AM over many broad areas.

Initially the power-outage was not a problem at the house; the amount of rain we received was not enough to tax the sump pit, and the fridge was able to keep the goodies cold a long time without power. However, the weather forecast called for more storms overnight with periods of heavy rain and the electric company refused to give an estimate for when their repairs would be complete. At 7:30 PM, 8-hours into this power-outage, I decided I better plan for the worst and rig the portable generator to power the fridge, the sump pump, the coffeepot, and some lights. This particular generator will run for about 8 hours on a tank of gas, but I figured I would only need to run it for about 90-minutes every few hours in order to re-cool the fridge. If there would be a sustained downpour the generator would need to run for as long as the sump pump needed the juice.

After running the generator from 8:00 – 9:30 PM, the utility company was kind enough to restore normal power. This was only a 10-hour power-outage during warm weather, but it was still a good dress rehearsal. Any area of this great country can suffer outages that can last for days, even weeks. Overall, I was satisfied with my preparedness but I did add a few items and ideas to the contingency list. More fuel for the generator would be a good idea, but storing it in the garage is a bad idea; I will probably be building a small storage shed soon. The generator is very noisy so I will be toying with some sound deadening to keep the neighbors from anguish. Running a group of extension cords from the generator to the pumps and appliances inside of the house is problematic; leaving a window or door ajar would not be a good idea during the winter so I may be contacting an electrician to install a junction and a transfer-switch outside of the house.

Along with the battery-powered lanterns, TV, police radio, weather radio, AM-radio, and spare batteries, I always keep a good supply of is
cyalume glow-sticks. The ones I use will glow for 12-hours, and although the light they emit is not very bright, they are great for lighting small bathrooms, stairwells, and hallways. They are infinitely safer than candles.

Thanks for helping me weather this,


James A. Zachary Jr.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Entry for May 26, 2008


My mind is set on which of the tepid candidates gets my vote for POTUS this November.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Entry for May 22, 2008

Thanks once again for checking in. Hope all is fine in your world.

On May 19, 2008, this blog turned one year old. That year went by in a rush. I think I know why many people do not want to retire. While working, time drags on forever so it seems like you are living forever. When you are retired there is more enjoyment in your life so time goes by more quickly; you see the end of your days approaching at a faster rate but you are having too much fun to care. I’ll stick with retirement. Do I miss the people I used to work with? I sure do, they all were great people. Do I miss my old job? Not even for a freaking nanosecond.

Last year, in the blog entry of May 23, 2007, I declared my intent to kick my taste for demon tobacco by Memorial Day. I did not make that goal. Here we are again hastening up on Memorial Day and it has been four months since my last cigar. Will I ever smoke again? I do love quality cigars so I'll probably sin again, but for now, I’ll just chomp on demon nicotine gum when the chemical dependency urges hit. I think it has been around a dozen years since I had a cigarette.

Today I saw the new Indiana Jones movie. Same old stuff as the other movies in the series, but this time there were more wrinkles in Harrison Ford than in the plot. For me, the movie was worth the admission price.

The bills are rolling in from my latest medical misadventures. Bills come in for deductibles, copayments, gratuities, and other portions of the services that insurance decided not to cover. Bills come from doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, parking attendants, and janitors. Holy craps, I better adjust the medical portion of the budget by another couple of grand a year just to fund these mystery fees. For this amount of money, the least they could have done was throw in some free liposuction, enough to make me as wrinkly as Harrison Ford.

Have a magnificent, and safe, Memorial Day weekend. See you at the gas pump.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Entry for May 20, 2008

My 6-year-old Granddaughter refuses to ride in my old van anymore. She says her teacher says it burns too much fuel and the exhaust pollution will block out the good stuff from the sun, causing the earth to get too cold or too warm.

My 1999 GMC Safari van now has 149,000 miles on it, roughly 8 months, and 8,000 miles since the last major repairs performed early in October of 2007. I’m getting close to getting my money’s worth from those repairs. Using Shell brand gasoline has made the old GMC run so well that I now dare to have optimism about racking up a few thousand more miles on it. I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that the GMC had developed symptoms of a transmission problem. It turns out the glitch in the automatic transmission is typical for that vehicle make, model, and year, and is a defect that General Motors should have fixed via a factory recall, but did not. In any case, the occasion slam-shift from first to second gear is not a sign impending doom; it is merely an irritation. Many people had their transmissions rebuilt trying to get rid of the glitch, only to find it was still there after they spent their hard-earned money. A valve body needs replacing along with a couple of extra modifications in order to eliminate the defect. Real experts concur (not the national transmission repair franchise sales geeks) that I can continue to drive it as it is without fear of damaging the transmission. I will not be wasting any money trying to fix the glitch.

My wish is to drive the GMC for another 10,000 – 15,000 miles with no major repairs. After it chugs through the winter of 2008 – 2009, it will be time to declare the old Safari as finished. The tires will be due for replacement by then and the vehicle will have over 160,000 miles on it. The plan is to have a new vehicle, or nearly new vehicle, sometime between May and October of 2009.

Gasoline prices will have some bearing on what I purchase. The all wheel drive GMC Safari gets 16 MPG city and 22 MPG highway during summer months, substantially less during winter. In spite of my Granddaughter’s environmental concerns, I can live with that mileage in a new vehicle. My Chevy Cobalt gets 27 MPG city and 33 MPG highway so it can serve as the main grocery getter.

The Buick Enclave with the AWD option meets the mileage of the Safari and is a drop-dead gorgeous luxury ride capable of some moderate utility hauling. The GMC Acadia is less luxurious, costs a bit less, and gets the same gasoline mileage as the Enclave. I could live with either provided the major-purchase category of my budget can survive the hit.

For less money, I can get more of a utility vehicle by going with arguably the best all around vehicle in America, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. I’m not sure that I want to go back to a pickup truck; there are advantages and disadvantages. With luck, I’ll have over a year to decide. Call me forever a fool, but I have my heart again set on buying American.

James A. Zachary Jr.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Entry for May 15, 2008

The following is just random, mundane rambling.

For exercise today, I was walking on the government pier between the north and south harbors in Waukegan when I ran across Ed Wong, a former coworker who retired in 1997. He says life is good and that he has never had a second thought about retiring. During the summer, he spends a great deal of time fishing the harbor area as he was doing today. I complimented him by saying that he looked like he had not aged, and that he looked fit and trim. He did not return the compliment, so I began hoping that he would catch a treble-hook in the groin. Hard to believe that it was 11 years ago when he retired. Time does fly. Here’s wishing continued good health and good fishing to you Ed!

I guess I should start thinking about buying a new digital TV, or consider ordering a converter. Not high priorities, I rarely watch TV and I am too cheap to pay for cable. I believe February is when analog TV broadcasting stops. Nah, this will go on the procrastination list.

I went shopping for a new bicycle and the prices floored me. Being an old softie, I try to avoid big-box stores and take my business to small local businesses when possible. It is hard for me to be enthusiastic about handing over no less than $300 for a Chinese-made bike. The local shops swear that they stand by their customers and make repairs when needed, something the “Mart” stores cannot do. From what I have seen so far, the small shops come and go so often there is no guarantee they will be here when needed. Should my $100 “Mart” Chinese-made bike break, I can junk it, buy another, and still be money ahead.

My local vacuum cleaner sales and repair store is either going out of business or has lost the concept of serving loyal customers. I bought my last two vacuums from this place rather than getting them for less money at a “Mart” store, even being loyal enough to buy replacement vacuum bags from them at twice the cost as elsewhere. The last vacuum I bought is less that a year old, and an integrated hose collapsed and needed replacement. The storeowner growled that it could not be fixed or replaced, and then he disappeared into the back room in order to end the conversation. His showroom was empty of both customers and new vacuum cleaners, and the racks did not have any replacement parts or bags, so it is a safe assumption that he is closing shop. If he does stay in business, he just lost another loyal customer to the “Mart” stores.

At the house, all of the exterior window glass is now clean, and I managed to finish the job without falling off the ladder. A long pole with a sponge and squeegee proved well worth the purchase price. I still need to finish the inside, but no windows are left that will require me to dance from a ladder.

Sometimes an unexciting life is a good life.


James A. Zachary Jr.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Entry for May 12, 2008

I have been trying to make do with an 8-foot stepladder for household chores. It works fine for some tasks but is far too short for others. I have a 20-foot extension ladder that also sees limited service, mostly outside. The cheap swinging chandelier in the foyer is too high for me to safely service with the 8-foot stepladder, and it is too far from the walls for me to get to with the extension ladder. After many months of casual deliberation and serious procrastination, I fired up the gas guzzling GMC van and traveled to Home Depot on a quest to find the tallest stepladder that I could. A couple of hundred dollars later, I strapped a new 12-foot stepladder on the carrier rack of the GMC and returned home to what I thought would be the quick, simple task of changing a few dollars worth of bulbs on the cheap swinging chandelier.

Wrestling the ladder onto and off the roof rack of the GMC was challenging enough for my short, aging, out of shape body, but then came the problem of negotiating it into the foyer. After that exciting activity, I ascended and descended the ladder enough times to get cramps in both legs. The cheap swinging chandelier not only needed new bulbs, it desperately needed cleaning, and that proved most difficult since the ladder was just tall enough for the job. Spinning the chandelier one full turn would probably twist the wires off, so one hand needs to hold it still while the other does the work, leaving me to balance near the top of the ladder. Did I mention my fear of heights?

After I was done with the chandelier, I decided to clean the inside glass of three very high windows that had never known a drop of Windex. Again, if I went to the highest safe step of the ladder and stood on my toes, the ladder was just tall enough for the job.

After the windows, I decided to rig up some long tubes and hoses from the vacuum cleaner so I could snort dust and cobwebs from the high window sills, ceiling, and the highest areas of the walls; the same dust and cobwebs my Daughter is so very kind enough to stare at whenever she visits.

It is now late evening, and instead of enjoying the fruits of my labor, I see smudges on the glass of the chandelier and streaks on the window glass. Methinks there will be several more trips up and down the ladder for me again tomorrow. So far, I cannot see any dust or cobwebs that I missed. If they are there, I’m sure my dearly loved Daughter will be delighted to find them for me.

Domestically exhausted,

James A. Zachary Jr.



Saturday, May 10, 2008

Entry for May 10, 2008

Sometime about fifty years ago a very troublesome little snot-nosed kid was playing inside the house when he heard someone on the radio mention that it was Mother’s Day; reminding everyone to give flowers to Mom. The little kid knew better than to pick any of the garden flowers his Mom had just planted, so he ran outside, busying himself picking a handful of dandelions. He scurried back into the house and presented the dandelion bouquet to his Mom, wishing her a very loud “Happy Mother’s Day!”, only to have her break down in tears. She could tell by the look on her son’s face that he now thought he was in trouble for doing something wrong, so she tried to explain that sometimes people would cry when they were happy. The kid didn’t buy the explanation, he was sure that once again he had screwed up. It would take several years for him to grasp the concept of “happy tears.”

Over the many years of his adult life, he bought flowers to give or send to his Mother on Mother’s Day. Not long before she passed away, she surprised him by asking if he remembered giving her the bouquet of dandelions so many years before. She spoke lovingly about how touched she was with that Mother’s Day gift, the gift that had cost him nothing but the effort. Of all of the Mother’s Day flowers that he had given her, none had every replaced the bouquet of dandelions that he planted in her heart.

A couple of days before Mother’s Day this year he visited the cemetery. At the head of her grave, a single dandelion was growing. A few “happy tears” crept from his eyes, chasing down into his gray beard. He stood there for several minutes, smiling at the memory. He then told his Mom that he loved her, turned, and slowly walked away.

Happy Mother’s Day.


James A. Zachary Jr.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Entry for May 09, 2008

Well, that sucks maybe just a little bit.

Dr. Deepthroat himself just called to give me the “good news and bad news.” The good news is that the tests on the tissue samples looked good, i.e. no cancer or bacteria. The bad news is that he says he saw the start of two small ulcers, a somewhat different account than what the staff at the hospital gave me.

He said no
NSAIDs for six months, and said he would call in a prescription for Nexium for me to take for six months. I am not one who can drive and talk on the cell phone at the same time, so I didn’t get a chance to ask it this means I need to get another tube job in six months.

Overall, life could be much worse. He didn’t SAY anything about drinking and smoking, so maybe I can assume those vices are ok for me to resume. No? Ah …, poop.

I hear another bowl of oatmeal calling my name, that contemptible, anodyne, sugar-free sludge.

Nevertheless, tomorrow is Mexican food day. Wahoo! Thunderbelly says to bring on the pain!


James A. Zachary Jr.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Entry for May 08, 2008

Another one from the old BBS days.


Hotline! (4) (c) 1987 James Zachary

On occasion, the telephone will ring in vain at the water and sewer department, because there is no one there to answer it.

The bartender at the local pub wanders over to the slumping figure by the window.

"Looks like you need a beer! Rough day at work?"

Better make it straight bourbon; a rough day at work makes me paranoid about amber liquids that foam.

“Where do ya work?"

At a sewage plant.

"RIGHT! Double bourbon coming up!"

(A comely young woman wearing tight jeans and a 'Save the Armadillo' sweatshirt walks over.)

"May I have a word with you?"

No.

"Awww, come on now, I just want to talk."

Lady, if this is about your plugged sewer, rusty drinking water, or your house flooding last September call our main office tomorrow during working hours.

"Oh no, I don't live around here. I want to ask if you are willing to observe 'Meatless Monday' with us."

Please go away.

"Do you know about 'Meatless Monday' and what it means to the world?"

It must have something to do with either 'Gay Rights' or the 'Celibate Society' movements. I'm the wrong person to talk to... please ... have a nice evening.

"OH NO! 'Meatless Monday' is a worldwide event planned to demonstrate the cruelty of eating the flesh of other living animals. We propose all people become vegetarians."

I really don't want to be a vegetable.

"Vegetarian. Mankind does not have the right, or the real need, to slaughter living creatures for food. Meat protein and fat is slowly killing you. Were you aware of that?"

Sure beats getting knifed in the parking lot.

"The more people we can get to observe 'Meatless Monday', the more animals will be saved from vicious slaughter."

Vicious slaughter?

"YES! Do you realize how cruelly animals are killed before butchering? Most are just bludgeoned into unconsciousness and are then quartered alive!"

I wondered where the 'quarter-pounder' came from.

"This is serious! There are no standards set for the humane killing of animals and we want all people to boycott meat products for one day, as a demonstration of unity."

Sure, lady. I'll try not to eat anything until it has quit wiggling.

"Are you involved in any ecological or conservation programs?"

Oh, yes Ma'am. I too believe all living creatures must be protected. I am a member of the 'Save the Mosquito Committee'. I am the recruitment officer.

"You are not serious! Just what does the recruitment officer do?"

I find people willing to stand naked in the swamp to act as feeding stations. Interested?

"NO! Don't change the subject. Our group wants to convince as many people as possible to be vegetarians, but we realize that many will insist on eating animal flesh. We would settle on a standard that would require a humane method of killing them."

That's easy. You can volunteer to talk to the animals.

"I don't understand what good that would do."

Out of boredom, they would gladly commit suicide.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Entry for May 07, 2008

My esophagogastroduodenoscopy exam was this morning. In brief, they anesthetized me and proceeded to shove a camera down my throat, through my stomach, into the dark beyond. You are not supposed to remember anything that happened during the procedure, but I swear I heard one of the nurses shouting, “Take it ALL you bastard!”

So far, the news is good; I have
gastritis, which is manageable. The acid reflux and the years that I smoked apparently have done no visible damage to my esophagus. They took some tissue samples to check for abnormal cells, and for Helicobacter pylori bacteria that cause stomach problems such as ulcers. The doctor said my insides look good, and even gave me some photos. I decided not to post my insides for public viewing.

Years ago, I had bleeding ulcers that would come and go. Happily, they have not returned. They say I need to live a nice bland life and eat nice bland food in order to keep hellbelly from returning.

Got Milk?

James A. Zachary Jr.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Entry for May 06, 2008

I already mentioned in earlier blog entries that I was on the Fidonet Amateur Personal Computer Bulletin Board System many years ago, and that they had an e-newsletter that published some of my work. Recently I did a search to see if I could recover a copy of something I typed those many years ago and found copies listed at four different internet sites. The piece was originally e-published by Fidonet in 1988, and I was surprised and very flattered to find Fidonet chose to reprint it in 1994.

Being a member of any online forum has its moments of frustration. People just don’t seem to be able to get along and conversations often degrade into never ending snot fights. It was that way in the old days of the dial-up computer Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), and the forums on the internet today prove that some things never seem to change.

-------

From twenty years ago: Indios (A Network Yarn) (c) 1988 James Zachary 445/2

"JERKS!"

Ron jumped up from his desk and began pacing furiously.

"Stupid self-serving twits!" he bellowed at his computer screen.

A shadow in the doorway startled him.

"Indios? Oh! I wasn't .. . I mean ... sorry if I disturbed you."

Indios was the caretaker and general handyman for the condominium complex where Ron lived. Rarely did he pay much attention to anything other than his duties.

"Your sink is fixed." he said with his deep, gravely voice. "What upsets you?", the old Indian asked through lips that barely moved.

"Ahhhhh, I dunno! I am sick and tired of everyone treating me like dirt!"

His dark, withered face frowning, Indios shuffled his large frame to an overstuffed chair and sat down. "How do they do this? I am not understanding."

Ron was surprised. In over two years he had never known Indios to solicit a conversation. "Well, some people are real idiots and think they know it all. They like to lord over other people, pretending they are smarter or better. All they really have are big mouths! I am going to start defending myself! I am going to be more assertive!"

"Tell to me the difference of you being 'assertive' and them having 'big mouths'?" Indios asked without expression.

Ron did not answer.

"You sit in front of this for hours," Indios continued, pointing to the computer on Ron's desk, "and it angers you. How can this be?"

"It started off to be fun," Ron answered, "then everyone started flaming at each other!"

Ron could see that he was only confusing Indios. "See, with the computer, a bunch of people can leave messages to each other. It's like a big hobby for computer buffs. There is an amateur network that I belong to where we can leave mail. It was fun until it became too crowded. Now everyone just fights with each other. If someone misspells a word, someone jumps on him. If someone asks a question or has an idea that someone else thinks is stupid, then the name-calling starts. We call it 'flaming'."

Indios grunted and nodded that he understood. "So, you meet people on your machine so you can get angry at each other. You go to work and your clubs and get angry at others. Driving your car makes you angry at others."

"Exactly!" Ron exclaimed. "Unless you stand up for yourself, someone will walk all over you! Believe me, when someone shoves it to me I am going to pay them back in spades!"

The Indian brushed his long, white hair back with his weathered hands and looked sadly at Ron. "So much anger ... This will make you better than them? Anger can at times be a tool but, like a surgeons knife, it should only be used when all else has failed and the cause is just ... only then with great care and control. Most swing this blade recklessly and wound themselves."

"I am sick and tired of reading this crap! I am sick and tired of these pious bastards jumping on every little thing I do!"

"Maybe they have a fear ... maybe they have a need. The smallest pups always growl the loudest. The others that are secure will allow this because they know these pups have needs that only can be provided for by their pretending dominance. Even with wolves, the strongest and fastest in the pack will allow the pretenders their moments, as they know it is their need and all they can really achieve."

Now Ron was puzzled. "You mean I should just ignore these twinks?! That I should let them say vile things about me and others?!"

"Do they strip you of your honor? Are you denied all dignity? Your family was not threatened, your ability to provide for those that depend on you was not threatened ... your honor was not taken."

"I have my pride!"

"Pride is not honor. You must know when NOT to fight before you will ever know when it is proper TO fight. Your words of anger are that of a child. Show me the burial sites of those killed by mere words ..."

Ron knew he was losing the debate. This one was face to face and the words had texture, tone, and emphasis ... not like text written on a flat monitor screen.

"Take what is good with this and all else in life and leave behind what is bad." Indios continued, leaning forward, his eyes fixed in a gaze at Ron. "I know enough about you to say that you were granted neither the natural gift of a powerful body nor a powerful mind at birth. You were granted a more valuable gift, the gift to build whatever body and mind you choose. There are no boundaries for this gift. All you do, every day, in all walks, makes you what you are and what you will be."

Indios then stood and walked to the doorway. Ron remained silent.

"Will you build your body and soul of sound materials or will you use the waste of the earth and become all that you despise?” Indios asked with a hint of a smile as he departed.

Ron strolled slowly back to his desk and sat down in front of the computer. He hit a key to awaken his blank screen and then began rereading the message that had upset him earlier. After a moment he moved on to the next message, leaving the hate unanswered.

"We're just puppies ..., " he mumbled under his breath. "I guess Fido grew up and had a whole lot of puppies ..." He then began a reply to a message from a friend in Puerto Rico. "Take what is good with this and all else in life ..."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Entry for May 05, 2008


It is confusing to most, including to me, but the correct name for Yahoo! includes that darn exclamation mark. I try to write the name as the corporation intended.

Microsoft does many things right, but their internet business is not one of them. Yahoo! at one time had a clue, but they lost it long ago. Adding those two giants together would still equal ZERO.

Yahoo! is famous for buying companies they think they can make money on, only to ultimately throw those entities into the trash. I just received a long anticipated email from Yahoo! stating that they will no longer be offering to host websites via their
GeoCities or via their Small Business plans. Supposedly my site will still be supported, but we all know what that “promise and kiss” leads too. My guess is they will soon ask for more money, and require that I upgrade to owning my own webhosting business. Not a freaking chance. I have been a loyal customer to Yahoo!. They have not been loyal to me, and I intend on seeing that they see very few of my dollars in the future.

Like I said earlier, I have anticipated Yahoo! doing this for months and have already done some preparation. Since my personal website and this blog now are clearly in jeopardy, I will need to finish the initiative and move things elsewhere.

My first move will be to finish breaking this blog from Yahoo!. I have already ported 60 of the 100 posts from this blog over to
parallel blog on Google Blogger. Once I have moved everything over, I will break the blog totally away from Yahoo!. Once that is complete, I will decide what to do with my personal website and the genealogy pages.

Thanks for hanging in there. I’d hate to lose the few readers that I have.

James A. Zachary Jr,