Thursday, December 22, 2016


The year is winding down.  Our worst fears for the election have come to pass, and the electoral college didn't save us.  I'm not sure we'll be able to hold our nose and bear this for four years like we thought when George W. Bush was elected.  Bush was dumb, but not evil.  Even though he was surrounded by evil, we knew he loved his country.  I don't believe Trump loves anything but himself and money.  Whereas Bush was bumbling dumb, Trump is arrogant, dangerous dumb.  He is filling his cabinet and administration with the worst of the worst.  I worry for the environment, for international relations, for our civil rights, for my children's futures, and our economy.  

I have tried having calm, honest discussions with Trump supporters.  More often than not, when I try to get to the bottom of why these people voted for Trump, or even Republican, when their party has done nothing to improve their lives, I'm usually given reasons that are not based on facts.  When I present facts, I'm told they're a liberal spin.  It's kind of like trying to convince them about global warming.  They refuse to believe the facts.  The thing about facts, is that they're true whether you believe them or not.  What a horrible thing hate media has done to our nation. Not only has it divided us as a nation, but it has fed some of us so much misinformation, that there's no convincing people of the facts.

How will we dig ourselves out of this mess now?  Bush and his cronies crashed our economy, got us in two wars we had no business being in, and allowed the erosion of women's rights, and provided an environment that was hostile to gays.  Trump's gang are in the process of dismantling the very fabric of our democracy.  Trump is appointing people to head agencies that they hate and have wanted to destroy.  How the hell are you supposed to successfully head an agency that you don't believe should exist?  Trump and the Republicans plan to end the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and throw millions of people off their health insurance.  They plan to end and privatize Social Security and Medicaid.  Their rich corporate friends are going to get even richer with our tax dollars, and we will suffer.  Trump is planning to "re-build" our infrastructure by selling it to private companies at a bargain price, and have tax payers give those corporations monetary incentives to rebuild the infrastructure.  In the end, the taxpayers will lose their infrastructure assets and pay the corporations for the privilege to use them, after paying the corporations to fix them.

Here are some examples of how this works.  It's like the taxpayers of a city paying to build a stadium to get a professional sports team for their city.  The public pays for it, but then the team owns it and charges the public when they come to see games played there.  It's like toll roads and toll bridges.  The government "donates" land to a private company to build a road or a bridge.  The government gives the company tax breaks, and/or gives them part of the money to build said road or bridge.  In the end, the company now owns the land where they put the road or bridge.  It was built with taxpayer money, and the company charges the public to use them.  This privatization also ALWAYS costs the taxpayers more than if government handled it because what people don't know, is that there are laws that when government operates a school, a prison, a toll road, a utility, etc., they are not allowed to make a profit doing it.  They can only charge what it actually costs to run and maintain it.  Corporations always aim to make a profit so they will always cost more than government.  Some people argue that corporations will run things better, provide better service, but the research shows that's not true.  This is part of the Republican spin, tell people government doesn't work, do everything you can to prevent government from working right, then say, "see we told you government doesn't work," then privatize the hell out of things the government used to do just fine, so your corporate buddies can get rich, and funnel money back toward their congressional whores.

So I'm feeling particularly pessimistic about what's to come.  I don't know what to do to stop this madness.  I feel like I'm in a sinking boat, with more holes than I've got fingers to plug, while people on one end of the boat are ripping it apart to make money while we're all in the process of sinking.  Just over half this country sees what a disaster this Trump administration is going to be, and the other half just doesn't get it.  They think we're being sore losers, but it's not that.  If only it was something that minor.  It reminds me of group projects in school.  Invariably I would be in a group with the lazy, the cocky, the over-confident, and the fools.  They would screw around the whole time then panic when the due date arrived and want to turn in crap just to get a grade.  Meanwhile, I began the project as soon as it was assigned, did a good job, and had it completed before the deadline.  Now this election is that group project.  I don't want to suffer for their ignorance, but I'm being forced to, and they just don't see what a crap candidate they've foisted on the country.  I don't care if people make crap decisions that only affect them, but it pisses me off when their crap decisions harm me or this country.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Time for recovery

Our dog, Lambeau has been going steadily lame in his hind quarters.  The veterinarians here couldn't figure out what was wrong with him.  So we eventually drove three hours and took him to the vets at Cornell.  They diagnosed a number of things: two blown out knees requiring ACL surgeries, mild hip dysplasia, and arthritis in the lower spin, hips, and knees.

Thursday he had his first knee surgery.  Everything went well, now we have 8-12 weeks recovery and physical therapy.  The good news is that he's putting weight on that leg and doesn't act like he's in pain.  The bad news is he won't lie still unless I'm sitting in the room with him.  This is going to be a long winter.  :-(

Monday, November 7, 2016

Scylla and Charybdis

Some people feel like both major party choices for President are evil.  They don't want to vote for either, such is the success of thirty years' effort to tarnish Clinton's reputation, and more than ten years of hate media's propaganda machine.

Currently I'm trying to figure out a white outfit to wear to the polls tomorrow in honor and memory of all the suffragettes who fought and died so that women could vote, and maybe one day become President.

Susan B.Anthony's grave is about an hour and a half drive from here.  People have been placing "I voted" stickers on her grave.  I would like to alter my sticker to read:

For Her...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Painting, painting, painting

I've only been painting since Labor Day weekend on this house, but at least I'm finally seing some results.  The previous homeowners painted the kitchen and hall burnt orange, plus they had dark light fixtures. So I had to brighten things a bit.  In addition to painting everything in sight, I also changed out light fixtures.  What an improvement!  Here are a few before and after shots.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Do the toughest job first and get it out of the way.

We've been in our house for just over a year, and we hadn't done any major home improvements because we were overwhelmed at the size of the house, and what to do about all the honey oak in the house that made it so dark and dated.  Should we paint with colors that would go with it, tone it down, re-stain it to a darker color, tear it all out and start with something new, or paint it all white?  Whatever we would decide to do, it would be a lot of work!  There is so much woodwork in this house!  So we delayed, we avoided making a decision, because we couldn't decide what to do, and weren't looking forward to all that work.

M finally forced us to make a decision.  She decided over Labor Day weekend, that we were just going to commit, rent giant ladders and start painting the biggest room, and get it over with.  So we rented two ladders (14' and 12') and did a three day intense marathon paint.  We painted seventeen foot walls in the main room and front entry, tricky angles over the stairs and an art wall, plus a seventeen foot wall of doors and windows.  Even then, we didn't finish painting.  We got all the really high walls done, then I spent most of my free time for the next couple weeks finishing the lower parts and all the white trim.

We decided to paint the walls a light gray to lighten up the room, and began painting most of the woodwork white.  So all the trim around the windows and doors, and the baseboards, went white. We're waiting to hear back from professional wood refinishers about staining the stairs, spindles, and bannisters, because we know that job is beyond our skill set. We're hoping to match the stairs to the cherry floors elsewhere in the house.

Eventually we plan to rip out the rug in this big main room and put down wood floors to match the other floors in the house.

So we're getting there, and next I will begin working on all the other downstairs rooms to update the paint colors and update other features of the house, now that the worst job is out of the way.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Juggling, juggling

School started back on Monday, in both New York and Maryland.  I am teaching two on-line classes in Maryland, one on-line class in New York, and an in-person class in New York.  I have about 140 students, more or less.  It's been interesting answering student questions about two different campuses with different procedures for adding and dropping classes, and different books for the classes.  I imagine grading is going to be hysterical.  Oh, and I am teaching one more class than I did when I worked full-time in Maryland, for less than half of what I now earn being part-time in both places.  That's the part-time adjunct scandal, pay them crap wages instead of higher pay for anyone full-time or full-time with a Ph.D. 

Well, it was my choice to move, and I knew I might have to find a different job and that I might not be able to teach, so I've only myself to blame.  Still, we're managing, in spite of life's latest pitfalls.

It seems we live on clay soil.  We've also been in a drought.  When clay soil doesn't get regular moisture, it contracts, sometimes tremendously.  A week ago we had a scare because our gas line broke when the soil contracted 3 inches and pulled the pipes apart.  We had the Fire Department out around 11:00 p.m., giving all the neighbors a little excitement, but no explosions, so thankful for that.  In addition to our gas line snapping, our concrete deck around our swimming pool has pulled apart and torn the liner.  It cannot be repaired because the concrete slabs have pulled too far apart and moved too much.  The whole thing has to be torn apart, we're talking $10,000 to $17,000 likely to rip out the concrete and fix that.  It might cost around $10,000 to remove the pool entirely because state law says all the concrete and materials must be removed and clean fill put back.  Of course it does.  We're waiting on a couple estimates, oh and did I mention, homeowners' insurance won't cover any of it because they don't cover earth movement, sink holes, or earthquakes.  You need a special policy for that, a policy that our insurance agent never mentioned we might need. 

But wait, just like those late night infomercials, there's more!  We first noticed our dog, Lambeau, was having trouble jumping up in the back of our SUV shortly after we moved here last year.  He seemed to be having weakness in his hips.  German Shepherds are known to have hip dysplasia, but he seemed kind of young for that.  We've been keeping an eye on him and taking him to the vet regularly.  Now the hip weakness has gotten so bad that he struggles to get up from lying down, he struggles to go up or down stairs, when he runs, his back left foot swings behind his right one.  We've had tests run.  His bloodwork says he's in perfect health.  He's not in any pain.  Drugs haven't helped (just in case there was some inflammation somewhere).  We had him genetically tested for Degenerative Myelopathy, because his symptoms fit perfectly with that disease and German Shepherds are prone to it.  His tests came back that he is a carrier for that disease.  It's basically Lou Gehrig Disease (ALS) for dogs.  Our vet is now recommending we take him a couple hours away to a neurologist for more tests (MRI and spinal tap).  We're currently trying one last ditch effort with a drug cocktail to see if we can get his symptoms to improve before going to the neurologist.  Life has many twists and turns.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Will I burn in Hell?

I just saw this video of a young man addressing the inaccuracies in the Bible and thought he did a great job.  I am a firm believer in the idea that there is a higher being, a god, a creator, that created the universe and everything in it, but I'm not a firm believer in organized religion, the Bible, or things that are man made and purport to be from God. 

Will I burn in hell for these beliefs?  I'll find out in the end, but I don't think any being that was intelligent enough to create this universe would want inaccuracies or stuff made up about his/her/its creations.  I think any offense taken would be by the mere mortals trying to figure out the mind of God. 

Athiest Response to the Bible

Monday, July 25, 2016

On getting older

I am rapidly approaching my mid-50s.  I never thought I'd live this long, so that's a nice surprise!  I am seeing the changes in my appearance, weight gain, angel hairs, loss of muscle tone in the face and all over.  I am not depressed by any of this.  Oh sure, I miss my firm skinny body, but that's been gone for awhile now and I've gotten used to it.  Losing my pretty face for a plumper, saggier version has been a little harder to watch happen, but I'm not sad about that either.  It's a natural progression.  I had my moment of youth, and I have no interest in trying to desperately hang on to what once was. 

Some might think I'm well-adjusted to aging.  Nope, I don't think so, I'm just stoic about things that I don't have much power to alter.  Fighting it seems like such a waste of what time I've got left.  If my parents and grandparents are any measure of my possible longevity, I have about 30 years left.  That's a whole 'nother lifetime spread out before me!  It's not as long as I've lived, but it's still a pretty good chunk left.  I know anything could happen and I might not get any of those years, or all of them, so with that in mind, I'm trying to plan for this future. 

I am getting weaker as I age, and my three times a week weight-lifting and aerobic workouts are helping me maintain some muscle strength, but muscle deterioration is inevitable.  Now, I'm not some hunched-over, decrepit old woman, but I can't lift and move furniture like I once could and I get exhausted from physical labor much quicker than I used to.  This is my body saying 'you're not a Spring chicken anymore,' and I continue to work, lift, pull, push, and say, 'too bad, this work has to get done.'  So as a result, I'm in much better shape than my mother was at this age.  This is the best that I can do right now, given my busy schedule.  Maybe when I retire I can become a body builder or long-distance runner again, maybe not. 

The thing is, I really believe "use it or lose it" is true.  I can see others my age who aren't as flexible or as strong as me.  I don't want to be stuck in a body that doesn't work for me, so I need to keep this one working as well as possible for as long as possible.  There will be time for sitting around later.  Right now, I need to continue to live, continue to move, grow, and push myself.  That's the physical side of it.

The other side of aging is, 'okay, what have I accomplished in this life?'  Is there anything I still want to do, and better do before I'm no longer physically able to do that?  Is there anything I still want to accomplish?  Anywhere I want to go?  So I find myself thinking along the lines that, I need to finish my genealogy for my kids.  I need to preserve some of the stories of my family.  I need to make sure my mother's handmade blankets are passed down.  And as I work on my genealogy, and I wonder about my ancestors, what they thought and felt during their lives, I think I should write something so my descendants will know who I was, what made me happy, what injustices bothered me, or why I made the choices I did.  I feel the need to leave something behind. 

I have thousands of poems from a lifetime of writing.  Only a few are just above ordinary, but there is that.  I have short stories, a screenplay, and a nearly finished novel.  I have newspaper columns I used to write and years worth of daily life stories on this blog, that I need to transfer into another form, off the computer for safe keeping.  So I think if I preserve some of these things, my descendants will know I was a writer.  I liked building and salvaging things.  I was a lifelong tinkerer, always trying to improve my own little corner of the world.  Did I discover a cure for cancer, climb Everest, or go to the moon?  No, mine has been an ordinary life, but an enjoyable one.  I still think there's an opportunity for me to do something more, but like many people, I don't know quite what that more is.  So I keep living.  I keep doing what is important to me and makes me happy, and maybe before my time is up, I'll have a little bit more interesting life story for my descendants to inherit. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The next chapter of their lives


My daughter and new son-in-law are in the process of moving across country to live in Texas where he will be a chef at a fancy hotel.  They've packed up their tiny house/bus, dog and horse, and are slowly working their way south.  I hope this is a great start to their married lives together.  Even though I lived where they're going in my twenties, I still worry about them living in the land of tornados, flash floods, and rattle snakes.

Monday, May 23, 2016


My daughter married a most wonderful young man this weekend, in a Bohemian/Hippie/eclectic ceremony, in an underground cave.  The event was very emotional and unique.  I hope they have a very happy life together.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Making over the new house

Anytime you move into a new place, there's usually some painting that needs to be done, either to freshen up worn or dirty walls, or to get rid of choices of previous residents. In our case, it was both. Some walls hadn't been painted in at least a decade, and other walls were "what the hell were they thinking" bad. The first room tackled was a "what the hell" bedroom and decades old paint job in the bathroom. The previous homeowners had triplet boys who were college age, that said, they still had boy themed rooms. This one was the highway room.

The room was gray like a highway, complete with solid and dashed lines to mark the lanes. Then someone must have come up with the brilliant idea to take a tire, roll it in black paint and roll it on the walls to make skid marks. Oh, and they used a satin finish on the lines and skid marks, so I had to sand them down before I could prime and paint the walls.
Before I could do any of this work, however, I had to clear the room of all the furniture. Since I was doing this during the day while M was at work, I had to move all the furniture myself. I'm not as young and strong as I used to be, so I had to be more creative in how to move everything so I wouldn't injure myself lifting, pushing, or pulling. This is where physics came in handy. Some furniture I tipped onto a corner and pivoted and walked the furniture out of the room. Other furniture I disassembled, or flipped it upside-down and slid, pushed, and pulled them out of the room.

Once the room was clear, M decided it would also be a good time to get rid of the dingy popcorn ceiling. I'm not sure if she meant it was a good idea while the room was empty, or good idea to do it while she was at work.

I went on-line and found videos of guys removing popcorn ceilings with a shopvac. They made it look so easy! No matter what I tried, it was not that easy.  Or, let me clarify that, the popcorn came off easy enough, but I couldn't just suck it off the ceiling with the shopvac like the YouTube videos showed.  I tried my scraper on the top and the bottom of the hose.  I tried pushing the scraper and pulling the scraper.  Nothing worked to make it quick, clean and easy.  I'm not sure what they were doing different on the videos, but it never worked for me. It was also pretty messy.
This was also another area where my age and infirmity made the job just a little harder. I can still run around without my glasses because my distance vision is still okay, but my close up vision is steadily declining, so I had to leave my glasses on to see what I was doing up close to the ceiling.  Of course with the spray from the water bottle and the dust from the popcorn ceiling, I couldn't see much  Also, those masks are really hot and tend to fog up your glasses. 
So this is the finished ceiling. I got most of the popcorn off without any problem and I didn't over-soak the ceiling or do any damage to the drywall, so for a first time attempt, that part went well.  I did have trouble getting the popcorn off where the ceiling met the walls.  Because of the width of the handle on the scraper, I couldn't get tight into the corners.  Now here's where I messed up.  The next step after removal is to sand the ceiling.  I did that.  Then you need to skim coat the ceiling with drywall plaster.  I didn't skim coat.  I read that I should, but the ceiling seemed smooth enough, I thought a couple coats of primer and paint would be fine.  Um, yes and no.  Looking from a distance, it looks fine.  There aren't any streaks, but if you're lying on the bed, looking up at the ceiling, you can see every spot that wasn't perfectly smooth.  Good thing it's an upstairs bedroom and not one of the main rooms downstairs.  Next I'm going to tackle the laundry room ceiling, and I will try to teach myself how to skim coat.
After the ceiling, I sanded and primed the tire tracks and stripes.
Then primer went up on all the walls.
It was amazing how much brighter the room got once the popcorn ceiling came down. Popcorn ceilings trap dust and light doesn't bounce off them.
Next the color went on. We chose a pale blue/gray, which when it went on the walls, looked more blue than gray. We tried to pick a color that would go with the varnished wood in the room.  We prefer white woodwork and trim, and this house has way too much brown wood everywhere you turn, but because there is sooo much of it, I certainly didn't have the time or patience to begin painting nearly every inch of this house, so rather than paint it, we decided to work with it.  This window ended up having water damage on it, so I ended up restaining and polishing it.  It came out nicely I think.
I was able to paint the bedroom without taping it, the bathroom, however, was another story. There were too many tight angles so I had to tape everything.
I painted the bathroom the same color as the bedroom, just a satin finish to repel water. I got a little paint in my hair in one of those tight corners. Then I was finally able to decorate, my favorite part. I went with a spa/beach theme for both rooms. As soon as I get through working on classes, getting stuff ready for my daughter's wedding this coming Saturday, then I'll start on the laundry room.

Last full day in Europe

Ahh, all good things must come to an end.  Our European vacation is drawing to a close.  We leave Nice this morning to drive back to Barcelo...