Saturday, December 31, 2011

Going from Guy Lombardo to Justin Bieber: Happy New Year, 2012!

There's a wind advisory out for my part of Minnesota tonight: 30 to 35 mph with gusts to around 50 mph. Judging from the sizzling sound I hear on the north and west walls of the house, there's occasional sleet coming down, too. Or maybe really hard snowflakes. Or freezing rain, or something else.

I watched the Waterford crystal ball drop over New York City's Times Square, about 20 minutes ago. On television, of course: I'd just as soon not stand outside for hours, this time of year. Not even in comparatively temperate places like New York City.

It's officially 2012 on the east coast now. Here in Minnesota, we've got about 40 minutes of 2011 left, as midnight sweeps across our part of the globe.

New Year's Eve on television used to be mostly about dance bands like Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians. And the big parties.

America has changed a lot since I was a teenager. The music's different, the faces on television aren't the same, and the culture's changed. I'm not happy about every change that happened. But my memory is pretty good: and I remember what 'the good old days' were like. Even if I could, I'd never want to go back.

Happy New Year, 2012!

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas, 2011

My wife, son, and #1 & #3 daughters, are in the other room, playing a game one of them got this Christmas. I plan to join them in a few minutes, but figured it would be a good idea to get slightly caught up in this blog.

I started working for my son-in-law this month: answering phones and helping with a massive spreadsheet. He and #2 daughter started a candle-making company this year, and need more space to make the things. I posted about that in another blog.

I also set up a 'between checkups' checkup at the eye doctor this week. A 'floater' had popped up in an inconvenient spot in my right eye.

It's a sort of 'good news/bad news' situation.

First, the bad news: "Degeneration" is in the name of what I've got. It's vitreous degeneration, a fancy way of saying that the gel in my right eye is shrinking, and pulled away from the back of the eye.

Now, the good news: Vitreous degeneration is normal for someone like me, who is 60: and hasn't died yet. It's one of those things that happen to folks, if we live long enough. In my case, there's no damage in the eye, and I've got a short list of things to be aware of.

Apart from that, I'm trying to lose weight and move around more. Which is a little at odds with my new 'telephone answering' job: but that's just a matter of creative scheduling.

There's more that's happened since my last post: but I'm itching to join the rest of the family.

Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Case of the Capricious Cruise Control

I've been putting in very long hours since Monday before last, getting a spreadsheet ready for a meeting about Spiral Light Candle, my son-in-law's company. I'd been getting maybe five or six hours of sleep for ten days, then drove up to North Dakota for a meeting.

That was time well spent: I slept over at #2 daughter's and son-in-law's place, got some work done. And some 'just visiting,' too. I got back to Sauk Centre yesterday evening.

Today, the lack of sleep with a longish trip to top it off caught up with me. I may be getting a cold, and might not be feeling well - if I had enough energy to notice such things.

A few 'normal' days, with exercise and adequate sleep, should help. A lot. I'm looking forward to that.

Routine Checkup, Normally Non-Routine Blood Test

I had rescheduled a checkup earlier, to get more time for working on that spreadsheet. I figured that I'd have time Tuesday morning for the checkup, and be able to get off after eating lunch. I was right, but the checkup included a blood test: and that went as smoothly as such things normally do for me.

I'm a cooperative patient, clenching my fist and holding still on cue. It's my veins that won't play along. I don't think they actually dodge away from the needles: but the effect is similar. They collapse easily when pricked, too. Frustrating, for everyone involved.

But the second set of attempts was successful, and I was ready for a nice, normal drive up to North Dakota.

Not-Entirely-Uneventful Trip

The trip up to North Dakota should have been routine. I'm on the Interstates all the way from Sauk Centre to the Hillsboro, North Dakota, exit, and have been driving the route for decades.

Expired Credit Card

I got off a few minutes later that I'd expected to, but still had plenty of time to fill the van's tank before setting off. That's when I tried to use an expired credit card. Not intentionally. I'd just forgotten to swap out the old one in my wallet.

That's one thing about living in a small town, and having regular habits. Folks at the convenience store where I get gas know me, know where I live, and were comfortable with letting me drive off to get the right card. Quite aside from a reputation for trustworthiness, there's a practical factor: If I had decided to skip paying for the gas, what would I do after that? Those folks know me.

Like I've said before: I love it here.

So, after burning time with an eminently-avoidable return home, which included hearing my wife say "WHAT?!!" when I explained that I had used an expired card - a perfectly reasonable reaction on her part, under the circumstances - I finally paid for the gas and headed out for North Dakota.

Seemingly-Malevolent Hardware

By the time I reached Fargo, North Dakota, the van's cruise control had tried to kill me. Twice. Putting it less dramatically, I discovered that the cruise control gets stuck when more power is needed: like when climbing one of the steeper hills.

The first time was a surprise, when I noticed that the engine was still revved up and the speedometer was passing 80 miles an hour: but shutting the cruise control off restored normal operation. I used cruise control again: partly for convenience, partly to see if it malfunctioned again, under similar circumstances.

Which it did.

Using a defective cruise control wasn't as daft as it may seem. I'd been able to turn it off with no problem, and knew what to be aware of the second time. A worse-case scenario, where the cruise control wouldn't shut off, would have meant shutting off the engine entirely and coasting to a stop on the shoulder: annoying, frustrating, and requiring an explanation later, but very far from lethal.

Blood Test Results: It Could Be Worse

Late this afternoon, I heard from the clinic. The blood test results were back. My blood sugar levels are okay, but one of the prescriptions wasn't playing well with my kidneys: so I was told to stop taking that and come back in a month. Hey, at my age: it could be worse.

It's late: time to quit.

Good night, and may God bless

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Candles, a Spreadsheet, and a Really Long Week

I've been working for my son-in-law since last Monday, getting Spiral Light Candle's budget and sales forecast set up for next year. He provided the math, and how data is supposed to relate to other data.

I set up a spreadsheet, turned his math into functions the spreadsheet understands, put the pieces in place: and then tried to figure out why the results looked funny.

After that, I'd do the same thing over again. All week.

I took Sunday off, pretty much, got back to work last evening, and around 4:30 this morning noticed that I was making lots of mistakes. The good news is that by that time I was also working very slowly, so I hadn't messed up too much of the analysis.

After over half of a good night's sleep later, I got back to work this morning. My son-in-law generously estimates that I've saved him well upwards of a thousand dollars in consultant's fees: but hey, that's what family is for.

Now, some blatant self-promotion:That's it. I've eaten lunch, had a cup of coffee, and written this post. Time to get back to work.

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