It's also called Mindful Digressions and you can get there simply by clicking here. I’ll be posting from there from now on and I don’t want you to miss any of my words of wit, wisdom, and, well, other nonsense.
See you there.
It's also called Mindful Digressions and you can get there simply by clicking here. I’ll be posting from there from now on and I don’t want you to miss any of my words of wit, wisdom, and, well, other nonsense.
See you there.
Now that we’ve sold our house in Worcester, my wife and I are starting to plan our drive across country to San Francisco. And since we are about to change our physical venue, I’ve decided to consider making a change to my virtual venue.
My what? If you’re reading this, you’re actually visiting my virtual venue. It’s my blog, which exists in the virtual world (i.e., cyberspace) via a web hosting site called TypePad. I use TypePad as my blog hosting service because I’d read reviews on the internet that touted TypePad as the blog hosting site that gave the blogger more control over the appearance of his or her blog than did some other hosting sites. And I like to have control.
While some blog hosting sites, like Blogger or WordPress, are free, TypePad charges a modest fee to use the service. But I felt it was worth paying a relatively nominal fee to ensure that my blog appeared the way I wanted it to.
And so, I’ve been using TypePad since I created this blog four years ago. My very first post was dated July 6, 2009 and it was all about Sarah Palin. Remember her?
On the technology side of things, though, four years is an eternity. One would think that a company that leverages the internet would be on the forefront of the latest web technologies, right?
But my sense is that TypePad has not kept up, especially when it comes to mobile technology. And as a blogger...albeit a casual blogger...I think this is a serious deficiency, given that more people are using their smartphones and tablets to access the web than ever before.
In fact, one article noted that of the time people spend on the internet, nearly 40% is on mobile devices. The Pew Research Center found that 55% of adult cell phone owners access the internet on their mobile devices.
WordPress and Blogger can detect when people are using mobile devices to access the blogs these sites host and will automagically optimize the blogs for viewing on an iPhone or Android phone. TypePad does not. Even my wife has used the excuse that she doesn’t read my blog very often because it’s so hard to read on her iPhone! Sheesh.
this matter to the tech gurus at TypePad at least three times over the past two years, but it
fall on deaf ears.
Just last month, when I once again asked TypePad support about it, the response I received stated “mobile device auto-detection is definitely on our list. However, there are simply other things that are more important at this time, so our focus is elsewhere at the moment.”
Seriously? Other things are more important? Your focus is elsewhere? No wonder TypePad is falling behind other blog posting sites.
Smart or not so smart
Smart quotes, also known as “curly quotes,” are usually curved in shape and have different opening and closing versions for use at the beginning and end of quoted material. Dumb (or straight) quotes are usually simple tapered vertical or angled marks.
TypePad doesn’t convert "dumb quotes" into “smart quotes.” It also doesn't convert "dumb apostrophes" into “smart apostrophes,” as in the earlier version of the word doesn’t in this sentence. These may be minor matters to you, but they drive me up the friggin’ wall.
Because of this TypePad shortcoming, I have to manually change all of those dumb quotes and dumb apostrophes into smart ones. I did that on this post, except for the examples that I purposefully left as “dumb” examples.
It’s a time consuming pain in the ass, quite frankly. WordPress automatically converts dumb quotes and apostrophes to smart ones. No manual effort on my part needed. And it’s a FREE blog hosting site!
And so, along with our change in physical venue from the east coast to the west, I’m going to conduct an experiment with my virtual venue. For the next month or so I will be posting my blog using WordPress. After this evaluation period, I will decide if I want to return to TypePad or if I will formally migrate to WordPress going forward.
In the meantime, please visit me at Mindful Digressions Two...at least for the time being.
Rolling Stone named Frampton Comes Alive! Album of the Year. It quickly became the best selling live album to-date at the time. Now, 37 years later, it still remains the 4th best selling live album ever.
We were seated 8 rows back from the stage in a fairly intimate outdoor arena, and when we left the venue three hours after warm-up blues and rock guitarist, Sonny Landreth, got things started, the ringing in my ears from all that driving rock music was off the charts loud. By the time we got home, however, the sound that only I can hear had resumed its normal, constant volume.
That is becauseI, along with nearly 36 million Americans, suffer from a malady called tinnitus. Tinnitus, which, by the way, is pronounced TIN-i-tus, but is often mispronounced tin-EYE-tus, is a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. Tinnitus is a 24 x 7 affliction; it never eases up for even a single second. It’s right there inside your head and it cannot be snuffed out or quieted.
first noticed the ringing in my ears in the early-Eighties. When I first heard
it, the sound was intermittent...it would come and go. But then, in the mid-Nineties, this
continuous, never ending ringing seemingly coming from both ears became my
Tinnitus can be quite annoying to those of us who suffer from it, especially since we are the only ones who can hear the noise. But according to the Mayo Clinic, tinnitus, in and of itself, isn’t indicative of something more serious. Instead, it’s a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury, or a circulatory system disorder. Yet for something that afflicts so many people, tinnitus is not very well understood by the medical community.
In many cases, an exact cause of tinnitus is never found. Personally, I don’t care if my tinnitus came about due to all of the rock concerts I’ve attended over the course of my life or for any other reason. Whatever it was that triggered my tinnitus, it seems to be here to stay, and all I want to know is how to get rid of it. Unfortunately, there is no known cure, and the many doctors I’ve seen about it basically gave me the same advice: learn to live with it.
And speaking about age-related hearing loss, my hearing has become progressively less acute as I've gotten older. This loss of hearing acuity is particularly annoying when ambient noise is loud, which is nearly everywhere. Particularly in noisy restaurants, I often can’t make out what people are saying unless they are sitting right next to or across from me.
I find myself looking at the lips of whoever is speaking in an often futile effort to figure out what the hell they’re talking about. And when that doesn’t work, I simply nod my head in a gesture of understanding and comprehension, hoping that I wasn’t being asked a question and that my knowing nod is an appropriate gesture for whatever it was that someone said.
At home my wife keeps complaining that the TV is on too loud, but in order to be able to hear...and more important, to understand...the dialogue, I need to have the volume pumped up. In contrast, though, very loud, shrill noises, like sirens of any kind, are actually painful for me. I suppose the good news about loud sirens, though, is that they do temporarily drown out my tinnitus.
Fortunately I am a relatively healthy person. I have no dreaded, potentially fatal diseases (that I know of). My blood pressure and heart rate are fine. True, I can’t see shit without my glasses, and I can hear only slightly better than I can see. But this ever-present tinnitus, coupled with the loss of hearing acuity, is truly bothersome.
If only I could have an hour or two of pure silence...no constant ringing. If only I could simply turn off the sound inside my head. How great would that be?
Our dog Shadow adores my wife. And why wouldn’t she? My wife takes her out for extended, off-leash walks along the wooded, creek-lined trails at a local park where Shadow gets to play and romp with other dogs...and where my wife gets to play and romp with other human beings.
She speaks to Shadow in an enthusiastic, energetic manner that makes Shadow feel like her time with my wife is always an exciting adventure.
On the other hand (or paw), Shadow just tolerates me. My primary role is to take her out for the last walk of the day at around 10 p.m., and it’s usually just a quick walk around the block.
To me, it’s a chore, and I’m sure Shadow feels the same way about our nocturnal jaunts around the neighborhood. Unlike my wife, I’m not enthusiastic. I’m not excited. And I certainly don’t turn our nightly walks into any kind of adventure...unless tripping on the sidewalk and scraping half the skin off one’s face could be defined as an adventure.
No, Shadow goes out with me at night because she must. Neither Shadow nor I are particularly happy about this, but she seems resigned to the fact that I have the late night shift. Unless it’s raining...or worse, thundering. Then I literally have to drag her off our porch so she can go out and take care of her “bidness” before settling in for the night.
Up until around a month ago, my wife would pretty much take care of all of the dog walking duties throughout the day, except for the aforementioned nighttime walks. But then, during one of those wooded, creek-lined trail walks with Shadow at that local park, my wife slipped on a wet rock and broke her right wrist. And so, with her “good arm” (she’s right handed) in a cast from above her elbow down to her fingers, it became difficult for her to, among other things, walk Shadow on a leash.
Thus, my dog-walking duties have more than doubled. Now, in addition to walking her right before bedtime each night, I also have to walk her first thing in the morning (usually between 6 and 7 a.m.) and during the day if my wife doesn’t take her to the park because of the weather (she’s not supposed to get her cast wet).
When I am called upon to walk Shadow and she feels that my wife should be walking her, which is most times, she stubbornly refuses to budge. She just sits down and looks at me with those big, brown, sad doggie eyes. I’m sure if she could, she’d strike an attitude pose, put on her best duck-face look, wag a finger at me, and say “Oh no you doh-unt!”
she wears a harness, I can usually drag her, claws scraping, off the porch, but
once down on the ground, she stops. You know those protesters and demonstrators who let their bodies go limp when the cops try to remove them? That’s what Shadow does with me. I can pull her, I can tug her, I can even
attempt to lift her off the ground to try to move her forward...but to no avail.
And that’s when The Jump Starter, aka, my wife, takes over. All my wife has to do is walk out of the house, down the porch steps, and onto our driveway. In her enthusiastic, energetic, excited voice she says, “Let’s go Shadow.”
Shadow immediately jumps up, tail wagging, and happily struts toward the street, pulling me along at the end of her leash. By the time we turn and start walking down the sidewalk, the jump starter has headed back to our house, while Shadow, thinking that her beloved mistress is accompanying us on our walk, merrily trots along.
Eventually, after passing by two or three houses, Shadow will look behind her to see where my wife is. But at that point, the die is cast and Shadow just shrugs her shoulders and continues on her walk, sniffing, peeing, and occasionally pooping along the way.
Both Shadow and I are eager for my wife to have her cast removed and for her to be able to resume her rightful role with Shadow. Unfortunately we are still weeks away from that happening. Yes, her long cast...from above her elbow down to her fingers...was replaced this week by a “short cast.” At least now she can bend her elbow, but there are still limitations as to what she can do with her “good” arm and hand.
So man and beast (aka, me and Shadow) will have to continue to tolerate one another for yet a while longer.
Hair raising experience
But I’m not sure how much longer my wife and I can tolerate one another on those mornings when, because her right arm is in a cast, I have to help her blow dry and style her hair. I think I’d rather walk Shadow during a downpour in a thunderstorm than incur the wrath of my wife due to my lack of hairdressing skills.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my wife and I bought a condo in San Francisco three years ago. We also have an old (built in 1900) Victorian home in Worcester, Massachusetts that we’ve lived in since the mid-nineties.
We decided earlier this year that, given the slight up-tick in the housing market, along with continued low mortgage rates, it might be a good time for us to try to sell our Worcester house and put an end to this bi-coastal nonsense.
And so for the past several months, my wife and I diligently
worked to get our Queen Anne Victorian house ready to go on the market. We
had some repairs done, carpentry work performed, rooms painted, and hardwood
floors refinished. We moved and rearranged
furniture, and depersonalized and de-cluttered the place. We even bought a few new items for the house and property to make the place a little more appealing to prospective buyers.
Our first showing was scheduled for 6 p.m. that very same evening that the house was listed. Like good sellers, my wife, our dog, and I left the house and went out to dinner.
I heard from our realtor about an hour later. He told me that the showing went very well and the family who viewed the house really...really...liked it.
Three hours later we got another call telling us that we had received a full asking price offer! By early afternoon the next day, my wife and I had, with a few minor modifications, accepted the offer.
Our house sold on the very first day of the listing to the very first people who came to see it and for full asking price! BOOYAH!
Fantastic news, right? Well, yes and no. We received a great offer the day the house went on the market, but some significant hurdles were yet to be jumped before we could celebrate a successful and incredibly fast sale.
The dreaded home inspection had to be conducted. Our real estate agent warned us that the home inspector selected by the buyers was a real stickler and was somewhat inflexible. That wasn’t exactly something that we, as the sellers of a 113-year-old house, wanted to hear.
The inspection was scheduled for nine days after we accepted the offer. And then we had to wait another two days to receive the list of what the buyers wanted us to repair or replace before closing.
So after the initial euphoria of receiving a great offer on the first day the house was on the market wore off, we entered into a two-week long, highly stressful and depressing holding pattern.
As expected, a handful of issues did surface at the home inspection, but none appeared to be “deal-breaker” issues. We knew even before the inspection that we would need fix a few things, and we agreed in advance to take care of them. But the buyers also wanted us to address a handful of other items.
None of the items on the list would be particularly costly, but we said no to the buyers’ requests. Well, the truth is that it was my wife who stubbornly said “absolutely not,” and refused to even consider the other items the buyers asked us to fix or pay for.
She told our real estate agent that we would address those few things we knew about prior to the inspection, but that was it. “We're not going to put another dime into this place,” she said. “Either they want this house or they don’t. If they want to walk away, so be it.”
And then she told our broker that if this deal fell through,
we’d take the house off the market. She is one tough cookie!
The good news is that, after a week of back and forth emails and phone calls with and between real estate agents and attorneys, and, at times, some contentious negotiations, the buyers, somewhat reluctantly, we’ve been told, agreed to take care of everything except those several items we had previously agreed to address.
Finally, after what seemed to be an excruciatingly slow moving, drawn out, and frustrating two weeks, we have a fully executed Purchase & Sale Agreement.
Bottom line: while the buyers have been “pre-approved” for a mortgage, their
mortgage company has to send an appraiser to our house to validate
that the appraisal value supports the mortgage
amount the bank had agreed to lend them. And they have almost another month to satisfy that mortgage contingency.
Our realtor has assured us that this is just a formality and that it is very rare for a deal to fall through based upon a low bank appraisal. Still, it’s just one last hurdle to jump over before we can say that it’s truly a done deal.
And so now we need to wait around for the proverbial fat lady to sing, and with our luck, she will probably come down with a severe case of laryngitis.
Did you ever hear the tale about Moishe and Hershel, two aging, Jewish clothing manufacturers in New York City’s garment district? They were complaining about how rotten business was. Hershel says to Moishe, “I lose fifty cents on every pair of pants I sell.”
“Oy vey, Hershel,” Moishe responds, saddened by this news from his old friend. “How do you stay in business?”
Hershel shrugs his shoulders and replies, “I make it up in volume.”
Of course, this was way back before virtually all of our clothing was manufactured in Asian sweatshops.
And that brings me to the topic of this post: pennies. Over the years I have accumulated lots of pennies. Whenever I make a cash purchase, which is becoming rather rare these days, and get a few pennies back as change, I put the pennies in my pocket. When I get home, I take the pennies from my pocket and drop them into a glass jar that once held instant coffee, peanut butter, mayonnaise, or dill pickle slices.
Once the pennies reach the top of one jar, I screw the lid on it, put it on a shelf next to a lot of other change jars, and start over with a new jar.
Now I have a dozen or more glass jars around my house filled to the rim with pennies. What the hell am I supposed to do with all those friggin’ pennies?
Is it worth the time and effort to lug these heavy, penny-filled jars to the bank to exchange them for paper money? Not really. The bank doesn’t want them any more than you do. And to accept your penny collection, many banks require that you put them in paper coin wrappers that hold 50 pennies each. Yeah, like I don’t have better things to do with my time.
Or you can go to one of those ubiquitous Coinstar machines found in just about every large grocery store. These machines will gladly take your pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters and turn them into coupons you can redeem for paper money. Of course, you have to pay for that alchemy to the tune of 10 pennies on every dollar.
A penny for your thoughts
Think about the look you’d get from the cashier if you handed her 25 pennies instead of one quarter, or worse, 100 pennies instead of a dollar. Even retailers don’t want pennies. Most these days have a little tray near the register labeled “Leave a penny, take a penny.”
So I found it interesting when I came across Coin Update, a website dedicated to news and information for the “connected collector.” According to that site, it costs our government two cents to produce and distribute each penny and more than ten cents for each nickel.
Given that the US Mint generated 5.8 trillion pennies and just over one billion nickels in 2012, the difference between the cost to produce and distribute these lowly coins and their face values resulted in a loss of $109 million dollars. Your tax dollars at work.
The good news, though, is that the US Mint is making a mint on higher denomination coins, such as quarters and half-dollars, which more than offsets the deficit it experiences with pennies and nickels.
Is it time to kill the penny?
Eliminating the penny would cause havoc in the retail sales world, where everything cost some dollar amount plus 99 cents. We are conditioned to think that if you pay $49.99 for some product, you’re getting a deal because it cost less than fifty dollars! Oops, don’t forget the sales tax.
When it comes to gasoline, which is always priced down to 9/10ths of penny, don’t you just ignore the 9/10ths of a penny when looking at the price? If the gas price is posted at $3.59 and 9/10ths per gallon, which is, for all intents and purposes, $3.60, our brains see is $3.59. And we zoom into the gas station because it is
selling gas for under $3.60 a gallon! Well, one-tenth of a penny under $3.60. Don’t spend your windfall all in one place.
Admit it. The penny is almost worthless and pretty much useless. Now we learn that it costs double what each is worth to produce them. So what is the rationale for continuing to mint pennies? It is time to put the penny down! Australia figured this out in 1991 and got rid of its pennies. The Royal Canadian Mint stopped distributing Canadian pennies to financial institutions this past February.
I say let’s follow the lead of Australia and Canada and kill the US penny.
At least that’s my two cents worth, which, as Moishe and Hershel might have said, is worth bupkis.
My wife and I had more than our fair share of encounters with the health care delivery system this week. Our saga started Wednesday morning when I had to have minor outpatient surgery and it ended that evening with my having to take my wife to the ER.
Taking things in chronological order, around two weeks ago a small, barely noticeable cyst on my lower abdomen, which I’ve had for years, suddenly swelled up from the size of a pea to the size of a peach. At the same time, it turned deep red and was extremely sensitive to the touch.
Apparently it’s not that uncommon for a sebaceous cyst to become infected, and the first course of treatment when it does is antibiotics. After a week, though, the drugs hadn’t worked and the infected cyst kept growing, getting redder, and becoming even more painful to touch.
So I went back to the doctor Wednesday morning and he lanced and drained the cyst. While the procedure itself was gross, the most painful part was when he injected the site with Xylocaine, a local anesthetic, to numb the skin where he intended to make a small incision over the infected, inflamed cyst.
Thanks to the Xylocaine injection, I didn’t really feel the incision or any pain as he pushed down and squeezed the pus out of the cyst. But it was kind of gross to see all that thick, opaque, yellowish-white fluid matter mixed with blood being squeezed from the cyst like pus from a giant pimple. How’s that for a visual?
Before sending me home, the doctor dressed the still oozing wound by covering it with gauze pads and securing them to my lower abdomen with half a dozen strips of adhesive tape. He suggested that I change the dressing twice a day until the oozing stops.
And that’s when the real fun began.
You see, I’m a hairy guy, and the cyst, positioned on my lower abdomen, just left of center, was surrounded by my “man-fur.” The tape strips the doctor used to secure the gauze pads over the wound were stuck to those body hairs and the only way to remove the gauze pads covering the incision was to quickly rip off the tape.
Did you ever see The 40-Year-Old Virgin? Remember when the character played by Steve Carell was having his chest hairs removed? Imagine that happening right above your groin. Yeah...OUCH!
That’s when I decided, before redressing the wound, to do a bit of manscaping. I took my beard trimmer and removed most of the body hair in the area of the cyst, which area, in case you’re interested, ran pretty much from my crotch to my navel, but only on the left side. It’s an interesting look.
On the rocks
Sadly, I wasn’t able to milk much sympathy after my traumatic ordeal for very long. Just seven hours later I was upstaged by my wife. While hiking with our dog Shadow along a wooded, rocky path at a local state park, she slipped on a wet rock. She tried to break her fall by reaching out with her right arm, but it was her wrist, not her fall, that she broke.
Despite her intense pain, my wife managed the short drive home from the park. As soon as I saw her swollen and somewhat misshapen wrist, I knew it was broken. I got Shadow situated in our house and I drove my wife to the emergency room, where we spent the next four hours.
confirmed that she had broken two bones in her wrist. The doctor applied an immobilizing splint on her right arm. This “splint,” which to me looks and works very much like a cast, extended from above
her elbow to the tips of her fingers.
As a right hander, it didn’t take her long to internalize the affect on her activities of daily living an immobilizing splint on her dominant arm would have.
“How am I going to take a shower if I can’t get this [explicative deleted] splint wet? How am I going to wash and blow-dry my hair? How am I going to get dressed?”
I, too, am not unaffected by this kind of injury to my spouse. If I want to eat between now and the time the cast is removed, I will either need to take my wife out to dinner, order and pick-up carryout, or cook our meals myself! Of course, that last option limits what we can eat to steaks, baked chicken, and spaghetti.
Oh, by the way, she also bruised her knee in the fall, and it’s painful for her to walk. So when it comes to walking our dog four times a day, that’s pretty much going to be my job for the foreseeable future.
And finally, our cross-country road trip back to San Francisco, which we planned to start on June 17th, has been indefinitely postponed.
Some of you may be familiar with John Maynard Keynes, an influential British economist in the 20th century. His radical, at the time, macroeconomics theory was that, in order to save capitalism, governments should spend money they don’t have.
This principle was commonly referred to as “spend yourself rich,” which, when it comes to branding economic theories, had much more pizazz than did Ronald Reagan’s economic theory, “trickle down.” And at my age, trickle down is more of a physical malady than an economic principle.
I belive that John Maynard Keynes would, were he still alive, be proud of my wife and me. We are putting his economic theory to practical use. My only concern is that we’re experiencing the “spend” part of his equation, but I have my doubts about whether it will produce the “rich” part.
But I digress. We decided to sell our house in Worcester to make San Francisco our “official,” full-time home. But getting ready to put the 115-year-old Queen Anne Victorian house on the market has been no easy task.
Before you can put your house up for sale, you need to make it look enticing and inviting to prospective buyers. You also need to take care of all those quirky little things that you’ve lived with for years. You know, the ones that give character to your home, but that might be off-putting to house-hunters.
My handyman skills are rather limited these days. Sure, I can change light bulbs and replace batteries. But the reality is that making this old house presentable requires greater fixer-upper acumen than I possess. Thus, I find myself hiring people who can spackle, sand, paint, polish, and stain and who can repair those quirky little things of which I spoke. And this work must be completed before we actually list the house with a broker.
Toss, Save, or Sell
Since moving into our home nearly two decades ago, rather than discarding possessions that were broken or that we no longer used, I simply moved them to our basement or attic. You know...outta sight, outta mind.
In addition to our own piles of crap that had been deposited in our basement and attic, the accumulated belongings of our son and daughter, both of whom are in San Francisco, are also in boxes and piles. There are even unopened boxes from when we moved into the house in the mid-90s. And over the years, all of this “stuff” has been collecting a combination of dust, dirt, and mouse turds while stored in the damp recesses of our basement and the dark corners of our attic.
My wife and I undertook the dirty and thankless task of sorting through years of accumulated junk. We created three piles: toss, save, and sell. The good news is that the largest pile was the “toss” pile. Out of necessity, due to the small size and lack of storage space in our condo in San Francisco, the smallest was the “save” pile.
Just about everything in the toss pile has been hauled away. The items in the save pile are neatly stacked in our attic. The sell pile has literally filled half of our two-car garage, awaiting a yet-to-be-scheduled garage/yard sale.
When it comes to buying and selling homes, this is not my first rodeo. But it is the first time I’ve “staged” a home. We even had two women come to our place to suggest how to improve the house’s appeal for “the right” buyers.
Staging focuses on going “3D”: depersonalize, declutter, and disappear. In other words, make the place look as if no human beings or pets live in it.
But what is really crazy is that we are buying new things to put in our old house, things that we will only have to discard once the place is sold. We bought a small rug for my office, a larger Oriental rug for our foyer. We bought new lace curtains for our dining room, and hanging plants for our front porch.
The stagers told us we needed a small, round table for our foyer and I found a great deal on one at our local Goodwill Store. But we still need, according to the stagers...and my wife...a centerpiece to put on that cheap, small, round table.
We even had to replace two once beautiful plumb trees in our front yard because of some blight that they succumbed to. After all, you don’t want some prospective
buyers to notice dead trees surrounding the front steps and decide
right then and there that they aren’t interested in seeing what’s inside.
And so we have been spending money on a house we want to sell in order to potentially maximize the revenue we can derive from the sale. And that leads us right back to John Maynard Keynes. I think, however, I may have missed the part where he explained how his “spend yourself rich” theory works for governments, but not for individuals.