Sunday, February 15, 2009

Closure…. a good thing to have around.

Saturday marked the end of all of the unexpected work necessary to get Merrily’s sister’s stuff “handled” since her last stroke. It has taken big chunks of the past 2 weeks to get the contents of the apartment catalogued, sorted, filtered and disposed of. Thanks to daughters Carol and Shawna helping out and Carol’s cosmic gift for organizing, it is done.

What is amazing is that the total contents that barely fit into a 3 bedroom 2 story apartment (with 2 of the bedrooms being totally dedicated to just storage) have been pared down to a single 5’x10’ storage unit, Wahoo! I have to say I had my doubts so its really exciting that it has actually been accomplished.

Carol offered to handle the marketing of the items that were earmarked to be sold. She has already collected more than $200 in just a couple of days of being listed on Craigslist. Other items are now staged for a yard sale that daughter #3, Christi, will be ramrodding in a few weeks. Gosh! Its really great to have family members that are willing to share the work to get unpleasant but necessary work accomplished.  I am so proud of every one of them in this untimely effort.

Saturday morning started with Merrily driving up in a 24’ rental box truck at 8:30am. She looked right at home behind that wheel so despite some of her qualms about driving Clifford, I have no doubt she will be excellent at it. She just needs to remember to put her red bandanna on her head Rambo-Style and zip up her lucky blue jeans and she will be golden. I intended to catch a picture or two of her in her “working clothes” but she got out of here too fast Saturday morning and as tired as she was at the end of the afternoon I just didn’t have the heart to call out “say cheese” to her.  Maybe another time.

It was very nice that the weather cooperated so well. It was a beautiful day with no rain, cool with slight breezes and a hint of spring in the air. It made it much easier to do the work but also made one more aware of how they would rather have been spending the day.

The Workamper University Webinar session #3 was Saturday evening at 8pm.  After rebooting the system (everybody has to do this once in awhile, don’t they?) I brought up the website, joined the session (now in progress) and dialed the WebEx phone number for the audio participation. The main topic was about creating resume’s that are tailored to a specific available workamping job. 

Pretty good session and among the things we learned about creating a resume for workamping jobs is that they are a bit different from the typically staid format and content of those targeting “regular” jobs.

For one thing, its ok to put in a picture of your RV and maybe yourself. Many workamping employers ask to see what you and your rig look like.

Another is supplying a URL to additional online content about yourself.  This gave me an idea for some more content to our website.  I am thinking of creating a specific page for each of us to showcase the lesser items of our skill sets, hobbies, preferences and such that would just not fit comfortably in a single page resume’.  Employers that are interested in that kind of information about us can go there to see it and the rest don’t have to be bothered with the information.

Well, I guess its time to pay some attention to my drooping eyelids and close for tonight.


Friday, February 13, 2009

The hurrier I go …. the behinder I get….

So here it is Friday the 13th and I just caught on.  First, notice the time (EST).  I have been to bed twice but not to sleep so I guess now is as good a time as any to catch up a bit.

In so doing I warn you up front that this will be a longer post as a lot has happened in the past 6 days since my last post.

This week has slipped past us in a blur of personal discomfort, appointments with doctors and dentists, Katie seizures and the organized dismantling of my sister-in-law’s apartment contents in preparation for their disposal on Saturday. Oh.. and also in a criminal run of unbelievably beautiful weather for here or most any place else. Highs in the 60s, lows in the 50s and mostly clear sunny days with full moon nights so brilliant and clear that I just know they must have been generated on a computer.  They just don’t come like that around here.

Any one of these nights I would have been happy to just throw a sleeping bag on the ground out in an open field to cuddle into until dawn.

In the workamping arena it appears to have been a very good thing that Jaime was busy at Nick Russell’s Gypsy Gathering rally last Saturday and could not teach the third webinar class session of Workamping 101 since we could not possibly have gotten the homework done in time.  Actually, we may not have it done in time for this coming Saturday’s class what with all of the mandatory stuff going on around here this week, too.

However, in case our instructor, Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak (look under Workampers.. then Workamper University), should stumble upon this blog (I still hate that word) I will promise to have it done in time for Saturday night’s class (even though right now I really don’t know how).

On the Katie the Poo front, she just had another seizure tonight. This one was about 12:04am, which is pretty early for these.  I am very sure that it was brought on by the shock of her falling out of the bed onto the hard floor while she was sleeping. It took her a few seconds to get up and then to get back in the bed and snuggle up close to me but she was trembling and I could tell she was starting to seize.

I just gathered her in a comforting bundle up close to me and held her through it. The main part lasted about 4 minutes with a 15 or 20 second period of rigor and the rest was just the shakes and hard breathing.

Once it was past, I got up to get her some “comfort food” (actually small pieces of apple which we keep for treats). She was still pretty wobbly  so I rocked her for a few minutes in my recliner and realized that she was still pretty hot. Since a part of the whole “kindling” aspect to growing seizures is elevated core temperatures I took her outside where it was a nice 55 degrees.

She quickly took care of some hygiene duties and then we took a walk up the street in the moonlight for a few blocks. By the time we returned she was fine and went straight to bed and to sleep.

To me, she is definitely getting better. The seizures are gradually becoming slighter and shorter in duration but we still can’t have any expectations of their permanent cessation for another 5 months or so.

Meanwhile, I am back up because I torqued my back when I nearly fell while carrying her down the steps to go outside. I normally let her walk but she was still wobbly and I didn’t want to risk her falling and triggering another seizure from the shock. Boy! If I had fallen carrying her down the steps, Merrily would have had a seizure. Now she is fine, though, and I am the one trying to settle my body enough to go back to bed.

On the issues of preparing for our departure it has occurred to me that with all of the mapping and trip planning software and tools there are around me, there just does not seem to be anything that helps us make the choice of where to go “next”.

I have to confess that this is not something that comes easy for either of us. There have been plenty of times we have gotten in the car to go to dinner, backed out to the end of the driveway and  then just sat there because we could not decide where to go. Flipping a coin won’t work if there are more than two choices and I refuse to start reading tea leaves, throwing small animal bones to read our destiny or consulting astrological charts to decide whether to turn right or left.

I just assume that for most people, they would not get into the car until they have decided where they are going. For some reason, for us, it takes the pressure of sitting there at the end of the driveway with the motor running and the neighbors looking out their windows and probably thinking “there go the two most indecisive people in the neighborhood….. if they actually GO this time”.

It has become very clear to both of us that we don’t want the certain embarrassment  to be all hooked up in full travel mode sitting at the end of the campground driveway trying to decide where we are going to go, next. To try to prevent this I have started working up an outline of a process to help us pull together the necessary information and perspective prior to starting any engines to make this part of our travels more of a cookbook process. We will see if I can come up with something useful or be stymied by my natural OCD and get lost somewhere in the project.

See, I told you it was going to be a long one.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hark! The weekend approach-eth!

There is nothing quite so refreshing to me as a nice weekend looming large in the front view mirror of my week. By contrast, Mondays and Tuesdays are just big stumbling blocks to getting the week started.

By Wednesday I have realized that Monday’s stuff is still waiting to be done and that tomorrow is Thursday, already, so its time to get it in gear and just get it done before I have to waste glorious weekend time doing week day stuff.

But Friday morning is all about getting to Friday evening and the weekend. For some reason, what would have taken me hours to get done on Tuesday is a matter of minutes on Friday. Even the leftover Thursday trash work is dispatched with a wave of the magic weekend wand.  I guess that I don’t want anything hanging over our heads for our “together time” during the weekend (Merrily and Me, that is).

My oh my, why wasn’t I born filthy rich instead of so damn good looking?

I did get in a little more testing of the Roadrunner Turbo speed service on Friday.  Maybe its not quite as useless as I first thought. I may have had greater expectations than common sense but I really wanted to be blown away for $9.95 more per month and wasn’t.

I also discovered that my subscription to was not automatically renewed due to my not having updated my credit card info on their site.  I don’t use it much anymore and may just let it go as a $$ wash for the higher speed RR “turbo-ish” internet service.

We’ll see.  I had about 500 gigs of download credits there and can pick them back up if I renew in the next few months. I just don’t find that much useful stuff up there in the news groups anymore and they have become real mine fields of trojans, viruses and worms… oh my!

Katie (the poo) continues to do well. I have adjusted her evening meds to make it so that she gets the Kepra right before bedtime. Maybe that will last enough to get her through the AM hours before breakfast where she seems to have the most seizures since her surgery.  Her attitude has been wonderful and other than occasionally abusing her power of the leash (she goes over and taps the leash when she wants to go out side), she has been perfect in every way.

We are trying to work out plans for a trip about March something or other.  Merrily wants to take a whole week and the two weekends to do it.  We are considering the Charleston area right now.  Maybe her brother and his wife will come up for a few days while we are there.

No update on our Smart car. Still expecting it on 2/18 but we have realized that it will have to be named just like Clifford and DakotR.  It has to be something that will fit on a license plate and not tooooo cute but clever. So far we have $mart A$$, Smartipi and Bitsey.

I am planning to go down to see my Mom once we have it delivered and road tested a bit. I doubt I will be able to get the loader built and installed before we take the March trip but who knows… might happen.

#1 son, Smith is home from the road for a few days. You can see more of his life in his blog . Besides being an over the road professional driver he loves trains and model railroading. He covers both in his blogs and on the Wilson Area Railroad Modelers website. They even have a few channels of video feeds available to watch live operating sessions on the weekends. Its quite a hobby.

Everyone else is off into their lives and being happy.  A parent can’t ask for more than that.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ok, spin the wheel of seasons… and today we have…. Winter again…?

So, let’s see what season it is…. Hi=71, LO= 52, Hi=32, LO=16, HI=64, LO=32…..  any guesses?….. anyone?

Me either.  My dogs are so confused they are shedding profusely while growing both summer and winter coats at the same time.

Snow the past 2 nights. Tonight clear and 16 and Saturday and Sunday will be about 68. I feel like a popsicle in a worn out old freezer.

On a more stable note, Emery and Christi got their pantry emptied of a collection of the past 20+ years and have it spread out in one of the empty bedrooms for me to go though before it gets pitched out.

Every day makes the house more theirs than ours and that is great.  I feel the burdens of years of accumulation gradually melting away. It is wonderful!

Randy was telling me how great Roadrunner Turbo mode is supposed to be. Presently, I get about 6 megabit download data rates and 350kb upload data rates.  Turbo is supposed to get me from 10 to 20mbit down and up to 500kbps upload rates.  What didn’t become apparent in this is that these seemingly wonderful performance goals are targeted only for gamers and really high large file downloaders. The average run of the mill web surfer, emailer, IM user and such will not see any noticeable improvement in web performance.

I still decided I had to know if it would be worth another $10/month to me so I turned it on yesterday.  First glitch was that they could not turn it on until I went down to their store and picked up one of the cable modems that Time Warner uses.  So I went down town, got the new cable modem, returned home, installed it and proceeded to see pretty much what I have been seeing all along in performance.

That is when I found out from their tech support about the performance improvements were only going to be useful to the gamers and big downloaders. humpf!  Well, I have 30 days to try it and then if I don’t think its worth it I can drop it for free.

Today, I have been too busy with non-internet stuff so I have not been able to really wring it out like I wanted but maybe tomorrow….

Meanwhile, I am still fighting the increasing struggles with the whole userid and password jungle.  Now that more and more checking and restricting is being done to make passwords more secure and less vulnerable to hacking or cracking, it is getting harder to just login.. anywhere!

I have over 800 userids with passwords that I use. It is impossible to make them all unique and still be able to remember them.  Heck, its impossible for me to remember any of them.  Then you get the sites that require you to change your password every so many days to a new one that has not been used before and pretty soon one has no clue what a password might be.

I have complained before about getting over 500 emails a day of which maybe 1% or less is not spam. Now, I have to ask for a forgotten password every time I try to logon to a website I have not visited today and I am getting more and more frustrated.

Sure, I have password managers that keep them all very secure but again, the increasing security blocks these from working so to even use them I have to manually open each one in the PW manager and edit it to see what my password is right now and then manually type it into the security prompt for that site.  That is bad enough but on the back side I have to manually maintain these passwords in the PW manager every time one must be changed due to the logon restrictions on the site. It’s impossible to keep it all straight and as soon as a couple of mistakes creep into the database, they all become suspect. 

This difficulty factor is doubled when they block the password you type in so you can’t see what you typed. Sure, I make typos just like everyone else so when it rejects my password I don’t know if I mistyped it, miscopied it from the PW Manager or have changed it on the site and now the PW manager does not have the correct current PW in it. To straighten this out I have to go to the site, say I lost my Password, get it mailed to me (or a new one if they only offer a reset function) then login to the site with the new one and also make sure to up date the PW in the PW manager for this site and all other occurrences of it (yes, there may be multiple PW entries in the PW manager due to different entry points to the site. Each will have a PW manager entry with userid, password and URL.  All have to be found and changed manually.

By now, I have totally forgotten why I needed to get into that site.

The only defense against this is to make the logon on all your sites use the same userid and PW. This, of course, makes it so unsecure that the web sites have to add additional complexity in the form of questions that you have to answer AFTER you have entered your userid and password. The questions change and are different from site to site so there goes the one userid and password workaround!

I have run into some of these types of sites that do not have any questions that I could supply an answer to that I would be able to remember a consistent answer to in 3 months. Other questions have no answer possible for me. One such example is “what is your mother’s middle name?”  My mother was never given a middle name.

The only common questions everyone already knows, like “your mother’s maiden name”, “your date of birth”, your high school mascot”  (heck, that was 50 years ago.. I barely remember the name of the school).

So, there you have it… Clearly, the more secure they try to make the logon process the more complex it becomes and the more complex it becomes the more people try to simplify it to keep it usable and that undermines the very security that was being attempted by the process.  Really dumb approach to security.  Like putting more padlocks on a wooden locker. If I can pick one I can pick them all or I will just bust the hinges.

The only people that are being blocked from getting into their accounts are the people whose accounts they belong to.

Enough of the rant.

Obviously, I am not in the middle of my happy place tonight so I will say TTFN until tomorrow.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Surprising Weekend

Whether one is a super bowl fan or not is irrelevant this weekend because it is going to be rubbed in your face until its over… and then they will rub it some more just to be sure everyone gets the point…

We do watch it, usually on ReplayTV so we don’t have to sit through all the dead air jibber-jabber time. We just skip to the next play action and go ahead.  This year, #3 son, Randy and his wife had just moved into their new house the day before and really wanted to share it and their new HD TV with us so who was I to turn down a free meal and a great visual experience.

Interesting game. At one time I was something of a Steelers fan (during Terry Bradshaw’s days) but I just wanted to see an unusually good game and I did. I would just as soon have skipped the half-time show but Merrily is a Boss fan so we watched it.

Still on our minds, though, was that our beloved Katie was spending another weekend in the vet hospital. She had another unending seizure about 3am Friday and it took the resources of the Vet Hospital's emergency room staff to get it stopped.  They say she is fine and are switching her meds for now to get a bit better control.  They are also sending home with her an emergency seizure kit in case she has another one like this. It should save another trip to the ER (and the $800 – $1500 price tag each time). 

I sure hope it works and her shunt does stop these once it closes down in 3-6 months. Meanwhile, we just have to hang on and watch her closely to keep her blood as clean as possible.

So far, her seizures and treatments have eaten up our down payment on the Smart car which was about 1/3 of the total price so it looks like that will be higher per month payment than we wanted to carry, too.

On other fronts we attended the second class of the Workamper 101 webinar series on how to find and get the right workamping jobs for us on the road. It has some good content in it and I already see some real benefits from its cookbook approach to this issue.

I guess it’s time to get some specifics done to move our plans along now that the family moves and crises are over. better get back to my to-do lists and get busy on them.