Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shifting Gears

No, this is not about mechanical things. It is about how things tend to reach a critical mass which results in a sudden dramatic change.  It seems to be a necessary part of the steps of life to occasionally “shift gears” in order to move along at a better pace or in another direction.

In this case, the critical mass is the contents of Dakotr. What is in here and where it is placed in this 400 square feet of domicile is a combination of what was in hand and where I was when I put it down.  I have already talked about the PIBWIB days (Put It Back Where It Belongs) that must come around occasionally, to restore “in use” items to their proper resting areas. But when loading a place with things for a new lifestyle there are a lot of questions of where “the best place” is for any particular item to be kept.

Obviously, Kitchen stuff should go in the kitchen, bath stuff, in the bathroom, etc. but the combination of limited storage spaces in those areas along with no real experience in this lifestyle there is little sense of how often an item might be used and how “handy” it should be. Early on in our preparations it was clear that there needed to be offline storage areas for things that were not used often enough to keep them close at hand all the time.  For instance, some kitchen items might be for use only at Christmas time so why keep then in the way the rest of the whole year?

We have lived in DakotR for two years so we have gained some experience with our patterns of use of various objects. Some were moved from the house about the time we moved but many were acquired after we discovered a need or an oversight of a future need for them. When brought into Dakotr they were usually put in a seemingly obvious “handy” place but time has shown that they did not need to be that handy and those spaces would be a better spot for things that really did need to be more readily available when needed.

If the use of the whole of the storage spaces in DakotR is looked at as a progression of convenience then each item has a place of specific priority based on its real value in being “handy”.  Each item that is not in its best location for its use is both in the way as well as preventing something else from being “handier” if placed in that spot. Each of these inconveniences adds a tiny bit more energy to the growing mass of disconvenience. At some point, the disconvenience will quietly convert to inconvenience which initiates a wave of functional frustration that carries a conscious element of discomfort. 

it is important to note that until the disconvenience of not quite having items in the perfect spot becomes pure conscious inconvenience, they will still subtly affect the attitudes and comfort factors of life in the RV.

Imagine that one day, for simple and perhaps short sighted reasons, one chooses to “fix” a small inconvenience. This could be as small a thing as cleaning out the proverbial (and ever present) kitchen junk drawer because it is so full things occasionally stick up and prevent the drawer from opening or closing smoothly.  A choice is made to just take out whatever keeps jamming things up and put it somewhere better. Once removed from the drawer there are only two things that can be done with it. It can be thrown away and life will move on as usual or it can be put somewhere else.

If the disconvenience factor has grown sufficiently, the latter choice may initiate a chain reaction of placements and relocations of other items to make space for them. If enough disconvenience has already converted to inconvenience in enough different storage areas, their contents may be removed enmasse to also be relocated to better spaces.

At this point, critical mass has been reached and a “big bang” will quickly take place. The result may look something like this:



I know this was the long way around to point out that things change because we don’t have perfect foresight and it takes us awhile to catch-on that not all is alright. It is easy to quickly find oneself in the middle of reorganizing many items and whole spaces all at one time just to make the kitchen junk drawer close smoothly.

If I had any sense I would just have thrown the offending item away…. but I didn’t.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy Feet

So here I sit at 1 am on a weeknight trying to explain why I am not bothering Merrily and the dog with my snoring.  Tonight (technically, last night but Wednesday night just to be clear) was our weekly dance lesson night. We are in the social dance II class, now, and really starting to get the hang of things. I have mentioned how much I love our dance classes in a few other entries and I always feel “uplifted” after class. Tonight, we reviewed Rhumba, Slow dance and waltz variations. After walking Katie, The Poo,  I really did go to bed but I just could not stop dancing in my head. 

This is something like “inner tennis” I guess and it really seems to cement what I have just learned into my memory but it also causes my body’s muscles to work a bit while I am doing it and that tends to shake the bed (innerspring mattress, but don’t ask). I finally realized this when, for about the 8th time, I did a rotating front/back waltz segment in my head and Merrily again woke with a start and a gasp.

So I did the only thing a considerate husband could do and got up and came out here to work on the computer, shortly followed by Katie, The Poo. Of course, Katie did not go to dance class so she tried to entertain herself for awhile by chewing her nylabone and then tried to engage me in her “fun” by tapping the leash to take her out into the “sultry” southern midnight air. When I would not participate, she just wanted to go back to bed and after a couple of false starts (she wanted me to come, too) she finally gave up and stayed in the bedroom.

So here I sit, listening to my Beegie Adair radio station on Pandora and trying to explain to no one in particular why I am doing thus. If I get too directly involved in computer stuff I will probably be up all night and never really get rest even if I do go to sleep. So, working on this journal and focusing on “artsy” stuff (not that I “look” all that artsy when I am dancing)  lets me unload that part of my brain so it will quit shaking the bed and keeping us all awake …. ( .. yawn… I guess its working, now).



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Music doth soothe the savage beast.

Throughout my life I have been pulled back and forth between passions for music and science. Each has been a distraction to the other and yet each has reinforced my capabilities to improve my knowledge and functionality in the other.

For example, when I would become very frustrated from focusing on math, computer programming or trouble shooting hardware or software or financial problems I found that enough of the right kind of music and volume would restore my sensibilities about whatever it was that I was fumbling with and give me a second wind, if you will, to start making progress.  I played Trumpet for 6 years during jr. and Sr. high school and tried to head towards a professional music career at one point but my love of electronics and all things mechanical overtook that direction.

At present, I have just gotten the drawings and CAD files for the Smartvolvomasterassydwgjpg Car bed to be built on Clifford.   I have been waiting for years (no lie) to get to this point in our progress to full timing. volvomasterassyjpg Now that we are here I am so stopped up with information, details and pending things to do that I can’t seem to get anything started. Each thing I think of to work on has dependencies that I have to resolve before I can actually begin that specific work.

The CAD drawings are perfect but I have to reinstall my CAD program before I can use them. Unfortunately, my laptop is about 2 Windows platforms (Vista and Windows 7) beyond what it was engineered to run. It has a memory limit of 1.2 Gigabytes which, on Windows XP was a pretty good sized RAM resource. I did have a few other desktop systems that could have held more memory but had weak processing power. Moot point, anyway, since most of them have been cannibalized to solve problems in other family systems. 

So here I am with a powerful program needing to run on a powerful and current operating system (Windows 7) but its not possible to make the hardware resources available to it so that it will perform as well as I need. So this is not unlike sitting down at the computer in Late March to get started on preparing my taxes and discovering that I am getting blue screen errors occasionally.  Sure, it will run but if it crashes at the wrong time it could take out the Hard drive and not only lose my data but be unbootable.

To forge ahead without fixing this problem would just be stupid. I would not be able to stay focused on getting the taxes done because of this distraction and that would cause me to make errors in the process even if the system never crashed.  Its like trying not to flinch when you fire a 45 caliber hand gun the second time.

For the past weeks I have been preparing for this day but have had so much that is unfinished at the moment that I am just stuck trying to get going on any one thing.  Basically, I am mentally constipated and the backup is impacting my body, mind and spirit.

Here is where the music comes in.  I really need to give that part of my brain a little vacation and the only way to do that is to immerse myself in something that will engage and hold my focus in another, more rested part of it.  It seems that music does that for me when I have been ignoring it for awhile. However, I can’t just sit and listen to it. That will just make me antsy to get going on my problem. While listening I have to be physically engaged in something bland that takes no analytical effort but which holds my attention.

Writing this blog tonight is one such activity.  The type of music that I listen to is also very important to this process.  Highly complex music like a symphony, lively jazz and most music with vocals in it will keep agitating the part of my brain that needs the break so simple smoothly soft jazz such as some Bobby Hackett, Beegie Adair or Andre Previn is good brain vacation landscape.   Dave Brubeck, George Shearing or Peter Nero is not helpful no matter how much I like them.Also, there needs to be a minimum of strings and/or saxophone solos. Those are often as agitating as vocals. Using Sirius Satellite Radio or XM Radio gives me some of these genre choices but I have to take what it delivers. I probably listen to XM Escape (channel 28 right now) more than all other channels combined.

However, there is another great source of new music on the website. It is free and there are genres of music already catalogued or I can make my own.  I can setup a channel, like for Beegie Adair, and then it will pick music, some of it hers and some of other artists that fit her general style and makeup.  If it plays something I especially like I can give it a thumbs-up and it will strengthen the preference for that type of sound. If I give something a thumbs-down it will bias Pandora to shy away from other selections that are too similar to that one.

One other thing I have found for those times when I really am too spent to even do mindless stuff like this blog and just want to sit and listen is to play a slideshow of great landscape pictures on the monitor or TV.  I have found that SmugMug has a lot of high quality pictures of great places to soothe my nerves.  I can search for a particular place, like LassenDane > Brokeoff Mountain with Brokeoff Meadows campground | May 23, 2009Lassen National Park, Grand Teton National Park and  other such grand places I love to see and I don’t have to just watch the same tired photos I have already run dozens of times.

This combination of music and visual arts seems to do a great job of disengaging my “working” mind and giving it a break. Writing the blog or other such journaling activity also helps when feel like it.  It keeps my hands busy so I don’t pick at my cuticles or bite my nails (yeah, I have that habit, too, but at least I don’t smoke). 


Friday, September 11, 2009

Clean as a whistle

Finally!  A break in the weather and bugs!  DakotR was washed and waxed less than 6 months ago and now it looks like it has been abandoned in the jungle for 5 years.

Consequently, I have withdrawn my previous judgments about what have appeared to be “over the hill” RVs apparently squatting permanently in some campgrounds. They were probably new less than a year before I saw them.

I don’t really know about how it is in the rest of the U.S. but in the southeast, everything visibly ages about a month per calendar week. It does not take long for everything from RVs to Homes to turn into under attended/over ignored-looking barnyard baggage.

Anyway, I began by pressure washing the outside (as much as I could safely reach from the ground or low ladders). At least that took the main scum off but the fiberglass end caps roll off to the roof over a long arc and that makes everything above about 9.5 feet, just rinseable from the ground or from a 4’ scaffold.

Even a good brush can do very little damage to this mess regardless of the cleaner that is being used so there are no “quick and clean” methods to get this looking nice, again. It’s going to take a lot of elbow grease, for sure.

I turned, next, to the roof.  I am generally against pressure washing an EPDM roof because of the normal cast-off methodology it uses to protect itself from the elements….. but gracious, enough accumulated gunk is enough gunk, period!  DSC01178 I could not stand it anymore! Never mind the mess it makes down the sides and end caps every time it rains. 

It can be seen from ground level when you get back from either end of DakotR and no matter how clean and shiny I make the sides, it still looks like a Carrabbas’ restaurant with the hanging gardens on the roof.

So I did do a “gentle” pressure wash of the whole roof surface giving special attention to seams and seals where time has cracked the Dicor sealant. I will next go up there and check those out to see if any need “refurbishing” by trimming off the old Dicor and recasting sealant on them.

Just as I feared, a lot of loose cast off from the EPDM rubber washed off into the gutters and continuously kept clogging them with the wet whitish powder. That required stopping my washing and flushing the gutters before I could continue.  Eventually, I did get it all done, yesterday.

Now, I need to hand wax/polish the end caps and finish up cleaning the higher-up sides of the RV and put a coat of wax on those as well.

Fortunately, while on the roof I was able to pressure wash about the top 3 feet of the Big slideout awning but reaching out farther than that would likely have turned it into a trampoline for me so I resisted the urge and stopped there.DSC01187 I may tackle the rest of the awning from the ground by closing the slideout and dropping the awning straight down to the ground so I can hit the rest of it squarely from a good stepladder. you can see the “scum line” just this side of the maroon strip.

Also left to do is go over all of the end cap seals and the screw strip covers really well with extra strength Magic Erasers and some Wal-Mart RV wash.DSC01220

Starting from scratch in the first picture, DSC01177DSC01174

I pressure wash (2nd picture). And then finish with the Magic Eraser with the full strength RV wash on it.DSC01173 This has been the most effective combination  for cleaning off these end cap gaskets that I have tried….. and I have tried a lot of stuff and techniques.



We are due in Disney in November and I don’t want to show up there in a 10 year old 5th wheel that looks like it’s that old and was kept behind the barn.

As Mel Brooks said, “work, work, work, work, work”… but this is not like the fun he was talking about in Blazing saddles so I have to meter myself to keep from giving up before its done.

It’s too bad that no one has come up with a pill to do for work what Viagra has done for play… or at least a pill that won’t kill you, too.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Update on Katie the “Poo”

I have had some queries about how Katie is doing with her problems.  The good news is that we seem to be getting better with how we are handling them and some have truly gotten better.DSC00888

This morning, she went in for her final check for her Urinary tract infection that seemed to be ignoring previous treatments.  So far, its looking good but it will take a few days before the culture confirms this.

Her extrahepatic (outside the liver) liver shunt was corrected in January 09 and they said it typically took 6 to 8 months before we could know for sure if it was a permanent fix. Apparently, new shunts can form if there is too much back pressure on the liver from closing a shunt too quickly.  The last tests that were done a month ago indicated that no new shunts had formed but there might still be some leakage through her original shunt.  The procedure they used causes a slow growth of scar tissue that gradually pinches off the flow in the shunt.

Unfortunately, neither the doctors here nor in another location where these have been done regularly, had ever treated such a large shunt and so they did not have any clear idea of how long it would take to completely close it or if it would completely close.

On the seizure front, they have settled in at about one per week but we are getting better at spotting the precursory signs that one might be brewing. We have found that giving her a Keppra when her eyes are getting bloodshot and she is getting a bit “hyper” seems to reset this clock.  It was 16 days since her last one and for the first time she never did go into the full extension rigor that has been a constant trait of these seizures.  That is very good.  They are very hard on her.

Her meds are 1.5ml of Potassium Bromide/day and that is all. Her tests have come back with her measuring within the therapeutic  limits so that is holding and there seems to be no impact to her personality anymore.

She is the same lovable, adorable little minx that we rescued and fell in love with and she returns that many times over in the quality of life she adds to ours.

It looks like for the long term that she will be on the potassium bromide for the rest of her life but that is tolerable.  The occasional use of the keppra may still be required, too.   More and more, it is looking like these seizures are being driven by environmental things. We are suspecting chemicals used on yards to fertilize or control weeds so maybe, once we get on the road and away from residential neighborhood living, they may become more infrequent.


Friday, September 4, 2009

The pony cart tease

When I was very young, somewhere around 5 to 8 years old, we lived in “the country”. Actually, it was a small town in Georgia that , by itself, was “in the country” and we lived about a mile outside of “town”. Our next door neighbor had a couple of kids named Jim and Scott. Both were older than I was and they had an absolutely beautiful pony cart.. and of course, a pony.

Their cart had wicker basket sides, big spoked wheels and a Palomino pony ( I remember because that is what Roy Rogers had). To a 5-8 year old, that was an irresistible rig, hands down.

Now, as I said, we lived in the country so the properties were on the order of 5-10 acres or more.  Our frontage was about 300 feet with them living on our east side next to our driveway. On our west side was the long winding driveway up to my uncle’s house high up on a hill.  The start of his driveway marked the western edge of our property. This is important because I was allowed to play in the yard just about anywhere as long as I did not venture beyond these “boundaries” of the front yard. The yard in front of our house was nearly the size of a football field and mostly flat. Centered on the frontage and out near the road was the world’s oldest and biggest oak tree which just begged to be climbed…just as soon as I grew tall enough to reach those lower branches.

Every so often I would see Scott and Jim hitch up their pony cart for a ride down the road.  They always turned right as they came out of their driveway because they were not allowed to go back towards town, which was the other way.

They would trot down the road in front of our house and I would drool with envy as they slowly traveled that 300 feet to my uncle’s driveway and then disappear around the curve in front of his property.  

I would wait and watch until they eventually came back into view heading back home.  Sometimes, they would go home, turn around and then go back down the road past my uncle’s house and on out of view, again.  Of course, I could do nothing else but watch until they returned home. All the time imagining the great fun and adventures that they surely must be having each time they disappeared around that curve.

I finally figured out about when they would come by and managed to be out at the end of our driveway which was right next to theirs as they would come out of their driveway. As I stood there they would  sometimes wave (in an alpha-kid’s way of silently saying “na-na-na-na-naaaaaa-na” (or “ne-ner---ne-ner” for short) and trot on by.

I would start off at a trot, too, down the grassy edge of the road as they slowed the pony to a walk. I could almost keep up on my short fat legs and not step off of our property as I followed them all the way to my uncle’s driveway. But I could only stand and watch as they continued on down the road, around the curve and on out of sight.

I know this may seem to be boring but you must realize how much I wanted to ride in that pony cart. As soon, they came back, I was waiting there to repeat this tag-a-long trek back the 300 feet to the other edge of our property.

One day, as they turned out onto the road and passed in front of me, I was preparing to follow them back to my uncle’s driveway again, but they stopped the pony and Jim, the older one asked if I would like to ride in the cart!!!!!

“Yes” I said before my mind caught up with my mouth, “But I have to ask my Daddy, first”.  Ok, Jim said and I ran back across the uncut front yard to the house so fast that the tall sparse weeds  stung my legs like a willow switch… but I didn’t care, I was going to get a ride in that coveted pony cart!

When I breathlessly asked for permission to ride, Daddy said that I could ride but not past my uncle’s driveway.

I raced back out the 100 feet to the road from the front porch of the house oblivious that my folks were sitting there in Wicker rockers  watching all of this play out.

In the time it took me to race to the house for permission and then back out to the road Scott and Jim and the mesmerizing pony cart had been slowly walking down the road towards that dreaded edge of my earth, my uncle’s driveway. Even though I was running at Superman speed they were a little over half way there by the time I caught up with them.

I shouted as best as I could with no wind left in my lungs from all the running “Daddy says I can ride!”.

“Ok” said Scott and Jim stopped the cart, “Climb in”.

I ran up behind the cart and reached for the hand rail at its side, but Jim slapped the reins on the pony’s back and it bolted a few feet forward, just out of my reach.

Scott said “Sorry. The pony just spooked. C’mon, Bud, get in” and they both laughed.

I caught up and again, Jim spooked the pony and it snatched the cart just out of my grasp and moved away from me for another 10 feet or so before it stopped with another feigned apology.

Over and over Jim taunted me blaming the horse, the wind and finally me for spooking the pony. Scott finally said that I was just too slow. Each time I missed they laughed and giggled and whispered while I struggled to catch up again.

No matter how many times they cheated me I was not going to give up my dream ride in the pony cart so I kept on trying.

I knew we were getting perilously close to my uncle’s driveway and I ran harder and faster than I ever had before in my life but I was never quite fast enough.  Eventually, my pursuit ended empty at my uncle’s driveway and they continued on down the road.

Apparently, this was great fun for them because they did not disappear out of site but rather turned the pony and cart around only 30 or 40 feet past my stopping point and started back towards their house and me.

They passed me and again, stopped on the road just out of my reach and begged me to get on.  Again I tried to get a grip on the handle and again, it was snatched out of my reach with giggles and laughter.

I was tired, humiliated, bleeding (I had fallen once and had a skinned knee and elbow) and after several more such repetitions I knew they were just being mean to me but I could not stop trying. Tears of frustration, anger, and embarrassment streaked down my face but I would not stop trying and between gasps for air, I was sobbing openly.  I was going to have my pony ride!  It was promised to me and it was “authorized” and one of these times, I was going to get a grip on that handle before they could get it away from me.

We had just about reached the mid point of their trip back to their house when I heard my Father call out to me to come back to the house and stop trying to catch that ride.  I cried harder and I tried harder but still could not get it and would not quit despite the order.

The attempts had taken us to less than 100 feet from their driveway which meant the end of any ride I might have gotten.  Suddenly, from our porch my father’s voice boomed out “Let him get in the cart”.  Scott started to respond with some excuse and Daddy cut him off with “LET HIM RIDE!”.  And then they did let me get in and ride the 20 or 30 feet to the end of our driveway where I had to get out.

I asked when they were going to come back by again and they said “Not today”.  “We have to go, now”.

I longingly watched them disappear down their driveway. Slowly I turned, now crying from the disappointingly short ride and slowly trudged the long walk down our driveway and back to my house.

Daddy was already halfway up the driveway to meet me and when we met he asked me if I was ok.  I said “yes, but I didn’t really get a good ride”. 

He just picked me up, hugged me and said something about my trying so hard and not ever giving up. Years later I realized that he was trying to tell me that sometimes a dogged pursuit of something I wanted could turn into an unreasonable obsession so I should watch out for that and let go before it hurts me.

Years later, when I was in my 20s, he referred to this event and told me that he knew then that I was going to have a very hard life because I could not make a decision to stop doing something that I really wanted to do even though it might not be rational to continue to pursue it.

Through my life I have revisited this scenario and the revelation by my father that I would likely always be prone to struggle obsessively  to solve impossible problems.  I think that his telling me this eventually gave me a point of closure for that episode with the boys next door, but I never liked them, again. 

I finally knew that it was my blind desire to do that singular thing and ride in the pony cart that caused all of my pain, disappointment, humiliation and anger. That was all on me, not on Jim and Scott.  I just laid out the play and they fulfilled their roles with the props that I handed them so I was the architect of my own unhappiness.

It would be another 20 years before I would realize that disappointment can only come from depending too much on the outcome of expectations.  If a person has expectations and does not prepare a way for each of them to close in ways that will not affect them then repeated disappointment will be a predictable part of the rest of their lives.

On the other hand, the work of finding ways to explain possible outcomes will take the emotional content out of the future and replace it with focused acceptance of what IS rather than the disappointment of what isn’t.