Saturday, January 31, 2009

Taking the weekend off!

There will be no post at this time. I had a cardioverter defibrillator implanted in my chest Friday and am recovering from that surgery. If all has gone well and I do get home Saturday, I’ll try to return to posting Monday. Thank you for checking in today.

Edited Sunday morning: For anyone interested, the procedure went exactly as planned with no problems. I'm home, recuperating, and all seems to be well.


Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Implant Day, at last!

Today will mark my final post for a few days, but the results of what happens today will determine whether it’s just through the weekend or longer. Today ends an adventure that began several months ago when my cardiologist first said to me, “We need to start a conversation. No decisions will be made today, but we must start thinking about the future.”

I have now passed the seventh year of my heart attack. Statistics show that second, and usually fatal, attacks occur just about seven and a half years after the first. There is a device called an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) that can, in many people, change that statistic and add more time to the human life.

An ICD is like a Pacemaker with additional functions. When the heart speeds up, it acts as a defibrillator and shocks it back to normalcy. When the heart slows down, it paces it to normalcy like a Pacemaker. That's a mild oversimplification, but it gives the idea.

A miniature computer in a smooth case is implanted in the chest just below the left collarbone. Lead wires are run to the heart through arteries and inserted. Once activated, the heart is forced into rhythmic abnormality. If the device is working properly, it will correct the heart beat. I think I’m glad I’ll be under general anesthesia when the test is made.

Although there are several types of heart disease, the most common one is blockage. The arteries get blocked over the years preventing a good blood flow. I’m guilty of most of the causes of blockage: obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise. I have been taking drugs called “statins” to control my cholesterol, but they haven’t been perfect.

The road to today started when I was hit with what doctors call a Triple-A, an Abdominal Arterial Aneurysm, which burst. Most people bleed to death internally when a triple-a occurs. Mine happened just before dawn one morning back in November, 2001. I have a wife who is unbelievably solid in a crisis. She remained calm and called for Rescue.

The fire department is only about a mile from my home and the paramedics were here right away. Fortunately for me, they recognized what was happening and I was soon speeding to the hospital. I was still alive.

When we got there, another break occurred; one of the area’s best vascular surgeons was just arriving for his morning room visits. He saw me coming and immediately called for surgery. As I was being wheeled to the operating room, the last thing I heard was the optimistic voice of a nurse: “He does have a living will.”

Time was running out; and it did. I died on the operating table. Well, at least my heart stopped because it had run out of blood and didn’t know what to do. That’s an event that can’t happen in a better place, an operating room in a hospital. The surgeon later told me my body was fighting to live so hard he simply couldn’t let me go. I love that dedication.

While I was there, the decision was made to check my heart to see if there was any damage, and that’s when the blockage was found. That “road” I mentioned had actually begun many years ago, but not discovered. A heart surgeon was consulted and soon I underwent a four-way bypass. Recovery was/is slow and I still have heart disease and my heart’s pump function has now dropped to 30% or lower efficiency.

I still have those little bubbles, aneurysms, in my arteries and have them checked annually. The heart, however, has become the critical concern.

Those of you familiar with the bell curve know that in that curve, if one hundred students, for example, take a test, 5% might get an “A” and “E” while 15% might get a “B” and “D.” The other 60% would get the average, “C.” These numbers may vary somewhat, however.

Persons who have a first heart attack usually become susceptible to a second, often fatal, in that “C” range, which is in the vicinity of seven and half years after the first. My seven and a half years comes in May of this year. After that average range is crossed, the chances for a second attack drop off dramatically.

My cardiologists hope the ICD will help get me past that average. And so today one will be implanted in my chest. The operation itself is relatively low risk and I should be returning home tomorrow. If all goes well as it should, I could be back Monday, but the doctor says I’ll be relatively inactive for about four weeks.

My plea to anyone reading this is to undergo tests your personal care physician may suggest. Prepare a conversation with your doctor about heart health. Learning much earlier than I could save you the kind of situation in which I now find myself. This is not a fun trip, and it can be prevented or controlled with early education about heart health.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

A day later

Nature can be extraordinarily destructive. She can cause many problems for homeowners and businesses. Cities and towns see their budgets eaten up by Nature. Yet, she can be almost unbelievably beautiful. And so it was for yesterday’s snow storm through our area.

We spent much of the day watching the snow piling up in our yard. I have a fairly limited view even though I have only one real close neighbor. Well, two if you count the guy on the other side of some trees, through which I can’t see, that separate our properties. I’ve never met him.

Actually, trees separate me from the world on three sides. One home, neighbor Ed’s, and a field are my front view. When there are no leaves, I can see a condominium development closer to the road. Those trees and other things bush around our home provide me with the beauty we call our home.

I know a lot of work faces us today, but Gator Wife will get stuck with most of it. Of course neighbor Ed moved most of the stuff off our driveway and parking area for us. He has a plow. A big one. My contribution will be limited to moving stuff GW shovels off the porches/steps. She’ll push the stuff onto the ground and the Green Machine will blow it away.

I’ll also blow away the snow close to the house and directly in front of the garage. I’d guess the two of us will have an hour or so out in the fresh air. I wish I could do more to help her and perhaps, with my new computer controlled electric heart, I’ll be able to do more next year. I get my ICD tomorrow.

I’m not sure how much Gator Golden likes this weather. She can’t walk in areas away from the plowed places, yet she needs to go out a bit to take care of some natural duties. It’s almost funny watching her sort of hop through the snow. If I can get a picture of her in the deep snow while we’re out cleaning, I’ll edit this around noon to include the picture.

There is one more item on today’s events list. The eye glasses place wants to make another adjustment in my new glasses I can’t see through and have me keep them at home for a couple of days to see if I adjust to them. I sort of have something else on my mind for a few days at least, but I will get the glasses this morning and give them the requested try. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who knows where this is going to end up.

We’ll be staying pretty close to the nest today, except for a couple necessary short errands, and probably spend some time watching the fire in the fireplace. I head for the hospital tomorrow so today hints of being an extremely long one. Don’t forget to check on your elderly neighbors to be sure they’re O.K. Don’t overdo in your cleanup activity and please, stay safe and warm.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Stormy Wednesday!

My goodness gracious! All the reports indicate we are going to get a whole pile of snow today. At 6:45 this morning, the “feel” of a storm had reached our area, but the flakes hadn’t. They’re going to start momentarily and then the snow will pile up. We haven’t had any snow for quite a while; so from what I understand from the weather people, we’re going to make up for it today.

The forecasts call for anywhere from 8 to 18 inches of new snow before it all ends. We here on the south side of Route 1 could have the lesser amounts as rain/sleet is expected as the storm winds down later today.

Gator Wife headed out for work shortly before six this morning and she reported there were no problems then. That’s confirms the statements on the TV. But by the time noontime arrives, it could be coming down at a pretty good clip. She comes home before noon, so I’m hoping it stays light until she gets home.

Gator Daughter had already taken this week off from her work. She’ll spend the day with her dog at her home and probably do some cleaning out this evening, assuming the storm settles down by then. If not, then she’s got all day tomorrow.

The crawl on the bottom of the TV screen is already listing the school and job cancellations and parking bans. And the list is very long and includes most, if not all, schools in Cumberland and York counties.

As for me, I'm hoping my good neighbor Ed has his plow out either tonight or tomorrow and moves the bulk of what falls in my yard for me. I’m sure WG won’t clear the porch, steps and deck until tomorrow when she’s normally off. I know it’ll be tomorrow before I head out with the tractor to clear up what the plow leaves behind.

Today is the day my group of fellow retirees would normally meet for our last Wednesday of the month luncheon. I haven’t heard from anyone this morning so I don’t know how many will show up. I’d hope none of them take a chance traveling in this stuff today. I certainly won’t be there and I heard from my Fearless Friend yesterday that he wouldn’t go either.

I’m expecting a phone call today from the optician guy who’s trying to make my glasses work. When I went there Monday, again I couldn’t see out of the new ones. He gave me some cockamamie story about my new frames being smaller than my old ones and the problem was grinding the lenses to both meet the frame size and prescription.

We both know that’s really poppycock. Both GW and FF have gotten new glasses in the past year. Both got smaller frames. Both asked about the size and prescription compatibility. Both were told by their opticians that any lens can be made to fit any frame. FF may be the only person I know whose eyes are as bad, maybe even worse, than mine. Of course his current surgeries for cataracts are changing all that.

I guess the guy had to come up with some excuse why two attempts to get me new glasses have failed. I also think he knows I didn’t buy the story. But I’m giving him another chance. I used to be a baseball umpire (yea, even with my eyesight the way it is) and if my memory is still anywhere near O.K., there’s something about three strikes.

My problem, of course, is timing. I’m heading to the hospital Friday for a procedural implant and I doubt there’s any way the new glasses will be ready. I also don’t know how long the doctor will keep from traveling to Saco so I’m not sure now how much longer I’ll have to wait for the new glasses. Considering my doubt about their being ready this time is rather strong, that wait could be a long one.

If the storm should continue into tomorrow, I won’t be going to my senior fitness session, either. If that turns out to be the case, it won’t be until March before I can return there. Too bad, too. I had a rather good workout yesterday and even made it through a whole routine on that darned balance ball. The heart doc has already told me I can’t do the workout for at least four weeks.

And then Friday comes. I am both looking forward to it and dreading it. The implant is low risk, but then it’s my heart that getting the tinkering.

Stay dry, warm and safe as this storm passes us by.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FF's Guest Post, Part II

Regular readers of this BLOG know that the ole Gatordude asked me to share my experience as I go through cataract surgery. In an earlier post I described what I knew about the procedure and that I was looking forward to getting it done so that I could get on with my life.

Part of “my life” would normally be spent in Florida at this time of the year. However, due to scheduling the surgery, that trip had to wait until my vision was corrected. I could see well enough in the daylight, but night vision had become difficult for me and I did not want to head off on a 1500-mile trip under those conditions.

I arrived at the Maine Eye Center in Portland, Maine at the scheduled time and went directly to the surgical office. A very nice lady reviewed my paperwork with me, put drops in my eye, and gave me a surgical gown.

(Now before the Gator gets too excited about me in a surgical gown, be assured that this goes over my regular clothing!) GiM adds: Gee, thanks for the clarification!

She also asks me which eye will be operated on today, insures that I have someone to drive me home and puts his name down on one of the handful of forms. From there I am directed to the waiting area. I am 2nd in line.

In about 10 minutes a nurse comes to get me and I am taken to the pre-op room, where a heart pressure cuff is attached, an IV line is inserted and, once again I am asked which eye is scheduled. I respond the left and she puts a black magic marker “X” on my left cheek and wheels me out into the corridor.

There is a small desk in that area and shortly the anesthesiologist comes with her clipboard and gathers more data, including asking which eye will be operated on today. She explains that I will not be totally “under” and that they use enough happy juice to make me comfortable during the surgery.

From there I am wheeled into the operating room and hooked up to the appropriate monitors and devices. They do everything possible to make me comfortable including padded arm rests, a pillow under my knees and (are you getting a theme here) ask me which eye will be treated today.

They turn on the happy juice and the surgeon inserts the tools into my eye.

I am aware that something is going on in the eye, but there is absolutely no pain! I can feel water going into the eye and all of a sudden I can’t see the ceiling! Then I can feel him inserting what I assume to be the new lens.

What I can see now looks like a close-up of wrinkled cellophane or broken glass. Then, as he makes some adjustments, the ceiling reappears. I am (was) very nearsighted but the ceiling is clear and sharp!

I would estimate that the time in the actual operating room couldn’t have been more than 15 or 20 minutes. After the nice lady started the “happy juice,” I might have lost track of time.

I am then moved to the post-op area where I am offered something to eat and drink and a clear plastic shield is taped over the repaired eye. Through the shield I can read the calendar on the wall! With the new eye! With the other eye I see a just a blur on the wall, which is normal for me without my glasses. Wow!!

I was given a bag containing dark glasses, post-op instructions, and 3 bottles of eye drops to be administered 4 times a day. I didn’t really need the dark glasses on the ride home as it was an overcast day and the light did not seem bothersome. Through the shield I could read road signs and experienced generally decent vision.

That evening I had to remove that shield so that my wife could administer the eye drops and was amazed how well I could see with the new lens implant. I finally took the shield off for a little while and watched TV with no trouble at all. As instructed I wore the shield to bed and took it off the next morning for the day.

The next day I went for my follow-up visit with the surgeon. The lady that does the work-up before I see the doctor examined the eye, took pressure readings and did a vision test. I scored 20/20! Before the implant that eye measured something like 20/400 or worse. It is still hard to comprehend how that happened.

This is routine work for the Maine Eye Center; my surgeon does 15 to 17 cataract surgeries a week and everyone that I have talked with all say the same thing – this is normal. Another remarkable thing, in my view, is that this process has been pain free. The surgery was last Thursday and as I write this Saturday night, I am as very happy man.

I get the right eye done in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait,I just may put a black “X” on my right cheek.

FF (GiM’s Fearless Friend)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some Questions to Ponder

My weekend was a rather uneventful, normal weekend for me. We didn’t do much except get caught up on some rest. Gator Wife had decided Saturday morning we wanted a turkey and we wanted it cooked early enough to give our daughter some to take home. To do that, the day had to start much earlier than normal on a Saturday.

I have a rather unrealistic expectation of sleeping at night. I say “unrealistic” simply because I’ve hit an age when there’s usually a nightly wake up call. I need what sleep I can get. So, when I get an early wakeup call as I did Saturday, it puts the whole day into a sleepy mode. In this case, it put the whole weekend into that mood.

While just hanging around and watching some very awful television, a bunch of question ran through my mind. Here are some of them:

**There was an auto race on the TV. I’ve never seen that particular race before. Before it began, the announcer proudly pointed out a Rolex watch, one that looked even more expensive than most Rolexes. He said it was a “one of a kind” watch and the winning drivers got it. It seems more than one class of cars were racing at the same time.

My question: How many “one of a kind” watches were there? Just how many does “one of a kind” mean?

**I’ve noticed that according to the Time Warner Cable guide on the internet that Rice University has played the Texas Longhorns somewhere around 20 or more times this season. Ever since the season began, a description in the listing pointed out that Texas thumped Rice rather badly last season. I guess Rice keeps going to Texas to try to get revenge.

My question: Does anyone ever proofread those listings? Or, if the games really are being played, couldn’t the listing be updated at least to give their records this year against each other? And while we’re on the topic of TW on-line guide, why doesn’t it list all the channels the cable company offers?

**During a discussion in the Oval Office the other day, a Republican leader objected to one of the stimulus plans of President Obama. Obama reportedly said, “I won the election and winning trumps losing.” So much for wanting bipartisan support in Congress. Both House leader Pelosi and Senate leader Reid picked up on the phrase.

My question: Do our two senators still believe by voting for Democrat proposals they are bipartisan? Or are they beginning to get a suspicion they’re being played for fools? But then being more D than R anyway, they probably still believe they’re part of a bipartisan Congress.

**All during his campaign President Obama promised that he would not appoint a lobbyist to his group of leaders and insiders. In the first hours of his taking office he issued a decree that no lobbyist would be in a position in his administration. The very next day, he amended that order to exclude at least one lobbyist from the decree and nominated a defense industry lobbyist to be deputy Secretary in the Pentagon. (This was also a discussion yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press.)

My question: Since it only took a couple of days to break his word once, how many of those promises will he break in the next few months? Has he set a tone where it’ll be hard to trust him at his word? Will it signal a very early end of the so-called “honeymoon period?”

**A large portion of Governor Baldacci’s budget cuts to meet a revenue shortfall will leave the burden of paying for mandated programs to local communities. One example is the cut in the state’s education budget without cutting state mandates for schools. There are no cuts in taxes at the state level.

My question: How are taxpayers saving anything with these cuts? Since state taxes will remain intact, doesn’t that mean local taxpayers will have to pay higher taxes?

**The state is trying its darndest to institute universal health care so its insurance disaster Dirigo wasn’t touched. Doctors and hospitals will take a hit as the state will cut some Medicaid payments. The governor does say that IF the federal government offers a bailout to states, part will go to the 450-million-dollar debt the state already has with doctors and hospitals.

My Question: If the state can’t pay its medical bills now, how on Earth does it think it will be able to pay them through Welfare? Couldn’t we reduce our health insurance costs dramatically by simply eliminating some mandates in coverage? Like men having to be insured for pregnancy? Like allowing residents to find insurance in another state?

**Now just a comment without a question: Cities and towns are gearing up to fight a proposal to lower the excise taxes on vehicles. They say they need the money to maintain our streets and roads. (We’ve all noticed the great job their doing with the tax, haven’t we? Whoops! A question.) Gator Wife and I were talking just the other night about buying a new car to replace one of our ten-year old ones.

We agreed the excruciating excise tax based solely on the sticker price, not on the actual price and use, would not be worth it just to have a new car. When one buys a car, one already pays sales tax, a registration fee (which because it is a government collection is just another name for tax), and a huge excise tax.

We note that new car sales are down and one dealership in Sanford announced it was closing. And yes, the credit crunch is a major part of the problem.

There you have it. Some questions to ponder as we begin this last week in January. Perhaps your Congress people or Legislators could help you with the answers.

**Oh, here’s a final ‘My question’: Will I ever get my new glasses? I’m losing faith in a optometrist/optician group in Saco I’ve done business with for many, many years.
Edited 2:35 PM to add: A call came today that my glasses were ready. I drove to Saco to pick up my new glasses. I'm still waiting for my new glasses!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's another weekend

The weekend has arrived. And a good one it should be, too. At least as far as the weather is concerned. There are no storms in sight, although there is a possibility that some places will see a snow shower or two. “Not every place will get the showers,” said the weatherman. It will be colder, however, as temperatures are expected to drop.

It was Gator Wife that got me up early this morning. She’s had a frozen turkey in the freezer for a couple of months. I’m talking about that freezer that’s part of the refrigerator, not a standalone freezer we have down cellar. That one has been shut down to conserve our electric bill.

Although it is a small turkey, it took up a goodly portion of the ‘frig freezer. She was looking for something different from our normal fare and thought making room in that freezer and having a good meal with sandwiches during the week would be a good idea. So today we got up early to prepare it for cooking. She has been thawing it out for a couple of days.

It is a small bird and will be completely cooked before noon. So why on Earth did we get up so early you ask? If you have kids who’ve left the nest, I don’t have to tell you. GW totally believes that our daughter could not possibly survive if we didn’t occasionally give her food. Understand, she is not only gainfully employed, but also she’s in a supervisory position and makes good money.

She can and does buy food for herself and she’s really a good cook, too. But GW’s mother always had food for us before she passed and I guess GW learned that’s the way to do things. So every weekend when our daughter comes over, about noon so her mother can feed her lunch, she’ll leave with some goodies. This weekend it’ll be half a turkey.

She works hard for her supply, most of the time. In the spring and summer she gives countless hours helping her mother with five gardens. In the fall she spends those Village construction weekends helping us. But there’s not too much to do this time of year. She still loves the opportunity for her dog and ours, sister Golden Retrievers, to romp and socialize outside.

So she’ll be here probably both days this weekend like she is most weekends except when it’s extremely cold or foul outside. He probably wouldn’t ever admit it, but her old dad looks forward to the time with his daughter, too.

There are times when we wish our son and his family lived just a little closer. We’d love to spend some time with them, too; but that simply isn’t in the cards for a young family living about three thousand miles away.

I feel very good this weekend for my Fearless Friend. He had his follow-up visit with the doctor that removed a cataract from one eye and replaced the lens. That was Thursday. Friday he got a total two thumbs up. His vision in that eye is now 20-20 and all restrictions have been lifted already. Great doctor. Great patient. FF will have his other eye done in two weeks.

Now I’ll be spending the week thinking about my upcoming event. On Friday I’m having a Cardioverter device implanted in my chest to help my heart. I hope I’m as good a patient as FF and my heart doc is as good as his eye guy.

But first, after a two month layoff because of the holiday season, my group of fellow retirees meets Wednesday, the last Wednesday of the month. I wonder if FF will continue to join us now that he can see the food he’s eating.

Have a great weekend and we’ll see you again Monday.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Great result for FF

The weather people tell us that today could be a lot like yesterday, although perhaps just a little cooler. The temperatures on the weather board this morning indicated more similar ones as yesterday.

It was funny watching the evening news last night as the two anchors and the weather guy actually acted rather giddily over yesterday’s temperatures crossing above the freezing mark for the first time in quite a while.

There’s a chance it could reach that magic 32 degrees again today; but if it does, it probably won’t get much higher. A cold front will bring a return to the colder temperatures over the weekend, though.

Here’s a little update on my Fearless Friend (FF) who had cataract surgery on one of his eyes yesterday. The procedure seems to have gone far better than even he had anticipated.

FF sent me an e-mail yesterday telling me the patch was already off his eye and had been replaced with a protective glass shield. But he could see out of it and was told he could use his eye as much as was comfortable for him. In his own words…

The new eye continues to improve by the minute. And I am not rushing things and know that it will need time to settle down. Presently I am taking 3 different eye drops. One is an antibiotic, one promotes healing and I am not sure of the other one, but I suspect that it may be a lubricant. Remember that scratchy feeling that I had? Well, that is already gone. I still can’t believe the sharpness of the colors. A good example might be looking at the walls of an old room that had cigarette smoke on the walls and looking at them again after the walls were painted. That is the difference that I see between the new lens and the other eye. The eye is still a little dilated, and vision continues to improve as the pupil closes. When I took a look at the eyes in a mirror there is no difference between the clarity of the whites of the eye. Just a slight trace of red in each. I cannot find any place where there was an incision. None!

“Don’t worry, I am not pushing anything. My enthusiasm is only that I am so far ahead of where I thought I would be in only a few hours. I hope that I get to see the eye chart tomorrow and see where I am with respect to that magic 20/20. And in saying that I will not be disappointed in the least if it is not 20/20. I already know that I could function with the bare eye if necessary. That is something that I have not been able to do for 60 years.

FF also said he only has to wear that glass shield through last night, and then only nights for a week so he won’t accidently rub or scratch his new lens during the night. He has his other eye done in two weeks.

I am very happy for my friend and selfishly hope my own experience of a defibrillator implant next Friday goes as well.

Shifting gears a bit, I suspect you’ve read of another screw up in Augusta. As a result of double posting, the state is another 11 million dollars in the hole. The officials are blaming everything for the mess except themselves. Naturally it was a “computer glitch.” I’ve been working with computers since the very early 1980s. I’ve taught computer applications. And I’ve managed two different computer networks…one I designed with public domain software and later a Novell network.

Computers only do what people tell them to do. Nothing else. I seriously doubt the latest Maine government mess was a “computer glitch” but rather it was a human who pressed a wrong key or entered wrong information. Even if it were a program fault, that would be because a human messed up the program. Want to bet no one loses his or her job or even gets a serious reprimand for this screw up?

I have read accounts on line and I’ve seen accounts on NBC news of Caroline Kennedy’s decision to drop out of consideration to replace Hilary Clinton as a Senator from New York. In each case, the headline or lead sentence gave the reason as a potential tax problem or problem with a housekeeper. In the stories I’ve read or seen, there has been not one single word explaining these two charges. The reports just go on to say she withdrew for “personal reasons.”

Even if later reports which I did not see amplified the information, I’d call saying what was said in the earlier reports totally misleading and extremely poor reporting. And the news media wonders why news organizations are losing credibility.

Just to be clear, my comments here concerned the news media and not Caroline Kennedy.

Now it’s time to start thinking of the weekend.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

A little This; a little That!

Today is the day my Fearless Friend undergoes his cataract surgery (See Mon. Jan. 19th post – “It's cataract removal time for FF”). The procedure itself doesn’t take too long, perhaps 15 minutes up to a half hour, but the recovery time can be a short while. He will be home soon after the operation and the bandages won’t be taken off his new eye until tomorrow. I hope to hear from him in the not too distant future on how he is doing.

I doubt he’ll take the time to read this before he goes, but if he should, FF: I’m with ya, Bud!

Edited 1:20 PM: I've heard from FF that his cataract surgery went extremely well. Instead of a patch, he has a clear film over his eye and is allowed to see through it. He reports that he's amazed at both the clarity and color through his new eye, but there is a conflict with the eye yet to be repaired. He sounded very happy with the results in his e-mail message to me. I'm very happy for my friend and am glad part I of his two-part event is successfully behind him.

I did attend my senior fitness session today. I took Tuesday off from my exercise routine because of a doctor’s appointment. It sounds funny, I know, but taking a day off takes its toll even though there are always days between sessions. I’d guess it’s a psychological thing.

I was in a foul mood yesterday, but it did wear off. I had planned to get a haircut; but when I went to the barber shop, I found quite a long waiting line. The parking lot was absolutely packed with cars and some were even parked on the street next to the place. I didn’t get a haircut. That was O.K. as my goal is to have it done before I go to the hospital next week. Still plenty of time.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I took the car to an automatic car wash. My white with salt and road splash car turned green again. That pleased me. By the time I got home, it was no longer green. At least I got one layer off.

I’ve been slowly working on the season’s worst undertaking. Income taxes. I’ve never done it this way before as I’ve either waited until the last minute or simply taken the required materials to an accountant and let him resolve the forms. I didn’t have anything to do after I got home yesterday morning, so I printed both the state and federal forms off the Internet.

Some of my W’s and 1099’s and other forms have begun arriving so I decided to try completing the tax forms myself, a little bit at a time. As the stuff arrives, actually. Very discouraging. Of course not everything is in, yet, so I won’t really know how it turns out until later. It is a mental exercise, but I suspect I’ll end up giving a check to my accountant.

Yesterday was President Obama’s first full day in office. I hope all of you are following his activities. It’s going to be hard to keep quiet while hope fades.

And have you noticed that, under the guise of bipartisanship, our two Senators are not even attempting to fool us with their Democrat leanings?

The banks want more money. The auto manufacturers want more money. What did we say back when the “free” money giveaway began? Are you now better off? Oh, yes. We’re told it’s going to take a while. I wonder where our economic status will be when that “while” finally gets here.

Hmmmm. I think the old Gatorman is getting back into a ranting/raving mode.

And I still don’t have new glasses!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A foul mood!

I’m in a foul mood today, so you might just want to skip me and move on.

The “Big Day” is over. We have a new President of the United States. I didn’t see the whole proceedings for various reasons, but what I did see was certainly impressive. I missed the inaugural speech but have read it posted on-line and have seen bits and pieces of it on various portions of the all-day news shows.

The pageantry was spectacular. It should have been considering the cost. I guess that was a nasty comment, but I can add to it. It would be hard to believe that the nation is in economic despair with the money thrown around yesterday.

Seems like it was only a little while ago when the news media was being very critical of money spent on the Republican inauguration. I wonder where the comment was this time.

I said yesterday we must all support our new President. Let’s hope he can turn all that hope and change into reality. He says we have to give him a lot of time to do it.

I normally mention my senior fitness class on Tuesdays. There are two reasons why that wasn’t mentioned yesterday. First, I had already planned the post for the inauguration of a new President. Second, because of an appointment with my cardiologist, I had to cancel my session at senior fitness. I’m not looking forward to tomorrow. Just one day off can raise havoc with the routine.

I met with one of my two cardiologists yesterday to have a full explanation of the procedure I’ll be having next week to have a device inserted in my chest to give my heart some help. I’ve been calling it by a secondary name for the past several weeks. The ICD is an implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator.

I had my heart attack just over seven years ago so I’m now in a critical stage for another one, probably a fatal one. The ICD is designed to help me get through this period. My surgery is slated for a week from Friday and on that day; my post will be the full story.

Another interesting development also occurred yesterday. I had hoped I’d get a call from the optician that my new glasses were ready. Sure enough, mid-afternoon yesterday the call came. Before I could get out of the house, a second call came. It was a mistake. My glasses weren’t ready after all.

There is a particular body function that usually ends with “off” when verbalized that best describes how I reacted. I rarely swear but that second call caused me to use a specific word in an email to my Fearless Friend. I’m ashamed I did that. I have become totally unhappy with an outfit that has served me extremely well for many years. I probably shouldn’t form a negative opinion, but I’m not happy.

I had my first exam on Dec. 31st. I know it was the holiday season, but the wait for the glasses was too long. When they finally did arrive, they were wrong. The doctor’s prescription was correct, but the optician department didn’t align the lenses correctly.

I had to wait more than a week before the doctor would become available to me to check the findings. The doctor’s work was correct. The person charged with making the new glasses was called in to do the measuring for the frame. That was last week. Another holiday, another delay.

The call came today; then it was cancelled. I’m still waiting. I’ll do my best to control myself when I finally get there to pick up the new glasses. I’m not sure I’d want to be facing me.

Perhaps that call is why I was so negative in the beginning with my comments about President Obama. Perhaps not. I would have thought a good night’s sleep would have gotten me out of the negative mood. It didn’t.

Because of previously planned posts, I didn’t get to comment on the Sunday snow storm. It was a pip. We got about 15 inches of new snow on our deck. But it certainly was pretty out there. And the light, fluffy snow was real easy to clean up at our place. I hope it was at yours, also.

This post has done one thing: It has gotten me mostly out of my foul mood. I guess articulating a problem helps. I still keep thinking of that eye place, though.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Era Begins!

This is quite a day in American history, one that will itself become a major part of history. Today the nation’s first African-American will be sworn in as President of the United States of America. A new era begins. Barack Obama replaces George W. Bush.

Perhaps it is very fitting that the new President takes office just one day after the country honored another African-American for beginning the journey that led to today. Although Martin Luther King, Jr., didn’t survive an assassination in 1968 to see today’s historic event, the event is possible because of his efforts that began in 1955, more than a half century ago.

I remember 1955 well. It was the year I graduated from high school in Portland. My parents had moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, the year before and within a couple of hours of my graduation, I was on a plane heading south to join them.

They had bought a home in Gulfport, a small bedroom community just outside St. Pete. I landed a job with a St. Pete newspaper and held it for a year when school once again beckoned me. My dad had become the manager of a building supply company so it was rather easy for me to get a summer job.

Meanwhile, events that because of my upbringing I totally didn’t understand erupted. Racial tensions, even small riots, broke out. I never was involved with any of those events as they were primarily in nearby Tampa in our area, but they flooded most of the south and some northern cities as well.

1955 was also the year that Baptist minister Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began his assent as a civil rights leader. He was the leader in 1955 of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, triggered by the refusal of Rosa Parks to move to the back of a bus after a white passenger boarded.

Dr. King became a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement and remains today as the symbol of that movement. He believed and led civil disobedience and other non-violent protests demanding equality of the races. In 1963 he led the famous March on Washington and delivered his now very famous “I have a dream” speech.

It was the beginning of law changes that were designed to give the equality Dr. King demanded.

Part of his “dream” was to see an African-American ascend to the Presidency. Today, that dream was realized.

That summer job my dad gave me also gave me my first interaction with a Black. I was assigned to work in the window department which prepared windows for customers. We installed and repaired the operating mechanisms as well. The windows on which I worked were jalousie windows, which had hand cranks and small glass slats. About half my work was in-house and the rest out in the field.

The first day I arrived to learn how to make/install/repair these windows, I met the first man of color I can remember meeting. O.B. was going to teach me how to be a window mechanic. We got along rather well and then lunchtime came. I asked O.B. where we ate the bag lunches we both had. “I eat out back. The white boys eat in there.” Huh? I had never run into this before and asked why we all didn’t eat together.

He looked at me with a very puzzled look on his face and then headed out back. As he went through the door, he paused and looked at me with that same puzzled expression. When we returned to work, he didn’t avoid me, but talk was very sparse.

The incident didn’t affect our working well together. Several days later I ventured into that forbidden space and asked him why he wouldn’t eat with me. He asked where I was from and I told him. He guessed I hadn’t had too much contact with “us black folk.” It was a good guess.

It was the first time someone told me, and it was an African-American, that our two “kinds” don’t mix socially and eating was a social thing. I looked him right in the eye and told him it would be a good chance to educate me. “How do you eat that’s different?” I asked. He laughed. At lunch time, he glanced toward the back door and reluctantly sat down with me to eat. A friendship was born that day.

I’ll bet that O.B., as he watches us from above now, is smiling as President Obama takes office and probably says a silent “Thank you” to Martin Luther King, Jr., for being among those getting this day started more than 50 years ago.

I don’t agree with the new President’s politics as I’m not a liberal. It has nothing to do with his color but rather with the Democrat policies that I believe will only get us further and further into crisis. Stimulus packages simply haven’t worked in the past and won’t work now. We cannot keep giving away money and borrowing into more debt to get out of debt.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama will be our new President for at least four years and as Americans, we all should give him our complete support and hope and pray I’m wrong and give him a chance to succeed.


Monday, January 19, 2009

It's cataract removal time for FF

You’ve read about my Fearless Friend here from time to time and so you already know he is facing cataract surgery. We both have had friends who’ve undergone this procedure and know it is generally painless and very successful. A short time ago, I received the following from him as he prepares for this operation which takes place this week. This account was submitted by my Fearless Friend and printed here with his permission and approval.


I have a lot of trouble with low light situations for some time, especially driving at night. In addition my left eye has become quite unstable with respect to focus making reading difficult at times. I am told that this is consistent with an advanced cataract. My left eye has been a problem for a couple of years.

Eye docs don’t like to perform cataract surgery on only one eye in very nearsighted people so I have been waiting for my right eye to “catch up” with the left. That day has finally come. After consulting with my regular optometrist and a referral to the Maine Eye Center all agree that it is time to remove the cataracts from both eyes.

In short they vaporize the lens in the eye and replace it with an implant. Modern technology allows them to correct nearsightedness at the same time usually allowing near 20/20 vision. I visited with the surgeon on the 22 of December.

I got my marching orders from Dr. Eyeball shortly after Christmas. My first eye will be repaired on Jan. 22nd and my second operation is scheduled for February 5. I also have appointments on the day after the surgeries and a week after them. In other words, my complete schedule for both eyes is now set.

I am on the list if they have a cancellation. It could be moved up. They send a prescription for eye drops that you start to take three days before the surgery and after until it runs out. I am not planning on a cancellation, but will fill the prescription just in case it happens.

No food and limited fluids are permitted on the day of the operations. The person accompanying me must be there and stay there for the duration. The staff will insure that you have someone with you. If they leave – no surgery! The operation takes about 20-30 minutes and there is an hour wait after the operation.

To reduce the risk of infection they want me to shower, shampoo, and not wear make-up, eye shadow, eyebrow pencil, and no waterproof makeup either! Clean clothing is a must and they suggest a "loose fitting neckline." Make-up, moisturizers, and fragrances are also a no-no. Something tells me that the instructions are “gender neutral!”

Only liquids are permitted the day of surgery and "You must stop ALL liquids 2 hours before your arrival time." (I guess that they know me.) Oh yes, no orange juice.

Post operation restrictions include no lifting for a week, and no driving until cleared by the doctor. Walking is okay, but no strenuous exercise. I think that clearance for driving might happen on the day after the surgery depending on success, etc.

Showers above the neck are not allowed for a period of time. Apparently, infection and physical strain are the major considerations. They do tell you that you can “use your eyes” as much as you wish following removing the bandage the day after the surgery. Complete “recovery time” is 8-weeks.

Of course there are the usual battery of insurance forms, release documents, and required forms from the government to inform me of all that can go wrong and that it will not be the fault of the doctors, clerks, nurses or the janitor.

As you know, Mrs. FF and I usually leave for Florida for three months in early January. Even though this procedure has altered our plans a little, I have every intention of being in Florida before 8-weeks after that second operation although I will have a good discussion with the medical pros to insure that is okay.

Because of other eye issues, the doc tells me I will need glasses for reading and close work. As I am presently nearsighted and have worn glasses since I was 10 years old, he thinks that I will most likely prefer to wear glasses with very little correction, if any, for distance but progressive lenses to allow reading all the time after the surgery. That will be determined after the surgery.

The only question that I have is how soon will the eyes settle down so that I can be fitted for new glasses? I prefer to have that done before we head south.

So, that starts the eye adventure. It looks like we have a plan and now just have to work the plan and look forward to seeing better.

FF (GiM’s Fearless Friend)

Today is Martin Luther King Day. I would like to add a small tribute to the man we honor this day. I lived in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area in the 1950s when race issues were beginning to boil. It was through the leadership of Martin Luther King and his peaceful resistance movement that opened the door, although a long time coming, that allowed Barack Obama to become the first African-American President tomorrow. Today we honor MLK for the changes he led in America. GiM

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Perhaps some snow this weekend

Since Monday is a holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King, we are in a long weekend. I’m sure the school kids will be pleased with this weekend as they don’t have school Monday. There’s a small chance they might be unhappy with it, too. It’s a scheduled day off so if the snow forecast for Sunday and possibly Monday is significant, they won’t lose a school day.

We’ve been putting up with some very cold weather and some of us “old-timers” know that it will take a reasonable snow storm to break us out of it. The forecast for Sunday hints there is the possibility of some significant snow. Monday was still a little “iffy” about the amount of snow, if any, for Monday.

The best weather news was that by mid week our temperatures could be reaching near 30. That’ll be downright balmy. Remember last summer when we were complaining about the heat and when the temperature dropped into the 60s, it was cold? Now we’re looking at 30s as being nice. It’s amazing how we adjust our climate perspective to the season.

If we do get some snow Sunday, there’s a good chance I’ll edit this two-day weekend post to include a picture or two. Of course, if it doesn’t turn out to be significant, I’ll continue my day off from posting. While I’m at it, if Monday’s potential storm warrants some pictures, they will be included in Tuesday’s post.

When I planned Monday’s session, I had forgotten that the day was to honor Martin Luther King. The post is already written by a guest and is not about that day.

That takes care of the looking ahead on posting stuff.

Gator Daughter and her dog, Gator Golden’s sister, frequently come to our home on weekends. It’s a two-fold purpose. It gives us a chance to spend some time with our daughter and it gives the two dogs a chance to get some exercise and play/social time.

We won’t be seeing them this weekend. The cold will keep them away Saturday as GD doesn’t like to have the dogs coming in and going out over and over from warm to cold and back. They love to be outside, but they also have a need to come inside to be sure we’re all still here.

The snow will keep them home Sunday.

Tuesday begins the end of my great heart adventure, for now. I’ll be meeting with the heart doctor who will implant a cardiac defibrillator into my chest at the end of the month. As you know if you read these thoughts with any regularity, I have heart disease. The implanted device will monitor my heart. If the heart beats a little too fast, the device will slow it down. If it stops or slows way down, the device will give it a little kick.

I learn all there is to learn, or at least all that I need to learn, during the visit with the doc. I also have to sign a bunch of papers that basically say that if I die, I won’t sue the doc or the hospital. Anytime a doctor cuts into someone, there’s some risk of a catastrophic result; but I’m assured the implant procedure is relatively low risk.

I mentioned the other day that the father of the head of the PT place I visit had the implant a couple months ago and is now feeling better and has more energy than he’s had in quite a spell. It would certainly be nice if I get the same results.

Also during the week, I’ll be heading back to Saco to pick up my new glasses…again. I was re-examined last Thursday and the prescription came out exactly the same as the one that didn’t work. It was determined that some wrong measurements, like the focal point I guess, or something like that, were off by millimeters. Perhaps even nanometers if there’s such a thing.

New lenses are, I hope were, reground and I should be picking them up this week.

I hope you stay warm and dry this weekend. If you’re one of the people who have Monday off, I hope it is a good day for you. As I said, there’s a guest poster on Monday and I’ll return Tuesday.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Cold continues; Health Care Comparison

I’ve decided I don’t like cold. I’ve been cold for several years now due to a medicine I take and this current cold weather spell simply isn’t helping a bit. Because of the cost of heating oil, we’ve cut back the heat a little in our house, and that isn’t making me happy, either.

Today should be similar to yesterday with highs only in the teens. Possibly the low teens at that. When I got up this morning my weather station said it was 12 below zero, but my computer said that it was 18 below wherever the Google thingy reads the temperature in my town. My station is dropping early this morning, though, as it now reads -14.

We in Southern Maine are getting off easily, relatively speaking, compared to northern portions of our state. There were some wind chill readings in the far north in the negative 40s and a wind chill advisory or warning has been posted for northern zones.

We’re all buttoned up here in our little home. Curtains are closed and we’re layered in clothing. We’re trying to keep the heat from burning too much oil, but at my age and condition we won’t allow it to get cold here if we can help it.

Poor Gator Golden doesn’t understand what’s going on, though. She loves to spend her idle time out on the breezeway where she can watch the world pass by, but it’s unheated so she’s kept in. And with the curtains pulled, she can’t see out when she hears something. Poor little girl.

Like most of you, we’ll all manage and get through this spell which right now looks like it will come to an end over the weekend. The weather gal on Ch. 6 this morning reads right over a report we’ll possibly get some measurable snow on Sunday, but then our temperatures should return to being somewhat balmy…in the twenties.

WCSH-TV, Channel 6, says there’s a consumer’s group attempting to get some legislation passed in Augusta that will allow consumers to compare medical prices of both doctors and hospitals. The group, Consumers for Affordable Healthcare,
says that if people have choices like neighboring states, the cost of health care will come down. The proposed legislation calls for internet listings of various procedures and what they procedures would cost at different hospitals.

For a lot of people, the web access might offer some help and give them choices. Is that a good thing in medical treatment? I don’t know. I’m an older person and have been using the same doctor for many, many years. I have him because he had joined a medical practice I first started using since the late 1960’s or early ‘70s. When my first doctor retired, I migrated to this new one and have been with him for at least 20 years.

Would I shop around for a new doctor? The answer to that one is a simple, definitive No. He knows me and all my little conditions and quirks and when I need to visit him, he already is aware of my whole body. He doesn’t hesitate one second to tell me something is beyond his expertise and send me to someone else he trusts.

That doesn’t need to happen often, but it’s assuring to know he knows his limitations and won’t try to bluff his way through anything strange. For example, I had a spine problem a while back and immediately was sent to a spine specialist who diagnosed the problem and arranged some relief. (That’s how I got started at the physical therapy place where my senior fitness program is held and where I continue to visit regularly twice a week.)

My good doctor sent me to another good place from where I was sent to a third. I might have been able to shop around and gotten less expensive treatment, but at what cost?

I already have done a cost analysis and comparison of the medical procedure I’m facing at the end of the month. I know how much Medicare spends on an average for an ICD implant in hospitals in Maine. Knowing that changes nothing. My procedure will be held at Maine Medical Center and that’s the only facility in Maine I would consider for any heart related situation. Its heart unit is ranked among the very best in the nation.

I think that my happiness with the hospital was solidified several years ago when I was there for multiple heart events. While recuperating in my room, another patient arrived for heart treatment; and he was there after being transferred there from another local hospital by that other hospital.

I think it’s probably an excellent idea to have the information available and that alone might get patients to shop and negotiate, but in the end, I, for one, will continue to go to doctors in which I have faith and hospitals that continue to be among the best.

More cold today and tomorrow, then some moderation for the weekend. Possibly several inches of snow may come in Sunday before we get into a warming trend next week as temperatures climb into the balmy twenties.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another cold day

I’ve been to and returned from my Senior Fitness session this morning. We were listening to the police monitor before I left and it was talking about slippery driving and walking. I almost didn’t go, but I’m glad I did. The roads I use were completely bare and dry and my concerns about the condition of the lot and walkways at the physical therapy place going downhill since the building has been sold and many of the tenants have moved out proved to be unfounded.

As usual the place was 90 percent bare and dry with just a few easily avoidable icy spots. Parking and walking to the building were as easy as always. So I’m glad I got my routine in. I think I mentioned last week that I had added using the stationary bike to my repertoire. I’ve already added some minutes to that routine so it seems to be making a difference.

A good thing happened as I was leaving. The owner of the facility, the one who designed the senior group for folks whose Medicare physical therapy payments have run out, was there today and he took me aside. He had been told I was going to have an ICD implant and wanted to share his father’s experience with me. His dad had the implant a couple of months ago.

He said his father had been told it would be six to eight weeks before he’d be back doing things. It only took a couple and he was driving after the first week. The father has more energy now than he’s had for a couple of years and wants to be doing things.

It was a great confidence builder for me and took a lot of the edge off having the implant at the end of the month. I was also told I’d be welcome back to the senior group just as soon as my doctor said I could participate again. I still have three sessions before I’ll be off for a while.

Next Tuesday is when my next heart adventure begins. It involves a meeting with the surgeon who will give me an implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD). Tuesday’s meeting involves a full, complete explanation of the procedure, a Q and A session for me to get all my questions answered, and to sign all the legal documents that basically say I won’t sue the doctor or the hospital if I die.

WG will accompany me to the session. She’s much better and thinking of the proper questions to ask. I’d guess that it’s because it’s not she that’s going to get the thing. One day next week or the following week I’ll be giving you a full description of an ICD along with my heart disease. The actual procedure takes place at the end of the month.

The workman who replaced my garage door openers yesterday caught a little break. It was cold outside, 17 degrees when he began with a wind chill of minus 4.1. But the garage doors are on the east side of the garage and the wind was blowing from the northwest so he wasn’t getting the full force. Actually, out of the wind and at least partly in sunshine, it wasn’t too bad out there.

But what a difference in the doors! He found the rollers had flattened out over the years and that was why my door opened part way then stopped. Most of the ball bearings had worn down, too. He said it was a combination tension/flat wheel problem and showed me. Wife Gator was just plain lucky her door worked at all with the problems on her device and doors. Both doors are all fixed and the operators replaced and run very smoothly. I’m pleased.

Later on today I’ll be heading down to Saco for a visit with my eye doctor. I had been measured for new glasses on the last day of last year. When I went to pick them up a few days later, I couldn’t see through them. Unfortunately the doc was on vacation that week so I had to wait until today to return. We’ll find out what went wrong and get it all straightened out.

My confidence in this doctor hasn’t diminished. She’s been keeping my eyes at 20-20 for more years than I’d care to remember. One other time we had a problem, but it was quickly corrected. I suspect this time will be equally as quickly corrected.

I think the cold is freezing the blood in my head this morning. About all I can think about is the cold. Even Gator Golden has noticed the weather. She went out this morning for whatever her morning routine is and was back in within three minutes. Weather guy Kevin on Ch. 6 this morning said we’re in the normally coldest time of the year, but this spell is outrageous. The temperature might get into double digits today…10 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to be colder.

Just think how cold it might be if we weren’t experiencing global warming.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm not built for cold!!!

The cold is arriving. The weather people say today is the beginning of a very cold stretch in our area. Temperatures today won’t approach the magic 32 degree mark in the daylight hours. But they’ll start out near it. When I got up an hour ago, the temperature on my weather station was 29 degrees. The weather guy on TV said the weather really was close to that. He did promise, however, that the cold air was already arriving and the 34 or so recorded shortly after midnight would be the day’s high.

Now, an hour later, my station has already dropped to 24, five degrees in an hour, and still dropping rapidly. The wind chill here is bouncing around 8 degrees. At least we don’t have any snow out there to shovel or otherwise move. A storm earlier predicted for tomorrow in our area has now become rather iffy as the front causing it will move out to sea well below Maine.

But the temperatures tomorrow and especially Friday will be brutal. I’m not looking forward to them.

The station, which has its sensors on the roof, continues to drop. The wind chill fluctuates, but it continues to get colder with the incoming wind and cold front. This is not going to be a nice three or four days.

I sort of feel sorry for a work crew due here this morning to replace a couple of garage door openers. It’ll be very cold out in the garage. Our garage has two doors. The opener that runs Gator Wife’s door is in real bad shape. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

We’ve replaced the battery in the transmitter but that didn’t change anything. Probably the receiver could use a little TLC, but we think the unit also has a short circuit in it as it will blow out replaced light bulbs within an hour. Is it worth repair? It’s probably in the neighborhood 20 to 25 years old.

The device on my door isn’t quite so bad, but it does like to occasionally stop about two feet off the floor. That probably means there’s something in the track, but I haven’t been able to find it. It’s the twin of the other one, so both are being replaced at the same time.

The last time I had to replace a door opener was in our previous home. I performed that operation myself and would like to be able to do it this time, too. But age and some certain conditions cause me to hire out an expert. It’ll be worth it.

Because of my age, a couple years ago I had to make a choice between taking all my IRA money , schedule disbursements, or at the very least, minimum annual withdrawals. I chose the latter. My IRA was the type that was pre-tax. In other words, the income tax was deferred until I collected.

I got a letter this week reminding me that because of the stock market situation, we disbursement collectors could skip this year with no penalty. It’s a minor quandary. Do I accept the money this year and pay the taxes or do I cancel disbursement this year and save the taxes? Either way, the government will eventually get what it says is its portion.

If I defer, it will reduce my income by a few pennies. It’s a fascinating situation. If I take the deferment, will the market recover enough to rebuild all that I’ve lost? Certainly not in one year, and my “one” years are numbered. Interesting, isn’t it? Of course if I defer, whatever money is left won’t be lost as it will go to Gator Wife. I love making my mind have to do some work.

I wonder if people honestly believe that change is always a good thing. I believe that change just for change sake is a lousy idea. I really don’t know if the sports web site ESPN really thought it had a good idea or not, but I do know I think the change was a huge step backward.

Until the very recent change took place, I spent many minutes on that web site getting caught up on sports news. They had news of virtually every sport easily available. And the first page was chock full of interesting sports news. Now there appears to this eye that fullness has disappeared. What I used to easily spend up to a half hour or more being informed takes only a couple minutes now. Too bad. Their advertisers don’t get me long enough to hawk their wares anymore.

I just glanced at my weather station again and it’s now in the 22 degree range with the tenths of degrees dropping with every cycle. The wind chill has dropped into the 7’s. This isn’t going to be a nice day.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just some stuff interesting to me

I’m running a little late here this morning. My stay at the senior fitness facility was longer than usual because the owner was there telling us about the official move at the end of the month. We’ve been anticipating ever since last August or September that a move was imminent, but for reasons we’re not privy to it had been delayed. Now the official move will be over the weekend of Jan. 31/Feb. 1.

The new place is going to be rather nice and it’s just a couple blocks from its present location. Right now the company’s South Portland facility is in the former Intermed building on Foden Road. Saco Bay Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Center is moving that location up, or down depending on your perspective, Foden Road across Western Avenue to a building adjacent to Fairchild Semiconductor.

The owner invites some senior citizen clients of his who have demonstrated a commitment to exercise to join a group he sponsors at a price most seniors no longer getting Medicare help for PT can afford. Participation is by invitation only, as I understand it, and is for former Saco Bay clients. I was invited to join.

The advantage of being in this place is that there are physical therapists and athletic trainers on duty whenever the gym section is open. Although they don’t work with us one on one, they are available for suggestions and help if it is needed.

The new facility will be far superior to the great one we now use with lots of new and different equipment. All of us seniors who participate in the senior fitness program are looking forward to the new facility which will open Feb. 2nd.

Yesterday wasn’t as cold as we were led to believe it would be. Although the temperatures didn’t get over the freezing mark, the lack of wind almost made it feel like it was nice outside. We did get some snow showers, an inch or two of them, but the snow was so dry, light and fluffy, it only took a slight effort to move it away.

Today, according to the morning weather reports, should be a similar one with temperatures even perhaps reaching or slightly above that 32 degree mark. But then it will all come crashing down with some possible snow squalls and snow showers tonight will usher in some of the coldest temperatures of the season.

I’m happy for retired Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice. He finally has become a Hall of Famer, in the very last year of his eligibility. It is an honor that should have been given after that first five years of retirement. I was still a young man when he played for the Sox, but for 15 years he was one of the best players.

His long wait for the Hall of Fame call was probably a retaliation by the media because Rice was not the most available player to anyone but the team. For the most part, he simply played well, drive in runs well, hit homers well. He was an Most Valuable Player and an All-Star. What he didn’t do was pander to the media. Thus the media didn’t vote for him for the Hall of Fame.

A big campaign recently by a group of retirees for the media to take another look at Rice and his accomplishments paid off this year. Jim Rice will be going to the Hall of fame. I wonder if he’ll show up for his induction there.

The stories out of Washington are fascinating. President-elect Obama wants to hit the ground running next Tuesday when he become the 44th President of the United States. Among other things, he calling for a huge economic stimulus package to help the country’s economical crisis. Obama is a Democrat, but the Democrat controlled Congress seems to be telling him, “Just a minute, young upstart fellow. We’re still in control and we’ll show you we are.”

Congress is making the former senator work for his package. In the end, Congress will give him most if not all of what he wants, but it would appear it wants to at least pretend who’s boss. My bet is that Obama will end up being “the boss.”

All that, of course, isn’t going to change the simple truth. One cannot get out of a deficit by borrowing. Think of your own situation. If you’re in need of money and borrow more, what is the result. Of course. You’re simply deeper into debt. That’s what’s happening in Washington (and our state wants to follow suit). Get us out of the recession by borrowing us deeper into it. It has never worked the past and it won’t work now.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Nice storm to clean; Gators' Tebow to stay

That was a nice little snow storm we had over the weekend. The light, fluffy stuff was easy to handle, yet we got enough to clean up the snow cover a bit. What wasn’t nice was the bitter cold, and that was only the start of what promises to be a very cold week.

I didn’t take any pictures. I certainly could have, if my old head remembered to do it. I simply forgot. As I sit here this morning and glance at my side table, the camera there made me utter an “Oh, shucks!” or something meaning that. No one heard me as Gator Wife had already left for her part time job.

She got a call yesterday afternoon asking if she could go in a little early as the company had received a special order with which she could help. She agreed to work as she just about always does. So that “Oh, shucks!” fell on no ears except mine and the dog’s. I can’t complain as the reason for this later than usual Monday post is that I simply slept in a little.

Had I taken the camera out, GW would have had a great picture of a snowman on a tractor. We live in a very windy place and the wind here is extremely uncooperative. I kept moving the chute as I determined which way the wind was taking the snow, but moving two feet forward found a new direction.

Even pointing the part of the chute from which the snow comes almost straight at the ground doesn’t make any difference. After ten minutes or so, one would never know that under that snowman was a royal blue winter outfit from head to toe. And the tractor was so covered, it would have looked like a snow tractor with no hint of the green and yellow color. It would have been a great picture.

I was cold. When I came in GW was already inside and she had prepared some hot chocolate for us. It’s times like that when I think that hot chocolate should be among the world’s greatest concoctions.

I mentioned earlier that this is forecast to be a very cold week. The highest temperature here could be only in the low 20s, possibly the teens toward the end of the week. There’s also the possibility of some more snow this week, both tomorrow night and Thursday. If it does come, I hope it’s the kind we had over the weekend.

And I have to drive to Saco again Thursday to work on my new glasses. This will be an interesting week.

I am a Florida Gator fan, as you may have guessed. The Gators have one of the very best quarterbacks in the country. There had been some speculation that junior Tim Tebow would leave college early to go to the NFL. He announced yesterday that too many players leave early. He said he had made a commitment to the University and felt to be a proper role model, he had to complete that commitment.

Tebow is a Heisman Trophy winner (2007) and now has been on two Florida national championship teams. The Gators beat 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford and the Oklahoma Sooners for this year’s title. One of Bradford’s teammates said Tebow would only be the fourth best quarterback in the Big-12, Oklahoma’s conference. Makes one wonder how far down the list on SEC Quarterbacks Bradford would be.

This morning’s Portland Press Herald had an editorial (
I read it on line) that said that perhaps now that President-elect Obama has indicated a change is needed in determining the national champion, that government can step in and solve the problem. I’ve said here several times that a playoff system is needed, but can you remember just one thing the government ever fixed that worked well?


Saturday, January 10, 2009

A potential weekend storm approaches

Happy weekend, at least the Saturday portion. The early morning forecast on Saturday called for some snow to arrive in our area over night into Sunday, but the Saturday half should be nice. Perhaps a little cold, but nice. The Ch. 6 weather gal and The Weather Channel folk seemed to indicate that after morning snow and afternoon snow showers Sunday, it will be very cold while we’re outside cleaning up.

Yes, “we.” I got the OK to use my tractor/snow blower last week so I was able to help Gator Wife with some of the outside cleaning earlier this week. Lifting remains on some restriction so I didn’t attempt to shovel. I think, though, she was grateful for the help with the moving of the snow/sleet we got last Monday.

I think my blower needs a little adjustment as it still doesn’t get down to the black pavement like my old single stage machine did; but with the sun that came out, the melting Tuesday allowed the driveway, parking area, and front walkway all to turn black rather quickly. It’s looking like I’ll be able to get out there again Sunday.

My super neighbor will undoubtedly do any major moving of snow with his plow, especially if the depth reaches three or four inches or more. My machine probably could easily handle the depth, but we get a big wind through our yard and there just doesn’t seem to be a way to direct the snow coming out of the machine away from me. I get covered every time. Neighbor Ed’s plow sure does help in that regard.

I think GW, who is passing that “spring chicken” age herself, is stuck with most of the shoveling that’s left over, appreciates my being able to help once again. She cleans the small front and back porches, the steps and the deck, but with my being able to help with the machine, once she gets it off those areas, I can move it into the grassy area with ease.

I must say it’s very good once again to be able to help. There’s nothing much worse than a grown man, even an “older” one, watching his wife doing all that shoveling outside. She doesn’t complain, at least to me, about the situation. She knows it might be unpleasant if I try to work out there and my heart decides it’s vacation time.

My Fearless Friend tells me his wife does a lot of the work at their home, too, and saves him a whole lot of mess to deal with. He does have a machine to help. I think women folk, especially those married to their man approaching a half century, like to take care of them to keep them around a little longer. At least I’d like to believe they want us around longer.

I’ll be able to help for the rest of January, but my impending defibrillator implant will stop it again at the end of the month. I’ve been told I’ll be on restrictions for several days after the surgery, now scheduled for Jan. 30th.

It seems strange for me to be looking forward to some snow being forecast for this weekend. I will like, though, being able to help outside and not leave it all to GW and, of course, plowing neighbor Ed.

Saturday might be the only day Gator Daughter comes over this weekend. It will give our pups a chance to run and play off some pent up energy. Although both our dogs’ have yards to roam in, they seem to get a lot more of the running and romping in our yard when they’re together. Both dogs settle down for afternoon naps after GD and her dog gets home and they also sleep well at night. So it’s good for both of them.

We have no projects scheduled which need GD’s help, so we’ll enjoy a lunch and some good talk while the dogs get their exercise. They’ve learned over the years that our noontime lunches do not include them.

Because of the forecast storm, it is very doubtful that we’ll have our visitors on the Sunday half of the weekend.

We’ve missed getting some pictures in our posts this past week. I’ll dig out the camera and see if something can’t be found for the coming one. Hmmm. Perhaps GW will take a picture of a snowman riding on a tractor. Naw! I doubt he’d go for that.

Enjoy your weekend and we’ll return Monday.


Friday, January 9, 2009

A great day to be a Gator!


University of Florida Gators
National College Football Champions!

Florida 24
Oklahoma 14

Gator fans everywhere are celebrating this day. Florida beat the Oklahoma Sooners last night to win the NCAA national football championship. It was the Gators third national championship and the second in three years under coach Urban Meyer.

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow led the Gators with a determination that could not be stopped. His team beat the team led by this year’s Heisman winner. After the team’s one loss earlier in the season, Tebow took the blame. He stood before his teammates, Florida fans, and the nation and, sobbing slightly over the loss, promised that the Gators would play harder, work harder, and never give up for the rest of the season.

They didn’t, and the efforts of Tim Tebow led them, first to winning the rest of their games, then winning the SEC (Southeastern Conference) championship by beating previously undefeated Alabama, then stopping the Big 12 Champion Sooners for the NC title. Oklahoma ended the season in first place in the coaches’ poll and the Gators were second.

The whole Florida team played outstandingly. There were a couple of good pass catches and the running of Percy Harvin went a very long way to keeping them in the game. Probably without Harvin, there would be no championship. And the defense was outstanding. It did give up a few long runs, but when it counted, like two goal line stands and a major interception that put the do it to it for Oklahoma will long be remembered.

There had been some call for the University of Utah to win the NC as the Utes were the nation’s only undefeated college football team. There had been some speculation that the NC would be split between the winner of the BCS (coaches’ poll group) and the AP poll winner. The AP (Associated Press) had broken from the BCS over the use of their poll.

In the end, however, both polls placed Florida as the National Champions.

I’m very happy for the Gators. But that doesn’t change an earlier post of mine that called for a playoff system to determine the NC. No other sport championship is determined off the playing venue. There are four weeks between the end of the season and the conference championship games and the NC game, which, incidentally, will be in the Rose Bowl next year.

Most of those weeks are during the college winter semester break so school wouldn’t be affected. The bowl series could be used for a playoff system to allow all the best to play it out. Then we would have a true national champion.

I believe the Gators just might have been there this year under such a system. But that other team could have been one of several, Texas, USC, Utah, and, yes, Oklahoma among them.

But this isn’t a day for us Gators to talk about playoffs; it’s a day to be happy that our team won last night. As most of you know, I don’t stay up late to watch sports events, but I’ve always said the exception would be if the Gators were in a National Championship game. (Or the Red Sox in game seven of the World Series. Or the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Celtics or Bruins? Wouldn’t happen.)

Yes, I stayed through the whole thing last night; so being just a wee tired this morning, I haven’t considered other topics for today. So this is it. Enjoy your weekend.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another bailout claim! This one's a pip!

That was a surprise. The driving, I mean. As I looked out my window this morning, my driveway was still covered with snow and a little sleet residue. I can’t see the road from my house so I had only that to judge by. Once down the long driveway and onto the road, I was surprised to see how bare they were. The plows had done a great job, at least on the major routes I navigate.

I’ve said before just how great the company that owns the complex where my senior fitness session is held keeps the driveway, parking spaces and walkways clean. They were perfect again this morning, so I’m glad I went to the session. It was another good one and today I ventured onto a different device. It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a bicycle, even a stationary one.

That device showed me one thing; I sure do need a lot more conditioning. I didn’t push it because of my heart condition and I hadn’t had the exercise approved by my physician. I’ll do that right away as I guess I really need that device. My normal routine went without exception.

One thing that wasn’t pleasant. I pass three gas stations on my route and the price of gas is climbing very rapidly again. At one station, the gas yesterday was $1.699. Today it’s $1.779. Overnight. To make matters even more distressing, the two stations I pass in South Portland had been in the $1.54 range last week, up to $1.749 Tuesday, and $1.859 today.

I did hear on the radio yesterday that the price of gas would be back into the two dollar a gallon range by spring. I thought spring was still a couple months away. At the rate of climb this week, it could reach that level by next week.

We knew it was going to happen. Once you give something away to one group, another falls into place for its piece. First, and it was because government itself screwed up, and that includes both Democrats and Republicans, sections of the finance industry needed a bailout. Congress says it was a loan, but I don’t think we should hold our breaths until it gets paid back.

Then the auto industry saw all that free stuff flowing around and wanted its piece. It got it. Again, it was a “loan.” Again, please don’t hold your breath. Other industries joined in the parade. And it didn’t stop with the private sector. State leaders, including our own here in Maine, saw free money as a way for them to balance their books. Not everyone has gotten the requested bailouts yet, but wait until President-elect Barack Obama takes office in a couple weeks.

There were others along the way, and there will be more. In fact, the latest “industry” seeking its share of the free money is, I’m not kidding here, the Porn Industry. Does it need the money? That’s not clear. What is clear is that one of the leaders says the government is bailing out everyone else and the purveyors of porn say they are getting hit by the recession, too. They are asking for a $5 billion bailout.

The Maine Legislature now meeting in Augusta is hoping the new President will bail out the states with a massive grant. That, however, wouldn’t solve the problem that has gotten the state into its huge shortfall deficit causing the present crisis. Once the grant, if it passes Congress and there’s some doubt about that, runs dry, then how will the Legislature solve the recurring crisis. I think that proverbial bullet must be bitten now.

As I’ve asked several times over the last few months, where will it all stop? I was against the stimulus package passed last May and at the time indicated the only accomplishment it would have would be to open the money spigot. We all know now that the stimulus package stimulated nothing and was a failure. Hmm? Or was it? That spigot is now wide open.

Economists are now saying that perhaps it’s time to start rethinking all the spending. The deficit is projected to be $1.2 trillion dollars this year, and that’s before Congress enacts an economic package proposed by President-elect Obama. There’s only one way for Congress to get the money…borrow it. With interest, every American will be in debt by 35-thousand dollars to pay back the debt.

I’ve said it every time I get on this kick. Prosperity cannot be charged. All increasing the deficit or credit will do is get us deeper into the abyss.

At last, someone has told an employee to honor his contract or get out. Boston College football coach Jeff Jagodzinski signed a five year contract with BC. Earlier this week he interviewed with the New York Jets professional team for the vacant coaching job there. BC told the coach that to do so would cost him his job. Reports say Jagodzinski has been looking at various NFL openings. Yesterday he was fired.

The firing could come at a huge cost for BC, though. Reports say the coach didn’t have a “no look” clause in his contract and the firing will force BC to pay off the remaining three years. Perhaps it’s only the principle of loyalty that will win. But then who ever said sports contracts ever had any principle. Don’t confuse that with the other one, principal.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weather brings reflections

This doesn’t have the makings for being a very nice day. Snow. Sleet. Freezing rain. Maybe even some rain. Although Gator Wife has gone to her part time job this morning, I did hear from her that she arrived safely without any trouble. Fortunately for me, I have nothing planned for the day, so I’ll just stay where I’m safe and almost warm and hope my neighbor Ed takes pity on me and plows.

GW did say, though, that even in the short distance she drives, conditions were worsening. Not all schools are closed, yet as of 6:15 AM, but the list at the bottom of the TV continues to grow with each pass. Several businesses, mostly non-profits, have closed and the list of parking bans continues to grow.

This makes for a good day to offer some inconsequential thoughts so I think I’ll get a few observations off my mind.

Because of the weather, I’ve been clicking around the TV to see how various forecasts see what’s happening. In spite of all the station hype, it’s apparent they all get their information from basically the same place. Even the weather radar is nearly identical. I guess that’s the way it should be. After all, the weather is what it is.

Two of the stations use those absolutely useless straight lines going in circles trying to convince us that they are right up to date. Have you ever noticed nothing happens as they go around? No blips, no echoes, no nothing. I’d guess that might be because they don’t do anything.

Am I the only one who thinks NBC’s Meet the Press isn’t in the same class as it has been in the past? If the moderator was just one-tenth as important as he thinks he is, the show might be fairly good. Tim Russert he isn’t.

Every once in a while I rant about those infomercials on television. You know the ones I mean, all the stuff sells for $19.99 plus shipping and processing. I was talking with a nice young lady who works at my eye doctor’s office yesterday. She said she had gotten those snuggie robes that are frequently advertised. She called them absolutely fantastic and highly recommended them.

She also bought the Shamwow! And she said, “Wow!” If you get one of those, you’ll be saying, “Wow!” too. She said she never uses anything else now to wipe up moisture. On the other hand, “Wow!” wasn’t the way she described the items hawked by that bearded guy.

I saw one of those commercials the other day where the item sold for something like $6.99. The “handling and processing” charge was something like $14.95. Now that’s a bargain!

Speaking of my nice new glasses, I don’t have them. At least not for another week. I went to pick them up yesterday, which is why I was in a conversation with that nice young lady, as they were ready. I could see better before I got a prescription change. In fact, I could see better through a pair of prescriptions sunglasses that haven’t changed in two or three regular prescription changes.

After a whole lot of fiddling and diddling around and measuring and marking, the conclusion was reached that maybe, just maybe, they weren’t correct. My eye doc wasn’t there yesterday so I have an appointment next week to see what has gone wrong. I’m not worried as they will get fixed. I have a lot of confidence in my eye doc that I’ve been relying on for more years than I’d care to admit.

Getting old has some drawbacks. I’ve been watching some televisions shows lately that have featured what the shows’ hosts call “Grammy Award Winners” perform. My Lord! If these musicians are the Grammy Award winners, I’d sure hate to have to listen to the losers. Before you get too excited about my comments, I recognize that every generation defines its own music. I suspect today’s young people might have similar comments to the music my generation used to listen to. (And some of us still do.)

And that reminds me of a story of an incident that took place back in 1955. A fellow worker at a Florida newspaper and I went out to lunch one day. They had those little table juke boxes back then. He put in his coin and said, “Listen to this” and made his selection. “You are listening to the next super star of music,” he offered. I wasn’t sure where the music was, even back then. I’ve often wondered if that prediction was correct. The singer’s name was Elvis Presley.

Do you see any irony in the storm swirling outside and the opening of the new Legislature in Augusta? The Legislature is facing sort of a storm of its own: How will it resolve the income shortfall to correct the wild spending of the governor and previous governors and legislatures? That problem is a potential storm that could dwarf the nature’s storm raging outside today.

I guess being stuck at home as the weather swirls around gives the mind a chance to wander and reflect a little bit. At least I’ve enjoyed it.

And before I go, I’d like to say good-bye to an old friend and early mentor of mine. WCSH newsman Phil Johnson passed yesterday at the age of 89. May he rest in peace.

Go Gators! Beat Oklahoma Sooners tomorrow night!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday Fitness Routine back to Normal

The first Tuesday of the New Year really got the routine back into focus. The now completed holiday season wasn’t terribly kind to me. There was so much good food and goodies around that, well, to put it gently, some of my clothes tightened just a little.

That’s a condition that not too many people associated with me thought was a good condition. My wife asked if I had put on a pound or two. I had visited my doctor just before Christmas to discuss my upcoming cardiac defibrillator implant and we both were a little surprised that his scales had somehow become corrupted. Even my therapist hinted that I was getting a little sluggish.

Gator Golden looked twice before that 65-pound beast climbed into my lap. She probably didn’t think she could get there. GG thinks she’s a tiny, little lap dog.

About the only one who was kind and didn’t comment was my Fearless Friend. Of course that may have been because he hasn’t seen me in a few weeks. Nevertheless, his kindness is noted.

I won’t call it a resolution because I don’t do resolution things. But I did decide that perhaps I was getting just a little too uncomfortable. So I stopped the seasonal food. It has surprised me how fast one can get back to business when it’s absolutely necessary.

The clothing fit has returned to close to normal. I had my annual physical exam yesterday and the first thing that had to be accomplished was getting on those darn scales. I didn’t ask the nurse how much it cost to fix them from my previous visit, but the reading was within two pounds of where I had been before the holidays. I might also mention that, except for the known problems, my physical exam went very well.

Today I was able to accomplish all my tasks at the senior fitness session I attend every Tuesday and Thursday, except holidays. I don’t want to give the impression they all went well. I’m not sure I’ll ever conquer the two parts that give me the most fits.

One of them is to stand on a platform and lift a weight with my leg using a straight side leg lift. After both legs have completed their tasks, they then switch to a knee lift. Most people would have little trouble with these exercises, but most people don’t have a chunk of steel and a dozen screws in their hip.

The other difficult-for-me exercise involves standing on a semi round ball and maintaining my balance. I’ve come a long way on that one. I’ll never forget the time Lisa, the trainer who occasionally works with me and makes suggestions, first had me on that ball. Somehow I have developed a major balancing problem, probably from various medical conditions I have, and I think my three reps on the ball that first time lasted a whole ten seconds.

Gradually, I increased the time but I always had to have my eyes straight ahead a focused or off the ball I went. I’ve improved that now to several minutes at a time and, even better, I can move my arms, my head, even hold a conversation while on the ball. Nevertheless, that routine takes more out of me than any other I do.

The other exercises are normal, routine ones that just about everyone who uses a physical center do. For a few days after my heart procedure before Christmas I had reduce the activity somewhat at the doctor’s orders and I’m now gradually getting it back to where I was. I will be taking a leave from the fitness center for a while after my implant at the end of this month.

It also helps to have a good support staff and very congenial fellow seniors to help pass the time away. We do have a great albeit small group, and along with all the joking and fun talk they we offer support for each other during tough times.

Don’t misunderstand anything here. I’m not the epitome of physical fitness anyway and my doctors would love to see me lose 25 or 30 more pounds, but it does feel good to be able to participate again even if just a little. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that when one crosses that 70 year mark, probably a little earlier than that, physical fitness gets more and more difficult.

My personal road map has put me back on the right road. It’s not a resolution so I don’t have one to break, but it is a good time of the year.

Go Gators! Beat Sooners Thursday Night!