The Mouse That Will Change Your Life

As I continue my self-declared war on clutter in the areas of our home under my control (the garage, attic and my office), I am re-evaluating the necessity of each item I find.  Today, for example, I sorted through some magazines.

Let’s see . . . hummm.  Here is the July issue of Mechanix Illustrated.  Not July of last year.

July of 1956 – the same month Tom Hanks was born.  I was seven years old.

As I scanned the Table of Contents, I discovered one article that was exceptionally prescient.   It was titled “The Mouse That Will Change Your Life”.  It was written by O . O. Binder.

Mr. Binder wasn’t referring to the warm-blooded variety of  mouse, or even the computer mouse.  The mouse referred to in this article was an acronym for “Minimum Orbital Unmanned Satellite Earth”.

Mr. Binder made the correct prediction that “orbiting around the earth at the fantastic speed of 18,000 mph, the first space satellite will herald the beginning of a new era in 1957”.

IMG_2921

Mr Binder’s prediction was right on the money!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the United States that accomplished it.  On October 4, 1957, the Russians got the attention of the United States and the world  in a big way with the launch of Sputnik 1.  And, just like Mr. Binder predicted, it circled the globe at the fantastic speed of 18,000 mph.

I remember reclining under the stars on a Cub Scout campout and watching Sputnik streak across the night sky.  It could travel from horizon to horizon in only 7 minutes.

The U.S. wasn’t too far behind.  On January 31, 1958, we successfully launched Explorer 1.

Today there are 1,980 active satellites in orbit.

I think we can all agree that there is no way I can justify getting rid of this magazine.  I’ll leave that for my wife or son to do when I kick the bucket.

Simplifying is an ongoing struggle.  I am taking baby steps.

On Saturday afternoon, I dropped off a couple of bags of clothing at Goodwill.

It was my wife’s clothing.

But I drove.

I’d say we made some headway.

IMG_2920
Table of Contents from the July, 1956 issue of Mechanix Illustrated

 

 

 

 

The Simple Life

Baby Boomer’s parents & grandparents who lived through the Great Depression developed a simple lifestyle devoid of waste.  By necessity, they lived by 4 simple rules:

  1. Use it up.
  2. Wear it out.
  3. Make it do, or
  4. Do without.

I once met a guy who lived through the Great Depression who claimed he never threw anything away.  He swore he even had a box that was labeled “STRING TOO SHORT TO USE”.  I’m pretty sure he was exaggerating.

Pretty sure . . .

Since World War II ended and Baby Boomer started arriving, the race has been on to see who could accumulate the most “stuff”.  Now garages and basements are full of stuff and storage units proliferate so people can accumulate MORE stuff.

Which brings to mind the question, “what are we going do with all this stuff?”

I have been making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of stuff in our home.  I have been only moderately successful because, as I am sorting through all my “stuff”, I am invariably delayed reminiscing about the old stuff I uncover.

And then there is the dilemma  of choosing what to keep and what to discard.   My track record in this area is spotty.   It can be summarized in four categories:

  1.  Things I hadn’t used in years but needed the day after I discarded them.
  2. Things I mistakenly kept because I thought they would some day be valuable (think 8-track tapes).
  3. Things I discarded because I thought they weren’t worth keeping (think “baseball cards”)
  4. Things I discarded because I saw no value in retaining them and was correct (think “my wife’s stuff”).

Nevertheless, I remain committed to reducing clutter around our house by following the sage advice of experts who recommend “Do it in small chunks”.

Right now I believe I’ll go make a small chunk of ice cream disappear from our freezer.

some day all this will be yours

That Great, Gettin’ Up Morning

In my humble opinion, the 1989 Civil War movie Glory contains one of the greatest movie scenes ever filmed.  The men of the 54th Regiment, an African-American regiment, are gathered around a campfire contemplating the next days battle.

One of the soldiers is portrayed by Morgan Freeman.  The gist of the speech he gave has stuck with me for the past 30 years.

“If tomorrow is our great gettin’ up mornin’, if tomorrow we have to meet the Judgement Day . . . let our folks know we went down standin’ up!”

Those words were in my mind the night before two neighbors and I planned to scale three tiers of scaffolding and re-attach a 50-lb chandelier to a 21-foot ceiling.  For good measure we planned to replace two 25-year-old ceiling fans and add a new beam at the same time.  Though that was pretty much routine for my neighbors, I was nervous enough for all three of us.

Thus my flashback to the inspirational scene from Glory and my own personal recreation of the campfire prayer meeting the night before our attempt.

If you have five minutes, sit back, watch this video clip, and reflect on the bravery of the men of the 54th Regiment.

My neighbors arrived at 8 am sharp.

 

 

IMG_2842
(l-r) Skilled Craftsmen Tom & Bill with their Apprentice – Me

:IMG_2847Here is proof I helped.  That me in the middle.  Though I am supposed to be holding up the beam so it can be firmly secured by Tom & Bill, I appear to be holding on instead.

IMG_2844
The moment of truth as the rewired chandelier is gently guided back to its original perch.  My wife, Val, is taking the pictures.

When the fixture was firmly in place, it was time for the moment of truth.

We held our breath as the switch was flipped to turn on the 24 twinkling lights.

Nothing happened.

“Turn the dimmer switch up” suggested my wife.

Voila!

IMG_2840
Let There Be Light!

12 hours shy of three weeks since the fixture fell, it was back in place.

Thank God & Tom & Bill!  It turned out to be the chandelier’s great gettin’ up morning (afternoon, actually, by then) instead of mine.

Though the large fixture is now, I guess you could say, “well hung”, the grandkids, who used to sit under the light doing homework or coloring, now make sure now to avoid what turned out to be ground zero when the light came crashing down.

 

 

 

 

Things That Go Bump in the Night

On January 1, 1972, I began keeping a journal.  That was the year I planned to graduate from college,  get married, start a career and finish my six year obligation in the Army National Guard.  On the cover of my journal I inscribed my favorite Scottish prayer.

Ghoulies & Ghosties
Front cover of my Journal from New Years Day, 1972

I accomplished all of my goals for 1972.  AND – I’ve been really fortunate in the ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties area since then.

But at 4:30 am on March 5, 2019, I took a hit in the “things that go bump in the night” category.  That was when my wife woke me from a sound sleep with the words “The chandelier fell off the ceiling!”

To which I alertly responded “HUH?”

She had been awakened by a rather large “bump in the night”.  When she went to investigate, she discovered the large chandelier that had been suspended from the 21-foot ceiling in our great room for the past 25 years was now residing on the floor of our great room.

Scaffold on ground
A Pretty Big Thing That Went Bump in the Night

The chandelier in question had been hanging from the ceiling of our home for approximately 219,000 hours (3,140,000 minutes)  when it succumbed to the law of gravity.   That’s a long time.  Maybe I’m overly demanding, but I still expected better.

It’s not the first time this large lighting fixture has been a source of trouble.  When we bought our home in 1998, the original owners (who had designed and built the home) were in the midst of a divorce.

“My wife spent our entire lighting allowance on that chandelier” lamented the husband.

As often happens in life, our calamity was caused when something little went awry  resulting in a chain reaction with disastrous results.

In this case, an apparently “too small” or “too weak” piece of metal that had been supporting the weight all these years suddenly snapped in half.  That left only a hanging electrical cord with frayed ends and a large void where once had hung a 50 lb chandelier sporting 24 twinkling lights.

Pictured above are the hanger that broke and the frayed cord where our chandelier once hung

Though I don’t recommend this as a way to start your day, looking on the bright side there are two things I’m  thankful for in the aftermath of the chandelier that waited for spring to fall:

  1.  No one was injured (or worse).  Our grandkids often use the coffee table beneath that light to color and do crafts; and
  2. When something like this happens at 4:30 am, you are almost guaranteed that your day has to get better from there.

Now for the challenging part – reattaching the chandelier to the ceiling.   I have put together a crack construction team of three:  two guys who know what they are doing and me.  The combined age of my team is just shy of 210 years.

What could possibly go wrong?

IMG_2822
First Step:  Assemble the scaffold.                                                                   Second Step:  Assemble the courage to climb the scaffold

Though I get little nervous standing on top of a 16-foot-tall platform that sways under my feet, I am a proponent of the philosophy “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain!”

Tomorrow I will put that philosophy to the test.

Worst case scenario, I won’t have to be concerned about “ghosties” any more.

I’ll be one.

If there is a next blog, I intend to title it “That Great Gettin’ Up Morning”.

If no more blogs are forthcoming, contact my wife if you are interested in buying a used chandelier.  CHEAP!

 

Wanna Get Away?

My wife and I just returned from vacation.  Though we love roadtrips, this time we flew Southwest Airlines from Missouri to Florida.  And I’m glad we did.  Winter Storm Gia would have hindered our drive to Florida and Winter Storm Jayden would have hindered our drive back to Missouri.

Though Southwest is not a “bargain” airline, I like the fact that the initial price is the final price, even if you need to make changes to your itinerary.

When I was younger and needed to book a flight, my decision on which airline to fly was based on two factors:

  1.  Is the plane going where we want to go? and
  2.  Is it the cheapest fare?

Then the airlines started adding fees to the initial cost when you arrived at the airport if you wanted special treatment.  So what started out as the cheapest might end up costing more if you needed what the airlines decided were “frills”.

Like, say, for example you wanted to bring luggage.

The last time I bought cheap tickets there was a disclaimer that the tickets could not, under any conditions, be changed and I was a fool if I expected any money back if something unforeseen came up and I needed to change or cancel my plans.  As it turned out, the tickets COULD be changed at no cost.  Just not by me.  When I went on-line to confirm the tickets the day before our flight, an extra city and 3 additional hours of travel time had been added to the itinerary I had locked in six months earlier.

Then I got “educated” at check-in about extra charges.  That went something like this:

Check-in person:  Good morning!

Me:  (Stifling a yawn while putting two pieces of luggage on the metal table in front of me)  Hello.

Check-in person (with an incredulous look on his face): You want to bring LUGGAGE?

Me:  Yes.

Check-in person:  That’s an extra $25 for the first bag and $40 for the second bag = EACH WAY.

Me; HUH?

Check-in person:  Would you like to upgrade to first class for only $312 more each way?

Me:  No

Check-in person:  Would you like a little extra leg room for only $29 each way?

Me:  No

Check-in person:  Would you like to be able to wiggle your toes for only $5 more each way?

Me:  I guess I’ll be ok for a few hours.

Check-in person:  Would you like restroom access?

Me:  Well, yeah.

Check-in person:  Fluids only are $5.  Solids are $12.  For only $15 we are offering unlimited fluid and solid disposal, plus complimentary toilet paper.  AND – we will waive the normal $2 environmental impact fee.

Me:  OK, I’ll take two unlimited specials.

Chcck-in person:  Would you like a sandwich for only $10?

Me:  My wife and I will split one.

Check-in person:  Condiments for only $3?

Me:  Nah, my wife’s passed that stage.

Check-in person:  Would you like priority seating on a life raft in the unlikely event of a water landing?  Only $10 for one or $17.95 for two.

Me:  I’ll take one.  My wife can float on her back for hours.

(Note: This may not be word for word since my head was starting to spin from making this many decisions prior to 8 am.)

So it was that for only $50 more per person than the non-stop, all-inclusive flight from Southwest, my wife and I were on our way through “SECURITY”.  There, because my wife’s titanium knees kept setting off the metal detector, she was escorted to a small, private room where a female TSA employee “patted her down”.   From what my wife described, this required about the same level of intimacy it took me to the third night of our honeymoon to achieve.

But at least we were cleared to get on the plane!

Which went something like this:

Gate person:  Thank you for flying with Untied Airlines.  We’d like to begin the boarding process by seating our Executive Sky Alliance PLATINUM members.  Please follow this red carpet please.

Ok. Now, would all Executive Sky Alliance Gold members  please board.

And now, all Executive Sky Alliance Silver members.

And finally, (after a few more passenger-grades of increasingly less value), will all Executive Sky Alliance TARPAPER members please hustle onto the plane?

AND PLEASE . . . Be careful not to step on the red carpet!

Though I seriously considered upgrading our passenger status from TARPAPER to VINYL for our next vacation,  I switched airlines instead.  I have found that Southwest rarely starts out cheaper, but the price I book is normally the price I pay.

I also signed up for TSA Pre-Certification.  Now, after undergoing an extensive background check and paying $85 for 5 years, my wife and I get to remain fully clothed while passing through airport security.

It’s a small price to pay.

Even though – at our age –  one might think they’d be willing to pay US to keep our clothes on.

 

SUN NIN FY LOK!!!

 

Lunar New Year 2019

In case you are wondering about the title of this blog, it means “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” in Cantonese.  February 5, 2019 is New Year’s Day on the Chinese calendar.  It is the year of the Pig.

I was born in the year of the Rat, as was my first grandson.  My wife was born in the year of the rabbit.  According to the Chinese, rats and rabbits are not compatible.  That, I’m certain, is why upon learning of my intention to marry her daughter, my future wife’s mother advised her “DO NOT MARRY THAT RAT!”

That’s why I didn’t take it personally.

Today my wife and I had carry-out Chinese food to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  I was instructed by my bride to “Get some long noodles!  They signify long life to the Chinese”.  To the Chinese at Stir Fry 88, they signify a $3.25 additional charge.  A small price to pay for long life, I suppose.

Our meal included fortune cookies.  Opening the fortune cookie is one of my favorite rituals of eating Chinese food.  Fortunes can range from optimistic (and boring) like my wife’s “You will be selected for a promotion because of your accomplishments”, to complimentary, like mine – “You are sociable and entertaining”.  My favorites are the funny and/or honest ones.

Here are a few of my favorites in that category:

If you have a difficult task, give it to a lazy person.  They will find an easy way to do it.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up.

Whenever anyone says “theoretically”, they mean “not really”.

Anyone who uses the phrase “easy as taking candy from a baby” has never tried taking candy from a baby.

Nothing is impossible as long as you are not the one that has to do it.

Help!  I am being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery!!

Confucius says you suck!

Happiness and success rightly elude you.

Appearances can be deceiving, but you are not fooling anyone.

I cannot help you, for I am just a cookie.

Bite me!

Only a fool would look to a cookie for words of wisdom.  And, finally,

That wasn’t chicken!

In closing, 我希望你有一个快乐和无压力的新年!(translation: I hope you have a happy and stress-free New Year!)

Funny Fortune cookie

Be Nice

IMG_2662
Meeting New People & Making Friends on Vacation

It wasn’t the best 24 hours of our vacation in Fort Lauderdale.

My wife had developed an earache and a sore throat.  We abandoned our tourist agenda and headed for nearby Broward Medical and Urgent Care.   My wife was seen promptly by Dr. Chau Nguyen and she walked out of the office clutching two prescriptions..  One prescription we were able to fill immediately at a nearby Walgreens.  The next would take overnight.

And then some.

When we went to pick up the prescription the next day it wasn’t ready for two reasons:

First, we hadn’t paid (or been asked to pay) in advance.  And,

Second, they didn’t have the ingredients.  Would “after 2 the NEXT day” be ok?  It wasn’t, so they transferred the prescription to another nearby pharmacy in their chain and told us it would be ready in two hours.

I suggested a little sun might be good idea so we headed for a fast food chicken place I remembered to pick up food for an impromptu picnic at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.  After a longer drive than I remembered it to be, we came to the chicken place.  It was closed for remodeling.  Nevertheless, a person was patiently waiting in the drive-thru lane for someone to take her order.

Next door was a Burger King.  Not our first choice, but it was convenient and didn’t appear to be busy.  Only one car ahead of us in the drive-thru.  Even so, it took awhile before it was our turn.  And then it took quite awhile longer before they took our order.

I ignored my better judgement and waited.Burger King

We placed our order and pulled around the corner to find two cars waiting for their food ahead of us.  By the time we got to the window, there was a pickup truck  and a car waiting behind us.

“Be right with you!” said the lady working the window cheerfully.

And we waited some more.

Then the honking began.

First, I thought it was the guy in the pickup behind us.  The honking continued.  If anyone has any suggestions about how to hurry when waiting for a very simple order at a drive-thru window I would be interested.  The honking continued until a woman two cars behind us had had enough.  She veered out of line, pulled alongside of us, and hollered “What the f*** is taking so long?”

This was a woman in a hurry for a whopper.

The window clerk politely hollered back “We are slammed and doing the best we can!” to which the impatient whopper-craver hollered another rude comment.  Use your imagination.

The drive-thru attendant then hollered “Have a blessed day!”  as the honking woman beside us accelerated out of the parking lot.

Whew!  That’s a big departure from the normal “Would you like fries with that?” drive-thru dialogue.

Thru the window came our bag of food.  I thanked the lady and off we headed to our picnic site.

On the way we encountered a work zone traffic jam.  As we slowed, an SUV suddenly swerved into our lane in front of us causing me to slow much more abruptly.  Prominently displayed on the back window of the SUV was a sticker that said “BE NICE”.

Nearing Birch State Park, my wife got an email.  Her prescription was ready.  Things were looking up.  We found a picnic table alongside the Intracoastal Waterway which borders the park on the west. and had our  hard-earned, not exactly hot by then, lunch.  Soaking up the sun, we watched boats pass, some of which cost more than many people would earn in a lifetime.

IMG_2628
A beautiful spot for a picnic at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale\

Feeling refreshed after a meal, some sunshine, and the absence of any high-volume arguments, we headed to the pharmacy to pick up my wife’s prescription.

“Be ready in 10 minutes!” the attendant said.

“But we got an email saying it was ready” I responded.

“It was wrong” said the attendant.  “Come back in 10 minutes.”

With the wisdom displayed on the back window of a crappy driver I nearly rear-ended running through my mind, I pulled around, parked in the warm sunshine, and cooled my jets.

“Be Nice!”

It sounds a lot easier than it is some times.

Be nice