Friday, December 31, 2010

If it's Friday, This Must be Florida

We arrived here from Pittsburgh on 9th December, 2009, and our new life, such that it is, began.  There were many adjustments to be made.  This is their story.  Only the names have been changed to protect the idiots.
We moved from Pittsburgh, a place Linda called home for thirty-five years.  I was there for five.  We left a lot behind, in the way of friendships, habits, routines, and stuff.  It was hardest for Linda.  We both attach memories to things, but I guess it’s just more difficult, even it is a necessity, for a woman to decide which memories she wants to pack and bring with her, and which ones she will leave behind.  I’d spent the five years prior to meeting and marrying Linda living in two countries, five states,  and seven cities.  It was much easier to move from the sixth state and eighth city to the seventh and ninth, respectively.  Getting here was a challenge, given that we arrived to discover that the well-meaning folks who helped us packed seemed to think that what we needed most when moving to Florida was Tupperware, that what we brought with us ended randomly divided between the garage and a storage unit, and all of my clothing except the first box to be put on the truck – my suits and dress pants, dress shirts, neckties, and one of my three pair of Dockers – mysteriously disappeared somewhere between Pittsburgh and here.  I put the other things on the truck personally, but somehow they never arrived.  We drove from Pittsburgh to Virginia, and flew from Virginia to Florida.  Other than that box, the only clothing of mine that arrived safely to New Port Richey was in my suitcase.  The driver of the rental truck denies any knowledge of the location of the missing bags of clothing.
We arrived to find Linda’s Mother in what can only be described as a ‘fog’.  I’m happy to say that a year later, even with the beginning signs of dementia, she’s doing much better.  Her sugar has stabilized to the degree that her Doc reduced both her morning and evening doses of insulin and discontinued a number of her other meds.  With the sugar stabilized, she is no longer taking anti-anxiety meds three times a night, and no longer using narcotics for pain.  In fact, she only seldom requires pain meds, and even then, a single Tylenol Arthritis tablet generally does the trick.
There are some repetitive memory issues, but Linda does an wonderful job with her Mom in those areas.
We spent our first New Year’s Day here (1st January, 2010) with me sick as a dog from something only I could smell, and had a couple other odd health issues pop up (I had the same allergic reaction to the Ace-inhibitor I was taking for my BP, and to the med I was given when I had a second round of Shingles), but a week’s worth of Prednisone cleared up both problems, and I don’t take the ace-inhibitor any more.  BP is still in check.
Emmy, Linda’s elderly cat, died, but we now have Jazzy, another of our favorite breed of pet – rescue cat – who keeps us all on our toes.
After several months of trying to find a church that fit our demands – as opposed to our needs - i.e., Faith Community Church-Lakeside back in Pittsburgh, we finally caught on to the fact that God want something different for us.  Within 24 hours of coming to that realization and praying that way instead of for a cookie cutter image of where we had been, we found a wonderful church!  Victory Worship Church isn’t like anything either of us has experienced before, but the Pastor is a man of the Word and a Man of God, the people are great, and we’re both able to be active there and not bench warmers, which frankly, given my health issues, would have been my choice.  We love it!  I can’t tell you how many times when I was struggling with something in the last year, God used two different preachers, a thousand miles apart, to give me the same response in the same Sunday’s message; one live, and one in a file I was editing.  There is no way that’s a coincidence.  That’s God saying “do I have your attention now?”
Circumstances made it possible Linda’s brother to finally be able to move to be with his daughter.  It’s been a tough transition for both of them, but it’s working out splendidly for him and for his daughter.
You know the funny thing about all of this is that 35 years ago, when I left South Florida to go to college, I made it perfectly clear to God that under no circumstances would I ever make a permanent move back to the Sunshine State.  Makes me kind of wonder how long He chuckled over that one.
With the typing of this sentence, a new year will begin in just over nine hours and thirty-two minutes, GMT-5, or Eastern Standard Time.  I had my doubts a year ago.  I am looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2011.
I’ll end this with the prayer that whoever might be reading this will find the peace of God in the next year in ways they never imagined possible, and the blessed comfort of knowing Him in a personal way.
I’ll go back to writing my usual tongue in cheek bit next time.
As Walter Cronkite used to say, "And that's the way it was, Friday 31st December, 2010".
Happy and Blessed New Year, and
Oh yeah…
Happy Trails!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Next to the Last Day of 2010

I have thirty days left on my sixty-day free trial of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010.  So far I’m underwhelmed.  I don’t see enough differences/improvements from the 2007 version, and on my computer, it loads like I’m running Windows 3.0 on top of DOS 5.0 before I can get to Office whatever point-oh.
My first experience with MS Word for Windows was 2.1d.  It ran under DOS and a windows like shell called run-time Windows, and looked suspiciously like MACWord.  We ran it in a 16 MHz 286sx with 1 meg of ram, and the gui was prone to crash or slow to a crawl when you performed certain tasks.  On the plus side it did some things with a click or two what took six steps in Wordperfect 5.0 running in DOS, and by time the folks in Salt Lake City released a windows version of their product, Office had graduated to a full blown integrated system (sort of) that ran circles around its competition, Wordperfect for Windows and the one Lotus Corporation was plugging, AmiPro or something like that.
Now here’s the thing with Microsoft apps.  I’m pretty sure that every function ever introduced in every version of Office is still there somewhere in Office 2010.  They never remove anything, they just either put it in a different location and call it newer and better, or  they disable it and add something new that does the same thing but requires more code to do it.
Think about it.  MS Office for Windows 4.1 professional was forty-one 1.44 megabyte diskettes that consisted of five distinct sets of disks packaged as stand-alone applications.  Word, Excel, Powerpoint,  Access and Outlook.  Version 4.3 was exactly the same applications, except that they mixed the apps up on the diskettes so that you had to go through all 43 of them even if all you wanted to install was Word.  You literally inserted about thirty of the forty-three diskettes under that scenario for no other purpose than for the office installer to verify that you had the whole set.  That, and the fact that this is really when Microsoft got hip to the idea of spreading random bits of code for each app on totally otherwise unrelated diskettes.  Starting with this release of the app, you could no longer just copy the diskettes to your hard drive, and you couldn’t run it on a 10 megabyte hard drive either.
Fast forward to version 14, commonly called Office 2010, and they now serve it up in three different flavors.  Home and Student includes three licenses, but tosses Outlook.  Home and Business includes Outlook, but tosses Publisher.  Professional has everything Home and Student has plus Publisher, Outlook, and Access.  All three come on DVD’s and range from about 700 megabytes to a gig and a half to install, and have a proprietary file format introduced in the 2007 version that for the first time, older versions can’t read.  Prices range from $149 for Home and Student to $500 for Professional.  My combination is sort of hand assembled.  I have three pieces to the puzzle that I would have to either purchase separately, or purchase Office 2010 Pro to get in one package, and I’d have Access, which I don’t need.  My upgrades would be Office Home and Student, Publisher, and Outlook.  To upgrade them at the current prices, it would be over $300.
Or you just download Open Office, Thunderbird, and Sunbird from for free and have a suite of apps fully compatible with MS office, Outlook, and the Outlook Calendar, and takes up less than 300 meg to install.
Long story short (I know – too late), unless they come up with a really killer sale price (like $50 for Home and Student) I’ll be uninstalling the trial version and going back to the 2007 release when the trial expires on 29th January.
Got great news last night.  A Face Book friend from Reno, NV has just learned she is cancer free.  Praise God for answered prayer!
And some not so good news.  My baby sister has cancerous polyps in her colon, and a cancerous mass on her liver.  Please pray for her.  Her name is Kathleen, but everyone knows her as Kat – same as my daughter, Kathryn.  I didn’t plan it that way, that’s just how things worked out.  They even look a little alike.
I still get to participate in the outreach ministry of our church back in Pittsburgh.  Each week I edit the audio files from the previous weekend’s three services.  I then upload the edited audio files back to their server, and the program producer breaks them up into bite sized pieces for their radio program, Faith in Progress, Monday through Friday at 1:30 and 11:30 PM on WORD-FM in Pittsburgh and streamed live on the WORD-FM web site at those same times.
Now, here’s the really cool part.  Through the magic of the internet, Blackberry apps,  and Bluetooth technology, I’m listening to the broadcast via my Bluetooth headset while I’m writing this!
Even more interesting, when we lived in Pittsburgh, I did this by exchanging flash drives with the producer.  He would give me a 4 gigabyte thumb drive with twelve –sixteen files, I would edit them, and they would be broadcast two or three months after the Sunday service in which they were preached.  Now that I’m a thousand miles away, the producer uploads all the weekend’s material to their server on Sunday night.  I download them late Sunday or Early Monday, and barring unforeseen problems I have them edited and back on the server for the producer by Monday night, or Tuesday at the latest.  If all things are firing on all pistons, they hit the radio in time for Wednesday or Thursday of the same week!  Now how cool is that!
Oh – the editing software (Audacity) I use is free as well!  If money was not an issue I could go with the newest, latest, greatest (Office Pro 2010 at $500, Adobe Audition at $600 or Adobe Soundbooth Premium at $1,700).  Since money IS an issue, there is the Open Office suite and
audacity, and they’re all free!
Granted, I’m not going to produce a THX Dolby 5.1 surround sound score to Star Wars with the free stuff, but I can get a clean, CD quality file for radio broadcast!
This is not where I intended to go, so I’ll stop here.  After all, there’s always tomorrow.
Happy Trails.

PS  Catch another segment with Author Patricia Morrison on EdinRoad Radio at Blog Talk Radio.  Showtime is 6:30.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Thousand Ten (2010)

The countdown is on and the minutes are ticking away with alarming rapidity.  As I sit to pen this wee missive, I’m entering the final 71 hours and 51 minutes of my 58th year, not counting the ten months in utero.  The year two thousand ten (kindly note that the word ‘and’ does not appear between the word ‘thousand’ and the word ‘ten’) is drawing to conclusion.  Given the speed at which I now type, I will likely be much older before I finish this.
I begin my 59th year at 10:14 a.m., Saturday, 1st January, 2011, which is to say, I will be 58 on New Year’s Day.  Don’t bother.  It’s confusing, and I blame Al Gore.  He couldn’t leave well enough alone after inventing the Internet.  Then he just had to keep meddling with things, discover Global Warming (now known by its less specific, less inflammatory moniker, Climate Change), and capped the trifecta by screwing up the roll-over into the new millennium.
I always thought climate change was when spring became summer.  Who knew?
It was that fiasco at the end of 1999 that started the whole trend of adding the word ‘and’ to the number denoting the year in a date.  Never mind that from pre-school on we were taught that you simply don’t use ‘and’ in a number (i.e., two hundred and one).  You just say the number.  Two hundred one.  Try it.  The memories will come flooding back.  If you attended parochial school those memories will include the sound of a ruler rapping your knuckle when you said it incorrectly, so be forewarned.
With the prospect of the current year being identified as ‘twenty-ten’ I had great hope a year ago that things would return to normalcy, linguistically speaking, but after a disappointing year of two thousand and ten’s on network and local news and radio, I’m already hearing digitally televised talking heads say ‘two thousand and eleven’.  Add to that the fact that we are thirty three days away from the perennial dropping of the first ‘r’ in February, and I see the fast demise of the English language well in advance of the end of the world in December, twenty-twelve.
In the last year, I’ve had to readjust to living in the sweltering summer of west-central Florida, deal with two scary episodes of Homer Simpson Smile-itis (don’t bother – I made the word up.  It worked for Sarah Palin), survive getting roughed up by man mountain Mike,  have my backside roto-rootered, and re-learn  to cook with an electric stove (ugh!) in a state where the weather allows them to grow fruit and vegetables almost year round, yet price them in the supermarkets as though they had been imported from the Dagobah System.  Apparently, they don’t grow pigs in Florida.  Back in Pittsburgh I could purchase a whole pork loin on sale for $1.49 a pound.  Down here ‘on sale’ for the same item is usually $2.99 a pound.
But the year has brought with it some pluses as well.  Disability Medicare kicked in, my BIL was able to move to Alaska to find a good job, settle down some, and be with his daughter in Illinois, we found a church we like, and I’ve become established in the local writers community both as a writer and critic.  In addition, MIL’s health has improved dramatically, and she has for the best part come out of the fog she was in when we arrived here a year ago.
Following the death of our dear Emmy (Linda’s elderly cat who had cancer) we welcomed Jazzy (A.K.A. Ninja Farting Cat, a wee beastie whose lineage is part linx and part Harry Houdini) into our home (which is to say Jazzy picked Linda), and we are making friends in the neighborhood, something we really didn’t do much of back in Pittsburgh.
In the coming year, I hope to get The Adventures of the Magnificent Seven published in e-pub format by Edin Road Press, and finish editing on Legends of Greenbrook Park so Edin Road can publish that as well.  I start off next year with a speaking engagement as part of a poet’s panel in Tampa, and will continue to expand my budding career as a literary critic and columnist specializing in self-published writers.  Linda is hoping her Tupperware dynasty will finally take off.  If the two cats don’t kill each other, 2011 will be a very good year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Luke 2 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

    In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered.  This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.    And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant.  While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the inn.
    The Shepherds and the AngelsIn the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.  This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger.
    Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:  Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!
    When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."
    They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing [them], they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hello, My Name Peggy. What is Problem, Please?

We are on a strict budget.  My wife’s ‘job’, if you will, is to care for her mother.  My job is to assist her in any way possible without adding any additional burden to the task; either to my wife or to her mother.
What I mean by this is that I am on permanent disability  resulting from my stroke.  For the second year in a row, I will not get an increase in my disability payment.  Because this is my exclusive source of income, I watch the levels closely.
I’m not whining about our circumstances.  We live in my wife’s mother’s home with her.  The house is paid for, so her expenses are limited.  While she does not charge us room and board, neither does she really pay for anything we consume.  Our income takes care of food, auto expenses including insurance, all the phone, cable-TV and internet services and other odds and ends as they come up.  It is an understatement to say that financial surprises don’t sit well with me.  They are few and far between because I monitor them closely, but every now and then something beyond my control happens.
M-I-L falls victim to an snake oil salesman before one of us can get to the phone, or some sort of unplanned for expense rears its ugly head.
Or, something like this.
I’m a writer.  I sell the books I’ve written.  I set up an external account for online transactions for this purpose, and the extremely minimal income gathered in this way becomes our very minimal recreational play money.  And it works great when everyone is reading along at the same place in the same script.  It’s called PayPal.  Some of you will be familiar with it, and it is an easy secure way to transfer funds and do business online, which is pretty much the only place you can get my books.  PayPal acts as intermediary between me and the seller or purchaser, and most of the time it works very smoothly.
On the other hand, when PayPal screws up, you’re pretty much screwed.
I have my account set up so that PayPal payments have a default setting not my bank account.  However, I have to have an associated bank account to have the PayPal account.  Catch-22, and as I said, most of the time this works fine.  Twice, however, PayPal transferred funds from the wrong place to make a purchase.  Both times in question they debited my associated bank account for the funding instead of the other option I specified.  Both times it resulted in an overdraft, and when I sought to resolve it, the finger pointing began.  Remember, PayPal is the middle man here.  When a seller requests payment, PayPal looks to see what the purchaser’s options are, and issues payment.
I spent much of this afternoon bouncing back and forth between PayPal, who kept saying it’s not our fault just ask the vendor for a credit and then resubmit the transaction, and the vendor who says it’s not our fault.  We don’t even really see ‘you’ in the transaction, all we see is ‘PayPal’.  They (PayPal) determine where the funds originate.
And the sad part of this is that while they are busy pointing fingers at each other, I’m the guy who has to either swallow the screw-up or fight it.  Fighting it is almost pointless as long as both the vendor and the middleman keep pointing fingers at each other, because sadly, my patronage of either is so small that losing me as a customer doesn’t even register on their radar.
On the part of the vendor, they say that if I don’t take delivery of the product for which I’ve already paid by a specific date, they’ll issue a refund – not to my bank account, which they never see, but to PayPal, who will credit my PayPal account, not my now overdrawn by this transaction bank account.  Given that my bank recently lost a class action lawsuit that charges them with re-sequencing transactions to maximize overdraft fees, there’s little chance of avoiding that even with the letter from PayPal stipulation that the withdrawal was unauthorized.  They’re not taking responsibility, mind you, they’re just saying the transaction was unauthorized.
This pretty well brings an end to my PayPal business, and I recommend that any of my readers who utilize PayPal pay very close attention to your account.
At one point I actually asked one of the six PayPal customer service representatives with whom I spoke if his name was Peggy.
He was a foreigner – Indian or Pakistani – and had no idea what I was talking about.  If you have a TV you probably do.
Meanwhile, Bah-Humbug!
And Madam Attorney General, may I have a moment of your time?

Friday, December 17, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Yesterday

It’s beginning to look a lot like yesterday
as we plod along
singing the same old song.
Mired in troubles that once seemed so far away
bringing back yesterday, today.

There’s a constant wind that’s blowing
with an urgency that’s growing
people reaping without sowing
children learning but not knowing
of the debt that they are owing
like a one-oared boat that’s rowing
in a circle ever slowing
on a tide that isn’t flowing
overhead the crows are crowing
wordless taunts they are bestowing
as the world

Upon a hill.
I know we will
ginning to look a lot like yesterday
when the world was new
and you thought so too
but there’s nothing that really brings back yesterday
come on down
lose the frown
wear a crown
be a clown

listen in and have a look
get your nose out of that book
there’s tomorrow to be took
until then you’re off the hook
beginning to look a lot like yesterday.

By David Roth
©17th December, 2010