Thursday, November 12, 2015


Sometimes I fancy that I’ve become a cyborg, as if having my hands on and my face into such close proximity with electronics over decades has caused my entire nervous system to rewire itself to emulate the devices that have sucked away more than half my life.

Thinking back to the old days when I sat in a cold server closet with my back just two feet from two large HP minicomputers, I did my work on the system consoles which were little (by today’s standards) dim and dumb terminals.  The disks in these old machines clattered and chattered, and their fans roared.  Each box was about the size of a very large refrigerator.  I could monitor CPU activity and various statuses on each computer’s console using a utility that I can’t remember now.  The computers talked to each other constantly, using what was called Class I/O  – at least, they were supposed to talk constantly even when there was nothing to talk about.  In those cases, it was more like “Are you alive?  Yes, are you alive?  Heck yeah, how about you?”  Back and forth, they checked to make sure their companion was still breathing.   When people reported system trouble, typically it was because one computer was waiting for a reply and the other was thrashing (like my brain has been lately).  In the first minutes, trouble wasn’t obvious to me.  But then I could hear the familiar sound the disk made under these circumstances: clackity-clackity-clackity.  It was fruitless – the disk head searching feverishly for an invalid page address while the other sat idle, waiting for a reply – “I know you’re alive, what’s going on over there?  I’ll just hang out here until you figure things out.”  One is searching for something that will never be found while the other waits for a reply that will never be issued.  Reboot both.  Rebirth the process.  It was always the quickest solution. 

No resolution.  No resolution but we must go on.  Well, at least we should go on for a variety of reasons.  Reboot.  Why?  It’s unproductive and tiresome.  How?  Take my kayak out and leave the world for a while.

I took my kayak out Sunday afternoon.  I paddled up the Little Sandy on a windy day, but oh my, the sky was bluest blue.  The clackity in my head dimmed and gave way to sounds of wind in the trees, woodpeckers, ducks, crows, and squirrels scolding me from the tree tops.  I came upon three very large flocks of turkeys near the river bank.  Two great blue heron traveled with me, flying upriver until I caught up with them.  No doubt they were annoyed with me for invading their space.  They expected me to turn around.  Finally, I did and never saw them again. 

Hopefully, maybe…tomorrow I will have my answer.  The Federal Reserve Board will announce the new discount rate; they are supposed to by middle of the month.  My future hinges on two things: the rate change (or no change) and whether or not I can stay on working casual or part-time.  I’m not altogether sure I want to stay on in any capacity.  If I do, it will be short term…no more than a year, no more than 20 hours a week.  It sounds pretty rebirth, maybe.   

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

not for the faint-hearted

So, last week entailed a project-team meeting in Louisiana.  The shore is lined with chemical plants, refineries, giant warehouses, and power-generating complexes.  It’s really very ugly with all those atrocities to the eyes, but also they are marvels of modern technology.  The greatest marvel is that we don’t blow ourselves up with all that shit running 24X7.  Intermixed with all that technologiae are swamps and fields of sugar cane and rice.  Yes indeed, let’s mix our food with toxic chemicals and oil.  Is it any wonder our chromosomes and genes are getting all mutated and confused about what’s supposed to be turned on and off?

The travel was surprisingly on-time, coming and going!  It was amazing because that hasn’t happened in a very long time…to actually have a flight leave or arrive within 60 minutes of what was scheduled.  Coming back was no tiptoe through the tulips though.  In fact, it was one of scariest flights I’ve ever been on.
It was a newer plane, so my expectations were high.  The plane was very small; 12 rows of 4 seats, the 13th row had 1 seat.  That’s 49 passengers, and it was full.  To make matters worse, I’m a bit of a claustrophobe and I had a window seat in the 12th row.  The aisle was so tight on this plane model that most people had to turn sideways to walk down it.  Anyway, all was well until we were about 20 minutes into the air.  I started to smell plastic burning.  The pilot announced something but nobody could hear because those little planes are super noisy.  The guy sitting next to me reeked of bourbon; he asked me if I smelled something burning.  He stated that an engine was on fire and we would be turning around soon.  I speculated something was on fire in the cargo area.  He pulled two little bottles of Makers Mark out of his jacket and offered me one.  I declined and he sucked both of them down right out of the tiny bottles, one right after the other, and tucked the empties into the seat pocket where the safety brochure stays.  Within minutes, the cabin got very smoky.  At least it was white smoke; black smoke would have sent me into a bigger panic.  The steward stood up and picked up the phone.  People turned on their air vents which helped.  The plane took a hard right and we descended a bit, then the smoke cleared out.  Whatever it was that caused it, I don’t know.  Somebody said they thought a laptop fried.  It sure didn’t help having drunk guy saying he hoped we could land in time, and he hoped we didn’t crash (over and over).  His daughter was getting married next day and he had a rehearsal dinner to attend.  He started his celebration early, obviously.  I wondered if he was going to drive himself home…drunk driver.  I learned yesterday that in the U.S., somebody dies in a traffic accident caused by a drunk driver every 53 seconds.  I wonder how many die from somebody on a cell phone?

This morning, I had a dentist appointment.  I am one of those people who HATES going to the dentist.  Hate it, hate it, HATE IT (in all caps)!  I don’t even like getting a haircut, so put yourself in my shoes in the dentist chair.  It gives me squeemies just thinking about it.  So the festivity scheduled for today was to replace an old filling…one of the back molars that was probably filled when I was 12 years old or so.  At my last cleaning, the dentist observed a bit of gray discoloration around the filling and a hairline crack.  He actually found two fillings that need replaced, but I didn’t want them done on the same day (which means I get to go back for a repeat performance next week). 

Anyway, my dentist is awesomely talented in comparison to other dentists I’ve been to.  He was done with the needle/numbing business in no time – that’s always the worst part for me.  That big-ass needle scares the hell out of me, but it didn’t hurt at all.  NOT AT ALL!!  Non-event!  For 15 minutes, he sat and chatted about his adventures in Germany while he was in the Army so the novocaine could took affect.  Then he and his assistant started to work with drills, and the water blaster and the sucky thingie, and all sorts of metal tools…it was a flurry of hands in front of my face.  All of a sudden, something flew out of my mouth and the dentist exclaimed “Whoa!!”.  Not something I (or anyone) wants to the hear when it’s your mouth being worked on.  He said, “Looks like a giant hole in your tooth; you’ve just lost half of it.”  Shit!  Definitely not what I wanted to hear.  He said, “Don’t worry, we’ll fix it.”  He put two screws into my tooth to hold the filling.  Start to finish, I was out of the chair in under 35 minutes.  Whew!  Pain free dentistry, for real!
I have to go back next week for the other tooth.  It has a leaky old filling, but no crack.  Hopefully it will be no worse than today.

Erin is coming home for the weekend.  We have pumpkins to carve for Halloween.  It should be fun.  I hope our weather is good.  I’d love to get my kayak out before all the leaves drop.  The maples have shed most of their leaves, but the oaks and hickories are still hanging on to their leaves.  The red and orange from the maples is mostly gone, so now the hills look bronze, rust, and gold.  Still lovely!  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Once upon a time...

The weekend was a fairy-tale.  It really doesn’t take much to make me happy – I’m lucky like that.  I slept in late two mornings in a row with Gracie, took my kayak out, went for a long hike, watched The Walking Dead, and baked a cake.  It was but a brief fairytale, however.  The ever-after didn’t happen.  Monday draped its ugly blanket of despair over my world as all good things come to an end. 
Dogs are wonderful.  My dog, although two of my daughters will disagree (probably because they are jealous), is the best dog on earth (for me anyway).  She prefers to stay in the house in the mornings when I go off to work.  I say good-bye to her, give her one last scratch on her head, then make my way to the car.  This is what I see every morning when I’m backing my car out of the driveway.  She always runs to the window and watches me go.

Sweet Gracie

For the first time, I took my kayak to Clifty Creek, a stream that feeds into Grayson Lake in Carter County, Kentucky.  Grayson is by far my favorite place to hike and kayak, but it’s about a 50-minute drive.  With nothing else scheduled for Saturday, I loaded up and made the drive.  It was a phenomenal adventure.  A fabulous day, and next to nobody out there at all, I paddled for nearly 90 minutes in the direction away from the main lake.  It was windy, so it was hard work, but such a beautiful place with all the cliffs and trees beginning to change color.  On the return trip, I came around a bend and saw a heron wading.  I froze.  He saw me and gave me a good stare down, but I stayed completely motionless – not even a blink.  Finally, he went back to business.  He was walking the shoreline looking for dinner, no doubt hoping for fish, but also inspecting the weeds along the edge perhaps hoping a frog or snake would present itself.  Step by step, very slowly and deliberately he searched.  I pulled out my phone and took a video, hoping he would catch something, but he didn’t find anything and I finally drifted out of range.

The water slaps the rocks making interesting sounds

It's neat to see how the trees grow right to the edges of the cliffs

Saturday evening, I made a large pot of spaghetti sauce and baked a cake.  I am working out of town this week, so Someone will eat spaghetti a few times and appreciate the cake.  If only it were that easy to keep Gracie happy when I’m gone.  She will not eat for days and will refuse to come inside the house.  After a few nights, Someone will bribe her with cheese and get her to come in – even so, she will sleep against the door to the outside and not take her usual place at the foot of our bed.  She is not herself when I am away.  Poor baby, but she bounces back quickly when I come back.
On Sunday, after a nice morning of lounging in bed with my iPad and sweet dog, I did my teacherly-duties: answering emails, posting announcements, and assigning work for all my classes.  It’s nearly time to make a video again – University #2 expects me to post at least one personalized video per session.  Some things are better left to the imagination (in my opinion), but I will comply and video myself rambling on with some sort of reminders.  Only a handful of students will watch it anyway. 

Sunday was cooler than Saturday, but still a sunny, spectacular day.  Someone and I took Gracie to Greenbo Lake State Park and hiked some of the Michael Tygart trail.  It’s a lovely trail – it follows the shoreline of the lake in some places, and then takes you back away from the lake through some flatter ground and very old abandoned log cabins.  We did not hike far enough to see the cabins, but I hope to do that someday.  It’s a lot of uphill and downhill in places, but the scenery is worth it.  Also there are many tree roots and rocks to watch out for.  It will not be a good walk when more leaves are down – we would be tripping all over ourselves and a fall could result in a long tumble down into the lake.  According to my Fitbit, we walked a little more than 3.7 miles before turning around.  We saw many deer and squirrels, but also a great heron, at least twice the size of the one I saw the day before. It was sitting on top of a pine tree that had uprooted and was laying over the water.  

Greenbo Lake as seen from Michael Tygart Trail

sapphire October sky 

I am leaving my job before long.  That makes things a little more tolerable.  Tomorrow, I head back to Louisiana for meetings.  If I had more time, I’d drive into New Orleans and visit the French Quarter again.  Alas, there is no time for anything but work on this trip.  It’s OK.  Two to three months from now…a new life for me.  The real fairy tale begins.       

Thursday, October 15, 2015


It’s another glorious fall day in my world – brilliant blue sky, unseasonably warm for October – nearly 80 degrees.  Last weekend and this entire week has been  equally as beautiful, but I hardly remember last weekend when I try to reflect on all the events.  We buried my brother Saturday.  Just as when we buried my grandfather in that same cemetery several summers ago, the sky could not have been anymore blue.  The most memorable difference was that the day we buried my grandfather, it was beastly hot (in July). Saturday was mercifully cool – around 70. 

View from my office

We expected 12 people or so in total for the memorial service.  It was to be very informal and thrown together…well, that part came true as planned.  Just a few hours before the service, I printed off a short prayer to open with and the 23rd Psalm because what else is there for funerals?  My mother wanted to sing a hymn – Be Still My Soul; Emily was going to play piano, and Sarah was going to sing and play viola with Emily for one song.  I wrote up some brief notes to remind me what to say about my brother’s life…in hopes that if I invited others to say something about him, somebody would.

As it turned out, we had a good 30-35 people who showed up.  Many of his friends stood up to speak about him.  The music was lovely.  I was hoping we could stretch it out to 20 minutes long; but I think from the time we started until we left the church, it was well over an hour.  I had no idea my brother had so many friends who cared enough to come.  Afterwards, family drove to the cemetery and buried the ashes between the graves of our grandparents.  Before we left, I planted crocus bulbs around the headstones of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and my favorite great aunt.

The oddest thing about the weekend for me, besides carrying my brother around in a heavy little wooden box, was seeing my parents together in the same room for the third time that I can remember.  Once when I was young (maybe 5 or 6 years old), their visits overlapped by a few hours.  Neither visited often, so to have an overlap was a rare (indeed, one-time) event.  Both attended my doctoral graduation, and now this – my brother’s (their first son’s) funeral.  After the cemetery, we all went out to dinner together.  It was notable to see both sitting at the same table for dinner – just as we did for my graduation.  I remembered that the last time I ever had dinner with Richard was also the last time my mother had dinner with him, and how the last time I had dinner with Mike, it was in this restaurant where we were all sitting together like one big family.     

That is how the whole weekend went.  My mind was slipping forwards and backwards in time, and as I reflect now on the weekend, it’s like I wasn’t even there.  I drove my mother back to the airport Sunday.  Her flights were horrible – 6 hours delayed coming in on Friday night, and a 6-hour delay going home.  It was a direct flight for a trip that she could have driven in six hours.  Driving home from the airport, I saw this giant deer in the back of a pickup truck.  Taxidermy is popular around here because so many people hunt, but who wants this standing in their home?  Not me.  Thank heavens we don’t stuff people to preserve them. 

poor deer

My mind is not on work lately.  Obviously not on work…I’m writing a blog post when I should be analyzing data for discrepancies, among other things.  I’m traveling back to Louisiana next week.  My thoughts were to decline the meeting notice, but I will go.  Two hops down, two hops back, but an all-day ordeal each way with the driving added to it.  Planes are never on-time these days.    

If I could have tomorrow to live as I want to, I’d take my kayak to Grayson Lake and paddle far away from anything that sounds or looks like civilization.  Perhaps if I went far enough, the world would seem right again.     

the right way?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

day of reckoning

The world came to a screeching halt.
Not for me and any readers obviously, but for my brother, who finally paid the ultimate price for his long love affair with alcohol.  Richard was found dead Thursday morning (9/24).  It appears that he’d had a seizure and asphyxiated.  So it goes.  We all knew the day was coming, and my other brother (Mike) and I marveled every time we got together that Richard was still alive.  We expected him to last no longer than a year once we moved him into his house.  In fact, he survived nearly three years. 

Mike and I use to joke that we would put his ashes into an empty vodka bottle for burial.  Now that the end has come, it’s not so funny to think about that.  The memory of seeing my brother tip the vodka bottle and chug on it like he was drinking milk from a carton is something I can never forget.  For the past year, his alcoholism became too difficult to manage.  Drinking made him sick, but not drinking made him sicker.  He withered away to a rack of bones, and this under-60 year old man walked and moved slower than my grandfather when he was 93.       

I had to make phone calls to our parents to tell them the news.  Nobody was surprised.  Now I must write an obituary for him and plan a memorial service.  Mike and I began cleaning out his house yesterday.  We learned a lot about our brother in this unhappy process.  Fortunately, it was all good things about him – things I wished I’d known before he died.

Richard never made the connection that he couldn’t keep a job or a girlfriend because of his drug and alcohol problems.  He didn’t seem to comprehend that his health was affected by drinking so much.  He refused to believe that his “friends” were taking advantage of him.  That’s how denial works.  Rehab was never an option.  At one point about a year ago, after a very close-encounter with death and a long hospital stay, he told me he was finished drinking.  We talked about AA and what changes he was willing to make to stay sober.  He assured me that he would attend AA meetings and never drink before 3PM, and only beer, no more vodka.  As I was leaving the hospital, I said good-bye to my brother in all the ways a person can say good-bye.  I never saw him that sober again.

In the words of Cat Stevens, we’re all “only dancing on this earth for a short while.”  Richard was ready to sit down.  I wish we could have changed the music and had one more dance. 

in better days

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'm the man

KYLady was in the foulest of moods earlier this week.  It’s a very long story, but rest assured, KYLady’s mood is way above the tippy-tops of the highest cirrus clouds today.  In fact, she was so excited with the news she got last night that she could hardly sleep.  And even today at work, with a staff meeting going on, KYLady is only pretending to listen while she writes a blog post because she has no interest in work AT ALL just now.
So, the backstory is that old KYLady has been itching to retire from her primary job for a very long time.  Finally, she collected lists of her expenses and assets, and implored Someone to give her lists of his assets and expenses.  Without getting too personal, perhaps it was because Someone and KYLady had prior spouses, both decided when they got married that managing finances separately made good sense.  They’ve always had his and her bills to pay.  KYLady makes the most money (not bragging, just stating fact), so KYLady pays the most bills.

So, everyone wants to be KYLady’s financial advisor because of her age and the company she works for.  She settled on two advisors from two companies, which is a bit like having multiple clocks and not really knowing what time it is.  Financial Advisor #2 wants more information, but told me earlier this week that unless I could get Someone to take on more of our expenses, I could definitely not afford to retire until the mortgage is paid off (in like 7 more years).

That was the start of the foul mood.  Then Someone and I got into an argument about it.  Someone flatly stated, “Hell no, I’m not going to start paying YOUR bills.  That’s not fair to me.  You’ll just have to keep on working.  It’s not that bad, you just have a bad attitude.”  Yeah, I’m the one with the bad attitude.  Right…what would his attitude be in my job?  He works 30 hours a week at most and gets 15 paid holidays.  Me?  It’s like 45-60 hours a week with 10 paid holidays.  I’ve worked at least 8 years longer than him, even though I’m younger than him.  Don’t talk to me about attitude, ASSHOLE.

With that, I began making mental plans.  Such as, it’s time for “us” to downsize…I’m going to put “my” house up for sale.  You never answer your cellphone any way; I’m going to cancel you.  You know what, I can’t really afford the insurance on your new car anymore.  I’m cancelling your policy so I think you’d better start looking for a buyer.  You can have my old (2002) Camry and I’ll go back to driving the old (2004) minivan – we’ll be better off.  I vented to a certain person who gave me the best advice I’ve had in a long time.  She said, “You just tell him you’re the man and he’s the little bitch.”  Yeah, he’s the little bitch alright. 

So, then last night, we had a meeting with Financial Advisor #1.  First thing when we sat down, he asked us if we were planning a divorce.  It caught us both off guard.  Someone and I agreed we were not planning or thinking of divorce.  Advisor said, “Well good, because I combined your expenses and assets for this analysis.  I hope that’s OK.”  With our expenses and assets combined, we have plenty of resources for me to retire next January.  Like PLENTY.  Then, as if that were not good enough, he reminded me that the discount rate is expected to increase, so it might be advantageous for me to quit at the end of the year rather than working a month into 2016 as I was planning.  On the drive home, Someone seemed to be a little more open to the idea of me quitting.  Maybe he’s starting to see things my way.

Here’s the bottom line, I’m going to retire at the end of January, or I’m going to retire at the end of December.  Of course, I will listen to what Advisor #2 has to say when he gets the numbers together, but my brain has already locked in R-E-T-I-R-E-M-E-N-T.  It doesn’t seem real.  It’s not real yet.  The discount rate for 2016 will be announced on November 15.  With much hope, I wait.  


Tuesday, September 22, 2015


It was a lovely, wonderful weekend for KYLady.  There’ll be no gloom and doom in this blog post…OK, it’s going to be tough but I’ll try to remain cheerful and optimistic through the end of the last paragraph.
I took two hours of vacation Friday afternoon so that leaving work early for a round of golf was possible.  It was a beautiful day for golf – sunny and 80 degrees, and the course was not crowded.  Someone and I teed off at 3:45 PM and finished well before dark.  I had two birdies which always makes golf fun, even when a great shot is just pure luck.  Someone could not buy a tee shot and so was a bit whiney and sullen, but I didn’t let his foul mood interfere with my glorious afternoon in the sun. 

Saturday, Someone and I went to the Simon Kenton Festival in Old Washington, KY.  That was loads of fun.  The sky was completely clear when we left home, but by the time we arrived at Old Washington, it looked like rain.  In fact, it did rain lightly for a bit, but not enough to make things miserable.  We went to listen to Sarah sing, but the festival itself was wonderful.  Some people were dressed up as Indians and settlers, and I saw a couple of men wearing old revolutionary war uniforms.  All sorts of good-smelling food (barbecue) was being cooked and sold, and there was no scarcity of fair food.  Churches set up and were selling baked goods, and lots of crafters were selling things.  I bought a hummingbird feeder that I probably won’t hang outside until spring.  I think the hummingbirds have already left Kentucky for winter, but I’ll consult my expert friend who takes photos of hummers around her feeders as a hobby.  She will know.  Old Washington is a neat place.  It’s a historic district with old cabins and buildings from as long ago as the 1700s.  Up and down the main street, carriages pulled by a horse and oxen were giving people free rides. 

Oxen are BIG!


On Sunday, I slept in and then took my kayak out for an adventure.   After some research, I found Raccoon Creek ramp, about 7 miles upriver from my usual put-in place on the Little Sandy River.  To be honest, I almost talked myself out of going there.  I knew it would be isolated; that part of the county has high-crime, wildcats, and bears.  But sometimes, adventure is just what a person like me needs.  The ramp was completely deserted and I quickly learned why it’s not so popular.  The ramp is very short and steep, with giant ruts on both sides.  It’s really more suited for a small carry-in boat.  In fact, I decided to park at the top, put my kayak on a little cart, and pull it down to the water’s edge.
So based on the map, I thought I was putting my kayak into Raccoon creek.  I paddled what I thought was downstream (it was), thinking that around every next bend I would see the river.  Then I began wondering if I was paddling up the creek rather than down.  It was so windy that I couldn’t tell anything about the current.  Finally, it became obvious I was on the river.  When I returned to the ramp and paddled upriver a little way, I found Raccoon creek which was nearly dried up and not obvious.  Too bad the waterways are not marked with signs like roads are.  Then again, absence of civilization and the unknown adds to the adventure aspect. 

Somewhere on Little Sandy between Raccoon Creek Ramp and Dragonfly Adventures

The Little Sandy snakes through the hills, and there are lots of little and big creeks that feed into it.  It’s mostly farmland and woods on both sides, but also there are areas with small cottages and campsites.  The property along this river is most likely not expensive; it floods terribly in the spring.  All those campers and little ratty cottages are how us average folks live the good life – home away from home.  In my dreams...

So yes, the break from University #2 has been wonderful.  Someone and I met with my financial advisor last week.  He had many more questions, so I still have no answers.  We have more information to collect for him, so it’ll be a few more weeks yet.  The preliminary report is not optimistic, but we won’t go there per my promise to stay cheerful through the end of this post.  Meanwhile, I updated my CV again and will begin applying for more teaching jobs this week.  Rust never sleeps, and neither should I.