News from the Hill

...with the usual Smith Manor-isms

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May 01, 2019

May Day! May Day! M'aider!

I took Brian, Suzanne's brother, to the neurologist this morning. Things started out well enough. The car ran great on the way to his house, but when Brian got into the car and I started down the driveway, the power steering pump decided it had had enough and started groaning, "Ooohhhhh, you're not really going to drive again, are you?????" Naturally I tried to lie to it, gave it a little more power steering fluid, and drove on. All the way to the doctor's office Barnum complained about his aching pump. Brian went up to the check-in window, and I went to the parts store to get some more power steering fluid, because I figured I hadn't added enough. Of course, deep inside I knew that when the pump groans for that long, more fluid will do no good. The pump is toast.

Realizing that the pump had deserted me in a time of need, I went ahead and drove Brian back home at the end of his examination, then I drove to the garage to see if they could do something magical and make my car steerable again. They said, "Bring it back on Monday and we'll take a look at it then."

Barnum is, thus, on the Binnacle List (out of service) until then, at the earliest. 

Since last Friday, of course, the dishwasher has been on the Binnacle List, also, but the part to repair the door latch - so we could actually open it - had arrived and was on the porch as we stepped out for choirs rehearsal, so I put it inside, then we left to go to the church.

Bell and Choir rehearsals were frustrating. I felt like screaming at the other members, "SHUT UP - I WANT TO HEAR THE DIRECTOR!  SHE'S TALKING!!!" I didn't. I just used my imagination as to where we were going to start in which piece of music and did what I thought she had said to do. After our Nearly-the-end wine and cheese break, during which I had more than my usual sip of wine, I mellowed out. The rest of the members were as inconsiderate as ever, but by then I really didn't care so much.

When we got home from church there was yet another package on the porch. This time it was something better. I had ordered two ScottEVests for us. They are "Feather Light", machine washable, and have 14 pockets of various sized for various purposes. One pocket is large enough for an iPad, one has an elastic loop in it to hold a water bottle securely, another has a carabiner to hold my keys, and so forth. There's even a shielded pocket to prevent people from reading my credit cards. There are pockets for pens, pencils, cell phones, ear buds, even glasses in case you removed them so you could wear sunglasses.

Then, after exploring the eVests, I tried to write this report - THREE TIMES!

I've just written it a fourth time, TOMORROW!

May 02, 2019

Having arranged to meet Suzanne for lunch at one o'clock, I got a text this morning saying that the tech would be here to install the latch on our dishwasher some time between 10:45 and 1:45. I texted Suzanne to tell her that one o'clock would come about two hours late. Sure enough, the tech arrived about 12:20, replaced the latch and left about 1:30. Then we gathered things to take with us and pretty much followed him out of the driveway. I did stop at the stop sign to review Suzanne's texts so I'd know what it was she had asked us to pick up at the store for her on the way.

We got there about three-ish, as advertised, and enjoyed a lunch of Guacamole, Hummus (both with chips, of course), pickles and olives. Then Suzanne beat us in three out of four hands of Mah Jongg.

May 03, 2019

Becky had to go to the laboratory for some blood work, since that step was somehow skipped at her annual physical last Wednesday. So we both went, then stopped at TGI Friday's, which is very close to our physician's office. We had a good lunch of BBQ Chicken Salad, which is a salad with BBQ Chicken on it. I had thought it might be a bit less filling than my usual Cobb Salad. I was wrong, of course, so we filled a togo box with left-overs.

I had intended to fill the gas tank and buy some more lottery tickets, but I didn't get around to it.

May 04, 2019

Ky Derby Day!

Becky took the opportunity to have lunch with the ECW, while I stayed home and tried to do something productive. I made agraphic for Barnum's 3rd break light so that it would light up and say PT Cruiser, just to be different. It didn't print out completely right, but I might use it anyway.

When Becky got home, we started watching the Kentucky Derby celebration. I learned that they sell Mint Julips for $1,000 (or $2,500 in a gold cup), and that a Mint Julip is made of mint, Bourbon, honey and LOTS of ICE! Then, after Maximum Security won the Derby - and got disqualified - and then Country House won the Derby, I became disappointed, mostly because I thought Roadster should win. Of course, Roadster wasn't even close to winning. Then I got on the Internet and saw someone congratulating a different horse! What???

May 05, 2019

Things went well at church. We rehearsed a few anthems before the service, then we got thoroughly confused with our new directive for the procession (waiting in the Fellowship hall until the Prelude started, lining up in the breezeway, then waiting until the announcements were done before filing in at the start of the hymn introduction). Other than that, we did well.

Our usual Mah Jongg afternoon was deferred until next Sunday (or if possible something during the week) for reasons of health.

May 06, 2019

BarnumPT was treated and released (i.e. repaired and returned to us) today. For just a little over $500, I can now drive our PT Cruiser again without wrestling the steering wheel. The power steering pump was replaced, and the steering has power once again. Apparently power steering pumps don't last for more than 150,000 miles. Who knew? I had never driven a car that far before. This is, of course, the second time I've replaced it, with very nearly 300,000 miles on the car.

One problem, though, the engine is idling too slowly. The Tachometer registers between 500 and 600 RPM at idle, and it should be 800 to 1000 RPM. At that low idle, it rattles and shakes pretty badly, so tomorrow I'm going to drop back in to the garage and ask them to fix their error. Many garages would claim that it's a new failure that happened "on the way home from their garage," but I suspect this one will give me a fair and honest repair.

On another subject entirely, The Western NC Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) met this evening with a Regional director who, in conjunction with National AGO, is interested in revitalizing (read "reviving") our Chapter. She had some very good points, spent two hours speaking with un over a dinner, and in general telling us how important we are to the Organist Community. She also gave us some very good guideance as to how to conduct ourselves as a Chapter, and encouraged us to put the past behind us and "Get with the program". We didn't have a quorum present, so we couldn't slect a Board (a.k.a. Executive Committee), but she did appoint an ad hoc committee to contact our membership, former and present, and start a dialog regarding reactivating the Chapter, and to let them know what is happening at the National level. I am eager to see if that Committee will have the desired affect.

May 07, 2019

I called the garage and was told to drop in at about 1 PM so they can take a look and see what's going on with Barnum's idle. That will work well enough, because our Tai Chi class, having moved to Tuesdays, will be over at 12:45 PM. Then, after the idle is adjusted (and any repairs made if necessary), we can be on our way to lunch.

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We did as I said above. After Tai Chi, we took Barnum back to the garage and were there for about 5 minutes. The mechanic started the car, noticed the way it was idling, adjusted the air regulation thingie (very technical terminology) and we left. No Charge!!

May 08, 2019

Today, we slept in until 9 AM, having gone to bed at 1 AM. When I arose, of course, my back was screaming at me, letting me know how displeased it was with my 8-hr sleep.

I spent a while carving up a ham and stowing it away in some freezer packs, individual servings separated by paper for easier separation. Then, of course, I had to fry some of it and make "sandwiches". I had no bread, so I used two gluten-free wraps. It didn't make real sandwiches, but it was still a pretty good lunch.

at 2 PM, Becky was visited by a representative of Humana as a check on her health and health care. We found out that the representative is a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, so we traded recomdations for books and movies with her, and rounded out her 1 hour 45 minute visit. It wouldn't have taken half that long if we hadn't enjoyed talking with her so much.

Choir Practice had to be moved to tomorrow due to a scheduling conflict that was imposed on our Director-pro-Tem.

May 09, 2019

Having arranged to transport Suzanne to pick up her car and go to the doctor, then take her back home (since her vision is wonky - again), we actually didn't have to pick her up at home, but at the Chevy Dealership where the repairs had been made. We took her car to our house, then, drove her to the doctor, had lunch with her, took her to some stores to find lace ribbon she needed, then we retrieved her car from our house and I took her to Publix to get her prescription - and groceries - for me, too. Then, when we left Publix, Becky called and said not to hurry because Suzanne's new neighbor is having a mobile home delivered, and Suzanne's driveway is blocked completely. After an hour, the drive was still blocked, and Becky and I needed to eat dinner and get to choir practice. We left Suzanne at her neighbor's house, the ones who have lived there for quite a while, and we went on our way. Suzanne finally got home about an hour before we got back home from choir practice. We're all exhausted!

May 10, 2019

We did a lot of resting, today, but during that resting, I also paid a visit to Publix to order a birthday cake for Gregg, Suzanne's brother. After placing the order, I filled the gas tank, bought two lottery ticks and then returned home to resume resting. That's about it.

May 11, 2019

Today being Gregg's birthday, we had dinner together at Olive Garden, then I picked up the cake ordered yesterday, and we converged at Chez LaCour for cake and coffee. After several hours of talking and sharing jokes and memories, we decided we needed to return home.

It was raining most of the day, which made it interesting loading the cake into the car and getting it out again, but when it was time to leave, the rain had slowed to almost stopped. By the time we were on the Interstate, it had stopped altogether. Before we got home, the pavement was dry. Gotta love the weather, here.

May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day!

Church was interesting, this morning, especially the sermon. This being Good Shepherd Sunday, we heard all about - you guessed it - sheep. Fr. Gary told us about witnessing three shepherds, each having led their sheep to a stream to drink, and those flocks intermingling. When it came time to leave, one shepherd called to his flock to follow, and his sheep seperated themselves from the other flocks and followed. The second shepherd did likewise, and before the third shepherd called his flock away, Gary asked if he could try to lead them away. With the shepherd's assent, he called to the sheep, but they didn't react, not even lifting their heads and looking to see who was calling to them. He asked the shepherd if the sheep would ever follow a stranger's voice, and was told, "Yes, if they're ill they might follow another." Well, it wouldn't be much of a sermon if he didn't tie it in with Christians following only the teachings of Jesus, and only the weak or spiritually ill following any other's instructions.

My son, David, announced today that he's started a new VLOG on YouTube.com, Correctional Officer Lifestyle. I watched his introductory posting, almost eight minutes in length, and I like what I heard. 

May 13, 2019

I finally remembered to call my eye doctor to report the large floater to the near-right of my line of sight, as well as the lightning flashes I have noticed, both in my right eye. That was at 10 AM. by 10:05 I had an appointment with Western Carolina Retinal Associates for 1:50 PM. I was amazed at the rapid response. I was advised not to eat anything else before the appointment, just in case they had to take me into surgery, Becky and I delayed (skipped) lunch and arrived at the appointment about 20 minutes early. I got entered into their computer system, and was called to the exam room at the appointed time. There was the usual medical history exam, then some eye (interoccular) pressure tests, vision tests, anesthetic tolerance tests, dilation and a pre-exam pep talk.

Then I was shunted to a waiting room for a few minutes, taken in for a retinal scan, then returned to the holding pattern in the waiting room for another 30 minutes before I finally got admitted to the exam room where a nurse did another pre-exam run-up. Finally Dr. McLean arrived and started with a whole different line of questioning. When he was satisfied that I hadn't lied about anything I'd said as compared to what the other inquisitors had written down, he started to torture me with lights and magnifying lenses and, apparently, some sticky goop on one of my eyelids to help hold it open, I guess. In the end, I was pretty well blind in both eyes, so he grabbed a training aid to show me the inner workings of the eyeball. I pretended to be able to see what he was telling me, but in actuality, I saw very little of it. Luckily, I already knew what he was talking about, having paid more attention in biology class than I had ever realized.

The verdict from the doctor, though, was that my retinas are intact, with some abnormalities, like floating debris. I was instructed to limit my reading for the next week, to avoid bending down, lifting heavy items and generally to avoid doing anything that I find helps to produce the lightning flashes in my eye. The lightning is caused, he explained (as I already knew) by the viscous gelly of the eye pulling away from the retina momentarily. He also said that sometimes it pulls tissue from the retina, too, which appears as floating debris.

As I was processed out, I was given a follow-up appointment for next Monday, a roll of sun-blocking film to place behind my glasses and sent on my way to get some "lunch" at about 4 PM. With my right eye in the more pain of the two from pressure and retinal burning from what seemed like hours of concentrated sunlight, Becky led me to the car. I kept my eyes as shut as possible, while allowing my left one to see nearly straight down, just in case. In addition to the sun-block film, I also used Becky's sunglasses which stay hanging in the car. With me doing a double-blind passenger act, she then drove us to TGI Friday for Lupper (Lunch-Supper). I had enough points to pay for both of our meals, which we both enjoyed (and brought home half of). Naturally, I ate mine largely by touch.

When we got home, I abandoned the film, but kept the sunglasses on for two more hours before I dared to challenge the light coming in through the closed curtains in the living room. Then, by 8 PM, I was, amazingly, out of pain. Even now, at half-past Midnight, I still cannot focus properly, so I'm typing mostly by touch and not bothering to read what I'm causing to be written. I'll correct it later today.

May 14, 2019

It was a very confusing day for me. We attended Tai Chi class, and though I told myself I was going to remember things that were discussed, I haven't retained one of them.

The rest of the day was foggy for me, as well. I remember eating lunch and shopping at Publix afterward, but when we got home, it is as though I fell to sleep and did a Master Clear on my memory. I do recall that Becky had to drive after Tai Chi was over, because I found the noon sunshine too much for my tortured eyes. Perhaps I just had to vegetate and let my eyes heal a bit for the rest of the day.

May 15, 2019

Becky and I visited with Dr. Reilly, our chiropractor, who took a very serious attitude concerning my eyes, and invited me to return tomorrow for a brief PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic frequency) treatment for them. It works on nerves and soft tissue, and that's the eyes in a nutshell.

I bought some clip-on sunglasses. Despite the benefits of Progressive Lenses in my glasses, that darken the lenses in direct sunlight, they don't darken at all inside the car. I had been wearing Becky's oversized sunglasses that are designed to fit over regular glasses, but I find them ill-fitting and uncomfortable. I bought the clip-ons and drove home in comfort.

Then there's Handbell and Choir rehearsals. The bell rehearsal went well despite five missing ringers (15 bells total, 9 in the bass and 6 mid-range). There is one piece that we've been working on for two months that still gives me a challenge, but the piece that we just received today sounds almost ready for Prime Time already! (It's way easier).

Choir rehearsal, on the other hand, continues to present a problem for the bass section. I need to learn my part well enough that I could sing it accurately in an industrial forge. That way, at least one of us will be on the right notes and with the right words.

May 16, 2019

I spent the morning transcribing music for Becky, since I "do it much faster" than she does (according to Becky), then I left to attend another Neuropathy Seminar to bear witness to the truth of the doctor's message and the effectiveness of the treatment he offers. After the doctor finished the leccture and left, I stayed (for the free lunch) and spoke with some of the attendees, answering their questions and assuring them of my experience. One woman asked me, "What made you decide to pay the full price up front?" I had never questioned myself on that decision, for after attending my first seminar, both Becky and I were totally convinced of the worth of the treatment, and we were not disappointed with the results. That was my answer, and I feel it was well received.

Becky didn't get to attend the seminar with me, as she usually does, because she was scheduled for a Mamogram at roughly the same time. As she backed the car out of the garage, she realized that I had left the tank nearly empty the last time I drove it (just like a teenager). She made it to her appointment, then on her way home she put a couple gallons of gas into the tank. It's still up to me to fill the tank. I think she thinks I can pay less for gasoline than she must, so there you go.

Having accepted an invitation to Suzanne's for dinner, we drove to her house, delayed by school busses. I reminesced about my stint as a bus driver when I was in the Navy. My first submarine, USS James Madison, was in Port Canaveral, Florida, for Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO). It became my duty to drive my shipmates from the boat to Cocoa Beach for liberty and, of course, bring them back later. The only part of that duty I disliked was when I had to back the bus up to complete a turn, which happened only a few times, thankfully. When we arrived at Suzanne's, we were treated to a Hawaiian chicken stew over Asian sticky rice. It was wonderful. For dessert, we were introduced to Sun Tropic rice wafers (rolled into tubes). They are delicious and not very expensive.

We had no numbers in tonight's lottery, just like in the last several weeks. Of course, we don't buy lottery tickets every week, since I don't want to donate very much to the "Education Lottery."

May 17, 2019

This was a very strange Friday for me. Our Friday morning Tai Chi class having moved to Tuesday, I decided not to awaken by the alarm clock. I awoke about 8:30, with a terrible leg cramp. It's the first leg cramp I've had since 1962. Of course, as soon as I was out of bed and standing on both feet, the cramp went away. At any rate, I was awake and alert immediately.

I knew that I had wanted to go to Sams Club today, but I couldn't remember what it was I wanted to purchase. Shortly after lunch, Becky spoke with one of the nurses at our Primary Care Physician's office and learned that the doctor wants her to start taking Vitamin D-3 at 2,000 mg. I take 5,000 mg, so we cannot share that resource. That's when I realized that I had wanted to get Vitamin C for myself, as well as some LED light bulbs. So about 4:30, I went to Sams, found the vitamins and light bulbs, picked up some potato chips, then I heard an announcement about a free paring knife being given away. Since I did not inherit my dad's skills for sharpening knives (I've never successfully sharpened any knife), I went to investigate. Sure enough, it was a sales pitch for Eversharp knives, and there were so many knives included in the promotion, I felt obligated to purchase a set. They are supposed to keep their edge forever, and are guaranteed to be replaced if at any time they fail (naturally, that guarantee is only as long lived as the company that issued it). Anyway, I did but the set. All in all, it was a long shopping trip for me (usually in and out in 15 minutes), but in theory I will never have to learn how to sharpen knives.

May 18, 2019

Saturday again, and the grass is reaching up past my ankles, so it's time to give it a haircut. My mower is getting old, and just because I learned it has a choke doesn't mean it will run any better. Once again, though, I got halfway done with the front yard, and it ran out of gas. I checked the choke, but it was not on, so I know I didn't just burn a full tank of gas on half my yard. Then I remembered that I forgot to fill the tank before starting, so I filled the tank and carried on until, almost done, it stopped running again. The engine was hot. I know, because I touched it. I got a "spark plug tan" on my thumb and index finger. It shouldn't be running that hot, and I think it might be time to either clean the outside of the engine (to increase the heat dissipation from the cooling fins) or think about replacing it. It is, after all, only starting on its fourth year of service, so I'm thinking it shouldn't need to be replaced, but that's what I get for buying cheap stuff. After the engine cooled, I cleaned the spark plug (wearing gloves, this time, to handle it) and got the engine running again and completed the front yard. Time to stop, I decided. I can always mow the back yard next Tuesday.

May 19, 2019

The choir shone magnificently this morning. The anthem wasn't the easiest one we've sung, but we excelled at it. Our director-pro-tem beamed when we finished it, a sure sign of her extreme pleasure and approval.

When we got home, I started listening to some music and a podcast on my Toshiba Netbook, and snoozed through about 2 hours of music and 30 minutes of the podcast. Then I heard that the host of the podcast, Micah Hanks, was reporting on Senator Bernie Sanders' rally in Asheville. He attended for the purpose of reporting, and had some good things to say about the Senator, along with some commentary about what had been said. He mentioned that, should the Senator be elected, we have "checks and balances" in place in the constitution, and he wouldn't be able to completely dismantle the US because of them.

For the last two hours, now, my abdomen has been griping, and I'm wondering if this is a backlash from having ingested some gluten-laden bread, or some other thing I may have eaten during the day. Maybe it's just emotional turmoil. At any rate, it hurts.