Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year's Eve

 

We’ve been enjoying our weather in the 70s and 80s.  It’s cool and cloudy tonight though; a little rainy.  A quiet day today; we’ll stay home in the Central Time Zone and declare Happy New Year when it’s time, even if that time is Atlantic Standard.

 

 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year's Eve Eve

 

Six weeks.  It has been six weeks today since my neck surgery.  Last time around, I got to take the neck brace off at six weeks and pretend I was healed.  This time around, I’m halfway through a twelve week sentence.  It’s going to be *more* completely healed before I take this thing off this time.  No problem.  The recovery is going just fine.  I can do this.

 

I figure attitude is everything.

 

 

Stiff upper lip and all that.

 

 

This is me…

 

…keeping my chin up.

 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Broncos win

 

It’s not easy.  You might think winning and losing is all about how the teams play, but you’d be wrong.  There is much more to it than that.  I have to have my Bronco Poncho on while they’re playing.  If they’re not doing well I take it off.  If I had forgotten to put it on, we find it and put it on.  When Judy gets agitated and has to get up and do something, she starts cleaning the house.  If our team starts playing better, that’s all the positive reinforcement she needs; she won’t stop before the game is over.

 

Yesterday, she put the dinner dishes in the dishwasher and sat down with me to watch the game.  By the end of the first half, she was up looking for more stuff to do in the kitchen.  The Broncos started playing better.  When she ran out of stuff to put away and counters to clean, she turned her attention to the dishwasher.  By the end of the game, she had emptied the dishwasher completely, washed everything by hand, dried, and put away.

 

So when we lavish praise on athletes for doing well, let’s not forget the dedication and hard work that goes on in living rooms and kitchens all across America as well!

 

 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Fly fishing

 

I’ve been thinking about fly fishing.

 

In the spring I fly fished poppers for bass.  I used to fly fish for trout every summer and fall.  When we moved into the bus full-time, I still fished when we were in Colorado.  Now I find we haven’t fly fished in years.  The three of us used to drift boat fish with Rick once a year in Montana,

 

…but we haven’t been to Montana in a couple years now.

 

So Rick sends us this picture in a Christmas card this year.

 

I’m thinking about fly fishing again.

         

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Football Pool

 

I won the football pool a couple times and thought:  “Wouldn’t it be fun to win more?”  It’s a one-dollar pool.  There is no limit to the number of entries.   What if I submitted more than one sheet?  I would have a greater chance of winning.  My one in twenty chance could be a two in twenty-one chance.  What if I really wanted to mess with people one week and guarantee I’d win just for fun; submit enough entries to cover every possible combination?  Fifteen games in a week, excluding Monday night.  How much would it cost to just bet every game?  There are only two possible outcomes on the betting sheet for each game.  There couldn’t be *that* many possibilities altogether.

 

I did the math.  Actually I tried to do the math, but lost the thread.  If there is only one game, there are two possible outcomes (discounting ties); one team wins or the other one does.  If there are two games, there are four possible outcomes.  It gets a little harder after that.  Three games, eight possibilities.  Now I’m confused.  I need a formula.  It’s not simple multiplication; it’s something more sophisticated.  I remember “factorial” from a statistics class a gazillion years ago.  That’s a number times every whole integer number below it in sequence.  That applies to some statistical situations, and almost to this one, but not quite.

 

We turned to our grandson Tony for the math.  He said the answer would be the number of possible outcomes, to the power of the number of games played.  I tested that out on the lower numbers.  One game, two possible outcomes, two to the power of one equals two.  That works.  Two games.  Two to the power of two.  Four.  That works.  Four games, sixteen possibilities.  That’s sixteen dollars to dominate a four game pool.  It’s starting to get a little scary.

 

Okay, so what’ my out-of-pocket cost to guarantee the football pool?  No more bye-weeks at this point in the season, so each pool is fifteen games.  Two to the power of fifteen.  Ooh, that’s a lot of doublings to win a $20 pool.  For a mere $32,768, I can guarantee that no one will beat me; but I can’t guarantee that no-one will tie me!  If one person tied me once, I’d be out $16,000!

 

Not a good bet.

 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Judy and I each got the gift of hearing for Christmas at our house this year

 

Judy opened hers early; her hearing aid.  I waited until Christmas to open mine.  My hearing assist has more to do with birding than just regular hearing.

 

It’s a headset with a digital processor that picks out the higher frequencies that I can’t hear, and cuts them in half (or by three or by four), to bring them down to my hearing range.  Here is the processing unit.  It can just drop in a shirt pocket and the controls are still accessible from the top.

 

Here is a link to the demo of how it can bring high-pitched bird sounds into hearing range:

 

http://hearbirdsagain.com/sound-samples/

 

We were going to test it out today, do a little bird listening, but there is a front blowing through.  We didn’t think a roaring windstorm was the best time to check out our new listening device, so we stayed home for a calmer day.

 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas everybody

 

Or as we say at our house, Merry Skype Christmas.

 

We started our day with coffee and fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast at Becky and Brian’s house in Colorado.  (They didn’t actually eat hot cinnamon rolls, but we did.  I did hear something about fresh Monkey Bread on the agenda at their house a little later.)

 

 

 

Then we moved on to Matt and Lindsay’s house about fifty miles south of Becky’s.

 

 

 

 

Both houses had a cold snow-on-the-ground, crunchy-ice-on-the-streets Christmas Day.

 

Arie colored really really close to the computer screen without actually coloring on it (we think).

 

And we finished up the day with dinner at Tom and Kathy’s thirty-five miles south of us here in the Valley.

 

Smoked ham.  Yum.  They got us fed and gone by five so we could make it home by dark.  Judy can’t see to drive after dark, and I’m not turning my head yet.

 

A darn good day.  (And 80 degrees too.)

 

Happy Holidays.

 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Has anyone noticed?

 

Has anyone noticed Donald Trump’s campaign claim that he’s the only candidate who is not beholden to special interests?  He’s self-financed so he’s not beholden to any billionaire.  That’s one of the knocks against one of his rivals, Marco Rubio; that he is backed by one billionaire so big, that if we elect Rubio we’ll just be electing the conservative billionaire Paul Singer’s proxy.  Do we think Singer would have direct access to a Rubio presidency?  Well, yeah!

 

Trump’s claim that he is independent of any special interests has some appeal on the face of it, but if we think about it a little, we realize that he actually does represent the interests of a major donor.  He has his own billionaire; himself.  Does Trump strike us as an impartial man who will put the interests of every citizen ahead of his own?  His claim is disingenuous, but I haven’t heard anyone call him on that.

 

Just saying…., not that it would make any difference.  It would be fruitless to campaign against him, at least in the primaries.  Donald Trump is the face of the Republican Party.

 

 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Willow comes to visit

 

She needs a Princess Pillow.

 

The stuffed turtle will have to do.

 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Terrorism follow-up

 

I wrote a little bit about ISIS terrorism; how confused I am by it and how I can’t get perspective, because there are so many other causes of death that dwarf terrorism as a real danger.  Well, it turns out the solution to that terrorism has been right there, right in the question, all along; all we needed was for our friend John Steinbaugh to point it out for us.

 

I quote (roughly):

 

30 terrorist incidents, but 556,000 die from smoking, 29,000 from alcohol, 35,000 in motor vehicle accidents.  How about we give the terrorists fast cars, booze and smokes in a large flat area of northern Iraq.  Give or take one year they will all be dead.  Problem solved. Oh, forgot, 24 hr. access to Kardashians on HBO.

 

 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I need a C sharp

 

I heard a song that really caught my ear and thought “that’s what music should sound like”, and that I ought to figure out how to plunk it out on the guitar.  Those old folk songs in 1960 pretty much only needed three chords, like E, A, B7, but we could play that sequence in any key, so my fingers are fluent in lots of chords.  How hard could it be?

 

This song is a more sophisticated sound than I’m used to making, but no problem, we have Google.  A quick search led me to lyrics and chords.  It requires several chords I’m not used to, but the real problem is the C#.  I never needed a C# before.  I looked up the chord diagram and told my fingers to do it.  They rebelled and told me to f-off.  I tried to impose my will.  I tried brute force.  I searched alternative fingering for a C#.  None seem to work.  Darn.  Me and my fingers seem to be at an impasse.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to bend them to my will for this one.

 

I’m doing fine with all the other chords in this tune, A, D, E, B (that one’s a little harder, not my favorite), F.  I can pull off the F#m and the D#m (these aren’t familiar to me but I can do them); but I’m totally dead in the water with the C#.  I need all the chords, and for this to make any sense, they have to just flow.  Part of the problem is that my guitar is so old, the action isn’t what it used to be.  Each string requires a big push, a lot of travel, to make good contact with the neck and the fret.  Maybe a new high-quality guitar would help.  That wouldn’t make any sense though with my only incidental interest in music now.

 

 

Working on C# got me to thinking about chords and notes, and I came to a giant gap in my music knowledge.  (I don’t have to head off very far in any direction to discover a gap in my music knowledge.  I only ever played by ear, repeating sounds I liked.  I never actually learned anything about music.)  The gap that appeared before me yesterday however was about playing major and sharp chords.  I play an F chord, I can slide it up to F# by moving it up a fret.  Same with A and A#.  But something entirely different happens with an E chord.  I slide that one up one fret and it’s not an E#, it’s an F.  So that means there is no such thing as an E#?  I recognize the pattern on the strings and frets, sometimes there are notes between major notes, and sometimes there aren’t.  Is this a difficult philosophical concept, or is this something that can easily be explained by someone who knows music, to the equivalent of a musical first grader?

 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Happy Birthday to me!

 

Judy made the family recipe birthday cake; triple layer with 7 minute frosting.  OMG!

 

Not only that, but a plate of frosting cookies to go with it.

 

We passed on putting seventy candles on it; we didn’t need the fire hazard.

 

 

Homemade spaghetti dinner, followed by a sugar rush.  Just what I wanted.

 

In combined birthdays, Judy and I have now spent a total of one hundred birthdays together.  Can’t imagine a better birthday present than that, unless maybe a hundred one.

 

Of course, since it’s my birthday, I get to do anything I want.  The weather is glorious, so we had morning coffee, sat in the sunshine for a while, then took a walk.  Pretty tame stuff.  What else can I do?  I told Judy maybe I wanted to do a somersault.

 

She wouldn’t look at me.

 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

This is fun

 

I spent ten years at the Aspen Center for Physics, once a year lecturing Michael Turner on accounting and financial statements, helping him understand; the whole while reveling in the absurdity of me lecturing him.  Now I come across World Science University, and a chance to watch Michael in action in the area of *his* expertise.  Wow.

 

You have to log in to see the lecture.

 

http://www.worldscienceu.com/

 

You can watch any of the videos for free.  After a brief sign-up, you can click on Master Classes, All Master Classes, then click on Michael.

 

It’s Michael Turner lecturing on Cosmology; specifically Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and Inflation.  Now here is a guy who knows what he’s talking about.  He knows so much, he can explain it in English, and he even knows what he doesn’t know; the questions that remain unanswered, and the mysteries that don’t even have questions yet.

 

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I've been watching the presidential debates

 

There you have it.  I’m not proud of it, but I feel better now that it’s out there.

 

So far I’ve learned three things:

 

  1. Our election process is now a reality television game show about who can deliver the best applause line.

 

  1. I am consumed by terror about ISIS killing me and I can’t think of anything else.

 

  1. Our election is totally about who can kill ISIS the best.  Who is the leader that can deliver us from our terror?

 

I still don’t have perspective on this, so I google causes of death per year and I get:

 

Illicit drugs                  46,000

Motor vehicles             35,000

Gun violence                  33,000

Alcohol                          29,000

Cannabis                                  0

Suicide                           41,000

Tobacco                      556,000

Aspirin                                450

 

Terrorism                               30 in the last ten years

 

The most recent numbers I found were for 2013, so they’re somewhat dated, but not terribly.  The pace of terrorism is picking up.  Of course we need to do something about it.  But I just can’t understand why our hair is on fire.  Why is every other issue we face irrelevant compared to defeating people in another part of the world, when the rest of the people in that other part of the world can’t even come to any agreement to defeat them?  ISIS is a problem for us, but so are a lot of other things.  ISIS is a GIANT problem for the other people in the region.  Why aren’t they leading the attack?

 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

More archive pics

 

Pied billed grebe

 

 

 

With legs mounted way far back, they swim a lot better than they walk.  They spend a lot of time underwater eating crustaceans, fish, amphibians, and insects

 

Monday, December 14, 2015

A tough night for Annie

 

She has been getting older naturally; her eyesight failing, her hearing failing, her rear legs even failing.  But she has been hanging in there, still eating, pooping, peeing, and having fun.

 

As late as Sunday morning, she was alert and active.  She ran and played a little bit with Henry after breakfast.  Life started getting difficult for her about dinnertime.  We’ve been having this conversation about knowing when it’s time; not waiting too long before we help her on her way.  That’s our job, to help her when it’s time.  By eight pm she was in enough discomfort we decided it was time.  We took her to the car and drove to the 24 hour vet in McAllen.  She died on the way.  That was as good a place as any for her to take her last breath; she has always loved riding in the car with us.  Best of all, we didn’t have to take her inside to get a shot; she didn’t have to get scared at the vet’s office like dogs do.

 

They were kind to us.  We stayed with Annie for about half an hour to finish our goodbyes.  It was very peaceful.  She was warm and relaxed.  Annie hasn’t looked that comfortable lately.

 

It was a tough night for Annie.  It was a tough night for us.

 

She lived a good life.  She made a lot of people smile.  The picture says it all.

 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hearing aid

 

I realized after I sent out last night’s report that I didn’t show what the hearing aid looks like.  It looks like this in the ear:

 

There is a clear plastic tube that goes from the top front of the ear down into the ear canal.  The hearing device hangs on the outside behind the ear, the tube leads to the part that sticks in the ear, and there is a little tag of monofilament that hooks in the outer ear to hold everything in place.

 

If we set it on a table it looks like this:

 

For size perspective, we can see it’s a lot smaller than my thumb.

 

 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Judy has hearing loss

 

Her hearing has been pretty good as we age, but she had a bad ear infection a couple years ago and lost a lot of the hearing in her right ear, as illustrated by this audiogram.

 

 

The way this chart reads is the bottom axis represents frequency.  The higher the sound, the farther right on the chart.  The left axis represents volume.  The farther down on the chart, the louder the sound has to be for each frequency to be heard.  For normal hearing on a young person, all the lines would be pretty much horizontal and within the 10 to 20 range.

 

For our purposes, there are a couple of extraneous lines, the ones with the dotted lines.  The two important ones are the solid ones, the “X”s for her left ear and the “O”s for her right ear.  Her left ear can hear almost everything within the normal range of hearing.  The volume has to go up a little for her to hear the higher pitched sounds.  Her right ear drops off pretty fast.  The volume has to be unrealistically loud for her to hear any high pitched sounds out of her right ear.  An odd result of disparity is that pretty much everything she hears seems to be coming from her left.  She has lost the ability to hear something and look right at the direction it’s coming from.

 

Today she got a hearing aid in her right ear.  We got the audiologist to run the audiogram again; hearing aid in.  It came out like this.

 

 

There are still two dotted lines to try to ignore, but an additional line of importance superimposed; the “A”s.  That is how her right ear hears now, practically the same as the left ear; the “X”s.

 

She spent the rest of the day marveling at how much stuff she could hear, how she could tell which direction a sound was coming from, and how much we could turn down the television and she could still understand the dialog.  Great fun.

 

Here is how it looks when she’s wearing it.

 

Hard to tell.

 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bird pictures from the archives

 

Brown pelican.

 

 

One of Judy’s favorite birds.

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hardware Man

 

We made the Monday trip to Corpus for the three-week follow-up with the surgeon.  He said I’m doing awesome.  I think that was the technical term he used; that’s what I heard anyway.  The staples are now out, so I guess we’ll need a newer nickname than zipper neck.

 

Remember how my neck looked before?

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I sent out an x-ray of it.

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This scrolling down thing is your chance to escape before the graphic x-rays show up, if you don’t want to see them.

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It looked like this.

Lots of hardware.

 

Almost all the old hardware came out.  There were two broken-off screws that got left in.  They put in two new bone grafts, then they put twice as much hardware back in.  Now it looks like this; screws, plates, and rods:

 

They took this while the staples were still in the back of my neck.  Looks like they had a long way to go to get from there to my spine.

 

Anyway, now I’m more hardware than neck.  They’ve got me screwed down so tight, these fusions should take though.  We’ll know in about two more months.  Six months for sure.  Or twelve.

 

From the front it looks like this.

 

The plates and screws in the middle are on the front.  The outside rods and screws are on the back.  You can see the neck staples behind them.

 

Here is the staple collection after.

 

That’s the staple puller.  It distorts and pulls them at the same time.

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy Birthday Judy!

I’m being nice to her.  We went to Bed Bath and Beyond, but they didn’t have what she wanted.  She went to Michael’s.  Nothing there either.  We split a burger at Whataburger for lunch.  She found what she wanted at Walmart.  We came home and she made a birthday cake.  She can have anything she wants for dinner.  She chose leftovers.

 

There is not much I can actually do for her but follow her around all day.  I’m being nice to her.  She makes it easy.  Happy Birthday Judy.

 

Monday, December 7, 2015

I was wrong

 

I didn’t think Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee.  I thought he was a loudmouth bigot with no real solutions to real problems, preying on our insecurities and fears, even helping us invent some that are totally baseless, appealing only to people who felt like victims and were willing to be rescued by a bully.  I thought the more he talked, the more he would be found-out, and end up a discarded footnote to the campaign.  Boy was I wrong.  Exactly wrong.  The more he talks, the greater his appeal!

 

Watching the popularity of the candidate grow, I realize that it would be a ridiculous charge to make about such a sizeable segment of our electorate; that they would succumb to such a shallow appeal. There is a much simpler and more likely explanation for Trump’s popularity; it is that there is something going on that I don’t recognize or understand.  Confusion on my part would certainly not be unprecedented; I get confused by lots of things.

 

So there you have it.  I was wrong.  Now I’m right.  I recognize the trend.  Donald Trump *will* be the Republican nominee, and his popularity will continue to grow and he will be elected President of the United States.  Donald Trump.  A man of the people.  President Trump.  Get used to it.

 

 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

I'm rubber and you're glue

 

Everything …… 

 

I forget how the rest of that goes.

 

I’m in the recliner chair watching football.  I can’t work the lever with my right arm to get up and down, I have to ask for Judy’s help each time.  Instead of asking to get up, I asked her to get me a particular pillow off the couch the next time she got up.  She got up right away and headed off to that end of the couch.  On her way there, she noticed the flowers on the table at the end of the couch needed to be turned, so she adjusted the vase.  Leaning over the flowers she saw that the afternoon sun was coming in through the window and would soon shine on the television set so she adjusted the blinds.  There was an empty coffee cup on the end table so she headed off to the kitchen with that, from where she announced that she had decided to take an early shower.  I asked if she’d get me the pillow first.

 

Well, some of us thought that was pretty funny.

 

A couple hours later, Judy let me down off the recliner so I could go about my business.  I put away an empty coffee cup myself.  I got a warmer shirt from the bedroom.  I stopped in the kitchen and got a cold pack out of the freezer to put on my shoulder.  I put down the ice pack so I could put on the shirt.  I put a fresh cup of coffee on to brew.  We had been listening to the Bronco game on the computer in the front room, so I had to relocate the computer to the office.  Judy helped me get it plugged in.  I sat down in front of the computer and started typing.  A few minutes later, Judy walked in the room with my shoulder ice pack (which I had totally forgotten) in her hand. 

 

Some of us thought that was pretty funny.

 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A wonderful visit with Becky

 

 

 

 

But it’s over now.

 

We waved her off at the Harlingen airport today.

 

Friday, December 4, 2015

A snowy egret

 

A snowy egret working the marsh below the boardwalk.

 

 

 

And a great blue heron.