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June 6th, 2017

Health Fair Notes

One of the nice spiffs of working in a place that actually cares about employee health and wellness is they have an annual Health Fair here, where they set up booths you can visit and get various simple but informative tests done. They had one today at work, and I went to some of the booths/tables. There was a new one that gave you an overall “inside the body” age, based on weight, body mass, body fat percentage, skeletal muscle percentage, visceral fat level and resting metabolism. It gave me an inside the body age of 49, which I’ll happily accept (I’m 63). Other tests were pretty good also, including happily the cardiac recovery test which had me doing vigorous step exercise for three minutes. I am not a high burn exercise kind of guy and was proud just to have finished the test (my knees aren’t shot yet), but they gave me a solid “normal” grade so there’s that too.

The general consensus was that even though I don’t do much formal exercising, the fact that I don’t smoke (cigarettes) and my day usually includes at least a couple miles or more of walking (back and forth to work when the weather is good, and an evening walk around the neighborhood before bed), that’s kept me in pretty good health despite the fact my job has me sitting down a lot. Also my vertical Baltimore rowhouse has me doing steps a lot. No…seriously…a Lot. Fact is, even at work I get up a lot and go talk to people rather than email or message them because I fidget too much if kept seated for too long and won’t sit still. Just ask any of my elementary school teachers. Plus I got a FitBit to remind me to get up and take a walk in case I get zoned out doing code work or documentation.

So I’m in pretty good health for my age. Which is something to think about whenever I get to fretting over it because it’s so horrible on mom’s side of my family tree.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Health Fair Notes

September 2nd, 2016

Holiday Fun Stuff

I’d tentatively planned to take a wee road trip up into Pennsylvania this holiday weekend, but the hurricane is getting in the way of that. As I write this it looks like central Maryland won’t take a direct hit like it was looking earlier, but the thing is now predicted to stall off the Jersey coast and dump tons of rain, mostly on the coast, but also it seems, here in Charm City. So instead of a road trip, I’m going to stay home and pretend for three days to be a working artist. No seriously, I’m going to put my nose to the grindstone on some projects I have going, including the next two episodes of A Coming Out Story, and try to make some progress. I also have a fun thing about how visits to the doctor get creepier the older you get I’ve been plinking with off and on for way too long. It’s a stand alone strip I am thinking about submitting somewhere, most likely to a gay comic if I can find one taking submissions from unknowns. Paul Cameron makes a cameo appearance.

I’m also hoping to get some time in with my oil paints…

But mostly I’m really needing to make some progress on A Coming Out Story. There are fun things to come, if I can just get past the current block. So when I get up tomorrow I’m going to start my day as if I’d been doing this for a living all my life.

And because…deep down inside…I’m really hurting. And the more it hurts, the more I need to go find that life I dreamed of first, when the world was new and everything seemed possible.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Holiday Fun Stuff

August 3rd, 2016

The Best Exercise Machine Is Your Own Body

So if you read a previous post here, you know I bought a Fitbit. It’s one of the new Alta models. I like it’s slim profile; it rests easily on my wrist and I don’t even notice it’s there until it vibrates to get my attention. But I bought it for two features I figured would help me out. On thing is it monitors my sleep patterns so I can have a record of how well I’m sleeping…or not as the case may be.  But more importantly, it monitors my periods of inactivity and alerts me when it figures I need to get up and move around. I have a desk job. Worse, I’m a software engineer. Hours can go by and I’m in a kind of trance like state working on computer software, or working out some configuration problem or design issue, or I’m writing documentation, and I don’t even notice the time going by. Then when I do finally get up out of my chair I’m stiff all over. I’m 62 years old, going on 63, and this is not a good lifestyle for someone my age.  

The Fitbit wants at least 250 steps an hour. The daily goal is 10k steps, which isn’t all that hard for a walker like myself. Recall, I grew up in a household that didn’t have a car until I was 15. Walking as part of my daily life is so hardwired into me that the first thing I did when I got the job at Space Telescope was look for a place to live within walking distance. This has been my main form of exercise and activity lately. When I can walk to work I feel better and my weight stays consistently in what I regard as the good zone. But it’s not every day the weather is that good and when we get a string of rainy or excessively hot days I drive in and my energy levels go in the tank. And it’s because I almost never get out of my chair while I’m at work. I fall into that programmer’s trance and next thing I know several hours have passed and I haven’t moved.

Until now. Every day I’ve worn the Fitbit so far I’ve been able to easily get to 10k, and I usually go a few thousand beyond that. It’s easy walking around the neighborhood, to get groceries or go to The Avenue for dinner and drinks and back. Today for the first time since I got it, the weather forecast was good enough I could walk to work and already I’m almost halfway to 10k and I haven’t even taken my lunchtime walk around campus yet. But most importantly, it alerts me when I’ve sat for too long, asks me to take 250 steps and congratulates me when I make it. That I am convinced now, is the single most important thing it’s doing for me, and it’s made a big difference in my overall energy levels.

When you first set up the Fitbit it asks you your age, your sex, height and weight. So I’m guessing the default goals it sets for you are related to all that. They’re adjustable, but I’m going to stick with the defaults and wait and see if the Fitbit decides to ask more of me later on. I’m already noticing a big difference. For the first time in months I’m not going home after work, and the first thing I want to do is go to bed and nap for a few hours. Those naps never were refreshing and I felt like I was physically spiraling downward. I’m active now all day long and that’s a big improvement. I’ve tried this and that to stay active at work and this little Fitbit is the only thing that’s worked, but it is working magnificently. I feel noticeably better throughout the day and it’s only been two weeks.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

June 6th, 2016

The Rite Of Spring

My spring into summer diet has become such an annual routine now that I can mark the stations along the way. First comes getting past that initial sugar withdrawal. Then the day that eating the bland food I grew up on stops feeling so damn boring and more like an echo of a happy boyhood. Then comes the day I can switch back to my 31″ jeans. That’s when I can look in the mirror and really start feeling good about how I look. At least from the waist down anyway. Too many old man lines in my face now to convince myself I’m still dating material.

But the glory day comes later. I have a nice beam balance scale in the upstairs bathroom. I bought it mail order after I became serious about wanting to get my weight down (which was after I reconnected with a certain someone from my past…at least I can still thank him for this). A morning eventually comes when I am back under 150 and I can move the larger of the two weights on the scale back a notch. That morning happened two days ago.

And now I can look in the mirror and see I have my hourglass back and I can feel comfortable in my low risers and swim trunks and the nice lite summer shirts I haven’t been able to wear since the end of last winter’s holiday feasting. Also I feel better all around, though having weather now that allows me to be more active outdoors is probably a big part of that too.

My ideal weight is between 146 and 148. I should be there by the time I go on my road trip later this month. Then the diet is officially over. I can maintain because my sugar cravings are gone and once the stomach is used to smaller portions I don’t need to stick to the bland food because I feel full sooner. This will last until the temptations of Thanksgiving arrive once more and by December and Christmas feasting I’ll be wearing the flannel shirts and taking the 32″ jeans back out of the cedar chest and putting the 31″s back in.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Rite Of Spring

March 22nd, 2016

Left Brain, Right Brain, Silicon Brain…

Browsing through my local network folders I stumbled on some old BBS message files and an associated log file that made me realize I had written my own NNTP client way, Way back in the day. I had completely forgotten this. So I went looking through my old source code tree for the source. It was a program I’d named TRILOBYTE. Back then I was into naming my programs after obscure critters.

I finally found it and looked over the code to see if it jogged any memories. It’s kinda disturbing I didn’t remember this one At All. But there it was. It was a riff off something I’d written in another modem program’s scripting language that basically just logged onto a service, downloaded all the new messages on the boards I was interested in, uploaded any replies I’d previously placed in an upload folder, and then logged off.

I’d written it in VB1 it seems, but I think looking at the main source file I had a DOS version I’d worked on first. It contains my first ever state machine code to process the NNTP transactions. I know it worked because I have folders with USENET news articles in them this thing downloaded, and reply files it successfully uploaded according to the log files. Writing my own NNTP state machine, with nothing more than the protocol documentation to guide me, was actually a pretty big accomplishment for back then. I’m a little concerned now that it completely dropped out of my memory.

I can still recall coding my first PIM software (I called it “Beetle”)…and “Owl”, which was going to be my own weird client/server take on BBS-ing. I’d developed an entire system based around the concept of a message board warehouse where instead of logging on and reading and writing online you would run a program that quickly connected, downloaded all your new messages and email, upload your replies, and then disconnected. You would then read and write offline. It was a solution for the days when long distance phone charges were high and most amateur BBSs were single line and if someone was hogging the line nobody else got in. I figured if I could create a BBS system that reduced connection time to a bare minimum it would make connecting to out of state, maybe even out of country BBSs cost effective and feasible. The Internet pretty much wiped all that away by the time I finished developing my new system. So it never really got much past the early prototype stage. Such is life.

I’d completely forgotten I wrote Trilobyte. And it had some pretty nifty code in it too. Some of it probably came from the client part of Owl. There’s the Twit filters and Scud Topic filters which were things I’d implemented in LOGMOP, a PDS Basic program I’d written to clean my BBS message file downloads of flame wars and idiots.  It was lost to the grey matter, but there in the silicon. I wonder if this is some sort of new evolutionary path we’re all going down now…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Left Brain, Right Brain, Silicon Brain…

March 10th, 2016

Not What It Used To Be

While staying at the Walt Disney World parks I would make extensive use of my annual pass. It basically gives you freedom to wander around the parks without worry about when your tickets expire or which park you’re allowed into that day. So if I was staying at Boardwalk I’d start my morning with a walk down the path to Hollywood Studios…

 

hollywood studios walk-sm

 

…and make my way to The Writer’s Stop to get my morning coffee and a danish. The Writer’s Stop is a nice little coffee shop/bookstore tucked in a corner of Hollywood Studios, themed as a studio writer’s lounge/hangout.  And now it looks like they’re going to close it, another one of my favorite places in WDW, to make way for more Star Wars stuff.  I can’t really blame them. Star Wars is hot right now. It’ll bring the tourists in…and the money.

I’m probably not going back to Walt Disney World, largely because it’s not as much fun if I have to remember the fight I had with a certain someone every time I go back. But there is also this, and I discussed it the other day with a co-worker who is also a big Disney fan: it’s feeling less and less every year like Walt Disney’s World, and more like Disney Corporation’s World.

I think when I started going back in 2008 I was just seeing the last fading light of Walt Disney’s influence on the parks. It was something special to me because I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was still alive and when I walked into Epcot that first time it all came back to me. But in the years since they’ve bought Star Wars and they’ve bought Marvel, and while those are all fun things they’re not necessarily Disney things. I don’t think that much matters to the boardroom anymore. Those of us who still remember Walt Disney are getting old.

It’s still the Rolls Royce of theme parks. The nearest competition can’t even come close. But I wasn’t a theme park kinda guy back in 2008…I only got talked into it by a certain someone, and then, to my surprise and delight, only dived in because I remembered Walt Disney. I don’t need to keep coming back anymore, if it can’t at least still be his theme park.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not What It Used To Be

February 22nd, 2016

A Small Awakening After A Long Winter

Put my bird feeders back up over the weekend. After I’d finished I noticed I seemed more awake, more aware of…everything…than I had in a long time.

I’d stopped feeding a couple winters ago (counting this one) because the mess was getting more annoying than I wanted to deal with. Birds are messy eaters and the shells get tossed every friggin’ where. Plus the additional cost of stocking up on big sacks of seed before winter set it was more one year that I wanted to bear.

But there was more to it, and even back then I knew it in that just-barely-aware space where you put things you flinch away from looking at too closely. Somehow I’d just lost interest. It’s weird, but looking back on it now I think I know why. The front yard was Claudia’s hangout and when she died, counter intuitively, I lost interest in the bird feeders.

I think it was the feeders were something I enjoyed looking out at. Watching birds at the feeders is one of those little joys I’ve indulged ever since kidhood. I’d have them out on the apartment balconies everywhere mom and I lived. One of the big deals of having a house of my own was I could really indulge it if I had a nice yard and space to put up different kinds of feeders for different kinds of birds. Then it happened and afterward I didn’t much care about the front yard anymore. Or more specifically, looking out the front window.

It’s odd and interesting how emotions can seem to be about one thing when they’re really about something else. I had no noticeable aversion to looking out the front window at the front yard and the street. I did it often if only to check on the weather and my car from time to time. My house being an middle-group rowhouse doesn’t have side windows, so the front, which faces the south, is my main source of sunlight. So it always got its blinds opened first thing in the morning. Had there been something making me actually flinch away from the window I’d have noticed it and walked it back to the source. But it was only disinterest in feeding the birds starting that winter. That little joy didn’t matter much anymore for some reason. So I took the feeders down. And without the feeders I never bothered looking out that window much, except to check on the weather, and the car. It’s been years since it happened and I still sometimes get flashbacks of glancing out that window and seeing Claudia thrashing on the street, and knowing in that instant she’d been run over.

Last Friday while telecommuting I saw a chickadee hopping around on my Japanese maple looking for the feeders that used to be out there and I thought I should go dig out one of the small sunflower seed feeders. It was a chore because all the feeders were in a storage container under the backyard deck and the outside door to it was still blocked by the huge pile of snow I’d shovelled off the deck. I could get to it from the basement door but I just knew it would be covered in funnel spider condos which I just didn’t want to get near without a lot of de-spider spray. Plus it was blocked off with workshop items like the table saw and ironically, the storage cans where I keep the wild bird seed.

But I got into it anyway and cleared out the spider encampment (I swear this spring I’m hiring an exterminator to de-spider the space under my deck) and worked my way to the container with the bird feeders in it. I ended up taking most of the stuff in it out. As I began setting things back up in the front yard something apparently awakened inside. I found myself trekking to the Wild Birds Unlimited out in Cockeysville and buying some new feeders and mounting poles, and some fresh suet cakes for the woodpeckers. And when I’d finished I looked at my front yard it seemed with fresh eyes, like as though for the past couple years I’d not really been seeing it right there in front of me.

Figured it might take me months to get my old customers back. They were all there by the end of that day.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Small Awakening After A Long Winter

August 5th, 2014

One Person’s Fountain Of Youth Is Another’s Fountain Of Old

I follow I Facebook group devoted to “classic” TV shows.  This photo came across that stream this morning…

goodnight chet-sm

Techno geek that I am, the first thing I latched onto was the TV camera. Just look at it. It’s friggin’ Huge. And it was probably only capable of capturing video in black & white. That gatling gun lens mount is what they used to adjust the field of view before zoom lenses became a thing. The tripod it’s on gives a hint of how heavy it was.

I should feel so terribly old looking at this but I don’t. What I feel is Ha! I can record better video from the little hand held device in my pocket than that hulking monstrosity could and transmit it to the entire world from just about anywhere I happen to be standing.  I’m sixty years old now, and something I’ve noticed is that progress makes some people feel old while it leaves others always feeling young…

…because you’re always having to learn new sh*t! All this time I’ve been attributing that constant twenty-ish mindset I have to a state of arrested development and that’s not it. It isn’t that I never grew up, it’s that I never got tired of growing up.

And that’s the way it is.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on One Person’s Fountain Of Youth Is Another’s Fountain Of Old

September 18th, 2013

Cats…

I walk through the neighborhood on my way to Cafe’ Hon…a favorite dinner spot.  Along the way I often encounter various neighborhood cats.  We’re not exactly swimming in cats here in Medfield, but Claudia was hardly the only outdoor domestic cat in the neighborhood. They all usually come up to me for a pet or two when they see me coming…somehow they always seem to sense that I’m a friendly human, even the ones I’ve never laid eyes on before.  Apart from the ferals there is only one neighborhood cat who won’t come near…a big grey one that lives at the other end of my street.  But that one’s even more of a diva than Claudia was.  Claudia was a diva too, but a friendly one.

So I cross paths with the black cat that lives across Falls Road, who reminds me of my first cat, and yesterday as I walked to Cafe’ Hon, a little black & white one a few blocks away I’d never seen before, who came up to me for a pet.  It had a name tag exactly like the one I gave to Claudia after she became mine.  I reach down to give them a few strokes before I go on my way, and now I have a new patter I say to all the neighborhood cats as we exchange greetings.

Please be careful…Please…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Cats…

September 16th, 2013

Silence

Cats are not the most noisy of this good earth’s creatures, and yet it’s amazing how…quiet…my house is now without her.  I’m listening for small things…the sound of her collar tags tinkling, her feet bounding up the stairs, that odd little gravelly voice she had. When she was in the house every now and then I’d hear her little feet, usually going up or down the stairs or hopping off the kitchen counter.  She’d find me either down in the art room working on something or upstairs in the bedroom napping, announce herself in that little voice and then walk over to where I was for some attention. More often than not, it got me away from the computer. I was slowly beginning to rediscover what a life was like away from one.

There’s nothing in the house now but silence.  And…me, lost somewhere inside of it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Silence

September 13th, 2013

Pantomime Morning

In retrospect it’s amazing how quickly the morning routine with Claudia became, well, a routine. Before Claudia it was get up, bathroom, then some undetermined activity, maybe the computer, maybe putting out the trash or filling the dishwasher, brewing some coffee, or maybe making myself some sandwiches for lunch, then out the door to work on workdays, or Whatever if it was the weekend or stay at home vacation.  After Claudia it was always feed the cat, and that was a routine into itself, a pattern I quickly and neatly fell into.

I stopped going downstairs until I was fully dressed.  No more wandering down from the second floor only partially clothed, if at all.  Because if she was out for the night first thing when I got downstairs was open the door and let her in. No point in letting the neighbors see an unclothed Bruce at the door…they probably think I’m weird enough as it is.  She’d be right there at the door talking to me the moment she heard the deadbolt key turn, and as soon as I had the door open just a crack she was inside.  Then there would be a pause with her back to me, waiting for some petting and stroking. Then I got led to the kitchen. In her last couple weeks I was gradually trying to get her used to staying inside overnight.  So then the routine was I had to wait until I was dressed before I even opened the bedroom door because she’d either be there waiting, or at the foot of the stairs.  And once she laid eyes on me the Feed The Cat routine started, and it never varied much.

After the morning greeting she would lead me into the kitchen. I would walk over to the sink and her tail would go up and start vibrating, which is cat love. And I would get one of her stainless steel dishes and hand wash it if it wasn’t already clean (a solitary guy doesn’t fill the dishwasher fast enough to run it every night) and dry it off while she rubbed against my legs. Her food would either be from the can or something from the fridge…perhaps some carved turkey slices I’d bought from Trader Joe’s for both of us.  I’d bring some out and start cutting it up for her bowl and she’d stand up on her hind legs with her front on the counter door and scratch at it…I didn’t mind, she wasn’t hurting it, I keep meaning to get some new cabinetry put in because I really don’t like the fuax country kitchen decor the previous owners installed…and I’d reach down and give the back of her neck a scratch and go back to what I was doing.  Throughout the process she’d talk to me and I’d talk to her…

Good Morning! Hungry are we? Well you’re in luck! I was just about to put some food into one of these little stainless steel dishes and set it on the floor. It’s this little ritual I have. So you came along at Just The Right Moment! All these years I’ve had this tick of putting food into little stainless steel dishes and setting it on the floor and now all that food doesn’t have to go to waste anymore! Like it do you? Swell! This works out pretty well for both of us doesn’t it? I put food in one of these little stainless steel dishes and put it on the floor and you come along and eat it. Come back this afternoon…I might do it again. You never know….

I used to have shameless fun with it…

Hungry are you? Carnivore you say? Say…this might work out for both of us. You see, I have this turkey corpse hidden in the fridge. Trader Joe asked me to get rid of it for him. Here’s my proposition: You could slowly eat it…come back here every now and then and I give you some. Come alone….understand? Deal? We work this right and you get food, and I get rid of a dead body for Trader Joe. You in? Dead bird is just fine with you is it? Exxxxcellent…

Then I’d put it down on the floor for her, give her a few more pets as she dug in…

…and while I was there and she was eating I’d make some food for myself to take in to work, which in the long run was probably better and healthier for me and certainly a lot cheaper.  I’d grind some coffee to take in to work, pack some lunch, and by then we were both ready for our day.  She came to me a determinedly outdoor cat, it was how I came to have her in the first place as Ben, her previous owner, just couldn’t keep her inside.  So for the first months of our friendship, and then the first few weeks of my officially being her owner (or employee more likely), I didn’t bother trying to keep her inside when she wanted out.  I would sling on my backpack, put on a hat, set the alarm and we’d both walk out the door together.  I’d say something like “Watch the mansion dear…” or “Keep an eye on the neighborhood…” and off I’d go.

Most workdays she would be waiting for me when I got home, and if she wasn’t there a call of her name and she always came running.  Always.  And then came the afternoon routine.

No more. It’s amazing how lost I feel now. Aimless. My life here at Casa del Garrett has simply reverted back to what it has always been for the first eleven years since I’ve lived here, and I don’t know how to do that anymore. It isn’t intuitive. I’m just doing what I think my mornings were always like. But I don’t know anymore what they’re supposed to be like.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Pantomime Morning

September 12th, 2013

Another Cat…It Isn’t Just About My Needs

Everyone, almost without exception, tells me I should get another cat when the time is right.  I am almost inclined to agree, maybe.  But any cat I bring into my life again will have to be a strictly indoor cat because I am not carrying another much loved pet back to the front porch with a broken body. So what kind of life can I offer an indoor cat?  Well, I have a house of my own, and it has three levels and lots of space to run around and find places to lounge in.  But it gets little direct sunlight into it because of the Japanese maples out front, and the aluminum awnings a previous owner put over the windows.  I could put some places up by all the windows for it (her…it would probably be another her) to lounge on and watch the world outside go by. But I would hate to think I was keeping it (her) imprisoned. There’s a reason you can’t keep a cat confined indoors once it’s had the taste of the outdoors.  A life confined indoors would disturb me.  But I can’t be picking up another broken body off the street.

The worst of it though is…it’s just me living there.  I go to work.  I go here and there when I’m not at work.  For a walk when I need it.  In my car when I need that.  Cat’s don’t do cars very well.  Neither do most motels.  The cat would be by itself a lot, and taken care of by a stranger who comes by just long enough to feed it (her) and clean the litter box when I’ve gone on vacation somewhere.  It just wouldn’t be fair.  I take your love and affection and then I leave you alone whenever it’s something I need to do.

It isn’t that another cat wouldn’t be good for me.  Claudia’s love convinced me I need companionship more than I’d thought. I’ve been searching for my other half since I was a teenager in first love, and telling myself that I’d rather be alone then fake it with Mr. For Tonight or Mr. Good Enough.  But alone is more damaging than I’d really realized.  It isn’t that another cat wouldn’t be good for me.  It’s would I and my life be good for a cat.  At least Claudia had the world outside the house too.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Another Cat…It Isn’t Just About My Needs

November 28th, 2012

I Suppose Repacking The Bearing Greese Isn’t An Option…

Walking up the front steps to Casa del Garrett I hear the familiar sound of my shoes crunching over spent shells from one of my bird feeders.  Crunch, crunch, crunch…up the steps, then into the house.  Once inside, I start up the steps to the second floor.  I notice the crunching sound is still happening.  I take the steps a little slower and listen carefully.  Crunch, crunch, crunch…

The sound is coming from my right knee, which has been feeling a little stiff lately.  Oh Foo.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Suppose Repacking The Bearing Greese Isn’t An Option…

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