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July 18th, 2018

Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…
 
I resumed dieting again a couple weeks ago. It’s not the painful thing for me that it is for others. By sticking to a basically bland food intake and no sugary treats I can get back down to a weight and shape I feel good about, and which my body seems to naturally like anyway. Just today managed to get the hourglass is back. It feels nice. Now I need to stick to the plan for at least another couple weeks, but seeing this reappear is a big ego boost and encouragement because I can start feeling good about my appearance again. The age lines in my face notwithstanding. It’s important to me, solitary though I am. Maybe more so precisely because that. 
 
So…from the neck down anyway (people who look like that…) it’s…pretty good again. Gay otter body though it is. I need to stick to the plan for a while longer so it takes for the rest of the summer and autumn. You get to a point where your body is accustomed to a summer intake and then I’m always apologizing to the servers when I go out to eat for all the food I left on the plate, unless I remember to ask for small portions ahead of time. I can maintain a 148-150 weight and the hourglass pretty easily through the summer and fall. It’s when the holidays come around and everyone is waving cupcakes and cookies at me that it all comes unraveled. The past decade or so I’ve been in a cycle of gaining waistline during the winter holidays and shedding it in the spring. This year I just didn’t feel like it…for some reason. But somehow…somehow…I managed to roust myself out of it and decide liking how I look was worthwhile again, even if only to myself. 
 
I’m really not a very big guy and I never needed a lot of calories. What happened was I started making a good income and suddenly I could escape the bland diet of my youth. And then the waistline grew, the hourglass vanished, and appealingly my chin started disappearing along with it. I’ve written before about how I was at 160 heading for 170 and 33 inch bluejeans heading for 34s. I just put it down to middle age…mom was a thin little thing herself until she hit her 40s and I figured that was my fate too. But then I reconnected with my high school crush and he asked for a photo of me, and I started looking at what I was eating and adding up the calories and it shocked me. 
 
Call it empty vanity if you like, but being single and at the end of any possibility of dating at my age, it matters that I can still look in a mirror and like what I see. 
by Bruce | Link | React!

July 17th, 2018

LP To Digital…Not As Hard As It Use To Be

I posted yesterday complaining that so many of my favorite classical music LPs still weren’t available in digital form that I could listen to on my iPod. Yes, I still use my iPod Classic, as well as my iPhone to listen to music. The iPod comes in very handy for when I’m just doing household chores, or I just want to disconnect from the internet tubes for a while and just listen to music, and work down in the art room. It’s been years since I last attempted to make a digital copy of one of my LPs, largely because the software I was using only ran on an older PowerPC Macbook, and had a limited number of exports to MP3  format you could make without buying the premium version, which by the time I’d decided to go ahead with that the software had been orphaned.

So the other day I finally began looking around for another program I could use, and pretty quickly found Audacity…

 

The appeal here is this software runs on Windows, Macs, and Linux, and I was really wanting something that would run on Linux because I had that running on a small laptop that would have been perfect for parking next to the living room stereo and connecting it up to the output jacks on the Dynaco PAS-2. I still have a source for new stylus for the Shure Type III I so I can theoretically get a good signal from any of my LPs that are still in good shape. What’s nice about Audacity is the editor is pretty easy to use and lets you mark each individual track on an LP and export them all at once with the track names as filenames.  So I can just set everything up, hit record and let the LP play, flip it over to side 2 without needing to stop the recording, then when it’s done I can disconnect the laptop, take it back upstairs to the office and edit out the dead spots and identify and tack on the track names, and then export it all to the directory I have on my central store, and later import everything into iTunes.

There are some nice bells and whistles…a level normalizer, noise filters and such. My Kenwood KD-600 turntable is pretty well isolated, and the LP I copied over last night was in good shape, so I didn’t any of the noise filters but the level normalizer worked well. The only hassle was finding the right settings to get Audacity to recognize my USB input device and the headphone jack on the laptop. Hassling with I/O devices is something you just expect with Linux. But at least I didn’t have to recompile anything to get it done.

I have a waiting list of LPs I need to do this with. But I’m happy. I had a surprising amount of music I could just not listen to any other way but on the stereo, or a bunch of old and very worn out cassettes and I don’t have a Walkman anymore, just the iPods for taking music with me. I grew up in a series of apartments mom and I shared, and time was if I wanted to listen to music and not disturb the neighbors I either had to wait for them to leave their apartments or play it on the headphones…I had a nice pair of Koss Pro 4aa headphones once upon a time…and that meant I was always tethered in some way to the stereo, literally at times. When the first Walkman came out I was immediately enchanted, but couldn’t afford one. But they eventually came down in price as other makers piled on and I remember how lovely it was to just be able to stroll around in a comfortable cocoon of music that would travel with me Everywhere. When the first iPods came out I was hooked immediately, and that quickly led to me buying digital copies of new music, where before it would have been an LP, plus all the copies of music I already had that I’d worn out from playing over and over.

In a way I’m kinda glad to see the LP coming back into vogue. LPs, when properly engineered and played back on good equipment sound wonderful. I’ve bought some new pressings and they’re, I’m here to tell you, generally Much better in quality than when I had to buy back in the day. But the LP tethers you to the stereo too, and once you have tasted freedom…

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 15th, 2018

Searching Foor Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor
Thing about classical music is there is so much of it out there on LPs that never seems to have been migrated to digital and I can’t find it on either Apple or Amazon music. This is particularly true of orchestral transcriptions of piano music. Since that’s a…let’s call it a “cover” like the rock kids do…of some original piece that the composer never intended to be orchestrated, there is no “standard” version of it and everyone does it a little differently.
 
Case in point: There’s a really evocative Chopin piece…his Prelude in E Minor, that I first heard on an album of “covers” of classical film music. This one was a cover of music played in Five Easy Pieces. So…a cover of a cover. I fell in love with it instantly, but then I went to get a copy of the original version and discovered it’s a solo piano piece, and the version I heard was so breathtaking, with the piano and string orchestra basically doing a call and response to each other, I just could not get into the original solo piano version. I still can’t.
 
But the version I heard on that LP, is the only version like it. I just looked around online for it and I can’t find it in any other form but the LP. And the other orchestral versions of it I just reviewed are, IMO horribly over melodramatic. That piece is a very emotionally strong piece, it dives deep into a solitary place inside of you, but it needs its original simplicity to be that. Transcribing it for orchestra is a delicate maneuver. Too many heavy hands have taken it on and ruined it. Though I’ll allow that Stokowski’s full orchestra transcription is very good for a dramatic interpretation. He’s like…the exception to everything in classical music.
 
So…just now I played the version I have on LP, it is still in very good shape, and I’ve been meaning to get updated LP to digital software because I have a Shostakovich symphony I’ve also been meaning to transfer over…so…
by Bruce | Link | React!


Back On The Diet
It’s late in the year for it, but I’ve been dieting to get my shape back into a form where I can get back into all my summer shirts, and look reasonably well in my swim trunks when I get to Walt Disney World this September, and hit the water parks. For some reason I’ve been disinterested in my appearance lately. But now I want to get the hourglass back, and shed some body mass. It’s not the painful thing for me it is for many, at least not in the being hungry all the time sense. It’s painful in the Very Boring Food sense. Basically three rules:
 
Firstly, no extra sugar. That means no cookies, candy bars, cupcakes. Also cut back on the alcohol. None of this is a problem when I’m also trying to save money for a big vacation anyway. This is probably the single biggest thing that makes a difference, and initially the hardest to get started on. Sugar is intensely addictive, and you don’t notice that until you try to cut back on it. But after about two weeks your body adjusts and isn’t demanding it anymore. So get through those first two weeks and it gets Much easier for the rest of it. I’ve found when the sugar withdrawal gets bad in that first two weeks, just taking a short walk kills it right away.
 
Secondly, and this takes some diligence, just simply don’t eat until I’m actually hungry. A friend once remarked that a lot of eating is out of boredom. It’s also habit. Home from work, time to eat. 12 noon, time to eat. Bedtime, time for a snack. Just don’t eat until you get hungry. The surprising thing, to me at least, is that most of the time I’m used to eating, when I stop to think am I hungry now, I’m not.
 
When I do get hungry, another bit of diligence is to stop eating when I’m not hungry anymore. That takes some paying attention to it, and a lot of unlearning all the scolding I got when I was a kid to eat everything on my plate. Sure, when I’m a growing boy that was probably for the best. But now I’m a 60-something who doesn’t need all those calories.
 
So stop eating when not hungry anymore. But that not only takes thinking about it while I’m eating, but also not eating the kinds of food that make you want more because it’s so delicious. Which brings me to Three..
 
…going back on the bland foods I grew up with. Here’s where pain lives. It’s so damn boring.
 
But it works. Just a week and a half into it now and I’ve lost 4 and a half pound already, and I’m not killing myself over it. Just following the rules above. Another week of it and I’ll be back in my 31s, and getting into the summer shirts that fit nicely. By September I should be able to hit the water parks with my hourglass back and only be squeamish about showing my corpse pale whiteness and gay otter body hair. One year I tried a spray on tan (seriously) to see if that helped me feel better about it. It did somewhat, but it also felt like I was faking it. When it started fading it made me look like I had some sort of skin disease. Now given the hilarious spray tan from the bargain tanning salon in the strip mall behind the county landfill now occupying the White House (I keep waiting for some reporter to shout back at him when he calls them fake news, “Fake? Like your tan?”), I will probably never do that again.

This isn’t just about vanity. There’s a health issue here I need to watch. My body tends not to accumulate fat around the hips and waist, so much as around the upper body. So I’m told, that’s a risk sign for heart disease and stroke. This is why my nicest summer shirts don’t fit now, because of just that slight bit of extra body mass around the upper chest and armpits. I loose that and they fit nicely. But it takes about four to six weeks of this diet to get there, because the body loses it randomly. A little off the top…a little around the waist…it’s like it flips a coin to decide where it comes from.

by Bruce | Link | React!

June 28th, 2018

And Now, For Something Completely Different…

Since this is a life blog, which I began way back when blogs were a new thing and not yet a commercial media thing, and since I’m way too friggin’ stressed out about the news these days, I’ll be trying a bit harder to post random life blog stuff here for a little while.

There was a post I saw elsewhere about how a chorus will sing a long single note in rotation, some singers taking a breath while others keep singing, such that the effect is the entire chorus is maintaining the note. That’s what I’m doing now. Because all last night I caught myself wondering if it was all still worth living, and I am not letting that happen to me. And if it’s happening to you because of the stress of current events…please…pause…take a breather. It’s okay. You can come back to the fight when you’re ready. We need you. We need everyone. Don’t let the stress of it break you.

This is one of those little Cut and paste about yourself thingees you see on the social media forums…something a little more light hearted about day to day life…a little more about me, because this is my life blog…


1. Do you make your bed?

If I don’t in the morning I’ll make it just before going to bed.

2. The first car that was officially yours?

1973 Ford Pinto, 1600cc overhead valve single barrel carb. I got 136k miles out of it before I had to give it up.

3. Three grocery items you don’t run out of?

Bread. Cheddar cheese. Tea bags.

4. When did you start doing your own laundry?

At some point in my early teens…like 13 or 14. I don’t recall any decisive moment, it was probably I needed it done at some point and just kept on doing it myself, a thing mom sure didn’t mind.

5. If you could, would you go to high school again?

Yes. And be a little braver this time about my sexual orientation and my first crush.

6. Can you parallel park in under three moves?

Yes. It’s simple once you know the trick.

7. A job you had which people would be shocked to know about?

I don’t know about shocked…I was stock clerk at a private mental hospital once…

8. Do you think aliens are real?

Well I think they’re out there. Visiting us, not so much.

9. Can you drive a stick shift?

Yes. Wish the car I had now had one. But they don’t import the ‘E’ class sticks.

10. Guilty TV pleasure?

Old ‘B’ Sci-Fi flicks and Republic Serials when they’re on.

11. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Cold. It’s easier to warm up then shed heat.

13. Sweet or salty?

Who? Me? Depends on You.

14. Do you enjoy soaking in a nice hot bath?

No. Shower. Nice…hot…luxurious shower.

15. Do you consider yourself to be strong?

I’m a gay male who made it to 64 single and soul-lonely the entire time. I reckon I must be.

16. Something people do, physically, that drives you crazy.

Stopping to check their grocery receipt right in the middle of the exit door.

17. Something you do, physically, that you are sure drives people crazy.

Go off on a topics of personal interest at the slightest provocation.

18. Do you have any birth marks?

One odd little one on my belly, about the size of a freckle, that could either be a mouse or a coiled up snake.

19. Favorite childhood game?

Imagining worlds…telling myself stories about them.

20. Do you talk to yourself?

Well…I talk when I’m alone. Not so much to myself as to the house, or the car, or whatever.

21. Do you like doing jig-saw puzzles?

No.

22. Would you go on a reality show?

No!

23. Tea or coffee?

Coffee in the morning, sweet ice tea the rest of the day.

24. First thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up?

A cartoonist.

25. No matter how much money you have or don’t have, what are you an absolute snob about?

I don’t think I’m a snob about anything…but I’ll admit to sometimes taking excessive pride in personal art projects.

Play if you want to…

by Bruce | Link | React!

April 7th, 2018

Boardwalk! Finally!

Woohoo! Just now bought points at Disney’s Boardwalk. It’s a big deal for me because this is the spot I want to have when I go to Walt Disney World. It’s perfect in so many ways. At least to me.

I’ve been going down to WDW at least twice a year ever since a certain someone coaxed me into a visit. It’s one of my favorite stories…the German classmate telling me over the phone after I expressed skepticism about theme parks, Come on man…it’s your heritage! Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie and Mickey Mouse. What’s wrong with you? So I went, mostly to see him again after 30+ years of searching for him, but also to finally get a taste of the Disney park thing. I was born in California, half my family tree is there, and I’ve never visited Disneyland. My thing was the cross country road trip. I had no time for theme parks. But I figured a drive down I-95 to Walt Disney World was do-able.

But I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was still alive, and I’d forgotten what a Mouseketeer I was. I decided to get a room at a middle tier park hotel, and chose Caribbean Beach since it was closest to Epcot where my classmate worked, and which I thought I’d like better than Magic Kingdom, which was as I understood it, just a restatement of Disneyland in California. I thought maybe I could just walk across the street and there would be a conveniently located park gate near the hotel…but no…not that hotel. I wrote about that first ever check in to a Disney Hotel here. It was ten years ago this November. What I missed jotting down was the experience of walking into Epcot for the first time, and that Disney kid I once was all coming back to me in an instant. I was hooked. From that moment on, WDW became a thing I had to have in my life.

Luckily I’m at a point in my life where I’m earning enough to do that. Disney is anything but cheap. That said, if you do the backstage tour you will come away from it wondering why the tickets aren’t twice as expensive. It is a massive operation to make it all work. Soon I got an annual pass, which made the visits less costly per day, and came with some useful spiffs like free parking at the parks and merchandise discounts. I’ve written before about how the annual pass keeps sucking you into renewing it every year Here. The dollar figures are from 2012 so ignor those…it’s way more expensive now, but if you go there regularly you are nuts if you just buy your tickets at the walk up counters. The annual pass saves you tons, especially on the renewals.

A co worker asked me on one of my trips to get one of the Christmas limited edition DVC (Disney Vacation Club) pins at Boardwalk, which is one of their upscale hotels, located around a small lake next to Epcot. There was a second guest entrance to the park that I’d thought only guests staying at those hotels (there are three…Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club) could use that entrance, but it turns out anyone can, and if they want go enjoy all the restaurants and shops along the early 20th century themed boardwalk. So I got my co worker their pins and did a little exploring and discovered there was a pathway that wound alongside a canal that led to Hollywood Studios, which was by then my second favorite WDW park. But those hotels were the top tier and horrifically expensive. Well out of reach so I thought, which was disheartening because what I was seeing was that staying at one of them meant I’d have walking distance to my two favorite WDW parks…Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

But Boardwalk and Beach Club were DVC which by then I knew was their thing for buying into staying at the upscale hotels on a regular basis. Digging into it a little further I discovered that the DVC rooms, unlike the regular hotel rooms, had complete kitchens…or in the case of the little studio rooms, nearly complete, but still much better than your usual hotel room. It looked very attractive, but I was skeptical about getting locked into something like that. The middle tier hotels like Caribbean Beach were just fine, and about as much as I could afford on a regular basis. 

One year a co worker who was already DVC offered to let me tag along on a DVC presentation for one of their new hotels, Bay Lake Towers which was being built next to the first hotel they built at WDW, the Contemporary. The Contemporary is the one the monorail goes right through and I’ve always found it’s futuristic architecture beautiful. I ran that by that certain someone who coaxed me into my first WDW visit and he told me never to go to a DVC presentation without first breaking both my hands so I couldn’t sign anything. But I pretty much had decided not to join. Too much money and I didn’t want to get locked in.

Then one year I discovered there are web sites that let you buy a stay at one of the DVC hotels using “points” that DVC members were willing to sell for that year. The DVC point system makes it different from what I understood your usual timeshare is. Instead of buying a slice of time at a particular hotel, you buy points you can use at any DVC resort in a given year. The more points you buy, the more time you can reserve. You buy into a “home” resort, but you can use your points at all of them; the only difference being you can reserve up to eleven months out at your home resort, but only seven at the others. You can bank up to two years worth of points, and borrow points from the next year. 

Apparently some DVC members were willing to sell points for a year they could not stay, and Disney is fine with that. I looked at the cost and saw that it was about the same as staying at a middle tier hotel, the only drawback being once you reserved on those second hand points you couldn’t back out of it if something suddenly came up and you had to make a sudden change of plans. I decided to try it anyway, and queried one of the sites dealing in other people’s DVC points about buying a stay at either Beach Club (my preference then since it seemed to be nicer) or Boardwalk. Either one would get me walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios which was what I wanted most. Luckily as it turned out, there were no Beach Club points available for the days I wanted to stay (my birthday week in September). But there were Boardwalk points.

Boardwalk, as it turned out, was ideal. It seriously felt as if they’d built and themed it just for me. When I was a kid and mom had a couple weeks vacation we went to various beach towns along the Atlantic coast, so strolling a boardwalk tapped deep into childhood feelings of joy. And mom, being a depression/WWII era kid, grew up on big band music and so naturally so did I and Boardwalk was piping that stuff all through its in house music system. There was a 30s themed bar with the old leather chairs and radios playing the music and radio shows of the times and at the end of my day I’d take a book I was reading there, sit in one of the comfy leather chairs next to a radio, have a cocktail and read until I was ready for bed and then I’d just go to my room. In the mornings I would walk the path to Hollywood Studios and make a beeline for The Writers Stop and get my morning coffee and danish (alas The Writer’s Stop was taken down when Starbucks moved in. Foo!).

It was all too perfect. So before I left I stopped into the DVC kiosk and asked to talk about buying into the thing. I’m sure they saw me coming. Up to that point I’d been visiting WDW at least twice yearly, spending money with the Disney card my co workers talked me into, and using my hotel keys, and later the Magic Bands to buy things. They must have had my profile down pat because the offering they made me was for fewer points than I was told was the minimum to buy in, but right dead in the middle of my spending comfort zone. I looked at the numbers and they made sense if I was planning on visiting WDW at least once a year. If I did that my costs would end up being about what they would have been if I’d stayed at a middle tier hotel every year, but this was getting me a room at one of the top level hotels.

Preferably Boardwalk, which I asked for. But I was told they weren’t selling Boardwalk points just then and anyway I could use my points at Boardwalk if I wanted to. So I relented and bought what they were selling: Grand Floridian points. It was a mistake. Granted, being DVC gave me a bunch of handy new spiffs, the best of which was I could now renew my annual pass on the Florida resident discount since now that I have property in Florida (the state of Florida taxes me on it as if it’s actual feet on the ground property), plus, unless the republicans really did kill this, I get a tax break on the Florida state tax and the mortgage interest. I’ll find out if I still have those next year I reckon.

But I didn’t really want to stay at Grand Floridian. It was on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop and I wanted to be near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Plus, I didn’t like it’s The Hotel In Death In Venice theming. It felt suffocating. But to get into Boardwalk with only a seven month window to reserve I discovered, was nearly impossible. By then so many of the rooms were already booked you could only get three or four days in a row. 

It was frustrating, and twice I took out that frustration on the poor DVC customer service folks. But eventually (I don’t know why this wasn’t made plain to me before) I was told I could be put on a waiting list for Boardwalk points, and it might only be a month or so I’d have to wait. It was what I should have done in the first place.

Just now they came through. I will sell the Grand Floridian points, either back to DVC (something else I was told before that I couldn’t do) or in the third party market. Then it’ll just be the Boardwalk points I’m paying off and I can easily sustain that. And with eleven months out that I can reserve it’ll be a snap to get my birthday week at Boardwalk every year now, though I did manage with lots of frustration, to get it this year too. As this post is already long enough I’ll go into that adventure some other time.

Right now I’m just…delighted.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Boardwalk! Finally!

February 3rd, 2018

Moving On…Letting Go…

When it began to look like I could never get the watch I’d worn all the way back to grade school fixed and ticking again…probably because the high end watch shops really don’t want to bother with the mass market watches the hoi polloi used to wear…I reluctantly began looking for a new one.

This…go ahead and laugh…was very difficult. Oh yes…at different points in my life I’ve worn other watches, the most recent of those being a “skeleton” watch I bought online, only to discover when I got it that it was actually very hard to read: unlike in the catalogue photograph, the small blue tinted hour and minute hands just get lost in the background of the watch gears. Lately I’ve been wearing a Soviet Tank Commander’s watch I bought at a flea market ages ago from a gentleman who’d apparently fled the country with a bunch of watches. But that grade school wristwatch, an inexpensive Kingsmark, had a long history with me…more even than my Canon F1 and me…and I get attached to things that have traveled the earth with me for most of my life. But the Kingsmark came back from the last watch repair shop in even worse condition than when it went in, even allowing for the fact that the repairman actually did fix the time setting mechanism. It was like losing a long time friend. 

But I started looking. Is this how people feel when a long term relationship fails and they have to start dating again I wondered. The other two watches I had were okay, but neither one was Mr Right. I started with various Google image searches because what was important to me was the face. Some clock faces are too piss elegant for me, some way too artsy, some just off putting for reasons I can’t explain. When I saw a likely candidate I looked to see if it was a mechanical wind it up watch. That was equally important.

The only electronic watch I ever desired was the Pulsar [Edit…no the Accutron] way back when. But that watch was, of course, way beyond the means of young adult, let alone teenage me, even if the nerd in me thought its mechanism was so very cool. When the first digital display watches came out I bought one because I am of the techno geek tribe and I just had to have one. And it was kinda cool to have that empty black glass on my wrist that magically told me the time when I pressed a button. I even had a Casio calculator watch at one point. But they didn’t last. Setting the date on them at the start of a new month was an even more irritating procedure than setting it on a mechanical watch. And something about that nightly ritual of winding the Kingsmark before going to bed felt right deep down inside. I am not a daily ritual kinda guy by any means…which is why gym memberships never worked for me. But the nightly watch winding ritual feels grounding somehow.

So it had to be a wind up watch, and preferably not a self winding one either. A self winding watch just strikes me somehow as a lazy person’s thing, or something for people who can’t be bothered with the humdrum of life. Some years ago wandering through the web I chanced on a place selling on of those watch stands for self winding watches that slowly rotate and wind the self winding watch for you. It reminded me of an old family joke about one particularly lazy relative whose self winding watch was always stopping.

Eventually Google showed me one that seemed likely. It was a German make and had an odd layout with the minutes predominant and the hours subdued, which immediately attracted my attention. I’d never seen a design like it before and yet it seemed so right. When I read a watch most of the time I’m not wondering what the hour is but the part of the hour it is. Time and I have a tenuous relationship…just ask any of my managers at work. When I’m paying attention to time at all it’s the minutes that matter to me. How many minutes until that 2 o’clock meeting. The light rail comes every 20 minutes…is now a good time to catch one? Is it time to take the french fries out of the deep fryer? There’s a reason why the minute hand is bigger than the hour hand. This watch took that to the next logical step. There was no date window in it, another plus. The Kingsmark had a day window and if you’ve ever had to fuss with one of those on a mechanical watch you know why I just stopped setting mine and ignored what it was telling me. Comrade Soviet Watch also had one of those. I’d rather a watch not have that. And there was something non-verbal about the artwork, the beauty of the face, that just appealed to me.

So I did a little more digging. It was a Laco…a German make. I discovered that what I was looking at was a replica of ones the same company started making in 1925 for the German air force…a pilot’s watch. The company sold several variants of the watch at different price points. The least expensive was, of course, the one with the quartz movement. But they also sold several all mechanical versions. I immediately gravitated to the one that was made in a “distressed” finish to appear vintage…only to discover that one was 2300 bucks. Not nearly as bad as a Rolex I suppose, but still a bit too pricey. I could afford it, but I couldn’t justify the additional cost just for the vintage appearance. And seriously that was a thousand bucks over the same exact model with the German innards. Plus…there was the association, delicately omitted from the sales pitch. 

I had to give it some thought. Actually I had to give the entire line of watches some thought. That “vintage” aged watch looked absolutely lovely…but it was probably worn by pilots bombing the hell out of Poland, France and Britain. Once a friend of a friend I was driving to our weekly happy hour referred to my ‘C’ class as a Hitler Mobile and I almost told him to get out and walk. But that was more about the German someone I’d crushed on madly back in high school who I’d found again after years of searching for him, and probably I over reacted. German cameras, German lenses, beautiful mahogany German cabinet Hi Fi-stereo equipment, German automobiles…back in the 60s and 70s you knew they were high quality items. To buy something specifically for its association with the German air force in WWII seemed morally wrong. But I wasn’t buying it for that. Still…who buys a watch specifically aged to look like it was worn by the luftwaffe? So…a thousand bucks just to make it look vintage, plus the fact that it’s vintage fascist. Even More reason to give it a pass. But I gave it one more longing look anyway as I clicked off it. 

So…back to the base model. Do I spend 1300 bucks for the 100 percent German one or just less than 500 for the visibly identical model made with Japanese made mechanics (über alles!)? But the Japanese innards were self winding, which I didn’t want because it just strikes me as laziness. Then I saw that it could also be hand wound, though I wondered if doing that at the end of every day might not lead to over tightening the mainspring since it’s theoretically also winding itself throughout the day as I’m wearing it. But was just under 500 bucks and as I said, I’m at a stage in my life where frugality is becoming more important.

But also, I am not interested in a watch as a status symbol either. I needed a friend, not a trophy. So I decided to go with one made in Germany, from Japanese gears. If they make their watch parts in Japan like they make their automobiles and cameras I reckon we should walk together for a long time.

I’ve put the watch I wore in grade school away. It’s broken again…I’m pretty sure the last guy who worked on it damaged it, even though he did repair the broken time set mechanism. But setting its time was noticeably less smooth, almost as if the mechanism had grit in it now, and I wondered if he’d done something to further damage the timekeeping mechanism which was what he finally said he couldn’t repair. Shaking it to get it to tick caused it to run for almost a day, but when I wound it again it simply refused to tick at all no matter which way I shook it, and tapping it against my hand caused the second hand to come right off. I was heartbroken, but truth be told it also felt like something telling me to move on.

I like having solid things in my life, and even when I was living a severely low budget life I bought things on the basis of was it built to last. But even the Canon F1 I had in high school, though it still works mechanically, now has an intermittent light meter and I’m afraid to take it in for repairs because all the old skill sets are dying out and I don’t want anybody touching that camera if they don’t actually know how to fix one.

So I have a new watch now, which I’m wearing now. I had to take it to the shoe and leather repair shop down the street from me to get a couple more holes punched into the strap so it would fit on my scrawny little wrist. It feels exactly right being there on my wrist which is a good sign. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Moving On…Letting Go…

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

January 29th, 2017

Heaven Is…

I keep wanting to do a riff on those drawings that say “Heaven is where every (Dog/Cat/Pet) you ever loved comes to greet you”. But mine will say Heaven is where every car you ever loved lets you drive it again. And sign it with a nod to Seanan McGuire.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Heaven Is…

December 27th, 2016

FYI – A Coming Out Story Episode 20 Coming Soon

I’m on holiday vacation for the next couple weeks and I’m using my time at home to work on A Coming Out Story. Hoping to finish up the pencils and inks and scans on Episode 20 by the end of the day today. After that it’s mostly just adding the text and the texturing, getting the HTML pages made and uploading all of it. Probably get it all done by Friday

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on FYI – A Coming Out Story Episode 20 Coming Soon

September 10th, 2016

Politics Is One Thing, Decency Another…

I’ve seen some Facebook posts lately that friends should not “defriend” friends over mere political disagreements.  Well…okay… But mere political disagreements are not always as mere as they seem.

I once had someone in my friends list over there who I’d known for many years. We worked together back in the day and then went our separate ways, only to find each other once again on the social media pastures. I’d always thought of him as a nice guy, basically decent, thoughtful, intelligent, even though his taste in newspapers tilted toward the Murdoch zone.  I felt it was something I could just let slide.  It lasted all the way up to the riots in Baltimore over the Freddy Gray verdict, when I saw him venting that maybe closing the city food banks would teach them a lesson. And in the next instant he was off my friends list. No warning, no theatrical unfriending announcement given. I pushed the button and that was that.

I appreciate that we Americans need to talk to each other about the issues. I appreciate that if we can’t talk to each other nothing can get done. But there are limits to the scope of that discussion. If your idea of justice is taking food out of the mouths of poor people and their families well then I hope the ghosts come to visit you Mr. Scrooge and I hope you learn from the lessons they teach, but I want nothing more to do with you.  Because “friend” is more than a line item on a social media list of names, it’s a connection…between mutual souls of a kind, birds of a feather, cut from the same cloth, comrades…and you just told me we are not that at all.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Politics Is One Thing, Decency Another…

August 22nd, 2016

Mercedes Love

…still in it.

mercedes_love-8-16-sm

 

Took a wee day trip into Pennsylvania to wander around a bit with my cameras, finish off the roll of color film I started on the road trip last June, and hopefully clear my head so I can get back to work on A Coming Out Story. On the way home I saw a signpost advertising a scenic overlook beside the Susquehanna river and I turned off and started climbing. You really notice how nicely a diesel engine’s torque helps navigating a little twisty state park road when the switchback curves don’t even bother trying to smooth out the elevation gain. The car simply did not care how steep it got. 

The view at the top was lovely. In retrospect I should have brought out the color film camera, and I did consider it, but then I thought of the millions of other photos everyone had probably taken at that same spot and I figured I couldn’t add anything to it so I didn’t. But I did snap off a few with the iPhone for memory’s sake that I might post later. Then as I turned back to the car I saw the sky doodling all over Spirit and I had to snap a shot of it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Mercedes Love

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

June 5th, 2016

The Rainy Day That Came…

I have a habit of tossing my loose change into a box on my dresser at the end of every day. The box, which I bought at a Hopkins Spring Fair, looks a tad like an old pirate chest. Even more so when I have it filled with silver coins. I put the pennies in a glass jar next to it that I won from McDonald’s Monopoly game years ago with Mr. Moneybags stenciled on it. When the Mr. Moneybags jar gets full I take it to the coin machine at the grocery store and use the receipt for my groceries. When the pirate chest gets full I transfer some of it to a cigar box and put it away. I also take some money from the ATM out of each paycheck and put it in my safe. It’s good to have a cash reserve on hand in case…for example…you lose your ATM card, like I did last year. When the cash reserve goes above a certain amount I take it to my credit union and put it into my savings account there.

The cash on hand amounts to a “rainy day” fund. Something for unexpected emergencies (like a lost ATM card). But more insidious are the routine expenses that all phase together and turn in to a monster wave of expenses. This happened to me this quarter and my upcoming vacation was suddenly at risk of being cancelled.

There was the thousand bucks spent on the Mercedes since it needed an ATF flush which was $450 in addition to the $500 90k Service. Then there was the $1400 flat roof maintenance on Casa del Garrett. There was the $860 for six months of car insurance (NOT State Farm anymore!). I spent $500 for and eye exam and new glasses. Then my next door neighbor insisted we finally get the ivy off the space between her sidewalk and mine and my share of it was $400. The gardener did a really nice job and at some point I’d like him to finish the rest of my front. But I hadn’t planned that one and I’d have wished the others came a tad further apart.

So yesterday I took the two cigar boxes I’d filled since the last time I needed to raid the cigar boxes to my bank. There was about two years I think of loose change there.

How many people can say they love their bank? I love mine, which was founded by Quakers in the 1800s. They like to boast that during the Great Depression when the Feds declared a four day bank holiday they were allowed to reopen after only one day because they were so secure and solvent. I can believe it. You get a sense of how companies are by how they treat their customers and how happy their employees are. And after how the big megabanks behaved during the Bush economic collapse I came to love my local regional bank all the more…and especially that they have not allowed themselves to be gobbled up.

They give great customer service…including letting me bring my cigar boxes full of coins to them occasionally and handing me back a deposit slip without taking a fee or demanding I roll all the coins first and write my account number on the rolls…like one bank I used to be with ages ago (it was one of the locals that allowed itself to be gobbled up into one of the megabanks). One time I took 13 cigar boxes to my bank and got a slip back for just over three grand. This time, bringing them two, it came to just over $450.

That, plus the cash from my safe, basically saved my vacation. Oh I could have just shrugged and put it all on the card, but I’m at a point in my life I want to be paying down debt, not adding more. And besides, I can’t enjoy a vacation if I’m worrying about what I’m spending all the time.

Rainy day money is good to have. Even better is a habit of putting money aside, even if all it is, is just some random loose change. If you put it away and forget about it it’ll be there for you when you need it. I don’t think I’ve ever dropped more than a dollar in change into the pirate box at the end of a day. But one day I took 13 cigar boxes to the bank and got a deposit slip back for just over three grand. That was probably something like ten years of loose change, but it came in handy when I needed it.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

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    This page and all original content copyright © 2015 by Bruce Garrett. All rights reserved. Send questions, comments and hysterical outbursts to: bruce@brucegarrett.com

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