2010-09-08

Water, water, everywhere

So. Saturday morning, about 3:30, knock at the door, it's Karen, my sister's partner, coming up from downstairs to inform me we had a water leak, coming from my apartment, doing tons of nastyness, and could I please turn off the water so it would stop?

Bathroom sink, cold water supply, compression fitting, came loose, spraying everywhere, my sleeping mind had said "heavy rain," 'cause that's what it sounded like to the former Chicagoan in me.

Massive damage. Standing water everywhere, creeping towards stuff, soaking carpets, swelling underlayment, ceilings sagging, ucky.

Beth, my sister, calls insurance broker, contacts emergency after hours line, leaves message, gets callback, talks to insurance carrier emergency line, meanwhile Karen is mopping stuff up, I'm moving boxes of books to keep them safe, water keeps dripping from flooded between floors, yucky.

Morning comes, Beth back on phone, trying to findout what we can do about this, don't want to wait until Tuesday for Insurance Adjuster, need to start work now to prevent mold, etc., get referred to Kennedy Restoration, specializes in disaster recovery services, has worked with insurance carrier before, sends out a team immediately, lots of pictures taken, carpet removed, underlayment removed, sagging ceiling removed, fans and dehumidifiers implaced, thorough job all around. Samples taken from vinyl flooring to determine composition, in case needs special handling.

Fans and dehumidifiers raise temperature exceedingly, much warmer than outside, but opening doors and windows to lower temperature would be counterproductive. Swelter. sigh.

Tuesday. Insurance adjuster comes, asks questions, lots of photos, talks with Kennedy rep, will return Friday with Kennedy rep after further drying out and work.

Last time saw the floor under the underlayment was in 1976, when my parents' bought the place.

Amazingly, while building damage, no stuff damage; we got everything moved and protected in time.

So much for going to Anime Convention that weekend.

2010-07-22

Converting from vinyl to CD

It's something I'm working on, converting my 300+ collection of LPs to CD. I've got a refurbished SFF WinXP machine set up in the stereo cabinet, hooked up to the stereo receiver, and have started copying the analog LPs to digital format. So far I've just recorded them off in Audacity, which is an open source audio recording software package which seems to work well. I mean, it allowed me to play a 78 at 45, record it, and then change the tempo to what it should have been recorded at; it let me select from a pull down menu the recorded speed of 45 and the should have been recorded at speed of 78, and it changed it perfectly, and after running the noise reduction filter we can again listen to Basil Rathborn narrating Peter and the Wolf. I've copied off about eight or nine LPs so far, doing one a day prior to going to bed, at that rate I'll be at this for quite some time, and I haven't begun the process of taking the recordings and separating them by track, labeling them with all the appropriate recording info, and exporting them to .WAV format prior to actually burning audio CDs. And I suppose I should also create .MP3s or some such as I go along.

The fun bit will be going through each recording, using noise reduction where necessary, and the really fun bit will be applying the clip filter, which will remove the sound of scratches and attempt to recreate the sound sequence using a best guess approximation based on the surrounding sound recording. Audacity is a really good program, capable of great stuff in cleaning up and modifying sound files, well worth checking out. I can also recommend the instruction book which is mentioned at the Audacity site, I purchased the eBook version, read through it, and it really made a difference in re the learning curve.

It's been kinda fun, listening to old mono recordings that mom bought prior to her marriage, which places them back pre-1956; have to admit I'm not quite sure which year my parents married, just that it was more than two years prior to my sister's birth, and I'm not looking it up just now. But yeah, a bunch of what I recorded so far are from prior to stereo recording of LPs, but I think I'm close to being through with them, and shortly will be purely working with stereo recordings. I know they're mom's records from before they married because she wrote her name on the outer jackets, and it's her maiden name. Kind of interesting seeing what she collected.

The burning of CDs shouldn't be that hard, the time consuming bit will be creating the sleeves for the jewel cases; two options, purchasing pre-perforated sleeves for laser printers and using their included software, or creating my own templates and cutting the sleeves out myself. I'm seriously leaning towards purchasing sleeves, it would make it so much easier. And purchasing jewel cases. Then there is the whole buy CD labeling stuff or just writing on the CD. So I've got a bunch to think about prior to creating the CDs, but I can do everything up to that without any further investment except for time. And time is something I have plenty of.

The one I'm not looking forward to is the 1950 La Scala performance of the Ring Cycle, all eleven records worth. Wondering how many CDs that will end up being, all depends upon how the tracks fall out. You can buy jewel cases that will hold a varied number of CDs, six I believe being the max without shifting to a DVD case, I've got an empty six CD jewel case, it would be nice if it would be enough to hold the recording, we'll just have to see now won't we?

2010-06-30

Paying attention while cooking

So, there I was, baking cheesecake. Had to put it in a bit longer, too sloshy.

And then I had this driving urge to take some measurements for a stereo cabinet project, went downstairs, spent some time measuring, making drawings, checking over supplies, materials on hand, etc., determining that I'm short two or three pieces from being able to do it entirely from materials on hand matching the existing stereo cabinet, realized the place I'd get the stuff is already closed for the day so I'd have to go out at a later date to pick ub the material.

"But what about the cheesecake?" you ask, as well you should!

Um, it isn't sloshy any longer. the cheesecake itself is quite firm, slightly golden on top, maybe a bit more towards the brown end of golden, but still ok for eating, but the crust, well, the crust, it looks quite, um, charred is the word I'm looking for here, charred, blackened, rather scorched looking, will be interesting to see if that's merely the part above the cheesecake or if the rest of the crust is equally overheated.

And there you have it, a perfect example of part of my disability, that when something grabs my attention to work on I concentrate on it to the exclusion of all else, including whatever I was already doing. Conversely, if nothing grabs my attention it's very hard for me to work on anything. But here I was, working on one project, baking, and another project jumped to the forefront of my brain and yanked me downstairs, to the first floor and the basement, for I don't know how long, the timer wasn't doing its annoying reminder beeps anymore when I got back, and if Ralph Miles had still been open I'd have been gone longer shopping for materials, I had completely forgotten I had something in the oven, it was the smell of smoke as I came up the stairs that reminded me. I had forgotten I was baking before I left the apartment in the first place.

You know something? This is not good. It's the first time I've forgotten I had something in the oven, that I had a cooking project in progress and forgot about it, but I very much fear it won't be the last time. It ties in with my gradual deterioration, and disturbs me greatly. And smoke alarms aren't any good when you're two floors away.

We had a timer that had a cord so it could be hung around one's neck, so that you didn't need to worry about forgetting that you were baking or whatever, but I don't know where it is now, if it was with mom stuff and has already been sorted and disposed of, or if it is here, and just misplaced, but it behooves me to either find it or obtain a new one, so I don't repeat this fiasco.

One works with disabilities, one doesn't deny them, they are real.

2010-06-22

More Mom Stuff

Mom wants to learn how to knit. This is commendable, at 84, except for one thing; she's known how to knit for longer than I've been alive. Or rather, she did know how to knit, as recenlty, I think, as six months ago, but now not only does she not know how to knit, she appears to have no memory of being able to.

I have several sweaters that mom made for me, and have had many more in the past. The best pair of gloves she made me just died, due ot mice getting at them, which actually means improper storage on my part, leaving then under a pile of stuff instead of putting them away properly. At one point in time I had no socks other than what she had knit for met, and scarves as well.

When sorting through mom's stuff, Beth [my sister] laid claim to all mom's knitting and crocheting supplies, and it was a vast collection of needles and hooks, dozens and dozens, the accumulation of well over fifty years of active knitting.

As children, Beth and I sometimes referred to mom as "the automatic knitting machine", given how we always saw her with knitting when she was sitting down watching TV or listening to music, riding in the car, sitting talking with people, just about anytime she didn't need her hands for anything else.

And now she has no memory of knitting, or how to knit.

I'm getting good at not letting mom hear me cry while on the phone with her.

Derivative works and artistic creativity

Music. Let's look at music, creativity, and interpretation.

Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition. Phenomenal work. But what most people are familiar with is the orchestration by Maurice Ravel, and to quote from the liner notes of my copy, "this modification of the music's essential nature has greatly increased its accessibility." Haven't heard the original work so I can't be sure of this, but I suspect the promenade portions aren't anywhere near as reminiscent of Aaron Copeland's style in the original, whereas the orchestration of the promenade screams Copeland at me, which probably has to do with Copeland being influenced by Ravel. Anyway, Ravel took Mussorgsky's piano work, altered it for orchestra, and produced a work of creative genius. Derivative, yet original.

Interpretation. There's a reason Conductors get top billing, when they conduct they produce a unique interpretation of what the composer envisioned. Musicians are noted not only for their technical skill, but their ability to work with the conductor to produce unique interpretations, to create each work anew, to breath fresh life into a work played many times before.

Covers. One artist originates a song, then others add it to their repertoire, each performing it differently, sometimes taking a song which was so-so with the original artist and creating a hit due to their interpretation of it [and sometimes, well, Trini Lopez anyone? (taking a hit and making it far less)]

I should be nice in mentioning Mr. Lopez, while I dislike his style he had quite the following, and a unique hand at interpretation.

Something we sometimes come across are those who are technically proficient, but who seem flat in their performance, for while their technique is good, they have no ability to add anything to the work via interpretation. In theory they produce exactly what the composer or arranger intended, by following the score without variation, but one has to wonder.

The ideal is someone who is technically proficient, who has great skill, and also has the spark of creativity which allows for interpretation; they can deliver a letter perfect performance without variation, but can also add those little nuances which separate the inspired performance from that which is technically proficient but non-interpretive.

Something to bear in mind. The modern standard is to have all the parts scored, every note indicated, but this was not always the case. There was a time when the base line was filled out, the figured bass, with key signatures given, but the rest of the score was not given; the musicians filled it out anew with each performance, and what was prized was the ability to take the figured bass line and fill in the other parts on the fly, to have a structured jam session each and every time. That was musicianship!

2010-06-12

Do I own that CD? One possible solution

One possible solution, obviously, is to get rid of all your CDs, then you know the answer to "Do I have this already?"

Not finding this an acceptable option, I have, as a time waster, embarked upon the effort of creating an Excel spreadsheet to catalogue my music CDs, with the intent of expanding it to include cassettes and LPs as well. A maximum of ten data points per record, such as composer, director, artist, album title, issue and reissue dates, labels, format and media.

Having started on this yesterday, I already have 116 entries, which looks to be about a third of the CD collection.

Oh, the reason for using Excel instead of OpenOffice for this is quite simple, my PDA will open Excel files, so I can take this list with me.

While at a certain level this is the silliest thing I could be doing, especially given not going out to buy CDs so not being concerned by the question, do I have this already?, it is giving me a sense of accomplishment, and is reacquainting me with my collection, which I had utterly ignored for the last five years; when I go into an isolationist period, I go into an isolationist period! And unlike other recent activities, this isn't making me melancholy.

So, that's what I've been doing the past two days.

2010-06-08

The Manhattan Transfer, Walt Disney, and other stuff

I was introduced to The Manhatten Transfer by an evangelical Christian back when I was attending Portland Community College; she was in my ballroom dance class, and we hung out a bit outside of class, and she gave me some tapes [the others were Keith Green tapes, tied in with that missionary work aspect of things].

Since then, while in Chicago, I bought The Manhattan Transfer Anthology - Down in Birdland, which I'm listening to as I type. So I've been listening to this group, off and on, since 1983 or there abouts. But I jsut found out that I could have been familier with them a lot earlier, if my family's television viewing habits had been different. You see, shortly after they started, back in 1975, they had a short-lived television program, Sunday nights at 8:00, according to their website the old Ed Sullivan Show time slot, and a show akin to that old warhorse.

1975. Sundays, 8:00PM. Let's see, what was I doing? Watching the Wonderful World of Disney and putting together jigsaw puzzles with my parents, either that or up in my room reading books, I can't take oath as to which, it's been a few years. OK, it is possible I was reading and my parents were watching The Manhattan Transfer, it's nice to think that dad appreciated them as much as I've come to, they are definitely a group he'd have liked. And it is possible that I wouldn't have enjoyed the show, but given the variety/comedy shows I did enjoy, I feel sure that I would have found it of some interest. But thinking about it, I was probably reading a book.

At that time of my life, odds were good that at any given time I was off reading a book. Or hanging out with Nathan Banks, who was my best friend for several years, in which case I might still have been reading a book.

So why are you reading this, anyway? Go out and get something by The Manhattan Transfer, and listen to it, you'll be glad you did.

2010-06-05

Balkan Folk Dance, or, why I didn't do well in ear training

Back in High School, back before there was dirt, freshman year it was, 1975-76 school year, winter term or spring, I'm not entirely sure which, I got drafted by my sister into taking a folk dance PE course. She paid for this; my feet were basically the same size they are today, and I was six inches shorter, or some such difference [can you say clumsy?] My sister folk danced barefoot, I wore hiking boots, they made me dance next to my sister, I had my revenge! Mwa ha ha! Oh yeah, it was spring term that Dave Adlhoch started the folk dance class.

Anyway, there I was at an early, formative, stage in my life, tossed into the world of Eastern European Folk Dance, Balkan, Turkish, Russian, and all parts in between, with excursions to Israeli Folk Dance. I spent the next five years or so taking folk dance classes for PE, and attending the then very active Reed College Folk Dance scene every Friday evening, gradually growing into my feet and gaining a great fondness for Eastern European Folk Music, including buying what records were available in the Portland area.

Fast forward to 1983, Portland Community College, I'm taking Music Theory, doing well in the composition section [while showing my rebel creds by giving the melody to the Tenor part, let the Sopranos suffer!], doing well in the sight singing section, but having real problems in the ear training section. See, to Western ears, minor chords are supposed to sound "wrong", this is part of how you identify them as being minor; take someone who has spent much of the proceeding seven years cultivating a taste for Eastern European, Israeli, and other folk music, and none of what they played sounded "wrong" to me, I was used to chords which cannot be done using "traditional" J.S. Bach based Western European tempered chords and harmony, this stuff was ho hum boring and sounded just fine to me, if unimaginative.

Just goes to show I was too worldly for that class, my ears weren't parochial enough for them.

I was reminded of this just now, as I sat listening to the Bulgarian Women's Choir 1993 world tour CD; still sounds just fine to me.

2010-05-30

To Dady

And I picked up the next item from the box, and it was an envelope, inscribed "To Dady". And I opened it, and it contained a card, and the only words written on the card were the same as the envelope, "To Dady". And I looked at it, and suddenly broke down and cried.

I recognized the handwriting, it was mine, from when I was very young, not past first grade, if that. And all I'd needed to do was find a nice card, a raccoon cleaning its food, and write "To Dady", no need for anything else, and that card was treasured, and kept for 35 years, and then set aside with other items to be looked at and disposed of following my father's death, and now, 9 years later, I reach into a box and find this message of love. "To Dady".

And I cry. I cry for my father, who is long gone. I cry for myself, for the child who could write such a simple note on a card. And I cry for myself, who has no child, and has never known what it is like to have such a card given to him.

And the card sits on the box, and I know it is there, and I cry.

2010-05-28

One with the ages; life as ephemera

Having gone through four boxes of computer disks which my father had accumulated, programs, accounting records, tax returns, etc., there were a total of five disks which I selected for retention. And there may well be overlap on the contents of those disks.

Three of the disks are 5.25" disks, which is difficult enough to work with in this day and age, but furthermore they are CP/M formatted, Kaypro 2X CP/M to be precise. This predates MS-DOS, and are non-compatible, so not only does one need a 5.25" disk drive, a rare thing in this day and age, but one needs an emulation program, which will allow the drive to act as though it were on a CP/M system, with file transfer software to copy the files from the disk. Now it just so happens that one of the files I rescued from a dying hard drive was 22DSK144, which is just such a program, and one which you can still find on the internet, produced by Simtel and available on their site, as I just discovered by doing a quick search. Released in 1997, this program allows you to read disks formatted in a wide variety of CP/M formats, provided you have the appropriate floppy drives, compatible with the disks, which I just happen to still have.

So using an aged Win98SE system, which had compatible disk drives, I have copied the contents of the three disks to said computers hard drive. I then copied the two 3.5" disks to the hard drive as well, as my most modern system has no floppy drives. The contents of the five disks fit onto one CD-ROM, with plenty of room to spare. The next step, which I'm not sure when I'll take it, is to search amongst my various word processing programs for one which will allow me to import files in WordStar format, for WordStar was what dad used, both CP/M and DOS, and I no longer have WordStar; I threw out the last installation disks for WordStar in my possession yesterday, knowing that I have versions of WordPerfect which will open the files, and I believe my copy of Word is early enough that it too can open WordStar files.

Keeping a copy of WordStar would be silly, as I no longer own any printers for which WordStar possesses printer drivers.

So I now have a CD with files from dad concerning family history, his life, etc., which I may someday peruse, actually probably sometime soon so that I can insure I can open the files, knowing that eventually Windows will no longer support the software programs which still recognize the WordStar format, and that I'll want to have the files converted to Word or OpenOffice or WordPerfect file formats prior to that day.

Going through dad's paper files is having an equally small amount of material being retained. I have no inclination to read through his sermons from when he was active in the Unitarian Ministry, and old ledgers, bank statements, correspondence, all of no relevance to my life, or my sister, so they are being recycled. We are not being hasty in this, dad died in 2001, we've had plenty of time to develop an interest in these files and have failed to do so, and it is now time to clean house and minimize belongings in preparation to moving me someplace else. Those five disks of dad's? That's more than I've kept of my own work from over the years.

You can tell a lot about someone by the books they own, and going through dad's books this is certainly true. An interest in medieval history and culture, religion and philosophy in general, a smattering of economics, some mysteries and science fiction, some children's literature, some poetry and classics; very little that we are retaining from the perspective of would we actually read them. But the current batch of seven boxes of books, which had been in the office and his bedroom, a fair portion of them we suspect Powell's will actually be interested in. But much would only be of interest to someone with a similar background, and that makes for a small interest group.

It's sad, in ways, how little we keep. But the most precious are the memories, and those will stay with us. As will the photo and slide collection, which my sister will maintain, having more interest in them than I do.

2010-05-18

Staying in touch with people, an area I'm weak in.

I've never been good at staying in touch with people, once I'm not seeing them all the time. I'm lousy at correspondence [what's to write about? I perceive my life as being dull and of no interest.] I don't like using telephones, although I'm getting better with that, having no choice if I'm going to keep in touch with mom and my sister.

So I've gone through my life making friends, good friends, and then dropping out of touch. Someone will move, there will be changes in schedules, staying in touch will require a certain amount of effort, and I just can't seem to make that effort.

Damn. It ties into my disabilities, doesn't it, the inability to work on things unless they grab me, the whole lack of proper adrenaline production, the inability to work on many things unless its reached crisis point and adrenaline production is upped, oh *bleep*. *bleep* *bleep* bleepitty bleep* Jiminy Christmas! Fudge brownies!

Well, that was a lovely thing to just figure out, boy am I slow on the uptake.

And anything I take to improve my functioning results in increased blood pressure, at the least, such as the Ritalin and Adderal that I'm on, or raises the blood pressure and also increases the incidence of kidney stones, such as anything with caffeine. And the substance that seemed to have the best impact, ephedrine, is now a proscribed substance due to it being used in the creation of crystal meth; pseudophed was such a lovely OTC, dealt with my allergies and got me functioning [and sent my blood pressure through the roof, *sigh*]

Actually, I should be impressed with how well I'm functioning just now, I'm getting stuff done everyday in regard to sorting through stuff and disposing of stuff, although the trick is still to come, working on organizing what I'll keep; rather, deciding what I'll keep. I'm really torn in regard to shop stuff, I haven't done anything with the shop in five+ years, and it feels like the drive has gone away, but that also ties in with when pseudophed became unable to be obtained, doesn't it?

Mega *bleep*!

On the flip side, I'm much calmer these days. That's the downside of anything that helps me function, due to not being able to replicate the brain's natural delivery system everything is delivered by swamping the system, it's a hack job, no surgical strike this. Under medicated is very mellow, over medicated is strung out, and there isn't any such thing as properly medicated, or so it seems.

So the shop question is also the sewing question, and the leatherworking question, etc., because at some level the interest is there, but I just don't quite have the oomph to do anything about it. Maybe if I can get to where things are cleaned up and organized, then sewing would become a possibility. Now when did the place really start to decline? Oh, yeah, same time period.

I really need to talk to my psychiatrist and see what the options are which we haven't tried. First I need to write up what the problems are, so I don't have to be functioning during the visit; that's the problem, if I'm functioning I forget what the problems are, if I'm not functioning, well, there ya go!

OK, got my marching orders, need to write stuff up.

Later. Not just now. I don't feel up to it at the moment. Which, of course, is the whole problem.

Me go read stuff now, will feel more cheery afterward.

2010-05-17

Letting go of the past, one document at a time

I have two small accordion files of checks to go, and Tucson and Chicago will no longer exist. There will no longer be documents in my possession, other than resumes and related documents in my disability application file, relating to my having ever lived in either city. By the end of the day I will have shredded the last of them. I've already thrown out all my letters received and all my other mail, newsletters and such; I hadn't looked at any of them since 1994, when I moved back from Chicago, I wasn't going to suddenly start doing stuff with them now, especially since when I started to I just ended up crying. My father and grandmother both died in 2001, and reading their letters would just remind me that they are no longer here, just as reading mom's letters remind me that she is now in an adult group home.

Going through the house, sorting things and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, so little that I choose to keep; I'm not really all that attached to things, I find, which given how much money I've spent on things over the years is unexpected. The books are going to be the interesting project, that and the shop. Deciding which of my books I'll actually read again, and thus might justify keeping, against the ones that I don't see using again, no matter how much I had to have them at another time. Do I see being a reference resource for anyone, as at one time I was, or will my hermit existence continue, with no one using my resources other than myself? And those that I determine not to keep, how to dispose of them to their best advantage? Or can I afford to concern myself with that question, and instead just take them to Powell's and other stores, and what is not taken donating to thrift stores, or just recycling as of no interest to anyone at this time.

We've already given all the jigsaw puzzles, except for a few that my sister is keeping, to Goodwill; I haven't' worked on a jigsaw puzzle in over 15 years, growing up they were a family activity, we had so many 1500 piece puzzles, lovely and complicated, spending hours an evening working on them together, my hording pieces, my sister leaning over the table and obscuring pieces with her hair, mom trying pieces that to everyone else obviously didn't fit, dad being very intense and not happy with pieces being horded or obscured, and Beth and dad insisting we couldn't look at the picture on the box, that we had to put the puzzles together without that aid. There were a couple I might have liked to keep, but before I realized they were going away they were gone, and really, when would I work on them? Jigsaw puzzles aren't something I do by myself, they are a social activity to me as a result of my upbringing. And I wonder about my collection of games, which do I keep on the off-chance that I'll become social again, with folks who would want to play them? And even more important, which of them will I be up to playing?

As we deal with mom, I keep having the thought, "How long until it's me?" My disability claim had to do with my mental functioning, reliability and the ups and downs of my abilities, and my increasing fear of trying, of taking risks, of being able to react appropriately to challenges and stress. Of fear of interacting with people, being afraid that I won't be able to do so at an acceptable level, that I'll be a drag on those around me, which does my friends no little injustice. But I've always been feral, under the surface, insecure, although for many years my success spurrec me on to overcome this, but as I perceive myself to be declining, I draw back into myself, back to how I was as a child, alone because I didn't have the skills to interact, because my mind betrayed my, being damaged at birth. I've done so much better than anyone thought I would, some of my doctors didn't see how I would make it to adulthood without being institutionalized, and it was close, closer than I like to think about. And how much I owe to my mother's persistence, her not accepting the negative prognosis, but constantly searching for other possibilities, wanting the best for me. And now she's deteriorating, memory betraying her, , showing everyday that wanting to help others is central to her very being, as her memory gets worse and she thinks she's on staff at the group home, thinking she's helping when she's a client, they like her, they humor her, I talk to her on the phone and I cry, cry for my mother, for who she was and who she is, my mother, whom I dearly love and can no longer help, other than talking with her and being her son, who loves her very much.

Given typing through a wall of tears, my touch-typing is very good.

My sister is under so much stress, dealing with mom, and me, at this time, as well as having been working on growing her music instruction, trying to get more students, working on a website just before all this started, not having it up as she can't focus on that now, I don't know what we'd be doing if not for my sister, Beth, I couldn't do what she's been doing, I'd just freeze up and break down, now she has to care for her mother, and try to set things up for her brother, and I fear that the day will come where she'd having to look into my care as well.

Not what the heading indicated this would be, this has been very much stream of consciousness.

On a cheerier note, I've gotten quite the collection of bookmarks now, reaching back 40 years some of them, and there are many more to be gathered in from my books, and one can tell, to an extent, where I've lived over the years, based upon the bookmarks, although there are stores that I'd think I'd have bookmarks from that aren't showing up so far, but there are many more books to go through. And some of the stores where I know I had many bookmarks are only showing a couple, but as stated, many more books to go through.

And in a bit I'll feel better. As I've commented before, at heart I'm a very cheerful person, which is a very good thing.

2010-05-11

How many computers do you have?

19. That's how many computers I currently have. 16 of them are in mom's living room, along with 9 printers, 4 monitors, and a number of mice, keyboards, dead hard-drives and a bunch of other computer related peripherals.

2 of those computers run CP/M, they're old Kaypro 2Xs, purchased back in the mid-1980s; one was used in dad's bookkeeping/tax preparations business for many years, the other was used by my sister through grad school. The most recent software they ran was WordStar 4.0, a very good wordprocessing program which dominated the CP/M world, but was sabatoged by the marketdroids when they transferred to PC-DOS; rather than properly develope and support their existing program, they chose to purchase others work and relabel it as WordStar, stabbing their loyal followers in the back. WordStar 7 for DOS wasn't bad, but the atrocity that was WordStar for Windows, meh, horrorshow, no wonder folks switched to WordPerfect and Word, Microstar took long enough to produce a DOS program that their dominance was lost, and then they put out crap.

Then there's a PS/2, and we're not talking about video game consoles here; this one was an old machine gifted by a friend when she upgraded, haven't actually used it or found a home for it, it's just gathered dust. Ditto the ZEOS 386 tower, which is the heaviest of the lot, truly an awkward machine, begging for the installation of wheels and handles. There are at least 2 486's, one of them a laptop running Win95, an old IBM Thinkpad, the model with the butterfly keyboard. One NextGen 586, which was a non-pin compatible alternative to the Pentium; nice machine, actually, but no upgrade path, and there was the periodic problem of programs properly identifying the hardware. 2 Pentiums, Compaq DeskPros, a P95 and a P115 I think, bought used at Stuff, the P95 came with built-in SCSI support.

The remaining 11 computers are all AMDs of different vintages, mainly with Win98 installed; this computer runs Windows 7, the next most recent operating system is WinMe, I'm thinking of installing WinXP on a secondary hard-drive on this machine so I can run computer games which choke on Windows Vista and Windows 7, which is the main reason why I have the WinMe and the most modern Win98SE machine up here and not with the rest in the living room; the problem with those machines is that the sound seems to have cut out, which is a drag when playing games, and for some games a critical failure problem. If I get a new hard-drive to install as my back-up drive, I can then use the current back-up drive as an alternate OS drive, and have sound with my games; I'd also need to get a USB joy stick, as they no longer provide MIDI/Game Ports on computers and that takes care of my old joy stick. Of course, I could also check to see if my games would play with Wine, and if so I could look at installing a Linux distro. Pity my WinXP computer died, seems to be motherboard as well as the hard-drive being toast, that forced me to my current machine, at least no boot activity with a new hard-drive, which sure makes it look like toast to me, it should at least POST if the motherboard was still good.

It's going to take a couple of trips to run them all over to Free Geek, which is a local organization which will first attempt to make computers function as Linux systems, and failing that recycle them properly; if you bring in more than a couple of systems at a time they do charge, but it's minimal, and they'll try to utilize everything they can prior to sending to recycling, and given my not wanting to toss these puppies into a landfill but instead have them properly disposed of we'll find the funds for their fees.

And it's interesting being able to access my second bedroom again, it was full of dead computers. Now, the really painful part was tossing all the old software, several thousands of dollars worth that have no value now, expensive wordprocessing programs, OSs, games, etc., none of which will run on anything modern, or if you can get them to run you can't get them to print, as they're using DOS printer drivers, printer specific drivers written for each program. The great thing with Windows is that the printer has one driver for the OS, and programs talk to the OS; previously printer drivers were program specific, so each program required their own printer drivers, and once the program ceased being supported you were toast once you could no longer purchase supported printers. With Windows so long as the program can properly talk to the current version of Windows you can use any modern printer, and this, to me, is much more significant than the GUI, and is one of the things which forces OS upgrading, the need to be able to print with modern printers, as it's not cost effective to maintain old printers. Now, the thing that drove my upgrading to WinXP was that it was the minimum required to run TurboTax a couple of years ago, and that was the final straw for Win98SE, no longer running modern tax software when it was time to do my mother's taxes.

OK, my mind is starting to drift, time for afternoon meds and then food, I guess.

2010-05-09

Unknown Boxes [Not what I thought it was!]

Somewhere, I have several boxes of old Tournaments Illuminated, and Complete Anachronists, relics of 20+ years of SCA activity. I thought I knew which box it was, as I'd gone through all the other boxes in the room I though they were in. But that box, whilst big enough to hold all the TIs, didn't. Instead, it was full of LPs.

This surprised me. See, I have lots of LPs, a vast collection, esoteric and fascinating in its own right, but they aren't up here in this apartment, they're down in the basement, in record boxes, awaiting the day I again had a functional phonograph; my phonograph died in grad school, and I shipped my records home after grad school, to be stored by my parents, as I didn't want to entrust them to UPS or anyone else involved in shipping things from Tucson to Parts East, known as Chicago, when I didn't have digs established yet, and not having a functioning phonograph in Chicago I never saw fit to have them shipped out from Portland, it would have been silly.

Yes, the phonograph was taken in by my parents, who got it repaired, and shipped it out to me. And it arrived in Chicago and had died in transit, the tone arm not having been properly strapped down. It's currently sitting on top of the glass front in my living room, awaiting a visit to a phonograph repair place, yet again; it's a good phonograph, direct drive, a sturdy Technics turntable of respectable vintage. And I have both of my parents' turntables, one also a Technics, one an ancient monstrosity from my grandparents which will play 78s as well as 33s and 45s.

So, anyway, there's this box of records. I looked through them as I transferred them into more reasonably sized boxes; yes, with age I've learned to pack things in smaller boxes, it's better for my back. I found that with very few exceptions I recognized these records, they were indeed mine, except for three 45s and a copy of the Messiah and some Spoken German collection. And while thumbing through, a Bloomington bus schedule dropped out.

Now, I've never been to Bloomington, Indiana, but I know someone who lived there, who lived in Tucson previously and afterwards lived here in Portland, in that very room for a bit, and then in Apt 4, across the hall. Cameron Craigie, the Once and Future Roommate, whom I shared an apartment with in Tucson and met up with in the Midwest when he got work in Bloomington after obtaining his PhD in Optical Physics, and whom we housed when he had enough of the Midwest and moved back to the PNW, sans job initially, but correctly thinking he'd do better finding work out here if he was here than he'd do hanging out in Bloomington. And I remembered, then, that he had pulled a bunch of my records out, to borrow and keep in Tucson while continuing his studies, with the promise to get them back to me, sometime, before the world ended.

Well, apparently he did, leaving them in my spare bedroom. And I really have no memory of this occurring; I thought he still had them! Now I need to sort them, and then when I get to that part of the move, reintegrate them with the records he didn't borrow.

And I am completely baffled as to where the old TIs and CAs are hiding, I'm guessing down in the basement. I'd really been hoping to find them, I want to find a good home for them, unlike all the old SCA newsletters I'm sending to recycling. They definitely aren't where I thought they were.

2010-05-07

Locks and Memory, or memories

Whilst sorting through stuff today, well, more like while making sure it's nothing I need after not seeing this stuff for over ten years, and recycling papers, I came across a box that probably hasn't been looked at since I moved back from Chicago in 1994. And in this box was a combination lock. This lock was last used by myself in 1988; it locked my bicycle. I obtained this lock in the fall of 1975, the first day of school; it was my locker lock. Not having seen it in 15 years, not having used it in 22 years, I calmly spun the dial, and entered the combination, and opened it.

Yes, I remembered the combination. Good thing, too, it's not written down anywhere, I'm sure the school bookstore purged their records of that lock many years ago [I did, early on, forget the combination, called the bookstore, and they told it to me; they kept records just for that purpose.]

I can't remember any of the four addresses I had in my six years in Chicago, nor the telephone number, the same holds true for Tucson and Eugene, both of which were school-related tenures. At the moment I still have papers from Tucson and Chicago, and if I looked through them I could find that information. Shortly, in the next several weeks, all of that information will be gone, except for several boxes which have shipping labels on them and are still in use. Shortly, aside from some photographs, books, and a couple of tchotchkes, I will have nothing left from the vast majority of my life, no tangible items reflecting my experiences and history, nothing except my memories.

My memory is a quirky thing. I can remember the address and phone number of the house I grew up in in Salem, Oregon, and I could draw a diagram of how the house was laid out prior to our moving to Portland. I can actually draw floor-plans for every place I've lived, now that I think about it, even if I don't remember the address. Well, except for the first two houses, but I was very young, less than a year old when we moved into the house on Saginaw in Salem, so I have no memory of the house on State Street which we lived in initially upon moving to Salem, nor the Potter Street house in Eugene where we lived when I was born; I know the streets they were on from my parents' conversations over the years, and there is the slight chance that amongst their documents we'd have those addresses. I can't navigate Salem as well as I used to, because of the construction over the years since we moved.

In my mind I can see people that I've known over the years, worked with, gone to school with, known in fandom and the SCA, and I know who they are... except that the names are starting to fade, with time and mental disuse. Well, some of them, some of them can be dredged back up, given time. But I've always been bad with names, at least when I initially meet people, it always took a while for me to learn names, part of my memorization problems which have always been with me. Once I learn the name, I'm pretty good, I guess. And I can remember what people look like.

There was a period when I took lots of photographs, before my first real camera was stolen; I fell out of the habit, then, and never got back into it. So there are a couple of years with lots of photos, of the SCA, some of fandom, some school, but after that not much at all, I was too busy doing and not recording. Taking photos is what spectators do, and I enjoyed myself so much more if I was helping make things happen. Which means for most of my life there is no record, other than the very documents I'm in the process of discarding. Some will be kept, those which look to be of use, such as those supporting my disability claim; it may come under review sometime, so I feel the need to keep those documents, which means I'll still have copies of my last job resume, and a work history which describes in some detail what I did at various jobs, all part of documenting what I'd been able to do prior to the gradual decline. But I'm throwing out alot of memorabilia, con programs, newsletters, letters, all sorts of stuff that I look at and force myself to ask if I'll ever look at them again, and find the answer being "No, I'll never go through these again", so I discard them, the neglected record of my past.

And then I'll go through my books, and that will be hard, going through and looking at them from the perspective of what I'm honestly likely to use, as opposed to the reference librarian who wants to keep everything, but if I'm looking at moving into a considerably smaller place, I really have no choice.

And the wood shop and all my electronics and building maintenance materials, what of them to keep and how best to dispose of what I don't? Again, the question of what do I actually see myself using. I'm seeming to be functioning some better recently, but how will that carry over to various activities I haven't done in years?

So much of going through my stuff includes saying "This I used to do, but do no longer, and will never do again". There needs to be some "And this I may do again", something of planning forwards, seeing future accomplishment and activities. To be blunt, a reason for going on. I need to find things that I will be doing, that will involve me with others, for I need to be involved with my fellow man, and at some level be a contributing part of society; I do not enjoy being a spectator, and at this time I'm not even doing that.

I'm tired. Guess I'll go to bed, then.

2010-04-25

Where to start?

Life is being interesting these days. On Monday, March 8th my mother didn't wake up when it was time for her morning medications. I was a little concerned, but thought that she might just be really deeply asleep, so I decided to wait an hour and see if she woke up, and then waited another hour until I decided that this was just too long for her to be unresponsive to my shaking her shoulders, etc., and called 911, whose response in regard to my saying my mother wasn't waking up was to send paramedics and an ambulance right away. That would have been around 10:00AM, I guess, well, just a bit later as I got dressed before calling. I let the paramedics in, and provided answers to their questions while they checked mom out, and finding her still not responding, and her muscles being pretty rigid, pull on her arm and it would resist and move back to the same position, and apparently she had some slight vomit that I hadn't seen due to the positioning of her head, they packed her up and took her out to the ambulance once it arrived. I tried to track down our copy of her advanced directive, but couldn't find it at the time, she'd been thinking of redoing it and it wasn't in any of the locations I could think of, and I decided that getting her to the hospital was a bit more important than looking for the advanced directive. I rode in with them, taking the perspective that I could catch a bus home if need be but wanted to be there with mom and if I rode with them I'd get to the right place. Instead of going to Kaiser, mom being a Kaiser patient, we went to OHSU [Oregon Health Sciences University] Emergency Services, guess it was closer and they were not sure what was going on. Got checked in at Emergency, they cut mom out of her clothes which she hadn't taken off from the day before, discussed with me inserting an airway to keep here breathing clear in case she were to vomit or have problems swallowing, and while I know that mom didn't want tube feeding and various other forms of life prolonging treatment, this struck me as a reasonable preventive precaution, the idea of giving her a fighting chance. I'm not sure when they installed the catheter, but when they did there was a lot and nasty looking. They got her on an IV, and took her in for a CAT scan and had me wait in the waiting room at that time. That's when I called Beth, my older sister, to let her know what was going on, got her voicemail and left a message; Beth lives in Olympia, WA, and is a self-employed Piano teacher. Beth had been down jsut a few days earlier, on Thursday, to go to a meeting with mom's doctor, who was of the opinion that it was time to start looking at some variety of long term care, that mom shouldn't be living at home any longer, her dementia and incontinence, specifically the problems keeping clean, were such that she should have assistance greater than she could have at home, that we were past the help I could give with my own problems which were why I was on disability. Anyway I left a message on Beth's voicemail, and waited. After a while, long enough to read through the only interesting magazine and then some, they came out to let me know they were moving mom to ICU, that she didn't seem to have had a stroke or anything, but she was dehydrated and still hadn't woken up. So I went with them as they transported mom to another section of the complex, up to the 12th floor of another wing, possibly another building it's hard to tell, and had me wait in a waiting room while they got mom set up. This is the one section where I'm not happy with them, it wasn't made clear to me how I could get in touch with them when I was left in an unattended waiting room, I was there for hours without any contact. During that time Beth called me, her phone was out because of construction work cutting through the trunk line to her subdivision, the phone wouldn't have the physical connection repaired until the 13th, but voicemail worked since it was voicemail and not an answering machine, they'd borrowed a cell phone from a neighbor and had finally gotten a chance to check their voicemail and found out that mom was i8n the hospital, and that they were going to come down, they'd contacted her students and rescheduled the rest of the day, and Beth had a copy of the advanced directive and would bring it. About that time I said enough was enough, I was done waiting for someone to come talk to me and was going to go looking for mom. Turns out there was a phone on the wall next to the door which could be used to contact the nurses station, I called and told them I was looking for my mother [with her name] and they checked and said I could come back, so I did and found the nurses station and they then directed me on to the room mom was in. No, wait, they had come out while I was in the waiting room, three doctors, to ask me questions about mom, but no one had said how I'd be able to go back to see her. And being in a waiting room didn't do mom any good, but if I could be back with her I could at least hold her hand and let her know someone who cared about her was there. Which was what I did, held her hand and petted her head like she was a cat, to let her know someone cared and was there, she still hadn't woken up and it was late afternoon, but they were pretty sure now that it was a bad urinary tract infection, and it had started to go systemic, so they had her on antibiotics and saline, she'd gotten very dehydrated and her kidneys weren't happy with her. Oh, and I'd also called my uncle Richard earlier, to let him know something was up. I don't remember precisely when in all this I called Richard, but I think it was before I went on mom search. Beth and Karen [Beth's partner] arrived after visiting hours were over, and had a fun time getting into the building, but snazzy staff members helped them find their way to the proper area. They sent me off to get food, I hadn't eaten since breakfast, and we were now into late evening, and they talked with doctors whilst I was off. 10:00PM or so we decided that it would serve no purpose to stay the night with mom, so they ran me home and went to stay with Allison, a friend of ours who they normally stay with when they come to town. I think they'd already started calling students to clear Tuesday, the neighbor who'd let them use a cell phone had a spare cell phone that he'd sent with them so they could do phone stuff [good neighbor, yes].

Tuesday mom started to be somewhat responsive, but only somewhat, we weren't really sure how aware she was of things, if she was really responding to us or not, as the whole time she'd been having twitches, I'd forgotten about that until now, she'd been twitching a bit the whole time this was going on, from when I first saw her Monday morning, so the whole asking her to squeeze your hand or move a foot or whatever was totally bogus because she was having these twitches and you couldn't presume any meaning to them. Her eyes being somewhat open didn't mean anything. But once or twice it seemed that she was turning slightly towards the voice of someone talking to her, but we couldn't be sure she was really responding. Partway through the day they determined she had stabalized enough to be transported to Kaiser, and I again rode over with her, Beth and Karen bringing their car, and around this time B&K decided they'd probably be here the rest of the week and to start clearing her schedule of students, because they weren't heading back to Olympia until they had some idea about where to move mom after she was released, but it sure looked like it wasn't going to be back home. And boy were they glad we'd gotten mom to sign a Power of Attorney on the previous Friday before Beth had to go back to Olympia. We'd drawn up a PoA that named me as the Agent, and Beth as an alternate, but real quick we realized that I just wasn't up to what was going to need to be done, so Beth was going to have to become the primary. If we'd started out as Beth as the primary mom might not have signed it, which is part of mom being a bit weird, but she'd signed it and we could now shift it to where the person capable of dealing with stuff would be the agent. Things have blurred together in regards to what day and precise order, but we got Beth all the information on the various life insurance policies, IRAs, etc., which could help with funding, she already had the long term care insurance policies; I might not have been up to dealing with the various people and entities, but I was able to lay my hands on the information needed for Beth to do so. I do know that Wednesday mom started being clearly responsive, they'd taken the tubes out late Tuesday before we headed out for the night, Wednesday when I drove over she was in a chair, not doing well in regard to talking, but clearly someone was home. I honestly can't remember how many days she was at Kaiser, B&K had to head back up to Olympia and see about finding a facility to transfer her to upon her discharge from Kaiser, because they really had to handle things and that meant it would be best to find a place in their neck of the woods. I was in what I refer to as "deal with it" mode, with jsut enough adrenaline permeating my system that I was functioning well, so I was making it out to see mom each day while she was at Kaiser, staying until I could feel my edge start to fade and then get home while still safe to drive. Part of my problem is that I don't seem to produce adrenaline and various other neurotransmitters properly, so I can't be relied upon, too much day to day what will I be up to, and getting myself started on things, meh, totally undependable, the gradual decline from what I used to be able to do has me totally depressed when I allow myself to think about it. Anyway, B&K found a Nursing home/rehab facility in Olympia to shift mom over to, which they did, not cheap but very good, and she was there for the better part of a month, she's gotten back pretty much to where she had been before the infection, so it's been determined that an Adult Foster Care situation is what would be best, and Thursday I think they transferred her over.

The long term care insurance may not cover this, but it's more appropriate at this time. We're going to have to sell the Portland property to fund things long term. But that requires that we have someplace for me to move to. Due to my being on disability Medicaid will allow mom to set monies aside to help me, and my IRA is enough for a good sized down payment, but the order in which monies are made available is going to be crucial, if uncle Richard or my cousin Glenn can buy out mom's interest in the family farm in Grand Ronde that will cover getting me re-situated which will then allow for disposing of this property where I'm currently living, which has been "home" since 1976, even when I lived in Chicago for six years this was home. So as funds are made available there will be a search for a place near Olympia, in one of the lumber towns most likely, where the economy is really depressed and home values are down, for me to move to so I'll be close to mom and sis. And I have to start getting my stuff organized for a move, and this is something that is difficult for me, which is a problem for precisely the reasons they approved my disability claim. I've got to sort stuff, throw stuff away, recycle stuff, dispose of things to worthy homes, sell some stuff, whatever, drastically reduce what I have and determine what things I actually might use again.

One of the things I've always identified myself as being is an Oregonian, a fourth generation native born Oregonian, and that will become a thing of the past, I'll be moving and never coming back. Of course, another thing I always believed was that I'd marry and have children, at 48 that doesn't seem so likely anymore, so looking at keeping things to pass onto further generations doesn't seem to be a consideration at this time. Beth and Karen have raised Karen's niece, Caillie [or however it is spelled, Gaelic for dance or some such thing], and look to be passing things down to her, so the family stuff is being funneled to Beth for preservation and distribution.

Well, that's three hours plus of writing, and crying at times. Maybe I won't take so long before my next entry.