Sunday, November 23, 2014

LeoDude's Passing

Just over a month ago I wrote a somewhat humorous rant to a college buddy, Leo Winters.  And now he's passed away.

He replied to my rant with his recent experiences becoming a middle-aged man, too, getting fat, and then cleaning up his diet to lose 50 pounds.  He said he mainly just started eating healthier, cutting out junk food, soda, chips and processed meats in favor of lighter stuff with more natural ingredients.

He offered me some advice on dietary supplements, lemon balm and red clover.  He said the lemon balm helped him sleep better and get closer to the required 7 hours a night.

Then a few weeks ago he went into the hospital himself with liver and kidney problems.  The first word was that he wasn't going to leave, then he started getting better, sending more emails, complaining about the medication and about the new PlayStation 4 games he'd gotten to keep from being bored there.

Then two weeks back he died in the hospital...

I guess it hits pretty hard because while a few of my old friends have passed away, not many, just a few, none of them were as close a friend to me as LeoDude was...

Sure, life had taken us different directions since we were going to Oregon Tech together, and sometimes we only emailed sporadically.  But the time at OIT we were such close friends that this is kind of hard.

And the last email exchange I'd initiated to complain about my own bad health, and he's the one who passes away.  

I mean, I don't feel guilt, it's not anything I did (except maybe encouraging a lot of unhealthy drinking back in our younger days), but I feel awfully bad about it.

Since then I've only been listening to music that he got me into, Skinny Puppy, A Split Second, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and so forth.  And thinking of old conversations we had, some of which I wish I could clarify, but now it's too late.

Below is what I wrote on his Facebook wall after hearing the news that he passed away...
-- -- --

Aw shit, dude… 
I know I started us writing emails back and forth last month complaining about becoming middle-aged men, but I didn’t mean to skip it altogether! 
I guess now you’ve done exactly what you said that one night when we recorded you talking in your sleep, “I’m going to de-energize…. totally…” And now we’ll have no more opportunities to eat breakfast and listen to recordings of what you talk about when you dream. 
Anyway, those sure were fun times back at Oregon Tech… I felt a bit like a fish out of water for the first half of the year, until someone introduced us and I started to hang out with you. That was when I finally felt like I belonged there. 
I suppose now you never will answer that question I ask every few years about what song that was you used to play on a tape when driving your Plexipod car our freshman year at college… I keep buying CDs from the group I thought it was, but nothing sounds like it did when we were teenagers. 
This must now be the ultimate swim in the Shark Zone, huh… 
“Ch… Ch….” … … (after 25 years of this game, I guess this round goes unfinished.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

NYC Commuting 90 Minutes Later

After a trip to the emergency room two weeks ago, I followed some of the doctor’s advice about caffeine and “sleep hygiene,”  and now I’m going to work an hour and a half later every day than I had been for the last few years.

New York City is very, very different at 7:30am to 8:30am than it was at 6am to 7am…  So much busier.  So much noisier.  So much more chaos.

At 6am there was only one grocery store on my route with big trucks unloading, at 7:30am there’s business with deliveries all up and down the street between our apartment and the subway.

By 7:30am there are construction crews out blocking the roads and moving big equipment around, so no more just walking across the street once there’s a big enough break in traffic.  Not that there is a big enough break in traffic at 7:30am without a light or construction flagger to stop it, the cars are simply non-stop on the avenues.

Whereas I used to always get a seat on the subway, every time, often the only person on a bench, now I usually have to squeeze in to a crowded train and wait till a mass of people get off at Times Square to quickly grab a seat, feeling guilty because there’s still plenty of people standing up, and worried that I might be taking a seat someone who really needs it more than me could use.

On the 4 train in Brooklyn I used to sit with young 20-something school teachers who work at some schools near my office, a crowd that often grades papers or talks in nice, quiet conversational tones and has manners when we’re all heading to the same exits at the same time.  Now after 8am in Crown Heights, the trains are mostly full of rowdy school kids.

Fortunately, with the doctor-recommended change in sleeping habits, I don’t feel the desperate need to sleep on the train like I used to, so I can close my eyes to relax, but the noise and chaos isn't affecting me as much.

Middle Age Motherfucker!

While getting my life on track following some health issues last month, it dawned on me that I'm totally a middle-aged man now.  On Facebook I saw a post by a college buddy's wife and we swapped some messages and we're both in the same boat now.  So, I banged out a ranty email about this to another college buddy...

Middle Age Motherfucker!

It sure hit me last month, like a BB to the nuts(1).

I ended up in the emergency room two weeks ago because my blood pressure was through the fucking roof.  I had a headache like never before, and decided to go to the urgent care clinic up the street.  The doctor there checked my blood pressure and said the risk of a stroke was severe and sent me straight to the ER, no walking, either ambulance or taxi for the two blocks (we chose taxi).

He gave me a pill for it, and some notes to take to the ER...

The pill worked, so the ER doctors didn't "do" anything except monitor me for five hours, then prescribe some blood pressure medicine to take daily, pretty much for life (or until I make lifestyle changes that'll make me healthy enough I won't require it.)  The doctor there also gave me advice including following up with a primary care physician, especially since I'm now 45 and entering middle age and can expect upcoming age-related health issues.

Two days later, when the headache receded enough that I could look at the computer and phone screens without cringing in pain I began what I'd put off for twenty years, finding a primary care doctor.  You know small town life, well, Waldport only had one doctor (whose son was one of my classmates) and once I finished college and started working the big city, Portland, the choices were too overwhelming that I never got a doctor or went for visits.  Now in NYC, the choices are even more so. In our insurance company's listings there were hundreds of primary care doctors within 10 blocks of our apartment...  The hospital had a referral service so she started listing them and I stopped her after the second clinic, then called that clinic who had one doctor available that afternoon, and now she's "my doctor".

Actually, luckily, after the first visit we really like her.  Leena really, really liked her.  We told her about how I got to the ER and what was done since and she talked a bit about diet, said I was definitely overweight and needed to lose some pounds, and took some blood samples, and EKG and measured my blood pressure several times and we talked quite a bit...  Since the problem and medication were still new to me she didn't want to change much, except for me to avoid obviously bad foods...

Last week she called with results of the blood tests and said my cholesterol is very high and put me on the famous Lipitor (another nail in the end of youth coffin for me...)

We have a two week follow-up with her later this week and she gave me a preview on the phone, that she wants to talk a lot more about food...

I saw a Facebook post from Craig's wife, and he's going through the same shit.  Overweight, high blood pressure and all that.  And similar problems, he felt fat, but whenever he talked to people about eating better and shedding weight, they just said "what? you're not fat..."

I get that all the time, even now after the doctor's appointments my coworkers are telling me I'm not fat, I'm not overweight, the doctor is stupid.  Never mind that I knew I was fat ten years ago, when I bent down to put my socks on and couldn't breath because I suddenly had a gut in the way...  I was getting out of breath walking up steps and everyone's all "you're not overweight..."

So, yeah, I'm on three prescription medications now, my blood pressure is high and my cholesterol is very high.  I'm a middle-aged man.  What the fuck happened?

How about us all sucking down a bottle of Oregon Springs(2) and walking down to the Market Casket(3) to buy some junk food...

Anyway, Leena's sprung into action.  She has a mission now, get me back to health.  She was learning to cook in January, but with lots of oil and salt, so now she's researching online and learning to cook healthier foods to help lower my blood pressure and cholesterol.  She found out how to get to the nearest fish market to bake salmon for me instead of frying beef, and she's learned to cook some vegetables so they actually taste good (hint, lots of garlic).

The fresh salads are also a reminder of lost youth...  As a kid I always used massive amounts of French salad dressing to choke down a salad and the grown-ups used olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  This week I found myself looking at a salad and trying oil and vinegar so it wouldn't be plain old, boring vegetables....  And I kind of liked it...  Until I thought about that thing with the kids and grown-ups.

In two weeks I'm noticeably less chubby, my watch is loose on my wrist and my feet are slipping out of my sandals.  So, it's a start...

notes:
(1) the first day of our sophomore year he was showing his new BB gun, pointing it at me.  I said "hey, don't point it at me" and he said "it's not loaded" then preceded to pull the trigger, with a bunch of BBs shooting and bouncing off the door, just below my crotch (good thing he lowered it...)

(2) we drank a shit-ton of Oregon Springs vodka back then...  it was the cheapest liquor we know of at either of the Klamath Falls liquor stores.

(3) just a funny nickname for the grocery store near our college campus, the Market Basket.

Monday, July 7, 2014

N Train Performance

Well, that was impressive on the N train...  Going over the Manhattan Bridge a young teenage boy got on and loudly announced, "It's Showtime!" and "Last show of the day!" before turning on his boom box to some obnoxious music.

No, he wasn't that good, just clumsily repeating a few moves over and over, dancing and whirling his hat from his knee to his head, head to his toes, under his knee, and an occasional twirl around some of the bars in the train...  I've seen much better performers...

What was impressive is after he finished, he sat down on the bench, not far from where I was standing (I always stand on the train going home, so I don't sleep (yeah, sometimes I do, I doze and my knees buckle and I catch myself halfway down...), otherwise I risk missing my stop, and I'll get even less sleep at night), took the batteries out of his boom box, slid it under his seat, got out his headphones...

And then started counting his cash...

It was a lot of cash.  Several hundred dollars.  Mostly it was $1 bills, but no shortage of $5 bills scattered in there.  He'd reach into his backpack with his right hand, pull out a handful, straighten them out with the ones already in his left hand.  Over and over.  By the end he had a gigantic stack of bills in his left hand that he couldn't actually fold over lengthwise.  Then he curled it into a large, very wide cylinder and wrapped a band around it and stuck it back in his bag.

And the kid wasn't even that good, and the trains weren't even that busy...

Of course, I don't know how much of that he gets to keep, or if he has to pass on a chunk of it to someone else.  When he started his routine, dancing from one end of the car to the other, he stopped and fist-bumped a scruffy looking guy standing at one end, who didn't seem surprised, and in mid-town left his standing spot to sit on the bench one seat away from the kid.  That might well have been his supervisor or someone...

...Hmmm...  Maybe it's time I practice, make some extra cash while I'm already commuting and on the weekends...  :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Microsoft Screws Up Scroll Bars



I finally figured out why despite years of using Windows (i.e. since version 1.0 in the mid-80's, and mouse-oriented apps going back earlier to my Apple //e) I'm having so much trouble using the scroll bars on my relatively new, fancy Windows 8.1 desktop machine at work. I click in the scroll bar and unexpected scrolling happens, or sometimes nothing at all happens.

In this photo with two windows, one is scrolled to the bottom, the other is scrolled to the top.

The problem is the Windows 8.1 default style is for the "thumb" of the scroll bar to be a dark grey, with the empty part to be a light grey, almost white. But one idiotic software vendor decided to override that with their own distinctive style, the "thumb" being white and the empty part of the scroll bar a dark grey.

No, wait...  They're both the same software vendor...  F*ckin' Microsoft!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sexual Inadequacy: Out of shape and overweight...

I’m feeling totally inadequate right this morning…  Last night, around 1am, we got woken up by a woman in a nearby apartment screaming in total ecstasy for about forty-five minutes…  It was almost constant “Oh yes!  Fuck Yes!  Oh Fuck, Oh Fuck, Yes, Yes!  Fuck Me Hard, Hard, Fuck Me! Fuck Me!” with a minute or two of wordless moaning here and there before building up into pleasurable screams again. There was the occasional grunting of a guy’s voice, a bit more towards the end as he was probably climaxing, then the two of them mumbling together for a bit…

Leena hates hearing it, saying that women having sex is a turn-off for her.  I’m sort of the opposite, I like it, like hearing a “live performance” and get totally turned on by it.  Granted, this woman isn’t as good as a former neighbor who lived across the hall, who didn’t last as long, but just sounded a bit “sweeter” and sexier...

Leena was nearly asleep a while after that, but I was totally awake, thinking solely about sex, of course.  I’d wanted us to make out earlier in the morning, but she wasn’t feeling too well, bad acid reflux, so we didn’t go beyond cuddling till she wanted to get up (despite her clear invitation for morning action the night before, before she could’ve anticipated that she’d not be feeling well in the morning…).

Not able to sleep, I joined her in her part of the bed and things went okay while I went down on her.  But then when it was time for the condom, I lost it…  Then after that, once my own member was lubricated from unrolling the condom on it as I was losing it, her messaging me made me lose control and come before I could get another rubber out…  A disappointing, though not unpleasurable end, but nowhere near as good as it could’ve been.

This sort of thing happens regularly and Leena is usually comforting and reassuring that I’m ok, but after hearing quite a performance from nearby, it just left me feeling pretty bad in the sexual department (especially after managing a condom twice last weekend and hoping for a repeat…).

Now it’s later in the morning and that neighbor has had two more sessions of the same thing, although each seems to be about ten minutes shorter than the last.  But still, I’m just thinking about how great in bed her guy must be.  And at this point in life, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be such a stud…

Rarely have I felt more like what I am turning into, an overweight, out-of-shape, middle-aged guy with erectile trouble.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ug, dreams while sick in India

Ug... Not well, headache, diarrhea, nausea and feverish, hot and cold, shivering and sweating....

But after being up in the middle of the night for relief of some, and a few hot showers to wash and relax I got a few hours of sleep.

Back in bed, wrapped tightly in a cozy, cotton blanket, if I was laying on my back I felt worse, necessitating at least one extra trip out to the bathroom.

Curled up on either side in a fetal position and I had science fiction dreams, space stations, bug-eyed monsters and me and the characters kept escaping, while sending texts via mobile to people outside the dream world. And then waking with feeling a bit improved.

Lying belly down, slightly more comfortable in the time between waking and sleeping, led to similar dreams, but the bug-eyed monsters winning and catching the made-up characters, followed by waking and feeling slightly worse.

Now the sun is up and while I don't feel good, the degree of wretchedness is less... I'll drink some water and try getting more sleep...

(Sorry about the font, it's just copy paste from another app and I don't feel like solving it now)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grey Hair

No... Nope... No, no, no... No! The grocery store didn't just give me a senior discount... No, no can't be... I mean, my hair's a bit grey, but it can't be *that* grey, can it?

Surely "senior disc" next to the -2.30 is a code for something else, like "butt" is short for butter... Gotta be...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jury Duty in Manhattan

So, I pulled jury duty this month.  I figured it was coming when earlier this year I got a form in the mail to fill out about my qualifications and any recent jury duty I'd served.  So it wasn't a surprise when I got the actual summons.

I was summoned for Thursday, May 16th.  It coincided with the second day of a two day Jewish holiday, Shavuot, for which my company was closed, so I didn't miss any work on Thursday.  Several people at work suggested I tell them it was a religious holiday to postpone it.  However, since I'm not religious and have never celebrated that particular holiday before, it just didn't feel like the right thing to do in my case, so I didn't ask for my one postponement.

Thursday, May 16th

Thursday morning I showed up at 71 Thomas Street at about 8:20am, a little early for my 9am reporting time.  The security guard at the entrance said "we open at 8:45" and when I repeated I was there for jury duty he just said "we open at 8:45".  (however, I'm now looking at the Jury Information Card the court gave us on Friday it says "Jury Assembly Rooms are open at 8:00 am")

I walked around the neighborhood a little, then got back there at about 8:40am to see a line of people standing outside waiting to get in.  After a few minutes they opened the door and we went through the bag x-ray and metal detector security.  The security guards were kind of rude to anyone who slightly slowed the line, yelling "take off your belt!" and "put your things in a tray!"  Then after retrieving stuff and asking directions the bored one at the end just said "read the signs..." like we were imbeciles...

Once inside I found the bathroom then found a seat in the jury assembly room to wait.

Around 9:15am a clerk, William Stevenson, came out to get things started, "I waited a little for the latecomers..."  He was a great clerk.  He said he'd been doing this clerk job since the 80's, but he never seemed to lose sight of the fact that while he knows the process and procedures inside and out, it's not daily work for the rest of us, a few who've had jury duty before and a lot who haven't, so most of us don't know the way around or the details or much about it.  He didn't make me feel stupid or anything for being unsure of what I was doing there or not knowing what to do with particular papers and things.

He started by having us go through parts of our summonses and make sure we were all in the right place on the right day, that our summonses said May 16th, and 71 Thomas Street.  For anyone whose said something different he told them to go to the main courthouse at 60 Center Street to get it cleared up, and that they should hurry over there so they wouldn't have to wait too much longer in line.

He then went over the requirements for jury duty at that court, being a citizen, being over 18 years old, living in Manhattan, Roosevelt Island and some other odd zip code, and not being a convicted felon.  He said if anyone didn't meet those requirements they should leave as quick as possible and go to the main courthouse to clear it up at the administration office.

He covered the jury duty hours, from 9am to 5pm, with a lunch break from 1pm to 2pm.  He said that for those jurors not involved in a trial, if we're in the assembly room he'll get us out at 4:30pm, but if a judge has us in something, then it's out of his hands.

He said the average trial length is seven days, some are longer, some are shorter, but in his experience, they average seven days.

Then he said it was time to get orientation started for everyone else...  He played a 25 minute video, featuring famous news stars going over a bit of the history of our justice system.  It began by showing middle ages style justice of "trial by ordeal" with actors portraying a trial of someone, where it was declared that if he was bound up and tossed in the lake, if he sank he was innocent (not caring if he drowned) and if he floated he was guilty...  Then it led to the changes in justice, including slightly later in England where they had juries, but the juries would be imprisoned if they didn't find those accused to be guilty...  Eventually getting up to our modern system.  It compared real life courtroom trials to TV and movie dramatized ones, explaining what about real trials makes them such compelling sources for drama.

After that he had us line up to give him portions of our jury summons and take a questionnaire to fill out to give to any lawyers who need to interview us in jury selection.  After long enough for most people to have filled those out, Mr. Stevenson picked up the microphone again and pointed some common errors people make, like reading "county" as "country" in one box, and not to write "Manhattan" as the neighborhood, but rather, which actual neighborhood within Manhattan where we live.

And then we waited.  And waited.  And waited...

Periodically Mr. Stevenson would get on the microphone and tell us there aren't yet any trials that need jurors in their building, but that he and another clerk were contacting other New York County courts in the same system.

The normal lunch break is from 1pm to 2pm, but since nothing was happening, he let us go for a longer lunch around 12:30pm and told us to be back by 2:15pm.

Having extra time, I took the A train from Chambers Street up to 42nd Street & 8th Avenue, where the front of the train was closer to 44th Street, so I dashed home.  I surprised Leena by showing up and then had a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small Coke for some caffeine.

I left the apartment around 1:35pm and just barely made it back to the jury assembly room by 2:15pm...

Then there was more waiting...

Finally, around 3:15pm one of the other clerks got on the microphone and asked for all the jurors to assemble in the main assembly room, for the ones scattered about, in the lunch room, in the bathrooms and in the side rooms.  And he asked for people to remove their headphones and listen.

He introduced his talk as "we're going to give you all a lesson in civics..."  Then announced that they'd talked to a number of judges and clerks throughout the system and there were no trials going to select juries that afternoon so we were free to leave for the day.  They announced that instead of 9am the next morning we should come at 10am.


Friday, May 17th

I got to the courthouse around 9:30am, a bit early, and went through the security checks to get into the jury assembly room and begin waiting.

Around 10:15am Mr. Stevenson got into the main room and took roll call, cheerfully welcoming every person who responded.  Then said there weren't any trials in that courthouse that yet needed jurors, but to bear with him while he contacted others to see.

Not much happened for about an hour or so, then he got back on the microphone and announced that there was a trial at the main courthouse at 60 Center Street that would need all of us.  He gave repeated directions how to get there, "go out the door, turn right, turn right again and walk forward four blocks," but said not to leave immediately.  He then took another roll call to make sure he knew everyone who was going there, and gave us a yellow card with addresses and details of the courthouses.  He repeated the directions and said that at the end of it he would lead over any of those who weren't familiar with it.

After he called my name I got my yellow card and figured I could follow his directions.  I wasn't alone, I saw others along the route I recognized from the jury room, so I knew I was going the right direction on the four block walk.

Many of us were together again at the security check point at the entrance to this courthouse and then got through and worked our way to the elevators and up to the 4th floor's jury assembly room.

There we waited some more...

After some time a clerk there told us all to follow an officer of the court down to a 3rd floor court room, but not to go inside until the officer said we could.  The officer led us down the steps, but said any could use the elevators if they wanted, and then to the hallway outside the courtroom where we had another wait.

Finally once the court room emptied of other jurors the officer said we could go in, and we filed in, filling up the seats...

The judge introduced the case as a lawsuit about asbestos and could be expected to take around 8 weeks, and then turned it over to the plaintiffs' lawyer to lead the proceedings for us.


In the introduction to the trial the lawyers said they understood it was a long trial and could be a financial hardship on many potential jurors and that neither side would want jurors who might quit part way through or spend their days worrying about finances instead of paying attention.  In addition they said they knew it was summer, when many people make vacation plans that could be affected.

He read off two pages of names of plaintiffs, families, and witnesses they expected to call and said if we knew any of those people we should let them know.  Then he had each of the defense attorneys introduce themselves and their law firms so if we knew of any of them we could let them know.  Then one of them read off two pages of names of companies involved so that if we owned stock in any of those we could let them know.

Then he said we'd take a lunch break.  He also made it clear that the lawyers would see us outside the courtroom but not to take it personally if they didn't greet us or smile at us or acknowledge us in passing.  He said that was part of maintaining the impartiality of the jury system.  They would not interact with us in any way unless lawyers from both sides were present, or the judge.

After lunch I got back inside, stopped by the jury assembly room for a drink of water then waited in the hallway outside the courtroom.  Others from my group of prospective jurors showed up in a steady stream, all waiting outside, most getting on their mobile phones or laptops to kill the time.

A little later the officer of the court opened up the courtroom and we filed in.

The plaintiffs' lawyer again lead the proceedings and said they'd interview us one by one in the judge's chamber that they'd set up.  He suggested just going along the first row starting at the left and working through the room, mostly leaving it up to us to manage.

He also asked that if they let us go we don't go back into the room and tell the crowd what we said to get out of the jury selection.  He said it really happened once that they let one person go because they'd already purchased plane tickets to Australia during the time period of the trial, and then "seven more people all said they had tickets to Australia."

I was in the second bench of the third row, so around #30, give or take a few...  It was a long wait, with some people taking longer for them to interview than others.  Several were sent back out into the courtroom to sit and wait for the judge.  But most were leaving through the stairwell by the judge's chamber.

So, when it was my turn they brought me into the room with a dozen lawyers and asked "what's your conflict?"  I said that I work for a very small company and would only get paid from work for the two weeks of vacation I get this year, and so missing eight weeks of work, getting only the $40 a day, six to eight weeks after the trial, would mean I would not be able to pay my rent and expenses for a month.  The lawyer joked, "you don't want to spend your vacation here with us?  Your next four vacations at that!"  Then he said "alright, you can go..."

Then he gave me my juror ballot to take back up to the jury assembly room to be processed by the clerk.  That took about twenty minutes before she gave me a printout of my proof of jury service.

So, that was that...

I feel a little guilty about getting out of jury duty instead of being eliminated by not meeting their needs. I mean, I know by having financial troubles with the length of the trial I don't meet their needs, but still, it feels to me like I failed to do my duty.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Spring Saturday in DUMBO & Manhattan

We got off to a bit of a late start today, but headed by subway over to DUMBO to enjoy the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

After it was getting closer to dark we got hungry but decided to head back to Manhattan by subway to get a bite to eat at Pier 17.

Then from there we walked all the way home, along the western side of Manhattan.

As always, no captions came through, but they're all in the original album...