The next phase
All my life I've dreamed of retirement: all the time I want to enjoy time designing and assembling electronic equipment. Time spent laying out circuit boards, etching and stuffing them, trying them, troubleshooting and using them. All the while, hiking, biking, getting on the air, cooking, fishing, and maybe even rejoining a rod & Gun and getting some target practice in.
The stress of a decent job suddenly gone horribly bad and last year's open-heart surgery has, at least for the past 2 years or so, killed the passion I used to have for my hobbies and interests. Now, I hike & bike, but more to get away from the day's turmoil and have some peace. Any time I spend in the shed is to make or repair some item I need, not make something for fun.
Luckily, I've discovered SKCC, the "Straight Key Century Club" . Being a member has re-sparked my interest in operating Amateur Radio again, but the fear still lingers...
Did I wait too long to retire? Is my passion gone and I have nothing to enjoy in my retirement? Will it all come back some day? What's next?
Don't blame me!
Our (Un)elected president has done more damage in his first 5 months in office than any President I can remember:
Our southern border is over-run with illegal aliens
Inflation is higher than it's been since the 1980s
Race relations have hit an all-time low
Russia and Iran are laughing at our weakest president since Carter
Unemployment pays more than working so industry can't find employees and prices are rapidly rising
Gas and housing prices are the highest they've been in years
I didn't vote for this. Heck, most Americans didn't. But due to the collusion between democrats and the press, we're stuck with it for 3 more years.
The end of a way of life
All my life, socialism and communism were universally understood to be bad social constructs that ultimately led to totalitarian government. Thus, we were thankful we never had to worry about that here in the U.S.; we understood the evil that was socialism and would never succumb to that.
Now though, socialism isn't just creeping into our society, it's boldly forcing capitalism out on nearly every front. The news media, social media, Hollywood and television...all openly embrace and espouse socialism. The school systems from kindergarten to college teach that socialism is better than capitalism and must be attained NOW! There is rioting in the streets demanding socialism be immediately adopted, and the democrat party, in their ever-present quest for more power, gleefully embrace this socialist viewpoint...as long as it means votes for them.
I'm very sorry for not seeing this happening sooner and standing to fight this scourge. Now I fear it may be too late.
I fear for my grandkids that will have to live in this country that I allowed to become so corrupted. I'm sorry.
All Lives Matter!
The recent racial unrest in my country sickens me! A criminal died in police custody. While that is tragic and should be investigated and if warranted, prosecuted; it is not an example of racism, and certainly not an example of any systemic or institutional racism. In the now-famous video showing the police standing by while one officer asphyxiates the victim, there is no evidence whatsoever that it was happening because he was black. None of the officers involved had a past history of racism. These officers simply improperly restrained a criminal. There is utterly nothing pointing to racism, individual or systemic, in this case.
The narrative that black people are targeted for death at the hands of police is a lie. A brief review of readily available statistics proves that fact. There have been academic studies showing no racial bias in police shootings.
Then why all the uproar?
Some opportunists are taking advantage of a simple unfortunate incident to stir the people of this country into unrest to further their unrelated agendas. They are writing a false narrative for both ratings (the popular media), chaos & a socialist agenda (Antifa & BLM), and votes (Democrats). These groups and their weak-minded followers, use civil unrest solely as a method to further their agendas. They protest their narrative, not the facts, and "protest" by rioting in the streets, looting, destroying innocent people's property, and attacking police. The media help them along by portraying them as brave fighters for justice rather than the criminals they actually are, and opportunistic politicians use the unrest to pass laws that would otherwise never even be open for discussion.
As I've said a few times in the writings of this page, I am scared for our society. We are submitting to the will of the lunatic fringe and allowing them a disproportionate say in the future of our country.
It is time for the stable, average, everyday people of this country to stand strongly united against these manipulative self-righteous children and their tantrums (and the power-brokers using them( and restore the peace and freedom that used to define our country!
I Hate King Andy Cuomo!!
Ever since this Covid-19 Panic took hold 6 weeks ago, the governor of my state, Andy Cuomo, has acted like both a spoiled child (demanding both that the federal government step in and solve this problem for him, and back off and let him call all of the shots), and like a power-mad dictator shutting down businesses on his arbitrary whims and imposing nonsensical rules on the population of the entire state. Some of what he has done makes some small sense given that New York City ended up being the epicenter of this outbreak, but as is normal in this surreal state, the draconian laws needed to pacify the sheep in New York City have been foisted onto the rest of the state as well...the areas that have not had meaningful outbreaks and no need of any of these moronic royal decrees.
The latest such idiotic law orders us to wear masks any time we're in public. And we will- more because the businesses will be forced to obey or risk losing their state-issued business licenses than because there is any legitimate need. There will also be mobs of sheeple that have no problem voicing, and occasionally acting out, their outrage that someone dare defy our tyrannical monarch. Those few of us with sense will risk physical harm as the price for attempting to exercise our freedom.
Understand this: to combat a virus that infects and kills less people than the seasonal flu, this petty tyrant has essentially suspended the first and second amendments to the US constitution. Since he has control of the State Troopers, and a seemingly infinite amount of legal funding, no one dares to challenge these incursions to our freedoms for fear of being jailed for the high crime of questioning this violation of our constitutional rights. We are trapped by a cage of our own making and being slowly destroyed by it...and there is no peaceful legal way to stop it.
I can only hope that once this phony "emergency" dies down and the people (very) slowly begin to wrestle some of their power back from this dictator, that there be an investigation of the over-reach by our "governor", and laws written to prevent such abuse of power from ever happening again. More likely though, the sheeple of downstate and New York City will praise him for "saving" them and he will get re-elected and more of his supporters will join the state legislature...ensuring that this will happen more often, and on even flimsier pretenses, until our (almost) free republic becomes a full dictatorship!
COVID-19 is B.S.
My wife and I needed some food for the weekend. We went to our local super-store to get just some odds and ends like a steak, maybe some fish (it was a Friday during Lent), some beer, and a gallon of Milk. We noticed how full the parking lot was for a Friday afternoon, but weren't prepared for what we encountered when we went in...
At 1:30 on Friday afternoon, the crowd was wall-to-wall bodies. There were old people, college kids, and mostly late-twenties/early-thirties working-class people acting like this was the last chance to get supplies- EVER! The store was totally out of meat, cheese, frozen vegetables, frozen potatoes, and toilet paper. People were walking out with several carts full of food and cleaning supplies.
Even my own wife was influenced by the fervor and started taking things we don't normally eat just to have something. I started getting anxious seeing a cross-section of our society losing all sense of reason. My anxiety grew to the point that I had to leave suddenly...I was horrified to see this display of panic in everyday ordinary people...including my own wife!
Come on people, this COVID thing is simply a strong flu. The death rate of it is slightly higher than the flu. I can understand our government over-reacting; it's an election year and the opposition party will criticize any action as insufficient, but why are average people panicking and acting like it's the end of our world? For the vast majority of people, if you get this you'll have a cold for a few days then get better. An infinitesimally small percentage of the population will be affected more.
We're better than this. we're smarter that this...aren't we?
It sickens me to see our entire culture being dismantled because of panic over a perceived threat that simply isn't that bad. Let's grow up people. Take a few common-sense measures to reduce your personal exposure, but don't shut our entire economy down for this "sky is falling" epidemic. Try to be adults and act like one!!
I literally fear for our entire society, we are becoming incapable children!!
The End of a Legend
Niel Peart (of RUSH) died yesterday. I loved his music and his attitude about life. It's sad that the good days are dying off. It's very sad!
The value of Ham Radio?
For a few years I've been wondering if there's any value to Ham Radio any more. It seems quite irrelevant in a world of cell phones and the Internet of Things.
I recently attended a seminar about RF test equipment sponsored by a major test equipment manufacturer. In that seminar, were about 200 professional technicians , engineers, or engineering students. I was slightly bored; short of some of the newest modulation techniques, I intimately knew all that they discussed. Many of the other people around me were lost at times and asked some fairly basic questions. This crowd of people who worked with this equipment on a daily basis didn't understand it.
The value of Ham Radio is in the educational opportunities it provides. It teaches concepts that are rapidly becoming unavailable anywhere else. It not only offers the training, but hands-on "labs" as well. It actually makes this education fun.
I walked out of that seminar proud of being a member of the elite: an Amateur Radio Operator!
Why does it actually hurt?
My workplace fired my boss. We weren't friends, but I respected and admired him greatly. He had recently become my supervisor and I was excited at the prospect of having him as my boss. He deeply respected the opinions and feelings of his people, and was generous to high performers, while driven to succeed. In my eyes, the perfect person to supervise me.
Then the corporation suddenly and seemingly arbitrarily fired him.
I had no opportunity to say goodbye. No chance to tell him how much I liked working for and with him. He was suddenly gone. I can only compare his sudden disappearance to him dying...he was simply no longer there, and his absence made no sense. The difference though, is that the people that delivered the news were responsible for this loss.
I feel downright hurt. The loss is tangible.
An unfulfilled life
The male in most families is responsible for supporting the family. He goes off to work every day to make the money that allows the entire family to survive. He does this whether he's doing what he loves or hates. In a majority of cases, he doesn't particularly like what he does, but he needs the job. Let's fast-forward to 40 years later near the end of his life: he's spent his entire lifetime working for the money his family needed to survive. Throughout that time he's had dreams, desires...but never been able to realize them because he had to go to a job he hated every day in order to keep his family alive. He literally put his fulfillment aside for his entire life.
Find a better way!
August 13th - Survivor's Day -
Each year, on the anniversary of my release from the Stem-Cell transplant, I celebrate the fact that I'm still here...that I had the strength to endure the process and survive, that I had the support of an amazing wife, and the help of some pretty incredible technology. To celebrate all that and more, I try to exert myself to illustrate the success of that effort. I usually bike more than 75 miles, and hike more than 10 miles. Add to that a wonderful Survivor's Day feast, and it seems like a fitting way to remember what might have been my demise but was instead made my victory.
It seems like my entire life has been spent waiting for different circumstances before I could "really live". In high school I was unpopular and often bullied. I couldn't wait to leave my home town and go to college where I could finally be me and "really live". In college, I was frequently reminded that this was simply an education and I shouldn't have fun, I should learn for the day I could get a job and then I could "really live". I didn't listen to that advice and played and let my hair down and showed the world the true me- my grades suffered because of it and I left before I could get my degree. Lesson learned..."save the living for later or you'll fail at what you're doing now". Delay the "living" until the right time.
I then joined the military. Many aspects of that life forced me to postpone "really living" and wait until I returned to civilianhood: Very low pay (constant debt), frequent moves, family separation, lack of meaningful career opportunity, the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). Thus, for 10 years, I waited with great anticipation for my discharge.
When I finally left the Air Force, I was revved up and ready to "live". Imagine my disappointment when, after waiting a decade, I discovered that there was little meaningful difference between military and civilian life in terms of being able to enjoy and simply be me: the negative aspects of military life were replaced by seeking to advance a career, a mortgage that hung over us like Damocles' sword, kids that needed food/clothes/toys/education, trying to build an existence out of absolutely nothing. I was forced to wait again until...
I've been waiting now for almost fifty years. Retirement is the next gateway through which I will pass into...what? It seems like every time I waited for the sudden transformation from the tedium of the everyday hum-drum routine of existence & work, I was disappointed when I emerged on the other side; I had to wait even longer for the fun and fulfillment of "Really Living".
What awaits me in retirement? Should I even bother being excited about it, or will I simply be disappointed and feel I must wait for something more to "really live"?!?!
Life on the East Coast-
We left cozy Syracuse for a drive down to Myrtle Beach, SC. On the journey, I discovered something I never realized before: the coast's roads are really CROWDED! Everywhere we traveled, through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North and South Carolina, we encountered over-crowded roads. It seemed that no matter where we went, traffic rubber-banded and we frequently found ourselves stuck in traffic for no apparent reason.
Also, Pennsylvania is able to keep it's place as the state with the poorest roads. Despite having excessive lane closures for "maintenance", their roads are pot-hole filled and very tough to drive. Either you are on the turnpike with a concrete wall for a median, or you have potholes on the edges of the lanes, or both. No matter where you drive on Pennsylvania highways, the roads are in terrible condition.
Aging, Part 2-
While sorting some old paperwork I came across the name of someone I knew 35 years ago. On a whim I searched his name. Sadly, I found his obituary. For the time we spent together, I liked Ozzie a lot. He died at the age of 54. Another tough aspect of getting older is that you will see your contemporaries die off one-by-one.
Every day that you arise from your bed, the odds of you dying today are higher than the day before. live your life to the fullest. Accomplish what you want NOW because the day will come that you don't wake up in the morning.
Forgotten in Death?-
My Father is dead
Without some effort on my and my sister's part, he might easily be forgotten in history.
He was born, lived his life, had a family, served his country (twice), worked his entire life to serve our family and his community and died a quiet death. There are public records of his life: houses he bought, taxes he paid, military, marriage, birth, death...but how will anyone know who he actually was? How he felt about things? His personal contributions, his proud accomplishments, his embarrassments, his failures, his regrets?
Go to any graveyard anywhere. You'll pass hundreds or even thousands of gravestones. Those were people. Each and every one of those people had lives with emotions and stories and accomplishments and deeds good and bad. Those people lived their lives the best they knew how. They were known and loved and hated. Every single stone is a complex and rich story that may well be lost.
Our society elevates athletes, celebrities, politicians, and even criminals to a status where every aspect of their lives and their existence is available for all to see and know. Why is it that the average hard-working people who make truly meaningful contributions to our society die in anonymity? Why are they forgotten to history? Do we really want to memorialize our times based on some of the worst people our era has to offer? I find it very sad that so many good family- and community-minded people have passed that will never be known.
When this realization hit me, I was determined to be known. I bought this web site so that something of who I am would live past me. The world will know I was here and who I was...how I felt about life in general. Even when I'm gone and the site is taken down for non-payment, the Wayback Machine or other such projects should maintain a record of my thoughts, beliefs, musings, projects...who I was. That knowledge comforts me here in the final third of my existence...if nothing else, knowledge of me will live on long after I've left.
Will the world know who you were?
My hearing has been terrible since a bout of pneumonia when I was 17. Ever since I have had trouble pulling intelligence from conversation. I often found myself asking people to repeat themselves or asking them to speak louder or change their wording. It was a minor annoyance. I sought medical help a couple of times but was told that my hearing was fine and there was nothing they could do.
Now in my 50s, I tried yet again. It was becoming a bit more than just an annoyance. It was harming my marriage and my career. The previous testing I did was only 5 years ago, but a family friend who happens to be an audiologist convinced me that the technology of hearing aids has improved massively over the past few years. Off I go to audiologist #1.
Two things happened at my audiology appointment: she found an actual hearing problem (I have a >50dB+ loss at 6KHz and higher in both ears...caused by heavy NSAID use...bad knees) and she mentioned that directionality and noise reduction could in fact, help my intelligibility issues. Sadly, the quoted price tag was well beyond my willingness to pay.
I still returned a couple of weeks later to demo a pair. I might have been willing to spend "way too much" if they were amazingly better. They weren't phenomenal, but I noticed an improvement enough to make me want them. When I returned them, the audiologist made the mistake of telling me she'd looked into my insurance and her business was "out of network".
I hadn't involved my insurer because in the many times I'd enrolled with them they had never mentioned a hearing aid benefit. I immediately contacted them to find they offered excellent coverage, but I would have to go to their audiologist. I hated giving up the first audiologist, her customer service was outstanding, but the cost savings by going with my insurance was huge!
Since the testing had been done by audiologist #1, and I had done extensive research into the many options I wanted & needed in a pair of hearing aids, the appointment with audiologist #2 was almost perfunctory. I had 3 top choices. He strongly recommended against one of them, and I demoed the other 2. I made my choice within 10 minutes of walking in the office.
They arrived a week later, and after a quick 20 minute appointment to program them and set up some options to my preferences, I left with my new ears.
In the past 3 weeks that I've been wearing them, I've noticed several scenarios where I heard every word spoken to me; situations that would have been quite tough without the hearing aids: walking side-by-side in a shopping mall, talking in a large open (echoing) restaurant, picking a conversation out of 3 different in a crowded meeting.
If only the technology had existed decades ago, I could have saved myself a lifetime of poor hearing. I can say with great conviction, "Hearing Aids are Awesome!!".
Within the past year, I've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and my relatively controlled diabetes has suddenly exploded. Add to that a brand-new pair of hearing aids and knees in need of replacement. The thoughts of my remaining years have swung toward this being the beginning of the end. It sure feels like my body is quickly degrading out from under me. On a recent visit to my oncologist, he mentioned that I was quite young to be talking like I'm nearing my demise. I told him that I'd "...thoroughly used my body" and it seemed to be failing me now. When I was younger it seemed like I could do anything and it had no affect on my health. Even if I hurt myself in an activity, it quickly healed and I was back doing it again and again. Now, it seems like it takes much longer to heal and in some cases, I simply don't heal. Some of the old "hard living" is causing problems now. It's catching up to me. Hopefully I'm just having a tough time coping with a new reality, because otherwise, the 25 years I'd believed I had left may be closer to 10.
While this realization surprises me, it doesn't scare or depress me: I've lived the best life I could. I've thoroughly enjoyed every experience I tried. I heard the advice of others but didn't always follow it; I followed my own path, my own inner voice. I have no regrets except I won't get as much of the quiet, fun time as I'd hoped in retirement. Whatever. I played hard and lived hard. I knew going in that it could reduce the quantity of life, my quality of life has more than compensated for it.
Live your life as you want, hard and quick, soft and long, or whatever is in between. Take doctor's advice or not. Make your choice and enjoy what you end up with.
Until next time.