22 Years

Wow, that’s a long time.

20111021It was 22 years ago that we were anxiously waiting for the snow to melt from the record 9″ of it that fell two days before. I picked up my best man and his wife at the airport – flying in from Phoenix, so they were dressed for fall in Indiana. Winter was not on the radar.

Mike’s first words to me when I saw him in baggage claim: “What the hell is this?”

And then there was the rehearsal dinner – we were supposed to be in a “party room”, and it didn’t work out that way. Heat was not working in the room, apparently it too was a little stunned by snow in October. So we had dinner in the main dining area, with everyone else.

Then came wedding day. I can’t speak for the bride, but the groom and the best man were sitting in front of my trusty 13″ television watching a football game eating pizza at 3:30 in the afternoon, until one of us (can’t remember who) looked at the clock and said “we should probably get ready.”

I had one thing to remember to bring with me – the now famous pina colada scented unity candle. Did I remember to bring it? Hell no. Mike jumps in my car, drives back to the apartment to get the candle in record time. Did I mentioned he lived in Phoenix, and may not have had the best grasp of the roadways in Indianapolis? Good thing he’s smart.

Nerves were starting to catch up with me. Fortunately, our good friend Jim (who had just finished playing in a Butler football game that afternoon) arrived with the gym bag that made clinking noises. My hero.

I almost won the bet during the ceremony that Cathy would pass out – she still denies it to this day, but she did a big “I’m gonna pass out swoop” about halfway through. But she survived. We should have had the pool set up for whether or not Cathy’s dad would get through it without incident. He had one line – “Her mother and I” when asked who gives this woman. He was circling another planet when the time came, and all I could hear was Cathy and her sister talking out of the sides of their mouths “Her mother and I”. When he returned from orbit, he said “Come again?”

It took us 20 minutes to get married. It took us 90 minutes (or what seemed like an eternity) to take pictures. The natives were getting restless at the reception; the wedding was at 6:30, so people were getting hungry. The food line was held until we arrived. Needless to say, we were hustled to the food.

The reception was a party. And a half. We still hear stories about how much fun people had at our wedding reception. The bar bill was an accurate reflection of that. About 90 minutes into it, my freshly-minted father-in-law checked to see where the bar tab was, and the response was “How much?!?!!” (extra punctuation is necessary and appropriate). Good thing the bride’s freshly-minted father-in-law jumped into the fray with subsidy offers. A good time was had by all. Those of you that were there and are reading this – testify.

Funny how after 22 years, I still remember all of this. Even funnier is that I remember most of the other things that have happened since, and there’s been a lot. So to my dearest Fartblossom I say this: It’s been a terrific ride so far, and I’m sure the rest of it will be just as much fun. For me, it’s been “friends with benefits” all along. Which is nice. We’re in what’s becoming an elite club – those of us still married after all of these years. Thank you for putting up with me (I know it’s not easy), and for allowing me the privilege of putting up with you.

Notice I didn’t mention anything about putting up with you being easy (or not)? It’s things like that you learn after 22 years.

Happy Anniversary, Cathy!

Grass Is Not My Friend

As some of you know, I’ve been fighting sinus “stuff” off and on for the last few years. A lot of it I’ve blamed on the boy, since he’s a card-carrying member of the Microbe of the Week Club (comes with going to school). But this year has been particularly brutal; on many days, I’ve considered paying someone to pick up a cordless drill and put a hole in my forehead to ease the pressure. Some people were willing to do it for free, but I digress.

After trying three or four (who’s counting) different rounds of antibiotics with no results, my doctor referred me to an ENT. After a hearing test, a few questions, and a peek in my ears and nose, I walked out of my first visit hearing three things I really hadn’t anticipated: deviated septum, CT scan and TMJ.

Crap.

So before we could get too carried away with what else is going on in there, we schedule the CT scan. I think my tweets from the morning describe it pretty well:

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Deviated septum, and some generally odd “architecture” going on my head – something that has most likely been there for a very long time. The CT was done at the ENT’s office, and I met with him immediately after it was one (which was handy). You know you’re in for fun when the doctor starts the conversation with “I’m glad we had the CT done, because there were a few things in there I wasn’t expecting to see.”

Double Crap.

I get the photo tour of my noodle, so I can see my deviated septum and the various other things going on in there. The word “surgery” has now crept into the discussion, as he’s telling me “we can go in there and do this and this, yada, yada” – my brain kind of fogged at “go in there”. I’ve heard tales of sinus surgery from others. I’ve seen the immediate aftermath of a few of them. Not pretty at all. And then there’s the “blood clot thing” – that part where my hematologist tells me she wants to know any time sharp instruments are involved. Then I get the part of the discussion that talks about the risks of doing sinus surgery, and all of the things that “could” go sideways during the excavation. We schedule a date for surgery for late June. That functional part of my head above the ill-functioning sinus cavities is now running at full speed, hovering somewhere between DEFCON 4 and 5.

And then he says, “I think we’ve also got some allergy things working in there too – let’s do an allergy test, so we can have as much info as possible before we start climbing around in there.”

My brain said “what a fabulous idea.”

Nine days later I go in for the allergy test, also in the ENT’s office (I’m beginning to think this is a racket). I come in, lay down on my stomach (BlackBerry in hand, of course) and they put the allergens in the pattern on my back. Again, I refer to my “thoughts of the moment”:

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The full rundown of the things for which I tested positive – grasses (all of them), ragweed, three tree families (oak, maple and alder), mixed feathers. Grasses and oak trees were the real big winners in this test, with grasses showing a really strong reaction (hence the allergist’s comments).

Shit.

Let’s see – grass is everywhere, ragweed is a real treat in the late summer, I live in a forest and my charming and delightful wife sleeps on a feather pillow.

I found this October 2009 picture of my back yard. I thought it would be amusing to identify the offending trees. Pretty funny, isn’t it?

D3C_4966a-marked

The worst part is that this is just the immediate back yard – the front and side yard are more densely populated with my enemies. If I had to guess, the woods at Pug Hollow is probably 25% oak, 20% beech (part of the oak family), 20% ash, 10% maple, 10 % hickory and the rest being walnut, hackberry and whatever the hell else is growing out there.

Yes, Pug Hollow is trying to kill me.  Honestly, though, I’m kind of relieved to actually know what’s causing me grief. I’ve made mention to Cathy that it seems every year gets worse, and I don’t remember having these problems at the old house.

PollenForecast1I’ve been paying a lot closer attention to conditions when I feel like my sinuses are acting up, and I read the daily pollen forecast on the The Weather Channel site. For the latter half of May and the early part of June, they’ve looked like this – and I’ve felt it. I never really noticed how much stuff gets launched into the air when I cut the grass, but I do now – and it’s a lot. Frankly, it’s no wonder I’m always packed up.

So while I know that I’m “not right in the head”, I broke the news to the ENT yesterday that I think there are other things I can do before we get all crazy and start rearranging the furniture in my sinuses. The best way for me to not have post-op complications is to not have the “op” in the first place. I think I’ll try finding ways to reduce the swelling/irritation in my sinuses so that I might breathe a little easier, rather than going the RotoRooter path. That option will always be available, so for now it will be the last resort.

I’ll wear a mask when I cut the grass, along with my ear protection. I know I’ll look like an idiot, but really don’t care. Hell, I’ll wear a full hazmat suit if necessary. And while I don’t like doing it, I’m getting more comfortable with nasal sprays and rinses. Immunotherapy is Plan B. We can be more diligent about cleaning the house and washing clothes, so enemy pollen isn’t floating around. And yes, Cathy has offered to surrender her feather pillow for the good of the cause (albeit grudgingly).

I love where I live, because of the woods. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to have to find a way to fight back so I can continue to enjoy the outdoors, despite the fact that most of what’s out there is not my friend.

Better living through chemistry, I say.

I Hate Plumbing

I’ve been know to tinker with things at home – I’m generally able to fix things that are broken, and build new things that need to be built.  There is, however, one thing that really don’t like: plumbing. No, let’s get it right, I hate plumbing. And yes, you guessed it, I spent my weekend playing plumber.

All because my washing machine was on the verge of dying.

Two weeks ago, we had a new clothes washer and dryer delivered.  We felt like we’d finally won a home appliance battle – we were looking for one, there was a great sale and it was a Consumer Reports’ Best Buy.  The stars and moons had aligned. Usually they just die with no warning. Sears brings us the stuff, they put it in, take away the old ones, all is right with the world.

Until we washed clothes.

We start to use the washer, and we notice that every time it runs it sounds like every water pipe in the house is banging around. Apparently, new washers have valves that open and close really quick, and it causes the pipes to jump every time the water shuts off at the machine.  As I watch them from the utility/furnace room, on the complete opposite end of the house, I can physically see the pipes moving. Not cool. I can just see one of the copper fittings working itself loose eventually, leading to the kind of plumbing issues that are really expensive and there’s no way I can fix.

So, here’s the plan:

  1. Check the owner’s manual, to see if there’s anything that can be adjusted on the machine. Yes, I RTFM. Remember, I build software applications, which means I write documentation in hopes that some user somewhere will actually read the documentation.  No luck finding an answer there.
  2. Climb into the crawlspace and make sure all of the pipes are secure, which turned into 5-6 hour Saturday afternoon and evening adventure. In and out, cutting and fastening mounting blocks for the pipes. Most were done ok, but there were a few that could have been done better.
  3. Climb out, put all of the tools away.
  4. Wash clothes again – same problem.
  5. Swear.
  6. Check the manual again, to see if its a water pressure issue. I’m on a well system, so the pressure’s not the same as city utility.  Checked the well pressure tank – well within normal operating range.
  7. Swear again.
  8. Start making plans to call a plumber on Monday morning.
  9. Really swearing now, because this stupid washer and dryer is really starting to get expensive.
  10. Calm down a little bit, start doing some research to see if I’m missing something.
  11. Read through about 20 different home repair how-to’s and related things, and stumble across a water heater installation that mentions something called a hammer arrester. It sounded just weird enough to dig a little further.

About five minutes later, I realized that was my answer.

The quick-close valves that supply the machine were causing a back surge in pressure every time they shut off – and the pipes moved/banged/jumped every time it did it. Apparently this is called a water hammer, and they make arresters for it. The next thought was at least there was only going to be one call on Monday, to the plumber.  I figured this was going to be an install kind of thing in the plumbing somewhere, which is the point where I get off the plumbing bus and hire out.

Upon further digging (because I usually don’t like losing to machines) I realized I could buy one with washing machine connections at {name your preferred home improvement store}.  Which really isn’t entirely true, because the only place I could find one was Menards. Of course, the store closest to me only had one, which is how I know nobody else had them.

Twenty minutes of installation time to put on two Mini-Rester Residential Water Hammer Arresters (model 660-H to be precise), move the stuff back into place, and hope this fixes it.  If it doesn’t, it’s plumber time. Fortunately, this worked.

One Saturday of crawspace fun, five different home improvement/hardware stores and a fair amount of foul language – all in the name of clean clothes.

Dear Indiana Legislature

This morning, I posted something on both Facebook and my Bridegroom Technologies site, regarding the current state of affairs in the Indiana House of Representatives. I wrestled with where to post it; for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into, I decided to not post it here.

But I do invite all of our faithful and devoted Pug Hollow News followers to read the post here.  Thanks.

REVISED 02/19/2018:

Changed my mind, posting it here as well.


A brief departure from tech talk – in fact, it might be the only one in this space.  But there’s something that’s been bugging me, and as a result, I think there are a few things I need to say.

I’m not one for being overly public about my politics. It usually a toxic discussion topic, particularly in open space like this. So rather than express a lot of my opinions on which bills I’m for and against (because then things get really toxic), I’d like to vent about something a little bit bigger and more fundamental.  The electoral process, or more specifically, what the original constitutional framers had in mind when they came up the idea of electing representatives for the population.

My disclaimer: I’m not a political expert, nor a constitutional history expert.  I think that puts me in the majority of people, so I don’t think I’m speaking out of line here.

Today is the fourth consecutive day of the Indiana House Democrats’ walkout, and in my opinion, a gross dereliction of the duties they were elected to perform on behalf of their constituents.

For those needing a quick fill-in, the situation here in Indiana is similar to that in the Wisconsin state senate.  In condensed form:

In Indiana, both the House and Senate are currently Republican majorities. In this past election, the 100-member House went from a 52-48 Democratic majority to a 60-40 Republican majority. The Senate was previously a Republican majority, but widened slightly after the election (was 33-17, now 36-14).  I don’t think it takes a nuclear physicist to see that the voters of the state chose a new approach to things – a significant swing to see in one election cycle. And by the way, that’s what elections are about – if you don’t like what’s going on, elect new people. Majority wins.  Pretty simple formula.

The Republican-led State Legislature has not been secretive about its agenda. The one surprise (and it wasn’t a gigantic one) was a “right to work” bill that “would have limited unions’ collective bargaining powers”, to which the Democratic minority was greatly opposed. This piece of legislation was not on the agenda radar of the Governor, who has stated on numerous occasions that there are “better times and places to have that conversation” other than this year’s legislative session. But nonetheless, it was introduced by the House Republicans.

The Democratic minority, who pledged bipartisanship and compromise right after the November elections, took an interesting approach to dealing with the agenda. Rather than debate the bill (now more than one bill) or actually negotiate in any way, they decided that the only way to prevent the bill from going to vote was to not show up when the House convened – therefore resulting in a failure to achieve a quorum. No quorum, no business. Nothing happens, other than flushing the reported $20,000/day it’s costing the State of Indiana’s TAXPAYERS to not conduct business.

To reduce this scenario down to something my five-year-old son can understand (if he had any interest in what was going on):

  • The Democratic minority does not have the votes to stop what they’re interested in stopping.
  • When they were the majority, they could (and did) stop things they didn’t like or think were good – things like the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform (my one exception to specific legislative matters – more on that in a minute).
  • Someone else is the majority now, and they’re not very happy about it. They’ve got no one to blame but themselves, the people voted.
  • Rather than do their jobs and represent the people that voted them into office, they’ve run away from their troubles. Better to hide than be defeated.
  • Rather than vote, even in defeat, and rely on their voting record for re-election, they’ll just not show up for work.

I don’t know about a lot of you, but if I don’t show up to work because there’s going to be an unfavorable decision made when I get there, I’m likely not going to be working for very long. Unfortunately, we as a population have to live with this for another two years.  Yippee.

The House Minority Leader is Pat Bauer, formerly the House Speaker. If the roles were reversed, I can guarantee he’d be the first one preaching about the obstructionist politics the other side was practicing. At the moment, he’s claiming that his obstructionism is being done in the interests of the state. He’s also not stopping with the original thorny “right to work” bill. He and his fellow Democrats want another 10-12 bills off the table before they return. Not open for discussion – OFF THE TABLE. From where I sit, it looks a lot more like quasi-legal extortion than being a legislator, and hiding in an Illinois motel (not paid for out of their pockets, but rather by the Indiana Democratic Party) outside of the jurisdiction of the Indiana State Police only sharpens that perspective.

Mr. Bauer, let me refresh your memory: 60-40.  The State has voiced its opinion on how things were running on your watch. It’s no longer your watch.

I might also add, and this is solely my opinion, that Pat Bauer has no interest in what’s good for the state. His interests are in retaining and wielding power. This is yet another example of that behavior, even if it’s from the minority point of view. Always an issue or complaint, but no solutions.

My one specific example, Local Government Reform – also known as the Shepard/Kernan report – was truly was a bipartisan effort, that stands to save the taxpayers millions of dollars.  This was a collaborative effort, the way it’s supposed to work, and it simply makes sense. The report was issued in December 2007, and it’s worth the read, you can get it here.

Shepard/Kernan has been a legislative agenda item since it was released – only to be sandbagged by House Democrats more interested in protecting their fiefdoms than being good shepherds of the taxpayers’ money. My money. But then again, they had to votes to do so. That’s the way the system works. But when the system doesn’t work to meet certain legislators’ expectations or plans, it seems folding up the tent is the appropriate action. It’s cowardly.

So in this, my open letter to the Indiana Legislature, I would like to suggest this:  Do your jobs.  Grow some stones, show up, discuss, negotiate, agree to disagree, or whatever else you want to call what you are right now failing miserably to do. Enter your votes, and run for re-election on how you voted. It’s a lot easier to consider candidates who actually voted, than those that simply took their toys and went home.  And that’s certainly something to which my five-year-old can relate.

Thanks for reading.