Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sparking anxiety, not joy

The weather outside was frightful, so I took a day off from my usual retirement activities and focused on some longstanding tidying up, specifically all the computer crap I have accumulated over the past 20+ years. Once upon a time, in a previous lifetime, I ran my own software development business, and that is when things really got out of hand. Most of this hardware sat in a closet for over ten years, when I decided to apply some Marie Kondo magic. I managed to pry all the outdated equipment from the closet, but then it sat (and sat and sat) in the den. Now I want it gone.

The first batch - a laptop, a notebook (with 8 meg of memory!) and its external floppy drive, a handheld scanner, a serial printer, a PKZip drive, etc. - has been trucked off to Staples for recycling. But instead of feeling lighter, I grieve. Leaving it all sitting in a grocery cart near checkout counter #1 felt so UNCEREMONIOUS. I guess I didn't take enough time to THANK it for all its hard work, for helping me try to realize a dream, for never failing me at critical moments. It has been a couple of weeks since I made that trip across town, and I still feel bad.

Then I tackled one of the desktops, a Gateway that served as my utility computer. It had FOUR serial ports, TWO parallel ports, a special circuit board for translating words from cassette tape to digital files, a 5.25 floppy drive, a 3.5 disk drive, and a BOURNOUILLI drive. I used it for debugging serial communications, for editing sound files, for testing software. Now it won't even boot up. Since I couldn't format the hard drive, I removed it for destruction. Dog knows what is on it. Last Thursday I made another trip to Staples with this PC, its keyboard and CRT monitor, plus various circuit boards and detritus. Late at night, I feel panicky about this loss.

I'm a little shocked at the amount of RJ12 wire, cables, "gender benders", serial converters, modems, mice, software installation disks, user manuals, etc. there is, in boxes and paper grocery sacks. And I am also a little amazed that I used to actually know something useful about computers and software development. For a while, software engineering was my world and it seemed SO important and I loved it. Now it is ancient history. I am guessing that 99% of the code I wrote is not in use today.

There are still two more desktops to tackle. I am going to try to transfer some of the files from them to an old laptop, but if it doesn't work. oh, well. Meanwhile, it feels like a huge part of my past has been erased.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween is over

If I were a better photographer, I would have pix of just how far I went in Halloween decorations this year. This Jack o' lantern was just the beginning. There is nothing like having a five year old granddaughter to get one's holiday juices flowing.

Most houses in my neighborhood barely acknowledge Halloween, perhaps because the most goblins we get begging for candy is a dozen. One family really goes to town, though - ghosts and skeletons hanging from the trees, tombstones galore, etc. My aim was to simply appear welcoming. While that included one glow-in-the-dark skeleton, the rest was rather tame.

Re landscaping, I did trim back the sand cherry so accompanying adults did not lose an eye and reined in the switchgrass so the porch could be found. Joining the usual window dressing were construction paper pumpkins, ghosts, and tombstones. Some led lights glowed from inside the pumpkin (which I had to carve myself as the g'daughter considered the guts to be too icky and I deemed the knives too sharp for her to wield). Halloween flamingos marked one side of the walk, while orange lights delineated the other; at the curve to the porch, the orange lights gave way to ghost lights. Then there were some cobwebs here and there, some real, some store-bought.

And that was it. The next day, everything cleaned up very easily, so easily that I am contemplating doing something more than my usual at xmas. But first, g'daughter and I need to update the picture window with turkeys.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Decluttering update

Almost a year ago, I stumbled across Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and made an effort to apply it to my domicile. (And I want to note here, I was #konmarie'ing before it was trendy. Just saying.) Despite my earlier efforts, paper continues to be a problem - just when you think you have it under control, more surfaces from some magical place. And I keep accumulating kitchen gadgets I have no room for.

I have also discovered that the process described in the book needs to be reapplied occasionally. Something that gives one joy in 2014 may be totally annoying in 2015. While I discarded my work uniform (Docker-like twill pants) about two minutes after retiring, I am finding many other clothes in my closet do not suit my new lifestyle as a retiree. Plus, they are completely out of fashion.

(An aside: It is not lost on me that the current selections in the department stores look like they came right out of my wardrobe from the 1970's. A part of my brain thinks, If only I had saved those peasant blouses, that poncho, the sweater with a shawl collar in shades of brown, I could wear them now. Except I could not wear them now, as they would be laughably too small for this post-middle age body. Also, it's a style only the young can carry off.)

Winnowing clothes is a lot more satisfying than paperwork. If I haven't worn something in several years, it is easy to relegate it to the Goodwill bin. With paper, just because I will never look at a particular item again does not mean it can be tossed. Also, clearing out the closet means more closet space which can be filled with something joyful like yarn or new and more fashionable clothes that actually fit, while at this point, throwing out paper just makes room for more paper.

I recently asked my kids if there were any of my possessions either of them wanted, and the answer was NO. (Really? Nothing?!?) Now I can look at my stuff with the knowledge it will likely become so much landfill at some (hopefully far in the) future date. That gives me license to continue to whittle away.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

That damn cat

In the not so distant past, I acquired another cat (read about him here and here). In the not so distant future, I will be buying a new TV.

From clues left behind by the purrpetrator, it appears Beau knocked the sound bar off the TV stand, and the sound bar hit the screen, damaging the display at point of contact. I would be more upset, but the display on this TV has been problematic for a while, so now I have an excuse to buy a new TV. And lock Beau out of the den.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


The new deck was supposed to fit on the footprint provided by the patio slab. The subcontractors did not follow directions and made it larger than the patio. Now crap is growing up between the boards.

At the moment, this bugs the hell out of me. In the great scheme of things, however, it rates a zero. Time to let it go.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cleaning for company

Since family was coming to visit this week, I finally unboxed my new carpet cleaner and put it to work. After some initial disgruntlement, I decided it works pretty well.

My primary complaint is the user guide. My unit appeared to be one that had been returned by a previous customer, as none of the attachments were in their little plastic bags. Consequently, I wanted to verify I had all the parts. No parts list in the user guide. Instead, the list was printed on one of the inside flaps of the box, something I noticed only when I was dragging the box out to the garage. Also, the diagrams in the user guide were too small and dark to reveal much detail. And the instructions seemed to be in an odd order; for example, the optional step of rinsing the carpet didn't appear until the end of the "clean up" section.

I tested the unit on some carpet remnants, which probably was not the best idea because the cleaner has rotating brushes and it was difficult to maneuver on the remnants without catching the edges with the brushes. However, they did get clean.

After a day of rest, I tackled the hall, most of the living room, and part of the dining room carpet, all wall-to-wall. This worked better, much like vacuuming but with a really heavy vacuum. I chose to perform the rinsing step, and then I also tried sucking up more water by running the unit without any water in it, which did not make much difference. The carpeting was dry by the next day.

Even though I had cleaned the carpets after the remodeling was complete, I was gratified and amazed to see how much *more* dirt the cleaner picked up. (I have a feeling carpet cleaning is like brushing a cat - no matter how long or how often you do it, there is always more hair.) The brushes fluffed the pile some, making the carpeting look newish again. I would recommend pre-treating stains, however, so they come out with one or two passes. All in all, I am satisfied.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sleep with the sheep

I hate to shop, but after repeatedly waking up with an aching back, I decided I had to do something about my mattress.

I have a waterbed frame (sans the water-filled mattress) and waterbed frames are a bit longer than standard bed frames. They make mattresses to fit waterbed frames, but the selection is limited. I thought about replacing my bedroom suite so that I would have more mattress options, but it's made from solid oak with cedar-lined drawers, plus none of the local charities will accept waterbed frames. So I thought maybe I should just get a standard queen size mattress and stuff something into the gap at the foot of the bed so the dog does not get trapped between the mattress and bed frame.

But which mattress? I stumbled upon a web site (which I cannot find now) that broke down the options based on a collection of criteria, and all the possibilities had drawbacks. I just could not generate any enthusiasm for any of the usual selections.

A while back, I read a memoir (title totally forgotten!) in which the author described sleeping on a wool mattress. Being a knitter, this appealed to me, so periodically, I would research wool mattresses. They are expensive and not available locally, so I was reluctant to purchase one without trying it out first.

But then I did. I ordered one from Surround Ewe, sight unseen. After sleeping on it for two months, I could not be happier about my decision.

I ordered a 4" topper with my mattress, and I am glad I did, because the mattress itself is very firm, very much like a futon. Surround Ewe included two wool pillows and a "summer weight" wool comforter with my order. It's like sleeping in a wool sandwich. I now think of the bed as my nest.

And it is a very warm nest. Before, I had a difficult time staying warm in bed, despite the following: topping the mattress protector with a doubled blanket, using flannel sheets, capping it all off with a fleece blanket and polyester comforter, wearing thermal pajamas and wool socks, AND making the dog sleep with me; sometimes I wore a wool sweater to bed and/or added an afghan to the mix. (I considered buying an electric blanket or mattress pad, but could not convince myself I wanted to sleep with all that wiring.) Now, I still use the flannel sheets and the dog makes sad eyes if I don't let her on the bed, but otherwise it is just the wool comforter. Summer weight or not, it will have to go come spring.

Surround Ewe has a "renewal" program for their products, but I am hoping I never need it. Theoretically (which means in my magical fantasy world), the bedding should last forever. Everything is covered in thick organic cotton, I air things out each day by throwing back the covers and turning on the ceiling fan for a bit (they recommend opening a window, but HELLO it is still winter here), and come summer I plan to air everything out in the sunshine once or twice.

I don't get very excited about anything I own, but if my house burned to the ground tomorrow, this bedding is one of the first things I would replace.