Monday, October 26, 2015

Here goes nothing

Happy Monday to all.  This is the last week before we change our clocks back to "standard" time and lose that hour of precious sleep!

It's already been pretty dark around here these last couple of days.  After several days last week of skies so blue and clear that they resembled tourism board postcards, it was rainy most of Saturday and overcast most of the day yesterday.

The weather did not deter us from doing some stuff over the weekend.  We attended our grandchildren's soccer game Saturday morning, and I managed to play a round of golf with a friend and then do some yard work afterward yesterday afternoon.  The soccer game was the next-to-last of the season, and both kids play on the same team, which is helpful for scheduling.  But it's a bit sad that it's almost over, just like the younger grandchild's T-ball games ending a couple of weeks earlier. But spring will be here before we know it!

The round of golf was good fun and I actually played reasonably well.  Given my recent history of neck and back/leg/foot issues of late, I have not played more than twice in about the last two months. My friend and I played course that used to be a private club but now apparently is accepting anyone who wishes to play.  Conditions were so-so, with browned-out Bermuda fairways and bunkers that could use some attention.  But the greens were large and smooth, with a couple of exceptions, and the pace of play was brisk, which is always welcome.

And, yes, so will Christmas, as noted in the mall last week.  Santa will set up shop and start visiting with children November 6 at 7:00 AM!  And numerous merchants throughout our area are already displaying holiday decorations for sale.  We stopped in at the home improvement store a couple of weekends ago and they were already fully equipped.  Yikes!

My travels for work have shifted in location a bit, due to some recent staff changes.  I was traveling regularly to points south and east of Lexington, but now I'm traveling mostly west and southwest of the city.  A change of scenery is always nice, of course, and driving is driving, I suppose.  Meeting some new people is always interesting, too.

I happened to be in Shepherdsville last Friday morning.  That's home to a distribution location of Zappos.com, the online shoe and clothing retailer.  I've bought a number of things from Zappos over the years, and love their service model--they pay shipping on everything, including returns!  Anyway, I remembered from a few years ago that they operate an outlet store on the grounds, so I decided to stop in.  Wow, what a mess!  Of the twenty or so aisles of shoes on racks, about four were men's shoes, and by the time I reached my size (13) there wasn't much there.  But there were a good number of people there poking around, so I suppose it's popular for some.

I feel that we had a breakthrough of sorts around here in the last week, too.  My wife hates to shop for herself. HATES it.  Through some massive stroke of luck, she discovered a clothing store that has clothes that she likes and that she feels look good on her.  So she's made two shopping trips there in the last week, which may be a sort of record for her!  And she has restocked her closet nicely in the process, which was long overdue!

Quick sports updates:  the Kentucky football team was drubbed by Mississippi State Saturday night, their worst loss of the season.  And it will be the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals battling it out in the World Series starting tomorrow night.  I lean to the Royals, as there are a couple of former Reds on that team and a guy who started his professional career here in Lexington, too.

And that's that!








Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Solving more problems

Greetings, friends.  It's a beautiful fall Tuesday afternoon here in central Kentucky.  Had a bit of a cold snap over the weekend, and it's still pretty cold early in the morning, but the afternoons have been glorious!

When last we visited, I was negotiating a few minor issues and resolving them gradually.  A couple more have cropped up and I always like sharing how I/we resolved them.

First up is a major bout of sciatica, which is still not resolved.  As you recall, I woke early on a Saturday morning about ten days ago with searing pain down my left leg.  Since that time I had what felt like a perpetual cramp in my left calf, and numbness through my foot.  Now the calf has eased up, but I have spotty numbness in my foot and the back of my leg.  The back of my thigh is still sore, but I'm functioning pretty well overall.  I expect that this will eventually calm down to a normal set of sensations, but given that I've had some back problems over the past twenty-plus years, not entirely unexpected.

My wife enjoys attracting and feeding wild birds.  A lot.  So our back yard, and parts of the front, too, are well equipped with feeders and other items for the birds.  We actually have a total of three bird bathes.  One of them is carved from a piece of stone, another is a metal stand with a resin basin (we replace the basin with one that has a heater built-in for winter) and the third is cast concrete.  It's that third one we worry about, as cast concrete tends to crumble if precautions are not taken.

A few years ago, I hit on the idea of using a cover that would be used for a kettle-style charcoal grill to cover this bird bath.  We even put a ball in the basin to give it more shape, and keep the top of the cover from inverting and allowing rainwater or snow to collect.  Well, the incumbent cover had multiple holes in it last spring, so we discarded it with the understanding we'd replace it this fall.

Saturday my wife and I were running errands and went to our preferred home store.  They did not have ANY covers for grills of that type that cost less than $35 (believe me, we never pay that much).  So we were left to look elsewhere.  Last night, as luck would have it, we went to a discount general retailer and found the item we wanted, on sale for $8.  Bought two, put the ball in the basin and covered that thing up.  Problem solved!

Here's another.  The upstairs toilet has been running periodically.  My wife was wanting a new toilet for that bathroom, which gets the least use in the house.  I objected, saying that I could replumb the insides for less.  I won, paid $12 instead of $140 and the thing is fixed.  For now.

Last one.  I think I mentioned buying a new Macbook, a small one with a high-definition 12 inch screen.  Small.  Light.  And nearly impossible to balance on my lap.  I already have a lap desk I bought for my iPad.  Good item, but not so much for a laptop, regardless of size.  So I began looking at lap desks.  Do you know how hard it is to find a decent one?

Well, I found one online that's actually made from bamboo, with ventilation holes bored into it.  It's wider than my lap, a little deeper than the computer, and has enough space I can set the iPad into its own slot next to the laptop.  Again, problem solved.

I suppose that I'm going to have a few things crop up that won't be quite so easy to resolve, but, for now, I'll take it!


Monday, October 12, 2015

Strange time of year

Good Monday, everyone.  Hope you had a good weekend.

I find this time of year to be a little disconcerting, particularly, as is often the case, when the Cincinnati Reds are not playing post-season baseball.  The regular season mercifully ended a week ago yesterday, and while there are playoff games going on right now, the Reds are done until the spring.  Couple that with a bye week for Kentucky's football team and there's something of a void to be filled, if those things interest you, as they do me.

I had a strange weekend.  Around 5:00 AM Saturday I was awakened with what I would describe as piercing pain all down my left leg.  It lasted about an hour, and finally subsided enough I could go back to sleep.  When I woke again, my leg was largely numb and my lower back ached significantly.

My wife has experienced symptoms similar to this due to two bulging disks in her back, but I have not had any significant problems like this.  As Saturday wore on the condition seemed to improve, or evolve, anyway.  Spent the rest of the weekend with my left foot numb and what felt like a cramp in my left calf that would not go away.  Both sensations are still with me as I write this morning.  Since it's not directly painful I feel that it should continue to improve with time, as it has done since this first presented itself early Saturday.  And let's hope there's not a next time!

Last week, if you'll recall, I wrote from a tire store and was in the midst of getting tires.  Turns out my car needed some suspension parts, too.  About double the original estimated expense, but worth it in the long run, I think.  I drove a bit on Friday and the car behaved much better than it had in some time.  But I also noticed that older pavement that has not been patched is often better than newer surfaces.  Is our national lack of attention to quality now filtering to road construction?

It's campaign season here in Kentucky, and we have the governor's race, plus all of the constitutional offices also up for election--secretary of state, attorney general, etc.  Even these races are rife with ugly attack ads and accusations of "he's just like Obama" and "we can't trust ____."  I suppose it's no great wonder why the best people no longer engage in politics.

Speaking of that, we're enjoying our trial subscription to Netflix and have begun watching "House of Cards."  Kevin Spacey OWNS the role he plays, and almost all of the other major characters are well written and acted.  But it's terrifying to think that what's depicted therein is accurate, as Bill Clinton himself says it is "99% of the time."  Yikes!

Oh, and if I were a Republican member of the House of Representatives, I wouldn't want to be Speaker of the House, either.

Back to Netflix, we've watched a couple of entertaining movies and noted that there are numerous episodes of many of the HGTV and Food Network shows that we regularly watch.  Could be helpful if and when we decide to eliminate cable.

That's enough for this relatively early hour.  Let's see what new trouble I can get into!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Flat tires and failing light bulbs

It's hump-day, everyone!  And I know that I don't often post midweek, but had a couple of funny things to share that I think you'll enjoy.  Plus I'm kind of marooned where I am, so this is a good use of my time!

In the midst of my computer issues last weekend, I noticed that I had a light flickering in my office.  And it's not just any light.....it's the undermount fluorescent fixture on the underside of the hutch that sits on my credenza in my office.  When I first got that office furniture MANY years ago, I kind of chuckled about that light, but it didn't take long before I was using it every day.

Anyway, it began to flicker, as it last did four or five years ago.  I reached up under the lip, removed the cover and spun the bulb out of its fitting.  Last time this happened, I simply took the bulb to a home improvement store, found a match, and brought it home and put it in.  Easy.

But THIS time?  Not quite.

Went to a different home improvement store for starters.  No luck.  Went to an office supply store, no luck there, either.  During my travels on Monday, I stopped by a different home improvement store, and still no luck.  The electrical manager checked all of his inventory records and said that while I may have bought this bulb from them five or so years ago that they don't carry one that size.

As I returned to Lexington yesterday from a day trip, I stopped by a lighting and electrical supply distributor that also sells to the public.  Three people tried to find a bulb that would fit.  None were successful.  Finally, the warehouse manager asked me what the bulb came out of, and I replied that it was for office furniture.  "Oh!" he exclaimed, and said that it's not uncommon for such things to be proprietary so that the customer has to go back to the manufacturer for replacements.

So I came home, more irritated than ever, and got on my hands and knees to look up at this light fixture.  I found a five place part number for the bulb, Googled it, and lo and behold, the website of the maker of the light fixture was the first item the search returned.  Not the manufacturer of the furniture, but of the light fixture itself.  They stock the item, so I ordered two and gulped when asked to pay almost ten dollars of shipping for two light bulbs.  They should be here soon.

Now, the "where I am" part.  I'm at a tire dealership.  Listen to this:

Yesterday I arrived in Martin, Kentucky for my monthly meeting with some hospital and medical practice personnel.  While waiting for the meeting to begin I heard an announcement on the PA system:  "Will the owner of a grey Honda Pilot please dial zero for important information?"  As it turned out there was a window in my meeting room and I could see my car from there.  My car with a COMPLETELY FLAT RIGHT REAR TIRE.  I dialed zero and asked if the operator wanted to let me know about my flat tire.  She apologized and said that that was the reason for the announcement.

The hospital president overheard me talking with a couple of folks about where in Martin I could get a tire repaired and came out of her office and said, "We'll just have our maintenance guy take care of you."  I wasn't sure what that meant, but in a few minutes a fellow stopped by the meeting room and asked for my keys.  He returned with them about an hour later.  Turns out that he went to my car, jacked it up, removed the wheel, took it to the tire place to have it plugged, replaced it on the car and left things more or less as he found them, albeit with a repaired tire.

Since I had 78,000 on this set of tires, I decided that it wasn't worth further risk, so I'm getting new tires.  Today.  NOW.

But, honestly, isn't that a great story?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Self-service technical support

Happy Monday, everyone.  The sun reappeared over central Kentucky yesterday after an absence of more than five days.  About time, in my humble opinion!

Sadness here in the Smith house today--the baseball season is over.  Oh, there are multiple rounds of playoffs yet to occur, but for me, the season is over, as the Cincinnati Reds played their last game of the 2015 season yesterday afternoon and lost, again.  It was a difficult season for a dyed-in-the-wool fan such as myself, but we always have the comfort of knowing that next April, the Reds (and everyone else) will be in first place.  For at least a day!

The Kentucky Wildcats eked out a win Saturday night against a seemingly overmatched team from Eastern Kentucky University.  If you're interested, EKU is located in Richmond, a scant 20 miles away.  They were a football power in the 70s and have remained competitive at their level for years.  Anyway, this was one of those games that should have been a laughter for the homestanding Cats, but they managed to fall behind by two scores before awakening and tying the game and then winning in overtime.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering about the subject of today's post.  Here's my story....

Regular visitors to this space know that I am a fan of most everything Apple (still not sure about that watch...) and a little more than a week ago, I made an impulse decision and bought a new Macbook.  Weighs about two pounds, had twice the onboard storage and random access memory of the larger item it replaced, and a Retina display (code for "really clear"), like my old one.  Bought it, brought it home, set it up and off I went.

I advertised the former Macbook (a Pro model, again, with Retina display) on Craigslist and located a buyer who was interested.  Turns out he's a sometime professional photographer, does weddings and such and said that he was looking for a really good computer to display on-site slide shows.  So he has what he needs, and I recouped about 87% of my original purchase price.  Good, right?

I knew that Apple was on the verge of releasing their latest Mac operating system, which is called El Capitan.  A side note:  after many years of using big cats (Tiger, Lion and so forth) as the "code" name of their operating systems, Apple diverted into California landmarks a couple of years ago, starting with Mavericks (a surf destination, I'm told) and most recently Yosemite.  El Capitan was designed to be a refinement of Yosemite, and contained some really nice features.  I'm all in, so I downloaded the software to each of my Macs and got to work.

Except I couldn't get to work the way I was accustomed to doing.  Apparently there's a major incompatibility between El Capitan and Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac, which contains Outlook, which I use for my work.  I contacted my personal IT resource, a former coworker who's been a good friend for many years, and he assured me that Office 2016 was on the horizon soon and that he would help me obtain a copy.

OK, I thought, as I found a workaround for my e-mail, calendar and contacts on the native Apple applications.  Then on Friday I read that Office 2016 and El Capitan also did not play well together, at least not yet.  So then I began to wonder if I should restore my old operating system via backup copies that I had made before upgrading.

So I began that process Friday afternoon.  The new computer handled the process nicely, took a bit less than an hour.  My desktop iMac, though, was a tougher customer, and I was able to clear off the new version, but could not restore the old.  The process did not recognize my internal hard drive.

I hit the Internet, found a variety of potential fixes, but none worked.  I finally clicked an icon in OS X Recovery entitled "support" and the system analyzed my iMac and determined that I was entitled to support.  I opted for phone support, and had my first conversation with an Apple online tech support person around 7:00 PM Friday.  What she had me do did not work, so her last instruction was to download something and she set me up for a callback in about an hour.  The call came, from a different technician, and what Tech #1 was trying didn't work, nor did the next four or five things Tech #2 suggested.  So he escalated my ticket to Senior Tech #1 and we spent some time working on things over two phone calls.  All three were pleasant, helpful and apologetic that I was having problems, but the consensus was that I needed to visit my local Apple Store to have them examine and repair the machine.  So that was disappointing, and wasn't going to happen until late this afternoon.

When I awoke on Saturday, I picked up my iPad and as I was going to look something up online I saw the last potential solution that I had spotted but not acted upon.  Since I was already going to have to take the iMac in for repairs anyway, I decided, what the heck, and embarked on this particular possibility (it involved deleting the name of the internal drive, then using the system software to rename and "fix" it).  Amazingly, it worked, and about 90 minutes later, my computer was exactly as I had left it before I upgraded last Wednesday!

The moral(s) of the story?  Don't give up, and don't discount any possibility when you're trying to make a computer work as you want.  You never know when a good idea will present itself!

Have a good week.

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