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22 December 2008 -- My Favorite Computer Store:  Staples

I'm so excited!  I received some good news about my laptop!!!

I stopped in at my local Staples for some relatively mundane items, and took the time to talk with one of their Easy Tech computer gurus.  
Repairing my laptop is no big deal for them.  While it won't exactly be cheap, the price tag at Staples will be half or even a third of what Dell would
have charged me.

AND, best of all, I won't have to deal with Dell Tech Support!!  That was causing me more stress-in-advance than the prospect of shipping my
beloved Moya off to some farflung repair center.

She should be home by the end of the week.

*happy sigh*
I managed to see beyond the #16 (Sanderson) on the ice though, and got totally hooked both on the sport and on the Bruins.

Then, in 1973, my family moved from New Hampshire to Connecticut.  Not a lot of Bruins hockey down there.  Aside from anything else, hockey
fans were more likely to follow the New York Rangers than the Bruins.  I was in high school, then college, then working, and the Bruins got left
behind.  (Clearly I am not a die-hard Bruins fan, or I would have spent the last 40 years following them.)

Jump forward in time.  I'm retired.  I have a little more free time on my hands, and a few years back I learned how rewarding it is to be passionate
about something.  About anything at all.  My number one hobby until a few months ago became my vocation, and the issues that took up most of
Therefore ... the BRUINS are back!!!!

Wow.  Has hockey changed in the past several decades.  It's faster, tougher, and the level of play is far beyond what I remember.  The very first
night I sat down to watch the Bruins, the pre-game show did a comparison of goal tending, past and present.  Who do you suppose appeared on
the television screen as their example of old-style goal tending?  Gary Cheevers, the Bruins goalie from the early 70's, of course.  What he was
doing looked familiar.  The examples they showed of the current goalie, Tim Thomas, looked like martial arts on ice -- fast, strong, aggressive,
limber and totally fearless.

It's a good time to be a Bruins fan.  I very cleverly skipped the horrendous 80's and 90's.  I have come back just as they have once again risen to
the top.  Right now, they are the team to beat.  They've got guys like Phil Kessel, who is leading the NHL in the number of consecutive games
with a goal; and the captain of the Bruins, defenseman Zdeno Chara, who is 6'9" and weighs about 255.  Imagine getting slammed into the
boards by that guy.  They've got Blake Wheeler, a 22-year-old rookie who is in the running for Rookie Of The Year.  Goalies Tim Thomas and
and Manny Fernandez may be the best pair of alternating goalies in the NHL.  I would list the rest of the standouts on the team, but that would
mean listing the entire roster of the Bruins.  They're fantastic this year.  What a time to get back into watching the game!!

The one thing I had definitely forgotten about NHL hockey is how often they play.  Three nights a week!!  That's a lot of time spent on the couch
wearing my Bruins sweatshirt!  I might have to buy a second one.  Home and away jerseys.  What fun!!
between the bridge, the water, and obstacles on both sides of the river in the middle of a blizzard.  One person dove into the water to help one of
the survivors make it to shore.  Other people crawled out on the ice, in some cases breaking through and almost drowning themselves, in
attempt to rescue the passengers.

As far as I know, however, only one person did something so thoroughly selfless that it virtually guaranteed his own death.  Arland Williams,
known to a lot of people simply as "the sixth man" probably knew that he was giving up his own life in order that others would live.  By the time he
disappeared under the ice, he had been in the freezing water for 29 minutes.  He would have known that he could not hang on much longer.  An
awful lot of people would have allowed self-preservation to take over at that point.  He did not.  His actions demonstrated that he put the lives of
others before his own.  He was a 46-year-old bank examiner.  No one knew who the "sixth man" was until all of the bodies of the passengers were
recovered, and they determined that he was the only person who died of drowning.

Pearl Harbor Day is about remembrances.  Today, I choose to remember someone who wasn't at Pearl Harbor, but who should not be forgotten.

Arland D. Williams, Jr.

                                                            * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

If you would like to learn more about the Air Florida crash, there is a four-part documentary about the event posted at You Tube:  Part 1 / Part 2
Part 3 / Part 4.  A number of significant changes were put into effect -- by the airlines, by the NTSB, and by the FAA -- following the crash, in
the hope of avoiding a repeat.
Aeryn, it turns out, is a 'special needs' cat.  She is hyperactive, even by kitten standards, and craves an enormous amount of attention.  She
never wants to be in my lap unless I'm working on my laptop, and doesn't like sleeping on my bed.  She also desperately wants to play with the
other cats in the neighborhood.  That has led to her getting beat up by the mean boy kitties next door a couple of times.  After that, she tried
making friends with the peculiar looking black and white 'kitty' that often wandered through the yard right around dusk.  You know the one I'm
talking about.  Black with white stripes ... and smells really bad.

The months passed.  Aeryn grew, was lonely, wanted someone to play with her, and was slowly driving me nuts because she was so needy.  This
past spring, I began checking the local Humane Society for kittens.  I saw a few that were kind of cute, but nothing that really captured my heart.  
In early July, I went down one last time, vowing that if I didn't find a kitten that I could not leave behind, I would stop searching and concentrate on
loving the stuffin' out of Aeryn.  The Humane Society did not even have any kittens that day.  I went home, gave Aeryn a hug, played with her for
a while, and took heart in the knowledge that I would not be cleaning litter boxes for two animals.

Silly me.

Jump forward in time to August 15, 2008.  I had to drive to Rutland, VT to have my car serviced at the dealership where I bought it.  I came home
with a kitten.  That's the way it works, isn't it?  Take the car for servicing and come home with a kitten?

Only slightly more seriously, the drive to the car dealership took me fairly close to a branch of the Humane Society that I never visit because it is
too far away (close to 70 miles from my house).  On the way home, on a whim, I stopped in.  They had just one female kitten, a 10-week-old
short-haired tabby.  Be still my heart.

She is younger than Aeryn, an interloper who arrived a half a year after Aeryn came to live in my house, a bit wild and reckless, and she is gray,
white, (brown) and black.  Her name is Pip.  Do not confuse her with Pip The Neurotic Freakazoid Cat who I mentioned earlier.  This is Pip the
28 September 2008 -- Two Furry Clowns

I feel like talking about cats this evening!!  If you don't like cats, or an entry devoted to my four-foots promises to bore you into a persistent
vegetative state (also known as a coma), then feel free to skip down to the next entry ... if there is one.

In an earlier entry, I explained that I had gotten a "used" cat from the shelter.  She was grey, white and black, so I named her Pip.  (Pay attention,
please, because I am going to attempt to confuse you with another iteration of Pip later in the conversation.)  She turned out to be more than a
little neurotic, and far more than I could or wanted to handle, and after just two weeks, I returned her to the shelter.  My house was once again
catless, and I missed my furry buddy, Jadzia Dax, more than ever.  I think the abortive attempt to find a replacement deepened my grief.  The
emptiness of the house, the lack of a warm, living creature on my bed at night, and the absence of cat beds and cat dishes were the only things I
could think about when I was home.

Leap forward a month, to January 17, 2008.  I decided to try again.

This time, I got a kitten.  She was 4-months-old, female, pure black, and she wanted to grow up to be a ferocious predator.  There was only one
name possible:  Aeryn.
31 August 2008 -- Take THAT, Vile Clutter Burglar!!

This is NOT going to be a particularly exciting, humorous, or insightful entry.  It may not be the slightest bit interesting, either.  But it's my blog so
I get to write what I want to.

[Crash wanders off to refill her coffee, singing "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!" under her breath.]

I spent a good portion of yesterday and several additional hours this morning plowing through about four YEARS worth of junk piled up on my
desks, tacked up on various bulletin boards, stacked on top of the buffet, and thrown carelessly on my diningroom table.  (Yes, that was desks
plural.  One upstairs and one downstairs.)  The most time consuming portion of this assault was going through an eight-inch-high stack of pages
torn from magazines and sorting them into files.  For the last several years, whenever I read a magazine article and find something in there that
might be useful in a science fiction story -- be it a name, location, scientific theory, new discovery, or picture of some bizarre alien-worldish
looking landscape -- I've torn it out and set it aside to be saved.  I eventually get around to sorting those excerpts into files:  Aliens, Terms and
Names, Plot Ideas, etc.  I didn't do much sorting and filing over the past two years, though, so the pile had gotten pretty large.  Add in the bits I
had tacked up on my "various works in progress" bulletin board and the mass tucked into file folder that I haven't looked at since May 2, 2008
(my last day of work for the FAA), and the mound of pages was pretty darned impressive ... in an untidy trash heap kind of a way.

None of this has a single thing to do with my revelation of the day and the reason I opened up my website software, however.  In the process of
beating back a recent attack by the Clutter Burglar (if you are not familiar with the nefarious Clutter Burglar and are courageous enough to ask
me for an explanation, feel free to ask), I wound up rummaging through one of my closets, trying to make some room for one more piece of
useless junk that I didn't want to throw out ... yet.

I found some interesting stuff in there.  And therein lies my revelation for the day.  (Don't get all breathless with excitement.  This one isn't going
to realign planets or rattle your perception of the universe!)

I pushed aside the weather-proof, all-season electrical timer that I used to turn on the block heater in my car on painfully cold winter mornings
when the weather was forecast to be subzero and I didn't want to have to wake up at 3:30 in the morning just long enough to go plug in the car.  I
moved the insulated Carhartt overalls that I can pull on over my PJs to shovel the driveway at 4:00am in order to get to work for an ultra-early
shift.  I had forgotten that I had an uber-cheap rainsuit in a small duffel bag, left over from the days when I had a half-mile trek in from remote
parking to the tower, and always carried it with me in case it was raining cats and dogs at the moment when I had to get to or from the car.

I look at these items, and they resemble unrecognizable alien artifacts.  It has been a scant four months since I stopped working for the FAA.  
That is not enough time to step back and realize how thoroughly that job and the shift work permeated my life.  How peculiar to think that I may
never need those things again, except in the rare instances when I choose to get up that early or choose to go for a walk on a day when most
people would be in the workshop building an ark.  I have to learn how to NOT take shiftwork for granted, how NOT to assume that it is the most
natural thing in the world to be coming or going at one or three o'clock in the morning.  These are the moments I did not anticipate when I
envisioned what it meant to no longer be a controller.  As expected, I have begun to miss seeing sunrises and sunsets on a regular basis.  (This
dilemma is a simple one to resolve, but it is not so easy to match the vantage point I enjoyed for 25 years.)  Other retirement revelations are
slower to reveal themselves.

That's okay by me.  I'm up to the challenge.
Mushroom Patch -- Page 9
July 4, 2008 thru December 22, 2008
4 July 2008 -- Posting While In Retreat

I made a discovery today.  

Nothing can shut down a creative writing frenzy like having the ice cream truck park right outside the house while serving up frozen concoctions
to the neighborhood kids.  

I think that says it all.  <Flees until the truck leaves>
5 July 2008 -- Headaches, Denial and Secrecy

This morning I woke up with the first hint of a migraine.  Don't anyone out there feel too bad for me.  Griping about a headache is not why I am
here today, and it was my own fault that I had it in the first place.  I tend to get migraines whenever my sodium levels are too low or I get
dehydrated.  I spent close to three hours helping our local library close up after their annual 4th of July Book Sale yesterday, and everyone in
that gymnasium worked like we were trying to build a fire break in the face of an advancing forest fire.  It was hot, there was a time crunch, and it
was tough manual labor.  I arrived home dehydrated and dumped a lot of water into my body in a short period of time.  For me, that's a perfect
recipe for kicking off a migraine.  It's not a big deal.  I tossed down two Excedrin Migraine tablets (fantastic stuff for those migraine sufferers lucky
enough not to need prescription relief) before I bothered making coffee, started the day with more water instead of caffeine, and it is already
easing.  If it weren't I wouldn't be out on the porch in the bright sunlight staring at a laptop screen.

But I digress ... worse than usual.  Sorry about that.  

The remarkable thing (from my point of view) is that for the first time in about 25 years, I thought of it as a 'migraine' ... not a 'headache'.  It
sounds like such a small thing, doesn't it?  It isn't.  Migraine headaches can result in an air traffic controller being medically disqualified.  The
problem wasn't being diligent about doing what was necessary to avoid triggering one; anyone who has ever had a migraine would probably be
willing to go to any lengths to avoid a repeat.  I am extremely lucky in that I figured out what causes my migraines when I was in my 20's, and with  
the help of some significant self-discipline in that particular respect, I have been virtually migraine free ever since.  What was restrictive was
never using the "M" word, or even allowing myself to think of my headaches as migraines.  That's what was so surprising about this morning.  I
have come out of the migraine closet!!  

And in that instant when I was reaching for the bottle of Excedrin, I discovered how crippling it can be to keep a lifelong secret.  Mine was a minor
bit of information that did not affect every waking moment of my life.  If my secret had gotten out while I was still working for the FAA, I might have
suffered some financial hardship; but it was not life threatening and I never had to consider losing friends or being ostracized by my own family.  I
can't imagine how psychologically damaging it must be for anyone who has chosen to remain in the closet for any reason.  It means keeping a
portion of yourself permanently shut away, even from,
especially from the people you love most.  Being secretive, even on a small scale, takes
energy and effort.  It requires a habit of deceit, stifles honesty, inflicts repetitive wounds on the person keeping the secret.  Worst of all, it hurts
that it is necessary in the first place.    

Mine was such a tiny secret.  In 25 years, I never had a migraine on the job.  When I looked at the question on the paperwork for my annual
medical evaluation --
Do I ever have frequent or severe headaches? -- I felt that I was being honest when I checked off 'No'.  (Oh my word!!!
Does that sound like the ultimate liar's justification, or what?)  I didn't have frequent or severe headaches ... but I might have if I weren't so
careful about doing what was necessary to prevent them.  This morning's shift in my internal terminology was surprising because of the intensity
of the relief that I felt.  I can sing it from the rooftops!!  I can get wild and crazy and allow myself to get dehydrated and then dump an entire city
reservoir worth of water into my body all at once without worrying about how rotten I will feel in the morning.  I don't have to be cautious every
moment for the rest of my life.  I hurt for the people who have to choose between secrecy versus the love and acceptance of their friends and
Pip is a lot like her name sake.  She is bold beyond good sense, believes in "leap first, oops later", and most importantly of all, she has an "off
switch".  (Look at that center picture.  Aeryn seldom flakes out like that.)  She beats the hell out of the stuffed mice that are strewn all over the
house, loves to stick them in my sneakers, and likes to play soccer in the bath tub (without water).  Aeryn's tail is a toy, as are my ankles; and
she has taught Aeryn about sleeping on the bed and being a lap cat.
Aeryn has her playmate at last.  It took her 72
hours to accept having Pip in the house, and less
than a week to figure out that it was great fun to
have a buddy to chase around, zooming from
one end of the house to the other, going over,
under, and through the furniture in  the process.  
She is a steadier, calmer animal for having a
companion.  The change is astounding.  The two
of them have bonded with an intensity that I
never could have imagined, let alone predicted.
I will live the next 15 years or so with the knowledge and the fear that when I lose one of them, the other may die very soon after.  This pair is
gradually becoming a single entity, and they are close enough in age that I think once one of them goes, the other will pine for her missing
companion and follow soon after.

It is worth it.  I'll take the heartache and the grief when it comes, knowing that my life has been blessed for the second time by the love and
dependence of this pair of furry nut cases.  Pip is currently asleep under the comforter at the foot of the bed (NOT under the sheet next to me ...
that's more than I will allow).  Aeryn is sleeping on her back, right alongside Pip but on top of the covers.  They've left me no room for my feet.

That's fine by me.
7 December 2008 -- A Day To Remember
Pearl Harbor Day

Take a moment to remember every person who has ever given their lives so that others could live in freedom and without
fear.  Not just Americans.  All nationalities; all beliefs; all events.
One of my personal heroes is a guy named Arland D. Williams, Jr.  He is a guy that virtually no one knows about, and he was not at Pearl
Harbor.  Just the same, I think he deserves to be remembered.

On January 13, 1982, at approximately 4:00pm,
Air Florida Flight 90, a B737, took off from Washington National Airport (DCA) in a snowstorm,
failed to produce enough power to climb out properly, clipped the 14th Street Bridge, and crashed into the Potomac River.  Only six people
managed to make it out of the wreckage and to the surface.  Even then, they couldn't get out of the freezing water, and people trying to rescue
them could not make it out across the ice to get to them.  Bystanders were grabbing ladders off utility trucks and making ropes out of scarves in
an attempt to get to those six people.
A helicopter belonging to the Park Service showed up, and began towing the survivors
through the water and across the ice to safety.  It was a difficult process because they were
not set up for this kind of rescue operation, visibility was very poor due to the snow, and
they had to get very close to the water's surface, which meant that the rotor wash was
creating a lot of turbulence.  At one point, the helicopter was so low, the skids were in the
water.  Just to make matters worse, by this time, the survivors had been in the water for 20
minutes.  The water temperature was just one degree above freezing that day, and they  
were all starting to succumb to hypothermia. Arland Williams caught the life line three times
-- not a simple feat under those conditions -- and gave it to someone else every time.  Five
people were towed to safety.  Both the tail of the aircraft and Arland Williams slipped under
the water and disappeared before the helicopter crew could return to save him.

There was a lot of heroism that day.  The pilots of the helicopter were doing something they
were not equipped to do (lift people) and had not been trained to do.  They had to maneuver
8 December 2008 -- Drive-by Post

How the frell did I ever do this?

I went to bed late last night ... or this morning, depending on your outlook.  I finally turned off the light around 1:30am.  The cats got me up, as
usual, right around 6:30am.  Urg.  Five hours of sleep is not enough.

It has been long enough since I quit working that I have begun to forget what it is like to be permanently exhausted.  I know I used to get only five
or six hours of sleep at least two nights a week.  What I don't remember is how I functioned like that.

On the other hand, it's a wonderful thing when a short night's sleep occurs so rarely that I think it is worthy of comment.
13 December 2008 -- Are You Ready For Some ... Hockey?

Four score and a gazillion years ago, I was a Boston Bruins fan.

I latched onto the Bruins way back in about 1968, just in time to get myself established as something more
than a "follow the winning team" fan before they won the Stanley Cup in 1972.  This was the era of Bobby
Orr, Phil Esposito, John Bucyk, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Ed Westfall, Dallas Smith, Ted Green, Gerry
Cheevers, and Derek Sanderson.  It was a phenomenal time to be a Bruins fan.

I originally got sucked into following the Bruins because of
Derek Sanderson.  (How embarassing.)  He
might have been my first fan-crush.  He was unruly, a brawler, and typical to that era, he had longish hair
and a mustache.  I was about 12 at the time, and if he had walked into the room, I probably would have
collapsed in a dead faint.  I thought he was terribly exciting and sexy.  (Ben Browder was only about 7
years old at that point, otherwise I would have known better.)
21 December 2008 -- PK Boat Anchor

Don't you love software?  

Or not.

This evening, I turned 'Moya' -- my gorgeous, PK-skinned uber-speedy laptop -- into one of
the world's best looking boat anchors.

I was attempting to repair something that had gone wrong with Internet Exploder 7.  That
effort went awry, and then the attempt to repair my repair went further awry, and then the
next attempt went even more awry-er.  I felt like Bullwinkle tumbling down the mountain side
turning into an increasingly large snowball.  Only in my case, there was a huge granite wall
at the bottom.
Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and reinstall ALL of the software.  I did it just two weeks ago, so I knew that while it was a bit time-consuming,
that it would also clean up my chain of mistakes.

The reinstallation from the protected "ghost" drive went wrong.  At that point, Moya wouldn't even boot up.  So I grabbed the "restore the whole
shootin' match" disks that I paid extra for, and tried a complete "back to factory condition" restoration.

You guessed it.  It didn't work.

Good lookin' boat anchor though.  I'll call Dell tomorrow and see how much it's going to cost to send this critter back and have it reloaded from
scratch.  It's out of warranty, of course.  Ouch.

Can I start my day over?

Here endeth the whining.