Thursday, October 29, 2009

Because it's so Much Easier Running Somone Else's Life

A few days ago I took a four day working vacation to my parents. I caught the bills up, did 2 years of filing (and cleared off a buried table in the process), arranged for automatic payment of some bills, took them to tour a very nice retirement facility (that I sure wouldn't mind living in in 20 years), took them to various places, joined in a nice dinner that my brother prepared and excellent and frank conversation afterward.

And then I go home. I too have a slightly missing table and too much paper. At least my bills are caught up (thanks to automatic payment), but there's still this pile of paper that drives me nuts. Why is it that I can totally organize their lives, but then I come back to my own stuff that's just starting back at me?

I think because when I'm somewhere else I'm not being distracted by the dogs who want to go out and in and them fed and walked and trained and entertained. And I'm all to happy to oblige them as I love them and that's why I have them. Then there's the 101 home maintenance things starting at me, and the dirty dishes and the floor that needs to be swept, and last night it was doing major lamp readjustment including taking two torchiere's apart to be recycled and pulling down a heavy light fixture to replace the bulbs. Oh and I had to go get the bulbs and be impressed that Home Depot actually has nice lamps and marveling at how much influence Boomers are wielding against normally tacky hardware store selection. But that's another blog entry...

So the pile still stares at me. One reason there's a pile is that I've gotten tired of burgeoning file cabinets and have started scanning bills and other things in and then shredding them. This is really, really cool except that each piece of paper takes more time because it has to be scanned and then named and electronically filed. Not much time, but enough that it's easy to fall behind.

Also paper can be a real problem of mine and it's just too easy to just set it down (i've learned to sort of cope by not allowing myself to set anything down unless it's in its designated "home." The problem is that bills and statements get mixed up with agility course maps, and other information that I kinda want to keep, stray photos that someone has given me, cards, letters, and the endless little notes I keep. Fortunately I'm good at sorting so instead of walking a dog at lunch today, I kicked them out into the yard and brought the pile out and sorted it. Also fortunately a good part of it got dumped into the recycle bin, but there still is a sizeable scan pile and there's this annoying nebulous stuff I don't quite know what to do with 9which got placed in a different pile and someday maybe I'll look at them within a year (yes, I have a couple of 2+ year old piles just like that - pathetic I know), and the course maps got stuck in a file folder, and I paper-clipped all my little notes together.

It's the curse of the almost, but not quite organized. It's vaguely tempting to just stop worrying about it, but not doing it would cost me a lot of money because Health Net needs a surprising amount of management for a huge company, and it would drive me nuts anyway, even if it feels like an unobtainable goal. Being organized is a goal worth striving for because even if you never achieve it even just doing it some means you've put thought into it and likely have SOME idea of where something is. Though I don't have quite the amazing skill that some disorganized people of being able to find one piece of paper 5 inches down in a pile.

I'm still mixed on the scanning solution. I really like it, but I don't like the extra time. I'm thinking of going back to paper and then scanning a pile of the same bills in at once. Then I wouldn't have the hassle of changing directories and each name would only need minor changes. Of course to do that I need to clear some space out of the file cabinent but with Google a log of that save paper can go away. Ok some of it, not all of it is on the web. Maybe I should scan it. Argh.

Then there's the unscanned 1000s of photos (which are at least date organized), but that's another angst ridden blog entry as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Power of The Help

I never blog about work, but this is not really about work anyway...

I hate blaming the underpaid, hardworking hired help when things go awry. I really, really hate it. It's the first thing my mother thinks of and it drives me nuts. My mother says some of her jewelry went missing after she went to the skilled nursing facility to recover from knee surgery, it must have been the help. The bonded, carefully screened help. I don't think so - I carefully stayed out of it as I didn't have anything useful to say besides "You are such an elitist." which I have told her since and will probably say it again for what it's worth and "Keep looking" (it was in the safe deposit box of course).

But sometimes the evidence is incontrovertible. I set up a home network for our company's president and it would be working and work fine for a week and go down. I would come back and find it unplugged. Plugged it back in, things working again. In a week it would go down. And repeat. It turns out, the maid comes in to vacuum and lacking a plug, unplugs the router. It actually would sort of be fine if she were to plug it back in, but that doesn't happen. This time an employee was house-sitting and she's quite bright so I went over the situation with her and we devised a plan to leave a plug for the blasted vacuum and make the other cords less tempting and she's going to leave her a note. I also went over the basic layout of the very simple network with her so I now have another pair of eyes who does go over there from time to time (more often than I do.)

The entire situation makes me laugh. One maid with little to no understanding of little boxes with leds on them, armed with one vacuum in search of a power outlet wields an awful lot of power. The power to halt an entire network, and bring out what in this case is an over paid plug-in technician (I made that up) out to patch it all back together.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nepal: So who do you believe?

It's funny the vastly different views you get of countries depending on the source.

This all started when I casually looked into possibly doing a short term volunteer vacation.
I was looking on the Global Aware site ( and saw a Nepal section. Nepal is where Mt Everest is and the Sherpa culture is pretty intriguing.


They suspended their Nepal trips in 2006. Looking at
Shows a very long explanation as to why.
"The political situation in Nepal remains tense and unpredictable and levels of violence remain high across Nepal ." (Go to the site for the rest, it's pretty interesting)

Noting that this was dated in 2006 I looked for more current info. Wish granted, and I now have two vastly different takes the US State Dept and Lonely Planet.

The US State Dept in their typically paranoid way says STAY AWAY
This is published today (Oct 27):

The May 4, 2009 resignation of the Prime Minister and the resulting caretaker government has created an environment of increased political instability and the potential for demonstrations to be called without advance notice.

Political violence remains a problem in Nepal. The Young Communist League (YCL), a Maoist Party subgroup, continues to engage in extortion, abuse, and threats of violence, particularly in rural areas. Youth groups from the other two main political parties, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist-Leninist Party (UML), have also formed and clashes continue among these political rivals. Violent actions by multiple armed splinter groups in the Terai region along the southern border with India remain a significant concern.

Curfews can be announced with little or no advance notice.

In contrast Lonely planet ( dated Sept 30) talks about what a wonderful place it is and here are the cool places you can go. So I did some digging, major digging and it doesn't seem quite right to bury this information no matter what you think of it:

Page down down down and you will find:

Dangers & annoyances

First sentence of this section says:

"Despite the continual stream of bad news headlines that flows out of Kathmandu, the most touristed areas of Nepal remain remarkably safe. "

Fair enough but what follows are pretty much the same facts as before just in a more moderate ton. Mostly.

  • Register with your embassy in Kathmandu.
  • Keep an eye on the local press to find out about impending strikes, demonstrations and curfews.
  • Don't ever break curfews - instructions have been given to shoot those who are found breaking curfew.
What? This is just an annoyance? Lonely planet's tolerance is pretty high I must day

[more quoting]
  • Don't travel during bandhs (strikes) or blockades. Get very nervous if you notice that you are the only car on the streets of Kathmandu!
  • Be flexible with your travel arrangements in case your transport is affected by a bandh or security situation.
  • Avoid marches, demonstrations or disturbances, as they can quickly turn violent.
  • Don't trek alone, even on a day hike. Lone women should avoid traveling alone with a male guide.
  • Consider flying to destinations outside Kathmandu to avoid traveling through areas where there have been disturbances.
  • Avoid traveling by night buses and keep bus travel in general to a minimum.
  • Be prepared to pay the Maoists a 'tax' if approached while trekking and budget the cash for that eventuality. Trekkers have on occasion been beaten up for not paying this tax. It's just not worth arguing with these guys.

Ok I am clearly a travel wuss and I have traveled during terrorism scares (1986 in Europe and it was fine). But the odds of you being hit by terrorists are usually remote. The odds of you being robbed or assaulted are much more likely.

Of course, I live right beside a violent area (though ironically my area is very safe) and so obviously you just have to be aware and know where to go and where not to and when not to. I'd love to see the travel advisory for Oakland, Calif. I'm sure it would be scary.

I have an acquaintence in Israel and when bombs were being lobbed in from Palestine on a regular rate I check in with him. This most recent time he said that the bombs weren't quite reaching him so life was going on as usual. I think this is a lesson here. Even in war zones ordinary life does happen.

So what does this mean? Is it safe or not? I think the answer is probably, but maybe not and do I want to deal with knowing that. I think if I want to go to Nepal I should do it with a highly organized group which kinda cuts into getting to know people on a volunteer stint though I'm sure it's possible.

Could Nepal be the next thing you hear about on the news? Well if depends on if some Americans get into something they shouldn't. Right now the focus is on Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan with brief forays into Cuba and Pakistan and India, so the headlines are a little full. We'll just have to see if the Maoists or their rivals decide to start doing large scale bombings. General strikes and petty thefts don't get much press attention even if it gets the US Dept of State's attention.

I don't get much thrill about traveling in potentially dangerous areas. I'd rather see it in a movie like a favorite of mine "The Year of Living Dangerously." When I travel I like to focus on learning about the area and talking and connecting with people. If I was there are a news correspondent I wouldn't mind the danger as much as it would be my job and that would be ok. But in my oridinary life when traveling, even though I'm good about taking ordinary precautions, I really don't want to be on guard as I find it pretty tiring and takes away from the experience. The performers on the George Pompidou Museum's plaza in Paris are really cool, but the place is so rife with pickpockets that you really can't relax which is a huge bummer. You walk out there are you can feel the eyes of a hundred predators. Weird and not fun.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My New Role

I used to be so good about giving my parents the freedom to live their own lives. No longer.

One big change is that I've had enough of bills getting buried, not read, and ignored and a utility nearly getting shut off. My brother has saved the day more than once and he's sick of it so now I have most of the access information so I can monitor what's going on. My brother was nice enough to set up Bill Payer so I can pay something that needs paying as long as there's money there. My new role as a power hungry money manager (ha).

One thing I regret not taking a copy of is the increasingly snotty letters that one company was sending them. When I saw the letters long after the issue was resolved, they had a completely opposite effect on me - they were really, really funny. When I get a hold of them I will blog a generic version of the whole sequence as John Cleese would be proud. Think "Since you have apparent disegard for our previous ..." Fortunately that company has been paid off and is out of business anyway (trash companies - yeesh).

I shopped the Ludowici property to Habitat for Humanity, but haven't heard back yet. It will be really sad if they say no - can't even give it away. Oh yeah that's my other role as minor league land baron. .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Want to buy land in Ludowici?

I've been so good about not complaining about my struggles with my parents, but that's going to change because I am not alone here by a long shot.

First things first. Does anyone want to buy property in Ludowici GA? As you might guess this is not a joke. Someone that I so need to write about (should be a book actually), is my freewheeling businessman grandfather (NOT the farm agent that's the other one). In no particular order this guy
  • brought electricity to Jesup GA
  • ran a theatre there
  • made all sorts of questionable loans through said theatre
  • had a stormy, but working marriage with my very strong grandmother
  • was dearly loved by his community and had 200 or so people at his funeral - where I saw my first Mason or Moose or Elk or something funeral rite
  • had one of the few gasoline stations
  • during prohibition, was into all sorts of illegal or at least dicey things that we have no proof of (darn it)
  • taught me shuffleboard at a young age
  • sort of taught me pool at a young age
  • and finally bought property that he thought might prove to be profitable
It's this last one where he has left a strange legacy. As with most speculation much of the property didn't turn out to be the score it was (though he certainly had his share of jackpots too.) My parents have been gradually selling off what they inherited, save for one that I have yet to learn much about but will be very soon.

Ludowici (,_Georgia) is a teeny town of 1400 that is adjacent to the slightly larger Jesup, GA. It's named after a German with an Italian sounding name. I'm sure my grandfather thought it had great growth potential since it's right by a highway where a lot of traffic passes by. Emphasis on passes by. The town has gone pretty much no where. How many towns do you know where IGA Grocery and Dollar Tree appear on the town's Wiki page? And within the first few sentences? As of 2000 the median income is around $27,000, which is skating just above the poverty line. If you want to see it, Google Street views has been there. I was there when I was 16. It hasn't changed much at all.

So we're stuck with what is basically a strangely shaped white elephant property. There are other lots in the area that are listed with Century 21 and it's tempting to try to sell it but I'm thinking we'd be much better off donating it to a non-profit (there are some in the area.) So I need to sell the idea of Hey let's give it away. Which might just work. We'll have to see.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Perhaps not that: Off The Grid

I'm seeing what appears to be a reactionary (the literal sense, not the right wing kind) trend with some people wanting to withdraw from modern life and not be so plugged in. Some even want to live completely off the grid meaning as self sufficiently as possible.

While in some senses I find that admirable I find it a bit of an over reaction, and probably a new implementation of Futureshock ( which the author Alvin Toffler in 1970 defined as: a personal perception of "too much change
in too short a period of time."

Sometime ago I wondered if we were now impervious to Futureshock since we come to expect change especially when it comes to technology. I think I am wrong. While we are pretty impervious to the things that Toffler was writing about, some of us still appear to get a bit touchy
about not feeling as in control of our circumstances as we'd like.
These days I've been reading about people now trying to live "off the
grid." This means many different things to people.
Ones I've seen are
The Slow Food groups
- grow your own food
- go to the farmers market and organic food market more, grocery store less
- raise your own livestock
The chop wood, carry water Firefox (not the web browser) types
- build you own home/shelter
- make your own clothes
The types on overload
- not be so internet/cell phone/tv dependent
And the alternative energy/tell PGE to go away
- create your own power (who tend to be a different group - they literally mean the electrical grid)

What's fascinating to me is that all these groups are not the same though they have a lot in common.

I'm very much a slow food type, but while I grow a little food, I more spend a lot of time in food tores figuring out how to make it a nutritious, usable experience.. And I don't have livestock.

Also many of those wanting theiir own solar power are not really interested in withdrawing, they ust think that they can generate power by themselves than PGE could ever do it for them and hey even give some of it back. (Show offs. Hats off to them.)

I think some of the off the grid movement (for lack of a better phrase) is over reaction. Walking away from such things as phones and email and social networking internet sites, robs you of a global village that you could have and make excellent use of. And this is yielding some very wacky contradictory scenarios like those people who blog about living off the grid (no citation as I don't want to single anyone out). What they have to say is useful information perhaps, but I think they have to be a skoch more honest with themselves that just maybe perhaps they are not really "off the grid." :)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

How I got Tennis Elbow from a Treadmill

I managed to injure a tendon in my forearm (the "tennis elbow" tendon) while on a treadmill(!). How? Well you put it on max incline and set it just a little faster than you can keep up and hang on to the siderails tightly. Endorphins make sure that you really don't notice that something is being injured until later. Oops.

Then it was: oh let's just rest it a couple of days and it should be fine (it really wasn't) and I have a hiking trip scheduled (where I'm going to make heavy use of Trekking Poles) and I want to do that since I talked someone else into going. So now it's really hurt. Drat.

A few years ago on a different injury, I had a Physical Therapist read me the riot act and I remember it: Tissue takes 6-8 weeks to heal and you have to be patient, and start back gradually. What a favor that was. I looked at the calendar and realized that besides dog walking I was taking Sept off in terms of exercise, because I can't seem to exercise without using my arm that way. The cool and dangerous thing is that it's now Oct and it's starting to hurt less. Dangerous because even though it's hurting less, I could easily reinjure it, and even using it some (like say for ahem: typing) make it unhappy. So I really need to wait till mid October.

A friend who plays tennis posted this link that shows that a very simple exercise using a rubber bar (a Thera-Band Flexibar) is showing to be very effective at helping tennis elbow: I've been trying the exercise that the video details and it does make it feel better. I don't use a rubber bar but just a towel rolled up.

But rereading the article shows that actually having the rubber bar will make a different and it's under $20 so I've ordered it via Amazon. In the video they were using the Red "light" version, so that's the one I chose:

They were doing 3 sets of 15 repetitions a day, but started out with 3 sets of 5 repetitions.
[update 10/8
It came in and the exercise detailed was in a handout in the box.
I'm now dutifully doing the exercises.]

This is killing me some as there's a trip I want to do in Yosemite off Tioga Road before it closes for the winter. Historically it closes in Nov (see:, but it could close as early as mid October. Sigh. Patience Patience Patience.

Of course since I've been off for a month I'll be out of shape but I really have no real goals besides maybe checking out the approach to Mt Dana, which means driving to 10,000' and walking around and trying not to fall over.