Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meadowview Project, Part 3

Southern Meadows Apartments was the name of our apartment complex. No one called it that. We called it Meadowview. My Meadowview experiences had a beginning and an ending and while many things I learned there affected the rest of my life, nothing would ever be the same after my departure from Meadowview My brother and sister grew up in many places as our father was in the Air Force. By the time I came along this had all pretty much settled down. There was a period that Mom Dad and I lived in Trenton New Jersey but that passed very quickly and almost seems more like an extension of the Meadowview part of my life. Apples, strawberries, my first ride on a bike, rotten kids, and Astro boy and then  somehow I found myself in the same apartment in Meadowview again. It is dreamlike. 

to be continued.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meadowview Project, Part 2

The bully finally met his match with my mom. One day I told my mother I didn't want to go to school. She asked me why and I told her about the bully. With a few exceptions I always told my mother everything. She was my friend and gave good advice. Mom would often mention my brother. I was problem free compared to Dwight. :) I was very shy and pretty wimpy and that was really my problem. I think Mom was always trying to put a little Dwight in me throughout my childhood but it never took.

The bully thing had finally come to a solution zone. I had told my mother. Once, a long time before, I told my mother about the teacher who had sent me to the school office to get paddled because I didn't have my homework. Mom knew how little actual trouble I caused in school and she also knew how forgetful I was. Some of it was because I did not pay attention but mostly I just had other things filling my head. Homework, Angela Browder, and some particular fact that had provoked thought in a class might be of equal importance to me. In college, I once interupted my sociology professor with a startling statistic. She loved the statistic and asked me my source. I wracked my brain until realizing it came from "Hollywood Squares," a TV game show. She and the class errupted with laughter as I admitted my statistic might not have the best sourcing. Of course my source was about as good as the sources used on major news networks today, but I was a little ahead of my time.

So things might fill my head and mull around a bit and disrupt the process of memory. A learned fact might have many implications and because of that I might forget my homework. Upon learning of the paddling, my mother went to the school the next day to say there would be no more of that. If her child needed corporal punishment my mother would administer it. She would do it right there in the school if they thought I needed it. Needless to say, I think, that paddling for not doing homework would be frowned upon by the courts these days. It was probably more than a little embarassing that a teacher had sent a child to them to be paddled for not doing homework. Mom had a great argument. My mother and father should both have been lawyers because they always thought through things like that before acting. Mother and Father were at their best when problem solving about me. I love them so much for decisions that influenced me greatly.

Mom had a good argument when she confronted the bully. Against my profound pleas and wishes, she stuck me in the back of the Volkswagon and her final words on the subject were "You won't have to fight him. Trust me." I thought then and I still think she seriously wanted me to fight that bully. She took me to the bully's house. I reluctantly showed her the way. "Is that the house?" she asked. I remember that she and I both knew he would probably be alone. He was apparently a latchkey kid but the term hadn't been invented yet. I knew his parents weren't home and that is what bothered me. My mom was dangerous. She was going to ask him to fight me in a fair fight, without his henchboys. I dreaded the outcome of such a fight. But when confronted, he didn't want to fight me. My mother impressed upon him that I was out there in the car waiting if he wanted to fight and that now was the best time to get it over with. Nope, Terry didn't want to fight me. Then, of course, my Mom would expect him not to fight me in the future, but if he changed his mind the fight needed to be fair. My Mom confronted a 12 year old with logic like that. That bully never bothered me again. My mother was once again the hero. Me? Not so much. :)

Click here for Part 3

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meadowview Project, Part 1

There was a bully who always wanted to beat me up in grade school. He would say things like "I'll see you after school." There would be no reason for it. He was just a bully and I looked like a victim. He was a "Leave It To Beaver" cliche type bully. I would be terrorized for the rest of the day knowing I would meet this guy after school. Then, after school,  I would leave as quickly as I could and get on my bike and head out peddling furiously. I was a pretty good bike rider. As far as I remember the bully did not have a bike. My bike was a Schwinn. It was built for speed and doing wheelies but not much else. It had just one gear. It also had a banana seat that could accommodate two riders, a dangerous concept really. Today there would be all kinds of warnings but then it was just a bike. When I was younger I used to put a clothespin on the bars near the tires which clipped on a playing card. This would make a motor sound as the card flapped against the spokes. They wore out pretty fast. First card to use would be the joker that had the writing on it, instead of a picture. Next, was the other joker. At that point your cards were pretty much ruined as a deck so you would pick the masculine ones. Kings, then jacks. Perhaps the ace would be next. But never never the queen. I never see kids do this now. Kids don't play outside in the same way we did. On one of my walks I often see a kid on a skateboard, or sometimes he is shooting hoops in his driveway. I was kind of a loner but I'll guess this kid isn't. There are never many kids outside.

I guess, part of this is perspective. When I was younger either I was in school or not. While I was in school there were plenty of kids around. When I was out of school there were also plenty of kids around. About 12 years ago I had to go to an elementary school to give a presentation on the Alabama Virtual Library to the teachers. It was the first time I had been in an elementary school since I was actually attending one. It was absolute craziness. I was raining that day and all kinds of problems resulted. Heck, I don't remember rain causing that much of a problem. Either mom or some other family member came to pick me up, or I walked home in the rain. There was a preplanned place for me to look for Mom and then after that, I was on my own. No biggie. At this school everything was a grand production. I was amazed at how many kids there were with problems and how much trouble it seemed to be for teachers. The little wimps. They couldn't handle a little rain when I had had a real circa 1950's bully to worry about. :)

Finally, all the teachers gathered together for a staff meeting which had been planned. Teachers came in at all times after their personal rain problems. The staff meeting was full of teachers interupting and having negative oppinions. Finally it was my turn to give my presentation. I think it was the best presentation I had ever given and the negativity just kept coming. Basically, the teachers wanted to go home. Some said rudely "I've got to go." Finally, when I was about half way through I decided to pretend that was all I had to say. Great... time to go home. They were certainly not the teachers I remembered when I was in school.

I was a lucky child, as poor as we were, really because I grew up in an apartment complex where there were plenty of children around. We all went to the same school. Even luckier, we had an apartment complex pool. Kids from far outside the complex would want to come into the pool. They would dress in bathing suits and try to cajole us from the fence to let them in. Sometimes they would make it in and they seemed to usually disobey the rules. Some were regulars and got in with actual friends. They lived close enough to qualify as "Meadowview Kids." The experienced swimming poolers like us, knew that infringements of the rules carried swift action from Mrs. Whately, "whale tail" to my Dad! For guests that had begged at the fence, they would be escorted out of the pool area and it wouldn't be forgotten who had let them in. This was probably why they seemed so secretive about asking us. They whispered and promised all sorts of things that they would never actually come up with in payment for our bringing them in as a guest.

Rarely did these boys (all seemed to be boys) know me or even my name from school. I would get out of the pool because they had motioned me over to them. Each time I would, of course, suspect that all they wanted was to be in the pool. They would lie and cajole. I would lean over and, for cover, pick dewberries that often lined the pool fence and say "Sorry, my mother won't let me have guests in the pool." They would try other strategies and I would eventually go back to the pool and jump in. I must have seemed like a privileged snob to these kids. I was just living my life. Eventually they would call me names when it seemed their plight was impossible. My fear was always that someone else would let them in later. I remember leaving the pool and going home a few times just because of this. But usually we apartment kids were a pretty united force once the name calling began.

The bully never came to the pool, as far as I know. He lived pretty far up the road. The kids that wanted into the pool were usually from close around and if they really had friends, they got in. The apartment kids grew an identity because of this distinction. There was one street right behind our apartment complex that had a a few poorer people on it. The name of the street: Happiness Avenue. I didn't have much concept of poverty back then but I knew these kids were usually better than most as far as friendliness went. My parents couldn't even afford a house but like I said, the apartment complex made us distinct. "Happiness was just on the other side of a ditch", which was wide and went between the complex and Happiness. There were not many kids living on Happiness that I knew. I remember sometimes letting them into the pool. They were neighbors. We were all poor, really. Television showed a glamourous American life that we did not have.

I did feel very sorry for every kid that couldn't swim in our pool. Later after the jeers I didn't feel sorry any more. After a while I became savvy and could judge them immediately and just ignore them by swimming to the opposite end of the pool until they got bored.

Happiness only had a few bad houses I guess and it is all my imagination about the poverty. One of my favorite people from Happiness was Connie. I liked Connie a lot but she was always very painfully shy or at least seemed that way to me. Of course, how would I know because I was neurotically shy. I was mostly shy around girls. Connie was in my grade school. She wasn't very outgoing in school either and neither was I. We somtimes greeted and talked through the fence and across the ditch. She usually played in her backyard I guess. But my shyness here was why I fell in love with Angela Browder instead of Connie. Angela was outgoing and friendly to me. I remember Angela Browder's full name so I guess that says something. She told me that she had made straight A's on her first report card. I told her I had made two straight A's.

Angela was so smart and pretty. Her hair was always perfectly done. She wore pretty clothes. Of course I was too shy. I was shy until about age 20, so First Grade was probably beyond the question. Angela of course wasn't from Happiness or Meadowview but from a much better street. We never did anything together, our paths never crossed outside of school. Once years later, in my 20's, I remember Angela sitting in a movie theatre lobby with a date. I walked over but she did not recognize me. I sat down near the bench they were sitting on. I could hear this guy talking about studying to be a Gynocologist. I noticed that his hands were exceptionally sleek, white and pure looking. I guessed they were aristocratic. It brought my plight with women clearly into focus. I would never be this guy.

And again I met Angela in college. She worked there. When I introduced myself, she was the same Angela I had always known. She was kind and friendly to me. But I was still student and she was already in administration. Snapshots. That is really all I have in my head about those times. But the snapshots I have still in my memory are the ones I pondered about for some reason.

Connie was a beautiful little girl. I know her full name now, it was Connie Taylor. Thank you, Connie Taylor.

Click here for Part 2

Note: the Meadowview Project will be edited as I go. Earlier blog entries in this case may be edited long after I have written them. Events may even change if my memory get's sharper about an event. Just letting you know because none of this matters a bean but it is amiable. :)

Stuff Decided

Ok,  Seville it is. The shortest possible excursion and the rest of the day in beautiful Cadiz. And... in Barcelona, I think I'm going to see the Andalusian horse show. And for dinner tonight... I'm thinking fried eggs, tomatoes and toasted sour dough bread.

Camarero, creo que voy a tener los huevos fritos, los tomates, y el pan de masa fermentada. Date prisa porque tengo hambre.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I apologize once again for putting less than an amiable entry in this blog. I really do try but juggling a few blogs is a little harder than it might appear. But I do try.

My amiable thoughts have been on music, bread, and Seville. Walking in the wonderful weather has done me a lot of good. Despite the pine tree pollen, my walks have been musically wonderful. My stepdaughter helps me out a bit here as she has pretty much the same musical tastes as I do, or at least knows my tastes pretty well and always has great suggestions.

The bread comes from a young lady here in town. She makes absolutely the best banana bread in the entire world. The loaf is huge and she only charges only 5 dollars. I told her I wanted two more loafs but I would not buy them unless she raised the price. Today she brought me two loaves of sourdough. I love homemade sourdough, especially in tomato sandwiches.

Seville or not Seville. My favorite port on the last cruise was Cadiz. I was alone here walking through the city and just found it so awesomely relaxing, quaint and full of gelato, lots of gelato. But, should I do an excursion to Seville and cut my day short in Cadiz?  I would love to see Seville, but the whole point is relaxation and Cadiz was so very relaxing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

4 out of 5

From "5 Myths About Nuclear Energy"  by By Michael A. Levi, Wednesday, March 16   Washington Post

Myth number 4:
Nuclear power is the key to energy independence.
When people talk about energy independence, they’re thinking about oil, which we mostly use in vehicles and industrial production. When they talk about nuclear, though, they’re thinking about electricity. More nuclear power means less coal, less natural gas, less hydroelectric power and less wind energy. But unless we start putting nuclear power plants in our cars and semis, more nuclear won’t mean less oil.
From Wikipedia:
Levi holds a bachelor's degree in mathematical physics from Queen's University, an M.A. degree in physics from Princeton University where he studied string theory and cosmology, and a Ph.D. degree in war studies from the University of London (King's College) where he was the SSHRC William E. Taylor fellow.*
This is no ordinary fellow. That's a lot of education to have and yet believe that the only way nuclear power could make it into cars would be to have mini nuclear power plants in each car. First the idea that energy independence means only oil should be reconsidered. Many countries do not have our coal and natural gas resources. Energy independence for them is different. Then they compete with us for energy from abroad. Imagine Japan without the nuclear power plants. Might they be a larger competitor for energy worldwide (including oil) and thus increase our cost of foreign sources of energy? Second, he should reconsider his assumption that nuclear energy means less energy from natural gas, coal, etc. Actually, if the usage of electricity were to increase a great deal in some odd scenario, nuclear power might not mean less of any of these things. We might need them all to make sure our electricity is made in a way that is not dependent upon imports.

And what odd scenario would have electricity usage increasing rather rapidly? Perhaps people will buy cars in the future. Because if they do buy cars in the future, they are much more likely (as prices of oil go up) to buy the Volt type car with a plug using standard house current, or the Prii (plural of Prius) that will have plug in options next year. As time goes on these cars will get better and better. Would that reduce our dependency on foreign energy in the form of oil? Well, yes. These are actually the cars of the future we are banking on to make ourselves more energy independent. Many will be using nuclear energy in the form of electricity. Some Volts are now, assuming they are located somewhere near nuclear power plants. Cars don't need mini nuclear power plants to use nuclear power, although I imagine a few elementary schools students from the 50's might have dreamed of them.

 If all that weren't enough to betray your trust of higher education (the royal kind: Queen's University, Princeton, and King's College ) Mr. Levi later argues about this myth: "Alas, we’ve already replaced pretty much all the petroleum in the power sector; the opportunity to substitute oil with nuclear power is gone."  In realithy 2 percent of our nation's electricity is actually still generated directly from petroleum. (This doesn't even consider home heating oil. A dedicated program to wean home heating off of heating oil would probably include electricity.) And 2 percent here, and 2 percent there, that IS how you make a country energy independent. A Prius here, an electric lawnmower there. Strengthening our electric grid has abeen a major priority. Why? Because electricity is the future and we need to get it from windfarms or wherever, to the final user. Nuclear energy could have been a great source of electricity for our cars and homes, and  helped make our country become much more energy independent while helping curb greenhouse gases that increase with the usage of coal, natural gas, or even ethenal. If only we could have trusted the guys with the expensive educations to make nuclear power as safe as they claimed it was...

Friday, March 18, 2011


This week has been very long for me. Age is definately catching up. I guess part of it is my spring cleaning type mold. This differs from most peoples ideas of spring cleaning, as I usually don't do much cleaning. What I have been doing is organizing a few things and trying to replace all the switch plates and outlet plates in the house. For some reason, the builders often preferred the cheaper of the choices for decorating and things like exhaust fans. The plumbing is good though, but you wouldn't know it by looking at all the various pipes in the attic. Some pipes are held in place by nails bent around them.

At least switch plates are easy enough to tackle. I have been driving Wanda nuts with switch plates. Last night she went to bed and I was still changing them out. I watched a show with her before bedtime and during the show, I was up changing out outlet covers in places where I could still see the show. Thankfully it was on of the easier plots of Law and Order: Criminal Intent from the first season.

We started using Neflix on the Playstation 3 just a little while back. In the time we have been using the service the numbers have shows have grown quite a bit. I was just getting used to the idea when I read in the paper about AT&T's plans to implement broadband usage caps. Suddenly, I was being considered a potential "usage hog" just because of my Netflix use. I resent the phrase because I have never owned a Harley or even a black helmet with skulls on it. I would prefer "Usage Pig."

There are probably future ramifications about this introduction of usage caps. For now, they will of course have the caps high enough to tamp down too much protestation. They can legitimately say it only effects two percent of their customers. These "Usage Slothes" will be charged more for additional gigabytes downloaded. I called Netflix. How many gigs does a movie take to watch? "Regular or HD?" he asked. I said "unleaded without ethanol." He laughed and said HD movies take about 2 gigabytes an hour. So I called the AT&T folks. Where the first Netflix guy knew all the answers to my questions, one after another, and even shared a few anecdotes, AT&T requires multiple hold times and transfering of calls. The first person doesn't know anything, switches you to another who knows nothing who switches you to a third who can answer one question partially and has to switch you to another to answer a big question. This big question cannot be answered by this final person unless I have my IP address. "You can look up my account information but you can't look up my IP address you monitor my usage with?" No doubt someone else there at AT&T would have been able to do this, then I could have started the whole process over but I decided "Really, didn't I actually call with the intention of proving they would have to switch me around at least 4 times like usual?"  Things like that the remain unchanging over time just make me feel that life is not passing me by. Some things are universal and constant, like AT&T's global and global company wide ideas about cusgtomer service.

My big question was "Can you tell me how many gigabytes I used last month?" While the newspapers had said the limit would be 150, one of the minion of AT&T employees assured me the limit would be 100. I could guess that there was a possibility of me being in the Slothful Mulish Hog category. I do some downloading and even without this, assuming 2 hours a night of Netflix, we would be at 120 gigs. I doubt we use two hours a night though, but who knows. Not AT&T, at least without my IP address which I had no access to on my daily walk. Calling customer service on my daily walk is one way to multitask.

So I called back Netflix with an idea. First person I talked to had such a friendly response I was in disbelief. I said "Let's assume AT&T figures out some way of letting me monitor my gigabye usage, if I came close to the limit, say on the 20th of the month, could I put my Netflix on "vacation" until the end of the month. "Oh yes, sure." Umm, could I do this every month? "Absolutely... oh, your billing date would change every month.

Ahhhh...  the sweet smell of a good company on my daily walk.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Long, Long, Long Time

I was awakened on a walk on my break by my Zune, or more correctly by what my Zune was playing. Usually, I hit play and get songs at random. I sometimes skip songs, I sometimes jump to albums or artists after I get into something. When it popped out of nowhere, "Long, Long, Long" in mono was a revelation to me. Recently both the stereo and mono versions of the British albums have been released in spectacular clarity and quality. There are many instances in the mono mixes where I find the songs more soothing and listenable. In the first albums many songs are jarring as the only stereo mix is one where mostly the vocals are on one side and the instruments on the other. There are also later songs I feel were simply mixed badly for stereo where there are problems with changing vocals from center to side, or a guitar track is panned in some way.

But the mono version of  "Long, Long, Long" on the white album was really an awakening. The vocals, the sound, it was a different song in this mix. Next I tried out "Helter Skelter," again another entirely different mix that astounded me. The vocals were right out there. Next I listened to the stereo version of "Long, Long, Long" for comparison. In my opinion, while it is prettier in stereo and has more haunting instrumentation, the mono version is the one I now like the best. It is just a better rock song this way.

When I first received  the 2009 remixes in Stereo and the remixes in Mono as a gift, I was so overwhelmed with the amount of music that I decided to go album by album. I found this quite interesting for a while, studying each album as if it were the only album I owned. Then as time went on I found I was being a little too analytical, and while it was wonderful for the early albums I decided to listen to the rest haphazardly, waiting for the inspiring moment. "Long, Long, Long" was that moment. What an awesome rendition. Outtakes are fun to listen to and every once in a while they are revelationary in some point (say the extra verse in "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." But the mono "Long, Long, Long" is an original, released and meant to be heard. It's a more happy song in mono.

It's been a long long long time since I appreciated this song so much.

It's been a long, long, long time.
How could I ever have lost you?
When I loved you.
It took a long, long, long time.
Now I'm so happy I found you.
How I love you.
Lyrics: George Harrison, Vocals: George Harrison and Paul McCartney

Through the Roof

The people who built our house skimped in some places and did the right thing in others. The exhaust fans in our bathrooms cost them 20 dollars a piece. I know, I looked up the model. They sound like mini jet engines as they attempt to clear the steam. Their power is negligible however while the sound is extraordinary. Could you build a cheaper fan? Even when we looked at the house for the first time I remarked that those must be some powerful fans to make all that noise. Perhaps that is the selling point.

For a while now, I have been trying to figure out how to replace these things at minimal cost, meaning, I would do it. I found a fan I liked and purchased it after looking at this video that made everything seem so easy. Well, they didn't mention the part where you should actually connect the fans in the attic for stability. Almost every other website did have this. You see, all you have to do is put a piece of board down so that you have working space and then go to it. Well, my attic is one of the strangest looking attics imaginable. It's got ducts and wires and pipes and nothing seems to have been particularly planned.. Workmen have been up there climbing around on the rafters before so I knew it was possible. I also know it's possible to go through the ceiling if I make a wrong step.

But I'm hardy enough. There is a not so convenient walkway to the Central air unit. At one part it is a little like that Japanese game show where the wall with a cutout is coming towards the contestant. You have to contort your body into some odd shape, perhaps a star shaped sardine, to get through. This is at the very beginning of the walkway so you know trouble will be throughout. The walkway was the last consideration after everything else was in place obviously. Finally the walkway ends and there are only rafters hidden by pink fluff. Since I knew other guys had gone through here for the few things I have installed, like security systems, etc. I looked for where had moved the pink fluff away from the rafters where they stepped. Sure enough, it was there.

So, I decided to create a walkway through this area to the fans I needed to install, well, more like a contortway. I would nail one piece in place and sit on it while nailing another. It seemed logical. Wanda picked up the plywood for me (actually I opted for the cheap particleboard type stuff that the builders seemed so fond of) with her wonderfully new Rav 4. She wisely told them "My husband asked me to pick up these boards but I doubt they will fit into my car." To save her from her tyrannical husband they brought out tape measure and did lots of calculations, and cut the boards to the size to fit her car  Would they have done that for me? Probably but I would have been treated like a wimp the whole time. When I got home the boards were neatly stacked in the garage. As I have said before, Wanda is a wonderful wife.

So the last few mornings I have been building a walkway. Venturing out on the rafters seemed fairly dangerous but putting down a path was more my style. Or maybe a zip line, like they have in Warehouse 13. I was constantly reminded of tunneling prisoners of war as I made progress with my walkway towards my final goal. Finally, I made it to the first of the ceiling fans. The examples online always showed the fans right in front of you. Mine of course was directly under a rafter. I'm guessing this variation isn't on the web. Home improvement things always give you the best case scenario so that you will buy the products. Lowe's happened to be the website behind the one that didn't even require me to go into the attic. I contemplated the fact that in almost all cases of home improvement I have encountered an obstacle not in the instructions. Even when putting together furniture, there was always at least one little thing...

Once, a few months ago a while back I was buying some nails to hang pictures. I bought a package that had an assortment of different types. I said to Wanda. Ok, that's it, this is all the nails I will ever use for the rest of my life. Wanda said "Don't say that!" She was right. Although the quantity was probably fine, life isn't like a Lowe's instructional video. I was trying to put down this long piece of the particleboard plywood. It kept coming up a little short because of a bulge on the board, I guessed. So I pulled it up saying out loud in a southern colonel accent "So let's just see what the heck you are under there. I pulled the board up, nails and all and looked beneath. Sure enough a very small corner of an air duct was protruding upward against the rafter. So, I decided to forgo the long board and go with two shorter ones. Only, my nails were gone.... and so was my hammer. Again, I said aloud to myself in my best southern gentleman accent "Now this is a distressing turn of events." Then I realized. Somewhere along the long board that I had just turned over had been my assortment of nails that would last till the end of my life. They were now buried in the pink fluff. I had a few metaphysical thoughts about life (was my life over now? Why pink, I wonder?" then I contorted myself back to my toolbox in the garage, grabbed another hammer (my Dad's old hammer which I don't usually use) and some nails. I planned to look for my original hammer and nails as I worked my way along the route. But pink fluff only covered more pink fluff as I went. There must be some sublimated reason why tough construction guys prefer pink.

I haven't yet received  the saw from which I need to cut the ceiling to accommodate the larger fan. (Apparently, you can't purchase a smaller fan unless you want to repair the ceiling. And I really couldn't imagine why I would put a fan in there that was smaller than the $20 dollar special they had chosen for this state of the art house.) So, after reaching the first fan, unable to put the new one in, I plunged ahead into the depths of the attic towards my second fan. More and more obstacle confronted me, in the form of odd rafters and construction techniques.  My flashlight constantly winked out. Finally, I was somewhat near the farthest corner of the attic. It was then that I noticed just how far away the single light bulb giving light from the storage part of my attic. It was then that I felt the prison camp tunnel analogy. Oops,... next time I'm carrying a backup flashlight.