Life as I see it podcast #17. I’m moving… eventually

 

Yeah, I gotta move. Took longer than I thought it would to get the place, but I really like it. Took the first week off of work to get the move done. Hired movers, reserved the truck, etc. Mother nature has different plans though. Now I’m not sure when I’ll get this done. Grrr….

 

UPDATE 3/2/14 I have cancelled the move for this week. Will try to do it on my next day off, the 9th. As it turns out, there is some ongoing weirdness and late fees due to the previous occupants. I’m not on the lease yet so it isn’t my problem. Hoping to sign the lease on the 5th and move in that weekend. Sucks that I’ve taken vacation time to sit around but I’d probably not be able to go to work in any case.

Writing again… hopefully

It’s been a while, a long while since I’ve done any writing. I’m going to try to get started again. I finally feel like I’m capable of putting something intelligent out there again but I suppose you’ll be the judge of that. I’ve overhauled the website, it’s still a work in progress so please bear with me.

 

I’ve also made a few other blogs for more specialized topics. This one will still be my catch all, economics, music, general thoughts, etc. I have a blog specifically about app.net called ADNViews. App.net is the social media service that I have been using the most recently. There’s a lot going on there, if you’re curious you can check it out or listen to the podcasts I have made about it. . I have also made a new blog called Through Complexity that I hope will explore just how complicated things really are. Too often we think we know what’s really going on and therefore know just how to fix things. I think there is too much hubris and not enough humility when it comes to things like the economy, politics, justice, etc. Haven’t posted there yet, but things are percolating…

 

One of the many things that app.net has allowed me to do is make podcasts! I will drop them into these blogs if I think they’re appropriate. Sometimes you gotta say stuff instead of writing it… OK, enough blogging about blogging, time to get to writing!

Sorry I haven’t been writing

Seemingly every idea I’ve had for writing has been little more than a rant. The political grandstanding, ongoing economic issues, and various pop culture things just seem to make me angry. I’m really trying to not just vent, I’m trying to stay sort of positive. I’ll see if I can’t figure out some sort of positive thing, or at least some personal news that might appeal to folks.

41!

I’ll be turning 41 tomorrow. My 40th year was really a bit of a blur. MS clouded my thoughts and made really lethargic for long periods of time but i think I’ve got it mostly under control now. My doctor explained MS like this, there are two ongoing issues with the disease, damage to the nerves, and the inflammation that causes that damage.

Right now there isn’t a whole lot that can be done about the nerve damage, but the inflammation is a good target for improvement. I stumbled across Gary Taubes’s writing about weight gain. His ideas that insulin, caused by carbs in the diet, is the main factor is weight gain seem to make a lot of sense, and it certainly has led to me losing some weight. What I was surprised about was how much clearer my thinking was and how much better my balance was. That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I liked it.

In my usual poring over the internet, I think I stumbled across the reason for that. It turns out that carb rich foods spur on different types of inflammation. I don’t know the mechanism, but it certainly seems to fit my experience.

I have also come across a new supplement that I think is really helping me. It’s called Anatabloc and it is supposed to be a miracle anti-inflammatory substance. There have been some great studies done on various conditions and it seems to really help. This stuff is really expensive as far as supplements go, but in my short time using it, I feel like its worth it. This is the very definition of a small sample size, but in my two days at work with it, I have felt almost normal. In addition, I have not had any leg cramps at night either. I’m going to keep using this for a couple of months and see how it goes. Think I’ll give it a test and try a favorite meal that is guaranteed to make me feel blah, Chic-Fil-A. One of their sandwiches and fries will usually make me swim my and dizzy, we’ll see if this supplement has a mitigating effect.

I can do that because I have the next 7 days off! I’ll be going down to see the folks and see a friend or two, should be fun.

My unexpected Yemen bonuses

I had been working at Penn camera off and on for almost 7 years when I decided to move out of the country. I had learned a lot at Penn. My sales technique was honed there and I learned how to deal with people, both customers and employees. I thought it was time for a change, so I decided to move.
I eventually decided to move to Yemen. The decisions leading up to that are a whole other story. By the time the date for me leaving came up, I had saved up over 20 grand for the trip. Believe me, I thought long and hard if spending  that money was the best thing I could do. Ultimately, I spent my mid-life crisis  over there, you can read my blog on my time over there if you want.
I could have invested that money, or I could have put it down on a house. All the while I would still be working at Penn. While I was in Yemen, the stock market tanked and I lost about half of my investments. I would have undoubtedly have invested that 20 thousand the same way, so I would have probably lost 10 grand. I felt pretty good about that, my experiences in Yemen were certainly worth that! Of course, I could have bought a house. We all saw what happened to housing prices…
So, looking back, I cannot believe how lucky I am to have spent my money on that experience. Looking back, it was the very best thing I could have done. May be the only time I’ve done that…
When I came back, I needed a job. Ramona was more than happy to hire me again. I really wanted something different though, so I stayed unemployed for a while longer while I looked around. After I got diagnosed, I was even more in need of a job. I had finally gotten through to the company I had wanted to work for, and they offered me a job, at  little more than half of what Penn had been paying me. Ugh. That was a tough decision. Ultimately, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Penn was on shaky ground going into the future. Photography just wasn’t what it once was, and it’s all Penn really did. So I took the hit in pay in the short term.
It has payed off. Penn Camera declared bankruptcy the other day. The company I work for is incredibly stable and I now make what I used to. Plus, the benefits are quite a bit better. I was about 50/50 at the time I made my decision, thank God I did what I did. I also think that my trip to Yemen helped with this as well. If I had been working at Penn all along, it would have been much more difficult, maybe even impossible to take that hit in pay to work somewhere else. Starting from scratch, I didn’t have the baggage of a rent or lifestyle maintenance to worry about. I had gotten used to being poor, I even lived in a third world country!
So maybe my trip to Yemen was divine providence. It was the best use of my money, it was an amazing experience, it was the very last time I could do something like that, and I think it helped me start a new career. If I had stayed put, done the safe thing, at best I would now be on disability. I certainly would be a lot poorer in spirit.
 
My heart goes out to the folks that were still working at Penn. Starting over is tough, believe me I know.
I’ll miss Penn Camera, and I’m thanking God I made the decisions that I did. Who would have ever thought that Yemen would be the best thing to happen to me?:)

RIP Steve

When he announced that he was stepping down from CEO, we knew it wasn’t a good sign. Still, the news wasn’t any easier to hear. I have loved the products he has helped bring to market, but more importantly I love the institution he has left to us. To borrow from John Gruber, Apple the company is Steve’s greatest creation.

Steve, I thank you for your vision and the opportunity to take part in what you started.

Here’s to normal family relationships!

The house I live in has a strange living arrangement. Originally, my landlord’s plan was that this house was where his parents could live in their retired years. He was going to turn the basement into a living space for them and rent out the other rooms. I rented out the smallest of the rooms and there were 3 other people living in the two other rooms. Well, then the landlord lost his job and moved into the master bedroom, displacing two of the people that had lived here. He finished the basement apartment and his parents moved in. Then his ex-wife and daughter lost their place, so they moved in. They slept in the front room for a while until the remaining tenant’s lease ran out, then they moved in there. is parents didn’t like living in the basement, so they went back to Bolivia and I moved into the basement.

So for a while, it was me in the basement and my landlord (who is employed again), his ex-wife, and their daughter were sharing the three rooms upstairs. When my lease ran out, he asked me to move into the master bedroom. Part of that was because he was going to have to do some work on the basement but a large part of it was that he and his ex-wide were at each other’s throat.

Is it any wonder? For a long time, people were urged to keep marriages together “for the children.” I think we now all understand that often times it’s better for the children if the fighting parents are separated. If nothing else, it allows everyone to get on with their lives. Imagine deciding to call it quits and then have to live with the ex. Ugh. Now their daughter has to live in some sort of purgatory. Every kid dreams of their parents getting back together again, and hers are but in a really bad situation.  It’s the worst of all worlds.

I feel really bad for all of them when I come and they are eating dinner together, silently.  Never felt so thankful for normal relations between divorced parents and family in general. It’s weird how you never notice healthy relationships until they are contrasted with unhealthy ones. I’m feeling thankful, that’s for sure!

Went to a few stores today

There were a few new stores around one of the shops I go to every couple of months. One was called Cavern Cairo. I had no idea what it could be. A middle east restaurant? A shisha bar? It turned out to be a place dedicated to card games of all things. It was almost all Magic the Gathering oriented, but there was the inexplicable mix of UNO decks mixed in too, I spied a few board games on the walls too. Nothing I was interested in, so I moved on.

There was a “newsstand” next to it. I was curious what a newsstand looked like in this day and age. I used to go to one in Ithaca to get my copy of Goldmine. Back in the early 90’s there were a slew of interesting magazines and a good newsstand was an amazing place to go. Goldmine was a paper/magazine that specialized in record collecting. There were all sorts of ads for places selling any number of different types of music in all sorts of formats. Yeah, I used to have to read a newspaper to find obscure songs and albums… This newsstand was really kind of sad. There was a smattering of magazines, but they were mostly catering to gun, tattoo, craft builders, and with some titles like Mother Earth News, Architectural digest, etc. Nothing I was interested in. There was the mandatory “adults only” section. I didn’t go back to check that out. I assume that the adult stuff is what is keeping the store in business, but I’m amazed that market exists at all. I would have thought that the internet would allow anyone to find whatever it is that floats their boat, and in their own home to boot. Hmm, there’s also an adult video store in Springfield, that’s another business I would have thought would go under in modern times. Maybe it’s Springfield that keeps those types of businesses around…

 

I also went into an HH Greg store. I had seen their ads on TV before, but I had never been in one. What a strange place. I mean, I guess they have a  similar product range as Best Buy (with one exception) but it felt rather odd in there. I can’t put my finger on why, but things seemed to be just… sort of plopped in there. There were a ton of TVs, and as usual, I was mesmerized. They are so beautiful, if I watched TV I wouldn’t be able to resist one of those. Luckily for me, I don’t really watch anything… The salesperson was rather put off when I told him that I don’t watch TV, LOL. They also carried appliances, cameras, computers, vacuums, etc. Two things they didn’t seem to have as compared to Best Buy were cell phones and car audio.

Like Best Buy, a lot of their demos weren’t working. Unlike Best Buy, several people came up and asked if I had any questions. One thing that was different was that HH Greg sold mattresses. It was an odd thing. Lots of electronic things, and then tucked back into a corner, in it’s own walled off area, were beds. I don’t see the connection, but I can guess why they were there. One thing that really struck me was how inexpensive things have gotten. Flat screen TVs are now down below what I remember tube TVs costing, and these are bigger. It looked as though I could buy a decent stovetop and oven for $600. The mattresses? $1200 for a twin. Granted, they were Temperpedic, I’m pretty sure those are going to be expensive anywhere you go. I’m also positive that they have a lot bigger profit margin in them than anything else in the store. I can’t imagine that designing and manufacturing mattresses is all that high tech, especially when compared to the TVs there. I can’t be the only one wondering about the value proposition of a bed that costs as much as a 50″ TV. A rather nice 50″ TV at that.

I also got to play around with a few Android tablets too. The Galaxies from Samsung were the ones I wanted to try the most. They weren’t working of course… I did try a few others from Archos, Sharp( I think), and a smaller one from samsung. Ugh, not impressed. A couple of them seemed to run OK, not that there was much on them. The internet worked OK, and I assume that gmail would be good on there. My big problem was that they just felt terrible to hold. Not one of the large tablets were comfortable to hold. Plus, they just felt cheap. The 7″ one was rather nice, I can see the appeal of that size for internet, ebooks, and email on the go. I was disappointed to get mobile versions of sites though. There’s probably a way around that. In any case, maybe the Samsung tablets are amazing performers, they’d have to be to get over the way they feel. Several of them were plastered with stickers announcing features like SD card slots, USB, HDMI, etc. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell me what they could do with those things. Even if they did, I’d have to use my imagination to see how they worked since most of them were dead. I understand why the iPad is going so well, there doesn’t appear to be any actual competition…

 

Anyway, an odd store. I guess I’d go there if I wanted a TV, not sure what else I;d go there for. Oh well, at least I know where to go for adult magazines and Magic the Gathering cards… Oh Springfield, you are a shoppers dreamland!

Amy Winehouse (alcohol)

The news and internet were all a-twitter when Amy Winehouse died. Lots of shaking of the head and “I told you so’s” were going around. The general assumption was that she finally OD’d on whatever it was she was taking. The initial autopsy was inconclusive. That just set off more snark, “They just aren’t sure which drug killed her..” was a common joke running around. Now that the toxicology reports have come back inconclusive as well, I’m not hearing anything about it.

I assume that if she actually did OD on something it would show up in both the toxicology and probably the autopsy. Is there a recreational drug out there that kills you and leaves no obvious trace? So if she didn’t OD, what killed her? Her family thinks that the stress of quitting drinking cold turkey did her in.

People forget just how nasty alcohol is. It’s bad enough when you’re drinking and wrecking everyone’s lives, but even stopping drinking can be dangerous. Her family had begged her to quit gradually in order to avoid the worst of withdrawal symptoms but she decided that it was either cold turkey or nothing. In hindsight, that wasn’t a very good decision, but I can see her reasoning. If you really do have a drinking problem, having “just a little” isn’t always possible.

 

We still don’t know what happened but it does look like Amy died from her abuse as opposed to a specific event. It’s also plausible that her effort to quit is what got her in the end. Alcohol is just as dangerous as any other addicting drug, we should never forget that.