Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thanks for the Memories

Thought I'm soooo glad to see 2013 go, I thought I would take some tome to say thank you for all the experiences.

I'm deeply grateful to Glenn for his generous spirit as my store started failing. He believed in us enough to help us through the last couple of weeks.

When I look back, I'm proud we went as long as we did with our store. I know that it could work with someone with a better plan. My hope is that someone will figure this out and grow it into something wonderful.

Yay for medical coverage that could deal with my cancer  quickly and that nothing spread. Thankfully, my scars are healing and my spirits are good.

I'm thankful for the Coos County Library System. The DVD section entertains me when I'm low and the access to interesting and amazing books keeps me informed on a large variety of topics.

We found a wonderful friend in Nick, who tends our yard and does odd jobs. He delights in science and science fiction as much as we do.

Life works best when you are willing to accept the less than perfect. We found a used spa tub to redo our master bathroom, a closeout vent/microwave for very cheap and Murry bought me a slightly used tablet for the holiday. Now we just need to find a deal on some cabinets.

It might sound silly, but sometimes you gotta sit down and thank the most insignificant things. Breathing comes to mind. I also have the ability to type, think and hear reasonably well. I can see some.

Strange things I learned this year include: You can cut your own hair and get noticed but changing your glasses doesn't register on anyone's radar. Vegetarian isn't so bad, once in a while.

I raise my glass of wait.. I don't have anything but water.. heh oh well.. DEAL. I raise my glass of water to the new year. How can it help but be better than this one!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hell on Wheels

Goodbye 2013!

I hope to write something else before the last day of the year, but I wanted to start early wishing this one a big ole aideeooose.

Martha Beck outlines a simple strategy for knowing if you're on the right life track. She suggests looking at what you are doing and how it makes you feel. She says if it feels like you're shackled, limited in mobility and feeling "stuck," that's not what you should do. If you feel happier, freer and more hopeful, you should do more of that.

She calls it "shackles on" versus "shackles off."

Starting 2012, I felt deeply shackled to our store. It leaked money like a sieve, We had way too much overhead and I lived with too much stress. Our relationships with some employees broke down and I wanted Murry to start stepping up.

When 2013 came around those stresses and feelings only got worse. I suggested the employees start looking for work. I told them I would accommodate if they got something else. Finally, at the end of March, I couldn't take it anymore.

One of my workers was so angry with me she told me that ended our friendship. I told her I understood. She's since talked to me and while we're not "best" friends, at least she understands I didn't do it on purpose.

Well, okay, maybe I did. I felt overwhelmed and decided to stop that feeling. I do like that about me. I wont stay FOREVER in a bad place. I will stay maybe longer than I should, but that's just hope.

I've already said this today, but it bears repeating. I will always be the person who digs through horseshit looking for the pony. It's just my being. Again, not forever, but long enough to see what I can find.

After we sold off a lot of inventory and paid employees and as many creditors as we could, we locked up and left. I told the landlord what was happening. He said he understood. I felt terrible. He lost the building.

Since I'm disabled and I was feeling terribly useless, I applied for disability. I got it and got on the health plan. Good thing too. Two months later, I found a lump growing on my leg.

I've outlined that on this blog so I'll just tap the highlights. I got melanoma cancer. I found out that people with albinism, like me, have the cells to produce pigment, but they don't work. These melanocites are what give you melanoma.

Lucky for me, it didn't spread. I spent two more months being poked and prodded and had surgery to make sure. I still gotta be checked to make sure no new lumps come up. As Pooh would say, "Oh, bother!"

On the same day, my hubby came home and tells me the big box store he works is closing its doors. So he went looking for another job at a little box store. They hired him as holiday help and he worked there long enough to get his employee discount card.

Then yesterday, they told him Tuesday is his last day.

My life is pretty simple and I don't want for much. I can handle it, he can find another job of some kind. It will be alright.

Strangely, though I should feel shackles on about him losing the job, I don't. I think it will be okay. Butt.....

Grab a shovel, help me find that damned pony.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa Baby

If you got no one to love this holiday, have a look in the mirror. That person needs love and attention.

Listen to Ertha Kit and ask for what you want. Make a plan, take a few steps and see what happens.

Before I met the Murry, I wrote down that I wanted a man like him. I also wanted a house. Murry had a house.

All I did was want those things. I had a clear definition of what they would look, sound and feel like. When I found them, they were familiar.

People like me, who grew up with an chaotic family sometimes find that familiar. Even if they vow they don't want what they lived, they find themselves repeating family patterns.

We can fill in those ruts and make a new path. It's not always easy or fun, but it's WORTH the outcome.

Make a plan, buy some sand, fill in those furrows and get working on a better life.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Great Balls of Fire

When I complain about my bad childhood and have those low moments when crying seems the only reasonable thing to do, I often lose sight of the wonderful gift it gave me. It's not some subtle abstract gift. It made me fucking awesome.

If you can't deal with that assessment, feel free to comment. Though maybe read the whole post first.

Some years before I started back to college, I talked to some friends about going to Europe. I had saved a few bucks from scholarship money and I found someone to be my companion. I thought, I'm legally blind, might be useful to have someone as a sighted guide.

Since I was paying the way, I thought that I should direct the itinerary. She didn't want to go where I wanted, see what I wanted and generally became distant. I'm not sure if I'm bossy or it just wasn't meant to be or what. None of it happened that way. Though I did get my passport.

As college wound down, I got the chance to go to a study program in Oxford, England. As part of my planning and research, I decided I wanted to see Italy and more in Europe while I was there. I got an extended ticket for a month and bought a couple of guide books and a rail pass.

With 34 fellow students on the program, I imagined I would find someone who would want to go at least a few of the same places. I made a few friends and asked them where they were going. None of them had any similar plans.

Faced with the choice of going alone, or not going, I chose to go by myself. I had blind person tools, like a magnifier  a small set of binoculars and a white cane. Though my cane wasn't a full sized used for walking one. It was just what they told me was an "indicator cane." only about three feet. It worked as just a kind of "hey, if I run into you, I didn't mean to" kind of thing. It worked well.

I also had a little translator computer I bought at Radio Shack. It was supposed to let me enter a sentence in English and then give me the phrase in the local language. It frustrated me and I never used it "in the field."

My experiences in the UK while going to school gave me confidence to do the trip by myself. I missed the school bus to go to Stone Henge so I had to find a way to catch up. I hopped a train and wandered around Salisbury, England, hoping to find the group.

As it was raining, I was wearing my rain poncho with the hood up. It occurred to me that my beacon like hair would probably make it easier for others to spot me, I lowered it. Seconds later, someone shouted my name and I caught up with our group.

It helps to be clever. After school ended later that month, I flew to Paris.

France proved a tad tricky but I'm not above asking for help and I managed to find my hostel and meet some friends. When I go back, for sure I'm buying an A to Z map of the big cities I visit. I got blissfully lost in Paris. While a joy, it's nice to get back when you want.

The guide books advised a backpack over any kind of suitcase. It leaves your hands free. I picked the lightest internal frame pack with hip strap I could find. I also took my denim day pack and a "bum bag" to carry as a purse.

Nice is nice so I said it twice. Then I hopped a train down to Rome and roamed. Okay, I'll stop now. I LOVE Italy. Aww heck, I love traveling. Got lost in Rome too. With a sighted lady who spoke Italian! She had a map. Eventually I took it from her and found our way back.

Yep, a blindish me took a map from a sighted woman and found our way back. She wanted to go see the Sistine Chapel, but we were in the wrong part of the Vatican. We did go inside St. Peters and wander around the square. Very quietly and to myself, I sang Vatican Rag by Tom Lerher. Cheeky geeky American. (sorry I wasn't going to do that anymore.)

I even LOOK American at least to one Italian guy. I approached as he sang a rousing song while unloading a truck. He broke into English and sang, "I wait for you pretty lady!" Swoon.

I stand out with the white hair and I think I was committing the cardinal travel sin of wearing sandals with socks. I never thought that was a good thing until my feet were too sore to wear regular shoes.

I found some other travel companions and I did make it to the Sistine Chapel. Though there's little comparison to it's stunning beauty, my favorite part was listening to "oh wow" in every world language.The faint scent of must and paint added to the ambiance.

After a few days, I hopped the train to Florence. The Tuscan countryside reminds me of wine country near Napa, California. Only greener and more bucolic.

The hostel couldn't accommodate me so they gave me a list of local hotels that rented rooms for fairly cheap. Twice the rate of the hostel, but I didn't have to share. I think I was there three nights. It felt like I could walk the whole city along the red terracotta roofs.

I followed some ladies into a line next to the Duomo thinking it was the way inside. Turns out it was the line to CLIMB the dome! Hundreds of steps with my bad knee and chunky body, I should probably have passed, but I was too embarrassed to beg off.

I'm glad I didn't. These breathtaking views show the awesome power of the Medici family wealth. Next time I think I'll climb the bell tower.

Exhaustion and the awesome view combined to set me on a depressive path. I contemplated throwing myself off the dome. I felt so alone up there. Obviously I didn't. I started to think no one would notice or care and no one would know how to contact the people I did know in America. Whatever reason, I took these awesome photographs and climbed back down.

My cane came in handy when a group of gypsy children approached me in the Duomo square. The guide book said that it was common to distract someone by holding something in front of them and then going in their pockets. The kids surrounded me and held a piece of cardboard toward me. I waved them all back with my cane. I didn't hit any of them, but I made sure I kept safe.

I left Florence and headed for Venice. I spent the day there rode around on the vaporetta Grand Canal boat "bus" and went over to St. Mark's square. I didn't go inside the Doge's palace but I did see the beauty of the mosaics inside the cathedral. The drizzle must have kept tourists in their rooms as the square sported more pigeons than people. Cool with me, I like birds better.

I selected the special of the day at the one sit down meal as the sun set. Lasagna, a salad and a mimosa made with thick apricot juice and some kind of Tuscan sparkling wine. Though I ate alone, I felt content as I floated to catch my train.

I'll write more about my ballsy adventures in later posts.

See? Fucking awesome. Told ya.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Take this Job and Shove it

I hate Steve Jobs. I know, I cannot REALLY hate him, because I've never met him and the stories I've heard may or may not be true. But I hate the idea that everyone calls him the great visionary and how he saved Apple.

I hate how his presence overshadows the brilliance of Steve Wozniak. Here's a guy who built and created things of beauty. like the Apple I and II. These systems had neat open architectural that could be expanded and made to do really interesting things.

When the IBM PC copied that structure (not from Wozniak, from Intel's processor handbook) they created quite an interesting personal computer marketplace. While Apple went the closed end proprietary market with the Macintosh, Wozniak's original idea grew into something amazing.

Honestly, I don't know who's idea it was, but I can tell you, the ideas that Jobs had for the Apple Lisa and later the Mac weren't his. Xerox created a research lab called the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and they came up with the mouse and the idea of a graphic user interface. Jobs just used those to build the whole new computer category.

It didn't work as well as he hoped and he paid the price for it. He also failed to understand the threat of software innovations on his systems. While IBM couldn't capitalize on their system because it wasn't propitiatory to them, Apple foundered from a closed system.

More and more companies developed PC compatible add on hardware and software that fully utilized the open architecture. In those early years, some creative businesses used Mac, but many many more used PC, MSDos and eventually Windows.

Apple's performance lagged and Jobs got ousted. He spends a few years trying to get back into the computer game and creates another closed architecture system called NeXT. It didn't pan out. Though according to Wikipedia the NeXT OS became the basis for OSX.

When he went back to Apple, it's clear he never fundamentally understood why companies like Microsoft worked. The PC market spread its base in many hardware and software directions. Microsoft became more than an operating system, they wrote software that bridged various hardware systems.

Yes, I also know that iPad and iPhone are twice as popular as the more open and late comer Android market. I'll give him the credit for being first with this concept. Allowing outside companies to make apps for iPhone opens up the market in interesting ways. I think eventually Android will beat it as they have more variation on their developers.

Sometimes, too many cooks spoil the soup, but sometimes a lot of cooks perfect the soup in ways no single cook could imagine. Sure, single minded individualism has value as the starting point of innovation. I'm doubtful of it creating long term value.

None of this is why I hate the man. They're crumbs of information that I gleaned from observing the computer marketplace from the inside. In the 80s and early 90s I build and sold IBM PC compatible systems. I arrived just after the industry started to explode with expansion card, hard drive and other add on manufacturers.

I sold parts to Belkin Components when they were a couple guys making cables in their garage. I saw the fringes of Apple II and Tandy TRS 80 and even took some programming classes that used them.

In the late 90s, I worked with Macintosh systems running graphics problems and pagination software. These systems resembled more their PC cousins with the ability to add on interface cards and a larger variety of external hardware, like printers, scanners and monitors.

I still don't understand why Apple never opened up their operating system, Mac OS to a broader market. They held it close as a proprietary hardware, software tether. Wouldn't it be nice to have a choice when you buy a computer? Windows or MacOS? Then you'd find out which was truly the better software.

My guess is at some point Apple and Microsoft signed some kind of agreement that Apple wouldn't market it's OS without pairing it with proprietary hardware. This probably happened around the time Microsoft funded Apple to keep them in business. Microsoft was having a lot of anti trust problems with many states and keeping Apple alive and somewhat competitive helped their legal case. This is pure speculation on my part.

The reason I don't like Jobs is because of his reputation for being an asshole. People dress it up as perfectionism and "demanding, " but from the reports I hear, he just sounds cruel and slave driving. And people prostrate themselves, begging for more.

I hate that some people think that this is the right way to get business done. To demand and rail against people you work with in order to get them to make the best product. And screw you if you have a different idea from the head man.

There's a new movie about Jobs coming out with Ashton Kutcher playing the lead. Kutcher appeared on a talk show called Jobs the Da Vinci of our time. OH MY GOD!

The man has never created anything in his life. He's observed and made real technologies he's seen others originate. That's a skill and has value, but is NOTHING on the scale of Da Vinci. The comparison is flat out ludicrous.

So that's my rant for today. Comments welcome, even the Jobs lovers can bitch me out. I don't care. It's not going to change my mind.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Heart Belongs to Daddy

A couple of people have said they were working on quitting smoking. Congratulations to them.

Everyone in my family of origin smoked. Everyone except me. Some have since quit, but at one time or another, all three of my siblings and both parents lived with this lung destroying addiction.

Both my parents and all the men my mother married drank to excess. She denies that she "drank that much." Compared to an ocean, a lake isn't that much. But it's still water.

So just after my parents divorced and my father had custody of me and my older sister, it wasn't uncommon for him to have cans of beer on the coffee table. He'd leave four or five just strewn there. Often he'd have a few sips left in one, forget he already had one and open another.

I can hear his throaty "yeuck yeuch" as he sat in his green shirt and boxers laughing at HeeHaw and sucking his teeth. A wisp of smoke trailed from his jutting cigarette as he curled his fingers to reach for the Coors can.

On more than one occasion I sipped a few dribbles myself. I was around five. Yeah, dad couldn't ever be called the most responsible parent. He was doing the best he could.

One day, I came by and started sipping the dregs of his cans.The tang of the amber liquid tickled my nose. I must have been exceptionally small or the table larger, as I remember bringing the cans to the edge, tipping and sipping. I grabbed one, raised it to my lips and poured stale beer and cigarette ashes down my throat 

I've heard that kissing a smoker for a non smoker is like "licking an ashtray." I've kissed a smoker and I drank an ashtray. They're not the same.

I cannot get that experience out of my mind and whenever the thought of smoking or beer drinking comes up, I can't help but gag. Daddy had no notion of the valuable gift he gave me. He just liked his drinking and smoking ways.

I know addictions are rough things to get through. I hope those of you who are trying to change your lives have wonderful success.

Kind comments always welcome.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Don't Bring Me Down

Do something to improve the life of someone else. Just do it. Try something. Smile at everyone and be okay. I get that we can't all be happy, just choose okay. 

I had so many other things to write about today. Too many ideas in fact. Finally I decided to write this. To just ask everyone to chill out and lighten up. Grab on to kindness and don't let go. Buy your co worker a cup of coffee or have a brief chat. Whatever you can spare from your own busy life. 

Short and sweet. Kind comments welcome.