Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Says It All, Doesn't It?

"If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican. They're the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they'd still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific."

Donald Trump
quoted in People Magazine

UPDATE: I've been informed this can't be backed up. What a shame. It so-o-o-o Trump. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Computer Trails: How Stupid Is Stupid?

We see it over and over, in situation after situation. People up to all kinds of  mischief keep leaving computer records of their deeds, as if they left no records behind them. It's not just the Trumps being stupid so publicly, or fraternity brothers after a hazing turns deadly texting their girlfriends.

Having an affair? Texting your honey? Think you'll never get caught?

Cheating your company? Think the transfer of funds is hidden?

Bullying a classmate? Think you're anonymous?

Videotaping your break-in and vandalism or theft for some warped idea of bragging rights? Think nobody can identify you? Better yet, think nobody has security cameras either inside the store or covering the street from two doors down?

Sending nasty comments about your boss over the company email?

Posting sex tapes thinking they're private?

Got your most sensitive company records on the same network as your email and browsers?

Seriously, how stupid is stupid, really?

Remember this: if it's sent over the internet, it's not - NOT! - private.

Somewhere a record is kept. Someone is willing to share it. Somebody is willing to hack your data. Somebody wants to get paid for your information, if not simply using it themselves. You may be perfectly innocent and still perfectly stupid.

Even your best precautions may not be good enough. You can change your most obscure passwords regularly, use different ones for different accounts, install the latest security software, stay out of wi-fi public networks, scramble and encode everything. Somebody can still break through.  Somebody will. Just because you don't know how to, don't trust that nobody else will figure it out.

And by the way, teach your kids, too, that the internet isn't private. It is possible to be a little less stupid, at least for some of us. Some never learn.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Good Bye Five-O, Good Riddance

I know you're more appropriately supposed to say "Aloha", but that has so many meanings with positive connotations that I just couldn't do it this time.

Five-O used to be a staple of Friday night viewing, The last couple years I found myself getting more and more indifferent to it. Steve and Danny were turning into squabbling children, and disfunctional families have never been my idea of entertainment. Three-year-olds with guns, whoopee. There were still a few decent story lines and great scenery that kept they  eyes on the screen most weeks, but the two main characters kept me squirming. No, not in a good way.

Now the last shoe has dropped. If my vote counts, it'll be coming off the DVR schedule. Why now? I just heard they dropped the last two actual adult characters on the series, Grace Park (Kono) and Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho).

The worst part is the reason they were both dropped. Had they gone off to bigger and better offers, starring in better shows, I would have said Halleluia for both of them and followed them both to see how much I liked the new shows where they ended up. But it's a much nastier reason than that. It seems the Hawaiian characters weren't getting paid as much as the white guys, and the show refused to equalize their salaries. So, the two characters I like to watch are gone because the ones I dislike and am totally bored with are paid more?

Chin and Kono, you two are more ohana than Steve and Danny will ever be. I wish you the best in whatever comes next for you two, and hope it beats the hell out of Five-O!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cleaning... Sort Of

Boy, could I use a bandana! One of those big enough to cover my head above the eyebrows and keep about three quarts of salty sweat out of my eyes. The stuff stings! Messes up my glasses too.

Spoiler alert: Minnesota is back! By that, I mean the humidity that I used to take for granted, the crap which makes stepping outside and moving three feet totally miserable. And that's without even counting mosquitoes! I so fondly recall when we first moved to Arizona, cleaning the crap out of the house and moving our own possessions into newly painted and scrubbed rooms, knowing it was a bit warm and being totally amazed that "warm" translated to 90 degrees!

I think it's only somewhere in the 80s today, but I can't swear whether that's temperature or dewpoint. Perhaps both!

It started - and ended - modestly enough. Now that the critters are gone, it was well past time to sweep floors. I had actually done that once, a week ago. Thought I did a pretty good job, too. It seems the dirt and fur thought otherwise. (I swear the stuff just creeps out at night just to laugh at me!) I reached my limit of sitting in the chair and looking at a recurring supply of the stuff, and dug out the broom and dustpan again. Furniture was easy enough to move around. (I found out I can get rid of Steve just by turning Stephanie Miller on the TV. He does not appreciate her sense of humor.) So both he and Rich were out on the screen house with their various smokes, and taking advantage,  I swept.

I couldn't actually tell I'd just done this same thing a few days ago, with all the fur, but even  more annoying, due to its endlessly recurring supply, was the compilation of leaf bits getting tracked in on shoes from the front entryway. The wind always catches the leaves and blows them up to the door, and walking through them crunches them and brings them in.

They had served a purpose throughout early summer. We get various birds building nests in the entryway, and "decorate" the concrete pretty thoroughly as the young grow beyond the confines of the nest before fledging.  A steady pile of leaves are easier to sweep up than the walk is to scrub. But fledging happened two weeks ago, so I was out of excuses, especially as the bits kept creeping into the house.

So today was the day. The garbage bins head curbside tonight, so what gets in them goes away. I don't even bother with bagging the entryway stuff anymore. If the garbage company doesn't appreciate a dozen scoopfulls of damp crunched leaves, they are free to return them. If I just sweep them over around the corners of the house to fertilize something else, an errant breeze will just return them all in a day or two. There are already plenty on the nearby trees to start the process all over again in the fall.

But, oh! Was it a miserable job! Halfway down the walk I was already blinded in one eye by all the salt, even though I was repeatedly wiping my face with the collar of the shirt I was wearing. (Actually, pajamas, but shhhhhh! It's a t-shirt, and who needs to know from the street?) I stuck with it anyway, knowing if I quit, it'd all just be there waiting for me another day soon. Inside and out.

So, in order, I need: a bottle of water, a chair, half a dozen paper towels, first for me and then a final one for my glasses, and a good long shower.

So, of course, here I sit, blogging!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What NOT To Blame On "Obamacare"

HMOs have been around for years and years. The first one I joined, my only insurance choice offered at work, cost me the ability to visit a favorite doctor. The second one, a version of Medicare "with benefits", again limited my choices of whom to see. I've been too lazy, now that I'm out of that one, to hunt up a primary Doc I like better, but as soon as we get back from summer vacation I have one in mind to try.

In the meantime, there were a lot of years without any insurance. I qualified for Medicare before Obamacare took effect. I guess you could say I "aged out" of the program. At any rate, I know what it's like to be without insurance, when that means being without healthcare except for the barest minimum I could afford, and often having to tell my Doc that whatever she recommended just wasn't possible. I would have loved Obamacare. I still do for all those who are getting by on it now.

Yes, I still and will always believe that a single payer system is the best of all possible choices. Try Canada - though right now they try to keep us out because so many uninsured folks sneak across the border for free-to-them healthcare. Yes, even with Obamacare. There's a glitch in our system. It could have been easily righted, if only Republican ideology hadn't worked overtime to ruin the system rather than fix a glitch. And no, you don't have to take my word for it: just learn to read... widely.

Medicare was expanded in many states so that those with limited incomes could get financial support for their healthcare premiums. If you check out the maps of where that happened, and compare it to the red/blue used in denoting politics, you'll find out that mostly red states, with Republican governors and state houses, refused Medicaid expansion even though it wouldn't have cost them a penny. It was, after all, covered by federal funds, money that their own taxpayers had pumped into the system in, say, income taxes. Other taxes too. Hey, why not get your own money back, doing something useful for you? And if you check those same maps, you'll find that the states benefiting from the Medicaid expansion are mostly those colored blue, politically. There are exceptions, nearly all because a few Republican governors considered the welfare of their citizens over their own political futures. Check out Ohio.

It has become the Republican mantra in the last couple of decades that taxes are evil and the richest among us are to be supported rather than asked to pay a bigger share. Corporations are sacrosanct, and tax breaks to lure them into our communities are sound strategy. Somehow we, the people, have disappeared from this value system, though every two or four years pleasing lies are bandied about to lull us back to sleep so we can't see what is happening. Hey, maybe we can get rich too! And Keep It All!

So we swallow the lies rather than working together to fix the glitches in the system. One of the most widely publicized glitches is in the VA healthcare system. There are solutions. Put more money in the system. Spread care out into the private sector when demand overflows capacity. Put better, smarter administrators in charge, ones whose primary objectives are actually serving those veterans who have sacrificed nearly everything protecting us. But that would cost, so we ration care and essentially throw away those whose service has ended.

I can't help thinking if we reinstituted the draft, where every Senators' child and mogul's grandchild were called up to serve, their actual care afterwards might be improved. No exemptions, no deferments, no excuses not to serve. Of course, we might also get fewer stupid wars, so win-win, eh?

But we still come back to that institution, where spending money on healthcare is rationed not by need but by profit, that venerable old HMO. You get the cheapest care, not the best. Anybody with "MD" after their name will do if the price is right and the care is limited. (Hey, what do you call the person who graduates at the bottom of their medical school class? Doctor!) Medicines are dispensed by cost, not efficacy or lack of side effects. Lab tests look for horses even if you are suffering from a zebra. You need permission to see a specialist, and get to sit back and wait however long for an opening.

If you think I'm angry, even though this no longer affects me, let me just tell you about two people I know trying to live - literally live - with the limits of their HMOs. The first is the wife of a former coworker. I hadn't seen him for months, and we finally had time for a chat. He'd taken on a second job, just to pay for his wife's medications. She had lung cancer. A new drug was on the market, and she/they decided to try it. Otherwise she had only a couple months left. At the point of our conversation, it had been over a year, and the tumors had all but disappeared. She was feeling great, optimistic that they might actually beat this monster. The problem was, each pill cost them $90! And insurance refused to cover any of it because they were experimental. So his hours were now so long I don't know how he survived on the lack of sleep. I bumped into him again about a year later and his wife was still thriving. He was looking more than a little ragged, however.

Another friend hasn't been feeling his best lately. His HMO finally allowed him one of those cheap smear-on-the-cardboard tests for colon cancer. No, not even the full colonoscopy. And yes, lest you think he should just have gone out and gotten a whole regimen of diagnostic tests, money is tight enough that some days food is an issue, there is no car nor computer or version thereof that many claim are reasons nobody is actually poor anymore in this country, so get over it. The test came back positive. He can get right in to see the specialist he needs... late next spring!

Yes, this is July.

If you believe in prayer, indulge. His state doesn't appreciate free Medicaid, so he can't even afford what the rest of us think is a given now under Obamacare. A little glitch fix blocked by Republicans could have helped, but we can all see where they're going.

Uhhh, you are awake and paying attention, right?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bye, Fred, Bye, Ellie

It was one of those decisions that we talked about and found reasons not to make for ages. Then when it finally came, it was instantly right for both of us.

Fred and Ellie are now in new "foster" homes, waiting placement in their new "forever" homes. Steve and I said our "Good-byes" this afternoon.

It's quieter here now, even with the TV going.

For those not in the know, Fred was Steve's basset (mix) and Ellie was my shi-tzu (mix). We'd each had them for several years. Each was a rescue with a history. Each was ideal for the one who owned it, not so much for the other one.

Steve got Fred first, back when he lived out in Dassel. He'd gone to the Hutchinson Humane Society, but had to wait a few months before adoption. Fred had been turned in by someone who (said they) found him alongside the highway, suffering from both a broken pelvis and leg. He needed serious healing before being released. Steve lived in a ground floor accessible apartment, ideal because Fred would never be able to climb stairs. Somebody forgot to tell Fred that. He climbed stairs, chairs, couches, and even into bed with Steve in his earlier years. Until this last trip north, he even jumped easily into the back seat of the car. Watching him struggle to get into the car this trip, we suddenly both knew.

Steve adored him, of course. It took me longer to come around, and was never as bonded as Steve was. First was the allergy thing, but mostly it was the shedding. I know you can guess whose job it became to clean up after the shedding in the house, and the requested outdoor brushing never happened often enough to prevent the "Fred Bunnies" from collecting all over the house, clinging to every piece of fabric available, clothing to furniture to rugs. But he had that gentle, terminally sweet disposition and a look from him was designed for nothing else in the world but melting hearts.

His other notable skill was loudly baying at passing coyotes, enough to both drive the neighbors crazy, and after a pause to size up their would-be competition, persuade the coyotes they had someplace else more important to be. The little dog with him would have been a tasty meal, but they would have to have gone through Fred first.

Ellie was my rescue dog, from my local Humane Society. Her abuse was emotional rather than physical, but we suited each other. I was about to retire, at the time a member of a household of 4 with varying schedules, and a dog with severe abandonment issues would practically always have company, including Fred. One of her previous "homes" thought a dog was fine to have around an hour or so a day, when they thought it convenient. Otherwise, she was kept outside in a crate. Not a doghouse, not a kennel, but a crate. Nevermind the weather, hot, cold, or wet. I put her in a crate to ride safely in the car,  and within a short while she struggled so hard to get out that her paws were bloody. That was her last time in a crate.

She made a great lap dog, especially right after clipping when she was a bit chilly. She was also my guard dog, facing out from either my lap or the foot of the bed. And she certainly earned Steve's nickname of a "yap dog." Nobody got near the house or back yard without notice. She never shed, a great alternative to Fred, and I didn't mind taking the clippers to groom her about three times a year, even though it took parts of three days to keep her still enough to get the job finished.

The downside was that if both Steve and I left the house long enough, especially the last year or so with my hospitalizations and surgeries, even with Fred's company she became upset enough to become destructive. We learned to shut some doors to limit her access to certain parts of the house, to keep garbage well out of reach, and wound up replacing several items of clothing where she chewed through the nastiest bits before we learned to barricade them sufficiently. (Hey, lidded hampers and high door hooks are easy! Right?)

Well, each of us tired of the other's dog, and even discussed never getting another once these had lived their span. We each knew the other's attachment, and much as we each griped, respected the other enough to not suggest your dog should go. We started looking at the possibility of doing a little more travel, but that meant the extra expense of finding a placement the dogs - Ellie especially - could tolerate. Flying them was out of the question, limiting our options even more. Driving the snowbird path became a longer jaunt when it meant they needed their rest stops too, and motels more work to search out. Plus more stuff needed hauling in and out, and a 3AM potty call meant we had to get dressed and walk them to their idea of a suitable spot rather than open the door to the back yard.

So the discussion of having a life without dogs came up, but was always nixed for the forseeable future.

That is, until we watched Fred struggle getting into the car.  It's already just a little hatchback. They don't come lower.  Now was the time. We both knew it. We were just leaving to head north, so there was a whole trip to get through first. Luckily, Fred gave just enough extra effort hearing those two magic words, "Milk Bone". It might take two tries, but knowing one was waiting for him did the trick.

We started with the local Humane Society, the one where I rescued Ellie. Their voicemail wasn't encouraging, and in fact they never bothered to call us back. Unbeknownst to us, Steve's daughter knows a woman who works with M.A.R.S., a fostering agency, where the dogs are loved until someone adopts them for their forever companion. The wheels were quickly greased, paperwork completed, foster homes found, a vet check including updating shots completed, and we said our farewells this afternoon. Fred is going to a home where they love bassets. (We never did hear how many they have at the moment.) Ellie is now busy meeting her five new little canine companions and will be squirming into her place on the foot of the bed tonight. The fosterer was there before we left, and I made sure he knew her issues before she left.

Steve and I both tell each other we're OK. Mostly I think we believe it. It's quieter now, less for the neighbors to complain about. Once swept, the floor can be expected to stay somewhat clean for more than an hour. No dog chow and Milk Bones for the budget to stretch around.  We can sleep until we waken ourselves. Fewer mobile tripping hazards. No bare feet poked by the tiny bits of dog chow Ellie loved to scatter around, just like the pine cone bits she loved to munch. No cleaning the floor after an accident or throwing up who-the-hell-knows-what? It will probably take a year or so for the great majority of fur bits to wash or vacuum out of where they lodge right now. I think, though, as we find them in the future, they'll recall to mind the happy times rather than the irritation of still more work ... AGAIN! They will become the lingering bits of furry love from our past.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We Have A Plan ... We Think

As everybody by now should know, there will be a total eclipse of the sun over a large swath of the US later this summer. Neither Steve nor I have seen one. I want to, and I found a way to drag him along.

Now, forget motels. I asked at the front desk of one we stayed in on our way up to Minnesota whether, as they were close to the path, they had been getting a lot of reservations. A lot? They'd been full up by the end of the day its path had been announced last year! Hmmm, I guess not the way to go for us.  Another friend had checked a community they wanted, found a single room left in the whole town (!) in a Motel 6 for the night, but for $400! They passed on that one. They can leave a whole lot of lights on for ya at those prices!

Being neither early planners not millionaires, we needed another plan, or to just give up entirely. I wasn't ready to give up. I developed a plan, figuring how to entice Steve into going along with the idea. Just add sentiment... and fishing!

Sentiment boiled down to a  favorite location, one filled with happy memories. (No, I'm not going to tell you where that is! We're hoping for a little breathing room.) In this case, the location involved includes a pair of his favorite fishing rivers, so cross those both off with no effort.

So what's the catch? I mean, other than starting to head back home earlier than usual, and seeing family for a shorter time than usual, there had to be a catch if I had to put in a bunch of work to bring Steve along on a trip  he wasn't particularly interested in to see an event he was fairly indifferent to, right?

The catch is the plan involves camping! Yep, that's right, these two old geezers are going camping! In a tent! In sleeping bags! I doubt I need to explain to you just how unlikely we thought that would ever be for us again. Heck, even RVs were both out of our price range, and required skills and abilities we don't have. (Think crawling underneath to hook up and empty the grey water and black water!) Steve actually talked somebody into taking the old RV off our hands last summer because it was so riddled with problems and bad memories that nobody in the family ever wanted to use it again. Free was the right price for the new buyer, and we see it all spiffed up sitting across town ready to find its next adventure, so we guess everybody is happy.

This is a plan that takes a lot of putting together. Start with the tent. There's an old one in the basement needing to be checked out. Had mice gotten in? Mold? Poles bent? Zippers working? Was it tall enough to stand in? And even if all those things were perfect - which they were - could the two of us in the middle of nowhere put it together? Richard hauled it into the back yard, figured how it worked, and then spent about an hour working with us to make sure we could manage it ourselves. We’re fairly confident. Not totally. Our route has us arriving at the campsite with a full half day to try to work any kinks out.

Even the best tent is no good if we can't get off the ground in the morning. So off to the store for two new airbeds. We got the kind that inflate to a height of 22" off the ground, and have lots of inner support so it wouldn't just roll over while we're trying to get up. They came with inner pumps which worked off the cigarette lighter of the car, and we tested both of them, up, down, carrying weight, comfort. Back to the store for a couple long extension cords just in case we couldn't get the tent close to the car. Or was it if we couldn't get the car close to the tent? We're not sure once fully inflated that they'll go through the tent doors, so we have to inflate them while inside.

Both of us had great sleeping bags last trip, so those had to be checked for mold, mice, zippers, etc. They passed. No air pillows, though, so put those on the list. Plus a pair of ugly pillow cases.

Now great as those sleeping bags are, we could easily be looking at snow for some of this trip. August? Really? Yes. We’ll be at some elevation, and for comparison, Yellowstone just had snow a few days ago. If that doesn’t convince you, consider my very first camping trip to Yellowstone with my kids, ’85 if memory serves, near July 4. I was naive enough to think I could just drive up to the entrance and get a camping spot, no reservations. Of course you snicker! The thing was, it worked. 8” of snow had fallen just a few days earlier, driving all the wimps out of the park. It had  just now melted, and we had a hundred or so sites to choose from! What that all comes down to is we’ll be packing a bunch of extra sweats to sleep in or whatever, just in case.

For the two of us geezers, sitting comfortably is an issue. Fortunately, each of us has a Coleman's steel frame and canvas folding chair with a folding little table, including a cup holder for either beverages or bug spray. It's the only chair we've found that both supports our weight and isn't so low we can't climb up out of it. The table is small but will hold a book or lunch. (More on those later.)

Last time we camped in this location, the campground had been left abandoned. The outhouses still were safe to use, as were the picnic tables, but we have no idea what we'll find now. Plus, if the campground is full, we may have to select a spot in a meadow near the river and set up camp there. Either are allowed, and the price is free. We just need to prepare for lack of amenities. And we hope to avoid difficulties with crowding by arriving a full week before the eclipse.

The outhouse issue will be solved with a portable camping toilet, plumbing free. So far I've only found them online, but that's my perfect way to shop. The toilet is a 5 gallon sturdy plastic bucket, lined with a heavy gage plastic bag, topped with a plastic seat and lid combination that snap tight. Extra bags are available, of course, and the trick to using them without spills or stink is not just the assurances of the seller, but adding a small amount of clumping cat litter. They even come in their own little but tall tent for privacy. Not sure where we'll find an acceptable place to drop all our garbage, but we'll locate something, somewhere.

While researching camping toilets, I read a little Q&A about one. It included the query as to whether the seat was comfortable enough to sit on for an hour and a half? The answer was that nothing is that comfortable,  and referred the questioner to their doctor.

The other garbage will be food garbage. Now make a note: I am putting my foot down and declaring that this is my vacation too. That'll make it a first in ... forever! NO COOKING! Which carries over to no dish washing, no menu planning, etc. It doesn't mean starving, however. I went online and ordered 2 cases of MREs. Each has enough calories to last a day, is sealed off until opening so bears and raccoons don't sniff them out and try to ransack your camp, and each meal is different from the others in the case. Back when Paul was in the military, he brought some cases home and I helped eat them. It's not a sacrifice ... for 12 days. And those little tables on the chairs will be up to the task for mealtimes.

An FYI: as now-Arizonans, we are very used to carrying around plenty of water. There will also be extra room in the car, because next week the dogs both go to foster homes through a marvelous program called MARS, while they await their new forever homes. Both will be with families, not in shelters or kennels, which makes it emotionally much easier on both of us.

We have no idea if we can nail a campground site with a fire pit, but we've got a hatchet, just in case. Oh, and fire too. If we can't, dark happens for us when it does for the other critters. We'll be about 20 miles from any electricity, so no kindles after dark. Paper books and daylight reading only. But as the world darkens, those who remain still and quiet can get treated to the sight of the local elk herd coming down the mountain for their evening drink at the river.

Yes, there'll be a flashlight for finding the toilet, whichever and wherever it may be. I have considered getting another Timex Indiglo watch, though I'm not even certain they're still made. It worked well enough my last camping trip there. In a black world, it's a beacon. Just not enough of one to kill your night vision so you can still stop and look up to see the most spectacular view of stars available. It's also got the advantage of being literally at the end of your arm so you needn't hunt for it in the dark.

We’re hoping to find an easy-assemble screen tent, both for shade and bugs, while we relax. Back to the basement. But this time, the old one has nothing easy about the assembly portion of the job. Another search online, no clue of the results.

On The Day Of, the plan is to wake early, drive about 30 miles, and find the best eclipse viewing spot we can to pull over and park. I also figure it'll take a couple hours for the area to clear out again, so there's no thought of breaking camp that day and heading out ourselves. One last night on the trail, then head for a motel. I'm sure an actual shower will rival the heaven we've spent a week in.