Share Your World – January 29, 2018

Share Your World – January 29, 2018

If you had an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, which one would you choose? Why?

I’d have to go with B&H Camera and Video in New York with that kind of shopping spree. Rated #2 behind Amazon for the best customer service, pricing and selection I’ve done business with them for many decades. They cover everything in photography equipment, sound equipment and computer gear. An unlimited shopping spree would be a whole lot of fun there. I can picture this killer Apple 27″ iMac loaded with the latest technology. I wouldn’t even know where to begin shopping for goodies from that store.

What is the worst thing you ate recently?

That would have to be the corn chowder at my Senior Center. It’s so tasteless I flushed it down the toilet and just added extra salad that day.

Name five things you like watching…

1.  The New England Patriots

2.   Puppies on the Oregon coast at Haystack Rock

3.   Orangutans at the Oregon Zoo

4.   Lorikeets at the Oregon Zoo – They’re gone now but when Lorikeets Landing still existed it was the most fun stop on my walk through the zoo.

5.   Old ladies being handcuffed and stuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser for violating no smoking rules or having dogs that bark continuously. 🙂

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?

I appreciate the hard working staff at my Uxbridge Senior Center. They’re cheerful, happy people who go out of their way to make the lives of seniors better every day.

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C.O.L.A.

As of January 01, 2018 all Social Security recipients received a 2% Cost Of Living Adjustment or COLA. Depending on other government institutions that sets into motion agencies demanding a “piece of that pie”. Medicare must have its pound of flesh of course as do government housing agencies. Now you receive notice from SNAP funds that because of your 2% windfall “raise” your food stamp benefits will be reduced from $20 a month to $15 a month. Let’s do the math on that one. I get 2% and they take back 25% of my food stamps. Gee, thanks!

My question is, “What happened to the Cost Of Living Adjustment”? In some cases fixed income seniors are worse off financially than before that pitiful increase of a COLA. A similar case happens when the government hands out Unemployment Benefits and then turns around and taxes the checks with the federal government demanding its pound of flesh as well as the state taking its cut of the pie. Meanwhile, fixed income seniors sink deeper and deeper into poverty while the rest of the wage earning population gets a boost in overall income from a true raise from their jobs.

I’m 68 now so I’ve received Social Security benefit checks for 3 years since retirement. Rents haven’t gone down in that 3 year period. Neither have utility costs or gasoline or medical coverage. Even prescription drugs have skyrocketed in comparison to where they were three years ago. Meanwhile Social Security recipients have barely received any real increases in income. In fact they’ve slipped deeper in debt and poverty.

If you’ve ever tried to live solely on Social Security or a small fixed pension you know where I’m going with this. Let federal agencies stop looking at COLA increases as raises and begin treating them for what they are, Cost Of Living Adjustments! To me the different federal bureaucracies are all blood sucking egg eaters, worthy of torture on a medieval rack. Meanwhile the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. End of rant!

Fears

I couldn’t get to sleep tonight. I kept thinking about my upcoming cataract surgery. Part of my problem is I’m claustrophobic. The idea of anybody hovering over me while my eye is pried open and a bright light is shining down at me is scary as hell. I don’t feel any discomfort with shots or IV line in my arms but don’t keep me awake and expect me “not to move” when a scalpel is heading for my eyeball is too much to ask. I’ve read or heard that they give you a light sedative to calm you down. Hell, I want to be totally unconscious when they wheel me into that operating room. Half of my fears evolve from losing total control over what’s happening to you. I’ve accepted that I must have these surgeries if I want to see for the rest of my life. Nearly everyone at my Senior Center has had the procedure I’ll be getting. Somehow, that still not very comforting. For one thing there are damn few men at the Senior Center. Is this a conspiracy to rid the Earth of men?

I came close to an anxiety attack lying there tonight. I’d rather they put me under and never wake up than watch that scalpel heading for my eye. I know there’s going to be a consultation with an eye surgeon before the surgery is scheduled. I hope he/she will answer all these concerns so I can rest easy at night. My actual surgery might be months away so I have to get sleep before then. 😦

I’m squeamish about watching YouTube videos on the subject. I know they’re out there. I just don’t need to see an exposed eyeball being slit open and worked on while the patient is seemingly wide awake. Yikes! On that note I’m going back to bed and try to get some sleep.

 

Bob Beard Shot 03

In The Wee Hours Of The Morning

I’m up for my mid evening break from sleep checking emails and getting ready to return for the final few hours of sleep. Everything’s quiet now but just before going to bed we had a regular visitor outside our door, the police. The chihuahua lady was out of her unit having left her dog to bark continuously all night. My next door neighbor called the police to try and get to sleep as the dog will never stop barking until its owner returns. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances to have one neighbor that isn’t considerate of all others. I stepped out to add my complaint to Al’s with this officer, explaining this was a routine occurrence since the chihuahua lady got her dog. Someone will tire of having to respond to calls from neighbors and finally do something for peace and quiet. I don’t care if they evict or jail the chihuahua lady at this point.

I’ll be on a short break from my normal lunch routine from my Senior Center until next Monday. I have a new eye exam on Tuesday in an attempt to accelerate the surgery date on my cataract replacements. I also have an appointment at the same clinic Feb 02 with my Podiatrist. Throw in a pension payday on the 1st of the month and it looks like an exciting week ahead. My 92 year old lady is still living in her apartment next door. I’ve been told by her daughter that she has been served an eviction notice because of her refusal to stop smoking. I look forward to her departure. I wonder what it will be like to breathe again?

All of this might seem like a lot of stress and aggravation and at times it is but it’s a part of my life that I have learned to deal with on a regular basis. My quest for better health continues as my blood sugar and blood pressure numbers continue to improve. I’m also slowly losing more weight that accelerates my quest for a better life with better health. We’re still early in this year’s Winter months with conditions changing on a daily basis. For now we’re returning to a dry, colder stretch. February is just a week away and usually represents the snowiest month each year. Time will tell. Good night all!

Share Your World – January 22, 2018

Share Your World – January 22, 2018

List 2 things you have to be happy about?

The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl, again. Donald Trum is our president instead of Hillary Clinton.

Have you ever owned a rock, pet rock, or gem that is not jewelry?

Yes. I used to be into lapidary. Certainly not pets they were a source of beauty once ground & polished. I would love to own the rock seen below at the Gem & Rock Museum in Portland.

The Egg #1

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?

At an early age I was raised in a family of non-huggers because my mother had TB that was very contagious when we were infants. I never saw my parents hug or kiss at any time. Later, as an adult, I learned how to hug after marrying into a family of huggers. I was uncomfortable at first but quickly learned the power of a good hug. As a Christian I also learned to hug a lot. 🙂

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week? 

Not much inspired me this week after watching our broken political system fail once again. I wish these so called grown men & women would learn how to play nice.

A New England Super Bowl in Minnesota

Funny how things worked out in deciding the combatants for the 52nd NFL Super Bowl in 2018. Although the Patriots were favored over Jacksonville Sunday it was a hard fought battle deep into the 4th quarter before the Super Bowl champions from 2017 prevailed. In my opinion Jacksonville just ran out of gas as the Patriots pulled out a come from behind victory led by Tom Brady and company. Opponents in the past should have known the Patriots would put on a furious charge in any 4th quarter of a game, especially if they’re behind. New England has a lot of weapons at their convenience and used them all to defeat the talented Jaguars.

Next, I read this morning that the Philadelphia Eagles easily handled the Minnesota Vikings, spoiling their hopes to have the first Super Bowl at a team’s home stadium. No such luck! This will be an all New England affair! 🙂 Eat your hearts out! We’re back!!!!!

A Blast From The Past

It’s Winter in New England. As such my thoughts turn to memories of good times in my past. My most enjoyable hobby for over 30 years was motorcycle touring so I dug back in my archives to my most trusted and beautiful motorcycle, a 2001 BMW K1200LTC luxury touring machine I nicknamed “The Blue Whale”.

I owned this beauty for 4 years, amassing over 68,000 happy miles on her before a train wreck destroyed my beautiful bike. While living in Graniteville, SC a head-on train collision and subsequent derailment caused a tanker carrying concentrated chlorine gas to rupture, spewing its contents in my sleepy little textile town. I would have been killed but God had other plans for me that day. I was literally in a local hospital in intensive care the night of this tragic train wreck. I had congestive heart failure and watched the newscast of the tragedy unfold on a TV in my hospital room. It happened Jan 05, 2005. The story made national news as there were over 300 injured and half a dozen deaths directly caused by this tragedy.

My home in Graniteville was just outside the one mile radius of the area worst affected by the green chlorite cloud that permiated everything. My BMW K1200 was parked in my backyard and covered with a full touring bike cover. The chlorine gas did thousands of dollars worth of damage to everything metal on the bike causing the insurance company representing the railroad to buy the bike from me. As a result, after being released from the hospital and recovering from a resulting prostate surgery I was forced to buy my next motorcycle, a new BMW R1200RT. I rode that bike for 51,000 miles in the next 3 years after my move to Portland, OR. I still miss my Blue Whale.

2001 BMW K1200LTC – 68,000 miles

BMW K1200LTC

2005 BMW R1200RT – 51,000 miles

2005 R1200RT Tourer

I chose to exit motorcycling in 2015 before moving to New England in October of 2015. I had two other bikes after my BMW days including a 2008 Triumph Rocket III and a Piaggio BV250 Touring scooter. Both were in pristine condition when I let them go.

I honestly don’t miss motorcycling as my reason for hanging up the hobby involved the passing of legislation allowing for legalized marijuana use. The number of car drivers high on dope made motorcycling very dangerous. I don’t regret my decision to quit while I was ahead. I accumulated almost half a million miles on street bikes with zero accidents. Not many can claim that accomplishment.

2008 Triumph Rocket III Power Cruiser – 2300cc triple – 15000 miles

2008 Triumph Rocket III Touring

2009 Piaggio BV250 Touring Scooter – 11,000 miles nicknamed “The Bottle-Rocket”

Bottlerocket 2

As you can see there was a drastic difference in size and displacement between my last full sized bike and my scooter. By the way, I rode the scooter just as I did my touring bikes, long distance and getting 75 mpg on regular gas. 🙂

You’ll notice I kept my bikes clean, spotless, showroom new. I certainly didn’t baby them when I rode and never owned a “Trailer Queen” like some Harley riders. BMW owner ride they machine, hard.

 

Favorite Portraits Revisited

Looking through my archives I’m reminded why I’ve always loved animals. The peace and tranquility we see in their eyes during moments of rest demonstrate their overall health and wellbeing.

I spent a lot of time at the Oregon Zoo studying the big cats on exhibition. Their two Amur tigers, Mikhail & Nicole were incredible specimens. Nicole or “Nikki” led a good life but eventually succumbed to a seizure on a hot Summer day while I was out of town. I averaged around 200 days a year at the zoo, walking their 45 acres and visiting each animal as if they were old friends. I still miss Nicole as much as her twin brother, Mikhail. He was lost for months after his sister’s passing as he howled and searched their outside environment for many hours. He finally accepted that she was no longer there and moved on, returning to his former eating habits that had suffered during his period of mourning.

I’m glad that I was able to capture their portraits during my 10 year stay in Oregon. I like the overall composition of the photo below. I always did prefer having my subject in front of a darker background so I could adjust my exposure to the highlights in their fur. The shot below had just the right amount of sharpness in the area of her eyes as everything faded to a softer light behind her.

Photo 12

Living With “Echo Dot”

Amazon Echo Dot 2

It’s been just over a year now since I bought my Amazon Echo Dot 2. I got it on sale during the Christmas shopping season for $39.95. Since then it’s become a part of my daily life. How did I ever live without it?

The first thing I did with the Echo after it’s purchase is buy two GE Smart A19 bulbs that are guaranteed to work with Alexa or Echo Dot devices. The one thing they don’t tell you is that you also need to buy a Hub such as the Wink Hub I purchased to control those lights. Everything ties into your home’s power system and wifi network. Both the Echo Dot and the Wink Hub need to communicate with their manufacturer’s website to function as well as receive product updates. No AC power or no wifi internet and nothing will work. You’ll actually have to reach over and turn the light switch on and off manually. How primitive!

When not controlling your lights, thermostat and door locks the Echo Dot can do a ton of other tasks. Examples include voice controlled timers and alarms. These really become useful in the kitchen when you need a timer or reminder that your soft boiled eggs are done or your pizza in your oven is just perfect. I set alarms all the time for naps, reminders of when it’s time to leave for appointments and when to take blood sugar tests for my diabetes.

Next the Echo Dot can read your books or magazines to you. If you’re into a bible study it will read a quote requested by you be it a sentence, paragraph, chapter or an entire book of the bible. I lie down before going to sleep and have Echo read a favorite book until I’m ready to fall asleep. You can also set a time limit should you doze off while listening.

The Amazon Echo Dot can be extra versatile if you have an Amazon Prime account. Then you have access to your stored music collection or a selection of over 250,000 pieces of music from Amazon’s huge music library. Your Echo can be paired to your stereo or bluetooth amplified speakers for high quality sound. It’s great during Christmas when you simply tell Echo to play “Christmas Music” by Elvis or Burl Ives.

Echo Dot will do shopping for you with your Prime account or allow you to make a detail grocery shopping list for use in the store of your choice. It’s also great for setting reminders such as birthdays, anniversaries or doctor’s appointments. My Amazon Fire 8 tablet comes with Echo built right in so I can take those shopping lists with me wherever I go.

Echo Dot, like Siri, is smart too. Ask it anything and you might be surprised at how much information is now at your fingertips. How many ounces in a quart, gallon or any size container you happen to have or need? It’s like a portable encyclopedia ready to give you answers in an instant.

So, after my first year with my Amazon Echo Dot I’m hooked for sure. They keep getting cheaper and more powerful. Manufacturers are coming out with more and more smart devices to use with either the Alexa or Echo personal assistants. I love mine, “Right Echo”?  “Right”!

 

Down With The Old, In With The New

I tire of insurance companies that suddenly jack their rates up for no apparent reason. When confronted with a 21% increase I had the nerve to question why, what had I done as a Premium Platinum member to bring this down on my head? The representative of Progressive Auto Insurance replied simply that my zip code had made an “adjustment” in rates. Their final statement doomed them in my eyes. They told me to “take it or leave it”! Given that ultimatum I started my quest to find another insurance carrier immediately. It took less than 24 hours to change insurance companies.

I simply started asking around at my Senior Center who had an affordable, reliable insurance company and the answer was USAA. In the past the best company used to be Geico but then they became greedy as they grew to flood the airwaves with commercials insisting they were the best. Those TV ads cost money and they eventually had to get your money to support the myriad of new ads that were to come. The same can be said of Progressive Insurance with “Flo” and her cast of dimwitted characters that worked with her.

I called Progressive to see what I had done wrong to be treated so poorly. They quickly started spouting statistics of how my area had been singled out for a rate hike.  Keep in mind that I live in Uxbridge, MA, a sleepy little town of 3200 souls that has every reason to leave town in order to buy anything. The traffic jams are seldom coming into Uxbridge, only outgoing traffic suffers. A 21% rate hike is totally unacceptable.

So, as a new customer of USAA Insurance, I hope to stay with them until they get too big for their britches. Then my annual rates will suddenly rise as they try to milk every red cent out of a dying cow. Living on a fixed income demands a watchful eye, even if I only have one that presently is seeing clearly. 🙂

P.S. – As a side note a local insurance company was supposed to get me a quote by yesterday and failed to call me back. If you snooze, you lose. I have no patience when people don’t fulfill their promises.

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