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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just Look the Other Way

The rainy days continue.

I realize that over the last few months, I’ve been eating more in the evening and losing more and more sleep with stomach aches. I have been ignoring this and avoiding the inconvenient truth that I need to limit what I eat, and especially when I eat solid food. So, this week, I am trying liquid dinners. Not the kind of liquid dinner you get at the bar. I have had milk, yoghurt and frozen fruit smoothies so far, and I bought some protein powder to add to the mix. Yum, yum. Thank goodness I can eat normal breakfasts and lunches. Hopefully, after a week or two things will calm down and I can drop this routine.

Going to the health food store is always an experience. I don’t usually see much in the way of exemplars of good health there. The shoppers either look sickly or filled with steroids, and the staff looks the sickliest of all. My smoothie recipe so far is about 6 ounces of milk, a couple tablespoons of unflavored yoghurt, and a few chunks of frozen fruit into the blender. There’s really not much to this. I hope that adding the vanilla flavored protein powder in lieu of the sugar will make a more substantial meal and won’t taste awful.

I spent over half a year in my (sick as a) dog days getting about half of my nutrition from Ensure. No matter how bad this stuff turns out, it is better than Ensure. Ensure tastes like slimy tootsie rolls, had a disturbingly viscous texture and rots your teeth. Triple yum.

I haven’t gotten much done lately, since I haven’t been getting much sleep and have been accordingly moping around during the days. However, I did get out for a long walk in the woods yesterday, during a short period of sunny weather. That was a good thing to do. Next week project is to get out of this week’s rut.

I have been reading an annotated version of Dracula, which is proving to be a far better read than I had imagined. The novel is gripping, even though it uses the long winded Victorian era journal entries as the medium for telling the story. I am definitely enjoying this one.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Barley Soup – No Gruels Allowed

Years ago, I visited Ann Arbor, MI at least twice each year, since my first wife’s family lived there. Once of my fondest memories of those trips was eating at Zingerman’s Delicatessen on Detroit Street. They have great sandwiches and unbelievable barley soup.

Years later, the recipe surfaced on

This is a great soup for crummy weather. It has the same impact as putting your feet up in front of fireplace.

Rest assured this recipe has absolute no resemblance to revolting gruelish barley soups that are sometimes seen in health food restaurants. This is barley soup of the ages, not of the New Age.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Seasonal Blahs, Otherwise Known as the Crapuary Follies

We have entered into the usual January and February weather funk in Sacramento. Highs in the 40 ( that’s Fahrenheit for you cosmopolitan sophisticate types) and rain mixed with drizzle until late next week, even though it’s been this way for the last 5 days. The only consolation is that we can look forward to a summer without rain. I guess that’s a consolation only if you don’t need water in your life. The other consolation is that bicycle riding weather starts in March. Exercise is a lot more fun when you can see things.

Added to all that, it’s the usual unentertaining crazyness (aka meshugas) that this type of weather never fails to bring on. Not to mention putting down DMIL’s cat and my somewhat loose connection to the workforce. These moments are interesting because they teach me about myself.

For instance:

When I feel like useless poop, what do I do?. . .

I declare the following day a MAJOR KITCHEN PROJECT DAY!

As I write this, I have barley soup going on the stove, and bread dough rising in the oven. I’ll give the soup recipe in a separate blog entry.

What I find interesting in all this whining is that when I’m in the poops and feel a great need to be useful, I head to the kitchen. I know I can make people (including me) happy this way. Truly, we never escape our ethnic backgrounds. Somewhere in my background is a Russian-Jewish-grandmother-powered-forced-feeding-tube.

When the weather sucks, I tend to feel a little like a slob since I am not at money-grubbing work a lot of the time.

I am reading a pretty good recent novel, An Arsoninst’s Guide to Writers’ Houses in New England. Somewhere in the novel, the protagonist says that a job makes you normal. There’s some truth in that, as well as much truth that being normal isn’t usually the goal. However, passing as normal does tend to make day to day life easier. (by the way, the public library is where you go to find questionsly employed guys like me single women take warning Don’t Meet Men at the Library!)

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Farewell to a Furry One

After several weeks of visits to the veterinarian’s office, my DMIL’s (dear mother-in-law’s) cat had to be put to sleep yesterday. We believe she was somewhere in the range of 11 to 15 years old. She had lived with DMIL for about 7 years, and had lived with us two years prior to that. She (Beulah the cat, not DMIL) forged a very close relationship with DMIL. Although often visitors didn’t see the cat, while alone at home the two were inseperable. Hiding from humans other than “her person” was her way. Beulah vocalized like no other cat I have heard. Her vocabulary included at least 15 distinct sounds.

DMIL seems to have taken this loss pretty well, but she does not plan to get another cat. I think my wife may be taking this worse.

Over the last month, the cat developed digestive problems. She wasn’t moving food through the system at a sufficient rate. This is similar to the problems I had severely a few years back, and will probably deal with at a more moderate level for the rest of my life. I really felt bad watching the kitty deal with this and all the troublesome medications. Last week, she came to the point where she was neither willing nor able to eat properly. Alas, she had to be put down.

I took DMIL to the eye surgeon today for a quick touch-up on her cornea and lens, some of which has been transplanted, although some is original equipment. The doctor let me in the room to watch him fire the lazar at the cloudy areas. The procedure took about a minute, but we spent a couple of hours between checking in, forms, and pupil dilation. Surprisingly, through all this dull time together, DMIL appears to be mostly over losing her pet.

That, and teaching some Math students, has pretty much filled up my week so far.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Recorder Society Party

I wrote the President's Letter in the the Recorder Society's next newsletter.

As a special bonus, hangininsac readers get to see it first, in the raw director's cut format. No need to overwhelm me with your profuse thanks.

Here's the news:

Our annual Twelfth Night Party took place January 12th at Parkside Church, redefining the concept of the Twelfth Night. We enjoyed great performances by several groups of SRS members and friends, in additional to our celebration of the SRS’s 25th anniversary.

The evening started with the traditional performance of Carols by the Parkside Church Bell Choir, followed by the Sacramento Recorder Society Orchestra. Lee Ross directed us in several holiday songs from the SRS holiday music collection.

We commemorated the SRS’s 25th anniversary with cake and a show of our appreciation for the former SRS presidents who were present; Billie Hamilton, Dorothy Orolin, Gerry Greer, Elsa Morrison and Robert Foster.

Sine Nomine played shape note hymns and two 16th century Spanish pieces, followed by Mab’s Merrie Minstrels’ unique interpretation of traditional Christmas carols. Three members in southern areas presented the inaugural performance of the San Joaquin Ars Nova Trio.

The River City Renaissance Band performed medieval and Renaissance songs on a variety of period instruments. We were warned that a seemingly innocent habit of playing recorder could lead an unwary musician into other period instruments such as viols, sackbuts, shawms. The Band put on a skit that gave me a completely new perspective of gifts in the 12 days of Christmas song.

John Pronko sang a Sephardic song that presented a somewhat surprising view of romance. The Absent Minded Women played wassail songs.

Mab’s Merrie Minstrels ended the evening leading us in community singing.

On behalf of the SRS board and membership, I thank all the performers and others who helped make the 12th night party a success. You are the Sacramento Recorder Society.

Monday, January 07, 2008

We Know What Good Fences Make, But Who Makes Good Fences?

I lost 40 feet of backyard fencing in last Friday’s storm. I am having a heck of a time getting the repair (really a replacement) set up. I have been having a tough time getting the work scheduled, since lots of other folk’s fences have blown down. It is difficult to reach anyone at a fencing company right now. We checked with people’s experiences, I have talked to the company once and agreed on price, and I have already gotten agreement from the neighbor. The tough part appears to be getting a date. I know it won’t get done tomorrow or next week, but I just want to have a date scheduled, so I can forget about this for a while. I suspect the fence builders are out trying to find more crews.

As I write this, I am looking out the window seeing our new view of the back neighbor’s house through our redwood trees. In a weird way this new view comforts me. I realize I miss the fenceless back yards of the Midwestern towns where I grew up and started adulthood. I like looking out and seeing distance beyond the end of my back yard. I find the more open look comfortable. Fortunately, the back neighbor does not have a dog.

That's my story and I'm sticking ot it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Welcome Back My Friends to the Blog that Never Ends

Happy New Year

The holidays are finally behind us, with the exception of the Super Bowl, which certainly isn’t a holiday if your live in Northern California, and probably will resemble the 14th day of lent for those of us with roots in Wisconsin.

I survived the holidays, in-laws and all, and I lived to write about it! Actually, everyone behaved as well as can be expected, and there was a lot of good food. Mostly rich and meat-laden good food. I am still getting over the effects of that.

I am going into the New Year, as usual, not knowing what in the heck I am doing. One thing I am sure of is that immediate prospects for turning the dollar are pretty weak. Time to focus on saving some money. This is where I get in touch with my inner tightwad through a lot of stuff I have learned over the years from the Simple Living Network and the New Roadmap Foundation.

It has been said that if Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he would say that a buck saved is about as good as a buck seventy earned, thanks to the myriad of taxes that we live with. In other words, not spending one dollar is about $1.70 you won’t have to earn. I have started some efforts in that direction this week.

Tightwad the First: I will take over housecleaning from maids we have been using. We first hired maids when both of us were working full-time, and money was more available than time. Dropping the maids will save about $170 per month. I did a full cleaning on Wednesday as a test and found it takes me about 4 hours to do a similar cleaning. I found and cleaned a lot of places the maids have been missing for about a year. I’ll only need to do a full cleaning once every other week, and I can split the job over more than one day. I can also do the laundry while cleaning. The pay-off works out to about $17 per hour after taxes, about $29 per hour before taxes. Besides, it was getting to be a pain keeping out of the maids’ way, and that was costing me about 1/3 of the time it takes me to do the job myself.

Tightwad the Second: I found a slow leak under the kitchen sink last night. I think I fixed it today (of course, as with all DIY projects, only time will tell). For the gear heads out there, all I had to do was reseal some joints where the faucet parts attach to the sink. I used plumber’s putty, which is, btw, way easier to use than silicon. In any event, I have protected the area from water damage if it still leaks, so if it isn’t fixed now, I’ll get it right next time. When I was making the big bucks, I would have only had time to call the plumber. That saved about $100, which is the typical cost of a house call from a plumber in our high cost region. The entire ordeal took under two hours, including internet research and a trip to the hardware store.

Tightwad the Third: I called the two professional associations with which I need to belong should I ever wish to return to my profession. The combined annual dues are about $1,300. Both associations allowed me a waiver of dues. Apparently the bylaws specify partial dues waivers for members with anticipated earned income under stated limits that are larger than what I expect to earn. That saved about $1,000. Now my only remaining professional expense for the year should be continuing professional education, which I should be able to complete for under $1,500, and about 20 hours of independent study. I am not yet ready to drop the profession, so this is the cost.

Well, beyond this business, I haven’t got a clue as to the direction of my life, except I am certain that to my last breath, I will maintain . . .

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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