Friday, April 30, 2010

Computer Frustration




Computers drive me MAD!!!

Thursday evening I stopped by Sam’s Club and got my power strip with a surge protector and back up battery. It looked to be a pretty straightforward installation. The dusty wires behind the computer armoire are always a nightmare to deal with. Got everything all hooked up and things seemed to be working fine. Then I went to arrange the tangled mess and accidently hit the power button. This terrible beeping emitted from the power strip signaling a low battery. The green power light would not come back on.

I had to re hook up my old power strip and try and figure out what I did to mess up the new power strip. I disconnected and reconnected the battery, plugged it back in the wall and it powered up with the green light: just like it was supposed to do. I figured I’d let it run overnight to charge that battery, and try to reconnect it all in the morning.

Friday morning all got changed over to the new power strip with no problem at all. I was feeling pretty confident at this point…..

I wanted to scan a photo of Daggy and Stumpy taken back when they were just barely a year old in the spring of 1999. My Brother laser printer is a combination scanner. This would be the first time I tried a scan since getting the new computer tower. I was so surprised that the Windows 7 program did not read the scanner. (That statement was meant to be irony.) I figured it worked as my default printer; it would also work as my scanner.

I tried to reinstall the program using the set-up disc. I save all those things. It would not work for Windows 7. Windows XP was the last system my printer program disc was compatible with.

I could not get my computer to recognize the scanner. I thought I found the right downloads from the Brother’s site. A help thread suggested installing a program to uninstall the driver and then reinstall the program from a download from the Brothers site.

After messing around with that I was able to get the scanner to work. But… then I lost my printer! OMG! I downloaded another install program to temporary files which would install a printer driver or whatever it needed. The computer god’s smiled on me and it worked. I don’t think I was never as happy as when the trial page printed up!

Then I had to go back and delete all the install files. They have a way of piling up and hogging lots of space on the hard drive. I also deleted the Brother files from the folder of my old hard drive programs.

There is such a love/hate relationship between me and my Dell. If Louis or Scott were here they could have fixed the problem in their sleep. It gives me a real sense of accomplishment whenever I can figure out and fix a computer mess.

Anyway, here is the picture that caused the entire trauma. This was taken in the early spring of 1999. I was just getting my backyard in shape. Stump looks more like a bear cub with his “stump tail” as he goes to pounce on Dagney.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Great Book Makes Me Look Back
Thursday, April 22, 2010

We had such a good rowing practice last evening. Our coach Hunter is great in being able to let us know what we are doing wrong. We flat out told him to yell at us when we screw up. We worked pretty much on improving our techniques and it really showed with a better boat set and better coordination all over. Tonight we will practice all out with kick ass racing starts and a mock race.

In the AquaticCenter in the room where the varsity crew works out, our first coach Alison posted this on the wall:

The athlete's anaerobic threshold is the point at which the body's muscles have exhausted their oxygen store and start burning other fuel. For regular folks, reaching that threshold is quitting time; anaerobic work is 19 times harder than aerobic work. But rowing is all about harder. Elite rowers fire off the start at sprint speed -- 53 strokes per minute. With 95 pounds of force on the blade end, each stroke is a weight lifter's power clean. Rowers cross their anaerobic threshold with that first stroke. Then there are 225 more to the finish line.

This is true for the Olympic level rowers. I’ve gotten up in the mid to high 40’s on the Concept 2 rowing machine doing sprint starts.

I’ll never have the strength and stamina of a collegiate rower, but I’m going to push myself to do the best I can.

Louis had a fantastic book, A Savage Factory: What a great read: it described the Hell of working at a Ford transmission plant in the 1970’s & 1980’s. It was like reading my life story. I devoured that book during my down times on the west coast.

At one point in the book the author described what he went through as he realized he was suffering a nervous breakdown. His Dr had parents who survived the Nazi concentration camps. He explained that what helped his parents survive the horrors of Auschwitz was to have hope and a sense of humour.

It was early on in my GM career back in 1979 I was working on the “blue lines” assembling air conditioning/heating units. These were huge lines with about 100 people working on each one. I worked with a good group of people. At that point in time I had a confrontation with management and was very bitter. I’ll never forget, it was “Dirty Dick” who explained the three phases of an auto workers life to me:

Phase #1 is when you hired in with all kinds of expectations and were all “gung ho” to excel. You lived and breathed your job.

Phase #2 is when you had been screwed over enough you turn cynical and bitter. You hate everything about the factory.

Phase #3 is that stage where you realize how “fucked up” the entire system really is. Finally it dawns on you that you can’t change anything. That is when you stop fighting and just laugh at everything.

When Dick explained that to me it made such perfect sense. I switched into “phase #3” mode and pretty much stayed there till I retired. GM was never my life after that; it was only a job. My life was outside the plant. The carrot at the end of the stick was the freedom to do as I pleased when retirement came.

My mind still has a hard time comprehending how things have turned out for me since I retired out of Corvette Assembly back in 2005. The friendships I’ve made through rowing and the other groups I’m associated with have so enriched my life. I look back to the years I spent with GM/Delphi and working in the factory now is like a dream…sort of like that season of Dallas!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Home from the West Coast




Another trip to document! I returned home Friday evening after nine days on the west coast. I thought things were supposed to slow down for me in retirement. That has not happened so far.

In my absence the grounds of the house flourished. It took pretty much all Sunday morning to just get the grass cut and edged in the back yard. It had gone to seed making it impossible for the dull blades of my ancient lawnmower to make a clean cut. I pretty much had to use the weed eater on the entire lawn before trimming it all up with the lawnmower.

A week of not rowing softened my hands up. We had a wonderful easy row Sunday afternoon. I rowed port, my favourite position. It has been quite a while since rowing that side of the sweep. It showed, as I developed a few ripe blisters. Ouch!!

We are racing in the Dogwood Regatta in Knoxville, TN next weekend. The club is racing a women’s four and a men’s four. The men’s four had a serious practice this morning. As usual I’m rowing starboard in the bow seat. My new blisters were really paining me. These races in the spring are only 1,000 meters which means they are over pretty fast, but you have to give it your all.

We rowed drills upstream to the steel mill and did more drill work on the first part back. Then we practiced racing starts and rowing with pressure. The last 500 meters was starting from a racing start and rowing all out. My legs died on me at about the half way point. It is one thing to push on the concept 2 machines: on the water there are so many other things to keep track of. One of my main problems is not breathing right. When you are pushing yourself in anaerobic mode your body is not getting enough oxygen from the lungs and it takes it from stored sources in the body. I was in serious anaerobic mode this morning! I’m not good at pacing myself and used up too much of my “energy stores” rowing hard on the drills…..I’m debating with myself if I should push my luck and do a workout at the “Y” later.

Hopefully in a day or so I’ll be able to get started on documenting the last trip. I need to work on the computer first and see if I can get my Kodak program downloaded so I can edit my pictures. The default picture program with Windows 7 does not have a lot of options as far as adjusting the brightness, etc……

My mind has been made up... I'm off to the "Y"!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trying to De clutter




Things have been so hectic these past few days. The big road trip approaches with frightening speed. Since Louis and I will be doing camping I’ll need heavier clothes and more of them. I’m flying SouthWest so I can check my duffle bag without incurring a charge. The one thing I’m scared of is my bag will not make the transfer in Phoenix which is only about ½ an hour. I have a delivery address it can be dropped off to and will carry my important stuff and a change of clothes in a carry on: so if that occurs it will not be a disaster.

I’m so wanting to simplify and “declutter” my life! When I retired in 2005 I accomplished a great deal by ridding myself of my old factory clothes. There are still too many clothes, especially the tee shirts department. My shirts go through a cycle. When they are new, I wear them for good. Gradually as they disintegrate, they get assigned to being worn on dirtier, nasty jobs. It had reached the point where I had a drawer of threadbare worn out tee shirts.

NPR’s Morning Edition had a segment on “Hoarders” today. I don’t live surrounded by stacks of stuff; I just have a bit too much. This one lady in the article confessed how she held onto clothes she could no longer wear because they reminded her of a happier time. The solution was to take a picture of the clothing. Talk about hitting home!

This afternoon I sorted through my chest of drawers. There were sweat pants that “crunched” when I tested the elastic: Tee shirts I could read a book through. It’s the tee shirts that are the hardest. There are shirts I’ve had for 25 years! That is nearly half my lifetime! That is insane!

I have a bag full of shirts to go to the thrift store. What they can’t sell gets sold as scrap. Believe me none of those shirts have any resale value as they stand. But the memories they hold are beyond value.

I only took a photo of one shirt that Ron gave to me from the Cornhill Festival of 1986 held in Rochester, NY. What a wealth of happiness the memories of that shirt holds for me. I’ll relive those times now through a photo.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Almost Heaven, Working with bricks




Trying to compose a title for today's entry I was inspired by John Denver's ode to West Virginia.

Finally we are getting into spring. At 6:30 a.m. as I’m typing this out, the birds are singing their little hearts out. The doors and windows are open; the sky is lightening up in the east: The start of another day. One my first classical albums purchased was Sibelius’s “Finlandia” which also had the Peer Gynt Suite. It is mornings such as this I realize how dead on Sibelius was composing “Morning Mood” in conveying the mystical feeling on the dawning of a new day.

Stumpy pigged out on his morning “wet food treats” and took off to patrol his territory. Daggy was content to settle in on the bed and look pretty……


It looks like rain is going to settle in for the duration of the day. This will be a perfect opportunity to “piddle and mess” with nagging inside projects.

One of my favourite sayings is, “Normal is a setting on your washing machine.” Many years ago when first attempting to make some sense of my life, I realized I would never have a “normal” existence. I wish I could understand why I experience the joy I do when working on my projects. The current bliss is digging into the first patio I put together, to get things ready for the major rebuild.

Building the display base for the Smith fire hydrant from Yonkers, New York I was in heaven! This was a problematic job to figure out. The base of this fire hydrant is normally fitted into a “break-a-way” connector. There is no flange or extending pipe to use for mounting. Using an old bleach bottle as a form, a cylinder of cement was poured that the fire hydrant will fit over.

The bricks edging the base were acquired in Ohio, and the filler bricks were salvaged from half bricks I had on hand.


The manhole ring and assembly was finally put into place. I think it is safe to say I’ll have the only patio in Tuscaloosa sporting manholes from Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham! See what I mean about “normal”!!




My dentist, Dr Jack called me earlier in the week. He had some bricks for me! One of his salesman had mentioned to him how a building was torn down on his property and he had lots of “slave brick”. This is kind of a generic term for the bricks that were made and fired on site. Usually they are oversize when compared to the standard sized bricks today.

My dentist related stories to this salesman of my brick, fire hydrant, and manhole collecting! The next time this vendor called he had bricks for DrJack and me! I stopped by the office Wednesday to pick them up. You always trade bricks when acquiring them this way. I took out a Graves, and Agusta paver to trade.

I had been working on my projects so I was dressed in my Utilikilt, do-rag, and workboots when I made my entrance. Dr Jack has been my dentist since I’ve lived in Tuscaloosa. I’m on a first name basis with pretty much the entire staff. They all broke out in smiles with the absurdity of trading bricks and my Utilikilt.

Life is so good!!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Computer Tower Up and Running




I’ve been complaining about my computer forever it seems. By maxing put the RAM and babying it along, I kept my old Dell going years longer than it had any right to run. Sunday night was the beginning of the end….

I have been using my MP3 player quite a bit at the “Y” as I put my time in on the Concept 2’s. I download and enjoy podcasts of “This American Life”. There was a broadcast of the history of the Nummi GM plan which was closing. It was an excellent show. I wanted to burn a copy of it to CD to give to Tim and Liz.

Working through my software programs I had to convert the MP3 files to Wav files and then burn the project. My computer was being seriously pushed to the redline doing this. Halfway through the burn things stopped. My system no longer recognized my “D” drive. This happened Sunday night, too late to mess with.

Early Monday morning trouble shooting with Google I figured out to pull out the tower, disconnect and then reconnect the “D” drive. It worked! My “D” drive worked and the computer read it. I had my drive back again!! YAY!!!

The CD was burned for Tim and Liz. Crisis averted, things were back to normal. I needed to copy a music CD to keep in the truck. My Nero burning program was all warmed up and busy at work when Mcaffee started a virus update. Those updates slow my computer to a crawl. When the updates were completed I realized Nero was no longer burning the disc, and my computer screen was frozen. I signed out of everything, but the last Nero screen would not close. I tried from every location and roundabout way I could. It was frozen in place.

When all else fails, reboot. The tower was turned off and restarted. I hated doing this as it would take forever for the system to fire up. This start-up progressed as they usually do, except before the Windows screen was due to pop-up I got the “blue screen of death” with the message in that dreaded white font saying Windows would not open due to a fatal flaw. I tried to get the system into safe mode with no luck. I was in over my head on this one…..

A computer service is just down the street from me. My tower was dropped off to be checked. I explained what had happened and what steps were taken to rescue my old system. I knew what the diagnosis was going to be. When I checked back with them the next day they complimented me on keeping my old system going as long as I did. It was a lost cause to repair that old tower: after almost eight years of service, it was time to update.

My files were transferred from my old drive to this new one. Finally the new tower was ready to be picked up late Thursday afternoon. Along with the new Tower was a mouse and keyboard. This new tower seems tiny compared to the old one. Hooking everything up I realized the connections for my old systems are way outdated! The new mouse does not use a “ball” and the scroll wheel actually works! I can’t remember the last time that wheel worked on my old mouse. I had become so accustomed to instead using the side arrows to scroll through pages I forgot those wheels existed!

Now I’m relearning my computer system. Once I located my hidden Kodak picture files I relaxed. Now if could only locate my bookmarks and saved passwords!

You don’t miss the water till the well runs dry. This episode hit me hard as it showed how dependant I’ve become to my computer: my “portal to the world”. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep this new tower going for another eight years. One thing I’ll be doing today is to save all those Kodak pictures to a memory stick. Four years worth of pictures are taking up way too much disc space!

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About Me

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Retired auto worker who can now spend too much time restoring his 1922 Bungalow Home. I'm involved in a number of varied activities from collecting bricks to rowing with a masters rowing group. This blog is to share different aspects of my life on my Facebook page. I've kept an on-line journal for eight years.