…It is all a blur now

Today is April 21. I think that I have entered the 5th week of the mandated “stay-at-home” orders from our governor. I can’t be sure. It’s all a blur now. It is rumored that she plans on extending them through mid-May. As of today, the state of New Mexico has a total of 2072 cases. This represents less than 1% of the population in the state. And we have only tested about 2% of the total population in the state. Where I live, in Los Alamos County, we have 6 confirmed cases.

https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html

I continue to work at home, often logging in as early as 5 am. It has been very problematic. The system automatically logs us out after 2 hours. For almost all of the work, I can network to the computer sitting on my desk in my office. How cool is that! It is cool. It is also stressful. I find myself working at about 50% productivity, feeling twice as stressed. Working longer days to get less done. My body aches because my work area is not economically sound.

By any measure, I feel very lucky as I see what is happening across this country. Yes I can continue to work. Yes I can continue to be paid. Yes I am thankful that myself, my children and friends and family here and elsewhere have avoided this dreaded illness. Given my age, general health and such, I certainly do not want to catch this illness. Some people have no symptoms, others fall quickly. I find myself checking all the websites. What does the Johns Hopkins map show today for the country? For the world? I check to see if the market is up, or down. How much has my 401k been decimated. Time to take your temperature again.

I make the occasional trip to the grocery store for supplies. Was able to get toilet paper this week. Many of the restaurants are open, continue to serve take out. I try my best to support them at least several times a week.

I try to continue the routine. Get up at the same time, do the same things. Go to bed at the same time. I try, but yes I can hit the snooze alarm a few more times because I don’t have as far to go to work. Jewel still gets her daily walks, but they often come later in the day to break up the monotony. We go to feed the horse, take daughter to ride. Son tries to continue Jazz Project through weekly video classes. Both kids are still at home. Schools has been cancelled for the rest of the year, but the teachers are still giving them online assignments, daily meetings, trying to stay connected.

Jewel on her daily walk. We are practicing our social distancing.

I understand the stay at home concept. Minimize interactions, practice social distancing. Wear a mask when you go out and about. But the rules are so all over the map. Grocery stores limit the number of people based on square footage and such. Outside construction. Take out food but no sit down service. Pools closed. Gyms closed. Parks open, Hiking trails open. OK I can go for awhile without a hair cut, a tattoo, getting my nails done. The casinos around the state are closed. But I can buy a lottery ticket? Gun stores closed. Hardware stores opened. Dentist no. Microbrewery no. Liquor store no. Pet store yes.

Our government has now passed three laws to help during this pandemic, a fourth is on the way. We will have spent close the $3 trillion dollars to help people who are out of work, help big and small companies stay in business, keep people for when this is over. We have about 22 million citizens out of work. Last month we had something like 164 million people employed. I see may people on edge. We are probably in a recession, if not a depression. The market has become a bear market. It will not come back right away. What took literally days and weeks to unwind, will take years to recover. I am lucky and thankful on this, the eve of my 59th birthday.

I have many questions for our leaders. Why, in a nation so rich, so prosperous, with so many intelligent people, why were we not prepared? Why did the basic necessities that we need to get through this, get outsourced to the other side of the world. Bring all of those jobs back home now. We need to invest here! We need to manufacture here! We need to understand what failed? How did we get this far, with over 40,000 deaths. This is tragic. Oh its like the flu. Flu takes months, we can test for the flue. We have a vaccine for the flu. Every year I decide whether or not to get the flu vaccine. Those years I get the vaccine, I get the flu. The years I don’t, I don’t get sick. Just lucky? I guess. Wash my hand a lot. Don’t venture out into big crowds I guess. Practice rugged individualism.

Every day I stop work to catch the President’s daily brief. Yes it is to long but I understand why he is there every day. Every day we get an update on what the government is doing, where there are problems, where there are glimmers of hope. I like it when the press ask questions that are clearly meant to make him look bad, and he puts them in their place. We can save the general politics for a future post. It is good that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

This past 5 weeks has provided me with a bit of insight into my future that I plan to venture on down the road. I have had much to ponder, much to reflect upon, which way do I turn. That part of my future is also a blur, but I can begin to see where I might be heading.

Without heat in the modern age

For the past few weeks, I have been troubleshooting a problem with my gas furnace. It was kicking on and off frequently. It was having difficulty reaching the thermostats set temperature. My three level house was cold on the inside. It was colder on the outside.

My daughter’s horse Ruby had gotten clipped about two weeks ago. The shaving of the thick coat of hair requires that she be blanketed when the weather becomes bad and when the temperature falls below 40F. As it often does in northern New Mexico for this time of year, we have rain, freezing rain, snow. The temperatures can fall into the teens at night. The wind chill can make it very, very cold.

This morning, as I write this post, it is cold and raining. Snow is in the forecast. It is a dreary day outside with no heat to speak of. It’s 33 as I grab my boots to get daughter up in order to go feed the horse. Inside is equally cold. It is only 62 and son is out of control playing with the dog.

Ruby has no problem with the cold weather. She gets plenty of hay, a warm and waterproof blanket, and a stall to keep her covered if the weather is bad. But she is a horse, so often we find her outside when the rain or snow is falling.

Now to the furnace. It was inspected when I bought the place a few years back. Worked fine. Of late, it hasn’t been very efficient in keeping the house warm. I figure it is about as old as the house, but not that elements have been upgraded based on the dates of various pieces of equipment. The furnace is a gas-fired water boiler that is the center of a hydronic heating system. The system heats water and circulates it through the various radiators on the three levels of the house.

The furnace appears to work fine in that it kicks on and heats gas. The problems appear to be (1) the zone valves are not working in all zones, and (2) the water lines that circulate during the heating cycle do not have water. This may be why the zone valves have stopped working. This explains why the heat wasn’t getting to the set thermostat setting. No water to circulate, no water to heat. Time to call in the repairman because I am not very good at things mechanical.

Easier said then done. I called on five different outfits. Left messages with three. No return call. Talked to a nice lady on Thursday who could not fit me in until Friday. On the fifth attempt, I was able to get a technician out late in the day. He spent an hour looking at the system. Didn’t fix anything. Couldn’t understand where the circulating water went or why it wasn’t filling. Clogged valve? He took many pictures and said he would call on Friday. Friday came. He called and said that I needed some new parts that would take time to order and receive. So there I was. This weekend and into next week without any heat. Was suppose to have a follow up call to authorize the parts. Nothing. Called Friday. Email and called Saturday. Nothing. Finally, a woman called me to acknowledge the email but had no information. No knowledge about parts, or when then could work on the system. Would call me first thing Monday.

In the mean time, I found the replacement parts on the internet. Some can be purchased at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Wanted to gauge the price of the parts because I am sure they will be marked up significantly. I get skeptical when they say that they need to bring it up to code! Cha-Ching! Wanted to see about ordering the parts if the repair company decides not to call me back. Caution…Based on experience.

So what are The kids and I doing for heat? The house has a fireplace so we have wood. Will probably do that today as it is cold and raining outside. We also have a space heater that has been working nonstop since Friday. Sleep has been great with a couple of blankets and a warm dog to curl up with me.

The question is will they call back? When. When will they order the parts and how long before they arrive? Will they even call me back? I leave for business travel next week. My house will have no heat for a couple of days but it looks like the weather will cooperate. The aquarium has a water heater so the fish will be ok. Jonny the hamster has lots of bedding so he should be fine.

Will it be fixed for Christmas? May be that is what I’ll ask Santa as my present?

More importantly, when will I learn that things don’t last forever. They do require maintenance. Things, and animals, and people, do require proper care if they are to last for a long time.

It has been over a month

It has been about six weeks since my last post. I started writing several posts but never finished them. They are drafted and sit. Unfinished, they will probably get wrapped up in future writings. The last one that I drafted was about taking the kids out for trick or treat on Halloween night. Daughter went dressed as a squirrel, son as Michael Meyers. We did the usual route which is around their mothers neighborhood. They took their usual haul of candy. If previous years our any gauge, eating candy will grow old after a few days and it will sit, get hard and then be thrown away. I get all of the Almond Joy’s because it’s my favorite. This year, as in years past, two houses had treats for the adults. Scotch at one place and rye whiskey at the other. That was the most alcohol that I consumed in weeks.

Weather is getting chilly here in New Mexico. This year I finally bought a new winter coat after a few years. My previous coat was a ski jacket that I bought about 25 years ago. This was for the very cold days, when it gets in the teens or lower. I had a couple other coats for most of my winter years. The ski jacket wore quite well, but the zipper would break after a few years. Send it back to the company (Columbia) and they would fix it. After about four returns, they didn’t fix it. They just sent me a new coat. Cool. Then the zipper breakage would continue. I would send it back and they would fix it. I point out the zipper because I have quite a collection of fairly new coats that the only problem is a broken zipper. Two coats from Patagonia, a North Face jacket, and a few others.

I considered it a conspiracy: one of planned obsolescence. The zippers would break and I would be forced to get a new coat. Need to find a place to get the zippers fixed, or learn myself. As it is, some of the coats probably no longer fit. It’s always the zipper. Never a tear, or hole, or ripped seam. It’s always the zipper.

Now I have observed that my pants have a planned obsolescence in another way. All my Lee jeans would rip in the same place…the crotch would rip at the seam. For Wrangler jeans, I first loose a belt loop. It is typically the one on the back left above the pocket. I guess from trying to pull my pants up. In all cases, all of my jeans would shrink and be too tight to fit.

Work has been hectic of late. Nothing positive to note there. Just going through the motions. Another day in paradise. Management is a joke. Thinking of late about retirement. Some of my coworkers have cut the cord, others are like me. Thinking about it. Some have dates in mind. I do not. Still trying to define a post retirement plan. Clearly still in a funk.

Well I will try to get back on track and post more often. Enough rambling for the night. Thanks to all of the folks who serve.

Yes, it has been a few weeks

…and that frustration funk within me continues. I have been to work. I have been on travel for work. I have gotten out. I have stayed hidden. I find today that I am no different than yesterday, last week, or last month. Thought that I might have had an epiphany while I was on travel. Trying to sort through it now. Something is weighing on me but I cannot define it, I cannot break away from it, advance it, articulate it. WHAT IS IT? Not optimistic but will meander through it, much like now as I meander through life. Cannot give up. Too much to do. Too many roads left to travel.

Life is good. The kids have been in school for over a month. Son continues to plow through. Got new glasses. Broke new glasses. Taking ukulele AND trumpet lessons. Now if I can get him to just practice! Encouragement doesn’t stick. He excels in math and does ok with the other things, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. Daughter continues to just do enough to get buy. Homework has her slammed. That’s ok but it is a single subject, what we old folks would have said was English back in the day. Rounds it out with algebra, physics, world history and Latin. Yes, you read that right. She is also taking photography, learning to develop on film. As a former chemist, this is so cool.

Work continues to get me up, get me angry, pays the bills. No longer a career. Just another necessity in getting through the day. Management sucks. The contract transition brought in a new group. Never see them around. They are focused on what will make them the most money and not on what the government pays us to do. There is politics, there is greed, there is sex and drugs and it’s human toll, stress, infidelity. A regular Payton Place if I dare to dig into the past. I have long said that if the American population was smarter, that I could write a half hour sitcom that would be watched weekly by millions. Think of the Big Bang Theory meets Get Smart in the daily soap opera. Am I being too negative?

For 21 years I have worked on the same project in different capacities. Stagnation, yes. Belief in mission, yes. Challenging, every day. Good at it, I’d like to think so. The different capacities evolved from managing people to managing money to managing technology. Now it should be just turning the crank yet nothing is ever easy or simple. It was the belief in mission that kept me around the longest. Focused on a belief that I was actually doing something to better mankind. Now that mission set is gone. Replaced with a different mission set. It is cheaper, therefore it must be better. I think not. It has changed from something great to something stupid. In the end, we don’t really advance, we just continue to kick the can down the road. Sadly, as humans we never learn simple realities. They are like fables. This one is equally simple. We will spend billions, but dilution is not the solution to pollution. Sadly, we will learn that lesson somewhere in the future, again!

As humans, we constantly strive to be better. Sadly, we loose too many along they way. Our common human frailties pull us back, knock us down, keep us from being better. One step forward, two steps back. We become greedy, savage, we look at everything in a microscope created by our education, our upbringing, our environment. I see myself, as I am writing this, out of control, rambling words slung together, not knowing where I am heading, or what I am doing. It’s back to that frustration and funk that I cannot solve, that I cannot figure out. Too many cliches?

And now for something totally different. Today is Ullrfest at Pajarito Mountain. Pajarito is northwest of Los Alamos and is the local skiing establishment. Ullrfest is an annual festival where People come to party, to pray to the Norse God of snow for a good ski season in 2019-20 and have some fun! Ullrfest features live music, lift-served mountain biking and hiking, food from Pajarito Mountain Cafe, and a New Mexico Brewfest. I don’t ski but the hiking is good and looks like the weather will cooperate in that it will be nice.

Technology

Today was orientation for my daughter who is going into 9th grade. After a morning orientation for her, a one hour orientation for the parents, I had to double check her registration since she was out last week. The main office had no idea what we were talking about. After a few phone calls and questions, we were able to get things taken care of so she can start school tomorrow.

First up was to pick up her Chromebook. Let me say at the outset that I don’t think highly about Google. It is clear that they have a monopoly on the internet, and want to take over computers and phones and manage your house. That’s too much control and they really need to do a better job at privacy and protection of personal information. I’ll save that for another time.

Next up was to gather her textbooks. They were closed. So since we had time before lunch and to get son squared away, we stopped by the office to make sure she was registered correctly, and check out her locker and walk around the campus so she understood where all of her classrooms are housed. The campus has multiple buildings.

It was there that she zinged me. I asked if they could help me with my PowerSchool log-in. I was having trouble and could not get in. PowerSchool allows me, as the parent, to check grades, her assignments, and a bunch of things. I commented that we didn’t have these issues when I was in high school 40 years ago. Her response was “well father, back then they did not have technology”. I turned, laughed and. Said “yes, we had typewriters”.

That started a whole conversation about how stressful things have become for kids. The assistant, who was younger than I said that “back then, we didn’t have to worry about things because if you did something stupid, looked bad, whatever. Today it is photographed and on the internet”. My response was, “that was true, but I can find photos of me that would fit these characterizations”. She was right, it wasn’t that they didn’t exist, it was that they would be available for all to see, instantaneously, today because of the internet. In my age, I still had control of the media, who could see these things, so on and so forth. Today everything is instantaneous. That is why today we must have instant satisfaction, instant gratification. No patience. In my day, we had to be patient Time was our friend.

Today, time isn’t a factor because everything happens at the speed of light. We do not have the time to appreciate the finer things, to contemplate what we are doing, to venture down a road that is a bad decision and contemplate our actions.

We need to start thinking for the long term. Contemplate before you act. Stop and smell the roses. Enjoy those moments. I enjoyed mine today. Not to be outdone, son also got to meet his teacher and we checked out his classroom. He will also do well this year I am certain. His teacher is the same teacher as my daughter had when she was in 6th grade. She had fun. I am hoping the same for him.

The Day Before the First Day of School

Tomorrow is the day before the first day of school. Daughter has a morning of orientation and registration. Son has an afternoon meet and greet with his teacher, and a haircut and a fitting for glasses. I cannot believe that summer is over.

Where did the summer go? I had plans for weekend trips and camping with the kids; quiet excursions to coffee shops to read and to work on the stable. I did none of this.

For daughter, much of her summer was spent riding and not doing much of anything else. Riding did not fill her day, nor did she ride everyday. The rest of her day was spent drawing, listening to music and computer games with her friends. As for the riding, she would work harder and ride daily as time got close to competitions. She competed in several events this year, from The Eventing X Games at Goose Downs, the Coconino Horse Trials and the USPC Championships Central Region. She placed individually and as member of a team in some but not all of the competitions.

She was part of the Southwest Pony Club team and they managed several first place finishes last week at the USPC Championships (photo above) Riding will continue with the start of school and so we shall see how things go for the rest of the year.

But school comes first and in the case of daughter, she will be starting 9th grade. My teenager is starting high school.

For son, he spent much of the summer in several week day camps. They included art camp, two weeks of hiking and nature camp and two weeks of a computer game programming camp. The summer art camps were not as good as the school year Wednesday art camps, and we still had problems with him being challenged at the schools and being bullied. Still, he had a good summer, with four of his pieces getting into the end of year art show at Fuller Lodge (photo lower left). Unfortunately, he spent too much time on the computer playing games, but let’s hope that 6th grade will temper his game playing as school becomes more challenging for him.

I think if you ask him, his best day of the summer was when I took him to Dave and Busters for the afternoon (photo upper right). I had fun as well.

Summer is almost over. No trips, concerts, or even weekend getaways for me. I find myself still in my funk and think I need to just get away from work for awhile. Or perhaps a major change.

Sunday ramblings

Today is Sunday August 4. Spent the better part of the past 3 days contemplate my future. In the background is the Fox News broadcast “Life, Liberty & Levin”. I seldom watch the news on TV, but there wasn’t anything else worth watching. The platform is a question and answer session, which is better than many of the talking heads from both sides of the political spectrum. The subject is a discussion about the second Cold War with Niall Ferguson. It entails an economic war as opposed to a military conflict, but that the long view is that China will win because they take a long-term view and that our political system will rive change and we will loose site on the long term. Interesting conversation. I have long found that the interface between economics and history/politics interesting. If I had been smarter, perhaps I could have made a career in the field.

Daughter leaves for the US Pony Club National Championships central region. The competition is in Colorado this year, which is a 6 hour trip near Denver. Son and I will stay home to keep the stress down. I wish her luck in all of the events that she is competing in. Hopefully she will remain n the horse and finish. Both she and Ruby have been practicing hard the past several weeks. She will be competing in show jumping and eventing.

Friday I managed to visit with my financial guy to review my status on the path towards retirement. While I am on tract, I have a few areas to clean up. The discussion covered numerous areas beyond just focusing on 401k balances, debt, and what I plan to do after retirement. Of course, plans are always subject to change. Given the current political climate, I am concerned that much could change and destroy my plans and my future.

Then of course, we had another weekend of a lone gunmen and mass killings. I am pro gun and believe that guns don’t kill people, rather people kill people. That said, I have no problems with background checks, licenses and insurance much like one has for an automobile, keeping automatic guns out of the hands of people, and mental health. You need to keep guns out of the hands of some people. The issue then becomes how. You also need to acknowledge that if people want to harm others, they will. I get a check up annually as far as my mental health as required for my job and my employer. Sadly, I am afraid that the increases in gun killings recently has more to do with the declines in our society and it’s values, the fact that we continue to lesson the value of human life. This is in opposition to those who subscribe to a theory that the increase is associated with the number of guns available.

There is much hate these days, and it surfaces on social media often. Politically, we are divided as a nation and it shows in many areas. I will have more to say about these topics as we continue on the journey of this blog.