Monday, September 24, 2012

I've become obsessive about manuals

Because of warranties, I used to staple my register receipts to user manuals of expensive or complicated things. Then I'd put the manuals in a plastic zip closure bag and stow it somewhere. But today, all those manuals are available on line. What I've done lately is IMMEDIATELY download the pdf of the manual, scan my receipt and save it as a pdf. On my Mac, I can combine the pdfs and save then as a single file (using Preview). PLUS, if it's an electronic item like a modem or even a rental set-top box from Comcast, I also scan the barcodes with the serial number and MAC ID codes, which Comcast always seems to want when I call with a problem. I combine those scans, too.

My garage tools, power tools, cameras, ham radio equipment -- just about everything, gets saved as a pdf now.  Not only that, I'm putting these pdfs in my iPad's library,  so I can use the manuals anywhere. The receipts, which are also printed on some sort of thermal paper, don't fade.

Now that I'm an old geezer, I don't have to search for a manual any more, and I have proof-of-purchase safely filed away with the manual. Fortunately, I have loads of time to attend to these things.

When you consider that credit cards often extend the manufacturers' warranties but you need both the warranty and the receipt, this works out well. At least for me.

So, I think this is a good use of spare time, a good use of a home computer, and a fine job for a retired old fart who has nothing else to do. While it works for me, your mileage may vary.

No, I am not obsesive-compulsive. Most of my life and surroundings resemble a pigsty when the admiral doesn't get on my back to clean things up.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

So Long, Steve

I am proud to say that my first computer was a Lisa, plopped on my desk in 1983. I'm proud to say I never looked back. I'm also proud that my entire family has now gone to the bright side. I can't believe I actually have tears in my eyes. "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish"

It's been a great ride.

Dear Steve,
I sold my MBP. I'm editing my blog on an iPad. Thanks man, the iPad is going to be ubiquitous. You were a true visionary. You could see the things that ordinary pieces could become. You valued the artists, and they served you well. Who will the copiers now copy from? Thanks for the ride.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Please God, if there is one, don't take me on this journey

This post is about dementia, and how it has visited itself on our family.

By way of background, my wife's mother, who is now (in 2011) 93 years old, has now been moved into a dementia section of the retirement facility where she has lived for the past 11 or 12 years. She worked until she was 80, and had been the sole breadwinner for her husband and herself since I met them in 1968 or 69. She had been THE financial person for a number of firms all her life, and bookkeeping and financial analysis had always come easily to her. Very well read and educated (Hunter College), she married her (second) husband (let's call him "Joe") who was a willing participant in a role-reversed family. While she supported Joe, he shopped, cooked and did the laundry and all the other household chores. For the years I knew them, Joe was the one who had all the activities, and she happily went with him and joined in. I really don't remember her having friends apart from work or activities that Joe hadn't gotten involved in. They always had a boat, as we did, and all of us spent countless hours on Long Island Sound both at anchor and cruising together. Unfortunately, Joe was also an alcoholic, and the M-I-L enjoyed her martinis as well. She got a pacemaker after she fell off a bar stool at Brunch one Sunday morning. I doubt she needed a pacemaker, but it stopped HER drinking.

Joe was (rightfully) concerned that no one would look after him as he aged, especially if M-I-L predeceased him, and he and the M-I-L (when she was 81) moved to a Masonicare facility (unassisted living) in Wallingford CT. This went well, until Joe died (in his late 80s) about 5 or 6 years ago. The M-I-L stayed in the apartment, but as time went on, it was slowly becoming obvious that she was losing the ability to fend for herself. Oh yes, we spoke to her on the phone daily, but we began to notice that she wasn't answering questions about her routine, and, when we visited, we could see that she was wearing the same clothing every day. Fortunately, she has very clean personal habits, and she washed her clothes in the sink, and showered daily as well. But, every day, she would wear the same duds, as tattered and torn as they would become, although there were plenty of new replacements in her dresser drawers (perhaps she didn't remember they were there or even recognize the need for replacement?).

She didn't cook, or use the washing machines, and, except for the bi-weekly vacuuming provided by the village, she wasn't cleaning the apartment either (remember, she never did do that chore anyway), but fortunately, there was no infestation. Her failure to dust, vacuum or otherwise clean the place was really not a surprise, because Joe had previously done whatever little cleaning was done, and, from what we saw, that wasn't much, and NOTHING had been cleaned since his passing..

Fast forward to February 2011. Wife's sister got a call that mom had fallen, was disoriented, and didn't want to return to her apartment. When we made our daily call later, she answered the phone but had no recollection of falling. The facility recommended moving her into assisted living immediately. Ashlar Village has different levels of living, and they wanted her moved from unassisted living directly into the "Hearth" area, skipping assisted living. The Hearth is a dementia section. It's also very expensive — about 6K/month plus extras. She'll run out of money in about 2 years, and that's probably going to be a problem then. But, one day at a time.

So, we really had to hustle, and scheduled the move for the 28th of February. Drove to CT on the 25th, pick up S-I-L at airport, and started the process. We began telling her that she was about to move, and she was confused and resistant. Several times each day we had to reinforce the moving concept, because it quickly became apparent that she didn't retain the information. She seemed surprised to see us each day, as well.

We started to pack, mark furniture, and lay out the new studio apartment. We had to tell her that we were just packing for the move, and that everything was going over. We figured that, after the move, if she actually asked for anything, we'd just tell her that we'd go look for it. Monday the 28th came, the movers arrived, and brought a 2-room apartment's worth of furniture into a studio. Our planning worked, and all but a roll-top desk, a dressing table and a table fit in beautifully. All her pictures went in and were hung, and she loves it, or at least SAYS that the new apartment is beautiful and she's so happy. She hasn't asked about the old apartment at all, nor has she missed or asked about any possessions or clothes that ended up in the dumpster.

We found ZipLok bags of change in various places, including one in the refrigerator, along with a rock-hard orange that sounded like a maraca when shaken, a hard bread, miscellaneous containers in the freezer, and, in the kitchen cabinets, every shopping bag Joe must have brought home in the 5 years he lived there. Cans of food, some burst open, a case of Joe's Ensure, lots of empty plastic bottles, toilet paper cores in dresser drawers, papers going back to the '90s and more, more, more...

We can't see into her mind. She can't tell us what activities she's participated in, or what she ate for her meals. We know she walks a lot — probably a couple of miles daily in the halls — and that the staff works to keep her busy.

S-I-L thinks she's very Pollyana-ish. She wants to please, doesn't want to be a burden or cause anyone's distress, and is always smiling and apparently oblivious to most of what's happening around her.

We're thankful that she had 90 years or so with most of her marbles, and grateful that she made it to 93 on her own. She can still sing all the old pop tunes, and show tunes as well, in harmony. She knows all the great classical pieces, and given the opportunity, will immediately sing along with them. It's like flipping on a switch. She still loves music (especially Gershwin), but can't operate a radio or CD player. She CAN work her TV, and loves old B&W movies, but really, she'll channel surf and stop anywhere. I found her watching an infomercial for golf clubs, even though she's never played or has any understanding of the game.

The agony of closing up the old apartment took its toll on the two girls and me. Not the least because we're all seniors ourselves, ages ranging from about 67 to 72. The physical exertion alone on our part was, let's say, "stressful" and the mental strain on us beyond belief. Sleep has been a stranger for a week, and we're still trying to make it through a whole night without thinking about all this.

Because Joe was a lousy housekeeper and also a drunk, the place was a pigsty. Everything we touched either stuck to our fingers or stank. Joe also had tremens, which must have made doing daily chores more difficult. We made no attempt to keep anything for ourselves except one piece of furniture and a few tools. We took a couple of pickup truckloads of garbage to the dumpster, but eventually just had to bag up everything else for housekeeping staff to haul away. 25 huge black trash bags, maybe 100 small plastic grocery bags, and clothing and curtains wrapped with duct tape. Things on the kitchen counters were simply stuck there. The three of us vowed to start cleaning up our own lives. Time to organize, shred and discard. But that's enough whining about OUR issues.

M-I-L seems happy for the time being. Time will tell if she improves now that staff is making sure she's taking her meds, and how she'll react if the Aricept kicks in and she realizes that her freedom is now limited.

I should add that M-I-L's father lived to 97, and didn't have a single marble left when he died.

More to follow, as things change...

March 13, 2011. Tomorrow will mark two weeks since the move. The staff comes in daily to make sure she takes her meds. Can Aricept kick back in after a hiatus? We think so. She's now asking for her "stuff" and realizes that she no longer has a checkbook. She wants to go to the store in the basement (where she shopped for cereal and juice when she lived in the old apartment) and hasn't quite figured out that there's no such place in her new area. But she's remembering names and occasionally if she's been to an activity. But she just said that on December 1st (why December 1st?), a metal box was delivered to her, and it's in the basement. Her missing "stuff" is in that box. Alas, there's no box, and no basement. She likes to sleep with apple juice at her side, and that's why she wants money. We explained this to the staff, and they're SUPPOSED to bring her the juice every night. They're not. She called us on the phone and asked why we hadn't arrived to visit her yesterday; we have no idea why she thought we were coming up there on that particular day. But she's now letting the staff take her to some activities (she likes singing, classical and semi-classical and show music) and to meals (they had better provide soft stuff, because she's toothless). We think she likes the extra attention she's getting in the new place, but, who knows? Stay tuned.

March 24, 2011. Today's phone call was nothing short of amazing. She had no idea what our names were or our relationship to her, or where we lived — a totally empty person on the phone. I had spoken to her just two evenings ago, and she (as usual) recognized my voice and knew my name. Tonight, she didn't even know her eldest daughter's name. How could this happen in just two days?

March 27, 2011. The strange stuff only lasted a day. We started to make our call in the afternoon, and she recognizes my voice and calls me by name. Strange but true. She seems just fine now.

June 30, 2011. Every once in a while she asks about the whereabouts of "her stuff." She can't explain what stuff she's looking for. Once she said "jewelry" and we told her it was in a dresser drawer. Occasionally she wants to go to "the basement," which housed some facilities in her old apartment's building. The staff tells her that the basement is closed for renovation, which seems to satisfy her. She can't exit the building except for a secure patio area, but she doesn't go there anyway. She's in the right place.

July 14, 2011. Going downhill. Today we went to visit. She asked where we were staying and how we were getting back. Turns out she had us confused with my wife's sister, who lives in Florida. Then we made a run to Wal-Mart to restock her Werther's candies (she's addicted to them). She read the Wal-Mart sign just fine. Wife went into the store to buy the candy. M-I-L and I stayed in the car. She asked what store we were at. I told her Wal-Mart, so we could buy her candy. O.K. Then in a few minutes, she asked what we were there to buy. I told her. A few minutes later, she asked the same question. I told her again. Physically too, she's deteriorating. Arthritis is making sitting and rising a chore. She can't walk too far, but won't use a walker or even a cane. Tonight, we phoned her. I don't think she remembered our visit. Aargh.

January 15, 2012. Got a call that she was found sitting on the floor with some cuts on her head. She apparently had fallen, so they took her to the hospital, where she got a few staples, but fortunately, no serious damage. We went to see her the next day. She had no memory of the fall, or of much of anything else. We talked about the lovely pictures in her studio, and she commented that they all seemed to be boating-oriented. She didn't recall that she spent most of her adult life on her own boats, and worked for twenty years or more in the marina and boat sales business. She said that she never went on a boat unless someone was there with her, but didn't mention either of her two husbands, both of whom were active boatmen. I don't think she would have remembered their names without prodding. We asked a lot of questions, but the answers to most all of them was "I don't remember." At least she knows that she doesn't remember, which is a good thing, I suppose. She had her 94th birthday this week. And so it goes.

April 23, 2012. One of our phone calls last week was met with the question if her daughter has ever been married previously to our marriage.

June 12, 2012. Sister-in-law decided her mother should move to Florida, close to her. Today, we drove three hours to try to get her a Connecticut ID card, so she could clear TSA quickly. We gathered all sorts of ancient papers and took her to the DMV. Except for the long waits with a 95 year old woman, I'll admit the people there were more than helpful. The first clerk took a look at everything, and kept apart what she knew would be accepted, clipped the rest together, and handed them back to us, with the warning that they were in strict order. After an hour and a half, we actually left with the ID card.  While we were there, she must have asked us a dozen times what this place was, and why we were there. Retention is near zero, it seems. We've been telling her about the move, and she seems amenable, but whether or not she'll remember anything in the next few weeks is another story. But she smiles, never complains, and is a good sport. Yes, we're thankful for small favors. To be continued.

July 4, 2012. The move to Florida. She was thoroughly prepared to go! Packing, throwing out and all took two days. She wanted to know if the photo of "her husband" had been packed (it was) but then we asked if she remembered his name, and she couldn't. She loved the flight to Fort Lauderdale! Clear weather; she could look out the window at the clouds, which she loved. She moved into the new place that afternoon. We'll drive down soon, with the rest of her stuff, and that will be that.

January 28, 2013. She still remembers the old tunes. 


March 27, 2013.  My sister-in-law was out driving with her, and reported... "we passed a sign - "Coin Laundry" on a storefront.  She asked what it was.  I told her.  She said, Oh, I wondered if it was where you clean your coins."  Her memory is out to lunch." She not only didn't know what the place was, she didn't remember that her own father owned a coin laundry for many years.

December 21, 2013.  At Manor Pines. The last photo of her.

January 19, 2014.  Well, she turned 96. Now using a walker. Spent her birthday singing karaoke! Wife called, and was greeted with instant recognition of voice and name. Go figure.

A few months later, she was confined to a wheelchair. Rolled around with her bare feet on the floor. Started to get sores on her feet. Then confined to bed, sleeping most of the day and eating very little. Needs more help than facility can offer. 

July and August 2014.  Going downhill. Had to leave nursing home for hospital, then hospice, then hospital, and again hospice.

August 12, 2014.  The journey's over. 96 1/2+. Just about the same age as her father.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

New York Times Puzzle

Just about daily since my college days in the late 1950s, I do the New York Times crossword.

Every night these days, promptly at 10PM (6 on weekends) Eastern time, I do the the next day's Times crossword in competition mode. That is, I "Play Against the Clock." The first 10 to finish, get "points" as do the fastest 10. The "fastest" scores are worthless because so many people cheat (they do the puzzle in the paper, in the non-timed online version, or just go the the Times puzzle forum, and then speed type into the timed applet. So even though the points don't mean anything, at least the first 10 KNOW their points are honestly earned. The best I've ever finished was 4th (Sept. 21, 2008).
The end. Fini. No Mas. Now that the Times publishes the solutions immediately, you don't need me any more. The Times Puzzle Blog has more than enough information, and the solutions are often there. Thanks for visiting; come back now and then to see what's happening in my life. 'Til then, Cheers, and happy puzzling. It's been a swell bunch of years.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

We went to the Antiques Roadshow

2016 was our fourth trip to the Antiques Roadshow. The First must have been 15 years ago, to the New Jersey Meadowlands Arena. No tickets, just show up and stand on line forever. They've improved a bit lately; now tickets are issued on a lottery basis, and admission times are set.

Our second trip was to the Hartford show, and we have a few comments:
1. They had no idea how many paintings would show up. The line for paintings had to be 4 - 6 hours long. If you go, just try to avoid bringing paintings (of course, ONE of the paintings at 2008 Hartford came in at 500K. Watch for it in January 2009!!! (Not mine, though, we gave up and quit the paintings line at 7 PM -- our enter time was 2 PM)

2. I guess in CT, they expected lots of furniture, but the Keno brothers stood around most of the day doing almost nothing. It took me a couple of hours to get a one-off silkscreen print appraised (and I was VERY happy) and a good bit less for my wife to take a handmade pewter picture frame through "Decorative Arts" (also a happy experience).

I suggest that if you apply for tickets, try for the earliest time slot they have. Book a room for the night before. At least, if you enter at 8 AM, no one's ahead of you, especially if you have paintings or prints; again, the earlier you get in, the shorter lines you will encounter. The appraisers may be able to spend a little more time with you, too. Break up your lots, so you and your roadshow partner can split up and go on two lines at the same time. In Hartford, EVERYONE seemed to have a painting! Except for Posters and Prints, everything else moved apace.

GOOD LUCK (and bring a chair for your butt and a cart for your stuff).

No drawings winning for us in 2011 through 2014, but we keep trying. 

So, now...
2015 was the charm. One of my daughters won tickets to the Charleston Antiques Roadshow. It was the second week of August, and I'll say that Charleston is pretty hot then. We were never in Charleston and heard it's a great tourist town, so we made a whole vacation out of it. It's a great place!

We brought art this time. That's usually subject to long lines, but we had 10 AM tickets. The longest Disney-esque lines were at the entrance. This snaky ordeal takes a long time before they even take your tickets and you finally get to the triage are, where your treasures are inspected and you get tickets to the appraisal areas.

This time, we brought a HUGE piece of Chinese art (3' X 5') which we moved on a 2-wheel dolly designed for construction panels. That turned out to be an original Chinese painting (artist unknown) from the early 20th century supposedly worth about a grand. I brought part of my collection of the art of Walter Dubois Richards. I knew more about the (listed) artist than did the appraiser, but got some decent appraisals and was encouraged to keep collecting his work, as it is still very affordable.

Once again, we didn't get chosen for video, so you won't be seeing our faces in TV in 2016.

Here we go again! Daughter got tickets for us for the Virginia Beach Antiques Roadshow on May 2016. We dragged more junk down there and had a good time with our worthless trifles. Original Art is now separated into two groups - signed art and non-signed (considered to be Folk Art). Here's the view from the MIDDLE of the line for signed art. It was a bit over an hour long. Our stuff was worth BUPKIS!

This time, I found the "Feedback Booth" and made the cameraman laugh, at least. If I ever get on TV, it'll be this segment. I brought 2 signed engravings that have appreciated in value by over 7,000%, but I only paid 35 cents each for them and today they're worth $25, which of course doesn't even cover the cost of matting and framing. But, as usual, we had fun. So, watch for me in 2017 (HAH!)

Again, if you want to go, Check the tour website in January, pick your city, and have all your friends and relatives apply for tickets, and don't forget to ask for an early entry time. If you win tickets for a later entrance, don't be shy. Go early and at the entrance, check the table on the far left, and they MAY be able to swap your later tickets for an earlier entrance. This worked for us.

If they announce another East Coast trip next year, of course we'll apply again. We won't ever get wealthy on our stuff, but we got a great vacation in Charleston! Virginia Beach, Meh.

Go for it!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I loved this book. The movie stank.

This past Spring (2008) I caught an interview with the author of this book on a Philadelphia NPR station, and KNEW I had to read the book.

"The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music" by Steve Lopez
This is a musician's book. Any musician or lover of classical music will treasure it. I know I did.

It's about Nathaniel Ayers, a promising musician who went mad (paranoid schitzophrenia) while at Juilliard (on a full scholarship, no less), and ended up on the Los Angeles streets, playing a 2-string violin in the shadow of a statue of Beethoven. It was noted that one of his Juilliard string bass teachers, Gary Karr, was one of the first people who recognized what was happening to Ayers.

I used to play bass myself, and had met Gary Karr, so I felt connected to this story. It often brought tears to my eyes. I ordered the book as soon as I learned about it. A high-budget movie is in production and scheduled to be released in April 2009.

May 1. The book has arrived, and I've gone through 6 chapters. It's very moving. I usually read books very quickly, but not this one.

May 3. I finished the book in four sittings. There were times I got very emotional. The thought of perfect strangers giving violins, cellos and even a piano to a homeless street person with such serious mental issues was heartwarming, to say the least. Lopez spent 2 years with the man, working small miracles, inches at a time. The book ends. Not a happy ending, not a sad ending. It just... ends, and we all know it continues past the last page.

I await the movie. Mind you, I don't LIKE movies, and seldom go. THIS one, I'll see.

April 27, 2009. Well, I saw the movie. If you've read the book, you can skip the flick. It doesn't come close. In a word, the movie stinks.

Better yet, just go read the damn book. it is POWERFUL.

Read a more detailed book review here.

Please leave a comment if you've read this book.

Note 5/11: It's now 24th on the NY Times Best Seller list (nonfiction, hard cover)

Note: 3/22/09: 60 Minutes just ran a segment on Ayres/Lopez. You can read Steve Lopez's L.A. Times articles here .

Sunday, December 31, 2006


Based on a recipe in the New York Times Cookbook (Revised Edition)
1 (3 1/2-to-4 lb) center cut of salmon, filleted but with skin left intact.
(OK, we've often bought skinless farm-raised salmon at Costco. It's fine. Having the skin on makes it easier to cut after it's done, especially near the tail. OTOH, the skinless Costco fillets don't have any brown fat along the lateral line. Most people prefer not having that part, though)
3 tablespoons peppercorns (OK, LARGE, crushed peppercorns, via the supermarket) but not ordinary ground pepper
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt (coarse)
2 to 3 bunches (about 1/4 lb. dill sprigs

1. Carefully run the fingers over the boned surface of the fillet, especially over the center line. Use a pair of tweezers to pull out and remove any bones that may remain. Discard the bones.

2. Put the peppercorns on a flat surface and crush them coarsely with a mallet or the bottom of a clean skillet, or crush them in a mortar. If you have a peppermill that grinds coarse pieces, use that. Put the pepper in a small bowl and add the salt and sugar. Mix. Of course you can simply BUY coarse ground pepper. That's what WE do.

3. Cut the salmon fillet in half crosswise and place the two halves skin side down in one layer. COAT LIBERALLY the two pieces of fish with the salt-pepper-sugar mixture. Food TV Emeril doesn't cut it in half. He also adds vodka. Be creative.

4. Find a roasting pan or tupperware large enough to hold the larger half of the fish. Line it with aluminum foil that’s more than twice the size of the pan (you’re going to wrap the fish in it). Put a layer of dill on the foil. Put the larger fillet skin down on the dill. Put another layer of dill on the top (flesh side of the fish that’s coated with the mix). Now put the other fillet flesh down on the dill, and add a bit more dill on the skin side that’s now on top and facing you. Close the foil around the whole thing.

4. It’s going to leak! (Your fingers will smell soooooo nice.) Take the foil pack out of the pan and wrap it up in freezer paper, and seal with masking tape. NOW wrap THAT in a plastic grocery bag, squooshing out the air. Seal IT with masking tape or similar. Yeah, it'll still leak. Put it back in the pan. Get something flat, like a cutting board, and put it on the package. Get a brick, or free weights, or even a couple of cans from the pantry, and put it on the flat thing, so that the fish is being pushed down. NOW PUT IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR.

5. Turn the fish package in the morning and evening at the very least, so you are weighting down each side two or three times a day. If you can schedule the turn every 8 hours, fine. OTOH, some people say that the turning is unnecessary. Perhaps, but then, you wouldn't FEEL like you're actually doing anything, so, TURN THE DAMN THING!

Emeril says that 24 hours does it, but we go 2 1/2 days. I think that's a half day too long, but the boss insists. The longer it goes, the drier it gets. Why fight? It's still wonderful.

6. Wash everything off (we wash off most of the pepper) and dab dry with paper towels before slicing thin-thin-thin at an angle. Lately, I've been cutting the filets in half (the long way, down the fish's lateral line) before slicing. The resulting pieces are smaller and it's much easier to cut than going all the way across. The pieces are also closer to bite-size and fit nicely on crackers, plus the smaller slices plate nicely.

7. Eat the traditional way on a bagel (I prefer a bialy) or even just plain!

The Scandinavians dip their gravlax in a mustard sauce.
1/4 cup prepared spicy-brown mustard
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn, peanut or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped dill
2 tablespoons cognac

1. Put the mustards, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl.
2. Start beating with a wire whisk whilst adding the oil in a thin, steady stream. At the end, add the cognac.

We don't do the dip. We just put it on a bagel, or a bialy, or even on a cracker with chive cream cheese. A local shop makes the cream cheese with chives daily (aren't WE lucky!). A few capers and/or onions or scallions are a nice touch on top if you make canapes.

Eat. Share if you must.

Did you try this recipe? How did YOURS turn out? (ours is always wonderful.)


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How I built a Macintosh G4 Tower. Sort of.

(Actually done November 2007)

Trash to treasure - build a G4 Macintosh from junk parts.

Well, my trusty G4/867 Quicksilver bit the dust. When I bought the new G5 iMac, it was relegated to the upstairs loft, where my wife used it for email, solitaire, mah jongg and some word processing. Nothing really important, but it was her computer. AND it was dead. AND she was starting to complain about using MY computer. I offered her the vacation home G5 iMac, but noooooo, she wanted to keep using the 17" video display.... So not only was the computer dead, things around the house were starting to get a bit... noisy.

SO, I took a look at it. What the hell, it does have that nice side door and loads of room inside, and I AM a ham radio guy, so I figured I'd at least give it a look. You can't kill something TWICE, after all, so in I went. Once I unplugged it and removed the cables, it was obvious (logical, anyway) what had happened -- all the vent holes were sealed shut with seven years' worth of grime. It seemed apparent that the power supply had simply baked itself to death.

But I had a good investment in this baby. Over the years I had swapped out the CD-RW drive for a CD/DVD SuperDrive ($275) and it DID have that thousand dollar 17" cinema display, after all.

I sure didn't want to spring for a new power supply, either. Not only the cost, but simply removing the old and installing the replacement looked daunting.

What to do, what to do? The answer turned out to be on eBay. Right there in front of me was a G4/867 on a one-day auction. Easy enough. I bought this baby for $89 (!) plus shipping cross-country -- $140 in total.

Then I took apart the dead one. The Superdrive came out, the RAM and the 60 gig hard drive. A little research said that I could stack the two HDs together in the eBay special; I just had to move a jumper on one from Master to Slave position. So now there are 2 HDs (60 + 40) in there. No data lost, either. Wifey's original 60 gig was perfect. I swapped out the CD drive for the SuperDrive easy enough, and combined the RAM to 1.28 gigs (near double what I had previously). Plugged it in and VOILA! -- A like-new (well, a working) Quicksilver. Almost. Seems that the previous owner must have poked out the speaker (a common problem with that design). So, back to el morto Mac and I removed the internal speaker. This speaker doesn't have a jack (at least I didn't find one) -- so I had to clip the speaker wires -- but it's out and ready to be soldered into the eBay special. But, because I have the original Mac clear acrylic globe speakers plugged in, I haven't bothered to take it apart yet and wire the speaker in.

All of this work took less than an hour. You gotta admit, an hour and $140 for a G4/867 Mac ain't bad.

Plus, I now have a spare video card, some other card, a CD RW drive, a dead power supply to play with, a replacement motherboard, two spare 128 meg DIMMS, a spare internal ZIP drive, AND a box. I could have used one special tool -- a small Phillips head screwdriver with the clip on the end to hold the screw in place until the threads catch. You need that for changing the optical drive (or, you can do what I did and just use some scotch tape to hold it for a few seconds).

So yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus. You can kluge together a G4 Mac for next to nothing. Buy a couple of identical Mac towers and build your own. Try to find ONE with a SuperDrive, and lots of of RAM. The G4 has three slots and they don't have to be filled with identical DIMMS. Look for Macs with 896 megs of RAM (512 + 256 + 128) or more so you have a nice assortment to combine (512 + 512 + 256, or even another 512 if you get really lucky). Mine ended up with 1280 -- not bad since the machine maxes out at 3 512s, or 1536, so it's "close enough" to max. Not bad, if I say so myself. It's also running 10.4.11, and (because it's a G4/867) is even Leopard-compatible.

And don't forget to vacuum those vents on the back every once in a while.

Edit: 12/3/2008 -- The FrankenMac stopped working!! Horrors!! I opened it up and wife, who was standing there, took one look and pointed, saying "is that a battery?" So I went into the attic, yanked the battery out of the old parts Mac, and... TADA!!! All's well with the world again! (I ordered a new one on the web right away). 12/9 -- the battery came, and it's in and running well. Thank you, Apple, for making the battery very easy to find, and pop-outtable (not soldered in). Then I downloaded the Widget MAINTIDGIT and installed it. Wow! The crons haven't run for 6 months! I forgot to repair permissions, though; that's the next job. Still haven't soldered in the internal speaker yet, either. I wonder where I put it....

Edit: 7/30/2009... It's dead again -- won't turn on. Maybe the power supply. Not worth fixing any more, so I'll pull out all the parts and try to sell them on eBay. I wanted an excuse to buy a new Intel Mac, anyway. Maybe even an iMac AND a MBP! Time to upgrade. Wife can have one of the the G5 iMacs and I'll sell the other. Divorce can be so painful (and expensive).

Edit: 3/24/2011... In two days, all my G4 Quicksilver stuff will go into the back of my pickup and hauled off on my county's annual electronics recycling day. Out it goes. I already have one G5 iMac surplus to my needs. I guess I'll keep the 17" cinema display and try to sell it on eBay, but all else is destined for the recycling fires of China.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


All of the following took place in 2006.
I've learned that some of you have been watching this space and studying my recovery timeline. I hope that your recoveries go as well as mine. In summary, 4 months after the break, I'm walking with a limp and climbing stairs O.K (going DOWN is more difficult to me), and driving my manual transmission truck is easy. I opted out of rehab, claiming that I'll walk a lot and climb lots of stairs. If any of you have opted FOR Physical Theraphy, let me know how it's going and if you recommend it or not. Or just tell me what you're doing along those lines.

Jan. 16, 1 PM. I slipped on a patch of ice whilst brushing some snow off the truck's windshield. While still on my ass, I notied that my left foot was gang aglay. It moved back with a pop. So I crawled back to the house and rang the doorbell. When Laurie answered it, I think I said something, in a cool and calm manner, like "Please, dear, phone 911 and tell them that I've fallen and believe that my ankle is broken." Actually, it wasn't quite that collected, and I don't think I actually used those words...
End result: Broken fibula at midpoint, and broken tibia, at the back, at the ankle. Temp splint on it for tonite, and tomorrow I call the orthopedic guy. I'll probably need surgery to fix torn ligaments, too.

Observation: You cannot move 300 lbs on a pair of crutches.

Observation #2. I'll probably miss Stamford this year (2006), too. That REALLY hurts.

1/17 follow-up: Orthopedic surgeon looked at my leg. He wants me to see an ankle specialist. Tendons are torn pretty badly. Another day or riding around and waiting, waiting, waiting... Renting a wide wheelchair tomorrow. I'll probably buy a walker, too. Hate them crutches.
1/18 follow-up: Saw the surgeon today. Only the fibula is broken, and also the tibia at the ankle, which is all messed up. I'm going to get SCREWED! Next week, they will put a screw into the bone and pull it all together. The tendons and sinews and whatever will then heal by themselves. We shall see.
1/21 My builder came by today to see about building a wheelchair ramp. He'll do it early next week. A nice temporary one, about 20 feet long. It was 61 degrees here today! Hard to believe that I fell on the ICE to do this to myself!
1/24 NOW they tell me I need a pre-op blood workup. It's astounding that when I was at the surgeon's office and they told me that tomorrow they'd be operating, that they just didn't stick me then and there and take out their vial of blood. My last test was 10/25 -- apparently too long ago (and I told them when it was) but now I'm supposed to hobble out of the house and somehow get down the stairs and into a car so they can do a simple withdrawal from my vein. Such an effort is huge. Oh. Let's not forget that Medicare wants a week to even approve the blood test!!

Now the two doctors are "discussing" it. They'll "get back" to me.

P.S. Well, they DID get back to me at 10 AM - Thank heavens for small favors: I have to be at the hospital tomorrow at 7 AM. They will do blood and EKG then, and surgery in the afternoon, I think. Why 7 AM? Who knows. So I have to leave here at 6, in the dark, and with ice crystals on the walk, no doubt. My guess is that I'll be there at the appointed hour, and then spend most of the day waiting and waiting. Did I say that this "surgery" involves putting a screw in my ankle, and that the entire procedure takes less than 10 minutes? I will bet that I won't get home until tomorrow night. At least I don't have to move my fat body today at all! Hoorah!!

Oh. I called my builder. The ramp won't be done until maybe Thursday. So tomorrow I'll have to drag my fat ass up a couple of steps when I get home from surgery. I was really hoping for that ramp!
1/28 Things didn't quite go as expected last Wednesday. In pre-op, when they cut off the splint, they didn't like a few things (discoloraton that could have indicated a clot, and a skin condition that might have been an infection), so they decided to admit me and put me on IV antibiotics, I also had doppler (ultrasound) of the leg. No clot, and the "infection" was just cellulitis. Today (Saturday) at noon they finally brought me down to the OR. They clamped the bones together from the outside and put two screws into the ankle. Also a plaster cast for the nonce. And, yes, about 6 weeks before I can put weight on it.

Oh! The ramp is EXCELLENT!
1/30 Wife loves the ramp -- says it's great for bringing in the groceries. I have to watch my step. I'm getting cocky and am taking longer strides on the walker. This will definitely lead to a fall. Builder came by for his money. I asked hin to cut a wood floor for the shower stall to bring it even with the shower door bottom trim. Then I can slide across-and-down to get out. Now I have to lift-swing-across-and-down to get out. This additional lifting and swinging is very difficult.

2/2 Last night I had some real pain. Not in the ankle, but in the ball of the foot - like a muscle knot. Took a couple of Motrin. I hope this is a good sign that things are happening down there and healing has begun. Man! I can roll around in bed and sleep on either side easily. Today I saw the doctor.

2/9 The big splint came off and a fiberglass cast is on. 5 weeks in the cast! Next appointment 3/16 (exactly 2 months after the accident).

2/10 This cast, which I now call my EXOSKELETON, is heavy and uncomfortable. I liked the splint better! It's rough, hard as a rock and tight, though I understand that my leg will shrink in it over the next few weeks. This is not going to be fun! Here's a shot of the exoskeleton:

2/13 HOLY SHIT! Today I got a statement from the hospital for my 4 day stay. Between the emergency room and the 4 days, I owe the hospital almost TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!! This doesn't include doctors, either. I'm covered under Medicare and also Aetna as a secondary so I don't think too much of that will have to be paid by ME. But, we shall see. We shall see.

2/18 OK. The 1400 dollar ER charges will come to $165 on my end, and I can handle that. The 18,000 hospital stay is still up in the air. Keep tuned.

3/2 The exoskeleton seems to be getting looser. Probably a combination of the swelling going down and atrophy. Anyway, 3 weeks are gone and 2 to go until the cast comes off. No new communicaions from the hospital.

3/16 The cast is off, and now I have an inflatable boot! Jeez, It looks like I'm about to go skiing! I have to wear this for a month until my next appointment. I'm allowed to put weight on the leg, but still need the walker. At least I can take it off and take a REAL shower without plastic bags, and sleep in comfort. It looks kinda cool, dontcha think?
4/3 So far, MY share of medical bills are about $1000, with more to come. It's early in the year, and there are deductibles to be met -- apparently about 2K, so it's explained away. Still, I'm well on my way to an itemized income tax return next April.

4/8 I haven't used the walker now for several days. Not at all. I can hobble down the ramp and walk to the mailbox (300') so I'm really on a roll now. Still wearing the boot/walking cast thing, and if I get up in the middle of the night, I can walk on my unsupported leg, but I'm very wary of doing so. I sorta walk without moving the left ankle. But -- it's PROGRESS!

4/20 I am back from the doctor, and have been freed from the "boot." I walk gingerly, and with a limp but I have been FREED from my chains. I'm taking a strong antibiotic for a small infection around the scar, but otherwise I'm pretty good. The new X-rays of the leg show great healing of the broken fibula. It's amazing how the bone ends reach out to each other and mend themselves. Total time from the break -- just about 3 months. My next appointment is May 11.

He has no intention of removing the screws. Ever. If they break, fine.

I cleared boat work with the doctor, and I'm O.K. to start, but Laurie has some rehearsals, concerts and choral group management things yet ahead, so it looks like a very late start to the season. If we can find a few contiguous days with good weather, we'll head down to MD to start work.

May 10 -- a milestone. I took the ramp apart this morning. Tiring work. Tomorrow I'll get out the circular saw and cut the 4 20' planks down to 6 footers so I can take 'em down to MD in the truck. Half the screws on the boards broke, so I'll be working hard with a vise-grip to remove them. Yeah, I'm still limping. I have an appointment tomorrow with the doctor, and we'll pack up the wheelchair and walker so we can return them to the drugstore.

May 11 -- MD says I'm doing fine, and not to come back until mid-September. I should walk a lot. He expects 4 - 6 months more for a complete recovery. Returned the wheelchair, but the walker is now mine (paid for). I tried to give back the boot for charity or something, but it was refused. Apparently Medicaid pays for them for the indigent.

May 27 -- I'm walking down the stairs facing forward again. Slowly and carefully, but more normally. Things ARE improving.

September 3 -- Well, here's an update. The foot is still swollen. I didn't go for PT, and I now regret it. Forced exercise would have been much better than no exercise. At least I have a ton of stairs to negotiate at our vacation home, and that's fine exercise several times a day. I still have some minor discomfort around the ankle. Look. I'm almost 68, vastly overweight and lead a sedentary life. All things considered, my progress isn't bad. Fall (Autumn, that is) is upon us, so pleasant walks in the woods will become more regular. Next doctor's appointment is September 14th. And, would you believe... I'm STILL getting bills from hospital personnel I don't even remember! What a fricken ripoff. You go in the hospital, you come out. All the charges should be on that one piece of paper. Everyone's a damned independent contractor. It's easier to pay for building a new house than it is to pay for a stinkin' busted leg and ankle. No doubt about it -- Medicare's getting ripped off!

September 14 -- All things come to an end, and today this saga is over. Been to the doctor, I'm fine (even though there's probably some scar tissue inside the foot) and unless I have some pain in the ankle, I'm on my own again. The bad news is that I have an appointment with my periodontist on January 16 -- the same day I broke my leg, going to the same periodontist. I'm not superstitious, but I DO intend to be very, very careful.

November, 2006 -- I made my hotel reservations for the Crossword Tournament in Stamford 2007. This is probably the last one to be held in Stamford, and I don't want to miss it. I'll tell you ONE thing -- I'm pertty damn careful where and how I set my foot down now. Once was enough.