Saturday, February 27, 2010

Back to my Back Once Again

Since having to abandon Physical Therapy (PT) on my back to treat a problem with my knee, my back has started to get worse once more - despite doing all sorts of back exercises prescribed by my PT.

At PT this week, the therapist asked me to work out for 10 minutes on a recumbant exercise bicycle.  It's the first time I've been on one since my major problem started in September. Well, my leg went numb towards the end-and when I tried to get off, my right leg wouldn't move.

It just "lay" there, dead.  What a strange feeling.

I was finally able to lift the leg with my arms and get off the bike. My leg had trouble holding my weight but it did.

The PT told me it was my back.  Wonderful choice, right, that now I have to choose between my leg and my back.  I can't do both because my insurance plan (like so many others) has a limit of how many PT services they will pay for in a plan year.  My plan is better than some, but still.

(and what about patients with strokes?  I'm really lucky.)

So I have some decisions to make, as I sit here and my back aches, and my right leg feels like it is falling asleep.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow Removal, Binghamton Style

It appears Binghamton is trying to vie with Washington, DC for the title of "worst snow removal in the United States".

You'd think it never snowed here.

What is even more ridiculous is that neighboring communities are doing fine with the exact same snow.  For example, take the commute to work.  Yesterday, I took Main Street, which runs through several municipalities.  Through Johnson City the road was fine.  As soon as you crossed the border into Binghamton, and the key phrase here is "as soon as", Main Street became a solid sheet of ice.  It must have been fun to some watching vehicles stopping at lights and then attempting to get going again when the light turned, and the resulting mayhem.   It was not funny to the drivers.

Then there was this morning.  Spouse took me to work.  We took a main road, Riverside Drive, which runs through both Johnson City and Binghamton.  As long as we traveled in Johnson City, all was well.  Literally at the Binghamton border, they may as well had a sign saying "abandon hope and your cars, all ye who enter here."  I mean literally, because various drivers had slid into snowbanks on the sheet of ice.  If we didn't have anti-lock brakes, we may have suffered the same fate.

This morning, my office was somewhat of a ghost town.  People coming from outlying areas reported only the usual amount of trouble you could expect from 14 plus inches of snow, until they got to Binghamton.  One unlucky person ended up (in Binghamton) in a ditch.  Others never got out at all because no one had bothered to plow their street.  One lady, with an unplowed street, took the bus that runs guessed it, Main Street.  It took her 1 3/4 hours to get to work, a normal 10 minute drive.

It isn't like this storm was a surprise:  see, for example, this article on the "Lindsay's Snowstorm" so dear to the hearts of people like me who lived in NYC in 1969, for an example of a large city caught off guard.  But Binghamton-shame on you.  You had no excuse.

Well, enough (or I'll have to change the title of this blog to "Rantin' With AM".

So, what is the story?  I suspect City government is going to be yelled at by a lot of very unhappy people.  Considering it wouldn't take much to plunge Binghamton into a death spiral (the "burnt out industrial town" referred to so many times), this is not a wise way to spend your residents' taxes, Binghamton.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wire Recorders and the Museum of Obsolete Technology

The Museum of Obsolute Technology, located in my son's room, has a new exhibit.

"You've got to guess what this is, Mom!" my son exclaimed when I came home from work.

From the case it looked like an old time portable record player.  But when he opened the lid it didn't look quite right.  There was a ceramic arm and....some kind of spool with extremely thin wire.

It was a...get ready for this....wire recorder.  And my son had paid for this thing,cold hard cash (which will be obsolete one day soon.)  This recorder was in the odds and ends bin at the local electronics store.

He asked me how he would know when it was on.  To my surprise, the knowledge of youth came back.  Son knew already about vacumn tubes.  I told him he should hear a hum and feel a little heat.

The recorder does turn on.

This is technology even before my time.  I have to admit it was quite fascinating reading about this.  There are even some videos on You Tube showing them in operation.  Wire recordings, in fact, have held up better than the magnetic tape that replaced them.  The problem, of course, will be finding machines that can play them.

They need look no further than my son's room.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Looks Like It is going to be Our Turn

We are under a winter weather warning.  We are finally going to get our major snowstorm.  My spouse, who is a amateur weather person, is very concerned about this snow, especially because the temperatures will be warm-meaning the snow will be very heavy. There go power lines meaning power outages, and other havoc. 

Today's headlines were predicting up to 75 mph winds but look like that isn't going to happen.  Let's hope.

It should be starting by the time I leave for work tomorrow.

We couldn't escape forever.  After all, this is upstate NY.  Albany got nearly 2 feet of snow before they turned over to rain.  In this topsy turvy winter, looks like the northern reaches may get rain instead of snow.

Global warming?  You judge.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wireless Security, Part Two

After "talking" with some of my road warrior friends/relatives, I am told that (indeed) wireless security is a concern when traveling.

So now what, concerning my intended purchase of a netbook?

One friend said be sure to have security software, which I would have had anyway.   And to be really cautious about doing any transactions requiring a credit card.  However, I would want to sign into various things (including this blog, just maybe) and - obviously I don't want to have my passwords stolen.

Another (who is a professional in the internet field) recommended getting a network card for a nationwide wireless network and paying for prepaid service.  That might be an idea if I could figure out how to install a card.  I checked one such service out and I could actually buy netbooks from them with the card installed.  That may be an idea, if I can get exactly what I want.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shopping for a Netbook-Wireless Security?

I am waffling back and forth about getting a netbook for when I go on vacation next.

Up to now I have never owned a laptop, an internet-enabled phone, or a netbook.  My vacations have been email free except when the motel had a public computer.  I never trusted them for use past my "spam" email account (I didn't care if anyone hacked into that-let them have the spam) and some general web browsing, such as using Trip Advisor.

But now I am on Facebook, and am blogging, and I've learned the  hard way about not being able to book accommodations online (it is more expensive if you do by phone, for certain chains.)  And, I've really been more and more leary about using public computers in general. 

So I asked the in house computer expert, my 19 year old son, and after wading through some of his sarcasm, I did get some interesting information from him.  This is a young man who should be earning a living as an internet security person.  I remember him, when touring a technical collegea couple of years ago, him having a nice talk with a professor about this subject, and the professor encouraging him to go into this field.  But he dreads the thought of a desk job.  He doesn't like sitting still.

But I digress.

My son told me that there are security concerns with any kind of public network, and I need to be very careful using free wi-fi provided by a motel.  That would be because I don't know how secure the connection is.  He said I would be better of using (if the motel provides it) a wired connection.

My head was spinning.  Information overload!  Now I don't know what I want to do.  Researching online I find he has valid concerns.  But I wonder what my road warrior friends would think.

Stay tuned

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Sun Finally Shines on Longyearbyen, Norway

Finally, the wait is over.

Today:  Monday, February 15.  In Longyearbyen, Norway, the people will celebrate the first sunrise of the year.

Sunrise:  12:08 PM
Sunset:   12:17 PM (yes, a 9 minute day)

What is it like at noon during the 24 hour darkness?  This video on You Tube gives you a good idea, set to wonderful, haunting music. As does this video, complete with views of the Northern Lights.

Does Elderhostel (I know they are not called that anymore, but that is what many people know them as) give tours up there?  (Sigh....)

The Dark Season will be over soon.  On Tuesday the sun will be up nearly two hours.  And then it is uphill from here.  Soon enough, they will have their midnight sun back.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Caregiver's Valentine

Several people I know are caregivers for ailing spouses, parents, etc.

I would like to post this as a virtual valentine to everyone in my life in this position.

A friend in this position said it the best today (and I hope she forgives me for putting this online):

"I think it's a holiday to show unexpected love, or MORE love to those who already know you love them. Christmas got to be too much pressure and I couldn't keep up, so I send very few nowadays. But Valentine's Day seems to be so much less complicated, and there's no religious differences to consider either. "

So....let me take this opportunity to show love to those in my lives who need more.  And really, isn't that all of us?

Remember...walking in the sand

Life is all about changes.  And not always for the better.

I'm at the age where the realities of aging are apparent.  My body changes shape.  It is harder and harder to lose weight.  I gain in aches and pains.

But watching my mother in law, who is 25 years older than me, can be a painful "window into the future", or maybe a cautionary tale of sorts.  Not that she has done anything wrong but I see how it is harder and harder for her to bounce back from physical trauma.

My mother in law just returned from a one week visit to relatives in Florida, and she had a wonderful time.  We got to spend a week with my developmentally disabled brother in law (my other brother in law and his wife spent even more time with him). This was the longest contact my spouse has had with him since moving out of the house.

Meanwhile, my mother in law said that while she was down in Florida, it was like the burdens of the world had been lifted from her, and now they were back.

This is not the kind of thing she normally says.  She's fiercely independent she, to put it bluntly, wearing out?

And one worrysome thing-it is no secret to us that she has various mobility problems.  Many of these came from a small stroke she suffered a couple of years ago.

But she reported she wasn't able to walk on a sandy beach without falling.  Will I be in those shoes one day?

And what can I do to prevent it?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Our Week with our Brother in Law

Today we take my brother in law back home.  It has been an interesting week and both I, but especially spouse, was able to spend some quality time with him.  When I have more time, I'd like to talk about it a little more.

We watched the Superbowl together, ate together, went to the mall, Wal-Mart, Target, and even took him to see where I take physical therapy. (since my Mom has had to have some similar therapy, I thought it was a good thing for him to see.  He got to see me hooked up to something called "electrical stim". 

I'll write more, hopefully, this weekend or next week.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Does Facebook Know My Family?

This is really (pick one): strange, spooky, scary, fascinating.

Originally I joined Facebook over a year ago, but didn't do anything with my membership for many months, until a couple of friends/relatives contacted me at the same time asking me to friend them.

I must have done a search for friends and relatives, both mine and spouses, when I first joined - and didn't find any.

Well, today I got a friend request.  It wasn't through Facebook but was through my email-and not the email I use for my Facebook account.  It asked me to friend an acquaintance from many years ago. With the request there was a section "you may want to friend these people too".

One did not have a photo and is a cousin I am almost certain is not on Facebook. That made me even more suspicious...but even curious.

Another person was the name of of my spouses' cousins.  I didn't think the picture was of him but we were able to check his profile on Facebook and it was him.   (it must be that Facebook somehow saved the names of everyone I searched for-that or it is psychic.  That's why this is so spooky  His last name is not spouse's last name-or anything close to it.)  So I have sent a Friend request to him.  And, also friend requests to his brothers, and one of his sisters in law, and his daughter, and.....I didn't have time for more.  I'd like to friend some more of these relatives, including one cat by the name of Oreo.

I explained it was me and not their cousin, that spouse doesn't "do" computers, etc. and I hope they will friend me anyway.

I will be curious to see what happens.  But in the meantime, I am trying to compose my message to Oreo.  Stay tuned:  can I convince a cat to friend me?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Washington DC-Winner of the Golden Snowball Award?

I have a person in the Syracuse area who collaborates with me on various work projects.  As many of you know. Syracuse is one of the snowier cities in Upstate NY.  Syracuse and various other upstate cities (including Binghamton) compete yearly in something called the Golden Snowball Award.

I blogged about this several months ago - Binghamton rarely wins this battle of the most snowfall- however, we may have a winner this year that we never dreamed of.  They would have to be honorary, not being located in NY State.  Still, they are in the Northeast. (I'm not counting places in the west that get way more snow.)  Drum roll please....

Washington, DC?

Right now, according to my work-acquaintance, Syracuse leads the District of Columbia 73 inches to 63 inches.  However, with this next storm, DC may surpass Syracuse.  Heck, they've already surpassed us-we only have a bit over 44 inches of snow so far this winter. 

This is a nice Maryland based weather blog with more details.

Yeah, Syrac....I mean, Washington DC.  Go snow!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Whose Aging Brain is it Anyway?

Superbowl party.

Relatives, all over 50, trying to remember who the current host of the Price is Right is.

One offers "Andrew Dice, it isn't it."
We all have that "tip of the mind" feeling.

Other names flow.
Hugh Grant.
Jim Carrey.

We go through lists of first names.  Nothing.  We run through tricks that help us remember.  Nothing.

Finally, I run to the computer.
Drew Carey!

It's funny how all those other names we were thinking of had an element of the name.  Jim Carrey. Andrew Dice Clay (as in Drew being a nickname for "Andrew".)

Isn't aging wonderful.  Not.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Facebook and the Virtual Time Machine

A friend (Facebook and otherwise) emailed me and mentioned a site called Vpike.

What an addictive....waste of time?  Wonderful use of the Internet?  Both?

Vpike calls itself the "Virtual Turnpike" and uses the Google Street Views and Maps to take you to many metropolitan areas.  So of course I had to spend an hour looking at the neighborhood where I grew up, and a couple of others I lived in over 30 years ago as an adult.

Ah, the Internet.  The Internet Time Machine.

That, and my trolling through Facebook last night to find people I knew as babies all grown up.  Am I the only person who uses the Internet and Facebook as a virtual time machine?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Going Forward Into Time

Another Facebook adventure.
Don't know why, but tonight I decided to see if some people from my past were on Facebook.  I don't mean people that I grew up with-not that kind of "past".  I mean people who are adults or young adults now, but I knew them back when, when they were babies or toddlers.  For example, I worked with their mothers, in some of the places I lived before I came here.  Or I knew their Moms when my son was young and their kids were about his age-but we lost touch for one reason or another.    One of them would be 30 years old this year.  Others are probably getting ready to graduate high school or are in their first couple of years of college.

I found some of them and, from what they posted, I know it is them.

It's strange, this time machine Facebook can be.  I'm not meaning here to "cyberstalk" anyone.  A lot of them (especially the high school and college students) don't appear to use privacy settings, and their "stuff" is all hanging out waiting for the world to come look.  So I didn't feel I was invading anyone's privacy.   It was an experience to see those faces all grown up.  One of them is a college sophomore (which my son would have been if he hadn't dropped out of college) and I listened to a rap he had posted on You Tube. is fascinating to see how young people show themselves on Facebook.  Makes me wonder if my son is out there, and he has just hidden himself away really well.

How private is the Internet anyway?  Including this blog?

How I wish I had Facebook when I was growing up...but maybe it's just as well that I didn't.

February is the New January

January 2 was always the date to dread at the Y.  The pool, almost empty of exercisers during the December holidays, was filled almost wall to wall with would be exercisers.  Would be exercisers who didn't realize, for example, that it isn't a good idea in water aerobics to stand 6 inches from your exercising neighbor.  Fortunately for us regulars, most of the "would be's" disappeared in a couple of weeks, along with their resolutions - leaving us, literally, some breathing room.

Not this year.

January dawned not vacant, but not very full.  Thought maybe it was the cold weather.  Then the Y had an open house and some more people showed up.  But it was OK, roomwise.

Then came February 1.

You would have thought someone was giving out free Y coupons. (and maybe someone was.)  Don't know if these people tried the regular gyms with their January joining specials, and gave up, but suddenly now it's almost the most crowded I've seen in years...and I've been doing water aerobics for over 14 years.  So now I'm torn between wanting to tolerate people who are trying, and people who it is just getting harder and harder to dodge away from until they learn how to pace themselves, and how far away they need to stand from the next person. 

Some of these people, from the way they were gasping for air towards the end, hadn't done anything that strenuous in years.  As a people, it really doesn't speak well for us Americans.

I do hope you stay.  I hope I wasn't unconsciously staring with hostility at you.  We all need to stay as active as possible. I am grateful for every bit of activity I can muster up from my aching knee and back nowadays.  Stick with it, and you will have a reward.  Trust me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Almost Ready for my Brother in Law's Visit

My brother in law should be bringing my other brother in law up here Thursday.

This will be a very interesting next week and a 1/2.

As I've mentioned before, I have a brother in law with autism, who doesn't live locally.  As far as I know, this will be the first trip he's ever taken (about a 3 hour car ride each way) without his mother along, although he has visited up here maybe 20 times in his life.  And trust me, he remembers each one in great detail.  I'm sure he remembers the asthma attack he had in our house so many years ago.  One time, he asked to eat at a certain restaurant up here because he remembered a particularly attractive waitress.  He likes blondes.  (yes, people with autism DO have those types of feelings.)

He has stayed at my brother in law's a number of times, but never for this long, and again, never without his mother.

For people with autism, anything outside of their normal routine (unless they are prepared carefully, and sometimes not even then) can be very stressful.   We'll just have to take this visit one day at a time.

We don't know yet how much time we (or probably, more like my spouse, due to his work hours) will be spending with him.

Fortunately, (unlike me) my sister in law is very social and interacts very nicely with my brother in law.  She is very smart too, and I am sure will be observing him closely.  Me, I'm the shy type, but I love to research and I'll be wanting to learn in my own way.

There's a lot I want to learn about my brother in law, as I have never interacted with him without my mother in law present (or otherwise near).  Of course, one day she will be gone and this knowledge will be an absolute necessity.  And, I have a firm belief that if I worry what I worry about will not happen - that, instead, something totally off the wall will happen instead.

Whatever happens...I hope it makes for interesting blogging.