Adventures in Retirement

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What’s happening…

Hi! I put aside blogging for a while and have spent the last couple of years playing around with some really neat 3D software — Poser. Still learning to use all the many features included in the software, such as animation. I love this stuff because it’s like having a photo studio in a box. The models are tireless and don’t ever complain. I can swing around and get different views of the same subject, zoom in for closeups, pull back and get more of the set/background. It’s so cool. Check out My Poser Place for examples.

If you’re interested, check out http://poser.smithmicro.com/, but search for an older version like Poser 7 if you want to try it out for a much reduced price. [See Amazon on the Blogroll to the right.]  The current version is Poser 10, just out recently, but Poser 7 will do you proud until you decide if this is something you really want to pursue.  There is also DAZ Studio 4.6, which is free.  It’s similar to Poser.  It’s currently available for free; however everything else is not — characters, clothing, props, and sets.

I’ve had a book rattling around in my head for the last ten years. I was sort of thinking about using Poser to illustrate it — if I ever get it written. LOL

Until then I’ll keep working on learning lighting and storytelling and posting the more interesting results of my groping in the dark.

Comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

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Hurricane Sandy Victims Please Note

Hurricane Sandy from space

Hurricane Sandy from space

As a resident of the Texas Gulf Coast area, I sympathize with anyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. I feel your pain.

I’ve survived two hurricanes, Rita and Ike, and lots of power outages just in the last ten years. The hurricanes usually arrive in hot weather, forcing my husband and me out into the back yard to cool off and to cook on the grill. I remember being shell-shocked during Hurricane Ike when we tried to buy gas and there just wasn’t any to be had at any price. We drove to all the gas stations in the area, staring at the devastation all round us and noting others looking dazed as well.

But the worst result of devastating storms is the loss of communications and not knowing how relief activities are progressing. You can put up with almost anything if you know what’s going on and when it will end. To know some county official is handing out bags of ice, cases of bottled water, and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) — where to get it and when to be there — is priceless. To be totally in the dark is what makes people angry or makes them feel no one cares.

People do care. Neighbors that you see from time to time but usually don’t take the time to speak to suddenly become a source of news when they return home with bags of food from a local fast-food restaurant and cheerily wave you over to tell you there’s electricity and a hot meal in the next little town over. And if they’ve got power, surely yours will be returning shortly.

As your power is turned back on and life begins to return to normal, or something close to that, would the friends and fans of this site and Left Eye on the Media please check in and share your experiences.

Sending a big Thank You to President Obama and all the other folks who are making a difference in the affected areas. Their response has been quick and thorough. And heartfelt, as befits human beings.

Of Mr. Romney, I can only say this: He’s a liar, a cheapskate, and if he were in charge, you wouldn’t be getting any help from the government at all. Thank God the President of the United States is a Democrat. Be sure to vote.

Here’s hoping that your recovery time is as short as possible.


Darkroom

Copyright 1988 Linda Way

It was dark and cozy, and only a faint odor of chemicals could be detected. Outside, the sun barely warmed a cold winter’s day and people went about their business. Inside, in an organized and technical atmosphere, magic was conducted on a daily basis.

The middle-aged woman, a photography student at the junior college, spent fifteen minutes doing test strips under an enlarger before she felt satisfied. She set the timer and put a full sheet of snowy white paper in the easel. The easel had been meticulously placed so that the projected image of the film produced a balanced composition that was pleasing to the eye. She added a filter that would produce crisp whites and deep shiny blacks.

Now the magic could start. Gently, she squeezed the start button on the timer, and the light winked on. Even though the machine glowed for 15 seconds, there was no apparent change in the paper. Suddenly, the light winked out again, leaving her in the dusky amber glow of the darkroom.

She removed the paper from the easel and turned to the chemical trays. Noting the time, she slipped the undistinguished paper into the tray of developer and gently pushed it under the liquid with a pair of tongs. She picked the paper up and flipped it over so she could watch the magic take place. With one finger she lifted a corner of the tray in a slow rhythmic fashion so that the chemicals kept moving across the photographic paper, making little wavelets in the tray. The image began to form, coming up quickly into something recognizable and then slowly building up the detail.

Watching the clock, she removed the print from the tray of developer and slipped it into the stop bath for 30 seconds. Next, it went into the tray of fixer for three minutes. While she waited and played with the wavelets, she gazed on the image, now upside down, and slipped into reverie.

The straight lines blocking out a white rectangle in the print reminded her of something, and as she gazed at them, she decided this print was a metaphor for those seeking and rejecting a stretching of the mind and a broadening of human experience. The rectangle represented that part of society that was straight-laced and guilty of hide-bound thought, the repressed religious folk who accepted ideas without examination and actually discouraged their children from getting anything more than just a basic education. The rectangle was flat and humorless, held down by a metal band. She was reminded of people she had known in Mississippi at the independent Methodist church she had attended, who had taken their kids out of the public school and parked them at one of the many “Christian academies” in the sleepy little town she used to live in there.

One minute down, two to go.

On the surface there were raised letters. She considered how the letters, representing communication, affected the shape they graced. There were four rows of letters. Two were straight, like the straight delivery of information. Two were curved, as might be a mind that had encountered new ideas and gone through reassessment and integration of new facts. The letters informed. They added dimension and texture.

Two minutes down, one to go.

She liked the way the light slid into the print from the side, highlighting the letters by casting a shadow beside each one. It seemed appropriate that the ground the rectangle rested on, religion, was in the shadows, just as the letters seemed to reach up to catch the light. Many of the people she knew who called themselves religious seemed to have their heads in the shadows. If she asked them what they believed and why, they had a hard time explaining, if they even attempted it. Like that boy she knew in high school who had gone to a different church than hers. What was his name? She had asked him the question purely out of curiosity about the beliefs of his church because she was examining her own beliefs and she was putting that question to everyone – What do you believe and why? He not only couldn’t explain, but he seemed threatened by the question.

Isn’t it important to know what you believe and to feel confident that it’s based on fact rather than fiction or wishful thinking?

Uh-oh, three minutes and ten seconds. Time to take the print out of the fixer and put it into the holding tray filled with water. When she had a few more prints, she could stick them in the hurricane washer and let it tumble them clean. Funny how one’s mind wanders when working in the darkroom.


IE8 SUCKS! Argggggghhh!

This is an angry blog entry. Read no further if that offends you.

"Don't hold my computer hostage, you bitches!"

Internet Explorer 8, or as I call it, “Aiyeeeeeee-Hate,” has completely screwed up my Internet experience, resulting in my messing up Firefox in an attempt to find out what was screwing up IE8.  Now I’m having problems with both browsers.  I am so frustrated!!!  Four days of effort and still no joy!  And everybody keeps giving me the same worthless advice.

“Hey, your wagon isn’t working right?  Let’s try to reinvent the wheel all over again.  Go back to the very beginning — take all the wheels off and start anew.  Then we can put a whole new set of wheels on your wagon and it will go again.”

F**k you, Microsoft, and the horse you rode in on.  The problem lies in IE8 — something you changed!

1) IE8 cannot seem to display web pages I have been going to for the last 4 or 5 years (or more).  WTF!  Why are we having a problem suddenly after updating to IE8?

2) IE8 seems to have been sent out without all the security certificates it should have included, because suddenly since updating to IE8, I cannot log in at my bank (a secure site).  I get a message that roughly indicates that this may not be the site I think it is, and the safest thing to do is just close the web page.  (But it’s my bank, the address is correct, and their VeriSign security certificate seems to be in good order.)  There is another secure site that behaves in the same way, but not all secure sites are warning me off.  [Have you ever locked yourself out of your house or apartment? Doesn’t it make you furious?  Doesn’t it make you want to scream and dance up and down and wave your arms about!  I’m doing that now!  My husband is busying himself in another room until I cool down.]

3) Trying to publish a blog article has become so excruciating that I just want to throw something, and I’m really not that kind of person.  I love my things way too much to want to break something.  In both IE and Firefox, trying to upload a file to WordPress.com is next to impossible.  You follow the directions and it looks like it might accept the upload after a very long time, but then it throws a blank, white page in your face and you don’t know if the upload was successful or not.  If you try Refreshing the page, it takes you back a page to the beginning of the upload process.  Then you have to start the upload process over again.  [Insert scream here.]

One night this last week, I sat in front of my beloved computer with a stopwatch in one hand, the mouse in the other hand.  I finally got a picture uploaded and in place in the article and pressed the Publish button.  By the stopwatch it was 13 minutes and some odd seconds before WordPress announced success, that it was actually published in the wee hours of the morning.  I had been working on it since about 10:30 in the morning.

What this experience has taught me so far is that I REALLY don’t like Microsoft’s attitude toward the typical user. They seem to say, “You’re too stupid to manage your computer by yourself, so we’re going to do it for you. Just ignore the men behind the curtain. While we help ourselves by gathering information from your machine, we won’t hurt you — MUCH!”

I am not a rank beginner. I am not a child. I am a free woman, old enough to be someone’s grandmother. I will not be folded, spindled, torn, stepped on or shoved into a corner!

I bought the computer.  It belongs to me.  I reserve to myself the right to control what happens to my computer and to veto any suggestions made by a well-meaning advisor if I think that is appropriate.  I will listen to advice.  (May not take it, but I will listen.)  I am open to being taught by a teacher or mentor.  But I will NOT be treated like an errant child.

Time to shop for a new browser! The reviews say Opera is blazing fast….


A New Direction

Now that the election is over, perhaps we can spend some time trying to heal our people’s frazzled spirits, our country, and our world.  So let’s think about living in homes that cost little to maintain, that are heated and cooled by natural resources — the sun, the earth, the rain.

Several years ago I ran across my first Earthship via the Internet.  The idea is logical and solid.  The benefits are many.  If we could put to work some of the younger out-of-work folks to build homes like these for folks who have no homes, it would help the homeless, give work to a lot of people, gives folks a self-sufficient home with little or no utility bills and, depending on financial arrangements, perhaps no mortgage. Kind of like a 21st Century WPA program.

The videos at Earthship.net will show you the basics and give you a feel for the aesthetics of Earthships. The underlying principle is recycling our trash and found items and using our natural resources in the most efficient way to create homes that are functional, comfortable, and cost less to maintain.

To get more detailed information on cost, floorplans, and instructions, please visit www.earthship.net


Right to the Point

I discovered a talented poet over at Pemmican Press and have included a sample below. I’m not very good at writing poetry, but she touched me with a subject that is both mundane and ordinary and, at the same time, universal. Especially right now, during such tense political and economic goings-on.

I can see this one from both sides because I’ve been each woman at different times in my life. Thought you might find it as interesting as I did.

Grocery Shoppers

Grocery Shoppers

Juleigh Howard-Hobson

Standing in Line Next to The Lady in Pearl Earrings

Yeah, I know, we’re what you’d probably call
Worse for the wear right now, with our scuffed shoes,
The boys’ hair a shade too long on them all
(Jeans a little bit short, though, so please choose
Which one offends you more: too long, too short
We’ve got em both for the price of one today).
Shopping cart full of rice, beans, day-old bread
No organic tomatoes, no line caught
Trout, those things don’t go on sale much, we’ll pay
For some ketchup and tuna fish instead.

When stores like this one have coupons for them
(And even this store, with its wide aisles of
Pastas and wines, this store will up and run
A pretty decent sale on all the stuff
Most of us working poor use: milk, oats, cheese
Orange juice…). Then, we’ll stand right beside you
In line, right beside you, while you wrinkle
Your nose. We’ll take out our big wads of these
Coupons: dollar days! and buy one, get two
And we’ll smile, while you send us looks to kill.


Laugh for Today


205 For, 228 Against — WTF???

Can you believe what is happening in Congress?

We’re in a financial situation that Republican Hank Paulson said was disastrous and needed to be handled immediately, if not sooner.  We were speechified by our Republican president, who said we needed this bailout.  A bipartisan group of Congressional leaders said, yes, we need this and we need it now and came up with a bill.  And what happens?  One hundred thirty-three (133) House Republicans prevented the bill from passing by voting NAY.

And what is their excuse — I mean, reason for doing this?  Democrat Nancy Pelosi hurt their feelings by laying this whole huge problem at the feet of the Big Spender, Republican George Bush.  Excuse me, but did he not inherit a huge surplus from that bad ole Democrat Bill Clinton?   Did Republican Bush manage to turn this surplus into a deficit so large that you and I can’t even begin to conceive that we could ever imagine that we could understand how big that deficit is?  And Republican Bush did it in only two years!  I thought Republicans were supposed to be thrifty and didn’t like the government spending their reluctantly paid taxes.

Meanwhile, it appears that there are televisions in the various stock markets, and they were all watching them as the voting in the House was taking place.  In fact, the Dow Jones seemed to be in sync with the voting, dropping as the no votes accumulated.  Biggest drop in history — down by 748.  Oops, as I glance over at the TV, it’s now 10365.45, down by 777.68.  Paulson is pissed, almost frantic.

Now, I know that the American people are mad that we have been put in this position.  They are mad that so many Wall Street regulars are greedy bastards and don’t want to bail them out without punishment.  I kinda feel the same way. But I think we need to make sure that this country doesn’t come to a grinding halt.  Let’s fix this problem now, and on election day, just a short time away, let’s show the greedy bastards how we feel by throwing the bums out.  It was Republicans on Wall Street that caused this problem and Republicans in the House that didn’t fix the problem, so let’s just vote a straight Democratic ticket.

The smaller Republican Party has traditionally been the party of the leaders, the managers, the rich.  The larger Democratic Party has traditionally been the party of the working man.  Things began to get really messed up when the Republicans started trying to add more members and held their noses while offering a welcoming hand to people they wouldn’t normally associate with.  Wise up, people!  The Republicans have had their turn at leading the country, and they and their Fearless Leader have lead the country down the toilet!.  Flush ’em and let’s get some Democrats in there to do the job that needs doing.

Either way you decide to vote, it’s going to take time to recover from this.  Better start now.


UPDATE: Change is coming

Gave up on the job search, took early retirement, and upgraded my camera.  Gas is so expensive that we’ve curtailed any thoughts of travel.  My husband and I are both working for Barack Obama’s election so we can get a little relief.  Obama will start undoing the damage done by Dubya, but I wonder how many years it will take.

2008 Presidential Debate

2008 Presidential Debate

I was pleased with the Friday night presidential debate.  All of McCain’s shenanigans during the week leading up to it were so strangely erratic that I wondered what he would do once he took the stage.  McCain didn’t look at his opponent, rigidly stood his ground, stubbornly stayed with his old ideas, and didn’t seem to realize that most of the country is tired of war and ready to spend $10 billion a month on something else.  Repairing the infrastructure would be nice.  Shoring up the education system and allowing teachers to teach children something about art, the teamwork and fun of participating in band, symphony or choir.  Not just teaching for “The Test.”  Paying teachers enough to attract excellent teachers would be worth more to me than funding golden parachutes for already wealthy New York City chief executives.  I could go on and on.

I am so ready for a change.  Barack Obama promises to give the Middle Class a break on taxes.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I know anyone who makes over $250,000 a year.  Most of my family and friends earn in the 20- to $70,000 range.  A few live on less.  So I’m ready for someone to trim my taxes and let the more fortunate shoulder the burden for a while.  Heck, I might be satisfied if Obama would just get rid of a few tax loopholes.  And now that I’m retired, the idea of retirees on a fixed income not having to pay income taxes at all is a lovely idea.  I realize Obama’s list of campaign promises will have to be adjusted because of the financial meltdown, but it is definitely time for a change.

Star Trek's trio - Spock, Kirk and McCoy

Star Trek

One thing puzzles me, though.  I don’t understand why Obama being labeled as “cerebral” is a bad thing.  Mr. Spock is cerebral.  I would think that one would want a leader to be cerebral enough to know what to do in a crisis and cool-headed enough to keep his wits about him when dealing with it.  I know I would.  We need someone with the humanity and compassion of Dr. McCoy, the brash, bold toughness of Captain Kirk, and the cerebral logic of Mr. Spock.  I guess that’s a lot to ask.  The more I think about it, though, the more McCain is starting to look like Dr. Janice Lester.  You know the one.  She wanted Kirk’s job, and the more she encountered obstacles in reaching her goal, the more strident and shrill she became.

I don’t particularly want to drink a beer with the President or call him “buddy.”  I want him to have done his homework, to know what’s going on in the world, to be able to deal with the leaders of our allies and our enemies (and to know which is which), and to maintain a peace that allows us to grow and flourish.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t flourished since the Clinton years.

Hang in there. Change is coming….


Check This Out

While perusing the election news on the Internet, I discovered a great new blog, Left Eye on the Media.  Check it out for an interesting political analysis about how the national news media is covering the political news.


Hurricane’s Coming

Vintage Galveston Home

Vintage Galveston Home

Hurricane Ike is bearing down on us today. The whole Houston area is in its path, and I am wondering how much damage is going to be done. Historic Galveston will be in the most danger, since it’s on the coast and very low.  The cities will survive, but it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild and recover.

My hubby and I have made our preparations, so I’m writing this during a rest break.  Just a little more to do.  I’m surprised that at 4 pm CST it looks overcast but bright.  There is no rain yet.  At this moment, there is no wind — that is, I can’t see any trees moving out my window.  We live in the piney woods north of Houston, completely surrounded by pine trees.  I know the winds will come, and I will worry about my 73 pine trees — and of course my house.

Having been through Hurricane Rita, I still remember living out in my back yard while the power was out because it was so hot inside the house.  My worst fear right now is having to do that for possibly two weeks instead of the four days the power was out last time.  I’m mildly allergic to mosquito bites, so that won’t be any fun at all.

We could have packed up and run, but we have two large dogs, one little dog, and two cats.  All of us won’t even fit into the car at the same time.  I picked out that particular Hyundai because I could get two cat carriers into the back seat, end to end.  Since that time, several years ago, my husband and I acquired the dogs.  Unfortunately, the cats suffer the dogs to exist, knowing that they were here first, and I just can’t picture all five of them sitting across the back seat, cheek to jowl, without spitting, scratching and barking.  Oh, my!  I can’t take them to a shelter or a hotel, and I’m not going to leave them behind.  Don’t have a carrier for a lab or a retriever.  Wish I had a van big enough to carry all of us north.

If the power lasts a while, I may post again.  We’ll see how it goes….


Where are my hip boots?

I’ve been looking for a job probably 12 hours a day ever since early July, but most of the time I have been knee deep in scams and cons, only to find a few genuine offers. I read somewhere the ratio of scams to real jobs is about 30:1. I don’t think it’s that good — it’s more like 100:1.

All I want is a real job transcribing digital files at home and returning the finished product via email or some sort of upload. I know there are jobs of this sort out there. I used to do it myself, before my last job.  I guess there are a lot of unemployed or underemployed men and women out there trying to do the same thing, because the competition is fierce.

But the economy is doing so well and unemployment is way down…..NOT!


Oh, Crap!

River Oaks Hospital, formerly Twelve Oaks Medical Center

River Oaks Hospital, formerly Twelve Oaks Medical Center

Someone has really got to do something about the economy. Until July I worked for a mid-sized hospital. In the 13 years I worked there, the hospital was always struggling with diminishing income (Medicare payments, etc.) and increasing demands on its resources. But President Bush and all the media have been saying the economy is doing so well!

My personal experience says they’re misinformed or lying.  Almost all the people I know are also having a bad time in one way or another.  One relative recently lost her job and then got rehired part-time (no benefits, of course).  Another relative thinks his job could go at any time and is keeping his fingers crossed.  The economy is benefiting the haves, and the have-nots keep voting as though they were rich folks.  How very illogical!

Now that I’ve lost my job, I can’t use the mail order prescription house that came tied to my job. I couldn’t afford to buy any medications right now, anyway. It’s too depressing to think about what will happen to our health if I don’t find another job soon. Oh, crap!


Nostalgic Revery #103

It happened again. One of the techs at work noticed me typing some long document today and commented on the fact that I wasn’t looking at the keyboard while I typed. Don’t need to when you’re a touch typist.

Underwood Typewriter

Underwood Typewriter

Seems like more people are typing these days, but touch typists are growing rare. Everybody learns enough to use his personal computer, but only just. Those of us who struggled to learn to type on an old manual typewriter before moving on to an IBM Selectric (sigh, I miss it still) are becoming more and more redundant as machines get better at doing our jobs and so push us a little closer to the proverbial pasture each year.

But it sent my mind drifting back 30-plus years to a former life. I was a notereader and typist at a large Washington, DC freelance reporting firm, twenty-something and fresh from school. I remember a lady at the firm, Magnificent Mildred, who was the best typist I ever knew. As I passed her desk, sometimes I would linger just so I could see her at work.

Such an economy of motion! Her hands hovered over the keyboard. Only her fingers moved. No wasted motion. And the speed! A really good typist clocks in at about 80-90 words per minute or a little better. Mildred did 120 wpm on a bad day. Watching her work was like watching an excellent chef sculpt a satin-finish wedding cake, a masterpiece. I was impressed!

IBM Selectric with Squeeze Key

IBM Selectric

So what does it all mean? Some days I feel like a seasoned, mature worker capable of doing anything the boss throws at me. And some days I just feel like an IBM Selectric typewriter. In its day, it was a fabulous workhorse. Capable of so much, sleek and stylish in candy-apple red or charcoal gray, it was the mainstay of any typist’s tools. I once spent over $1000 for one with a legal sized platen and all the bells and whistles (remember the squeeze key?), and now you can get one for $25 or less. (Shaking head in disgust.)

Sweet dreams. Must be time to turn in.


Trip to the Mercer Arboretum

Tea house at the end of the Oriental Garden

Tea house at the end of the Oriental Garden

Closeup of Tea House

Closeup of Tea House

View of pond from Tea House

View of pond from Tea House

Koi pond from the Tea House

Koi pond from the Tea House


Hello world!

This is the first day of the rest of my life.

Trite? Yes. But it’s also true. I’ve lived my whole life trying to please a husband, my parents, and various bosses. When you try to please someone else, you generally come away from the experience frustrated. You have pleased them only a certain percentage of the time, and yourself, hardly ever.

Today the new regime begins. I count. I matter. I get to be first sometimes. Ignore me at your own peril.


About

A sunny spot in my garden I am a keyboard jockey, writer, and amateur photographer currently working on a SciFi book and compiling photographs for an inside-the-photographer’s-head coffee table book. I live with a husband, three dogs, and two cats.

I had intended to use this site to display some of my photos and reflect my vision of Houston, Texas and the state of the wider world. Then I got laid off in July of 2007. So my priorities have changed.

After spending an inordinate amount of time looking for a job, I felt it was necessary to take early retirement so my husband and I could both pay the bills and eat.  I had been looking for work as a general, legal, or medical transcriptionist and was getting my home office up to snuff in preparation for transcribing from home.  Wading through the job offers and ads on the Internet was a real eye opener.  Most of the ads for work-at-home jobs are complete and utter bullshit.  I want a job, not an “investment opportunity.”  And I refuse to pay money in order to get a job.  So I retired just 2 or 3 weeks after the first Baby Boomer to officially retire.  Now my hubby and I are spending time blogging and working towards a better tomorrow.

It’s not my intention to flame people, deserving or not. But if I get cranky about being unemployed, I reserve the right to blow off some steam. If I see an injustice, I’ll bring it to your attention.  If I run across something hilarious, I’ll point you in that direction.

Everybody vote and Turn Texas Blue!