Thursday, September 27, 2007


I have been going through a period of what I can only describe as extended lethargy. You know the feeling - all you want to do is sit around and stare at the wall. Even the TV is uninteresting.

I am in what feels like project close-down mode. Putting things away, labeling files etc.

Last week was a lost week, literally, All week long it felt like this week, and this week it feels like next week right down to missing appointments, waking up and finding that the appointment I thought was today is actually next week, etc.

To make matters worse I have these flashes of conversations with other people, and snatches of images of others - talk about weird

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


As I logged in to post this entry I saw the warning from Blogger about hackers who were posting to other peoples blogs. Which leads me to my own problem. I was doing some routine maintenance to the pages on my site. My site has a lot of material, over 120 pages worth. Mostly it is the text from my books, but there is also material on colorblindness, diabetes, and of course my family.

To keep track of everything, I have organized the pages by category and placed each category into a separate folder. So far so good. It also makes maintenance very easy. I also have two very complete HTML editors and I use one or the other according to my mood. Both do the job in roughly the same way. The thing about this way of organizing site is that if you name the root page of each folder index.html, people can reference that folder and bring up that root without having to cite a particular page name. It is a convenience for browsers and visitors.

As I was saying, I was doing some routine maintenance and when I pulled up the index page of one of the sub folders I noticed that there was a script in the header, a script that I did not put there. I immediately removed it, and checked all the other index pages in all the other sub folders, sure enough each one had that same script. None of the other pages seemed to have any uninvited guest code like that. I called my Hosting system and they assured me that their system was absolutely secure and the hacker must have come in through my system, and since I was the webmaster the problem was basically mine. Great!!! They suggested that I change the password on my system. Shit!!!

On a brighter note, it seems as if I will start to collect from my Unisys pension and my annuity plans starting December 1. That will provide a nice cushion until my Social Security kicks in.

Friday, August 31, 2007

catch up time

Didj'a ever wonder:

Watching a show yesterday, which was rated as MA (yes on Cable, but not on one of the premiums) and it seemed as if the commercials were more risque than the show itself. The lingerie commercials with the models in the skimpiest of underwear and the camera focusing in on the girl's crotches (the girls helping along by doing splits and squats, etc) Who says sex doesn't sell?

At the local supermarket, watching the young moms with their offspring walking around in jeans and shorts cut so low and so skimpy and so tight that you could clearly see everything they owned.

Then there are the ones with the short tight skirts who are constantly pulling the waist up, and the hem down.

What fascinates me is that these girls are dressed in clothing that would make a street walker blush, and yet they seem to get get annoyed when people stare at them, or at least drool in their direction.

Go figure,

So yesterday I turned on my machine and - nothing! Could not connect to any site. So I called my ISP, they checked had me run some tests and said it wasn't them. They gave me the tech support numbers for Symantec (my firewall) and Microsoft (everything else). Worked on it all day, finally deinstalled the Norton Software, still nothing.

This morning I tried again, an everything is fine. Go fugure!

It turns out that my seven years at Unisys vested me in the pension plan, and as of 1/1/2008 I will start to collect a substantial monthly benefit. Nice.

Mid-September I have an appointment with Social Security to sign up for Medicare. Meanwhile the daily mail brings new offers from insurance companies to provide me with Medicare supplemental coverage. I need to learn more about the whole process before I make a committment.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lazy Sunday

Required weather comment: can you say magnificent - try humidity at 20% temperature at 78 degrees, and sunny almost cloudless skies with just a hint of a breeze. That was yesterday, it was so nice, Mother Nature decided to repeat it today, and maybe even tomorrow.

On Friday my niece Corrie and her husband Brian had their third boy, The young man's name will be Lucas Donovan Aljian. He will join his brothers Sebastian Conner and Oliver Duncan. I get the feeling that Corrie and Brian have a love of things English.

Last week My daughter Hillary's very good friend (maybe best friend) Felicia gave birth to a little girl who she named Brooklyn Emma Levy. Yesterday, following Jewish tradition they all went to the synagogue and during the Saturday morning service amidst other Bat Mitzvahs, and ceremonies, she was given her Hebrew name.

After the service everyone attacked the luncheon, bagels, cake, salads, drinks, etc. Then friends and family were invited to Felicia's home for more lunch, bagels, cakes, salads and drinks. By the time we got back to my daughter's house I was stuffed fuller than a Thanksgiving Turkey. Thankfully I got to go home, while Hillary and her family go to go to a reception for one of the little girls who was Bat Mitzvahed that morning.

This was the first time I had been to a synagogue for a service since my granddaughter Daria's baby naming - seven years ago.

My son, who has issues with calendars, etc. apparently though that my grandson Jake's birthday party was Labor Day weekend and agreed to have me pick him up in Manhattan and bring him back.

As it got closer, it turns out he finally check what I was telling him about my plans with his calendar. He called me, concerned that it would be very crowded in my car , what with me, he and Misun and Lindsey and Daria. I told him that I wouldn't be uncomfortable, and that generally it was a five passenger car that it seated five comfortably, and that it had plenty of luggage space.

Then he asked if I could pick him up (in Manhattan) some time after 4:30 on Friday, I had already told him there was no way I wanted to take the time to stop up for a visit to his new Condo. When I reconfirmed that I would pick him up at around noon, things started to unravel. Turns out that not only did he need to be picked up after 4:30, but he also needed to be back by 9:00 AM Monday because Misun had a doctor's appointment. No way I could do either.

Leaving mid-Manhattan at the height of rush hour to drive across Connecticut would get us to Jessie's close to midnight. No way. So Micah will try to make other plans. I told him my offer of a lift still stood if he could conform to my driving schedule, especially since I would have Lindsey and maybe Daria in the car.

On a lighter note: I am sure everyone has seen the GEICO commercials, there are two sets, the Gecko, which are extremely well done, and always fresh and amusing, and the newer Caveman series, which are equally well done. Interesting thing about these commercials is that the sponsor's name gets fixed in your mind. Some previous successful commercials from other advertiser were very memorable, but people had a tough time remembering the sponsor's name. Everyone knows the GEICE Gecko and the GEICO Caveman. Which brings me to the point of my story - yesterday I saw a TV ad for what looks to be a new series in the fall, about modern Cavemen to air on ABC, inspired by... the GEICO Commercial.

Also, check out the following:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hazy, hot and very, very humid

Normally I would fill this space with some comments about my recent activities, but alas, I haven't had any recent activities. Isn't that a sad commentary in and of itself? I have been preparing for my drive to Connecticut next week for my grandson Jake's birthday party. I have had the present sitting on my table, all wrapped for quite some time. Thankfully my daughter, his mother, has been diligent in helping me with the latest things he is into. A few years ago it was truck, then Spiderman, and now transformers. Funny how his likes seem to track with the latest movies.

The weather outside has been brutal, at least for me. There are those who just live this weather so they can sit outside by the pool and bake, or toast themselves. Feels great I guess while you are doing it, but after my last trip to the dermatologist to have small skin cancers removed, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and that I would stay out of the sun, at least I would unless I was mostly clothed.

It will be nice to see Jessie and the kids again. It has been a while. However I have this feeling of dread arising from my previous experience with this weekend trip. 9/11, Katrina, and my home flood, all happened on this weekend What can happen this weekend.

On a lighter note I will have company for a good part of the trip, I will be picking up my son Micah and his wife Misun in Manhattan and taking them to the party, and then bringing them back on Monday. That should give all of us plenty of time to catch up and get re-acquainted

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


On Monday, my brother Howard sent me a cartoon which I though was so cute I just had to post it - the source URL is but I am including it here to save you the trouble. I guess you have to have been there to really appreciate the humor in it.

An observation: The media has been filled of late with stories about all of the young actors, actors and celebrities (just what that is I don't know) but they all seem hell-bent to either kill themselves or wind up in jail. Young women like Lindsey Lohan (an excellent actress by all accounts) who has too much money, too much libido and not enough supervision seems bend on self destruction, and seems to enjoy letting the Paparazzi photograph her lack of underwear - what a waste. Then there are the Paris Hilton types - who seem to relish the idea that their boyfriends (or one night stands) are publishing they sexcapades on the Internet. Maybe the public eats this stuff up because these people have more money than they know what to do with. and can spend money on things the rest of us can only dream of, and do things which would get any of the rest of us tossed in the slammer quicker than you can say - busted. Maybe we live vicariously through them.

I went for my third visit to the clinical study center and all looks good. They will give me a new supply of pills tomorrow but today they did another EKG and took lots of blood. Apparently the blood is shipped to the sponsor and that is how they know who is getting what dosage, if any, and what effect, if any, the medicine is having.

Something new, they hooked me up to a portable automatic blood pressure monitor that I have to wear for 24 hours. The cuff stays on my arm and the machine, about the size of a largish digital camera is in a little bag, which is on a strap that hangs from my neck sort of like a purse. I have to wear it even when I am sleeping and bring it back tomorrow morning when they download all the tests to a PC. The machine takes one BP reading every ten minutes. It is not uncomfortable, or heavy, but it does restrict the movement on my left arm.

Interesting, I was talking with the doctor running the study and he said that maybe when I am finished with this study he will enroll me in one of his Diabetes studies. Apparently I am a good test subject

Saturday, August 04, 2007


So last night I received a phone call from my primary's nurse. I told her about the hospital run-around and asked her to check wkth the doctor to see if this test was all that urgent, could I possibly postpone it until it was covered by Medicare.

, and the doctor said - sure, no problem, it can wait.

I have posted my resume on several job sites and have been getting a bit of response. It is hard for me since for the last seven or so years I haven't been doing much of anything in the field I am seeking to reenter - writing and proposal work.

Apparently however my age is outweighed by my experience - we shall see.

Friday, August 03, 2007

did'ja ever wonder?

In the middle of July I had an echo cardiogram for the study I am participating in. Nothing special about it, just a bit messy. Earlier this week the study folks sent the results to my primary physician. Now the doctor conducting the study reviewed the results and wasn't concerned, but my primary, who loves tests, decided he wanted more information. So he asked that I take a Pulmonary Function test at the local hospital.

I called to make the appointment and they couldn't make it because they had no doctor's orders. So I asked them to call my doctor for the information they needed. So far - normal operating procedure.

They called and the idiot who answered at the doctors office said no such test was asked for by the doctor.

So I called the doctor's nurse and asked what gives. She was very apologetic and said there was a mix-up but she would call the hospital with the orders.

I waited a suitable length of time and called back for the appointment. No problem - they had the orders right there. Oh by the ways, says I, how much will the test cost. Here's where it gets interesting - the lady said she had costs on all the other procedures but not that one. But, she said, I should bring some method of payment plus a photo ID, etc.

About 6 PM that night I got a call from some one else at the hospital telling me that I needed to call their financial Counselor to talk about payment schedules and other financial stuff, but she couldn't tell me the price either. Now I was getting frustrated. It seemed like this test would cause me to take a second mortgage to pay it off. So this morning I called the financial counselor, she referred me to someone named Barbara, who referred me back to financial counseling. BTW she couldn't or wouldn't tell me the price either.

So I called scheduling and told them that until someone could tell me how much this would costs I wasn't going to take the test.

Now this is probably the standard run-around, but what is most interesting is that if I hadn't seen that 30 second spot on TV looking for study participants, I wouldn't have had the echo cardiogram, and my primary wouldn't have had the report to look at and would never have considered the test at the hospital, nor the echo itself. Can't be too important. I think I will wait until I am covered by Medicare (four months away) and then take the test.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


First - almost one year to the day after I sent in my reservation money for the cruise earlier this year, and almost six months from the date I cancelled that reservation, the travel agency finally sent me my refund. One year! Aside from the fact that they had my money and the interest on it for that long the sour taste they left in my mouth probably means that never again will I use, or recommend that anyone use CARLSON-WAGONLIT TRAVEL SERVICE or their other company ON THE GO TRAVEL SERVICES.

These folks are totally unresponsive to customer needs, especially mine. Now maybe it was the fact that I was asking for a refund, but still - this was no way to treat a customer. They sent the check via DHL and that took a week.

I went to the doctor yesterday. I have been going to this fellow for over ten years - ever since I moved to this area. He is very competent, well recommended, and highly thought of by other medical professionals in the area. Over the ten years my file (paper) has grown thicker and thicker, Yesterday as I I walked into the office I notice something new. The nurse was carrying a small laptop as well as the paper file. She started entering the vitals, etc. into the laptop not on paper. The laptop BTW had a touch screen. Neat.

Then the doctor walked in and he too had the same kind of laptop. He asked questions and was filling in information on the screen as well. He told me that are slowly converting. As each patient comes in they open the file, scan in all the old records (after which they are shredded) and that night he spends about twenty to thirty minutes updating the computer files for each patient seen. I guess technology had to happen to him as well. I wonder if that means he will have to raise his rates to pay for all the new hardware and software?

Thursday, July 26, 2007


The subject of illegal immigrants is heating up all over the country. It is unclear to me just what has raised the heat recently, but certainly it has been simmering for a very long time.

When the housing boom raged here in Northern Virginia the builders all employed Hispanic labor for the landscaping, drywalling, painting, siding and roofing work, HVAC work, and just about anything else where a little skill was needed but the ability to speak English was not a prerequisite. These laborers came in droves and to their credit they worked long hours, seven days a week to build the homes. They even worked holidays. The work they did was acceptable, given that it was the builders that supplied the plans and the materials.

They kept their expenses low by living in dormitory style homes, several people to a room, and by carpooling in their trucks. As the years wore on, it was interesting to watch as the cars they drove became bigger and newer, and they started to buy their own homes. The local merchants advertised bilingually, and the media also started bilingual broadcasting. It even went so far as to cause local business to set up their phone menu systems to ask if you wanted to continue in English or Spanish. All was well until the housing bubble burst. The large number of workers was no longer needed and so many became unemployed, or under employed. But their car payments and their housing payments (bought with high interest, mortgages, and many with 100% financing and variable rate ARMs) became unsupportable. The banks and lenders started foreclosing and the foreclosure rates started to climb.

These workers were however mostly here without the aid of the legal documentation required of immigrants, but they still took advantage of the local services.

The economics made the local governments rethink their positions. Prince William County, and I believe Virginia as well, along with many other state and local governments have started to crack down on illegals.

The debate in Congress still hasn't produced a viable solution, so the state and locals have decided to do it themselves. Virginia and PWC passed laws empowering police to request citizenship documentation from people stopped "with probable cause." Those lacking such documentation will be delivered to INS for deportation. The same laws also enabled county service providers to also check for documentation, denying services to illegals and also calling INS.

Apparently the idea of a March on Washington demanding that illegals be given rights didn't sit to well with the local citizenry.

Personally I think it is ludicrous to see someone who is obviously breaking the law by entering the country illegally complaining that he is being denied his rights. Almost like the felon who tripped and broke his leg while breaking into a house suing the owner for damages. But there is hope. The TV this morning stated that in almost every state it is legal for a homeowner to use deadly force on someone who has broken into his home.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The TV

Some observations - it appears as if TV has come a very long way in the past few years. Used to be all shows were G or PG and there was no nudity, no swearing, no blasphemy, no interracial romance, etc. Now I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination and my reading and surfing probably hit as many porn sites and any red blooded male, but I have to say TV today does surprise me sometimes. Not in a shocking, just surprising.

Summer fare used to be the home to reruns, failed pilots, and specials of all sorts. Now with the cable channels all competing for ratings they have pulled out what appears to be all the stops.

Case in point - last night on FX Glenn Close starred in a new series called Damages - Excellent, she is really really good in that role.

Monday night on TNT, Kyra Sedgwick in the Closer - back for a second season and well worth the watch.

Monday night on TNT following The Closer a new series starring Holly Hunter called Saving Grace - again an excellent show

USA network has a summer series called Burn Notice (I think the actor is Tate Donovan) - again an excellent show

These are over and above the ongoing and outstanding established series such as Monk, the Law and Order family of shows, House, Bones, the CSI family of shows, NCIS, etc.

Makes me wonder if anything on HBO, Showtime and STARZ that is any better to watch

Friday, July 20, 2007

Family and pseudo-family

My ex had a large extended family. Both of my in-laws belonged to cousins clubs which held frequent get togethers. But that's where it became strange. It seemed that there was a lot of match making going on, and as a result my ex-father-in-law's cousin met and married my ex-mother-in-law's youngest brother creating an aunt-uncle-cousin link which meant that they would show up at most of the family gatherings and functions. Of course the confusing part was that they weren't at all of the gatherings and functions, only some, and of course because there were so many cousins on both sides I never knew when to expect to see them and when not. To this day although no one in my ex's family talks to me, Phil and Gloria are still friendly and warm to me. It says a lot about their maturity and even more about my ex and her parent's and brother's lack of same.

All of which leads me to my daughter's friend Felicia. I was introduced to Felicia several years ago. Felicia was, and is, the leader of my granddaughter Lindsey's scout troop. Felicia also became one of my daughter's best friends. Because of this, Felicia always seemed to be invited to my daughter's family and social functions - barbecues, birthdays, Seders, Hanukkah gatherings, etc. It seemed like Felicia was almost like one of the family, and it was strange when there was a function and she wasn't there.

Well, Felicia had a baby girl on Monday and mother and daughter are doing well. The baby's name is Brooklyn Emma Levy, which is different, but not strange or unusual as some of they names parents seem to burden their kids with these days.

So congratulations to Felicia and her daughter - Brooklyn Emma Levy

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Heat and humidity

Virginia, especially Northern Virginia is a lovely place to live, and 10 or so months out of the year it is quite comfortable here, even winters are mostly mild. But during July and August it gets really hot and really humid, and unbearable for some of us.

For the folks who frequent the various community pools of course love this weather. The sit out and bake in the sun, basting themselves like turkeys.

I hate the heat and humidity - never liked it, don't like the beach, don't like sitting around pools, nothing.

In 1996 my mother invited me to live with her in Florida. Her rationale was that we both lived alone and that if something happened to either of us there was no one around to help. It sounded good, but my suspicion was that she was really lonely and wanted company. So I went down there. What a mistake - the weather in North Miami Beach was, and always is hot and humid, really hot and humid, and for me very uncomfortable so I moved back to Virginia as soon as was feasible, and haven't looked back since

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

From the past - crime and punishment

Anyway, so I was checking through my files and I came across the CD with the Bayside High School directory that my brother sent me a while back. So I started browsing.

Looked up old girl friends, no luck. They I looked up my old friend Mark
V. He was my best buddy in High school. Used to come over the house every Saturday morning on his way to Shul to pick me up. After High School I sort of lost track of him, but we kept in touch. His father used to play cards with my Dad so when Mark got married they invited us. My ex didn't like him, and I wasn't really thrilled with his wife A. so we drifted apart. Mark married the daughter of a "Nuveau Riche" manufacturer with expensive tastes if the wedding was any indication

In any case I had heard that Mark went into business with his brother Allan. Allen went to Law school after he graduated college and started his practice after he graduated. Mark became a teacher (to avoid the draft) after college and after his eligibility passed he also went to law school. When he graduated he went to work for his brother. His brother was doing really well as a retainer attorney for some Hispanic organization, being paid in cash and raking it in hand over fist. Allen's father told my Dad that Allen used to come over for Friday night dinner and start to empty his pockets of cash.

Apparently, Allen kept that for himself and Mark was left to make a living doing real estate closings.

I was curious as to what he was doing these days, so I googled him. Apparently my friend and his brother got into a bit of trouble. I won't post everything I found but the following should give you a taste:

Two Lawyers Charged With Mail Fraud
By Mark Hamblett
New York Law Journal

Two brothers who are lawyers at a small personal injury firm in Manhattan have been charged with defrauding clients by switching retainer agreements on them after cases were resolved.

Mark V., 58, stole $350,000 from 24 different clients and misappropriated money deposited in escrow, according to a criminal information charging him with 24 counts of mail fraud filed by the Southern District U.S. Attorney's office Wednesday. His brother, Allen V., 56, is charged with a single count of mail fraud involving the taking of more than $16,000 from an estate.

The two men handled personal injury claims in federal and state court from the offices of their two-partner firm V. & V. at 225 Broadway. They waived indictment on the charges before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote Wednesday morning.

A defendant's decision to waive indictment and agree to be prosecuted by information, as opposed to being charged in a criminal complaint, traditionally means defense lawyers have reached at least a preliminary agreement on a plea deal with prosecutors.

Defense attorney Joel Cohen of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, who represents Mark V., declined comment on a possible plea deal. Benjamin Brafman of Brafman Ross, who represents Allen V., said his client will plead guilty in the case before Cote on Oct. 3.

"Allen V. is a wonderful, very decent individual who is also a very caring attorney," Brafman said. "For this to happen to him is a real tragedy."
According to the information, there were two types of retainer agreements that were switched by the lawyers beginning in 1998 through early 2001.
The first kind of agreement set attorneys fees at one-third of the money actually recovered by verdict or settlement. Under the second type of agreement, the lawyers would be paid on a sliding scale, receiving 50 percent of the first $1,000 recovered, 40 percent of the next $2,000, 35 percent on the next $22,000, and 25 percent on any amount recovered over $25,000. \

But the size of the recovery rendered either one of the two retainer agreements more profitable than the other, the information charges. In several instances, after the size of the recovery was calculated, Mark V. would switch the agreement to ensure a larger fee for the firm.

The information also states that the law firm would collect the proceeds from personal injury settlements or verdicts and deposit the money in escrow, where, on several occasions Mark V. allegedly misappropriated some of those funds for his own use and never paid the clients the money they were due.

The amounts of money that clients lost on the 24 cases listed in the information ranges from a low of $1,009 to as much as $79,968.
The brothers, who are residents of North Woodmere, N.Y., could be sentenced to as much as 5 years in prison for each count in the information, but in all likelihood, they will be sentenced to far less time than the maximum, with Mark V. likely to receive a stiffer sentence. Both men are also eligible to be ordered to pay as much as $250,000 in fines for each count.

"When injured persons have to take their cases to court, they need to know they can trust their lawyers and not be victimized again," U.S. Attorney James B. Comey said in a prepared statement. "We will seek out and punish attorneys who cheat their clients."

Date Received: September 25, 2002

Both brothers were sentenced to jail, fined, forced to pay full restitution to all clients and both were disbarred

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On record keeping

By nature and by training I am a compulsive record keeper, and a very organized one at that. I keep records on, and of everything. I keep receipts, bills, statements, etc. Most are for tax purposes and are kept for four years, some are kept forever, like copies of the actual tax returns.

For many years I was a management consultant and would travel around the country to work at my clients sites. Since the assignments were usually six months to a year in length I carried almost everything I needed with me. I also made up a medical history, every illness, surgery, condition, etc., the date diagnosed, and where, and how treated. I also maintained a list of all my medications, strength, prescription quantity, and schedule for taking them. It made it easy that way so that when I ha to go to a new doctor or clinic in a new city I just gave them the printed sheets and that had everything they needed. It also had the additional benefit that by writing it all down, I didn't forget and of the things.

So, yesterday when I went to the Clinical Research Center for the initial interview I brought the printed material with me. The interviewer was impressed. He said he had coordinated over 100 trials and never had anyone bring in medical records as organized as mine. - wow.

The after he read them, he said, well everything I need is here, but when were you born - that was not on the printout. It wasn't there because I didn't think that I would ever forget that date.

Then I got to see the doctor who was conducting the trial and who was to give me the first physical. He looked at the material and asked some questions, like when did this happen or that happen, they he asked me how old I was, again no birth date. I told him, and he seemed pretty surprised - he said he would have guess I was only about fifty years old, not almost 65. ow that made me feel really good. It is one thing to look older than you actually are, and quite another to look younger.

I remember when I was living in Florida that everything was oriented around senior citizens, 65 and older, and I was doing everything I could to look older than I was, but I am not doing anything these days to look younger.

I just received an email from my son telling me that my daughter-in-law's grandmother passed away and that they are flying to Korea for the funeral. My condolences to Misun and her family

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


So.. I was watching some show or other on TV the night before last and there was a brief ad - a call for people to participate in a clinical study - the only qualification was that you have to use either Glucophage or Metform (the generic form of Glucophage) both of which are medications for diabetes control.

The phone number was local so I assumed that the research center was local as well. Yesterday morning I called and made an appointment for this morning. Turns out this center runs multiple studies for pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment companies, etc.

After my initial interview they decided that while I was a candidate for the diabetes study, they really wanted me for their high blood pressure study.

Eighteen weeks, weekly visits, check-ups and physicals, plus full blood tests, EKGs and echo cardiograms, etc.

I get a new blood pressure monitor, and the test meds, plus $40.00 per visit as a stipend. Not bad.

Today was the initial physical, and the initial EKG. Monday is the initial echo cardiogram. That's all I know for now

Monday, July 09, 2007

And the list goes on...

We all have one - The List. You know the kind, it has all the things you plan to do, but haven't gotten around to - yet. For whatever reason things seem to get added to the list faster than they get taken off. Maybe there is a level of comfort in knowing that The List exists. Maybe it means that as long as there is something on The List you will be needed, or something like that. Mostly however the items on the list are accompanied by reasons (no never written down,) why they are still on The List

So my list (or at least part of it), in no particular order:

Paint the trim on my townhouse - this is not a big job, there isn't that much trim - reasons not done - too hot, too cold, too dry, too humid, too cold. Yes I have the paint, and yes I have the brushes, and yes I have the caulking and other preparation materials, but for some reason, no paint as yet been applied

Get rid of the weeds on my patio. A few years ago I planted some flowers in two black plastic planters, you know the kind rectangular, about 6 inches high, maybe 8 inches wide and maybe 18 to 24 inches long. The flowers did fairly well, but the morning glories, or at least I think they were morning glories did the best. At the end of the season I got rid of the remains of the flowers and the next year I didn't plant anything new, but back came the morning glories with a passion. Not having to contend with other plants, they grew to outstanding height and curled around everything, the fence, the gas and electric meters, the drain pipes - everything. At the end of the year I tore them out, cleaned out any remaining roots in the flower boxes and thought I was finally rid of them. This year they were back - in full strength. So I have a bottle of Roundup - touted as the ultimate weed killer, and for that matter any green thing. It is sitting in my garage waiting to be used. No good reason why.

I bought a recliner rocker which is a nice unit, but a touch to small for me, and a touch to delicate. When I sit and relax I have several times popped the some of the backrest supports from their place. You know what I mean, the back is a frame with rods extending from holes in the seat to holes in the top rail. Fairly tightly set, but if you push back hard enough they bend and pop out. Easy enough to fix, a little glue and all better. Did that, but a few months later they popped out again. This time I decided to use my hot glue gun. So there I am, squatting on the floor trying to maneuver the rods into place (as I said, a tight fit), concentrating more on the rods than anything else I reached down and picked up the glue gun, which was still plugged in and therefore on, and it dripped some very, very hot glue on my hand, which caused me jump, and some more very, very hot glue dripped on my leg, causing more yelping and jumping and finally a large dab fell on my index finger and raised a very large blister. I finally unplugged the gun, and tried to wipe the glue off, somewhat successfully, But my hand was now useless (fortunately my left hand). So I trotted out some bandaging materials and wrapped my hand in gauze and surgical tape, but I still have to finish that chair repair project (after my hand heals.)

I bought a replacement garage door opener remote - universal. Package says it will work with my opener. I got it home and determine that it is not set by dip switches, but rather you "learns" when you press and aim it, sort of like a TV universal remote. But you have to set the brand mode (dip switches) which in turn depends on whether the LED on the old remote was yellow or green. My favorite colors - for little old color blind me. So I now have to rely on trial and error - changing switch settings and pressing buttons until I hit on the correct combination - why is nothing easy?

Finally, well at least for this post, I seem to have been invaded by ants, little, very little, almost invisible ants. I have sprayed but they seem to come back. There are not a lot of them, but every once in a while I find a few crawling across the counter top or or on the table, or on the floor, in the dish washer, or even in the sink. Can't figure out where they are coming from, but they don't seem to want to go away.

Friday, July 06, 2007

saving money

Comcast cable has been bombarding the channels with advertisements for their VOIP phone service. Now I mostly use my cell phone, or at least I used to before I turned in my license and the home phone mostly sits idle. Well almost idle. Almost all incoming calls are from either my kids, or from people soliciting donations for the local police. Actually its not the police or fire departments that are actually doing the soliciting, it is the "friends of the fire department orphans" the "police chiefs/sergeants widows and orphans fund" etc. You get the picture. They are the folks who collect money and they get $.90 of ever dollar, and you get a sticker for your car, and a card telling you that this is not an IRS recognized Charity.

But Comcast phone service had one main advantage, it was twenty or so dollars cheaper than Verizon. So I called and ordered the service. That's when the fun started. Now when I ordered the service I asked whether it would adversely affect my 911 service or my monitored security system (which uses the phone lines), No and No. I also asked how they hook it up, and the answer was that they would swap out my Internet Modem (also Comcast) and put in a new one (at no extra charge) that would handle both phone and Internet service. I also asked what the charge would be. Well I was paying $139 per month for Internet and HD cable service including the DVR player. This new service would add $25 more per month bringing me up to about $165

So they installed the service and lo and behold I now had two, count them two modems, but I was assured that I would only be paying for one.

Now I have a phone my my computer and a fax machine by the wall, and one phone each on the second and third floors. The one by my computer worked great, nice and clear. They left the box and that was it. Then I noticed that my security system had a trouble light, seems the phone connection was dead. So I called Comcast again and back they came, only to discover that the phone by my computer was direct wired to the phone box, but not to any of the other phones. (the signal from the modem goes into a phone jack and propagates to all the other lines.) So he had to check all the systems and make sure all the phones had a signal/dial tone.

Then I opened the box they left expecting to find an instruction book. No such luck. I also received a flyer in the mail telling me about their special preferred plus triple play package for $129/month.

So I called and innocently asked what package I had and why I wasn't offered the triple play package. Well apparently I qualified for it, but the original person just forgot to complete the entries. I also asked about the two modems,

The third tech came today and hooked the phone service and the Internet service to one modem and took away the other one. He also made sure that my triple play package was set up. I mentioned that the flyer said it included HBO, STARZ and Showtime and he said yes it does

So for $129 per month I now have Phone service, Internet service, HD cable service, a DVR and HBO, STARZ and Showtime. All it took on my part was a little persistence

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


It is the day before the Fourth of July and the weather is absolutely glorious, dry, sunny, and the temp is hovering around the 80 degree mark. The windows are all open and the place is airing out from a long winter of hibernation.

It is official, my Real Estate license is inactive, I have turned in my lock box keep, and sold my lock boxes. I stopped by the Weichert office yesterday to turn over the lock boxes to the agent that purchased them, and visit with the folks there,

So... what is the difference between what I am doing now and being an agent?

as an agent my cell phone went off on a regular basis - mostly with voice mail announcements from the office, now it sits silent for hours on end. +

as an agent I would get daily email messages from Big Jim Weichert trumpeting how great the market is and how we can all expect huge transactions in the immediate future - I still get those, but not as frequently -

I no longer have to spend lots and lots of money to maintain the pretense that I was actively pursuing real estate business. +

as an agent I used to sit in the office on the phone waiting for a customer to call, now I don't +

the biggest difference however is that as an agent there was a hope, maybe a prayer, that I would earn some money (those unhatched chickens) to justify all the money I spent on supplies, memberships, etc. now with that out of the way it feels as if a load had been lifted. +

finally, even though there was no money coming in, no prospects, no customers, etc., and even though the market was in the crapper, homes weren't selling, and everyone was offering huge bonuses along with pleas to please bring your customers to buy the homes we have to sell, even after all that it was sort of like gambling, you weren't winning, in fact you were losing, but there was always the thought that somewhere somehow you would win one and recoup some of your sunk costs. That hasn't changed much

Monday, June 25, 2007

The big step

Well, this is the time for new beginnings - my daughter Hillary started her new job today, going back to the work she loved which is legal research. She is now working for a law firm specializing in Intellectual Property cases, one of my daughter's favorites.

My daughter Jessica was just promoted at the place she works. She is now a career advisor in a group home near where she lives in Connecticut. So far she seems to love it. She has worked there between overseas assignments for several years.

I took the big step and turned in my Real Estate license last week. I have spent the better part of the past three days taking inventory of the supplies I accumulated going through a sort of triage. One pile is stuff I will keep for future use (large), one pile is stuff that is getting trashed (even larger), and one pile is stuff that I will try to sell (small).

It is really amazing how much stuff I have accumulated in just four short years. Lots of printer materials, most of it was personalized for my Real Estate business so it wasn't easily reusable and thus got trashed. This morning I took out four very heavy plastic trash bags of stuff. I also trashed several dozen personalized directional signs.

This last I considered trying to sell, but at last decided to trash since whoever bought them would have to cover over the personalization (my name and phone number) which might not make it worth while. Fortunately the garbage men take everything.

The nice folks from Comcast installed my cable phone service last week, and the quality of the sound on my phone doesn't seem to have changed much. In as much as I only use one phone regularly I didn't check any further. Saturday morning I accidently set off the alarm. As a habit I turn on the alarm when I go to sleep, and turn it off from the pad in my bedroom just before I come down stairs. Well that morning I forgot, and when I went to open the sliding glass doors in the living room, the alarm went off. Nice to know it works. I entered the code and didn't think anything more of it, except that I got annoyed that Brinks did not call to ask if there was any problem, Then the key pad started to beep and the red trouble light started to blink. I checked the manual and it said, sysem needs service. OK, I picked up the phone in the kitchen and tried to dial. Nothing, tried again, still nothing. After trying several other phones I realized that I had no service on any of the phones in the house other than the one in my office.

It seems that the installer forgot to ask me some questions and thus set it up incompletely. Long story short,they will be back tomorrow to do it over.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

rumor mill

The more things change, the more they remain the same, but on the other hand the only thing constant in in life is change. Take your pick!

The Real Estate Market has gone to hell in a hand basket. Listing agents are spending a fortune market their seller's homes and holding open houses with no takers.

People wonder where all the home buyers are, that is easy, almost all of them are waiting to sell their current homes before they can look for a new one. In this market they just can't afford to carry two mortgages. First time home buyers are having a rough time in a money tight market.

As I have written previously, mush as my company may trumpet stronger sales, the wave of agents interviewing at other brokers looking for a better deal, or looking for jobs that will bring in some income to pay the rent, has reached tsunami proportions. Rumor has it that my broker, is not out ill, but has in fact quit. She has been at it for decades and I guess she had enough. Company pressure to produce sales, cut budgets and recruit new agents must have been intense.
As the keeper of the phone list I haven't seen a new entry for quite some time. I have seen several agent removal requests

I congratulate my oldest daughter on her new job (not yet started) and wish her the best of luck. Coincidentally my youngest daughter has also started a new job and I wish her the very best of luck as well

After four years of being a Real Estate agent, I have come to the realization that I am not a sales person. I don't have the temprament for it, so I will continue until I find something els to do. My initial thoughts are that I will look for work (probably part-time, hopefully from home) as a writer or editor. Lots of places with jobs being posted so we shall see. First up, create a resume.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


When my parents were alive, more specifically my father, he was an inveterate picture taker. Problem was once taken the pictures went into albums unlabeled, and unorganized.

When my mother passed away, several years after my father and I was tasked with closing won her condo, I found more than a half dozen photo albums, some of them dating back to before my mom and dad got married. There are pictures from when they were dating, when my dad was in the war, my mom's high school and college pictures, pictures of my grand parents when they were young. Lots and lots of pictures.

The albums went to my brother who volunteered to scan them into his computer and put them on a CD for each of us. He did a very creditable job. Afterwards he distributed the albums, or at least some of the albums to each of us. He kept those that couldn't be divided up.

When I got married I also took lots of pictures, which also got stuffed into albums in the same way my father did, somewhat disorganized and unlabeled.
When my ex and I got divorced one of the things I demanded was the right to copy all the albums. When I got them I scanned some and some never quite made it back into the albums that my ex wanted back.

So... now I had almost a dozen albums, some from my cameras, some from my parents camera, some from my kids cameras. Big three-inch, three ring binders full of pictures, plus wedding albums, and misc. loose pictures. Last weekend I put all the albums in a box and gave it to my kids to divide up.
I didn't know about my parents pictures until they had passed away and it was too late to ask who was in the pictures. Most I recognized, some I did not

The problem was I never opened then albums, and with the advent of digital cameras, CDs, computers, and flickr, physical pictures seem to have become obsolete. But they still represent a bit of family history, which I felt now belongs to my kids and grand kids. Maybe they will enjoy them more than I did

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tuesday after Monday

Yeah, I know, Tuesday always follows Monday, but in this case Monday was a holiday, so while this is Tuesday on the calendar, for most of us it feels like Monday - the first day back at work.

My son Micah and his wife Misun, and my daughter Jessie and my grand children Jake and Samantha were all here for the weekend visiting and celebrating. Micah and Jessie and my grand daughter Daria all has birthday at the beginning of the month and it was decided that since they had the holiday weekend, the birthday would be celebrated a bit late, but together.

We spent time at my daughter Hillary's community pool where I attempted to take some pictures. As you can see my children were

not cooperating, so I tried again

and again

But alas, no luck. Getting my grand kids to stand still for a picture is like herding cats, not practical. So I will have to wait for the results from the other picture takes (Hillary, Jessie and Misun) for good pictures

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


The art of putting off until tomorrow what you should have done yesterday.

I have to say that I have mastered this art. I have more projects on the to-do list, and each of them has a long list of reasons why they have never been started. None of them are particularly hard tasks, but the lethargy has a tendency to build, and accumulate, Chalk it up to a lack of enthusiasm, or spring fever, or more likely just plain laziness. Personally I like laziness.

Last August I signed up for a cruise - a repositioning cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel. They were moving the ship from its route in the Caribbean to its new home in the Mediterranean. Since they actually have to move the boat (ship?), they take passengers on this extended cruise to help defray the cost but at a reduced fare since it is a one way trip. the passengers fly home from Athens at extra cost. By cousins and brother went on this one but I begged off due to my flood. Problem was and is, I still didn't get my refunded reservation fee.

Yesterday I called to ask what happened. Well the original reason was that the card number the had had expired (and I guess no one thought to ask for a new number, after all it was a refund.) So I sent the new number and still no refund. So while on the phone yesterday I looked up my charge records from last year and lo and behold, I hadn't charged it to a credit card, I had my bank send them a check. So now I can look for a refund check. I wonder how long that will take.

My daughter Jessie and my grandson Jake and granddaughter Sam will be here on Saturday and my son Micah and his wife Misun will be here late Friday evening. Should be a fun weekend, with a group birthday party (Micah, Jessie and Daria)

Friday, May 18, 2007


It's Friday and its raining, and they are predicting rain for the weekend, so what else is now. It is getting harder and harder for the office to find people to man the phones. The budget has been slashed so much that they can only afford a morning receptionist one Mon-Fri. She stays until 1:00 PM and then goes home. The rest of the time the desk is covered by agents. But if an agent can't make his or her shift, or for what every reason, doesn't want to go in that day they either have to find a replacement, or they close the switchboard.

I get a lot of calls to fill in, but sometimes like today, two agents couldn't make it so coverage for two consecutive shifts was needed. I agreed to take the first one, but said no to the second one. I guess either someone will cover, or the office will close early.

There has been a lot of company trumpeting about how good the market has been BUT...

1) they apparently have cut the budget for the personal marketing managers (these are the folks who make up the brochures, etc. for newer agents)

2) they have cut the receptionist budget

3) they have cut the advertising subsidy to agents

4) they have increased all the fees for agent services

5) office income is way down

6) agents are leaving to take full-time positions to pay their bills. - we now have half the number of agents in this office we had a year and a half ago

7) A year and a half ago, the office took over most of the third floor and turned it into office space for the gents (some got single offices, some shared a group office and some got a cubicle in the bull pen) word has it that the manager is now trying to unload that space.

And the beat goes on.

Friday, May 11, 2007


It's Friday and I have survived another week. It has been busy, but as of yet I cannot say whether it has been profitable. I tried to call by daughter Jessie on her birthday but she was out to dinner with her family. I tried to call my grand daughter Daria for her birthday (same day) but she was out to dinner with her family as well. Not one to give up, I called Jessie the next day and spoke to her, have yet to reach Daria.

I did manage to cal my son Micah for his birthday on Thursday. He was in San Francisco for a convention and apparently enjoying his birthday.
Last month I purchased a new blood pressure tester. It was expensive, and had lots of features, but from day one it gave me nothing but problems. The low battery indicator was constantly blinking even though I changed the batteries several times, the reading was constantly giving me errors, so I finally took it back. I bought a new one, different brand, simpler, fewer features, and so far it works just fine.

I received a call this morning from one of my fellow agents, could I cover for her this afternoon. Since it is cooler in the office than in my house I don't mind going in. I won't turn the AC on until we have two weeks of warm days in a row, so far we have only had a few days in a row. Monday it was in the high seventies, Tuesday the heat went on - go figure.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cash flow

Today was my day for small chores - bank deposits, picking up some stationary supplies, and checking on my rental listing. The renter's application was accepted with flying colors, so everyone is happy, and I get my commission.

I am on the desk again today, and as I was sitting here a fellow walked in looking for a rental. Actually he asked for a list of rentals in the Nokesville/Bristow area. I cut him a list and he looked at several and liked what he saw. He asked if I could help him with them. At first I said no, but in a moment of weakness I agreed, especially since it was around the corner from where I live.

About twenty minutes later he called back and said he and his wife found one they liked, and could I show it to them. Since it is on the way home I said sure why not. Who knows maybe I have some more unhatched chickens to count.

Lots of the agents are suffering from a severe shortage of cash. Their cash inflow has all but dried up, but their cash outflow has either not changed, or has increased. Many of them have reluctantly decided to look for full-time jobs to support their families. Fortunately I don't have that same problem. Inflow/outflow yes, but there is only me to support, and so far I have my nose well above water. If I am lucky I can stay that way.

One of the ladies from the building came in to drop something off. She is a very heavy smoker, and for a half hour after she left I could still smell the smoke. It made me stop and think.

When I was young, from my early teens on till I turned fifty-ish I was a smoker. My ex didn't say anything about it until after we were married then she got on my case. But smoking, like any other addiction is tough to give up, especially in those early years when it was socially acceptable, and "cool". By the time it became un-cool I was totally addicted. There was always the idea that I could stop whenever I wanted to. The problem was that my friends all smoked and when when I was with them I couldn't resist smoking to be sociable.

Of course when you are the smoker you never really know what it smells like to non-smokers, how really, really bad it smells.. There is the conceit that a breathe mint will take away the odor. What you don't realize is that the smoke clings to everything, clothing, skin, hair, lungs, and everything you touch as well.

As a non-smoker I realize how the smoke odor pervades everything. I wonder now how even I put up with the smell.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday, Monday!!!

Usually Monday is a day not to be looked forward to, coming so soon after the weekend, but sometimes Mondays bring good things.

Today's mail brought the final part of my insurance reimbursement, not a whole lot of money, but it is something, and it clears a task on my to do list.

Yesterday while I was on the desk, the other agent mentioned that she had called in for availability on my rental listing and she was told that it had an application registered. Now this is good news because it means I get a commission on it, but I hadn't been told about it, and I didn't know whether it had been one of the many people who I had shown the place to, or clients of the two agents who showed the place.

Turns out it was someone I took there, which means I get both sides of the transaction. We are not talking about large numbers here but every little bit counts. Nice!

This morninng I got a lead from the Weichert online system. The fellow wants to see a house near here, a bank owned property (post foreclosure). Maybe he will buy it and I can make some more money - how is that for counting unhatched chickens?

It is one thing to count unhatched chickens, it is quite another to count unlaid eggs. Ah well! we shall see.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

May day

It is hard to believe that it is already May, and 1/3 of the year is already behind us. By now my brother and cousins should be visiting somewhere in Italy, either Rome or Naples, a trip I was going to go on but decided against.

My daughter Hillary should be up to her ears in fiber this weekend, because if memory serves me correctly this is the weekend for the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival, Something she has been looking forward to for a very long time, actually since the festival last year. Her knitting tournament is down to the final four and the pattern for this round is a very complicated two color intricate design. Should keep the contestants busy for a while.

Every once in a while I get ambitious and take on a project. Like most people, well, maybe only like some people, I keep very meticulous records. I keep everything, tax returns, credit card receipts, bills, statements, etc. Why, you might ask, because you never know when you might need something, like a tax audit. Tax returns, and the supporting records of course, get saved for four years, and the return itself gets saved forever.

But then there is other stuff. Records of other activities that no longer matter, such as tax returns for my company which was dissolved some four years ago, or the records for the first incorporation which is now ten years old. So I started going through the boxes of records, I had garbage bags on one side and the shredder on the other. Things with my name or signature got shredded, the rest got round-filed. I must have filled up eight to ten garbage bags full of stuff, and emptied the shredded bucket five or six times.

Now the easy thing would have been to dump it all, enmasse, but mixed in with all that paper are records that are still needed; home improvement bills, bills for appliances that I still use, etc. So I had to go through everything before disposing of it. That made a short job, very much longer.

Fortunately tomorrow is trash collect day. So everything is out by the curb, the original bags tightly sealed in big heavy plastic barrel sized trash bags, tied very tightly so nothing will blow away (I hope!)

Monday, April 30, 2007

April's end

Here it is the last day of April 2007, and the year 2007 is one third over. Imagine that! It's not like it has been super busy, but the days seem to slide by faster and faster.

My daily ritual is becoming more and more set. Wake up, wash up (yeah I know, don't say anything), trot downstairs, test my blood (higher than it should be,) test my blood pressure (also higher than it should be.)

A small glass of orange juice helps me take my pills, diabetes (1), high blood pressure(3), high cholesterol(2), Multivitamin (1), and a couple to keep my electrolytes in balance (2). And finally to round out the ritual, put the drops in my eyes for my Glaucoma.

For the rest of the day I walk around feeling like a rattle with all those pills bouncing around in me.

Pills down it is time for breakfast, 2 eggs, two pieces of multi grain toast with some margarine, coffee with skim milk.

Then it is down to my office to read my email from the night before, then check to see if my son has posted anything on his blog (no, not in a very long time) and then check my daughter Hillary's blogs. She usually posts something new every day and it is always worth reading. Actually she has two blogs, one is her normal blog Knitting4Shirley and the second is for the tournament she and her friend Felicia are running, something they call Sockmadness after the NCAA March Madness. Both are very entertaining.

After that it is whatever Real Estate work I have to catch up on, which is very little, so I spend the remainder of the day, puttering around the house, doing chores and watching TV

Boring, I guess, but that is my routine.

So when my son called last evening and asked what's new, I had very little to tell him. I am sure that there was much more new in his life than in mine, he being newly married, a new home owner, and having what seems to be a very challenging job. But does he write about any of that - not a word.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Another week

All things being equal, which of course we all know never happens, this has been one of those weeks. I can't say it hasn't been interesting, but I can say it has been remarkably unproductive.

The week started off looking like we had just stepped into summer, bright skies, very warm temperatures, and birds singing.. Then yesterday it turned nasty again and it is damp, windy, rainy, and definitely uncomfortable.

This isn't unusual, but it looked so much like spring turning into summer that I put away all my winter clothing. Now I have to go find some it again. Bah, Humbug!!

Yesterday we had a class at the Weichert office. We have them periodically my broker is big on education. The topic yesterday was net sheets. A net sheet is a form where we list/calculate all the fees and charges that a buyer or a seller can expect to have to pay.

For the seller it includes all the mortgage, lien and tax payoffs, and for the buyer it includes the mortgage, points, prorated taxes, fees, etc.

Normally this is a set of straightforward calculations and addition. The kicker this time was the added wrinkle that the seller was four payments in arrears on the mortgage, We of course had to calculate the payoff balance with the added late fees, for both the first and second mortgages, It was surprisingly difficult to calculate compound penalties, Lots of variables in interpreting when and how to apply the penalties.

Somehow we (the twenty agents that were taking the class), all seemed to come up with similar results, note I didn't say the same results,, just similar Fortunately we weren't being graded on our results, just our technique.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spring has sprung

Today is Sunday and the weather is glorious. Warm, sun shining brightly, just a light breeze, and the trees just beginning to bloom. Outside my window are several trees with large pink flowers. The aroma is like perfume.

Today s the day that my brother and cousins and I were supposed to leave for our repositioning cruise from Miami to Athens. I wish those who went a wonderful trip, and requested that they take lots of picture.

My daughter Jessica is coming down for a two or three day visit at the end of May. As it turns out my son and his wife Misun (picture) are coming down as well. I don't know what the sleeping arrangements are going to be, but I have a spare room, and my daughter Hillary has a spare basement. Between us we can all the expected guests. This will be the first time in years that all three families will be together with me. They get together regularly but since most of the occasions are for events for my ex-wife's family I am never invited. The kids also get together in pairs for vacations but again not with me.

My daughter Hillary's knitting tournament is down to the final eight contestants and all involved seem to be having a great time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pound puppies

One of my neighbors was out on his lawn - the postage stamp size plat of grass in from of his home playing with what looked like a pound puppy. It seemed sort of strange since he is in his mid-twenties. Then I looked closer and it moved. Turns out he acquired a basset hound puppy. The thing is the same size shape and coloring as a pound puppy. It is really cute.

For some reason I have been on a cleaning binge. I don't do it very often, but with only me living here and mostly hardwood floors there isn't much dust or dirt. I did go through my drawers and threw out a bunch of stuff. I am sure you know what I am talking about. When you buy something that needs assembly it usually comes with a small packet of spare parts, extra screws, bolts, dowels, etc. Most times that stuff isn't needed, but then again maybe something will come up so away it goes in "the" drawer. That's the one with packets of screws, dowels, small tubes of glue, extra this and spare that.

Well yesterday was cleaning day and all that stuff, well most of that stuff got trashed. That makes room for new stuff.

A month ago I (belatedly) sent in a request for reimbursement for some 2006 medical bills. My "policy" allows for reimbursement for thee doctors visits, two tests and on flu shot. They don't pay much, but still something is better than nothing. I guess the forms I sent in weren't clear enough so they paid part of the claim and asked for further documentation for the rest. I called my doctor and they were nice enough to send me a copy of my payment history for last year, which I submitted to the insurance company. Hopefully that will be enough.

One of the last remnants of business from my flood claims was a request for reimbursement for repair work done by Brinks Security. They actually made two visits, one right after the flood to check everything out and repair all the broken wires in the walls (before the Sheetrock went back up). They sent me a bill for that visit. Then after the repairs were completed they had to come back to repair a sensor that was busted by either the rockers or the painters, or whoever. In any case the security company will only come out when the homeowner calls, not the restoration company, and thus they billed me. The restoration company knew of the work and allowed for it in their schedule, but since they didn't know the price they left it at zero. So far so good.

When I finally submitted the bill it had to go to the adjuster, then to the insurance company, then to the property management company, and finally to me. Ever play the game telephone? you guessed it. Request for reimbursement and supporting information got horribly garbled along the way.

Recently I received a check for the first Brinks service call, but not the second. After much ranting and raving on my part, it turns out that it was my explanation that caused the problem... sort of. The second part of the claim was due to work done by the repair people, thus the insurance company determined that they should pay the second part of the bill. So now I wait for a check from the restoration company. Any bets as to how long I will have to wait?

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Sometimes I am just full of energy and get up and go, other times my get up and go seems to have gotten up and gone. Lately the gotten up and gone seems to be dominant.

It is Passover, which means very little, since I ceased to be observant many years ago. However my children observe, and since my oldest daughter lives near by she usually invites me to her Seder to serve in the Grandpa role - that of narrator/leader. The usual instructions apply, keep it short and time it to finish when the food is ready to be served.

This year, as in previous years I was also invited to the Seder hosted by her friends who live nearby. The reason for the invitation was so that I could meet Gerry's mother who was currently unattached. They had been trying to get us together for years, almost as long as I have been living in Northern Virginia.

This year I decided that in the interest of curtailing future invitations I would accept. This is sort of like the office voice mail system. Whenever they leav a message, or a voice mail, the system rings all of the cell phones in the notification list. Each agent is required to have one number that can be called. Problem is that if you don't pick up, listen to and reply to or delete the message, they keep ringing back until you do. So the best strategy is to answer it when it rings.

In any case, the friends home is close to my daughters and when we arrived they were already set up for the Seder. Her mother was in the basement getting ready. When she came upstairs I took one look and regretted having agreed to come. She reminded me of a younger version of my ex, combined with various features of my sister, neither of whom reside on my favorite people list. Suffice to say there was no animated conversation between us, although we did converse with everyone else. On the plus side, the Seder was mercifully short, the food was good, and I got to leave early. On the down side they have two small, loud, twin girls under two and an older girl the same age as my granddaughter Daria. I am still partially deaf

My glider rocker chair arrived on Tuesday and I spent Wednesday morning putting it together. It wasn't difficult, and there weren't a lot of pieces, but the six nuts and bolts that were needed to attach the back and arm rests were in the most awkward spots making tightening them very difficult and when I got my fingers caught in the mechanism, very painful. Then there was the problem of snapping the arm rest covers, and the chair back and seat to the frame. Again very awkward. But now that it is all done it is very comfortable.

My grand kids came to day. My daughter and son in law have been taking days off to stay with them, (Passover and (spring break) but today was one of those days when both of them needed to put an appearance in at work, so I was volunteered to baby sit. My son-in-law drove them to Manassas where I picked them up. The kids came back to my house for the day. The oldest, Lindsey immediately camped in my new chair and Daria the youngest took up residence on the glider/rocker ottoman.

They were well-behaved and I have no really large complaints, well maybe one. They brought food with them, a good idea since there is very little in my home for small growing children with picky eating habits. Their mother provided plastic containers , with among other things, coffee cake and brownies.

They ate most of the food, but my granddaughter Daria reminds me in a way of that Peanuts character Pig Pen, who seems to have a perpetual cloud of dust around him. Well in this case I can tell were Daria was because there are trail of cake and brownie crumbs where she walked, and on, and under, the chair she sat in. She also managed to spill a bag of mini M&Ms on the floor. These were really small, about an 1/8 of an inch wide, and I am sure they are all over the floor and under the furniture

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Completed Work in Progress

Projects, sometimes called work in progress, seem to accumulate like dust bunnies under the furniture. They are always around and you never seem to get rid of them all.

This week I managed to eliminate some of them from my list, and move a few more that were at the bottom toward the top.

I finally completed my taxes, and my audit. Both were mailed weeks ago, but yesterday the IRS finally cashed my check - that puts finis to that chapter. This years tax return didn't carry any tax payment with it.

Every two years my Real Estate License comes up for renewal. Before I can renew I have to complete 16 credits of Continuing Education. The CE topics include eight mandatory credits for Fair Housing, Legal updates, agency law, contracts and Ethics. Some of the topics are two credits some only one.

I took them online this time around and took the exam today - scored 93 out of 100. Passing is 76. Safe for another two years.

Yesterday and the day before it was absolutely spring-like outside, so I took the opportunity to rake up around the plant beds out back, and take down the wires that the dish people strung all over the back wall. They were extremely lazy and managed to drill holes in my walls from the outside rather have to snake the wires through the walls. The dish service has been gone for months but the wires remained, at least until this past week. Now they are gone as well. The only thing that remains is the dish itself. They put it up on the roof, and barring a storm, it will probably stay there. No way I am climbing up on any ladder to take it down.

I am still waiting for my new chair to arrive. Ordered it on line - their estimated delivery day is somewhere between 3/30/2007 and 4/3/2007. Nice range. Naturally, as soon as I leave the house for anything they are sure to stop by to deliver it. We shall see.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Yesterday I went to my doctor for a regular check-up. Nothing special (other than a chronic stiff neck) was bothering me, but as usual he complained about my weight. OK so I could stand to lose 70-odd pounds, but I have become very attached to those pounds an it is hard to let them go.

Over the course of seven or eight years I have been seeing him he has recommended nutritionists, Glycemic index diets, fasting diets, etc. Lately he recommended stomach stapling and/or banding. My reaction to both of those was a strong recoil/aversion. Aside from the feeling that taking that route was an admission that I couldn't lose the weight on my own, there was another deeper thing which I couldn't put my finger on at the time. Later that day I remembered what it was. When I was still a teenager my father who lived under great stress as a salesman, developed ulcers, and then one day he had to be taken from the showroom by ambulance because he had developed bleeding ulcers. I guess that is what I subconsciously recalled.

So having nixed surgery he then recommended a new medication Byette(?) which is an injectible that reduced blood sugar and helps weight loss. On the down side it is expensive. So he gave me a prescription and I went to the pharmacy for them to price it and the needles.

Heart attack time!!! Between the two they would cost as much, each month, as the three-month cost for all the other medications I am taking combined. No way I can afford that much extra cost, and have to give myself daily injections, in the stomach, as well

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Watching TV

Working from my home as I do, and living alone as I do, the TV is my only company. Most hours of the day one 0r the other of the three TVs in my home (kitchen, living room, and den) are on. There are a small number of network shows that I watch regularly such as Grey's Anatomy, CSI, Criminal Minds, NCIS, Bones. Then there are non-network shows which I also watch regularly, such as How it's made and Deadly Catch on Discovery, any food network shows, and more recently various shows on the Hallmark channel - old standbys such as Matlock and Murder She Wrote, and new ones such as the Jane Doe series with Lea Thompson and the Mystery Woman series with Kellie Martin.

These last two show irregularly but they are very good. I guess I am a sucker for mystery shows. These last two rely on problem solving ability not violence, which makes it more fun as it allows the viewer to try to guess the bad guy before the character on the how.

Of course some of the most entertaining stuff on TV is not the broadcast shows, but the ads. Specifically the GEICO ads. Most companies are lucky to hit on one good ad sequence, or jingle, or something to make their ads memorable. GEICO has two! The first being the Gecko, that almost human animated lizard that seems to appear in a very large number of their ads, and the new series the Cavemen (Its so easy a caveman can do it) There seem to be an endless supply of different versions of each of these so you never really get tired of them, and they are so well constructed that you always know it is GEICO that is running the ad, as opposed to some other ad series where you remember the ad but not who the sponsor is. Case in point, there is a hand cream, or body lotion that features a field of hands chanting something like "tuckatin, Tuckatin" sounds very soothing but for the life of me I can't remember the sponsor. And finally there is an ad which talks about banks and governments trying to liquidate foreclosed homes and now is the time to snap up these bargains - so far so good, nothing strange about that. But the ad continues that "if your name begins with the letters A-N you can call today, all others (O-Z) may call tomorrow." Problem is that these ads run every day. I guess the O-Z people will never get to call.

As I mentioned I have taken to watching the show "How it's made" on one sequence the showed how they make glider rockers. It looked so comfortable that I think I am going to buy one for my living room TV chair.

BTW did I mention that most of the shows I seem to like are produced in Canada - strange!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


The adage starts: "all things being equal", but fails to add "but they never are." In the past several year I have gone to several dentists, all of whom have started out wanting to take lots of x-rays and so scaling and planing, both of which are expensive procedures. Problem is I have always gone in with the same complaint - nagging pain in my lower left jaw. But they say that tooth has had a root canal done and there is nothing there that should hurt.

As of now it is growing progressively more painful, but finding a dentist who will tell me what is wrong, and who will fix it seems to be very difficult. I have to make an appointment with my regular doctor and I will ask him what he suggests.

My taxes were completed and mailed - owing nothing. But when I mail the audit report with the large check they are demanding I fully expect that the nice folks from VA will want some more as well.

My rental listing has become very interesting. So far six people have asked for applications. I can only rent the home once, but maybe I can rent something else to the others. I normally don't do rentals, for lots of reasons, but these folks are coming to me as potential clients and almost all of them are from out of town

Friday I have a listing appointment. The owner bought the place in January of 2006 and has been trying to sell it ever since. He has had it listed three different times with two separate agents, with no luck. The home has dropped in price almost $90,000 below what he paid for it. Should be interesting to talk to him. I suspect he is desperate, but the question is how low will he go?

Thursday, March 15, 2007


It is mid-march and we have had weather in the lost thirties and mid seventies, all in the same two week period. Yesterday it was mid seventies, tonight they are predicting snow - go figure.

Monday I went back to the IRS because I thought I had caught them in a few mistakes (yes in their favor). So I took my box of records back and we chatted. As I said to them, all I wanted to do was understand how they arrived at their decisions. A word of advice - don't do what I did.

They started asking more questions about my home office (why was I claiming one, and my car - how could I document not only the total milage but the business portion of it as well. Suffice to say they could pull out five inches of tax code to support their side and I had nothing but my tax records to support mine.

In the end their report stood, they didn't disallow anything more than they originally did,, or anything less, and I had vented my anger and frustration.

I took a rental listing (for want of anything better to do, and I think it is already rented, and I may have found a rental for a second person who called in on it. Rentals don't pay much, but when they fall into your lap it is hard to turn them away. Normally I will take rental listings but not renters. For some reason renters are very picky, very needy, and very poor. A lousy combination. Most don't have cars and need to be chauffered around.

I finally started my taxes for 2006. Because of the flood in my house I didn't earn much, and have lots of expenses, so overall the tax returns should be fairly straight forward.

My daughter Hillary has become a rabid knitter, and jumped into the world of rabid knitters with both feet (mainly knitting socks). Last year she participated in several contests where knitters competed against one another to see who could knit the fastest. My daughter got an idea to run her own contest in the form of a March Madness style tournament. That started last week after months of preparation. With six or seven rounds of compatition, it probably has several months to run.

By all evidence everyone who is participating is having a ball, but at this point I suspect that my daughter my be regretting having started this. It is a LOT of work on her part. Her friend Felicia is her partner in this and I am sure both of the are feeling somewhat frazzled by now. I wish the both the best of luck

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The shoe drops, and drops, and drops

They say things always happen in threes. For me, the threes just keep coming.

First there was the house flood, then a minor fender bender during our first snow, then an IRS audit,

The IRS audits resulted in them assessing a ton of back taxes, well not exactly a ton, but a few thousand dollars which I can ill afford.

Then it turns out the the insurance company sent me a check which was supposed to be countersigned and sent to one of the vendors handling my damaged goods. Well the check arrived with no instructions and only my name on it so I deposited it. Now they tell me I have to send the money to the vendor - I knew it was to good to last.

For some reason I am growing somewhat anxious. The reason for my anxiety is my approaching 65th Birthday. I have been approaching it for almost fifteen years, ever since I turned fifty and became an official senior citizen. Once you reach that milestone you become too old for some things and too young for others. The designation senior citizen varies from place to place and store to store, so that in one it is 50, in another it is 55, in others its 60 and still others its 65.

The designation carries with it discounts and privileges so normally it is something to be desired. Of course if you happen to look like you are ten to fifteen years younger than you actually are (don't ask why, even my doctor thinks I am still in my early fifties) then you have to remind people of your age.

With sixty five comes medicare, and pension payments, and lots more benefits, which are good.

It "snowed" yesterday. When I woke up this morning it was almost all gone and it was in the low forties. Ah, the changeable weather.

Spring has sprung,
the grass has riz...

I wonder where the birdies is?

Remember to change the clocks this weekend

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Today is Sunday and I am again sitting at the office desk, waiting, somewhat in vain for the phone to ring. Not that that is all bad. I have two three hour shifts back to back, one of my own and one filling in for another agent. This is after a three hour shift on Friday and another one on Saturday. Saturday wasn't all bad, I got a walk in, a very nice couple who are looking to buy a home (first time buyers) they when I got home I had email messages from two old clients both of whom are looking for properties to buy. This could go very nicely (said he, gleefully counting unhatched chickens.)

Yesterday's mail also brought the audit report form the IRS - talk about fast. In a nutshell they disallowed a bunch of stuff and I wind up owing them an additional $2700 +/-. On the positive side most of it was due to my own carelessness so complaints must be directed to the face in the mirror and they will let me pay it off in 27 equal monthly installments. By the time the last payment is mailed it will be coming from my social security payments

On Saturday I was on with another agent, a very nice, and seemingly successful lady, She was on the phone trying to explain to the client why the builder was asking for an additional $500 in earnest money. Seems that when they signed the contract it contained a clause allowing the builder to ask for the additional $$$, but the builder verbally told them "don't worry we almost never ask for it." Yeah, Right!! If it's in the contract and they signed the contract they don't have a leg to stand on, verbal statements notwithstanding.

The first of the two shifts today is just ending and I have sent out a bunch of email listings to my clients, I have read the reading matter I brought.

Next item of business is to work on the course for my CE credits. I am missing 8 required credits which have to be earned before my license expires at the end of April. Not a problem, but what is lacking is enthusiasm. It is dull boring stuff, (legal updates, technology updates fair housing, etc.) but there is nothing to do but slog through it - all 60 pages of the course text.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Well I survived my audit, although I don't think I came a way unscathed. My luck was holding and the examining agent that took my case happened to be a Real Estate Agent, who was continually comparing my expenses with her own.

Her first barrage was aimed at why I was spending more money that I was making. I showed her my depleted IRA and savings accounts, and the proceeds from the refinance of my home. That put that to rest.

The second barrage was aimed at my medical expenses. She asked how old I was and seemed surprised at the answer. Then she asked about my ailments (HBP, Diabetes, high Cholesterol, Glaucoma, etc.) That put to rest the numerous doctor visits and the high drug costs.

Pictures of my home office and the utility bills put the business use of home office to rest.

All this took time, because she was looking at things by category and all my records consist of bank and credit card statements. All my bills are paid electronically through the bank, or by direct debit from the credit card companies. No checks. When she wanted to see a particular transaction record (i.e. the check to the doctor for a specific visit) I had to look thorough the bank statements and credit card statements until I found the entry.

In one sense she got the very distinct understanding that I had records of everything, but not the way she wanted them. Sorry but that is the way it was.

In the end the only thing she found was that apparently I had deducted certain items twice, due to sloppy entry into TurboTax on my part. She disallowed them, and I couldn't really argue.

I will get her report later next week. I will probably owe something, but not much because I didn't make much.

I went to COSTCO for a few items on my way home from the office - I went in for eggs, English muffins and one or two other small items. I wound up spending close to $100. Actually I got off cheap. The people on line behind me had two of those hand trucks loaded with food, small appliances, TVs, etc. God only knows how much they spent.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


We all have issues with something, some are important, some are trivial. Most are hard to explain to someone else, but there are some which we all seem to share, and which we all seem to react to in the same way.

I speak of course about issues with authority. It starts when we are very young and our parents, guardians, sitters, etc, called is on the carpet, so to speak, for something we may or may not have done, or for seemingly no reason at all.

As we enter school, our issues with authority arise, in part,with our teachers and school administrators. After school the issues transfer to our managers, supervisors, bosses, etc.

We react the same when they call us with "that voice" to come to the kitchen, principal/dean's office, bosses office. The "voice" is almost always, stern, somewhat formal, somewhat menacing. Regardless of what we have been doing, or how, the summons brings butterflies to the stomach, a knot in the neck, a lump in the throat, and unbelievable tension until we find out the reason for the summons, or the result of the conversation. When they ask us to close the door, it is almost always bad, and it can cause instant ulcers.

Well my butterflies, etc. have been working overtime because the ultimate authority figure, the IRS has called me for a meeting - tomorrow to discuss my 2004 and 2005 tax returns.

I have probably talked about this before, and while I am not really worried about the audit, I can't rid myself of the tension, butterflies, and general high level apprehension.

I will make it through tomorrow, probably unscathed, that is if I make it to tomorrow