Friday, December 18, 2009

A Week Before Christmas

..... And I've done NO shopping :-(

Partly because last week I had to blow about $860 on repairs on the minivan. The heater was beginning to fail (on the coldest days of the year so far), and then it overheated on the way to work last week. I took it to Gladstone Dodge, and they found a bad thermostat and a split in the radiator. Ouch!

While it was in the shop, I rode around with Nate O'Brien and helped him on a few calls. About lunchtime, the shop called to say my van was ready, but Nate and I were both hungry, so we stopped at a little barbeque joint near the airport. Those little hole-in-the wall places are often some of the best places to eat, and this one was no exception. The BBQ was really great. Of course, I can't remember the name - I think it was SmokeStack or something like that. It was in a little strip mall right off I-29 and Tiffany Springs Trafficway. Next time I get back in that area arounf lunchtime, I'll probably stop there, and I'll try to remember the name - and maybe even take a photo. Good stuff!

Due to the above mentioned repairs, we are - as usual - a little short for the holidays. Looks like it's Walmart gift cards for everyone again, this year. Bummer.

It's now Friday night, and as soon as I get through typing this short update, I'm going to bed. It's been kind of a crazy week. I'm slowly beginning to make some subtle changes in the website, and that will continue for a while. I'm planning on a complete rennovation, but it will take a little time with everything going on in this 3-ring circus I call my life! Stay tuned....

'Night, All!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Late Again!

Well, here it is December already, and my last post was in October after arriving home from our rainy vacation!

I've been going 17 different directions since then, but I must chide myself - that's no excuse!

I bought Poser 8 back in September (I think it was...), and had a battle all through October trying to get it to work on my main computer - a quad-core machine running XP with 4 gigs of memory and a couple 320-gig drives. I never was able to get it to work on this machine. I would allow me to create and pose a figure, but when it came to time to render, it would lock up every time. Sometimes it would work, then it would start locking up again. I spent a month with Smith Micro's tech support trying this, trying that - nothing made any difference. I finally ended up installing it on my HP laptop where it works fine with only an occaisional crash. I know SM is still working on service releases, so hopefully they will get all the bugs out of it. I love what it does, I just wish it would work on my main computer.

I've opened a new gallery on Renderosity, and have made several new friends there. I have also just opened galleries at,, and I'm hoping to sell some of my work soon. I'm still working on this project. I also signed up at some time ago, and hope to be able to get some items listed there.

As you can tell, I've been pretty busy with all this - as well as all the usual stuff; day job, family matters, and so on. Situation normal :-)

I'll sign off for now, but (once again) I'm going to make a concerted effort to update things here more often.

Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back Home....

And why am I less than thrilled about that?

Maybe because I feel cheated because the damn weather was sooooooo crappy through the entire week?

Maybe because I got spoiled by a week of no obligations, no taxi driving, no computer troubleshooting, no dodging the road idiots in and around Kansas City, no people expecting me to poop miracles in order to fix their outdated and obsolete office equipment?

I love vacations. I just hate it when they end :-(

I've still got a week of vacation time for this year, but it will likely be an 'in town' vacation - probably shortly after the first of the year.

We had a nice time, anyway, despite the crappy weather. We got out and took a few decent photos; many of them will make nice backgrounds for my Poser renders. One advantage to flatly-lighted photos (which is all we were able to get...), is that it only takes a minimal amount of fiddling in Photoshop to make them look like night scenes. I also picked up a neat lamp at one of the antique shops, and resupplied my coffee habit with some wonderful smelling beans from my favorite coffee shop in Eureka Springs.

This fall and winter, I'm planning on doing a major redesign of my website. I hope to have the time to create some neat products to offer on my website, to include lamps, windchimes, and many other decorative items. I'm hoping to have everything complete by the first of 2010. I may have a few items ready for the 2009 Christmas Season, but with everything that's been going on, it's kind of up in the air for now.

I'm going to be using this blog a lot more for my latest news items. I've kind of let it slide for the last several months, but I'm going to be using it a lot more. I'll be using Facebook a lot less. I'm not interested in playing 'Mafia Wars' or any of the other thousands of time-wasters that seem to run rampant all over Facebook. I'll probably keep my Facebook Page, but it will just be for quick updates, with links to this blog or my website.

More to come later!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vacation 2009: Rain, Rain, Rain, Rain.........

We're currently in Eureka Springs, Arkansas watching it rain as it has pretty much steadily since my vacation began last Friday.

This week has set a new benchmark for the worst vacation weather we've ever encountered. The sun actually looked like it might come out for a brief moment yesterday, but that lasted only about 3 minutes.

It has not been particularly good for photography, but I did manage to get a few decent (although flatly lighted) shots of the castle ruins at Haha Tonka, and a few night photos in Eureka Springs last night. The 2009 Vacation Album will be rather sparse this year.

We'll be heading home tomorrow. I can see by my webcam that it's pretty much the same back home in Independence - gray and cloudy.

I think I'm going to start taking vacations in September......


Monday, September 21, 2009

Coming Soon.....

A brand new Rod's Lair!

Rod's Lair will have a whole new look, with more features, and more fun stuff. I'm targeting mid-to-late December for the grand re-opening.

I'll have more news shortly, so watch this blog for updates!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Update

Just a quick note....
I've been pretty well snowed under with work and family the last couple of months, so the updates to this blog have been rather sparse. Summer is always extremely busy for us.
In addition, I have a backlog of on-line courses for my job that I'm trying to put a dent in, as well as trying to learn a bit about Poser 8. I am making some progress in between the constant interruptions for one thing and another.
Jo and I are looking forward to our yearly get-away in October. I'm not really sure where we'll go this year, but I'm working on it!
This fall and winter, I'm planning a complete redesign of my website. If I can do what I want to, it will have a completely different look and feel. right now, I'm just looking at some different ideas. I have a pretty good idea of how I want it to look, but I'm still working on a few details.
For now, I'm going to sign off, and have some lunch!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Been a Long Time....

Holy Schmikes....

It's been a while - I've neglected this blog for far too long!

Things have been really busy, and I've been spending a lot of time lately trying to learn how to use Poser effectively. While it's relatively easy to learn the basics, there are so many aspects to Poser, it's going to take a long, long time to learn how to use a fraction of its features.

I've made a few renders, but they pale in comparison to some of the things I've seen on some of the 3D sites like Renderosity, DAZ3D, etc. I'll get there, eventually, I hope, but it's going to take some time. I have to work learning Poser into an already overcrowded, and over stressed schedule.

I have yet to do a synopsis for July and August, but I'll try to get that taken care of this weekend. There's not really much to report, other than being extremely busy.

We haven't seen any more UFOs, but we've been keeping our eyes on the skies a little more than we used to. That was definitely weird.

The weather has been rather cool for this time of the year. We've had a lot of rain this year, which - combined with being busy - has kept me from doing much work on the never-ending patio project out back. Today is a beautiful, cool day, so maybe I'll do some work out there after I finish this update.

Well, I'm going to try - again - to update this a little more frequently. I've joined a couple of the forums on the 3D art sites, and have made some new friends, and have more folks dropping by the Lair to see what's up. I need to keep it fresh!


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Poser 8 and Other Stuff

As if I didn't have enough going on to turn my brain into jelly, I spent all Friday night downloading Poser 8 from SmithMicro. I am now going through some of the Poser tutorials to try and learn how to use this beast. HOLY CRAPOLA!!!!! I now have a whole new respect for the artists that create those digital characters for movies. I can now better imagine just how much work went into creating characters like Gollum, Aslan, Yoda (Yoda was actually a Muppet in the fist three SW movies - which were the last three episodes of the saga - I know, it's confusing...), or the characters from the Ice Age and Madagascar movies.

I still have lots of catching up to do with the website. Obviously there will not be much of a Monthly Update for July, although I'll try to do a synopsis in the next few days.

The Great Tiger Episode has finally come to a conclusion; they finally sent me a refund for the piece of junk Cisco camera. I'll try to have that whole story posted soon.

For some reason, things have just been completely nuts the last couple of months. For one reason or another, I've been running multiple territories - at times 3 in addition to my own - at work. We've had people off for vacations, training, and so on. Then when I get home, I'm off and running at least 3 nights of each week for one thing or another. It always seems like the busy factor always goes up about 900% in the summer. I haven't spent much time on my never-ending patio project, due to all the other things that keep me running. I suppose I could be out there working on it now, except it's approaching 100 degrees outside. Wonderful midwest summers... Hopefully I'll have some time to work on it when the weather cools down in a couple months.

We're planning another get-away in October this year, although I'm not sure where we'll go just yet. We'll probably end up in Eureka Springs at some point, but we also like to check out places we haven't been to several times over the years. I really wish we had the time to head up to the north-east for the fall colors. I'd love to go hang out in Vermont or New Hampshire for a while in the fall. But a week just isn't quite enough time - we'd no sooner get there, than we'd have to turn around and come back. Maybe someday...

Well, for now, I'm going to sign off and doink around with Poser a little more. Then it's off to bed, and back to the grind tomorrow.


Monday, August 03, 2009

July Update in August..

I can sum up July in one word: BUSY. Somehow, that description seems entirely inadequate as a descriotion. It's kind of like saying the north pole is cold.

The latter part of June and all of July have been some of the most busy and stressful weeks in recent history. The last several weeks have featured a knock-down drag-out tooth and nail battle with Tiger Direct over a refund for a defective product, and some of the worst customer 'service' I've ever experienced. A storm dropped a branch on my power line, causing a surge that played hell with my network, Jo has had some painful dental problems, and of course the extended family keeps me pretty well tied up on the weekends. I can't remember the last time I had a whole weekend to myself. My never-ending patio project remains unfinished after – what – three years, and of course, this blog and my website are far behind.

I hope to have a little time during the week to do a full write-up on the Tiger Direct episode, which has thankfully come to a resolution, finally. I can claim a small victory.

Work has been crazy, too. Right now, I am running four territories – three in addition to my own. Thankfully, I haven't had to make the Topeka run for a while, but the rest of the running I've been doing makes up for it. Of course, I'm still thankful to have a job – lots of folks aren't so lucky these days.

Right now, I'm going to sign off, and eat my lunch. I'll write more later.

Monday, July 27, 2009

One Heck of a Month!

I'm sending this update via e-mail - we'll see if it works. I'll be writing a more in-depth update soon, assuming my insane schedule allows. Right now, I'm sitting in the lobby of the dentist's office while Jolene is having a root canal done. She's been in a lot of pain the last week.

Things have been absolutely nuts the last month, both at work and during what I laughingly refer to as my 'free time.' In truth, I really don't have much 'free' time anymore. I've had to put the 'Lamps 'N Things' website on indefinite hold because of it. I hope things calm down soon.

More later....

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Get Out The Cameras....

After the wierd thing we saw a couple weeks ago, this is most interesting:

Examiner.Com UFO Article

I'm going to start carrying my Digital Rebel with the 300mm lens. Maybe I can get a shot of whatever the heck these things are.....


Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's Been a Heck of a Week.....

What a week.

Storms, power outages, a power surge destroyed my backyard camera, and motion-detector light out front, my first ever UFO sighting (well, I don't know what the heck it was, but it was an object, and it was flying....), and four celebrities leaving us all in one week. Sheesh.

Good-bye, Ed,
Good-Bye, Farrah,
Good-Bye, Michael,
Good-Bye, Billy.

They were all icons of our culture, regardless of our own personal likes or dislikes.


What the Heck?????

OK. I'm sure I'm setting myself up for a whole pile of BS, but here goes, anyway.

On the evening of Saturday, June 27th, 2009.....

Did anyone in or around the Kansas City Metro area see anything odd in the sky over Kansas City between 11:00PM - 12:00 AM? Please, no stupid comments (they will be deleted), just let me know.

Maybe I had too much chocolate in that milkshake earlier tonight. Or not enough Kahlua.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another (Late) Update..

Well, I didn't do very well at updating this thing Monday evening. Suffice it to say that for once, I was not selected for a jury, and was released from duty Monday afternoon. that was a relief!

Of course, I went back to work Tuesday, and have been in Topeka every day this week. They are going to be implementing a new tracking system for machines soon, and we are putting new barcode stickers on all the machines we service. I have a buttload of them in Topeka, mostly at the VA medical center, so that's what I've been doing most of the week. I'm eating lunch at Perkins in Topeka as I type this.

Beyond that, it's late spring, summer is rapidly approaching, so naturally my schedule is exploding once again. It's going to be another busy summer. I'm already having scheduling conflicts. I hate that, because - since I haven't figured out how to be in two places at the same time - I have to give preference to someone. Of course, that means another someone is disappointed.

Well, I'm going to sign off and eat my lunch for now.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Another Weekend, Another Week...

The weekend is almost over - again. However, I won't be going to work Monday morning. I was lucky enough to receive a jury summons back in March, during the same week I was scheduled for surgery to remove the stent from my kidney stone adventure. They posponed my jury service until June 8th, which is tomorrow.

While I more or less welcome a chance to do my civic duty, I wish it could have been for the courthouse here in Independence rather than downtown Kansas City. Downtown is such a pain in the butt. They pay you the magnificent sum of $7.00 per day for jury duty, but it costs around $10.00 a day to park in downtown Kansas City, Missouri - if you can find a park within 10 blocks of where you need to be. And that's after navigating all the one-way streets and multiple never-ending construction sites.

Then, you just sit for hours until you are either picked for a jury, or released only to return the next day for more. I don't know if you can take a laptop into the courtroom, or jury room, so I'll just leave everything home Monday, until I see what happens. The last time I had jury duty, I didn't have all these high-tech toys. I hope I don't end up on a jury, because for some reason I always end up being selected as the jury foreman.

I'll write a little blurb when I get home Monday, unless I end up on a jury that prohibits me from discussing the trial.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Another Busy Weekend

Well, it was not what you'd call a relaxing weekend, but it was a good one - only far too short.

Saturday, Jo spent the day with her mom, helping her clean out the garage. I spent the day with my dad, and we drove over to Microcenter so he could get a new computer. They had a good deal on a Dell Inspiron 530. It's a lot faster than his old machine, which was about 4 years past retirement. It came with Vista Business, but it also had downgrade rights to XP Pro. We chose the XP Pro option since that's what he's used to, and wouldn't have to deal with a new operating system. I think XP is better, anyway - just my opinion.

We spent most of today doing yard work. Both of my old mowers are pretty well shot, so we bit the bullet and bought a new one from Sears last week. It had its 'maiden voyage' in the backyard earlier today. We both ended up doing more work than we had intended, but the yard looks good.

I finally located the restore CDs for the old E-machines computer I was using as a camera server. I reinstalled XP, and the video capture drivers along with TinCam, so the webcam is back to the camera in front again. So far, it's working smoothly, but we'll see how it goes over the next few days.

I've updated the Store page, now called 'Lamps & Stuff'.' I'll be renaming it Lamps and Things when it goes live. I'm going to be uploading some items this week, if I have time, starting with some insulators. I really need to pare down my collection a bit, so if you need to add to your collection, or start a new one, check it out.

Looks like another trip to Topeka for Monday. They're starting more training at work, and I'll have an all-day class on Thursday - as opposed to the rest of the time when I have no class at all...

Friday is our 38th anniversary, so we'll have our traditional steak dinner Friday night.

I'm going to make this a short update tonight, so for now.....


Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Fees?? I Think Not. Good Bye Auctiva

I got this in my e-mail today:

"Dear Rod,

You are an important member of the Auctiva family. We are proud to have been able to provide you with our eBay listing and marketing tools for free. Because we value your business, we wanted you to be the first to know that, starting in July, our services will no longer be completely free.

We did not come to this decision lightly. This adjustment was difficult for us to imagine after four years of being a completely free service. We are dedicated to providing you with the best service for your hard-earned dollars. The e-Commerce landscape is constantly evolving, and it has always been our promise to you to provide a full e-Commerce solution that will meet your needs today, tomorrow and in the future. As a result, we will have to begin charging for some of our services.

Despite this adjustment, we remain committed to providing you with great tools at a great value and we've worked hard to develop pricing plans that will be affordable for all sellers.

We want to make this transition as easy as possible for you. We will begin implementing the necessary changes on our site to accommodate our new pricing structure during the first week of June. As a valued customer, you'll have 30 days to evaluate and select a pricing plan, and we'll even help identify your best plan choice. "

OK - let's see....

In addition to eBay's insertion fees and final value fee, plus PayPal's transaction fee, Auctiva is going to start charging a fee as well. So why should I even bother to put anything up for auction at all? Why don't I just post photos of merchandise on my website, and say 'If you want this stuff, just let me know and I'll GIVE it to you for free. Hell, I'll even ship it to you for free.' Jeeze.

Everyone wants a piece of the pie.

Thanks, Auctiva, but NO thanks. I'll just go back to using TurboLister and hosting my photos on my own website. At least I don't have to pay yet ANOTHER fee for that.

I'll be closing my Auctiva account shortly.

I'm posting this on my Auctiva Blog, and on my Latest News blog as well.

Good Bye, Auctiva

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Long Weekend Was Too Short!

It seems like only a few days ago that I was looking forward to a long weekend. Come to think of it, it WAS only a few days ago. Now, here it is Monday evening, and it's back to the grind tomorrow. On the bright side, it's only a four-day week - which will, of course, drag on seventeen times longer than the three and a half days that just went by. Such is life....

Since we both busted our behinds the last two weekends in a row, we took this Memorial Day weekend pretty easy. Aside from paying our respects to those that have gone, we didn't do much driving around. We did stop at a garage sale where I picked up a few lamps to refurbish, and I did manage to drag out the grill and put it to good use a couple evenings.

I've posted a few photos on my May Update. You know the drill; if you are reading this blog on its own, and not on my website, just click the "Rod's Lair Latest News" link to your right.

For now, I'll sign off and get to bed at a reasonable time. I've got another road trip tomorrow!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Looking Forward to a Long Weekend

Tomorrow is Friday. Friday is always good, but this Friday is extra good for three reasons:

1. It's payday.
2. It's the beginning of a 3-day weekend.
3. I'm taking the afternoon off.

Of course, it will go by in a flash, but what'cha gonna do? I'm gonna enjoy the weekend, that's what.

I had an appointment with my urologist Wednesday to go over the test results from my kidney stone adventure a couple months ago. He told me it was a calcium-oxalate stone, which is the most common type. He told me to try and stick to low-oxalate foods and beverages, and gave me a document that listed foods and drinks as a guideline. I was pleased as punch to find most of my favorite vices were listed as low-oxalate. I could have kissed him when I saw Coca-Cola on the OK list, but he probably wouldn't have appreciated it very much. I am, as you may have guessed, a confirmed Cokeaholic.

I've registered on, and hope to open up a store there very soon, as well as on my website. I hope to reopen my store on my website over this weekend. I'm wanting to trim some of my stock of ceramic insulators, so I'll have some of them listed and ready for new homes at great prices over the next few days.

I've added a few more photos in the May Update section. My baby robins have all fled the nest, and it's empty, now. Actually, it's gone, now - I took it down and chucked it into my little stove that I burn branches and scrap wood in. I really don't want them to build another nest there next year. It was entertaining to watch the baby robins, but I was getting tired of being dive-bombed by mom and dad robin every time I tried to work out back.

That's it for tonight! I'll write more over the weekend.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Road Trip Today

I took a nice little road trip today, to Osage City, Kansas. Seems like they've got me going all over Kansas these days, but to be completely honest, I don't really mind all that much. Sure, it puts a lot of miles on the minivan, but it's doing fine, and gets pretty respectable mileage - it averages about 24 MPG most of the time. And, of course, it makes for some decent mileage checks. Besides, today was a really nice day for a drive in the country.

Main Street, Osage City, KS

I took a wrong turn at one point, and ended up in a little town called Scranton. I noticed a couple interesting looking antique shops there, so we may have to take a Saturday day trip in the near future.

I've posted a few more photos in the May Update section (if you are not reading this on my website, just click the 'Rod's Lair Latest News' link in the sidebar to your right).


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Photos Added

I just added a few photos to the May Update.

Things have started to get busy, again, but hopefully I'll still have time to get some things accomplished. I'm still hoping to get the patio out back finished this summer, and I've got a whole host of other projects lined up. It's going to be a busy summer.

If you are not on my website, just click the 'Rod's Lair Latest News Section' link in the sidebar on your right.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Busy Weekend (Again)

Well, it was a busy weekend, but we got a lot of things done that have needed done for quite a while. Saturday, Jo put a first coat of primer on part of the patio I've been trying to build for the past couple of years. I got all the weeds/tree seedlings/leaves cleaned out of the rock garden alongside the garage. Now, maybe I can find some nice, shade-tolerant plants to put in there so it will actually look like a garden. I also raked about 3 tons of leaves away from the fence on the east side of the yard. Afterwards, we were pretty beat, so we just took it easy and watched Casino Royale with Danial Craig.

Sunday, we spent a good part of the day with Jo's mom for Mother's Day. I cut a bunch of branches out of her two Ceder trees, and Jo helped trim the shrubs out front. After all the work was done, we picked up a couple pizzas from Little Ceaser's. They were OK, but I still prefer Pizza Hut.

We now have four wee little baby robins in the nest on my power meter out back. Momma Robin had quite a day Saturday, alternately feeding the little ones with bugs out of the leaves I raked up, and squawking at us as we worked.

I'll have some photos in the May Update in the next day or so. Right now, it's late, and time for a bath and bed.

It's rough when you have to go back to work to rest up from the weekend....


Saturday, May 02, 2009

New Lamp

Here's a new lamp I just finished last night.

Blue Bottle Lamp

It's made from a blue bottle I found at a recycling center (and it's certainly been recycled), and a blue glass shade I found on a 'bargain table' at Lowes. I made a base from a couple scraps of wood which were cut into circles using a router attachment for my Dremel. I stained them and applied several coats of polyurethane to protect the finish and give a nice glossy finish.

I used a diamond-coated glass drill with the Dremel to cut a 3/8" hole in the bottom of the bottle for the lamp pipe. I fabricated a support for a socket inside the bottle, and added a candelabra-based LED night light bulb for the light inside the bottle.

I used the bottle cap as a base for the glass shade. I buffed the paint off of the cap, and soldered brass wire for the shade support. The cap was painted a metallic blue to match the bottle.

I hope to be creating more lamps like this in the near future. I may have some of them for sale on my website - you'd have to fight my wife for this one!


Thanks, I'll Just Get a Powerball Ticket Now and Again...

I got this in my e-mail the other day:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to notify you of the TESTAMENT of my late client, MR.XHEVAIR LLAKAJ a citizen of ALBANIA who unfortunately lost his life in the Madrid Bomb Blast of March 11,2004.

The deceased (MR.XHEVAIR LLAKAJ) (a contractor) came to Spain on business survey/holiday with his wife and their only daughter when they met their tragic death. My client before his death made a deposit of Twenty Eight Million, Seven Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$28,700,000.00) with a finance institution in Spain .

However, I am searching for a trust worthy person or the relatives of the deceased regarding his deposit, as the holding financial institution wants him/her to come forward for the endorsement of the re-investment documents, hence I am seeking your assistance to present you as the next of kin to my late client, since my client died with his wife and their only daughter.

This transaction is very confidential as I can re-draft his LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT to bear your name as the TRUSTEE & EXECUTOR (NEXT OF KIN). This transaction shall be executed under legitimate and legal procedures that will protect you from any breach of the Law as I shall provide every documents pertaining to the deposit to ensure successful transfer of the funds to your account.

It is in this regard that I decided to solicit your assistance, by presenting you as the Executor and Trustee (Next of Kin) to my late client. Although, I have agreed on the following sharing ratios: 35% for your assistance and 65% for me but this is still open for negotiation.

Kindly revert back to me urgently on your interest to lay claim of the deposit. You are to send me your complete Names, Telephone and Fax numbers, Present contact address, and Occupation for more information on how to release the inheritance sum via this email address:

Jose Perez Otero

OK – let me get this straight.....

You are a lawyer representing some poor (rich, actually) Albanian citizen who was blown up in a terrorist attack. He deposited 28 million bucks in some bank in Spain. You are looking for someone to pose as next of kin, and you will give them 35% of this 28 million just for illegally posing as someone else. And – out of 45866 gazillion e-mail addresses - you just happened to pick mine. Right. If you are a ‘barrister’ (lawyer), then I am Harry Potter.

Please tell me people aren’t still falling for this scammer nonsense. This scam is old as the dinosaurs, but unfortunately, not as extinct.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

End of April

Well, April is now history, or will be in a few hours. It's on to May.

I just completed an on-line study course for my job; one that's been hanging fire for a long time, now. It was the second - and hardest - of two courses on FAX theory, and I'm just bloody well thrilled that I managed to get through it with some semblence of sanity still intact.

The entire study manual - all 137 pages of it - was one of those delightful tomes resulting from the translation from Japanese into English (sort of) by someone with a serious drug habit. The resulting mish-mash is sometimes referred to as 'Japlish' - not to offend our friends from Japan. It frequently makes for humorous reading, as long as you're not reading it to try and pass a test.

Peruse the following paragraphs lifted from the manual:

'3.1 Simple Bi-level Rendering and Pseudo-Halftone Rendering

The most part of facsimile communication original is text document. When it is looked as image, it can be expressed by two colors, black and white.

On the other hand image with gradation such as photo, since tone cannot be expressed by a pixel, it is expressed by mixing the black and white pixels at random. Such method is called pseudo-halftone rendering and ordered dither was used for the facsimile originally. However, as the memory cost had been decreased, error diffusion method replaced them.

This pseudo-half tone rendering technology is popular among digital half-tone output devices such as digital copier and printer as well as facsimile. Therefore, it is very meaningful to understand the outline of the principle. Comparing with the pseudo-halftone rendering, text data rendering is referred as simple bi-level rendering in this document temporary.

When summarize difference between simple bi-level and pseudo-halftone renderings in a few words, it is whether threshold value to judge black and white is fixed or variable. In simple bi-level rendering, the same threshold value is applied to each pixel and black and white is determined by whether the value is larger or smaller than the threshold value. As shown in Fig.3.1.1, when simple bi-level rendering is applied to the halftone image, tone is completely ignored.'

Say whaaaaaaaaat???

Imagine for a moment spending several hours on a rainy Thursday night with 137 pages of this, followed by a 40-question test subdivided into 3 sections of 16, 16, and 8 questions, respectively. And they wondered why my left retina detached a couple years ago.

At any rate, I passed the test, and now I'm going to bed. And now you know why I am the way I am.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 26 2009 Update

It seems like April just arrived, and already we’re into the last week of the month. I’ve heard it said that the older you get, the faster time flies. I’m beginning to realize the truth of that statement. It seems like fall and our vacation in Arkansas was just a few weeks ago. Now, spring is here, the trees are sprouting leaves, the lilac bush is blooming, my aliums are about to bloom, the grass is needing mowed, and a robin has built a nest on my electric meter.

Robin's Nest on My Electric Meter

I must confess, I’ve paid far more attention lately to my Facebook page than I have this blog. That will be changing. While Facebook is fun, only other Facebook users can see it. This blog has a much wider reach if not audience. I will be paying much more attention to the blog and the website.

The new HVAC system we had installed last month is doing fine, and we just made the first payment on it last week. Only 83 more to go.

I’ve just updated the Monthly Update links and added an update for April. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this blog is integrated into my website. Click the link to your right that says ‘Rod’s Lair Latest News Section’ and all will become clear.

I’ve got a couple (at least) new lamps in progress; one of them is nearly complete. Last weekend I spent most of Saturday up in the attic (before it gets too hot!) doing some re-wiring. Our dining room is all of 10 feet across, and the former owner had a light switch on both sides of the room. Why in blazes you need two light switches in a room 10 feet across is beyond me, but at any rate, I got the wiring all worked out. Jo’s folks had given us a really nice light fixture some time ago, and I got it installed once the wiring was taken care of. It looks great, and provides a lot of light!

New Light in Dining Room

I’ve been doing a good deal of on-line coursework for my job lately, and expect that to continue for some time. Things have been pretty slow at work lately, and with the shaky economy these days one needs to keep one’s skills updated on a continuing basis.

I’m also researching a number of ideas for the website to try and create an additional income stream or two. I’ll be offering some new services, and hopefully, I’ll be able to get my on-line ‘store’ open soon. Stay tuned.

I’ve also got a list of things I’d like to accomplish as far as home improvements. First and foremost is getting the patio out back completed. I’ve only been working on it (off and on) for the last three years. With all the extra family issues I’ve been helping with, not to mention a few of my own health problems, I’ve had little time to devote to the numerous home improvements I’d like to make. Things have pretty well stabilized in both regards (at least for now), so I’ll hopefully be able to get at least some of these projects completed.

For now, I’ll sign off and say….


Sunday, March 29, 2009

My 'Relaxing Vacation' Draws to a Close...

Honestly, I can’t remember a vacation that has been as exhausting as this one. I’ll be glad to get back to work so I can rest up a bit.

After the chaos of the last few days with getting the new HVAC system installed, and getting asbestos removed before that, I was hoping I could take Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to catch my breath and take it easy before going back to work. No such luck.

I spent pretty much all weekend working on a couple plumbing problems that cropped up after the chaos of the last few days. I guess my good freind and lifelong companion Mr. Fate decided that relaxing the last two days of my vacation would make me too lazy to go back to work. One day, I'm going to slap him up the side of his head with a wet fish......

You can read the whole story (with pictures) here.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Relaxing Vacation.....

I decided to take this week off for a couple of reasons:

1. My surgery to remove the stent in my right kidney was scheduled for Monday, the 23rd. I would then have all week to recover - not that the procedure was all that bad - it wasn't.

2. If I did not use my remaining 5 days by the end of April, I'd just be out those days. I don't get any extra pay for not using them. And so, my 'vacation' begins....

Monday, March 23rd:

The procedure on Monday went well, no complications, and no pain. That was the best part of this week.

Tuesday, March 24th:

After the last furnace repair, I made an appointment with the Rep from A.B. May to look into a new furnace. I've sunk well over 1200 bucks into the old one, and it probably isn't going to get much better. As it turns out the best deal involves complete replacement of the entire HVAC system to the tune of around 5700 bucks.

During the inspection process, they discovered a fair amount of asbestos around the old ductwork. Well, !#&;^@#$"#!#$%^&* !!! I guess we need to get rid of that. There's enough cancer in this family, already.

Wednesday, March 25th:

Dining Room


Spare Bedroom

The environmental contractor came out to remove the asbestos. $485.00. It turned into more of a job than any of us anticipated. Whoever owned this house before we bought it apparently assumed no one would ever in a million years want to be parted from that asbestos, so they permanently attached the ductwork to the walls with generous layers of plaster. Now, I have 3 big holes in the wall (see above) to patch up after AB May installs the new HVAC system. Which happens...

Thursday, March 26th:

AB May is scheduled to arrive between 8:00 and 8:30 AM. This will likely be an all-day episode, and God knows what kind of complications will arise.

In addition to all this chaos, the check engine light in the minivan came on a few days ago, so......

Friday, March 27th:

I have a 10:00 AM appointment at Jack Miller Jeep-Chrysler to see how much more money I don't have I'll have to spend.

If any of you AIG guys want to give away some of that bonus money, you know where to find me...

Saturday and Sunday are still unspoken for, so maybe I'll have a day or two to catch my breath before going back to work.

Another peaceful, relaxing, renewing vacation.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Been a Fun Weekend

Yeah, lots of fun.....

First, Jo's computer threw a hissy-fit Saturday. It's my fault, really, for being a cheapskate and using a used Maxtor hard drive when I built it. I should have known better, especially with a Maxtor. I'm not a big fan of Maxtor drives. During my tenure with Gateway, I saw more Maxtors fail then any other brand. Fortunately, I was able to recover all her data from the drive. I'll buy a new WD drive, and just reinstall XP and all her programs.

Then, Saturday night, the furnace - the same one I just spent $540.00 on last month - stopped working again. It was an ignitor this time. Say goodbye to another $272.00. Damn. Where's my 'bail-out' Mr O?

In other news, I'm working on an update to my website. I hope to have it updated soon. I'm taking a week of vacation the week of the 23rd, so I hope to have some time to work on it, and hopefully complete it.

I'll be having a surgical procedure on the 23rd to remove the stent they put in during my kidney stone adventure back in January. It's an outpatient procedure, so I'll go home afterwards. And I'll have all week to recuperate - not that I'll need it, but it will be nice to have a week off to - hopefully - relax.

I've started a couple new on-line pages, as if I needed more things to keep updated. I have a new page on Facebook, and also on the AARP Community site. I have links to both of them on my News Page on the website.

That's it for tonight. I'll be concentrating on keeping this blog updated - along with everything else.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On The Mend and More....

Well, it's been a little while since I've updated. Thankfully, it looks like the Great Kidney Stone Episode of 2009 is almost over!

On 02-10-09, I had a lithotripsy treatment at St. Joseph Hospital. Lithotripsy is an interesting procedure. They lay you on a table that has a cutout right where your hip / butt goes. The lithotripter has an arm that contacts your hip with a water filled plastic bag which helps to transfer the sound waves into your body. The machine has an x-ray device that allows the doctor to pretty much put a cross hair on the kidney stone. When they get everything lined up, they fire up the machine which bombards the stone with high intensity sound waves. They do sedate you during the procedure as you can definitely feel the sound waves. It feels like someone thwacking you with a rubber band about once a second - for about an hour. That translates to around 3600 or so 'thwacks,' plus they increase the power gradually. After the lithotripsy, I had a pretty good red mark on my upper hip. But it looks like it did the trick.

I had a couple x-rays taken on the 23rd to take to Dr. Bock at my appointment today. After I got home, I just HAD to put them on the scanner to see how well they would scan. The scanner did an excellent job!

Is that a great-looking pelvis, or what? The long wire-looking thing is the stent (plastic tube) they put in when I was in the hospital. It's a temporary measure to relieve the pressure on the kidney caused by the stone blocking the ureter from the kidney to the bladder. In the full-size x-ray it looks like the trans-Alaska pipeline. Thankfully, I was blissfully asleep when they put that hose in me. Without getting too gruesome, that stent goes in through - shall we say - an existing opening. And it comes out the same way - which makes my skin crawl.

Anyway, Dr. Bock looked the x-rays over today, and had some really good news. The stone has indeed been pretty well pulverized! And he had some even better news as well: when that stent comes out, they will - mercifully - send me off to Happy Land. I had heard that they don't knock you out for the removal procedure, and that had me a bit antsy, to say the least. I was having visions of laying on a table watching someone approaching a very sensitive part of my body with a speedometer cable out of a '57 Buick. Cringe, cringe, cringe.

In other news......

I just upgraded my website package to the Deluxe Hosting which gives me 150 gigs of space, 1500 gigs of bandwidth, and enables things like Java, CGI, and so on. Now that things seem to be stabilizing somewhat, I'm hoping to add some new features to the website very soon.

As if I needed another on-line presence to keep updated, I just opened a Facebook space, mainly because my dad just signed on with Facebook. You have to be a Facebook member to check it out, but there are a lot of folks on Facebook. If you are on Facebook, feel free to drop by. Just do a search in Facebook for Rod Shelley.

I splurged last week, and downloaded a new graphics application called ArtRage 2.5. It's pretty cool! It gives you a lot of neat tools that closely approximate actual painting tools like oils, markers, palette knives, and so on. It also lets you work on layers like in Photoshop, and it will open and save PSD files with layers intact. I think it will be a great addition to my present tools, Photoshop, Gimp, and PaintShop Pro.

Well, this has been a long post, and I'm getting sleepy - and I have to go in to work early tomorrow for a meeting. The good part is they are providing breakfast! You know I'll never pass up an opportunity involving free food!


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Tired and Re-Tired

It just goes on and on……

 Yesterday (Saturday), we took the van over to Jack Miller for its appointment with the car doctor. I had several things I wanted them to look at. The brakes have been making a squealing noise for a couple weeks (before my kidney stone episode started), the turn signals don’t work at all anymore, and the power steering has been making a howling noise. And there’s also the flat tire. I made up a list of these things and gave it to the Service Advisor when we got to Jack Miller at 8:30 AM.

 There are few things I hate more than taking a car in for service (I’ve recently added having a kidney stone to that short list…). It’s always a long, boring period of sitting in the waiting lounge for hours, thumbing through magazines that don’t interest me at all, or watching whatever drivel happens to be on the TV. This morning we were entertained by a childrens’ animal show, a 45-minute long infomercial for WordSmart, and most nauseating of all, a rehash of American Idol. We were subjected to this cruel and unusual punishment from 8:30 to about 12:45. 

At any rate, they fixed the power steering problem, cleaned and adjusted the brakes, and fixed (or so I thought) the tire. They didn’t have the part for the turn signal, and couldn’t find one anywhere in town, so they had to order it. Naturally, it’s on backorder. This little episode ended up costing me $1008.00 in addition to the four hours of torture mentioned above. And it will cost an additional $160 or so whenever the turn signal part comes in. I’m starting to feel sick again…. 

Then this morning, I stepped into the garage to check the tires. That #$@$% tire was flat again! I decided I was tired of screwing around with it, and got on NTBs website to check prices. I called, and the guy at NTB said they had some Uniroyal Tiger Paws – a $90.00 tire – on sale for $60.00. He said he could get me in, so once again it was waiting lounge time. At least this time I didn’t have to suffer through anything on TV worse than the Super Bowl pre-pre-pre game stuff, and the wait wasn’t more than about an hour. By the time I paid for the tires, installation, and road hazard warranty, it came to about $392. This has been a painful and expensive week.

 Now, I’m going to try and have a somewhat restful evening before heading back to work tomorrow. I don’t know how the day will go, all I can do is hope for the best, and take it a step at a time.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Kidney Stone Episode Update…

This past week has been hell.

As noted in my last update, it was discovered that I had a kidney stone in my right kidney. After visiting the ER at Centerpoint, Thursday night, I called my doctor’s office the next day (I didn’t make it to work Friday, either), and set up an appointment with his nurse practitioner, Mary Ryan for Tuesday, the 27th. I called my boss and told him what was going on. He said he’d heard horror stories about having kidney stones, and to just keep him informed.

Through the weekend, and most of Monday, I pretty much lived on the pain pills that had been prescribed, taking two at a time. By Monday night, my last two pills were taken, and my appointment was for 1:30 Tuesday.

Jo and I spent part of Monday evening trying to air up the right front tire, which had developed a slow leak. We had to fight with my compressor, which naturally decided to pick now to start malfunctioning. We finally managed to get the tire inflated, hoping it would hold until we got to the hospital.

The tire held up, and we drove to St. Joseph Medical Center for my appointment with Mary. I was out of pain pills, and had made the drive to the hospital in a great deal of pain. We got to the doctor’s office a bit early, and I signed in. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait very long until they called me back.

The nurse that called me back asked if I was having kidney stone trouble; she could tell from the way I was walking and holding my back. She took me into a room, took the usual vitals, and went to get Mary Ryan. Soon, Mary came into the room, listened to my breathing, and I told her my sad, painful story. She said she was going to speak with my doctor, Dr. Boullier, and would be right back. She said I may have to be admitted to the hospital.

A couple minutes later, she came back in, and Dr. Boullier came in a few seconds later. He took one look at me, and said “We need to get him down to ER, and get him admitted.” He had the medical report from Centerpoint, and told me that after trying to pass a 5mm stone for 5 days without success, it wasn’t going to pass on its own. They brought up a wheelchair, and hurried me down to Emergency. While waiting, I called my boss, and told him what was going on, and that I was being put in the hospital, and would need to have a surgical procedure. He said to just take it easy, and not worry about anything. He would cancel my trip to Dallas for next week, and we’d just do it later.

Soon, I was taken back to a room in Emergency, and hooked up to all the IVs and other stuff. They ran me through another CAT scan, and still didn’t find any cats. What they did find, was that the stone was actually 6.5mm instead of 5mm. A silly 1.5mm isn’t much, but when the stone is trying to go through a tube with a 4mm hole, it’s not gonna work weather it’s 5mm or 6.5mm. They gave me some pain medicine, and took pretty good care of me, but we had to wait from about 1:50 in the afternoon to almost 9:00 in the evening until they had a room opening.
After getting more or less settled in my room (which was, of course, a two person room), Dr. Boullier came in to tell me the findings of the latest CAT scan. He said I’d have the surgical procedure the next day, and he had contacted the urologist, and he’d be talking to me in the morning. My first-ever night in a hospital was underway. They even let Jo spend the night with me, sleeping in a chair next to my bed.

The next morning (Wednesday), Dr. Boullier came in, and talked to me a bit more. He was going to find out how soon they could get me into surgery, and that the urologist, Dr. Bock, would be in to see me. Soon, he returned and said the surgery would be at noon. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Bock came in and introduced himself. He described the procedure that would be done: They would insert a stint, or length of tubing into the kidney then into the bladder bypassing the stone, and relieving the pressure on the kidney. This insertion would be through the penis, and there would be no incision made. This first step is intended to prevent damage to the kidney caused by pressure from the blockage caused by the stone. After a little time for the kidney to fully recover, they would do a procedure to break up the stone with sound waves. This could be done on an out-patient basis.

Waiting in Surgery Prep

Around 10:30, they came to take me down to surgery prep to get me ready for my procedure. Several folks came in to talk with me during the hour and a half, and just before surgery, Dr. Bock came in to talk with Jo and me. A nurse came in, and shot some medication into my IV line to get me relaxed. I was wheeled into the operating room, and I was able (with just a little help) to move myself onto the operating table bed. Someone put an oxygen mask on me, and said to take several slow, deep breaths. I remember taking about three.

The next thing I knew, I was groggily coming out of a fog, with bright square lights all arranged in a matrix above me. My first thought was “Great – I’ve been abducted by aliens…”, but I was just in the recovery room. A nurse leaned over and asked if I was feeling OK. I said I felt fine, and that I must have had a good time with them. She chuckled, and said, “I think Mr. Shelley is ready…” They wheeled me out, and soon I saw Jolene waiting on me.

Back in my room, I enjoyed a pretty decent supper of turkey and mashed potatoes, and a glass of grape juice. Spending a night in a hospital is definitely NOT a restful experience. This particular night between the constant din and clatter in the hallway, and my roommate puking all night, I think I managed to get maybe a good hours’ sleep. I had just fallen into a good sleep about 6:00 AM (Thursday), when Dr. Bock came in. He hated to wake me up, but he wanted to see how I was feeling, and give me some good news: I would be released from the hospital this morning. I ordered breakfast, and soon afterward, Dr. Boullier came in, and said he was signing my release papers, and they would be sending me home soon. He said I was OK to drive home, so Jo went out to check on the tire, which of course, was flat. She went down to Security to see if they could help, and they met her at the car to air up the tire. It wasn’t long before we were on the way home.

I’m taking it pretty easy at home now (Friday), and slowly getting back some of my energy. It’s been a long road, and I still have some way to go. I have more appointments and procedures ahead, but hopefully, I’ll be back to normal within a few months. It’s been pretty intense since Christmas with the food poisoning episode, and now this, but hopefully the medical issues are over – or at least stabilized – for now. I know I’m ready to get back to the good times again.

Obviously, I’ve not done a lot with the website, and updates are likely to be a bit slow for now.

I have tow insurance included with my car insurance, so I called them today to see if they would send someone out to change the flat tire, and put on the spare. I was amazed when it took about 5 minutes for someone to show up, and switch the tire! I have the van set up for 8:30 Saturday morning at Jack Miller to get a few other issues taken care of, and I’ll get the tire fixed then. Dr. Boulier has faxed a work release to my job, so I’m clear to go back on Monday. Maybe things are starting to fall into place for a change. That would be a most welcome change!


Friday, January 23, 2009

What A Pain.....

It's time for another update! It's overdue for another update, actually.

We're now in a new year, and it's time for some new beginnings. We have a new Prez, there are some neat, new things at the Lair, and it's time for me to get busy with some of the things I've been putting off for months. Assuming, of course, I can stay healthy enough….

Things have been a tad insane since Christmas. Jo and I ended up with a nasty episode of food poisoning over the Christmas Holiday, so we didn't really enjoy most of it. We're pretty well over that, thankfully!

Then, last night about 11 o’clock, I started having a pain in my lower right flank, right about kidney level. I thought maybe I was having indigestion, or some remnant of the food poisoning episode. Antacid had no effect, and the pain just kept getting worse, and moving around to the front as well. I finally decided it was time to have it checked out, so we drove over to Centerpoint Hospital, and I checked into the emergency room. They checked me out pretty thoroughly, took a bunch of blood samples, a urine sample, and so on. I was still in a lot of pain, and was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to give me something to ease it. Presently, a young lady came in, and wheeled me off for a CATscan. Apparently they didn’t find any cats.

Shortly afterwards, the doctor came in and told me I had a kidney stone that was passing from the kidney. She said it was about 5mm, but from the pain it was causing, I’d have thought the damn thing was the size of a bowling ball, boulder, or small planetary body. OWWWW!

Once they knew what it was, the male nurse came in with a treasure trove of syringes filled with various flavors of happy juice. By the time he was done, I was feeling no pain. They wrote out a couple prescriptions – one for pain, thankfully – and sent me home. We finally got home about 4:00 AM. Obviously, I didn’t make it to work, today.

Now, I’ve got to go see a urologist, and they want me to try and capture the dang rock if/when it finally passes. So now, I have to pee in a bottle and run it through a strainer to capture the rock for analysis. Then they will probably tell me to change my diet by eliminating all the stuff I love.

Damn. I just turned 60, and my body is already falling apart….

Looks like I'll be taking a little trip to Dallas, Texas the first week of February. I'll be taking a week-long class on some new equipment. While I usually enjoy these trips, I'm not looking forward to this one as much as I have in the past.

I still enjoy the training, but the part I'm not going to like is that – unlike all my past training trips – I'll have to share a hotel room with a roommate for a week. To save a little money, my company requires you to share a room. My roommate will be someone else in the company, but I have no idea who. And that's something that resides near the top of my “I Hate This” list. I'm a very private person, and sharing a room for a week with a complete stranger rates right up there with running naked through a cactus patch, or rolling around in pig poo. I hated it when I was in the military, and I still hate it. I always end up getting stuck with some bunghole that likes to go out drinking until 3 AM, then comes back to the room and pees on the floor. And guess who has to end up cleaning up the mess.

Ah, well, enough ranting. Suffice it to say if my roomie ands up being the roomie from hell, I'll just pay for my own room out of my own pocket, then file a complaint with my manager. Hopefully, I'll end up rooming with someone somewhat compatible. I could just get a private room, and pay for half of it, but I'd rather save the money for a nice vacation in the fall. I'll just have to bite my lip, and see how it goes.

Well , for now, I’ll sign off, and hopefully, I’ll feel a little better by my next update.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

A brand new year is upon us! I've just updated the Monthly Updates with a new January 2009 link. I'll let this blog entry be rather short for now, but I hope to post a lot more frequently this year.

If you are not on my website, click the link to the right that says "This blog is integrated into my website..."

Hope you all had a great Christmas, and I wish you a happy New Year!