I'm not dead yet

Oh, my! How time does go by. Over a year since my last post, and SO much has happened. Lessee, a quick rundown of the "high" points.

I ruptured a disk in my back, putting me in bed for over a month, and with a slow return to normalcy.
My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage zero), and is now recovering from a mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction. Cancer free now! Woohoo!
My Goggomobil is being reassembled by a knowledgible mechanic in Durham NH, so I hope to be able to drive it again this summer.
I replaced my 2000 Ford Focus with a 2009 Corolla, giving the Focus to my niece in SC.

We are very well blessed with wonderful friends at church and work, and with an excellent health insurance plan. Of course it also helps to live in an area with so many wonderful hospitals and care-providers.

I continue to doodle cartoon figures at random times and places, and have not entirely abandoned the idea of a comic strip, but not much has advanced on it either. A tall, thin, goofy sort of weatherman has been added to the cast, along with his little dog, Drizzle.

OK, more later. Not too much later, I hope!

Springtime in New England

Here it is, not even noon, and it's already 80 degrees out! The weekend was lovely, with temps in the 70s and mostly clear skies here in the Boston area, so everyone arrived back at work with some (red) color in their skin (except me; I spent the weekend assisting at the Wisdom course at Landmark Education). We New Englanders embrace any warm weather days after a long dark winter. But this is too much, too early! We know we will pay for it (it'll probably snow by Thursday!), but we don't care. The trees have greened up astonishingly fast, greedily absorbing all this sun and photosynthesizing like crazy. Last night I changed the oil and charged the battery in the lawn mower, since the yard (the back yard at least) is beginning to look shaggy.

Edit! It's now early afternoon and we're pushing 90! Nice little breeze and low humidity, though. And the ground is still cool, so it doesn't feel so hot out, like in the dead of summer.



A month ago I went to the first New England Webcomic Weekend out in EastHampton MA. It started as a little get-together by several western-Massachusetts webcomic artists who invited several of their favorite fellows. Those folks started talking it up on their comic sites and the whole thing snowballed into quite an impressive first-ever webcomic-only convention. There were perhaps 70 webcomic creators there, and lots of fans. I was not quite the oldest there (I found one guy who was 63!) but most were 30-40 years my junior, and therefore full of energy and enthusiasm. I met several of the artists I follow, and learned about a whole lot more.

I am not an aspiring comic artist. Well, not quite. As I lurch and crawl forward (I hope) in my ability to draw, I've held that I lack the one thing that it seems to me motivates all those artists I watch -- a story to tell. All the comics have some story to convey, whether one-panel gags or epic adventures. Indeed, several comic artists seem to be positively compelled to tell their characters' story, whether they can draw (or, alas, write!) well or not, churning out pages of panels. No such compulsion arose in me.

As I learned when I did the Landmark Forum 20-some years ago, "I wonder what other lies I've been making up about me?" At NEWW I had supper with CD Rudd, who does the "" comic, and in the course of conversation with him found the beginnings of a story to tell. He encouraged me to flesh it out, and complimented me on my sketches, giving me some hope that, while I'm still not inclined to do a full-fledged webcomic, I might just be able to do something along those lines.

The idea is for a comic based in a small, rather hardscrabble TV station, with a small cast of characters interacting. The initial gags will be based on my experiences just out of college at WFMJ-TV, plus other TV-, workplace-, and relationship-related ideas I can dredge up or invent. As much as I admire some of the quirkier character ideas I've seen (Steve, for example, in SailorSun, exists only in the space just above the comic panel, is never seen but is fully interacted with by other characters), I think mine will be pretty conventional, though it'll be interesting to see how they develop. One already is fleshing out; a twenty-something woman who as "floor director" (making sure the set, props and cameras are in place and the talent knows where to look) dresses in sweats and nondescript clothes and wears her hair in a ponytail, then when she adds the job of "director" (running a program in the control room) upgrades her look to pantsuits and a bun/french roll, and finally is seen off duty at a club with her hair down and sexy skirts and dresses. That should be interesting to draw and write.

In the meantime, I post here now a screen capture of the webcomics that I now follow. In the original the icons are all links, but this photo is just for illustrative purposes. I might follow up with a link to a fully-functional version.


End of my 60th year

Today's my birthday -- the calendar says I'm 61 now, though I'm not convinced that there's not been some kind of bookkeeping error. I still retain an awful lot of traits I remember from my teens and 20s, and my "mental age" for myself is perhaps 28. My body, however, likes to remind me of the passage of time. Lately I've had what I think is sciatica -- a painful pinched nerve in my right hip that makes itself felt all the way down to my foot. Physical therapy might well be in my near future.

My sister and my wife both independently got me birthday cards today that are very uplifting and encouraging. This is exactly what I needed! A tough problem at work (excessive unwanted radiation from the camera head of a new HD camera) had resisted all my attempts to fix it, and had gotten me down. So those cards were a real tonic to my spirits. God is watching out for me through those I love!

Ford Focus muffler marathon

My 2000 Ford Focus now has over 100,000 miles on it. Amazingly, it still has its original muffler and tailpipe! The tailpipe, as I've mentioned before, shows no rust and no soot inside -- it's still clean after all these miles. While the car has had a few mechanical difficulties (early failure of blower motor switch, broken front spring, ignition switch failure, and a couple recalls), only the ignition switch kept me from driving it. Quite reliable and comfortable overall. I'd be inclined to buy another Ford, if I were in the market.

Oh, it's been a year!...

54 weeks since my last entry here! I've not forgotten LJ, but all sorts of things have happened.

The main one, is that my dad died a year ago tomorrow. It was not a pretty or graceful death (if any can be, outside of fiction) -- he'd been dying, and knew it well, for months. Shortly after Christmas 2007 he'd had to go back to the hospital, and when he returned to my sister's house in January, it was to die. That Christmas was the last time he was able to sit in a chair, or move on his own (painfully, slowly, with a walker). I went to see and care for him for several days in March, and he was mostly unable then to do much for himself, though he managed to keep his spirits up for at least a few hours a day. My sister and brother in law (saints!) said he fell into depression and prayed to die many times, but would put on a good face for visitors. In his last weeks he essentially stopped eating. He held onto life longer than even he wanted to.

I was in Las Vegas when the event occurred, at the National Association of Broadcasters convention. The not-unexpected news came through a borrowed cellphone while talking with a vendor of video-processing equipment. I spent another hour or so at the show and then went back to the hotel and prepared to return home and then down to South Carolina (where my sister lives). The forced gaiety of 'Vegas, which has been less and less interesting to me each time I visit, became all gray and pale that last night there. It is an interesting place, so I sorta hope I haven't lost all desire to revisit someday.

The intervening year without dad has been up and down. We've settled his estate, mostly, though there are still some bits and pieces that we don't know what to do with -- they'll rattle around in drawers and storage boxes for years, I bet. I miss him, though the moments of "oh, he's not around anymore" are fewer and fewer. Yesterday would have been my mom's 88th birthday, and my memories of her have long faded into the background. So it will no doubt be with dad -- life goes on.

End of a personal era

I have retired my briefcase.

It has been my faithful companion for almost 23 years, a gift to me from my coworkers at North American Philips ('Magnavox') when I left that job. The paper with everyone's signature was still in the (otherwise rarely used) pocket in the lid, the ink a little smeary from age (or maybe the beer spilled on it at my going-away party). It was a very nice briefcase, hard-sided and covered with faux leather that still looks good. The handle was the weak spot in its design: for the last several years I have used a succession of nylon tie-wraps to replace one side of the handle's attachment. The original cast metal fitting wore through from constant motion of the handle, and I could see that the other side was wearing similarly, though for some reason, more slowly.

It was a heavy case, so just carrying it each day was a bit of exercise. It was my "portable morass" -- the long-term repository for magazines, articles, letters, drawings and papers of all sorts. All carried back and forth to work each day, along with my lunch and a now-rarely-used Day Runner (still has the 2005 pages).

I've replaced it with a MUCH lighter old model, picked up for $3 at the local Salvation Army store. Just plain molded plastic, a little smaller in interior volume. Considering how lightly used the old one was, this should be more than adequate.

New old radio

I have a lot of old radios. As an electrical engineer, long-time Ham Radio enthusiast, and history-of-technology buff, it was probably inevitable. Mostly I've confined myself to 1930s-era table models whose works and cabinets are within my abilities to restore. Several old radios have indeed been bought, restored and resold at a profit by me over the years. Many more haven't. Some are just nice to look at, and some hold Possibilities.

This week I saw an ad on the local Craigslist site for an Atwater Kent radio for only $25. The picture was of a handsome 1930-ish console. No model number or other info. I Googled "atwater kent console" and doggone if the first listing wasn't exactly that radio -- a 1930 model 70, with a type L chassis. Now, just about any Atwater Kent is worth more than $25. And while I certainly don't need another big ol' console, such radios often contain tubes that are worth more than that. The L chassis has two type 45 power triode tubes that typically retail for more than $30 each, used. So if the tubes were in this old radio, it would be worth the purchase.

So I trekked down to Plymouth after work -- about an hour's drive -- and met with the seller. He'd gotten the radio in an estate clean-out, and was only interested in getting it out of his truck. Well, the thing is gorgeous! The cabinet is in nearly perfect condition, or as near as you'd expect a 78-year-old piece of wood furniture to be. There are just a few minor scratches which should fade under a little polishing. The radio chassis is complete, though dusty, and the speaker (a separate assembly the size of a football helmet, but heavier) looks like new. The grill cloth is still tight and solid. My wife likes it so much that she's suggested it find a place in the living room!

So far I haven't powered it up, or even tested the tubes. But it looks like it will join my Philco 65 console (a lesser radio, in need of more cabinet work, but only $20 from Craigslist) in my small pantheon of well-received old-radio bargains.

Best ad line

Last night when I got home my wife was still chuckling over an ad she saw on TV. She said the tag line almost made her fall out of her chair laughing: "The most sophisticated piece of technology you will ever pee on." It's for a home pregnancy test kit. The use of the word "pee" in a TV ad surely gets your attention, since it's not considered polite usage, and of course our uptight broadcast TV values require politeness. Never mind that we pretty much all use the word (and worse) in regular speech, it still has shock value coming from the video box. Sorta reminds me of a 3 or 4 year old who suddenly discovers the hilarious shock value of "poo poo" or "wee wee" (or whatever youngsters are saying nowadays -- I probably don't want to know). Bodily functions are always good for a (nervous) laugh.

Today's rant -- headlights

OK, long time since last entry. I acknowledge my complete lack of updates. No excuses.

Lately some things have stirred my ire (as much as this mild-mannered person ever gets stirred up), and today's irritation is People Who Don't Turn On Their Headlights.

Of course I don't mean those who forget to turn them on when leaving brightly-lit parking areas at night -- they usually realize their error pretty quickly and correct it. I'm talking about those who fail to turn on their car's lights when weather conditions make visibility sub-par. For example, this morning's commute was under dark gray skies, with rain and some fog. Most of the cars had their headlights on, as is appropriate, but some didn't. Those cars are nearly invisible against a wet gray road -- indeed, sometimes I only knew a car was there because it was silhouetted by other cars' lights. Now, there usually was enough light to see where I was driving, even when the rain was heavy, so I didn't need my headlights, and I suspect that would be the argument of the drivers of those non-lighted vehicles. But I want to be seen as well as see, so that others can avoid hitting me when pulling out into traffic, or passing, etc. And I want those other folks to be visible too, so that I don't hit them (though some deserve it!).

So, to all you who fail to turn on your car's lights when it's raining, or gloomy, or foggy:

Thank you for you time and attention.