Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Living in Age 45

I am often mystified by the penchant that people - especially women - have for wigging out about aging. I have never been that way. I did not get upset over age 25 (I've seen this happen, over turning a whole 25 - that is nothing! You are still a baby at that age! But it happens. It happens to some at 30 but again, I couldn't figure this out if I tried. 35 seems to not generate too much notice, strangely - if you are going to have a canary at age 25 and 30, why leave out 35? Or is it denial, because now your friends are all joking about the Big 4-0 looming in sight.

When my mother was approaching 40 she was coming unglued. I never could figure it out. Her date of birth is 9 January 1941. She never did the weird anti-aging thing her mother did (subtracted two years from her birth certificate - big deal. If you want to hide your real age, take off five or ten years, not two) or what my father's mother did - she was "39 and holding" her whole life. I remember one time we had to go to the hospital to see my Pop-Pop and when the admissions nurse asked her for his DOB, she looked down at me and back at the nurse as if embarrassed. I told her it was okay, that I was onto their current ages. Unbelievable!

But the thing with my mother was never about lying about the number, it was (as far as I could see) her looks. I might understand that if she actually showed signs of aging, but even now, at age 72, she does not look old. She looks like something isn't write, but she has had a number of strokes and it shows. But the years do not - and never have.

Both of us have extremely oily skin.

That is it. That is the whole amazing secret. There is no product, no nip/tucking, no make up, no nothing that I need to appear as I do. I do not look my age. Almost everyone who guesses my age guesses it to be 35 - 37. That is nice and I like it fine. I don't bother with cosmetics, I don't use anything special on my skin, heck, I don't use facial soap to wash my face. It gets washed in the shower like everything else. I am far too practical and pragmatic to bother with all that. And since I don't have the more common dry skin that needs moisteriser and other such nonsense in the winter and a face that looks like a saddlebag that's been left out in the desert, I have zero wrinkles.

I cannot say that if I had dry or normal skin and had started to develop crows feet or mouth lines that I might not feel differently. I might. But... probably not. It just isn't a part of my personality. I never gave a thought to aging and I spend a couple of minutes to do something with my hair (the one thing I have an ego about - I do colour it. It doesn't bother me that it began turning grey at age 26, but after a few years it made me look frumpy, and I don't want to look frumpy. Now it is shocking to see how much is there, but funny, too. Like, where'd all that come from?! But colouring hair is not a big deal and hardly a secret. I've been up front about it all along and nowadays I go for it with the heavy burgundy color, clearly not a natural colour.

Either way, I find listening to people whine about their aging to be somewhat immature and thoughtless - would you rather get older or be dead? Them's the choices. It is nice to wish to look 25 until you drop dead at 90 but let's face it, how reasonable is that? It isn't. You just need to look at it as every day above ground is a good one.

But I have a second reason for feeling this way, one that trims the entire fountain of youth I seem to have. The biggie, though, is that I have muscular dystrophy. It won't kill me, but there are times it makes me wish it would. With this as a daily issue, aging is GREAT! It means another minute, another hour, another day, another week, month, year(s), I have kicked this thing's butt all over creation. What's aging chronologically to that? Fifty will be a celebration of my ability to be so insufferably stubborn that not only did I get to fifty, I got there happy!

Welcome to my world!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Living in Great Music! Again!

I know, I know, how much music do I need to be happy?

All of it! Every note, every bar, every sung word.

Well, no, that is not accurate, either. There is plenty of music I intensely dislike. But not much of it. Soundtracks, rock, bagpipes, Scottish music, Irish music, hard rock, punk, alternative, some mild rap (very little, admittedly, but I do very much enjoy Wonderful Tonight (Featuring Lateef) by Fatboy Slim), one country song, The Devil Came Down to Georgia, classical, some opera, Big Band (40s music), 50s music, 60s music, NO disco - absolutely not, 80s, 90s, most recent music, but no bubble-gum pop. This includes Britney Spears, Lady GaGa, a whole host of unsavory music makers that really - it turns out - aren't making music!

That's right. Think you are listening to a wondrous new artist with the posed moves and a whole huge backup group? The answer is not a unanimous yes any longer. Thanks to a heinous device called Auto-tune, you too can sound like a rock star even if you can't sing Note One. This device should be burned in effigy. There is nothing worse than false advertising in art. It's one thing to gripe about someone singing the National Anthem in 50 degree weather during the Inauguration - there are a lot of reasons for the artist to lip-sync, not sing, the lyrics. Who cares? Anyone who has seen her in concert knows she can sing.

But giving voice to the non-singing voiced? I can't sing either. I accept that I have no aptitude nor a pleasant singing voice and that is fine. It doesn't bother me in the least. I don't sing in front of others; I sing/howl in my car, my house, my head, the shower, always with the music. My timing is good, I can hold most notes, although I try not sing out of my range (I have a naturally low voice), trying to hit high notes (I definitely cannot do what Kate Bush can - she can sing a multitude of ranges. But I don't expect to be something I'm not. I've had accept various changes of fortune in my professional life, until I found what I loved and was - to a large degree - good at. It was fine, too. We don't all have the fortune to have jobs we love or have aspired to all our lives.

I was going to be an astronomer. but I couldn't do simple math - forget the kind of higher math a scientist has to do. That cut out all the sciences, to be honest, and left creativity. But I went through a phase trying to live on art and that killed the talent - I very rarely draw at all now. None of that. It was a while before I found Human Resources.

What's missing from the list? Singing! I have no singing voice, at least one that could be cultivated into something that would provide something in the way of a vocation. It has never bothered me.

But to sully music with an Auto-tune? No, that is just so WRONG.

Living in an Increasingly Cleaner House

This is NOT to malign Luis' keeping - such as it was - of the house when I went into Mo'town over Christmas. It looked like London after the Luftwafa came and laid waste to it. No, this time, although the duration was almost three times as long in the St. Clare's hospital, he really did not let it get as totally out of control as it had gotten the last time. When I'd asked him on the way home how it looked it, he said, "It's terrible - just awful."

No, not his idea of a joke.

Luis sometimes can be a momentarily immature little pain in the ass (it happens to the best of us - I won't grace you with MY failings but that is one bloody long list, let me tell you); but most of the time, like Spock, his logic is not in abeyance when it comes to certain things. He knows the exacting manner in which I prefer - operative word is prefer because I cannot always manage it once it reaches critical mass - to acknowledge the house as being clean. Well and truly clean. We have the cleaning ladies come every two weeks and they do a hell of a job. I do the daily pick up and such. So while the house was not the bombing of London, it was more like a couple of minor skirmishes with some very stupid... well... dishes. Yup. Dishes. One or two piles of socks. I can live with that.

When I came home the day after Christmas, I had stood there in open-mouthed shock at the unbelievable condition of the house! It was wrecked! It took me the better part of four days of very intensive labour to put it to rights, and even then that was in a basic way and not in the satisfying way a house - where the "homing uterus" can work correctly (think about it) - has everything in its rightful place and I bloody well know where those are.

This time, like I said, the kitchen was the worst, which I suspect is the standard room that requires the most work every single day. We live to a certain extent in our kitchens. When the mail comes in, it arrives on the kitchen counter. When groceries come in, they go straight to the kitchen and the foodstuffs go away first - all other room purchases are distributed last. When guests come over, you try to keep 'em in the living room or rec room or whatever, but eventually they all migrate - singly or en mass - to the warm, wondrous, fragrant kitchen!

The living room, in our case, often looks like the dining room should. Not the furniture - that is as it should be; my hanging chair, our wrap-around couch, the longish, low table, the fireplace, a couple of ancillary tables and the entertainment center. A typical living room. What isn't quite as typical as the average family - especially those with kids, which we are not and have no wish to emulate - is that we eat just about every meal in front of the telly. Luis is the driving force behind this far more than I am, but even then, I was raised by parents who did the same thing. For one, an electrician father and a go-go dancer mother do not a standard schedule make! So the eating together often fell by the wayside. The difference was that I ate every single meal with a book - one of MY books, not a school book (no need to ruin dinner, eh?) and read as voraciously as I ate. I still do that for breakfast and lunch. At dinner I join Luis in the living room for eats and telly and we talk through a lot of it, too.

Life with Luis is very rich and satisfying in conversation, even though sometimes, one of us wants more to watch the current viewing choice than the other wants to say something somewhat long winded. But most of the time we have a very good time kibitzing through whatever show we are watching.

But life with Luis also means being a slave to the house and (in the subject of cleaning) to him - not that he isn't physically fastidious, he is. He showers every day just like all us crazy Americans (as far as my foreign friends sometimes say. He wears good cologne, and dresses fairly nicely. His weight is an issue, but he doesn't get stinky fast. But when it comes to his surrounds, forget it. He doesn't "see" it. He comes home, dumps his clothes wherever. He cooks or buys food and leaves it out - dirty dishes and all. I'm not perfect about dirty dishes, but I do put them onto the kitchen counter or sink if I need to empty the dishwasher.

He is clueless. I am just disabled. What a match!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Living In Music

How much has music changed in my 45 years of living (46 years of living in late January when I have my 45th birthday)? The changes in the entertainment industry are incredible and almost with equal power to medical changes.

I had read once that the medical community's advancements were the spearheading forces that drove all other areas of improvement: the entertainment community got their improvement from medical miracles. Now those miracles in other areas are almost completely driven by the entertainment industry.

So let's take a little trip from 26 January 1968 to today (9 January 2013 - you would not think much'd change between now and 26 January of this year but the CES Convention in Las Vegas which is either the successor to ComDex, a positively enormous computer technology convention that used to run in November (well, it did when the five of us l=went there in 1993 for fun. ComDex has disappeared but Luis and weren't sure if CES was its new incarnation or if it truly did disappear form the face of the earth and this is what come along to replace it.

And why did I mention this huge convention? Well, to put it plainly, by the time 26 January this year rolled around, there will undoubtedly have released many of the showcased technology, such as a pair of... well, one couldn't call 'em "headphones" or "earbuds"... this device sits on ones face bones and the vibrations travel from the either the zygomatic or temporal bones to the ears. Amazing... if it works. Part of me is admittedly pragmatic and while sounds for deaf people are predicated on feeling the heavier parts of it (the way Beethoven sawed off the legs of his piano and banged on the keys, ear to the ground, then transferring this to written notes and then directing the gorgeous music of the Seventh Symphony to the orchestra disparately trying to keep up), but I digress. If it does work, however, I'll want a pair!

So. 1968. What a year, hey? This has to be mentioned and those who know will know why: on 27 January 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White died during the Apollo 1's "plugs out test" from smoke asphyxia, an admittedly quick and (from what I hear) painless way to go, but when NASA brags that it still has never lost a man "in space" I feel shame for those who died in the atmosphere or in the capsule or on the landing pad... this is too close a distinction.

Well, getting back my date and music, there was still some reel-to-reel music and many will say reel-to-reel was a great media to use for the clarity of sound. But clearly one's music crazy teenagers were forced to listen to vinyl records. Records, as they were called in shorthand, where made out of vinyl (not the same kind of vinyl that side your parents' houses) and if you were really good about the care and feeding of your records and the diamond-needle player, those flexible black shiny frisbee looking things would become worth a fortune. If I had treated those same in my possession, I'd make a boatload in the many U2 pressings from bootlegged concerts! Ah, well, I never was one for live music anyway.

When I was a kid I went to New York to hang out with Renée, my younger cousin (she's only two and half years younger than I, so the relationship was a good one, both of us having similar interests and taste in musically (mostly - some things like Rick uh... uh... oh, no! I've actually forgotten his last name!  It was an over-long name, similar to Springsteen, but not the same. Oh, what was it?! Um... oh! Yes - it was Springfield! Now, how could I forget that? I loved Springfield where my last position was located).

Anyway, hanging out with Renée was always great fun and we would do what all teenagers did - head straight to the bedroom and start playing music loud enough that Renée's brother (my other cousin) Henry couldn't hear us (which he couldn't - he was in the basement for the most part) and loud enough to make my aunt and uncle completely crazy. Both were very strong in the musical world, but all or nearly all they listened to was Classical music. I love Classical music now and I liked it before, but during the teen years, Cello in G minus was not what I was interested in.

What stuck out to me in Renée's room was the eight-track cassettes and the player, which looked huge, but I don't know if that is just my child's memory of things. The cassettes, on the other hand were huge and most disturbing, the cassette would stop in the middle (!) of a song, which meant there was not possibility of recording from this, this... thing. Forget that I never asked my parents for one of those nor did I ever want one. Terrible technology!

When we moved from Wallington to Wayne, in New Jersey, it was a betrayal of my life and happiness. I hated Wayne and it's school and a goodly number of the kids there. I started the eighth grade in George Washington Middle School (may its administrators rot in hell with no chance of parole). But the rotten denizens of that place were long out of mind on the weekends and I was happy to remain in my room, listening to my favourite songs, recording with cassettes (regular cassettes, not the dread 8-track). I had my Sony Walkman and lived in my head, just me and my closest friends: U2, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, Marillion, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the list goes on and on (yes, even in 1980, music figured so largely in my life.

I found it odd that I never dreamed of being a musician. But I never did. I hated the recorders we had in the fifth grade; I was not in any after school activities, so I showed no interrest in band. (How ironic that now I love band music, Drum Corps, especially.) I had a very close friend whose parents were fairly wrapped around her little finger and who also had made some money as a model (the way she decribed it, modelling was not the glamourous high life that we all thought it was, I suspect she was very honest about this and although she did look glamourous the first time I met her, once we became friends, she became "normal looking". The only time I felt conscious about our difference in appearance was when we went anwhere together or during her tutoring sessions with Andy, a guy in my class. It was an interesting dichotomy: I pined for Andy, who pined for Andreann, who had a much older boyfriend, Rick, and so pined for no one. The angst of high school is too weird, isn't it? And we all have to take the ride and find ourselves and the path we wish to take in it.

The only good thing - truly good, long-term thing - about high school was the exposure to so many different musical tastes. I had gotten into punk, alternative, rock and some mixtures of each. These styles were broadened, but I also heard big bbd, jazz, show tunes, soundtrack music, classical... oh, so many things! Four years of hell and I found one area of complete and utter joy.

The onset of the home video recording device which only a person with ten minimum Ph.D could actually program one of these horrendous things and there was a lot of infighting over which format was better - the original Betamax or the dual videos of VHS - and everyone had something to say at some point. Betamax were too expensive, so my parents got theirs as a VHS and of course who do you think had total control and complete understanding over this little gem? That's right - me! I was downstairs in the telly room watching endless amounts of MTV (from 1981, when it first aired with "Video Star" through about the eleventh grade. In the twelfth grade MTV had become loaded down with far too many adverts and too little punk and alternative and had a tendency to play Top 100 songs over and over and over, so I guess you could say it had gone mainstream and we parted due to musical differences.

When I was 17, I began dating Joe and he loved music too - the really heavy stuff - his favourite was Ozzy Ozbourne and Black Sabbath. They were a little heavy for me, and my taste was a little strange. But I happen to like all those artists now - Black Sabbath, Ozzy Ozbourne, Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, etc. I've seen Queensrÿche and Rammstein with Greg last year (or maybe its been two years now) and loved them. Joe also bought me a stereo that played CDs and the curre3nt U2 release, War. I loved it - this was truly MUSIC! Clean, rich, incredibly powerful. But my parents made him take it back, thinking it was too much. I'd go to his parents' house to listen to it. At some point I finally got a Sony Discman from my parents. And slowly but surely I began to buy CDs, even though back then, they were so unbelievably expensive.

When Luis and I moved to Parsippany from Fairfield in 1994, into our first house that we bought, music and it's media was changing at an incredible rate. Around 1998 he bought me my first music device that hooked up to a computer to transfer over music. It was tiny in every way - it hold about twenty to 25 songs and it fit about my arm, tucked into an armband. It took an AA battery. I can't recall what it was called but I still have it, even though I am sure it doesn't work and wouldn't in todays technology.

We moved to the other side of Parsippany in 2002. By now the device industry had gone through so many iterations of the music devices, it was becoming difficult to keep up with all the changes in the technology. It was amazing.

The next device I received was the RIO Carbon for my birthday in 2005. It had 5GB, so I went from the paltry 25 songs or so to around
RioCarbon5GB.jpg600 or so. What a change! And what a player! It was silver and a burnished silver colour and the quality of music was unreal. I loved the RIO Carbon and took it everywhere I went, much as I have done with all my devices starting with my WalkMan. But this was the pies de resistance (I realise that this is likely not spelled correctly. My mostly flawless spelling only applies to my native language, English - as in English-English). Unfortunately it gave up the ghost sometime in August or September of that year. I think Luis did not invest in another one for me because the company now owned by a Japanese firm, announced that they would cease making MP3 players and go to the SigmaTel chip industry. He never said that, but I asked all the time about getting another RIO and he's put me off in some fashion to keep me at bay.

It is hard to recall if there was a different device in the interim, but after my RIO Carbon died, I went back to the little 25 song device. By now I knew how to download my music and need not wait for Luis to do it. So until Christmas 2006, I lived with CDs, tapes and my little 25 song USB toy.

Christmas of 2006 marks the slow but steady conversion to a an Apple household. I received my first iPod Nano, 8GB, in red (Luis always buys me the colour that fights great cancer, which is really nice and very conscientious of him). It was a lovely device. Christmas of 2010 I asked for an iPod Classic with the full memory and functionality, and I got it. This is 160GB of room, which is delightful - it holds boatloads of music.

One should always love the gifts they receive and so one should always love what they give. Luis and I.... discuss this all the time because his father couldn't care less what he gives us - which makes gift-giving quite a weakness in his case. Instead of caring what we want, he prefers to impugn our worldview and likes and dislikes that are key and pushes upon us gifts that neither wants, which means I either toss the offending item or regift it (normally a policy I hold in low degree; however, if I know someone who would truly find something I received appealing, then I am making myself and that individual happy.

My birthday is just over two weeks away... dum, DA DA dum... it will be interesting to see what horrors Luis' will visit upon me this year.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Living in 102 Degrees

Uh-huh, you read that right. And no, I'm not on vacation in the Sahara or even out of my house in northern New Jersey. And we'd never get anything that freaky here. If anything, we have an ice storm suspected to be visiting on Thursday evening. Wahoo.

No, I'm here, with the fireplace blazing, wearing a layer of heavy stuff and wrapped in a blanket shivering my ass off - at least some of it, I hope - and stuffed with aspirin, not my usual poison. But with the flu and the body temp of 102* [I have not yet figured out how to put in diacritic characters in here as yet], how much would I do besides shiver one moment then roast the next; yikes. And the aspirin has thus far proved ineffective. I usually wait for the first three days to elapse before medicating in any fashion, but this is a high enough fever to dispense with hoping my body will flush it out. I caved this morning.

I'm achey and have pain most if not all day, so a fever makes every waking moment a slice of hell. A BIG slice of hell. While there are plenty of flu medications out there, most of them interfere with the medications I take for the dystrophya myontonia II and those meds are considerably stronger and more effective than the flu meds. That being the case, I'll stick with mine and ignore the TheraFlu and other liquor-based flu/cold/cough syrups.

(Holy cow... I saw the battery power on the laptop - my beautiful laptop -was down to 16%, so at 17:09 I lugged it in. Just now, at 17:36 I looked at the battery power and it was 36%! And just now, at 17:37, it is 39%! Damn!)

Well, this it for now. Unfortunately it takes far more energy to sit up and type than I could ever imagine. I'll try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Living in the Old Farmer's Almanac in January 2013

I love the Old Farmer's Almanac:

Farmer's Calendar

In many ways, plowing snow is hard work.The hours are unpredictable, and breakdowns or getting stuck are possibilities. Still, I can't think of a better way to to enjoy midwinter's night. The cold is bone-chilling and the snow is mounting up at the rate of two inches per hour, but I'm warm and secure in the cab of my plow truck. I usually wait until the storm is over so that I have to plow my customers only once, which saves them money, but this storm is a blockbuster and I'm afraid that if I war, my pickup won't be able to handle the heavy, wet snow.

Except for the occasional plow truck that I meet on the road, I have this wonderful world of white to myself. The night is peaceful and beautiful. I'm mesmerized by the reflection of my rotating yellow beacon on the fast-falling flakes and by the hypnotic, rhythmic slapping of the wiper blades. Snow-laden tree branches bend over the road, forming an enticing tunnel. It's only 1:00 A.M., and plowing the last driveway on the route. The snow should be able to catch a few hours of sleep before starting again. The landscape will take on a new charm in the bright morning sun, but there will be cars on the road and people out shoveling and snowplowing. Then, it will be time to share my world with everyone else.

SKY WATCH ☆ The year begins with our nearest neighbors, Venus and Mars, both vanishing into morning and evening, respectively. This leaves brilliant Jupiter as the sole luminary, up in the east at nightfall at a dazzling magnitude -2.7. Having just enjoyed its opposition a month ago, Jupiter will now fade throughout the year, and return to its current brilliance only in December. Saturn, in Libra, at a bright magnitude 0.6, doesn't rise until 2:00 A.M. Earth reaches perihelion on the 1st. The crescent Moon hovers to right of Uranus, visible with binoculars, on the 16th. The month's premier conjunction is the striking close meeting of the Moon and Jupiter on the 21st.


Whitening -

26 January - Sts. Timothy & Titus; Full Wolf Tides {9.6; 10.4 - my birthday