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Epilogue

This weekend, I learned that Alexa can call your phone, which came in handy when I couldn’t find my phone after I got home tonight.

So I asked Alexa to call it. My handset phone system, which is connected to my iPhone by Bluetooth, rang, but I couldn’t hear the old phone sound of my cell phone. But for the handsets to ring, I knew my iPhone had to be nearby.

Then I remembered that I had the iPhone on silent mode during tonight’s Masonic meeting, so I turned off all the lights in the house and had Alexa call.

No lights anywhere other than from the three handsets in the house.

So I stood with the front door open and asked Alexa to call again.

On the ground, next to the driver’s door, partly covered by leaves, I could see the phone light up.

Technology can have an upside, too.

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In 1980, I was flush with oilfield cash and spent more than $20,000 on a Heritage model T-Bird.

That was an unheard of price back then, but it had a digital dashboard and all the bells and whistles you could imagine.

I loved that car but after the warranty expired (and before I wrecked it twice), and after I got laid off from the oilfield and no longer was flush with cash, all the bells and whistles stopped working. Not all at once, but one by one, leaving me in a bind.

That included the digital speedometer. It would read 0 most of the time, but every now and then flicker the actual speed, so I had to rely on my own guesstimate of how fast I was going. I bought a radar detector and that helped me keep out of trouble until I was able to buy a new car in 1987.

My new car was a 1987 Chevy Nova with manual transmission as well as manual windows and an analog radio. I wasn’t taking any chances.

I think about that T-Bird every time I am tempted to buy a “smart home” gadget.

My sister gave me a couple of smart plugs and an Echo Flex for Christmas last year, and I have to admit, I really like them. I even bought a couple of more plugs to use for lights that are hard for me to reach.

Being able to program them so that when I walk through the door and say “Alexa, I’m home” and watch lights magically pop on has been a cool thing. Telling Alexa goodnight and watching all the lights go out from the comfort of my bed is pretty neat too.

But thanks to my ’81 T-Bird, there’s a lamp by the door that turns on and off manually. It’s the same in my bedroom.

On this Cyber Monday, I find myself tempted to buy smart outlets and more plugs so that I can do all sorts of neat things without lifting a finger.

But the lessons learned from that old T-Bird prevail.

My RAV4 has all the bells and whistles that I could ever imagine having in a car and some that I never imagined. I also bought the lifetime warranty. I just hope I never have to use it.

Technology is a wonderful thing until it quits working.

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The masked blogger

I think I am addicted to buying masks.

At the outset of this virus, I was scrambling to find masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc. I made my own sanitizer and have been lucky to find toilet paper at opportune times. But masks. Nope.

I asked a seamstress friend to make three masks for me when the solution was first publicized.I have my mother’s sewing machine, but I still haven’t taken the time to learn how to use it. I will. But not now. So I contacted an old friend and agreed to pay her what she thought they were worth.

Two days later, as anxiety set in, I asked another seamstress friend to make a few masks for me because I was getting antsy about how soon the first friend’s masks would arrive and I was still venturing out to the store every two or three days.

With her, I exchanged a roll of elastic I picked up last summer for the masks.

Both sets of masks arrived on the same day, so I went from none to six in a week and a half and I was contented for a while.

A few weeks later, I saw a mask with the Royal Arch Mason’s emblem on it. I am a state officer for Royal Arch Masons, so naturally, I had to have one since we were still planning to have a convention in the summer.

A week or two later, a brother Mason on a Facebook forum said his wife was ordering cloth with the Masonic square and compasses on it and he was taking orders. I ordered one. I am a Mason, after all, and I could wear it to masonic meetings, too.

In June, while dining with fellow members of Zaman Grotto, I stumbled across masks with the Grotto emblem of Mokanna, the veiled prophet, on it on eBay.  I ordered one while we chatted about the Grotto at a Mexican restaurant. I wore it to the Allied Masonic Degrees meeting at the end of June and used it as a recruiting tool for the Grotto. I haven’t worn it at Grotto, yet.

A few days later, while scrolling through my saved searches on eBay, I found another homemade mask with the square and compasses on it. I bought it, too, since the Facebook brother hadn’t mentioned his wife’s masks since asking who wanted one.

Three weeks after I got the eBay mask in, the Facebook brother announced the masks were ready, so I sent him a check last week and got the mask in the mail yesterday.

On Monday, while preparing for our annual ceremony at a time capsule the Cryptic Masons have at the state capitol, I picked up a pack of 10 disposable masks, in case anyone needed one. They didn’t, so I have that pack on hand now, too.

That’s 20 masks altogether: 10 cloth and 10 paper. And yet, I’m still looking at masks online and in the store.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the masks I already have, the courage to wear them everywhere I go, and the wisdom to know when enough is enough.

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Old dog, new tricks

When I was in school, they used Ditto machines to copy documents.

Xerox machines were the rage when I entered the work world.

When I worked in the oilfield, we made blue line copies of our logs and transmitted them over the phone using a telecopier, which took about 7 minutes to send one page.

After I left the oilfield for journalism and  fax machines revolutionized the world, though their reign was shortlived thanks to the advent of email and document scannerd.

And that’s pretty much where my knowledge of getting a document to you quickly stayed until a few weeks ago.

When I moved to the ridge, I couldn’t get a landline for my home because AT&T got out of the landline business a year before. Voice over internet wasn’t an option because I can’t get broadband internet because I’m out in the sticks, not that thete’s anything wrong with that.

Instead, if I needed to send or recieve a fax, I’d do it at work.

A few weeks ago, I needed to send a friend a document, but was nowhere near the office. He suggested I download a document scanner app and use my phone camera to scan in the documents.

“They got that?” was my initial response.

A quick look at the app store, and I discovered thst they got that. I opted for FastScanner, and in a few minutes was able to send him a high resolution copy.

My mind was blown.

My phone is a freaking copy machine now. I used it to scan a page from a book that had a quote I wanted to memorize and worked on it during my lunch break.

This week, I needed to fax a signed document to my insurance company, but I was at home and I’m not going into the office again until next week.

“Damn.” was my first response. “I’m screwed,” was my second.

“I wonder if my scanner app can fax,” was my third. And as we all know, the third time is the charm.

I printed the document on my laser printer. (I finally bought one last week.) Signed it, scanned it in to my phone, and there was a fax symbol in the app, so I pushed it.

That started the process of me downloading and installing EasyFax. The app is free, but you have to pay a small fee through the use of tokens to send a fax.

I bought the minimum number of tokens and sent the document in from the comfort of my little house in the woods.

Not bad for someone who is fixing to turn 61. Old dog. New trick.

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One day King Solomon decided to humble Benaiah ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for the Sukkot festival, which gives you six months to find it.”

“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”

“It has special powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” King Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister some added humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the day before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a special ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.

He watched the elderly man take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. “Well, my friend,” said King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.

To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: Gimel, Zayin, Yud, which begin the words “Gam zeh ya’avor – This too shall pass.”

At that moment King Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

— Author unknown

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My water tank ran dry on Saturday afternoon, right in the middle of my last load of clothes for the week.

I’m not sure how I miscalculated how much water was in my tank, but a toilet that sometimes runs when you flush it was probably the culprit.

When I woke up Sunday morning it was raining. By noon the rain had started to taper off. I checked my rain gauge and it was at 0.1, roughly 90 gallons of water. That was enough to last me the coming week, including redoing that last load of laundry.

IMAG0073But as I stood on the deck in the light mist, I looked upward, and said “Lord, I really could use a lot more rain right now.”

In theory, my water tank holds 1,500 gallons, but in reality, it starts overflowing out of the space around the intake pipe when the level is at 1,100 gallons. An inch of rain produces about 900 gallons. A full tank will last at least 2 months without rain.

“I really could use an inch of rain,” I added quietly.

The light rain continued Sunday afternoon. I was able to take a shower, wash that load of clothes and wash the dishes, which I had put off all week.

When I got home Sunday after the officers’ installation at my Masonic lodge, the rain gauge was up to 0.2 inches.

“Thank you Lord,” I said alone in my house.

My plan was to call a water transport company on Monday, but at the installation, someone said they caught the weather forecast that morning and more rain was in the forecast. It hadn’t been two days earlier.

So the rain started on Tuesday afternoon and continued overnight and into this evening. The half inch in the gauge this morning had grown to an inch by the time I got home tonight.

I just heard on TV that we’re going to get another 4 inches of rain on Friday and Saturday.

My cup runneth over and my water tank will soon, too.

Be careful what you ask for, but always be thankful.

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On track

It was almost twilight this past Sunday when I noticed the footprints.

As I was getting in my car, I spied a couple of sets of animal tracks in the almost dry dirt between my house and the hill.

I hadn’t seen them there two hours before when I got home from the store.

My mind started working out the possibilities. I got out of the car.

I pulled out my Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass (my smartphone’s camera) and took a closer look.

Definitely two different animals.

Did I mention that I used to be a Boy Scout? I wish I still had my old Boy Scout manual.

No cleft in the track, so it wasn’t from the doe and her fawn that I have startled in the yard several times in the past few weeks.

Too compact to be a rabbit. Too small to be a bear. Too big to be a possum or raccoon. Definitely a mammal, though, which eliminated the turkey family that hangs out on Collier Bend Road.

“What’s left?” I said to no one in particular.

Coyotes and bobcats, my mind replied. Maybe a panther.

I consulted my esteemed colleague, Mr. Google.

“Dog,” Google said.

“Dog?” I scoffed. “Dogs bark. How in the hell do two dogs walk between the hill and the house with me inside watching TV and not bark?”

I asked Mr. Google to double-check coyote tracks.

He did. “Dog,” was still his answer.

“Can’t be a dog,” I said. “There hasn’t been a dog here since …”

I paused. I do that sometimes when my memory wakes up from a nap.

“… John and Kathy were here with their two dogs yesterday.”

Old age is not going to be kind to me.

dogtracks

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Logistics

When I was in my early 20s, working offshore with lots of time to read, I read General Omar Bradley’s biography. General Bradley pointed out that wars were won through logistics — getting the right equipment to the right people at the right time.

In my 40s, working as an automotive writer for The Tennessean, I listened to a vice president of Toyota explain at the Detroit Auto Show that Toyota wasn’t a car manufacturer, it was a logistics company that made cars.

Now close to being 60, and being my own general contractor on what should be my last home, I’m reminded how important logistics is and how I didn’t learn a darn thing about logistics despite my exposure to it for the past 40 years.

I’m just lousy with logistics.

The house couldn’t be delivered on time because I couldn’t get the septic tank and land work done in time.

Once the house was delivered, it took two months to get the electrical lines, plumbing and gas lines roughed in and the house’s frame inspected, because I didn’t get the timing right.

And once I got the interior walls done, it took another month to get the electricity final and HVAC installed so I could get the flooring installed.

As I sit in the hotel room that has been home for the past 3 months since my apartment lease expired, I have to wait almost 3 weeks to get the last of the work finished on the house so I can get final inspection and my certificate of occupancy.

Why? Because I was focused on getting the plumbing finished and the kitchen and bathroom working that I waited until they were almost done and inspected before calling the insulator, who it turns out is booked solid until two and a half weeks from now.

I still haven’t found a company to install the skirting, but I have 3 weeks to find one now.

Hopefully, my logistical ability is improving. I have two out-of-town trips scheduled this month and they’ll allow me to finally check out of this hotel. But there’s some logistics involved in that too, and more hotel and motel stays ahead.

When I get back to town after my trip to Atlanta next weekend, I’m checking into a Bed and Breakfast (which doesn’t offer breakfast) that’s closer to my house. I’ll stay there 10 days, during which time the insulation should get done.

I have to head to Thibodaux for my grandniece’s wedding around the time the skirting needs to get installed and hopefully, I can get the final inspection scheduled then, too.

When I began this journey, I thought I would be in the house by Thanksgiving. Then Christmas, Groundhog’s Day, Mardi Gras, then Easter and April Fool’s Day.

I’m shooting for May Day now. I wonder if I should have been saying “may day” all along.

 

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Home Sweet Home, one of these days …

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Yeah, though I walk …

This Virginia Tech fan is my new hero …

 

Virginia Tech wins at Ohio State

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This is art:

Howick, South Africa

This ain’t:

Riverside Park, Nashville, Tenn. (proposed)

 It’s a twisted piece of metal that Nashville will pay $350,000 for (the equivalent of the cost to build 7 houses for the homeless).

This is art:

Bank of America Building, Nashville, Tenn.

Chet Atkins. Nuff said.

This ain’t:

Music City Roundabout, Nashville, Tenn.

They’re painted poles stuck randomly in the ground at a cost of $750,000. (That’s equivalent to 15 houses for the homeless).

This is art:

Riverside Village, Nashville, Tenn.

This ain’t:

City Hall, Nashville, Tenn.

 I have no idea what this is, but the city paid $308,000 for it. (There’s a matching piece to this on the other side of the park.) That’s the equivalent of 6 homes for the homeless, which anyone could look at and not ask what they are.

I have a simple rule. If you have to ask, it ain’t art.

So you tell me, art or a rock on bent pipe?

Edmondson Park, Nashville

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